It hasn’t changed one bit in 45 years.
My drug store is right next to the University of Texas Medical Branch. This is an 11,000 employee medical center and school. They teach aspiring MDs, nurses and other assorted medical professionals. The area around UTMB is the historical district. Doctors own beautiful renovated oak-shaded ante-bellum mansions that are right beside homes that are marginal, run down and ugly, owned by little old widows who have lived there for decades. They’ll become a doctor’s place when she dies.
I’m just giving you a little flavor. That neighborhood is where they opened up The Galveston National Laboratory two weeks ago. An eight floor high security lab that studies that worst shit on the earth. Ebola and stuff like that. The GNL is drawing scientists from all over the world and bio-tech firms to the neighborhood like ants to a picnic.
Galveston will be okay. The face will change. Eventually the “Redneck Riviera” will be gone. That is the area to the east end of Seawall Blvd. The seawall sidewalk hookers are already gone. The lowest level of drug dealers too. They will never be back. The poverty-level enclaves were destroyed by the storm. The residents went to Houston.
You know that JP is a bleeding heart liberal, but I do not think that the loss of this group of people is a bad thing. I have a grandson who I want to be able to attend Ball High School in safety in about 13 years.
I will talk about “The Storm” (as Hurricane Ike is referred to in Galveston) a lot because The Storm has had a profound effect on me, my family and every one living in our town. The stress is insidious. I went over to the spa at The Moody Gardens Hotel today. (Right near my townhome) and got a deep tissue massage in Guangzhou with all of the panache and ambience of the first class hotel. They like locals. They took good care of JP. My back and shoulders were so tensed up, she found little knots to work on. It hurt so good.
There is worry about UTMB. Just a few less than 3,000 employees were laid off this week. All levels. Yesterday.. 126 faculty members. All clinics are up and running, but only a few are at home in Galveston. They are spread all around the county, in borrowed or rented offices.
Now, my essay for today. A blast from the past, 2008 style. The UTMB medical school is running full speed. A first year student presented an Rx for Ritalin 20 mg, #60 1 tab q AM and 1 tab q HS. I took the packet to her myself and asked her to come over to the consultation window and talk with me.
“Do you usually take this at bedtime?” She seemed like a normal kid. Why give a girl with ADHD a bedtime dose? Was it a doctor’s error?
“Well, yeah, I guess.”
“You are not going to sleep,” I said. I watched her and she got a little skittish. “Talk to me,” I said and grabbed her eyes with my eyes and smiled. No judgment. Just talk with your pharmacist.
“Well, it is not for that,” she said, “It is for studying. I tend to let my mind wander when I am tired.”
“And this is crunch time. Medical school! This is finally the real thing.”
She nodded. “The real thing,” she repeated. “I like that.”
“It’s time to act like a grown up.”
She nodded gravely, “That’s right.”
“Now, Bristol,” I said, “You gotta sleep. You can’t take this to study every night.”
“Oh no, not every night. The doctor gave me a lecture about it, but you are easier to talk to.” She frowned. “Can it hurt me?”
“It can if you take it every night.”
“Oh, I promise. Not even every day. Maybe not even every week.”
I laughed and told her that nothing has changed since 1963. Forty-Five years and students in the medical universe are using drugs to get wired to study. I told her about Eskatrol Spansules and Dexamyl Spansules. They were popular diet drugs. No more controlled than Penicillin G. There was no DEA. At my home drug store, we had rolls of samples down in the drug room in the basement. I’m telling you hundreds of spansules. Every pharmacy student I knew brought a stash to school for mid-terms and finals.
Eskatrol, by the way, was dextroamphetamine and prochlorperazine. Dexamyl was Dexedrine and amobarbital. Yeah. I know. The last time I took a Dexamyl was for a mid-term in 1963. There were three or four Kappa Psi brothers studying at my basement apartment off campus. I was a very good student. I was on my bed reading comic books. My studying was done by midnight. But with 15 mg of dextroamphetamine being released slowly into my blood stream there was no hope of sleeping. Why did I take that shit? Ritual. That is what we did. Young men whose dorsal lateral prefrontal cortexes were just maturing. Certainly, my impulse control was not good enough to tell my friends that I was not partaking.
Madhouse trailer My studying buddies left at around 3:00 AM. My roommate was sound asleep. The basement was dark. My mouth was dry and I felt hot. I was horny like only a pharmaceutical amphetamine can make you horny. No hope. No girl friend. I had the five bucks but I didn’t have the car to drive over the river to that famous farm house with the clock on it. We called it “The Clock” and the clock replaced the red lantern. Shit, you guys would feel like I did too. I have no clue what amphetamines do to you girls, but there is one universal and brilliant consequence that turned many housewives into prescription forgers after they lost the weight and their asshole doctors cut them off from the drug. I told Bristol.
That night in 1963, I took a long shower for my itchy skin. After the shower, I had to walk through a dark laundry room to get to where Faber and I lived. I took three steps and had an auditory hallucination. A voice as compelling as any I knew said in a loud stage whisper, “Jim, come here.” As I write this, the 45 year memory in my limbic system is making the hair stand up on my legs. I retreated into the bath room and took another shower. I tried again and again, “Jim, come here.” Three tries and I locked the door and stayed in the bathroom until morning. After that, it was no problem to say, “I’d rather sleep tonight” and refuse one of the speckled green capsules
I told Bristol about my experience (minus the horniness). She was my buddy now. We shared something. We had laughed together.
“Bristol,” I said, “There is something that I have to warn you about.”
“What is that?”
“Euphoria, Bristol. Flat line euphoria. The EVERYTHING IS ALL RIGHT EUPHORIA. NOTHING CAN HURT ME EUPHORIA. I AM QUEEN OF THE MOTHERFUCKING WORLD EUPHORIA.”
“Is that a real bad thing.”
“It is a very bad thing. That drug will make you experience a sense of well being that is so powerful that you might want it when you go to a club on the seawall on Saturday night. You might want to feel that good on your breaks at your parent’s house. You might be going back to your doctor telling her that you lost your pills or had shared them to get more. This class of drug could sabotage your goal to be a doctor. You could flunk your ass out because of Ritalin.”
Bristol looked at her pills, then at me. “You are scaring me.”
“Good. You’ll know exactly what I am talking about with your first pill. It is going to make you feel very good, Bristol. Promise you will come and talk to me, Bristol. Come and talk or call me if you sense it could be getting dangerous.”
“Promise. I promise, sir.” She took my card. “I really promise, sir, thank you.”
I watched her cute little bottom as she walked away. I sighed. I wasn’t her dad. Just her pharmacist.