Question

Is it ‘bad’ if more Americans* aspire to be pharmaceutical-free? What—if anything—might this imply about changing attitudes towards pharmaceutical companies and current healthcare options? How might this shape the future of drug use? And what might this say about people who need a daily Rx to survive? Are there observable rifts (in privilege, power, well-being, whatever) between the medicated (prescribed by a doctor) and the self-medicated (exploring alternatives—be them off-label Rx use, unregulated supplements, or psychedelics)?

*~46% of Americans have used one or more prescription drug in the last 30 days (as of May 2019). 

confronted

Sentimentality, the ostentatious parading of excessive and spurious emotion, is the mark of dishonesty and the ability to feel; the wet eyes of the sentimentalist betray his aversion to experience, his fear of life, his arid heart; and it is always, therefore, the signal of secret and violent inhumanity, the mask of cruelty… He is not, after all, merely a number of a Society or a Group or a deploration conundrum to be explained by Science. He is—and how old-fashioned the words sound!—something more than that, something resolutely indefinable, unpredictable. In overlooking, denying, evading his complexity—which is nothing more than the disquieting complexity of ourselves—we are diminished and we perish; only within this web of ambiguity, paradox, this hunger, danger, darkness, can we find at once ourselves and the power that will free us from ourselves… Our passion for categorization, life neatly fitted into pegs, has led to an unforeseen, paradoxical distress: confusion, a breakdown of meaning.”

-James Baldwin
Everybody’s Protest Novel

West

Three hundred years ago he moved from Bern and changed his name from Aebi to Avey to sound a bit more neutral, a bit more American. I’ve been thinking more about what it means to be American. Who, how, why. I have some reference points. It was easy to move to Germany. Music I know is everywhere I go. My Colombian father-in-law told me to hide my passport because it might get stolen. I underestimate that blue cover. The public schools and libraries. Hiding a heritage of human sorrow and potential. Somehow still allergic to this land. Poison oak forms a resistance on the trails we blaze. Oozing with red bumps, making me question the way. I’m the non-native species. Make it more American. But how? From the jazz to the mundane. Paint the spectrum black or white. The distance between what you know and want to know lies in what you create. Between places you’ve been and places you can’t imagine. How could it be so hard to write under your parents’ roof when they gave you every neuron? Drive north on the 1. A loud bed and breakfast might be awkward. Let’s take a quarter and go explore. Another pioneer couple walking on a boneyard of tree branches. Looks like beach cheese. Sitting halfway up a Monterey cypress. Staring at the setting sun with the moon to our back. This place makes me sleepless. I heard a man inside the wall with a pickaxe. Crumbling down the structure from the inside out. But then the mother of slumber blacked out my vision with her placement of fill-in-the-box. I’m home. Horace Greeley might have told you to “Go west, young man,” but I’m called by the wild poppies and cortaderia. Those here before us. Junipero Serra paved the way, killing with faith. Priests on a mission overlook young women. Left out of the literature. I’m pulled in by the Pacific, the way redwoods hold on to their neighbors’ roots. Prioritizing nourishment. A church turned grocery store. Looking at another “All Are Welcome Here” sign made Sam ask what that says about other places. A bold statement against a dark reality. But damn this place is hard to reach.

Away

It’s easier to establish a voice away from home. Surrounded by expression foreign from your own helps you feel more alone. Background voices merge into a hush. Hidden in a cafe, away on a train. Sinking in solitude. Language becomes noise. Until I hear my own. That accent pierces past and I distract. Mind deciphers meaning. “We sold two so far.” “She was so wasted she couldn’t stand.” The words of others crowd my mind and expel my own. Familiarity pauses attention. The known pulls me out. Craving lips moving in silence. Everywhere I go, one language turns up the volume and drowns my stream of thought. The others, a sea of sound I can sense, but not grasp. A liberating loss of comprehension. Drowning in the unknown, searching for significance. A pocket of air. Choking, an inner voice becomes more clear. More distinct. I can think.