Saturday, Dec. 22, 42 A.B.
Is That A Monkey On Your Back Or Did You Remarry?
I hope everyone on earth had a wonderful Solstice yesterday.
I hope you did, too, no matter where you were.
Mine wasn't too bad.
Opium helped make it better.
I mean, Opium.
You know - the book by Martin Booth (St. Martin's Press: New York, 1996). I've been reading it in an attempt to understand Christmas tree addiction better, since there doesn't seem to be any books specifically about that addiction yet.
As luck would have it, opium and Christmas trees have a lot in common.
For one thing, Christmas trees are not people, and Opium was NOT the biography I thought it was before I started reading.
Opium actually comes from the poppy plant. And Christmas trees are a type of plant.
It only gets better!
Both opium and Christmas trees exist in time and space - AND both also just happen to give off characteristic odors.
There are lots and lots of different types of poppy plants (over 250!), but only one or two are cultivated for their addictive properties. This exactly parallels the fact that there are lots and lots of different trees (over 250!) but very few are harvested so that people can inhale their intoxicating fragrances in the privacy of their own homes at Christmas time.
It's a rather tedious process to get opium from a poppy plant. One must catch the pods at just the right time, then scour them with a knife and carefully collect the ooze, and then - well, the process just goes on and on and on. Much like the process which transforms a tree in faraway Michigan into a fully decorated Christmas tree in our living room. Personally, I think the Christmas tree process is even more involved, since opium buyers almost never have to strap the stuff atop the roof of a car and hope they can get it home before it flies off into the next lane or leaves very many scratches in the paint.
Have you ever looked into the eyes of a man and his family at a Christmas tree lot as they attempt to select the perfect tree? From everything I've read now, the dazed look in those eyes exactly resembles that displayed by people in opium dens.
Opium is often refined into morphine and heroin. Christmas tree trimmings are often refined into garland and wreaths. And although I can't prove it, I suspect both opium and Christmas tree derivatives permeate our schools - the well-known soporific effect of opiates being obvious in every classroom and the woody, unchewable texture of the Christmas tree being obvious in much of the cafeteria food.
Opiates are sometimes mixed with marijuana or cocaine to boost their pleasant effects. Christmas trees are often mixed with Christmas carols and cookies for the very same reason.
Opiate addicts suddenly deprived of opiates suffer agonies of withdrawal such as extreme shivering, profuse sweating, and copious vomiting. Many Christmas tree addicts apparently fear suffering the same sort of agonies - what else can explain their inability to part with their trees until Valentine's Day or later?
Many poets have been addicted to opium, including Coleridge and Poe. Many poets have written rapturously about trees, including Wordsworth and Joyce Kilmer. Coincidence? Ha!
In the 19th century, vast numbers of babies and children were given opiate-fortified medicines such as Godfrey's Cordial and Mrs. Winslow's Soothing Syrup in an attempt to keep them quiet. Today, people are putting their Christmas trees up earlier and earlier in an attempt to shut their kids up.
Given all this, I can only wonder how I've ever managed to distinguish opium from Christmas trees without the help of a microscope and sophisticated lab tests.
Here are a few quick and dirty hints for telling the two apart at a glance:
----- Wet nurses and mothers with squirmy babies have historically smeared opium on their nipples - NOT Christmas trees.
----- For many, many years the British grew poppies in their colony of India, processed it into opium, and sold it at a high mark-up to millions of Chinese despite the vehement objection of the Chinese government and the many ruined lives left in its wake. The Christmas tree, in contrast, has apparently never been used to systematically undermine an entire foreign civilization.
----- The American government has often worked closely with the opium and heroin producers/distributors of Sicily, Japan, Southeast Asia, Central America, and the Middle East to further its foreign policy goals. For example, to help repel the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the CIA gave vast amounts of arms and aid to the opium-growing Mujaheddin Afghan guerrillas. Opium production soared, doubling between 1982 and 1983, while the CIA either looked the other way or actively encouraged this alternative funding source for the war against Communism. Mujaheddin leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar - later to become Afghanistan's prime minister - was both on the CIA payroll and the region's #1 drug lord. (He now seems to be holed up in Iran and a harsh critic of U.S. actions in the region despite all the U.S. did for him.) In contrast, if the CIA is using illicit Christmas tree profits to fund the overthrow of any government, no one has written a book about it yet. If the American government is attempting to distract people from its failures by keeping them addicted to Christmas trees, no potential whistle blower has survived long enough to alert the media. (Personally, I'm examining every Christmas ornament I have for evidence smuggled out in the form of a microdot just in case.)
----- In 1982 it was estimated that the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) earned $300 million from the narcotics trade - three times what friendly Arab regimes contributed to it. In contrast, the Christmas tree trade is estimated to provide the PLO with less than $100/year (pre-tax).
----- Opiates are often smuggled by people technically known as "swallowers." The most common method involves filling a condom or latex glove finger with heroin, tying the end with dental floss or fishing line (both resist stomach acids better than cotton string) and then swallowing the thing (sometimes with the help of a lubricant). This practice dates back at least as far as June 1945 when a Mrs. Chowning was found in Laredo, Texas with some 31 packets of heroin lurking inside her. Since then, swallowers have increased the number of packets they carry up to an average of 75. The world record appears to be 260. If anyone has ever attempted to smuggle a Christmas tree by swallowing it, that attempt apparently left them unable to walk to a spot where they might have been apprehended by an alert Customs agent.
----- It is said that a camel can hold 7.5 kilos of heroin in its stomach for at least a month without discomfort. An entire afternoon at the library left me with no evidence at all that a camel can hold even one Christmas tree anywhere in its digestive tract.
----- In the 1940s, the US sometimes executed drug dealers. In stark contrast, even the sellers of the ugliest Christmas tree have historically gotten off with a mere slap to the face.
----- Among the rock stars addicted to heroin have been Eric Clapton, Boy George, Sid Vicious, Keith Richards, Pete Townshend, Janis Joplin, Lou Reed, Jerry Garcia, and Kurt Cobain. If any rock star has ever been addicted to Christmas trees, they've been too embarrassed to admit it.
----- Heroin, morphine, and other opiates tend to be cut with sugar, milk powder, flour, baking soda, talcum powder, and chalk dust in order to increase profits. The one time a Christmas dealer attempted to stretch his product by replacing boughs with dandelion leaves, he was beaten to death by a band of enraged kindergartners.
I hope to complete my research sometime next week, so stay tuned if you're still afraid you might go out to buy a Christmas tree and accidentally end up coming home with a few sacks of Burma's best.
After injecting all this mind-altering information, I myself need a good stiff drink.
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(©Now by the thoroughly non-addictive DJ Birtcher)
PS - Christmas trees have needles. Heroin addicts use needles. Does this further muddy the distinction between Christmas trees and other drugs? No.
If the police discover you with a heroin-filled syringe in your hand, don't make an ass of yourself by claiming you thought you were merely holding a buddy's fallen Christmas tree needle for him while he went to get the glue.