Wordcarpenter Books

Chapter Thirty-two

The Addict's Ladder


            The addict prides himself on his stamina, a badge of honor and proof of his dedication to mastering the drug. Preferring to remain atop his pinnacle, he will give a little bit more to feed it, to stay close to the bosom of his high. If it is an illusion then by damn it's his illusion, perfect and flawed, a work of art. Soon he believes life without the drug would be a mistake. God provided these plants for our bounty. Only a fool or imbecile would turn down this natural fruit; these spikers of doldrums, these uplifters against gravity, these givers of wings. This wool blanket that warms in a fog of bliss. It is his only friend, the only one he can trust. Reliability lies in his smart choice of a faithful companion. These were his thoughts when he arrived in Quito. Cold, pushy taxi drivers and graffitied walls reminded him of her isolated geography and special place in the soul of the Andes.

            Some make Quito their hometown because of the perpetual spring and some because of the inexpensive living, but some do for the cocoa leaf. Both the Dane and Kate the Brit had made the capital of Ecuador their home for four years, each exercising a daily habit like Keith Richards. Kate had evolved her management technique of her tech intake with a nip here and a nip there, looking healthy, but the Dane kept going harder and harder, increasing his tolerance and pushing for that first-time high in the neck. His technique freebasing had been perfected, as had his pipe-making capabilities. A half-liter plastic bottle, foil from the top of a yogurt, fresh ashes, good supply of baking soda and lighters, tissue, and excellent pipe-cleaning utensil. The Dane had lost more weight, his face svelte and lined, with a band-aid on his forehead. Blood and pus seeping through. Noble didn't say anything at first, until the Dane brought it up.

            "Some guy hit me in the head with a glass," he said, after ten minutes.


            "I see this guy manhandling this good-looking chick in the washroom when she was barfing all over the place, so I tell him to take his hands off. He tells me to mind my own business but I know this girl. And this guy's not her boyfriend. He's grabbing a piece you know? So he leaves the bar all pissed off and returns half-an-hour later with two of his brothers. So he calls me, I turn around and bam! He threw the glass at my forehead. So I take him down but his oldest brother yells to stop. ‘This is my amigo,' he said, pointing at me.' So his little brother leaves and his brother Ricardo tells me ‘if there's anything I can do' so I got that coming to me when I want. I'm going to see him this Saturday. Connected guy. Part of the family."

            "You should take him up on that sooner than later." Busy burning the coke and bicarbonate in water with his thick reading glasses, Noble had a good look at the cut with the soiled band-aid now off. A jagged pink line over his left eye was red and glowing, an angry lightening bolt that was the crowning scar of his many that took his symmetrical beauty one more step away from boyish. It occurred to him that maybe that was why the Dane didn't go for stitches. I could have used five passes of the needle and thread. For a guy who hung out with Hells Angels the cut was a trophy. It went well with the tattoo of the flags around his bicep of the countries he likes in South America, with the words: ‘El grand adventura en Sud America' written below them.         

            The best thing about the Dane was his laughter from the gut. When he laughed it was pure, so with Reno's sharp wit hours would pass by as if suspended in time. He spoke a lot about surviving on the streets in Quito to try to hammer Noble into shape. Spending time with the Dane was strictly a Reno affair. He even invited him to his girlfriend's uncle's place in the mountains.

            "The tech was great in Canoa. Pink."


            "I stopped for the first week but then found a good dealer."

            "You're addicted, that's why."

            "No way. Not even close." The Dane squared his shoulders to give absolute attention.

            "You're addicted and you don't even know it. That's how I know." Reno shook his head at the impossibility.

            "How can I be addicted after a few months?" The put his elbow on the table and used it as a composer would his stick.

            "Let me ask you a question: ‘How do you feel when the person next to you has the joint?" Reno played it through his mind and then smiled. "See, I told you."


            "Yes! See, most people don't know what addiction is. Me, I've been addicted since I was sixteen. My mother was alcoholic and drank at the bar where she was a waitress, so I was exposed to it. Doesn't matter if it's alcohol or drugs. Same thing." Reno shook his head.

            "Not the same thing."

            "You don't know what you're talking about." His head came down like a sledgehammer hitting a spike, a gust of air hitting Reno's face. Eyes a pink fog, the blue like fire, the trophy like stairs. "Listen, I'll tell what addiction is." He held his eyes in Reno's until he nodded. "It's like a ladder, the first hit being the first rung on the ladder. Each step for me can be described, beginning at the bottom of the ladder but here I'll begin with the first step to addiction at the top. The Dane wrote really small on a sheet of paper:

Curiosity, low self esteem

Acceptance by friends, ambition

Desire for power and money, new motivation

Recognition of the people around you and by them

Acknowledgment for new ‘outlaw' social standing, the bad boys

Lack of interest in normal and the conventional life, more money

Realizing new opportunities for lifestyle and career, an original path

Growing fascination with the criminal world, life of sin outside the box

Enjoying not being like everyone else, pride and satisfaction of living by own rules

Embracing newfound respect based on fear, others noticing your notoriety as a bad guy

Reputation further fuels more intake and consumption, helps ‘legalize' your abuse to yourself

Discovery of being trapped in your new character role and social group, inherent peer pressure to smoke

Loss of control of consumption and bigger amount and more often, with days dominated by drug intake

Growing lack of ability to manage everyday life, and seeing the narcotic has control over your everyday life

Loss of status within your new social niche because of your lack of control, and dipping into the main supply, theft

Developing an anti-social attitude and behavior, escaping to find more time and space to do your drugs, becoming a loner

Enhanced and more robust intake making drug your best friend, replacing your friends for the sake of your new love: the drug

Realization that the intoxicant is the only thing your world revolves around and following your master to consume against your will

Accepting that you are living among the lowest of the social hierarchy and knowledge that you could die from your addiction and abuse

Reaching the point that you spend more days sick than stoned, so keeping yourself healthy enough to get stoned, focus on health for buzz

Lack of care of hygiene, self-respect and simple maintenance of basic nourishment, daily life's chores ignored as lower priority and distraction

Realizing that you're lost in life and you must admit you can't change your situation on your own, and that to do this you would require assistance


            "That's how mine would go, or something very similar. You have a better idea now?" Reno liked the ladder-shaped description of his path to addiction, and wondered for a moment if this was the Dane's way of asking for assistance.

            "Better idea, yeah. But yours will be different than mine. I mean your flowchart. Or ladder. Here let me-" He took the pencil and drew his own ladder on the other side of the paper:

Try something forbidden

Not as bad as they said it'd be

Discovery of another way of being

Other self emerges, birth of doppelgänger

Bolder, the beginning of new code of ethics

Evolution of priorities and image metamorphosis

New interests, new doors opening and paths forged

Nihilism, flirting with the abyss and sheer recklessness

Paradigm shift, self-destruction, anger and deep resentment

Fermentation of rebellion because of injustice of how life works

Risk-taking justified on disagreeable Fate done with zeal and moxie

Harnessing intoxicant to batter practicality and normalcy done with danger

Assertive and daring, aware of new self taking precedence over old self's reign

Fresher appreciation of art and things hitherto dismissed as unimportant and boring

Harder intake of narcotics for earnest exploration of imagination and pursuit of new ideas

Confident moving away from norms of society, harboring lighter step on way to outskirts of being

Comfort in the knowledge you're on the path to growth, leaving the old superficial thinking long forgotten

Employment of new laissez-faire attitude while overcoming unforeseen obstacles while carefree and laidback

Valuing new path more than safety and being pragmatic, throwing dice and gambling ones life based on new beliefs

Moving beyond old life and aches, finding new joy in deeper immersion in life, using insights of drug use for enhancement

A hidden artist emerges long dormant and overlooked, finding joy in the expression of original ideas and fruition of doppelgänger

Discovering new thrill in engaging life, using euphoria to bridge between shyness and fear to the tangible fabric of life and its dangers

Courage snowballs as evidence of flourishment is manifest, old doubts quelled and boundless optimism is born for a life more meaningful

To ignite the flame of motivation consumption is more common and more precise, executed to magnify emotion and profundity of experience

New insight into time utilization and wisdom to better spend time each day as if it were your final, letting a day's maintenance fall by to the side

Eventually fulltime use and obsession with freedom to imbibe to master balance and flow, living like a work of art and pursuing mischief at all costs


            "Mine would be something like that," he said. "A bit different."

            "Yes, they are never right, are they?"

             "I suppose I'm newer at this than you."

            "You have far to go, though look at your fingers." Fingers yellowed by nicotine and burn scars from ill-made matches, nail of the right forefinger stained deep with dirt under the nail long overdue for a clip. Finger gnarled from battle, full assault on all the hip drooga of his Ecuadorian brothers.

            "Mucho," he said.

            "Everyone has their own way but they all lead to the same destination." The Dane kept his eye on Reno to confirm the double entendre.

            "Well said Dane Man." Reno pulled out another bag for cooking. "All to the same destination." The hardy Viking laughter. The kind with bite.


            Meeting Max and Solomon happened the following night over a game of pool. They were playing without beer so Reno bought them a beer near the end of the night, so when after hours came and the front doors closed they were allowed to stay in the inner sanctum. Monica and Reno engaged them with Solomon laughing from his guts, pure and reckless. Max was cool in his long black leather jacket and snakeskin cowboy boots. Son of a Nigerian king. Reno handed off his baggie of tech to Max, who promptly disappeared into the washroom for a few minutes. Solomon was too busy trying to pick up Monica to offer him any. The whites were at the bar and the Ecuadorians looked with suspicion at the Nigerians, Reno making sure they were comfortable and welcome. Solomon invited them to a party on Friday night at the African Club, a private fraternity where expatriate Nigerians hung out.

            "And bring your friend from Denmark," he said, forgetting the name of the Dane they had played pool against. Monica smiled at Reno, making it known she was single.



Chapter Thirty-three

The African Club


            Laughter harvested will a good man make, the hidden smile playfulness will partake. It is one thing to laugh freely and unhindered, but it is something entirely different to bring out the hidden sunshine of the soul in others, leaving a smile on their face, giving them hope, and momentarily raising them from the darkness of gnawing problems. To have this ability to elevate others might be regarded as being on par with the rare individuals who can inspire others to greatness. But these select few are rare and usually overlooked by history.     

            All human beings have the capacity of laughter and yet many lose their will to laugh, believing it is childish or immature. The stern face, the look of constant worry, the serious demeanor are all adult faces. Humanity needs comedians, our artists, our stand-up comics, who have historically been the ones invited to the King's court and the emperor's palace. There are so many noble qualities in man yet the one universal constant is that strange reflex to laugh. It is humankind's Sublime Leveler, the Bonder of Brothers, the Great Mother of man reminding us that it is all right, that love is better than war, that honesty is better than guile, and that we can all work together. In a darkening world of overpopulation, food shortages and toxic pollution, our gifted comedians need to find a voice to shout across the rooftops of the world to unite us all as brethren and to alert us of the empyrean and put us back in touch with the infinite drop of goodness in our hearts that all peoples are born with.

            Hard work can be channeled into polishing wit, identifying what makes others laugh and thus become your own expert to make others laugh. Learn to bypass impressing others with achievement and material gains; know that the skill of raising another to the natural state of momentary abandon is a gift more valued and more sought after. It is a form of emancipation into the realm of magic, and an animation of the spirit. It is magic because it's involuntary, as if a divine sprite is tampering with your skeletal musculature. But the uncentered man is too fractured to focus on polishing his ability to make others laugh. Get into the mix, employ courage and know your true character to find your center. Only then can you become a giver to humanity and a maestro healing others through laughter. With ones freedom of self, one then has the ability to laugh at themselves, which is the first way of making others crack up. It is not playing the fool; it is an indirect way of showing others your mastership is so thorough that you have come out on the other side, an exuberance of joy from life and a confidence of knowledge that is impenetrable to insecurity and embarrassment.

            These were Noble's thoughts the night of the African Club party.

            It was that one act of kindness that had produced the invitation to the African Club. Noble had heard about the African Club from being in the pub scene in Mariscal, but few non-members were allowed in. He was flattered to have been invited but was relieved the Dane had been included. He knew why the club was so valued among the African expatriates: the blatant racism in Quito was shocking. Whenever a cop or an undercover searched someone in Mariscal it was always a black with dreadlocks. Not only could he see it, he could feel it too. So the blacks stuck together and to remove themselves from the glare of bigotry they culminated in an old Spanish casa where they could order good food cheap and play music and relax.

            When Friday rolled around the Dane had sequestered himself with a new woman in his hostel, choosing to forgo the African Club much to Reno's chagrin, but there was no way he was going to stand up Solomon and Max so he went to Finn's early and met David the Irishman who could belt out laughter with the best of them. Reno was going to create his own posse to land in the African Club, fully supplied with tech, bringing Paullina who the Africans might like to look at since she was once Miss Ecuador.

            Noble, the Irishman, Paullina and her boyfriend from Britain arrived with Solomon at four o'clock in the morning to an empty house except Patrick Campbell, the club manager. It wasn't until Reno placed the white powder on the table that the pace of conversation picked up until everyone was speaking and no one was listening. Classic coke party. When the African music filled the room, the vibe enhanced. Only Paullina was a dud. She made it plain that she didn't like or trust blacks in a voice loud enough to be heard. Crass and rude, Reno took the initiative and encouraged her to depart with her British boyfriend. Once they left things really loosened up, the conversations started to take root and flourish. Time passed as the lines were demolished with ferocity until they all reached a soft and fluffy level of intoxication.

            The first morning arrivals were Max and two of his women, one soon breastfeeding her daughter across the table from Noble without a hint of embarrassment. After seven hours of snorting, drinking and robust vocal exchange, members began arriving, many shocked at the number of bottles and quaffing still in play. Since Solomon was the DJ, he made a point of introducing every member to Noble and the Irishman. Noble didn't think he and the Irishman would be embraced so sincerely but he was wrong. All of the fifty or so members who entered the club on Saturday shook his hand, each man looking Noble right in the eye, making an effort to welcome them both. Never had he been shown so much respect. Every member had a quality of kindness that showed an open mind that ceased to surprise him. Noble had expected a cold shoulder or hesitance from some but every single man welcomed him and the Irishman with class. Not once did he sense resentment that two very pink, white men were in their sanctuary. It was a members-only club based solely on race yet the two whites were treated as equals, many showing genuine happiness of their presence.

            It was early on Saturday that Noble started to be aware of overstaying his welcome, readying to leave at any time. But Solomon was adamant that they remain in the club. Noble called the Dane several times but he had turned his phone off to avoid coitus interruptus, but he couldn't ignore the great time he was missing. It was Saturday midday after snorting lines from the table that Noble realized that a dominant characteristic of the members was their individual style, each having an individual look. Each look was original; each expressing the look they liked; none a variation of another's or even similar. Like an unwritten acknowledgment that personal style was valued, it was the identification of their true character that was valued over socio-economic status.

            Many members sat around in the main room and chilled out from the ruckus and oppression of Quito, finding comfort in the ease and laughter generated by the Noble, David and Solomon. Noble on alert to vamos so he didn't mar the great party they had had, with each new greeting the handshake was firm and the impetus to depart never reached the action point.

            David the Irishman had never done nose candy before so he was on cloud nine, going with the flow and not afraid to ask questions regarding technique and etiquette around the coke table. Clearly a man who knew how to have a good time, it was his laugh that made all feel at ease, particularly Solomon, who was gaining brownie points for his invitation to two spenders. Max sat at the table and did the line and drank a beer cool as cool could be, plain for Noble to see he was one of the most respected men in the club. A son of a Nigerian king who had been ousted during a struggle for power, he now called his home South Africa. He was thickly built and had the natural poise of royalty, never moving for others if he didn't have to but never insolent or rude.

            Solomon was the opposite. Soon becoming drunk from the beer, he was loud and interacted with everyone, choosing the music to suit the mood, provoking some to react in order to get their blood going. If any non-member was every to be brought to the club, Solomon was the best man to do it. Fearless and a talented jester, if he wasn't joking around he was smoking his pipe of base or drinking beer or bent over selecting the next song. And this day he was enlivened by the politeness and good humor of his guests. He had given a nod to Reno for booting Paullina out. The Africans were just sick and tired of non-thinking prejudices that were rampant here in Ecuador. It was a real family at the African Club.

            "We're getting low on our tech," he said to Solomon, who had been indoctrinated into the language already.

            "I know where to go, but I need cash." Solomon had the gift of extracting money from Noble without ever asking directly. But it was their mutual belief in God and respect for Him that joined them in trust. It was one of the first things he had brought up with Noble, and it was Noble's nature to reply with direct honesty, now ever more direct and clear after observing the Dane's technique. It didn't take Solomon more than a few songs to come back with a the largest amount of base Noble had ever seen.

            The tech had gone underground with all the people around, the intake taking place in the washroom one at a time. A football match came on the big screen above the mirrored far wall so the Irishman and Noble followed Solomon upstairs to one of the four open rooms where there was a party going on. Noble bought some Abuella Rum and Coke and proceeded to solidify his platform and laugh at the stand-up comic routine Solomon was trying to do. But more than that, it was the comfort and acceptance of the members to join the party with most of them shaking Noble's hand a second time and restating their name.

            There was a strict etiquette smoking the smelly base from a pipe. Not allowed inside the premises, there was a balcony that was partially hidden from the road where doobies and pipes could be undertaken briskly, with no loitering. Solomon was a vacuum, and enjoyed the tangy bite of the pink-colored base, instantly causing his eyes to become like pee holes in the snow. Jousting and light-hearted, there were no long faces in the room, each trying to raise the other's spirit in a country that didn't want them.

            Then Lawrence showed up.

            "Can I have some rum?" he asked Noble, head dipped and face acquiescing.

            "Absolutely." With skin dry and rough like sandpaper, his curled hair whitening and drying out like the stubble on his face, he towered over the table with his polite manners and soft voice. But Noble could see he was a man who had lived, and he wasn't going to think of him as a child. He said he was Nigerian but had grown up in Brooklyn.

            "Have you ever been to Africa?"

            "Not yet," he replied. "So many places and not enough time." Lawrence slapped the table.

            "You must make time Noble! Make time to go because there's no other place in the world like Africa. Ask anyone and they'll tell you the same thing. The sky is bigger and the land is richer in color. But!" His hand shot upwards. "But what country should you visit? That's the tough one to answer. But I know where the best country is. It's also the country with the best marijuana in the world."

            "I thought the best was from California or up the West coast around Vancouver in Canada. Hydroponics or whatever it's called."

            "No!" Again the slapping of the table with his fleshy hand. Then eyes turning empathetic. "You don't like the grass?" Noble had to take a step back to let Reno answer with wit.

            "I've had lots of different kinds but I don't think I've tried Nigerian weed."

            "Well then you have that to look forward to." The laughter electrified the room, many so accustomed to eruptions of mirth that they hardly noticed. "No but trust me. Nigeria has the best of any country. Ask anyone."

            "The room is full of Nigerians. What else are they going to say?"

            "True!" Like a hair trigger, ready to sprint at the sound of the starter's pistol, Lawrence let the piano-key teeth shine with confidence, knowing that that moment is the best of any part of the twenty-four-hour cycle of time. Just loved to laugh. It only brought out more from Reno.

             "But seriously now Lawrence, if I were to go to Africa, where in Nigeria would I go? The capital? What is it? Lagos?"

            "Yes! But no, not there. But of course you arrive there and then you go north up the mountains to a plateau. That's where you can get good weed and enjoy smoking it too."

            A plateau like Quito?"

            "No, very very flat. Where you can see all of Africa. Sit there and smoke the ganja and ponder life's bigger questions."

            "You know something Lawrence, that sounds very appealing to me." Noble stroked his growing beard, and entertained the possibility of taking a trip to Africa.

            "Nigeria. Trust me. You will like it." 

            "And what is this place called? This plateau? Can you write it down for me?" He took his pen and wrote it on a piece of paper. "But you know if I go there and the weed is crappy I'm have to hunt you down and chop off one of your limbs." Again the hair trigger. Booming sub-woofer sound of joy. Didn't really have to be funny, only needed to make the attempt.

            Since Reno was holding the baggies, Solomon asked him if he wanted to smoke some more. Lawrence was curious.

            "Would you like to have a pipe?"


            "No, base. Very pink base,"

            "Don't touch that stuff," he replied, shaking his head. "Clog your lungs and the high isn't high enough, if you know what I mean. Noble knew exactly what he meant.

            "I do. You keep on smoking it and you never get higher than you are after the first hit."

            "Could've have said it better myself." Noble, once square now drug connoisseur.

            "Freebasing is the best in my opinion. It's so clean, and that taste."

            "Oh brother I hear ya! That smoooooth taste! Gotta get me some!"

            "Wish I had some baking soda we could cook some up."

            "No, no. Not here. Some other place maybe. But I have a line on some great stuff. Powder white. The White Lady!"

            "Fluffy nose candy. Hmmm. I could be interested." Money being spent but why not? As the Dane once said: when you spend a hundred you have to believe you will get eight hundred in return - or something like that. Some old Danish expression.

            "She's a pure lady this cracker bitch." Deadpan. It was Noble's turn to let loose. Face flushed. The relaxing of orifices and the loosening of the bowels.

            "It's a good cracker bitch is she? Well then I might want to sample this cracker's goodies if it's fluffy and untainted." The massive body contorted like a crumbling deck of cards, folding into itself, letting the head dangle so as not to obstruct the flow of joy through the tensing of muscles. Lawrence drooled by mistake on the table.

            "Larry man!" Solomon was trying to act pissed off.

            Reno gave Lawrence forty bucks and a half hour later he returned with the strongest White Lady Noble had ever ingested. But it was poor David the Irishman who reeled from one of the long lines Noble left on top of the toilet. First Noble, then Lawrence and then David, but when David came out his face was redder than what would be comfortable, his voice quivering and his words jumbled. He had tilted the machine. He snuck out some time after that leaving only Noble standing. He and Lawrence laughed and listened to music as Solomon took requests and bitched with everyone who came into his sphere of influence. It was dark out when Noble finally left.


Table of Contents

  1. The Divine Elbow
  2. Just Surviving As Noble Intent
  3. Surpassing Neophobia
  4. The Middle of the World
  5. The Dane
  6. The Religion of Sfauism
  7. Celebrating Chemistry
  8. Connected Columbians
  9. Stuntmen and Dakar Motorcycle Groupies
  10. Into Amazon Waters
  11. A Beautiful Repressive Niche
  12. Canalazo de Naranilla
  13. Cajunes el grande
  14. A Noble Doppelgänger
  15. Reno Finds His Footing
  16. How to Make a Bomb Out of a Light Bulb
  17. The Impossible Black Lily
  18. The Boy Fascist
  19. Artistas
  20. The Art of Death
  21. The Earthquake Virgin
  22. Lambaster of Laughter
  23. The Sweet Cadence of Scheudenfreunden
  24. Matador: the Agent of Destiny
  25. Overfilling
  26. Mobile Piping
  27. Aristotle’s Character Years
  28. The Great Pilgrimage
  29. A Purpose for Your Sins
  30. Errol Flynn
  31. The Better Man
  32. The Addict’s Ladder
  33. The African Club
  34. The Dutch Hair Piece
  35. The Swiss Army Knife
  36. The Scent of Ammonia
  37. At the Mouth of the Amazon
  38. Broken and Renewed
  39. Seizing the Moment
  40. A Recent Past Discovered
  41. Pinned and Threatened by Fate
  42. Twice as Much in Half the Time
  43. The Assassination
  44. The Pledge
  45. Slandering Hamlet
  46. Stealing Time
  47. Hannibal at the Gates
  48. On the Old Contraband Trail





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