That 70’s Blow
by Traci Foust
A few weeks ago I was on a Vermont radio talk show promoting my memoir about OCD. I assumed the host’s questions would be related to all the fun that comes along with things like even numbers and licking mailboxes, but two minutes into sharing my online shopping secrets for agoraphobic shut-ins, the host asks me this: “Wouldn’t you agree cocaine abuse is on the rise?”
“I’m sorry?” Did he say cocaine? Like snorting cocaine? Like roller skates/Donna Summer/bow-chicka-bow-wow cocaine?
Maybe I misunderstood my PR manager’s instructions and dialed into the wrong show.
“Um, I’m not really sure about cocaine addiction.” I answered, then tried to figure out how I was going to politely steer the conversation away from 1978 and back toward why Ativan is better than Xanax for panic attacks. “I’ve always been a big fan of Brian De Palma films if that’s what you mean.”
The host’s name was Ronald—a very retro name indeed, summoning memories of the man who starred in the first porno I’d ever watched as well as the first clown to convince me how wrong the whole clown idea really is. Also, when I Googled the studio website Ronald’s picture showed him sporting a non-ironic yellowing moustache, one that probably came in around the time Frampton came to life and hadn’t left his face since.
Ronald went on for several minutes about the perils of “blow” and its dangerous comeback in Vermont. Since this was a phone interview the best I could hope for was a beep on call waiting, the principal of my son’s high school explaining the pipe bomb they found in his locker would have to be reported as an act of terrorism and I should come to pick him up right away.
“So many people worry about meth addiction and crack,” he continued, “but I see it every day, just plain ole’ white powder coke. Did you know they call it The Rich Man’s Aspirin? I really think we’re closing our eyes to this problem.”
I was once a guest at a wedding where a groomsmen who stood a little too close to candelabra singed off some of his mullet. Truly I didn’t think I would make it through such a scene without wetting my pants in hysterics, but I squished my lips in between my fingers and closed my eyes until I was certain I could behave like someone who wasn’t perpetually locked in the maturity level of summer camp. Now, with visions of Tom Selleck’s less successful brother trying to educate me by using idioms as old as a can of Tab, I had to keep my giggles in check by imagining my cat being hit by a car. It wasn’t until Ronald segued into a commercial break via Kansas’s “Dust in the Wind” that I was able to calm myself down and weigh some options to make cocaine more appealing.
Water beds and eight tracks vs. Amy Winehouse’s scabs.
OK. Maybe it was time to give Ronald and his moustache the benefit of the doubt.
“You’re probably right,” I said. “Retro is totally in right now with the hipsters and their trucker caps. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if they were behind this whole thing.”
But it seemed my modern observation had thrown Ronald off course. He point blank asked me if I was into doing blow.
“Um no,” I said. I didn’t want the twenty-nine members of his Northern Vermont listening audience to think my agenda went beyond plugging my book. So excluding the times I stick my face in the Gain box on laundry day, I let Ronald know right away my history with nasal passages and the hard stuff was fairly limited. “I may be a big fan of prescription meds,” I said, “but I’ve never tried to shove anything up my nose more serious than a clump of Vicks.” Since it was clear Ronald hadn’t even read my memoir, I knew the only I could do was resort to my fail-safe method of staying interesting when I’ve run out of conversation.
It was time to start making stuff up.
How I usually turn Bullshit into Believe It is to take a recent television show or movie—first making sure my talk partner hasn’t watched the show I’m about to quote (with Ronald I was safe here as I’m certain the last movie he purchased tickets for probably involved a John Carpenter trailer and a workout montage) then I just start babbling until the characters and plot lines smoothly translate into my own probable experience. For this particular set of lies I chose the Martin Scorsese film, Casino, hoping to transfer Sharon Stone’s character of Ginger, a mobster’s wife trying hard to juggle a raging drug habit with occasionally acknowledging she has a child, into a close personal friend of mine.
“Ronald, the truly horrible thing about cocaine is that it sneaks up on people,” I said. “I knew this woman, a housewife in Las Vegas whose husband was in the nightclub business—that would be Robert De Niro—and her life was totally taken over by—uh—blow.”
At the end of the movie Ginger’s lack of paying attention to detail like how much Draino is in the heroin she’s about to shoot into her arm, eventually takes its toll, and she ends up buying it in the hallway of a crappy motel.
“They found my friend’s body in the bathroom of an e-Stay America.”
“Oh wow,” Ronald said, “that’s awful, man.” And with my sob story being just the right amount of sob he’d been looking for, Ronald wrapped up his show with the seeds of caution firmly planted in the souls of Bennington County—maybe even as far as New Hampshire.
Afterwards, I sat down at my computer and wrote to my PR manager. He was on his way to New England during the Easter holiday to meet some new clients. In my email I suggested before the next radio booking we do some background research on the host: Ask them about the last show they watched from their DVR or Netflix? If they’re not sure what either one is and proudly announce their BETA collection of Starsky and Hutch needs to be transferred to VHS before constant use destroys them, can you please schedule me with someone else?
And I guess because Ronald’s message had started sinking in, I felt it my duty to warn my manager that temptations in the Green Mountain State reach far beyond Ben and Jerry’s: PS: Have a fun and safe trip, but if you’re stopping in Vermont you may want to cover your nose.
Traci Foust is the Author of the newly released book Nowhere Near Normal- a Memoir of OCD (Simon and Schuster/Gallery) acclaimed by National Public Radio, the San Diego Union Tribune and Marie Claire. Her work has appeared in several journals including The Nervous Breakdown and the Southern Review. She is currently working on her second book We’re Taking you to a Place Where you can Get Some Rest, A cautionary collection of essays on mixing Vicodin with Vodka and why dating your psychiatrist isn’t always the best way to get your own prescription pad. She lives in a place where her love of cigarettes and bacon is frowned upon.