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Suggested Audio Joint:

Death in Vegas Dirge

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Season’s greetings Grueheads and top of the morning to you. I’ve already compiled this year’s Christmas wish list for Santa and, with the global economy currently in such a precarious state, I have trimmed it down considerably. I have no desire to break the bank and, instead, have just the one iddy biddy request which barely even registers. I guarantee that it will be loved, cherished, and steadily corrode over the next twenty years or so. A single lung will do it; just one diminutive piece of breathing apparatus to see me through the bitter winter months. It need not be gift wrapped it or embellished it with a glittery bow; just slap it on a chopping board like raw poultry and I’ll drop it in next time I’m passing.

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It was all going so well and I made it to the ripe age of sixteen unscathed before peer pressure finally got the best of me. Until then, I was dead set on not relinquishing a single red cent in the quest for coolness and identity. The moment I succumbed I became just another lamb, lining up sheepishly with a red numeral painted across my fleece. Months one through six of being a smoker were spent grimacing each time I inhaled; the taste didn’t appeal in the slightest while the light-headed sensation it provided was something I could happily take or leave. That was my golden chance right there. Had I heeded my body’s warning signs, then I would’ve torn asunder those ten Marlboro Lights and never looked back. Fuck all use hindsight is when your twenty-year anniversary is looming.

Love-and-Hate-Dennis-Skley

Had I known what I do now then I would’ve canned it for sure, but through deliberating a little too long, it dug in and made itself at home. This unruly house guest befriended a cluster of receptors in the uppermost left hand region of my cortex, guzzling pink lemonade and generally making a nuisance of itself as it rallied the troops. Alas, it endeared itself just enough to spark a mini revolution. Gradually, it called in reinforcements, and these persistent groupies run amok as they convinced me that nicotine was my very best friend. After incessantly bleating on for long enough, they commenced whittling down any remaining defenses, and the writing was very much on the wall from that point onwards.

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Soon after their powers of persuasion were put to more dubious use and, before I knew it, I was searching for a more mind-altering buzz to keep things spicy. My chosen narcotic was LSD and, having had my mind promptly blown by a piece of blotting paper a quarter of the size of my thumbnail, I soon developed a dependency for acid which endured a year or so. Eventually the penny finally dropped that I was never likely to recreate that primary high and this aided the process of snuffing it out. As good trips became few and far between, and bad ones took precedence, paranoia began to bleed into my everyday life until which point as I could barely leave my house without suffering an anxiety attack.

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Desperate to feel an unnatural high, I turned to MDMA and amphetamines, and these proved a means to an end for a short while at least. Eventually, they turned on me in precisely the same manner, leaving me every bit as strung out once the inevitable comedown took hold. By midweek, I would promise myself that it was the last time I would fall for their undeniable charm but, each time the weekend loomed, selective memory and a craving for euphoria would seal my fate once more. It couldn’t carry on that way and, indeed, it didn’t. By twenty-three I settled down with my high school sweetheart and gave drugs the heave-ho as I knew I had no chance of holding down a relationship while filling myself with potent chemicals each time it was my turn to wash the dishes.

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We married and, for a few months, settled into a routine until my significant other reached the dreaded mid-twenties “what does it all mean?” phase and left me nursing my very first broken heart. In the months that followed, I experienced the whole spectrum of emotions. These included anger, devastation, self-loathing and ultimately wayward rebirth, by which point I hardly recognized myself at all. After frittering any fast-dwindling resources on designer gear and attempting to be somebody I clearly wasn’t, I eventually made new friends, none of which gave a flying fuck about me, and was soon introduced to a brand new drug of choice in cocaine. Cue ominous audio.

Aphex Twin Come To Daddy

"I got none of these items niggazzzzz"

This romance petered out for a myriad of reasons. Firstly, any high was consequently tempered by a low which didn’t appeal in the slightest. I wouldn’t consider myself crabby but coke has a way of making one fiercely disagreeable once your spent shell is reminded you’re not Iron Man. Secondly, it hit me in the pocket to the tune of £50 each time. That’s two London Broil steaks right there. Most critically though, I didn’t particularly care for the drug as it had very little actual effect other than a faint feeling of well-being which passed far sooner than I would’ve hoped given the somewhat extortionate asking price. It wasn’t long before my so-called friends turned out to be little more than leeches and, as I cut these freeloaders loose, I also closed my nostrils for business while both septum and financial stability remained tentatively intact.

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Thankfully, cannibis was on-hand to soften the blow, and I spent the next three years reclusive as I smoked himself stupid, growing increasingly detached from the world around me. This appeared to be the lesser evil and the only remaining drug I could take with any real sense of self-control, albeit decidedly tenuous. That was then and almost fifteen years later, precious little has changed. Weed has long since taken center stage and is far more potent now than those affable solids ever were. Titles such as Cheese, Lemon Haze and Pineapple Express are given to the various strains available and each possess lofty levels of THC. Tetrahydrocannabinol, to use the correct medical term, is the primary constituent in the cannabis plant and the component which makes it most desirable. Levels of THC vary but seem only to be rising as everyone becomes a chemist.

Smoking

After a decade long hiatus from getting high, I have been smoking it consistently now for over two years, and it is taking its toll on my organs. However, despite its potential ill-effects I still struggle to kick the habit. If there was a way in which I could use it responsibly then I would take that willingly but Keeper has always been more of an all or nothing kind of character. My addictive personality does me no favors here. You see, those waspish brain-stems have consolidated with a whole new bunch of craving neurons and they sing their beguiling anthem in unison. Short-term benefits tend to outweigh long-term health risks as I can access different parts of my brain which would otherwise lay dormant.

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It’s a slippery slope for an obsessive compulsive such as Keeper and, despite the fact that I wake every morning spluttering and heaving, I know that first joint of the day will alleviate such shortfall. If I choose not to partake, then my body betrays me in a New York minute, leaving me both lethargic and irritable. Thus, I’m damned if I do and also if I don’t. It also makes a liar of me and this stings as I ordinarily pride myself on my honesty. Should I be posed an awkward question, one which compromises my short-sighted goals of getting high, then I become a mastermind of mistruth, steered by this mischievous cluster of synapses all screaming out “pick me, pick me”.

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My dear grandmother used to live by the “everything in moderation” rule and, while pretty sure she never attended Woodstock, she was admittedly onto something. Ultimately, when you make your decision, you should do so with all the facts before you. Therefore, should addiction be an ongoing concern, you know full-well what you’re signing up for. I’ve never been one for regrets and find them wasteful emotions that never have my best interests at heart. Clearly I’m generalizing but, on the whole, crying over spilt milk is a sure-fire way of courting depression and bitterness. Been there, done that, got the lanyard. Instead I would rather look forward at what I can do to change my future.

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There is no point copping out and blaming all my woes on the THC. I take responsibility for all my actions and my problems don’t all stem from weed, contrary to opposing belief. Smoking a joint seems to make a decorated oracle of you, provides the solution to world hunger and cure for cancer. Unfortunately, there is a downside as with any addiction. It shares with you the tools of enlightenment whilst sapping any desire to do anything with that intelligence. I may boldly state my intention to give a seminar on the intricacies of biochemical engineering but follow that pledge straight up with “after I just go smoke a quick joint”. The cycle perpetuates and that is where mind over matter becomes so critical. If I could only control its persuasive charms then it would prove a most potent tool. Alas, I have become its bitch.

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I’m not here to glamorize cannibis but neither do I intend to give a sermon on why it should be avoided at all costs. Ultimately it depends on the user. I have been an addict for many years now, in one way or another, and it presents the only non-typical high that doesn’t compromise my everyday existence. I know of the pitfalls and remain aware at all times that I’m now in my forties and my body’s regeneration is no longer what it once was. Personally, I shall leave cannibis by the wayside the very moment my financial situation changes and focus on clean living. People often ask why I don’t stop it post-haste but the mind is a complex tool and I cannot hope to thwart it if I’m quitting purely for monetary reasons. Once I hold the cards in my life; then I will deal with it accordingly. Until that point, however, it just seems better the devil I know.

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So what of my lungs then? Well, they’re in a pretty shoddy state if truth be known and I am under no illusion that I engage in a round of Russian roulette every time I blaze up. Coughing fits at dawn are particularly disparaging, particularly when said outbursts culminate in a migraine so intense that I spend the next thirty minutes in fetal position. Others may be able to smoke responsibly and, to these people, I say knock yourself out. We all have vices; should they be caffeine, sugar, or a little harmless marijuana to take the edge off a long day at the office. Ultimately that choice is ours to make and I’m sure we’re all aware of the downsides. However, I live for the day when I can wake up and not head straight for the tool shed to roll one up. Now that I am beginning to locate inner contentment; it’s time to start preserving my shell. I must do this on my own terms and one simple change in fortune is all it will take to call it a day. I’m assured that my lungs will thank me in the long run. Now, about that Christmas list. Do lungs come in magenta?

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In one way or another we are all just sinners,

Keeper of the Crimson Quill

Copyright: Crimson Quill: Savage Vault Enterprises 2013 (Director’s Cut 2015)

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