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Updates and thoughts

01/01/04 2003? There is no 2003.


12/24/02

My bag finally came around on the carousel. I grabbed it and headed for the train platform to go home for the first time in five days. Christmas Eve always has a certain feel in the airport, I thought. As I got to the ticket machine, a guy who looked to be about 25, but ended up being closer to 30, was having some trouble. He seemed friendly enough, upbeat guy with a hint of an Italian Philly accent. He asked me how to get to Broad and Cherry, and how to get the damn machine to take his money. I showed him to the change machine, as I got my ticket. I told him to meet me outside on the platform and I'd show him how to get to where he was going.

We each had our tickets, and he told me he was going to Camden. I pointed out the train to Camden on the map, and told him where to get off the airport train to go there. We sat down to wait for the train. I asked him where he was headed in Camden.

Aw, man, I shouldn't even tell you. You're a good kid.

I was deciding whether to let it go at that or tell him he could tell me anyway, but he didn't give me a chance, he just changed his mind.

I'm going back to sell dope.

Maybe I had a quizzical look on my face, or maybe he just had a lot to say. But he kept talking to me. He told me how it all started: He came from a well-off, white, suburban, intelligent family. He used to be a fireman; his job was saving people. His older brother was a doctor, but several years ago had a brain tumor. He had to take care of his brother, but he had two herniated discs in his back, so he couldn't carry his brother around like he needed to. His brother saw how much pain he was in, and wrote him a prescription for morphine.

I never even did drugs at all until I was 27. Pot, sure, and a little coke, but nothing serious. I was in a band when I was 18, but when one of the other guys was shooting up one day, I got out of the room right away. You think that stuff is terrible, that it isn't you. Until you do it.

The morphine ran out, as did the refills. He went to a doctor, who told him to get surgery. He didn't want his back cut open, so he was prescribed oxycontin instead. After awhile, the doctor started trying to wean him, but he just went through the prescription quicker. That eventually ran out, so the only way to keep the pain away at that point was dope.

I don't know why I stayed there listening to him. I was afraid of him at first, but that went away rather quickly. I just got a sense that he wouldn't hurt me, but more than that. I had a sense that I could get a lot out of talking to him.

He relayed the tale of going down to 6th and Chestnut in Camden for the first time. The first guy there offered him some dope, and he bought it. He became a regular, and he eventually showed enough charisma that the head guy recruited him. The next morning, he was out there selling at 8am, and made $800 in his first 45 minutes. There was no turning back at that point.

I had a higher IQ than my brother, and he made it through medical school in half the time it should've taken. I could've made a lot of money. I still can, it's just by doing something illegal.

He told me about how he doesn't have an addictive personality at all. One day his mom told him to stop smoking cigarettes. He told her that he just likes them; that he can stop whenever he wants. To prove the point he threw out his cigarettes and threw out hers. She bought a new pack and was smoking the next day. He didn't smoke for a month, until she believed him.

Coke and cigarettes, and stuff, that's nothing. The opiates are what's really addictive. I've been going around and telling everyone that.

I told him he had me convinced, and then I corrected myself before he had the chance to. I said that of course, I don't know how I'd react if it ever happens to me, but I hope he made enough of an impression on me.

That's right. Who knows what you'll think then, but maybe you'll remember me. You seemed like a good guy, helping me with directions, that's why I'm telling you all this. I'm a walking corpse, but other people don't have to be. If you're ever in an accident, and can barely walk, and go into the hospital, ask for Tylenol.

I don't know where the idea came from. I just thought of it out of nowhere. "You should keep telling people about this," I said. "You should go to schools and talk to kids."

He thought about it for a second, and told me I was right. He said that as soon as high schools are back in session, he was going to go to the local school, talk to the principal, and try to get the school to bring all the kids into the cafeteria to hear him speak. I told him that it'll be hard, since the first few principals won't want someone who's still dealing. But he should keep trying; someone will take him. He started to get really into the idea.

Our train came.

The conversation on the train was a bit more toned down. He told me about the rehab clinic he was just coming from, which he grew tired of after 2 weeks. He told me about his black belt in Akido, so he's never worried about showing lots of money. And to prove his point, he empties his pockets, revealing a wad of at least $300, looking for the $5.50 ticket he just purchased. He gets into a conversation with some other people on the train, going into a hilarious rant about a particular town in Texas. He tells me that maybe he should go into stand-up comedy. He gives me a code number, says that when he has a show, I should go all the way up front, then give the bouncer the code number to get in and go talk to him.

I said that I still think going to schools would be better. Being funny is a plus, it'll help him reach high schoolers. He agreed with me. My stop was nearing.

You may have changed lives here today, man. You gave me the idea. And now you may have saved some kids.

I told him that it wasn't me, it was him. I told him I hope he goes through with it, but I wasn't worried, I know he's going to. I wished him luck.

Oh, and Merry Christmas.

I never got his name.


10/30/02 So I'm trying to decide what to take next semester. My last one in college.

I have to take two math classes and at least two other classes. I've all but decided on "Logic & Computability" and "Geometry of Fractal Sets" for my two math classes. (Though if anyone here has a compelling argument for taking ODE, PDE, or a class in error-correcting codes, let me know.)

For one of my other classes, I have a requirement to fill. So I have to take one or more of: "Mythology", "American Popular Culture", and "Religion & Literature: Adventure, Fantasy, Quest, & Romance". I'm leaning toward the last two. Maybe the lit one, possibly both. (I could conceivably take none of these, but the requirement would be a bitch to get out of.)

If I only take one of the above electives, then I need at least one more class. Annoyingly enough, all three of the other classes that interest me meet at exactly the same time as each other, and are henceforth known as The Block Of 3: "Concepts of Stage Design", "Intro to Syntax", and "Folksongs and Ballads". (I'm sort of interested in Parallel computing, but that meets at a different time, and just messes up the whole Block Of 3 synergy, so just forget it.)

So one cool thing that comes out of all of this: None of the classes that I named above meet on Fridays. Additionally, only Mythology and The Block Of 3 meet on Mondays and Wednesdays. So I could take just the two math classes, popular culture, and the lit one, and only have classes on two days a week. But then I'd be giving up the cool options in The Block Of 3, which I can't decide between anyway.

Advice?


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