All Photographs + Text Copyright 2012 Christopher Keeley

Opium Dreams

Mauritius used to be reported as being among the poorest countries in the world in spite of being one of the world's greatest paradises. It's an island in the middle of the Indian Ocean off the east coast of Madagascar.

My dad was slated to be the U.S. Ambassador to Madagascar, but that country would not accept him as the U.S. representative because he had served in Cambodia during the last part of the war there, and the people in power in Madagascar were aligned with the Khmer Rouge who had in the end defeated the U.S.-supported Khmer Republic. Because of that background they wouldnÕt accept the U.S. president's appointment of my dad to that country. I had been looking forward to the 10,000 varieties of chameleons that are found there, as well as the lemurs and bush babies.

So instead my dad was posted to Mauritius as Ambassador after having been the DCM (Deputy Chief of Mission) in Cambodia. Shortly before my parents were scheduled to leave for Mauritius, I escaped from a locked psychiatric hospital in Baltimore called Johns Hopkins PHIPPS. I had been locked up a month earlier, since May of my senior year of High School, diagnosed with Schizophrenia and Manic Depression. I believe today that my psychosis was due to ingesting vast amounts of Cocaine, LSD, Marijuana, Amyl Nitrate poppers, Bi-Phetamine time release, Hashish, Psilocybin mushrooms, and Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.

I was very disappointed at finding myself locked up in the psychiatric hospital at Johns Hopkins because it blew my on-going record of managing to stay high every day on Marijuana. I was proud of the fact that I managed to smoke weed in every new location that I ended up in. I used to say: If it's Thursday, it must be Addis Ababa. Because of being evacuated from so many countries in crisis, I found myself in many strange lands and was proud that I managed to stay high along the way, living in a euphoric utopian state of mind.

I escaped Johns Hopkins and hitchhiked back to Washington DC from Baltimore, getting picked up by a hippie in a convertible Alpha Romeo. I got to my parentsÕ house to find everything packed up. I had been collecting every kind of Marijuana that I came across and thought I was appointed the connoisseur of the Eastern Hemisphere. So my main concern was whether my mother had discovered my stash. I was also selling Plexiglas bongs of every colour imaginable for a dollar a piece. Bongs in those days cost approximately $10 and I was the Robin Hood of the hippie world, also selling any quantity of weed for a dollar a gram, even if you only had a dollar. That's what I got it for.

I find my room completely packed up. My parentsÕ dilemma was what were they going to do with me, as I was now AWOL from Johns Hopkins. After serious negotiations they talked the State Department into giving them special permission for me to travel to Mauritius with them on the condition that I would remain on medication, Thorazine and Lithium specifically, that had been prescribed for treating my alleged manic depression, to be managed by a Chinese psychiatrist they had already identified in Mauritius to supervise my treatment. This psychiatrist was Dr. Yiptong.

I took the medicine for a few weeks and went to about two appointments, but it was a lost cause because I was an Alcoholic. Lithium and Thorazine don't mix too well with Alcohol.

I would go to this night club called Sam's Disco every night in Mauritius and drink free because about once a week I was allowed to be delivered there by the official car that had two flags on it, one being the American flag. Now usually the disco only had about ten to fifteen customers but when the official car arrived out front, the disco would fill up with 40 to 50 customers, all apparently attracted by the flag. The embassy driver was also named Sam, which made things fun. The clientele apparently thought that the club must be something American and the hippest thing in town. The DJ would play certain songs that provided a clue that we were going to smoke a joint out back.

My first night at the disco I was wearing seersucker pants that got completely ruined because the Alcohol did not mix well with the medication I had been taking. Walking home from the disco at 4 a.m. I was staggering back and forth from one side of the street to the other and actually fell into a few ditches. My clothes were completely black and had to be thrown away the next morning to great embarrassment. My mother was extremely distraught because the servants were the poorest people in the world and here were some brand new clothes completely destroyed from a night of drinking.

One night one of the clientele at Sam's Disco had a dump truck and we were all riding on top of this dump truck at sunrise after a night of partying and I wasn't paying attention and a tree branch hit me and knocked me off the dump truck. They stopped to pick me up and we ended up at my house, which was a modern mansion with a large yard, grass tennis court with pheasants and peacocks on it. A swimming pool that was actually more like a lily pond. So I have brought home a dump truck full of partiers to my house for more partying.

My mother was getting very upset because this was a daily occurrence. I would sleep all day and party all night. I wasn't in school and I definitely wasn't working. I had been diagnosed as having several mental disorders. Today I believe that my proper diagnosis was late stage Drug Addiction, and that is what my problem was. My problem was me and I had to look in the mirror. I couldn't blame anyone or anything. If I didn't take drugs, then everything would work itself out through accepting life's hardships. Also, I never wanted to grow up.

Marijuana was hard to come by in Mauritius in those days, which is not the case now. But back then it would come in these little twists. This Marijuana was very powerful because one little twist would be mixed with a tobacco cigarette. It would do the trick for three or four people. It was probably sensimellia, because there were never any seeds, and the seeds that I saw were beautifully speckled like nothing I had seen before. One of those little twists cost $5, which was an enormous amount of money for the local population.

I would spend time at our beach house when my parents were in town, and when they were at the beach house I would spend time in town, avoiding any authority as much as possible. I had a friend visit me and we went to the beach house with a case of beer. He was loaded and he had the audacity to ask my mom the next day to send another case down with the driver. My mom freaked out because the case was supposed to last a week. Even in those days I was rationed, like two beers and half a bottle of wine a day. So I was recovering from my psychiatric hospitalization on this paradise island of Mauritius. A year went by and I had hoped to go to Bard College, being the artistic Manic-Depressive that I supposedly was. Bard had accepted me during my senior year in high school but because I didn't make graduation because of my psychiatric hospitalization, they sent me a letter to Mauritius saying that they had terrible experiences with students who suffered similar experiences with Manic Depression. Therefore they were now rejecting my application and my previous acceptance for admission to Bard College was now invalid. My heart was broken. I was a failure. I hadnÕt been accepted at Princeton. Not surprising. During my interview at Princeton my hash pipe fell out onto the floor, making a clicking noise. I quickly scooped it up, but the interviewer obviously saw it. I put Princeton as my second choice, but I had shoddy grades and I had attended nine high schools, so it wasnÕt surprising that I was rejected.

I did attend the American University as a freshman, and became a junkie. Upon my return to Mauritius I met an Opium addict at Sam's Disco. I was in heaven. This Opium cost 30 cents a shot. The irony was that we would use at my house, which was one of the most magnificent houses on the island, and then use in his tin shack that was the size of a bed. I would go to this shantytown to get high on the Opium.

I was terrified, because this guy named Ebert had black veins from shooting the opium and I didn't want my veins to become black like his. He was my connection and the Opium was so cheap that I was immediately strung out, that is, physically addicted. I was only going to do a shot on the weekends, but that soon turned out to be daily, and then 4 or 5 times a day. From these injections I became pale, and in an Opium delirium completely oblivious to reality, a dreamlike state of no worries in the world. I was completely addicted. I was totally isolated in this huge house with servants and no friends other than Ebert with the black veins. I also couldn't show him to anyone because he didn't look too good. He was a secret friend only allowed to come over in the middle of the night.

I remember taking a bus to the Chinese part of town to score some Opium on my own and very noticeably sticking out because I was a skinny white kid. Mauritius is very racially disparate, and the white franco-mauritians are somewhat racist even though many of them are mixed racially. A scandal for another story is when I showed up with some Creoles and Indians at the Grande Bay Yacht Club for the beach disco that they closed early and didn't open back up for the rest of the summer.

I was so secretive living in my own world. At the beach I would cover my arms with a towel right up to the shoreline and slither in for a swim, because I didn't want anyone to see the tracks on my arms.

Ebert would boil this raw Opium paste into a liquid that could then be smoked, drunk, or used for injections. When I got back to the United States, my black liquid Opium had an awful green/white smelly mold on top, which scared me, but I used it anyway.

Right before using, every time, I would get the urge to go to the bathroom. It's a weird feeling, but I guess psychologically, your stomach gets butterflies, and you have the urge to use the bathroom, because the dope makes you constipated. Using the Opium, one is in a dreamlike trance where all pain is gone, and a fantasy of pure pleasure occurs. All problems are diminished and a warm feeling all over the body occurs. Everything is bliss.

When I got back to the United States and my Opium ran out, I attempted suicide by turning on the gas in the kitchen of my apartment, until a neighbor called the landlord smelling gas. I detoxed by drinking loads of Alcohol to a depressive oblivion. The cheapest booze was this chemically enriched concoction called MD 20/20. Wine that has never seen a grape. Sweet and powerful, we would mix it in a blender with fruit and give it to naive American University girls.

When I got clean at the end of 1983, a strange thing occurred. My friend Marc, my first friend to be diagnosed with AIDS in 1984, tells me that there is a Golf pro living in my building at my Washington DC Condo, and he is from Mauritius. It was true. This guy was the golf champion from Mauritius and was our next-door neighbor there. He was living in the same apartment building as me in Washington DC. His wife was so flirtatious that he had to move back to Mauritius to control her.

On Thu, Oct 20, 2011 at 11:08 PM, Suttish Koomar Sumputh wrote: I was very glad to read the article on the web.i remember the good time we had at sams and at your house at angus lane vacoas. Me i am retired and live at tamarin blackriver which is in the west of the island . I have a nice house By the beach, running A guesthouse , and have a commercial building which i rent to shops and offices. I have sold the disco 12 years back. The disco is still running on an other name, they play indian bollywood music.please keep contact with me .i am glad to hear that you are a professional photograph,tell me more about you. How is your mum and dad doing, give them my regards.we had some great time together which i never forget , i have some photos as well which i need to find out and will send to you.i am healthy and happy and still going on . I remarried in 1996 to a nice girl who use to live next to your house at angus lane vacoas , i have 3 sons , two from my 1st marriage and one who is 14 from my second marriage . Hope to hear frm you soon , we had lots of sovenir to talk about. Bye. Envoyer de iPad S.k.Sumputh

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