Good Vanity 6/29/20

Recollections by Richard Bleil

Vanity is one of the seven deadly sins, often known as pride, along with greed, wrath, envy, lust, gluttony and sloth. They’re “deadly”, I suppose, because they are dangerous. Greed drives one to dangerous practices, wrath is uncontrollable rage, a great thing to display especially at a rally, lust gets you in trouble with those who love the subject of that lust, gluttony leads to health issues, and slothenly behavior has been suggested to be deadlier than smoking. The sins are deadly.

Vanity leads to things like deadly practices, such as dangerous elective surgeries. This story is the opposite side of the coin, a story that I take as a true account of a time that vanity saved a life.

It comes from a conversation I had with one of my ten roommates in 1987 as I was beginning my graduate school journey. I had some interesting roommates, of whom I’ve blogged previously. If you’ve read them, and recall the post, I briefly mentioned a roommate that became involved with another that seemed to be attracted to me. I feel bad about this because, frankly, I know he was so in love with her, and had even planned to propose to her when we separated when our rental agreements were up a year later. The sad thing is that, several years later, I ran into her in New York City, and she said she wanted to go out with me. She also told me that that same day, he had reached out to her and was also living in the same city. Apparently, he asked her out that day, and she agreed, but then said since she ran into me, she was going to cancel so she and I could go out. I made it a point to tell her that I was not going to go out with her in an effort to give him another chance with a woman I know he genuinely cared about. Sadly, once again, it was her interest in me that stood in his way.

He was really a very nice guy. Not handsome; I don’t think he would attract many women with his looks or physique, but he was a generous and genuine person. I hope she kept the date because I think they would have been good for each other if she could get past me.

Even now, it’s difficult for me to write this because it sounds so arrogant. I’m the kind of man who cannot believe that any woman could actually be interested or attracted to me, so to discuss this woman who clearly had feelings, feelings that were not reciprocated, and how it interfered with her relationship with another man feels somehow, well, vane.

But believe it or not, that’s not the point of this post. I wanted to talk about him, and his drug habit. Yes, I know I also blogged about a roommate who smoked pot like cigarettes, but no, it’s not about him either. It’s funny when I think about this, because I realize now that three of my roommates had drug problems. Well, the one that smoked pot may not have been a particularly bad drug problem, depending on your feelings about pot, although is habit did get me into trouble. He had arranged to meet his dealer in the park, and told him, without talking with me about it, that I would provide the ride. I was in graduate school with a desire to teach, so of course I wasn’t going to give him a ride, nor give him the keys to my car for his rendezvous whereupon he informed me that his dealer has no patience and is a violent man (go figure) and would come after me if I didn’t.

And, no, I still didn’t.

Another friend was actually a photographer in New York City prior to moving to Boston with a great reputation, on the verge of fame with his own business, but he had a cocaine habit. This habit, he wasn’t afraid to tell me, ruined his business, and his reputation. He moved to Boston for the slower pace, as ironic as that is, to “detox” in his words. And, no, this isn’t about him.

It’s actually about this man who was in love with that woman, but, no, it’s not about their relationship either. It’s really about his cocaine habit. He had kicked the habit before I met him, actually, and it was vanity that saved him. See, he insisted that his cocaine habit was so bad that he would literally trade briefcases of cash for briefcases of cocaine. I honestly can’t imagine actually having that much money in the first place or snorting that much in drugs. But this was his story.

The funny thing about drugs is that when you do buy drugs, it’s not pure. Testing marijuana in my position as the forensic lab director, many of the pot we tested were laced with harsher drugs, usually meth. This is a trick the pushers use to get people addicted to more expensive drugs. Not realizing they’re smoking meth their pot gets them addicted. And if you can’t trust your drug dealer, who can you trust?

As far as the harsher drugs, like cocaine, you still don’t buy pure drugs. The pure drugs (which, by the way, are truly beautiful crystalline compounds) are so potent that they will kill you taken as such, so the dealers will “cut” the drugs with other things that are non-toxic. This has the effect of not killing their clients, which is good business, and also gives more product for them to sell. These “cutting agents” are dry, and usually about the same color as the drug, like white for cocaine, so questions don’t come up. One of the common cutting agents for cocaine turns out to be powdered milk, meaning snorting coke is not so much a case of milk coming out of the nose as it is milk going into it.

As it turns out, my friend is lactose intolerant. He discovered, and without understanding why, every time he actually snorted coke, he would break out in hives that made him look just horrible. So, he did his research (which was prior to the internet so it was not as easy as it would be today) and discovered that powdered milk is, indeed, a common cutting agent. Once he realized this and came to the conclusion that it was, indeed, the cocaine that was making him break out, he quit, cold turkey.

There isn’t really much of a point to today’s post. Basically, I just think it’s ironic that I know of this person that vanity served, that convinced him to kick his drug habit in favor of his looks. So, sure, deadly sin, but maybe it’s in how you use it?


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