Awake and Alive
In case of emergency, break glass and smoke joint. This was my security, staying high all the time. It was my security blanket. The goal was to never run out, because if I did, panic set in. The emergency room was always a back-up plan. It almost became a weekly event, going to the emergency room, at the hospital in Zimbabwe. Worst case scenario, I could always snatch a few ampoules off the nurses' cart, when no one was looking. My preferred choice of ampoule was the euphoric narcotic, Morphine, but my fingers often grasped drugs such as Valium, Socegon, and Pethadine ampoules.
The nurse had to be convinced. I pleaded with her that I was in so much pain that I couldnÕt leave the emergency room until I was satisfied. Shooting up was my preference, a Morphine injection successfully mainlined into my bloodstream. One would think that they would know me on a first and last name basis. Healthcare was free too, a social welfare system, but I have a vague recollection of sometimes paying for my treatment. I had no driverÕs license, so these weekly endeavors usually required me to manipulate some friend into transporting me to the hospital, in his/her vehicle. Sometimes I would share in the bounty.
One day Jane and Tom were visiting my parents at our house in Zimbabwe. They were coming over for drinks and then dinner. I was suffering from a hangover that seemed incurable. Drinking more Alcohol usually solved that. I was so dehydrated that my plan that afternoon was to go to the hospital and request a saline drip to revive me from my self-imposed misery. Bring me back to life, so to speak. I convinced my friend Rob, a Canadian, to drive me to the emergency room. He had a crush on Jane too, and my bribe was that he would get to meet her face to face. My journey to the emergency room was successful, and I stole a few ampoules from the nursesÕ cart.
I was late getting back for the formal dinner because it took at least an hour to find a vein. I was in a delirious state when I met Jane, grinning all the way. Almost every weekend I would injure myself in some manner, falling down the stairs of the Himalaya night club, bar fights, usually fights with a bouncer because I would attempt to smuggle in a fifth of Johnny Walker Red. Abscesses on my feet, boxing mitt hands, and sprained ankles occurred from being a falling down drunk, as well as injecting drugs into my body, into any place I could find a vein to register a hit. I would show up at the lunch table at my parentsÕ house with a black eye. My mother would say: Not again, you couldn't even go a week without injuring yourself in some manner.
I never made it to the breakfast table because I was sleeping off a binge. One time my friend Henry was visiting from Washington DC, and I would never appear for any of the scheduled meals. It was embarrassing for everyone. I didnÕt want to work. I just wanted to bang on the drum all day, a Todd Rungren tune appropriately ringing in my head. No matter how many pills I swallowed or injected, I could never feel right. I truly believed I was living in a life of paradise, because I had acquired so many drugs, quality injectables, Malawi weed, South African Mandrax, Morphine Sulfate, Morphine ampoules, Valium number tens, expensive Whiskey, Bacardi Rum, French wine, micro dots, and an unlimited supply of Zimbabwe Lager Beer. On any given day I was stoned, drunk, nodding out, tripping, rushing on Mandies, white pipes, and avoiding reality at all costs.
It became a nightmare. I knew in the back of my mind I was going to be arrested, sent to jail, overdose, or be shot. My death was imminent. I didn't care. I was going to get high, stay high, and have as much fun as possible along the way. I must admit I did get the girls. I was proud of the fact that I could have the girls in bed, within half an hour of meeting them. One time I worked in a clothing store, and right after closing hours we would grab some bottles of wine and head back to my parentsÕ house, it was so convenient. My parents also arranged for a driver to transport me in our personal car. I wasn't allowed to drive because of having no driver's license and because of my perpetual stoned state of mind. I weaved when I walked.
I managed to get a part-time job at the U. S. Information Service office as an administrative assistant. My primary task was to develop an ever-changing mailing list and punch the addresses on metal plates for an automated mailing machine. It was extremely boring and labor intensive. Any mistake required a whole new plate to be made. I made many mistakes, not knowing the correct spelling of the African government ministers with long names, some of them too long to fit on the plate, a problem that required clever abbreviations.
Everyone was having three Martini lunches. I used the photocopy machine to photocopy prescriptions for Wellconal. One day I left the blank stolen prescription pad on the photocopy machine, and came back hours later to find it still there. I believe at the time, in 1981, it was one of the only photocopy machines in the country. At least there were not any available to the general public. One day I was busting a script at a pharmacy, that is, having a prescription legitimately filled. The Chemist didn't like the feel of the thick photocopy paper. He had called the doctor for verification and I ran out of the store hobbling, to a waiting friend, Eddie, who was driving the getaway car.
Eddie was unfortunately waiting in a gas line. In those days the South Africans had blown up the petrol pipelines in Mozambique, and we had to wait in gas lines. Gasoline was now scarce. You could only get ten dollars worth of gas, which was about two gallons. So any time gas lines were available, you jumped into them. Gas could only be obtained on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Eddie took advantage of the situation to buy a little gas while I was in the pharmacy. Eddie was waiting in the gas line at the pump outside this little mall where the pharmacy was located. The Chemist follows me to the car and takes down Eddy's license tag. I had to hobble to the car with a cane, because my whole leg was infected from a poisonous spider bite. ThatÕs another story and chapter in the Paradise Life saga.
Eddie and I were busting scripts all over town. I would photocopy blank scripts and Eddie would fill them out. My hands were too shaky from alcoholism, Morphine withdrawals, and of course fear. Eddie was the manager at a coffee factory. He would get doctorsÕ names from his employeesÕ sick slips. Eddie also forged the doctors' names. We thought we were very ingenious. We were crazed on Wellconal. Every lunch period we would score our pinks and shoot them up. The problem was we could never get enough. Almost every other day we would run out.
The next day after the Chemist took Eddie's license plate down, the C.I.D. paid Eddie's home a visit. They ransacked the whole house looking for drugs. The only thing they found was some Marijuana in Eddie's fiancˇeÕs purse. She was so sweet and innocent, and had no idea about what we were up to. They met Eddie at his place of employment and made him give them writing samples. Eddie fled the country the next day, to South Africa, leaving everything behind, including his house and job. I believe he was renting the house, but it was a steal because of the price he was paying. He could host parties for a hundred or so people without disturbing the neighbors. It was on several acres, in the suburb of Borrowdale, Harare.
With Eddie having fled the country on very short notice, less than 24 hours, I was extremely paranoid that Eddie had also ratted me out as his accomplice. The drugs I was taking also contributed to my shaky state of mind, but this recent event pushed the fear factor to the maximum. Even with a good buzz on I couldnÕt shake the feeling of inevitable impending doom. By this time I was blacklisted at most pharmacies. Even with a legitimate prescription for Wellconal many pharmacies would not bust my scripts. It was very frustrating, to the point of feeling like an anarchist. The whole world was against me, and all I wanted to do was stay high 24/7.
I managed to get a job at an advertising agency, through the help of my steady girlfriend, Valerie. Her father actually got me the job. This job lasted only three weeks, because I messed up a shot on my hand, and the tip of my finger had to be amputated. But while I was at this advertising job, an embarrassing thing happened. At the main downtown pharmacy I was ordering a whole box of syringes, pointing out to the clerk the specific size and brand, above his head, at the front counter. I turn around and standing in line behind me is the president of the advertising agency that I worked at. I quickly wave my hands wildly to tell the clerk I have changed my mind, saying no, no, not that one, my mother is a diabetic, I guess she will have to pick them up herself. I leave the pharmacy, after quickly saying hello to my employer.
The next week I had to leave the country, to go to Pretoria, South Africa, to have the tip of my little finger amputated. It had Gangrene resulting from my hitting an artery in my little finger while attempting to inject a mixture of drugs into my veins. This had happened in a bathroom of the Meikles Hotel, where my girlfriend Valerie was playing the piano in the Jazz Bar. I felt a wrenching pain as I squirted the drugs into my hand. I knew something must have been terribly wrong. Blood was exploding onto the bathroom stall wall from my missing the registration of the first two attempted shots. In my frustration I continued jamming the Wellconal into my system, hoping to take all the pain of life away into a cloud of delirium.
Only a junkie knows the rushing excitement one feels dripping in the back of the throat and the butterflies in the stomach. It comes automatically when one sees that cloudy rosebud form, from when the blood mixes with the clear liquid drug in a prepared syringe. A mystical instantaneous cure, as all of the junkieÕs pain disappears, when one sees the rosebud signaling that a registration has been made, and the plunger can be pushed ever so gently, not to lose that vital connection. The instantaneous gratification of that special orgasmic rush fleetingly lost. An equivalent rush was also experienced when I was 20 feet away from a bull elephant trumpeting a warning as I got too close, or when the Rhino I disturbed with her cub charged blindly toward our Land Rover. I was a thrill seeker, never satisfied with all the amazing opportunities presented to me, unconditionally. I was a fortunate son, wasting my life away.
Prior to this insanity, I escaped the C.I.D. one week after Eddie fled to South Africa. I miraculously got a job as a safari guide. The owner of the Touch the Wild Safari Company offered me a job, if I got a haircut, and passed the Safari Guide Courier's examination. I went to the National Parks office to take the test. Not having any previous knowledge of biology, Zimbabwean geography or history, which would enable me to pass the licensure process, I sneaked into the Parks office bookstore, and grabbed the Safari Guide manual. Luckily I was the only person in the examination room, which enabled my brief departure. My addict skills at quick thinking, thievery, and dishonesty had paid off.
I copied most of the necessary answers straight out of the manual and onto the test paper. Questions like: what is the gestation period of an elephant? How much water can an elephant hold in its trunk? How many miles can an elephant smell water? How many parks are there in Zimbabwe? Who was Livingston? Who was Cecil Rhodes? How fast can a cheetah run? What's the difference between a White Rhino and a Black Rhino? Why does an Ostrich stick its head in the sand? How many eggs, gestation period, weight, and specifics on mating habits? I was totally lost. I had no clue. I was in way over my head. There were many geographical questions that were impossible for me to answer, even though the Parks manual that I had purchased a few minutes earlier had a map attached to it. I was pressed for time. The test did not allow time for research. I was desperate, because this was my ticket out of the city, and Wellconal madness. Interpol was at my heels, with the assistance of the C.I.D. Who knows what Eddie had told them, but I was a known Wellconal addict by this time to anyone who may have cared. I passed the safari guide test and was off to the Hwange National Park three days later.
I found myself as an official safari guide operating in the wilds of Zimbabwe. I had made the geographical cure that may have saved my life momentarily. However, I did bring a prescription for Wellconal with me. The only place I could cash it in was at the hospital in Victoria Falls, 100 miles away from our Safari Camp in Hwange. I borrowed (without permission) an old U.S. Army Jeep that was the prized possession of one of the owners of the Safari Company. The only problem was that it was such a distinct vehicle that word would get around about my escapade. Also it couldnÕt be driven faster that 30 MPH and had no headlights. That didn't stop me.
I drove to the hospital in Victoria Falls on my day off. I wasn't missed and no clients or tourists were flying in that day. My girlfriend, Valerie, financed the journey, and helped with the driving. Three hours each way. When I returned, I was drunk, it was my birthday, and I managed to drive the jeep into a concrete pit. The Jeep was now stuck. I did make it back to the compound, in the dark. We drove back from Victoria Falls in the moonlight, without headlights. Valerie considered this adventuristic journey to be extremely romantic. However, Wellconal suppresses and inhibits the sexual appetite.
Now we were stuck in this cement pit. The Jeep could not be driven out. Valerie sweet-talked some Game Park employees into lifting the trapped jeep out of its predicament. We parked the Jeep safely back in its garage as the sun was rising. I was now a safari guide in the desert with long sleeves, fearing my employer would discover that his best guide was a junkie. His wife, being knowledgeable about Alcoholism because her first husband was a drunk, questioned me the second day on the job about my tolerance for booze.
The second day on the job I stayed up all night drinking in the game park bar with the game rangers. The next morning I was functioning fine, after popping my morning Valium while chasing it down with a warm beer, driving the tourists on a sunrise drive around the park. I had fixed their morning tea and toast. I drove to some unauthorized areas, which enabled us to see a jaguar in a tree. The luck I had with game viewing was my savior. In spite of my deficiencies as a Safari Guide, what saved me was the amazing luck I had, miraculously running into rare game. This would keep the tourists happy, and they would be able to share stories and boast about their experiences at the campfire, about all the exotic animals we had run into during our jaunts, with me behind the wheel. This was also my revenge at not having a legitimate driverÕs license.
I survived the madness of active addiction. Without any regrets I am now free, joyous and clean. I am experiencing intense feelings, coming from the inside. Because of recovery, I am awake and alive.
Chapters of the Paradise Life Book
Dada to the Bone
Stomach Pain Basilica
Moment of Clarity
Roads Not Safe
All over the place
Harassed but not arrested
The Surgery Acute care Lumbar Hemi . Laminestomy
The Leica Mishap
The Wedding Present
The Rolls Royce of Awareness.
A Pickle can't go back to being a Cucumber.
Awake and Alive
Nine High Schools Without a Diploma.
Turquoise Sports Car Totaled by a Telephone Pole
Whitepipes, Weed and the Wild Coast.
Going Ninety on Georgia Avenue.
Woke up in Swaziland instead of Switzerland.
Three Nasty Letters.
Three early traumatic events.
Madness in Rio
The Victoria Falls Fiasco.
My poisonous spider bite.
First Date with Valerie
God is laughing at me.
David Lesh's death.
The Malawi Incident.
The Biggest Blow to my Ego.
The Day I quit smoking for real.
Thanksgiving weekend 1974, my first Acid Trip.
Instances of Trouble Two
Instances of Trouble One
Ride the White Pony
journal september 1995
Catskill Mountains Photographs - Trees - Spiritual gathering place cultivating a heightened awareness of the connectedness of, and spiritual essence in, all things. A Journey outside ordinary time and space into a parallel reality.
Social Documentary Digital Photographs Indigenous Encounter Divine Moment, Light and Sympony 2007
Social Documentary Digital Photographs Indigenous Encounter Divine Moment
Social Documentary Digital Photographs Indigenous Encounter Divine Light
Social Documentary Digital Photographs Indigenous Encounter Divine Symphony
Georgetown glimpses of memory January Photographs
March on the Capitol to demand that the United States end its war in Iraq Photographs 2007
March on the Capitol yesterday to demand that the United States end its war in Iraq Photographs 1
March on the Capitol yesterday to demand that the United States end its war in Iraq Photographs 2
March on the Capitol yesterday to demand that the United States end its war in Iraq Photographs 3
March on the Capitol yesterday to demand that the United States end its war in Iraq Photographs 4
March on the Capitol yesterday to demand that the United States end its war in Iraq Photographs 5
March on the Capitol yesterday to demand that the United States end its war in Iraq Photographs 6
Martin luther King Jr. Holiday Washington DC Photographs
Martin luther King Jr. Holiday Photographs Washington DC
copyright 2007 Le Poulin
© Le Poulin 2007
New York City Angelina + Brad
peace and love Edward
New York City
Chris at the Argo Bar drinking a Tuborg soda water wearing a WaxTrax t-shirt circa 1991
Looking in the mirror - Sara cannot see herself as beautiful
Antoinette lost her leg while intoxicated stumbling and tragically falling down into traffic
New York City
Three days after a Suicide attempt
New Years Day Washington DC Photographs
New Year Day Street Washington DC Photographs
December 2006 Daily DreamTime links
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Selection of Favorite Photographs
September 2006 Daily DreamTime links
Sifnos Island Photographs 2006
August Daily Dreamtime
Paradise Life Photographs - the book
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PHOTOGRAPHER CHRIS KEELEY'S CAPITOL HILL ART EXHIBIT
-- HON. TOM LANTOS ( November 02, 1990)
super cool links
Chris keeley's resume
secret surrealist society artwork
newest sss art
Chris keeley's art galleries
rationalize,minimize and denial statements
the Intervention Organization
five and ten press - consulting iconoclast
Chris Keeley's Social Documentary Photography
Blinded by Science
Darkside / Gothic
G E E K
W E I R D O
Out of the Dark
In to the Light