Want to throw your life down the ol sink hole? Buy meth! Here's how!
Roger was sitting off the Pali Highway near downtown Honolulu in front of a big chain drug store. He looked like he’d been up for a couple days… tired and a little dirty. Otherwise, he seemed as normal as cheeseburger stains on a fat kid’s shirt. I knew, instinctively, that he either was high or had been high so I made a move. I’d been around the block for the past day and a half and, contrary to published hysteria, it hadn’t been easy to find a real-live tweaker in public. Yeah braddah, “Rog” wasn’t just regular high, he was twacked. Floating around the atmosphere on an ice cloud and I needed to take advantage of the situation
As I asked my uninformed/rude questions his eyes darted back and forth but he answered respectfully. Yes, he had smoked last night. No, I couldn’t take his picture. Yes, he had a steady job and a family. No, he hadn’t stuck any of his kids in a microwave.
“Roger” is the face of Hawaii’s sworn enemy – crystallised methamphetamine abusers – and if statistics means anything, the nightmare has just begun.
They call crystal meth “ice” on the islands. They also call it an “epidemic” “monster” “curse” and “plague.” Hawaiian Lt. Governor Duke Aiona told CBS News that he’s “…never seen devastation from another drug like this. It’s insidious.”
U.S. Attorney to Hawaii, Ed Kubo added, “Clearly, Hawaii is being killed (by ice).” Awfully big words, but the numbers appear to back them up. The World Health Organisation reported that Hawaii is the only place in the United States where meth is more widely abused than alcohol, or any other drug, combined. 44% of all arrestees test positive for meth, 80% of all emergency room visits are meth related, and deaths related directly to meth have quadrupled in the past decade.
Anyhow, you can’t trust statistics, you can’t trust the news and you certainly can’t trust U.S. attorneys to Hawaii.
ICE: A BRIEF HISTORY
Ice is a relatively recent addition to the illicit drug scene, but methamphetamine is not. Invented by a Japanese scientist in 1919, the stuff has had a powerful clientele. Hitler lost WW II because he was too baked to think straight and JFK made his “ich bein ein Berliner” speech while soaring.
East Asian crime syndicates were the first to bring da meth to Da Islands. It was popular because Hawaiians don’t like needles and could easily crystallise the powder, making it smokable.
Back on the mainland, Mexican Cartels had just finished kicking Colombian drug lord buns in the early 2000s and wanted to expand their business. They saw slant-eyed gangstas running a profitable little circus in Hawaii and decided it would be theirs. In no time Mexis centralized the production (making almost all the ice in Cali and Mexico) and distribution. Today they have a complete monopoly.
Directly concerning you Mr. Surfing Man, this ain’t just any drug infested Pacific island. Hawaii is surfing’s Golden Temple. Whatever happens here touches you touching me. Sweet Caroline.
United Flight 96 landed and there were no speed freaks waiting outside baggage claim to rob me blind. In fact, I wandered around the first day point five without much success. No matter where I looked, everything seemed normal. Well, not exactly normal, Honolulu is bizarre like an aging b-list actress. Bauhaus dominates the architectural scene, conjuring up a “non-aligned nations” vibe. Except instead of Congolese communists wandering around in Mao suits it’s Japanese twenty-nothings clutching monogrammed Louis Vuiton Neverfulls. It’s weird, but not plague-of-iced-out-zombies weird.
I would ask “locals” where I could find some “you know, ice or whatever.” They would either look at me like they didn’t know what I was talking about or give me pat condescension. A gay waiter at a sushi joint told me, for example, “It’ss everywhere. I mean, you don’t ssee it, but you ssee it…” I had to think he “ssaw” it every night. Gay white men are massive meth consumers. When I ordered him to get more specific he pointed west with a manicured pinky and said, “It’ss passt that misssty mountain…”
EWA BEACH (PAST THE MISTY MOUNTAIN)
Sho nuff, my first brush with ice came in Ewa Beach on the West side. I had read that Ewa Beach was dubbed the “meth capital of the world” but that don’t mean much. My hometown of Coos Bay, Oregon is also called the “meth capital of the world” and so are a handful of other backwater hovels strewn across mid-America. Maybe a Johnny Methelseed went planting the idea in the heads of ugly little mayors that “meth capital” looks good on tourist brochures. I don’t know.
Ewa Beach looked regular as I exited the highway. Standard mainland colonisation-style. Blockbusters video stores and Vons super markets punctuated by an odd malasada or kine grub joint. Things started to go sour as I moved toward the water, though. Gated communities gave way to boarded up hell-holes with bizarre accoutrement strewn about. In one front yard two battle-cocks in cages waited for their next big fight. Another garage was open, revealing a partially assembled prison gym. Meth keeps you awake and creative. Maybe this dude pumped iron, then made sculptures from the set.
The streets were strangely ghost town silent. It appeared that, while clickers don’t sleep, that they don’t stand in the sun either. I got out of my car and started snapping photos when I heard,
“Haole boi…you wan beef?”
I turned around and saw three tubby Hawaiians posturing in all their ugly tank top spread toe steez.
“No, I want ice.” They gave me a long, hard look. “Whachu said haole boi?”
“I want ice.”
Ah, get out haole before we hurt you.” I left. They were 15 and I probably could have taken them, but whatever.
I walked around for a while longer but it was all the same. Crappy houses and no people. The streets were laid out in an uninspired grid and after a while I got lost. Cruddy house, cruddy yard, cruddy house, cruddy garbage… I re-found my car and bolted.
Making my way back up to the H-1 East I noticed a sign for a “behavioral clinic.” Perfect! Research on meth use suggests that it’s tough to die from the stuff. Unlike heroin or other opiates you can’t really overdose. Instead, people lose their minds. I assumed that a mental institution in the middle of Ewa Beach would be crawling with looney battery benders.
I got in big trouble for walking around “unsupervised.” A muumuued nurse rudely informed me that, “People who use vast amounts of methamphetamine usually have strokes and die before they go crazy” so they didn’t have any methamphetamine users on the premises. I let her know she was flying in the face of hard academic study. From what I had read, lots of heads go crazy. She stared at me for a while, then, like the 15-year-old boys, suggested I leave.
Ewa Beach was close. I mean, the evidence of ice infiltration was everywhere. Drugstores didn’t sell regular Sudafed (Sudafed contains pseudophedrine which can be used to manufacture ice. On the mainland they lock it up. In Ewa Beach they don’t even have it at all), neighborhoods had turned to shit and, despite what the stupid, fat nurse lady said, there was a dubious mental clinic… yet I still didn’t see any meandering junkies.
Back in Honolulu, sitting in a seedy Mexican restaurant while nursing stale chips and salsa, I had an epiphany. I had come to the restaurant with the hair-brained notion that Mexicans were setting up swinging joints as fronts for their ice business. Things looked good for a while. My waiter was babbling Spanish and a table of ultra-caliente Latina’s fronted mine. Within half an hour, however, I had discerned that my waiter was Peruvian, the Latinas were Puerto Rican and the owner was Chinese. Bummed. Then it hit me like a shrink-wrapped kilo. I was trying to hard. Meth is no cocaine. Coke is sexy, sultry Al Pacino in a white leisure suit talking like a Cuban Italian. Coke dealers like to show-off. Their cars, clothes, women and front businesses scream I DEAL YOUR COKE!
Meth, on the other hand, is embarrassing and tawdry. Ice dealers, if they show off, do it in stupid ways. One of Oahu’s biggest local movers had recently been apprehended. The newspapers flashed his bling, which included a 1985 Chevy Blazer and some jet skis. I’ll tell you this, if Pablo Escobar had been caught with a 1985 Chevy Blazer, he would have shot himself. Coke is a party rich starlet drug. Meth is a desperate tooth-rotting drug.
I had to be was desperate. Hurrying outside, I found the first trashy 30-year-old standing in front of a strip club I could and asked him for some ice. I’m sure my drug vocab was woefully inaccurate, but it worked. He shot me a sideways glare, then asked how much I wanted. I didn’t even know how it was sold so I said an ounce. He seemed doubtful but quoted a price I thought was ridiculously high (come to find out it was alright) so I told him I had to get cash and bailed.
Desperation had worked! The scales had fallen from my eyes! I took my confidence to the Pali Hwy where I stumbled upon “Roger.” He was sitting off a run down stretch of road and didn’t want to be approached. Ice heads don’t like to jive on their uncool addiction, but he still talked to me a little. Moving from Honolulu slum to sleazy bar, interacting with geeters, I chatted with a tweaked couple whom I photographed making out. The guy got mad but I told him they were cute. He ended up explaining how you smoke ice (in a glass pipe) and how it makes you feel.
“Amazing brudduh. Jess real amazing.”
Even tourist heaven Waikiki held ice secrets. Outside the Marriott a 40-year-old man was trying to force his two parrots on unsuspecting honeymooners. The parrots would sit on the young lovers shoulders while the man moved jerkily around photographing the scene. I saw one of the pictures and it was horrible: poorly cropped and a little out of focus. I marched up and said, “I’ll pay you the parrot picture rate if you tell me, honestly, if you smoke ice.” He looked around and whispered, “sometimes.”
I finished my night under the fireworks at Ala Moana Park. It was the 4th of July, but I wasn’t just here to celebrate (and frankly I didn’t know why Hawaiians were there either). Ala Moana houses Hawaii’s homeless population, which I just knew would include thwackers. It didn’t this patriotic night. The most disastrous examples of humanity I could find were senile Japanese grandpas and Hare Krishnas. No matter. I had had my breakthrough. Time for the Temple.
NORTH SHORE HOLY OF HOLIES
The next morning I left for surfing’s most hallowed ground. The North Shore is shockingly close to Honolulu but it feels like a different world. Pineapple plantations give way to crystal green water and languid air. As the Kamehameaha bends north, past Waimea, Pipe and Sunset it’s shocking to actually witness each spot with my own haole blue eyes.
The whole place surprised me by how small it was. In my head, these waves occupy the geographic space of one large country (like Kazakhstan) but in real life it’s an easy bike ride from Hale’iwa to Sunset.
Obviously I know it only works in da wintertime, but still, seeing its dormant summer flatness is depressing. These giants have made and broken men from Eddie to Lance Burkhart. Watching a Japanese girl screaming with glee as she body boarded a two-inch wave was simply too much. This was right in front of the Volcom House. Legit Pipe being manhandled Harijuku style.
I began to see the point of hard drug indulgence. Such a heavy memory of unfulfilled potential – of what it should be and isn’t right now. A pent-up energy explodes over the lackadaisical sunscreen slathered University of Texas frat boys, then dissipates into snorkel tour groups. It’d be like if the real Saudi Arabian Mecca was only the surging mass of Islamic humanity it is for a few months out of the year and the rest of the time it was a Chuck E. Cheese Pizza parlor. Fat little ginger heads sliding down the Ka’ba and barfing in the Great Mosque.
Living so close to something like that must play dirty mind tricks. I sauntered over to Foodland and asked the checker if she had seen ice tear up the community.
She said, “Yeah. Sometimes they come in here all tweaked and drop their stuff of the ground.”
Another surf shop girl said that she was from Detroit and had been on the North Shore for one month: “The first crack head I’d ever seen was just a few days ago right here.” (For those who don’t know Detroit is a nasty town plagued by every out-of-control drug pestilence you can imagine.)
The only person who wouldn’t tell me anything/didn’t know anything was the Hindu kid selling “Banzai” t-shirts at ‘Ehukai Beach Park.
“No I don-a-know what ice is. I’m religious.”
Then he flashed me his best shaka.
I stuck around Pipe as the sun dribbled down the sky. Darkness brought a few gackers who had wandered from their hovels into the night. They stood at bus stops and stumbled along the Kam. I approached one outside Shark Cove who was entirely incoherent. Apparently two of his cats were missing, but one was a tom and one was a hunter so it might be fine. There does seem to be more baseheads, per capita, then Honolulu, and like Honolulu they only come out at under the moon.
Frankly, at this point, the thrill of meeting ice junkies was wearing thin. I had already talked to quite a few, and, honestly, they weren’t very interesting. All of them were poor, and most smelled rotten. I knew that working class people use ice too, in order to stay awake, or whatever they tell themselves… but the middle classes don’t like to talk. A tattoo artist warily told me, “It’s like coffee, man…” but that’s all I could get.
Whatevs, Mickey D time.
McDonald’s is a magnet for the weird. Maybe it’s the lighting, or the colours. In any case, the dregs of society are drawn to the golden arches. I made my way to the one at the southern tip of Hale’iwa town and marched to the front door. Sitting right there, at one of the outside cement tables, was a surfed out 20-year-old. Salt-crusted skin, sun-bleached hair, and nothing but board shorts, a frown and lots of swear words. “Fucking McDonalds!” He threw his fries at the door and half a Big Mac at the window. He was shifting violently on his bench, kicking cups, and stuff.
“What’s the matter bro?”
“Mind your own fucking business!!!”
“OK just trying to help.”
Somehow I offered this last line with real sincerity. I think my goodwill shocked him because he threw his Coke at the trash, jumped on his surf-stickered motor scooter and scooted. Good. I had seen my first surf ice head and lived to tell the tale. Mission almost complete.
So what does this all mean? Does Oahu have an ungodly ice epidemic? Something that, if unchecked, will wipe out future generations, or is it all yellow rhetoric used to sell the 10 o’clock news?
In my studied professional opinion, the talk about the ice plague is as yellow as Lindsey Lohan’s eyeballs. Don’t get me wrong, if you know what you’re looking for you can see ice, and it’s effect, everywhere BUT to be a “plague” or an “epidemic” it’s got to be egalitarian. I’ll tell you this, I didn’t see any bank execs shaking and cursing at bus stops. I know that the World Health Organisation claims that ice is the most widely abused drug in Hawaii, suggesting that the banker is doin’ his cursing and shaking in an executive bathroom. In any case, I don’t care about him or your artist friend who lives in a Waikiki loft and snorts meth bi-weekly. The banker and your friend are just flavor of the month drug users, not the tip of an epidemic ice-berg.
Those concerned with drug use (the police, medical institutions, non-profits, etc.) call it a plague because it’s democratic.
“Who knows, man, I could be addicted next blah blah blah”. But you won’t be. Poor people will be addicted next because poor people are bummers and do bummer things. In New York they inhale crack. In remote Australia they sniff petrol. In Hawaii they smoke ice. The cellar dwellers of humanity have always been afflicted. Two thousand years ago they had leprosy. Today they have drug addiction.
Average people get a dramatic thrill discussing how much “ice crime” there is in the “bad ice neighborhoods” but the problem is, Hawaii doesn’t have the kind of Cartel warfare that really causes blood to flow. The Mexican Cartels run 96% percent of the meth into Hawaii and take 95% of the money back to California and Mexico. Most of the crime only affects, again, bummer poor people who live near other bummer poor people. A strung out junkie on Pua Lane stealing a stereo from another strung out junkie on Pua Lane. Ain’t no Miami Vice busts of neo-classical beachfront mansions. Armed thugs shooting Uzis from cigarette boats while Don Johnston sticks his penknife into a kilo and takes a taste. Drug money has to stay around for that kind of good movie violence, and it just doesn’t here.
To be fair, Hawaii has a few factors that magnify the problem. For starters, ice is the most addictive drug around. 98% of first-time meth users become addicted after a year and no more than 6% of meth users can ever really kick the habit. It permanently destroys your brain, rots your teeth and pocks your face.
Also, Hawaii’s native population got colonised/stated-up by the biggest sin bags ever: White Protestants. The naked Polynesians had no chance since WASP’s can hold their sin better than any people group in the history of mankind. Whitey proceeds to pass the good times along at an exorbitant price. Sexually transmitted disease, booze, greed, drugs… all white specialties that have destroyed the “gentler races.”
Hawaii’s climate supports a more degenerate scene then, say, Reykjavik. The perpetual 78 degrees means you can sell everything you own for a little taste of the crystal. Sell your car, house, kids, wife… ain’t no thang! The nights are warm and the sun is free. Paradise facilitates extremes that wouldn’t be approached elsewhere.
Lastly, the islands are strange. Populated year round, in two-week increments, by some of the most hideous examples of pan-Caucasian and pan-Asian humanity. Those who move here permanently are usually douche bags in the construction trade who love to sit out at Ala Moana Bowls and say things like, “You can’t beat this. All I do is surf, screw and eat.” It’s an inescapable Disney landmass, which is great to surf from November to January… but tough to swallow as a round-the-calendar lifestyle choice. I could see how it’d be easier to slip into some reality-bending substance.
STILL, all things thoughtfully considered, ice is no plague.
I finally bought some glass on my last night in Honolulu. It was a little bag (maybe 1/16 of an ounce?). The guy who sold it to me was a twitchy, tweaking poor Anglo. Probably 45 or 50. Probably used to work in the welding arts before taking an entrepreneurial turn. He was wearing jean shorts, ankle socks, Reeboks, and a “hang loose” tank-top. It cost me 30 bucks and I brought it back to my hotel room. It sat on the desk staring at me in a decidedly unglamorous way, so I gave it to the Duke Kahanamoku statue. One more Hawaiian down, 200,000 to go.