"Drugs of Choice"

. . . Stanley, Resident of the Chelsea Hotel

I lived at the Chelsea Hotel in the Big Apple a while back. During the time of Stanley. 

Actually, there were two Stanley's. 

One Stanley was the beloved Stanley Bard, owner of the property. He was known for his support of artists. You can still prowl the lobby and see some of his most eclectic collection of art. Some, if not most of which, was given in lieu of rent. 

I left the Chelsea Hotel owing back rent. I gave Mr. Bard my camera and lenses as collateral. If you go back to an older Smithsonian Magazine article featuring the Chelsea Hotel, there's a photograph of Stanley Bard in his office just off the lobby. On a shelf in the open cabinet behind him is my black camera case! Also, I left a piece of handmade jewelry; a small mobile of a human face crafted in silver by a Soho artisan. And, a tribal rug from Iran.

Mr. Bard didn't ask for those items in lieu of by back rent, I felt it was a necessary gesture in good faith to be clear I would pay up when I could. In fact, I did repay him. He didn't remember the promise, but he had the camera set and returned them to me. When I get those negatives out of storage I'll post the images I shot after leaving the Hotel. He didn't know the whereabouts of the jewelry piece or the rug. So, that's that.

There was another Stanley at the Chelsea Hotel. A true denizen of that haunted place. We had the kind of passing acquaintance you develop with people who you see on an everyday basis, but don't necessarily have anything more than a hello between you. 

I must have had a conversation or two with him, though. Once he said to me, "Drugs of choice." In connection with what I don't remember. It may have been something as simple as me telling him I was going to see a movie. "Drugs of choice." I got the reference immediately. In short, we are all drug addicts. Just that the particular preferences vary. 

Stanley, it was clear to me, was a drug user. Heavy duty. I once passed him on the hotel stairway (one of the wonders of New York City, that beautiful marble stepped and artistic wrought iron railed stairway) and his eyes looked like spinning hypnotic pinwheels. It suggested to me that he was a long time aficionado of powerful mind/body altering substances. Steeped. Anyhow, live and let live. 

That phrase from Stanley is fixed in memory as one of those adages worth keeping. Or, at least, remembering. Like what a fellow on the street in New York City said to me once about his woes over having been dumped by his true love . . . "A living man is worth more than as the crow flies." She not only dumped him, she must've dumped on him too. Big time. Poor soul.

"Drugs of choice." Like I said, I don't remember the context in which he made that profound statement; but certainly Stanley, the Drug Guy, had made his choice(s). 

Now, for the point of all this. (Have you enjoyed this wrambling so far?) You can relate to this writing as if it were a drug. A soft one. But, if you take it all in, it is compounded in my literary apothecary to have a certain wonderful effect. Try it. Come on. Chicken? Just once. There are not that many Wronski's Wrambling addicts out there. What's the harm. Everybody is doing it. 

You know they don't call it the Big Apple for nothing. Like Adam and Eve and that apple what started it all, NYC is a great temptation of the psyche and the senses. Drugs of choice. So many. Make your choice.

Of course, we live in a drug saturated culture. Legal drugs. I marvel at the advertising for drugs and how blithely and sweetly they give the arms length list of possible horrifying  and dire side effects. Also, how the copy in those commercials seems to assume we all are fluent in drug names and their uses. I'm not. I don't take anything stronger than aspirin, maybe sometimes an Advil. So I just sit and watch as the old AdMan in me analyzes the advertising. By the way, that whole business of advertising prescription drugs to consumers started during my time in the ad barrel. It's a whole specialty now. They even have experts with seminars and courses on the craft of naming drugs. Richard my Scottsdale hair cutter came up with the ultimate drug name: Copacetic, for when you just want to get through the day. 

Sex can be a drug. It's one of my faves. Note to the fellas: the advertising and the general conversation in the culture suggests that sex for us is, at the culmination, about letting it go. Sure feels good. Right? As you mature you will notice, or maybe already have, that you don't seem to come back for another quite so fast. It's not that you have a finite store of power in the sack, but as you age the turnaround time becomes longer. Something about production rate. Pharma has a solution to that problem. So, why not take a blue one and get it on. And, out. There are no long term studies on that, but I'll bet if you are into your years ripping them out regularly, you'll become a ghost. Not unlike those guys who are heavy into the illegal drugs. All grey, and gaunt. Also, at some point in one's life the natural inclination becomes more inward directed. There's a whole science on that. Mantak Chia is a well known Taoist Qi Gung Master and has written authoritatively on redirecting sexual energy. Check it out: Taoist Secrets of Love: Cultivating Male Sexual Energy. 

Let me mention our icon of male sexual enjoyment, Mr. Hugh Hefner. The poster boy for the promise of Viagra. Could it be that its all a big pose? There's plenty of photos to suggest it is. His message: enjoy, fornicate, copulate, enjoy. Stop. Then do it again. Wouldn't it be a kick to find out after his demise that in fact he was gay? Demise? Heck, with all that snatch, he might live forever. 

And, for no reason in particular, I'm sharing that the Stanley I mentioned looked like a cross between Hugh Hefner and William Borroughs. Whether, and what, Stanley had going on besides drugs, I don't know. 

Drugs of choice. The media. Do I even have to elucidate on that one. I remember sitting around on Saturday nights listening to Edgar Bergen and Charley McCarthy. The Shadow. Then television got us all into sitting in front of a screen. Then computer screens. Now screens in our pockets. As I suggested in another rant (yes, this is becoming a rant), it's not that unthinkable that in some Brave New World we'll have the option to have a screen inserted into our brains. Option? Maybe a requirement of citizenship?

Drugs of choice. Take, work. (Please.) Nothing wrong with work. Things need to get done. But it's the busyness of business that can be so drugging. Who are we without our roles, without the time we fill with our doings and goings? If you pride yourself on being a so-called multi-tasker. So you can give 100% of your attention to more than one thing at a time? Really?

My short conclusion on drugs is that they are distractions. At best, for relieving pain and burdensome symptoms. Temporarily. At worst, keeping us from the real business of living. What might that be, you may ask? Living. There are teachers on such things. But, let me put it this way: Does anybody really think being strapped to an electronic device, or serving in some robotic capacity to earn money to buy an even better electronic device, is living? 

Underneath our distractions, we're alive. Do you really want to live? Break the drug habit. 

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