I think crack cocaine gets a bad rap. Hardly ever, in all time, has a substance been so thoroughly stigmatized. The words ‘on crack’ have become synonymous with craziness or insanity. But if you look around carefully, you don’t hear too many complaints about the stuff from anyone who’s actually tried it. I think most of the backlash against crack is financial and political. For starters, the shit is cheap. So if you’re trying to look like you’re well off in the world, the last thing you want to do is be seen with people who use crack. Then there is the popular accusation that crack was put on the streets by the US government as a cheap way of controlling the low-income, black population of the inner cities. For the record, I believe that this is probably exactly what happened. But that doesn’t mean that crack itself is bad. It may mean that the government is bad. It may remind us that racism and addiction are bad. But it doesn’t mean that crack is bad. I’ve smoked crack. Crack is fucking good.
The only problem with crack is that it’s so good that the people who’ve tried it don’t want to do anything else. They have no motivation to conquer their addiction because there’s nothing else they’re ever going to do for 10 bucks that feels as good as crack. I was able to give up the rock because I had a lot of unusual things going for me at the time. I had an opportunity to publish a book and record an album. I had good friends who were smart and interesting, in a city where I didn’t know any dealers. I had a loving family full of people who were talented and ambitious. In recovery programs, they refer to this as a support network. But most crack addicts don’t have a support network. They have precisely the opposite. They’re surrounded by people who don’t have hope. Most of the guys I used to smoke with came from broken families. They didn’t have dreams about art or travel or philosophy. For most of them, if they ever got off the pipe, the only thing waiting for them – in the sober light of day – would be a precarious dead-end job as a janitor or a fry cook. And I couldn’t look one of them in the eye and say that either of those titles was any more luxurious than crack-head.
The hard work of the underprivileged doesn’t guarantee them anything anymore. I could tell one of my old buddies that he could get a grunt job, take pride in it, and someday buy a house and send his children to college. But I think we all know that I’d be lying. I don’t even expect, with all the advantages I have, that I will necessarily ever own a home or send my kids to a good school. I’m not sure I’ll ever even have dental coverage or be able to support kids at all. In fact, hang on a minute; I’m gonna have a few more drinks before I finish writing this. Seriously, it’s never been clear for any of us what makes life worth living, and what it’s all about at the end of the day. But one thing is clear. We all have to find our own way to participate in the grand illusion. I’ve got it pretty easy, myself. I don’t have too many problems these days. But I still have to get liquored up now and then to convince myself that I’m living a real life. I still have to shake off all the constant reminders that I’m not thin enough or pretty enough or young enough. I have to deaden the voices around me talking about designer clothes, ultra-white teeth, ab-flattening energy drinks and soy yoga spirituality. I have to find a way to turn off the volume on all that shit so I can hear the little voice inside of me that’s trying to write poems. So tonight, I’m doing that on the left bank with a bottle of chilled rosé. But I used to do it with crack, like so many other people are surely still doing right now.
The ugly thing is that someone could waste his entire life smoking crack. The beautiful thing is that we can all get crack. We can’t all get the things that are considered ‘acceptable’ ways to waste one’s life, like flat-screen plasma tvs, plastic surgery, sports cars, corporate jobs, trophy marriages and brushes with celebrity. These types of empty lives are fashionable and expensive, so they are forgiven for being what they are. But when a poor man chucks the vital years of his life into a crack pipe, people are quick to look down on him and say, “What a shame,” “What a waste.” Well I say fuck those people, because I know what’s in that pipe. It’s his reality show, his pearly white veneers, his week on a rented boat in the Mediterranean. And I’m not sure that what he’s giving up to get it is any more precious than what the middle-class people give up every morning when that alarm goes off. And I’m not sure (from experience, mind you) that crack is any more addictive than television, facebook, bottled water, pilates or fame.
I think people look down on the crack-head not because of what he’s doing, but because he’s escaped the structure of what everyone else is doing. He’s slipped through the cracks of pressure and expectation. He’s actually achieved the moment when he doesn’t give a fuck anymore and there’s no way left for him to be brought down. But this is a form of Nirvana! Just as the only people who don’t fret about money are bums and millionaires, the only people who don’t worry about spiritual matters are gurus and crack-heads. All the billions of people in the middle are the ones hung up on vague images of bullshit solutions to problems they don’t even understand. So you want my advice? Leave the crack-heads alone, or shake their hands and give em a few bucks. Better yet? Sell your fucking tv and hit the pipe for a couple of weeks. Like the old saying goes, don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.
– Jason Stoneking 2011