Jim Wilson’s Blog, 6 March 2015
The bloke in the photograph with me is Terry, an old style hillbilly from Tennessee. Me and Terry shared a single-wide in a trailer park off the Calfkiller Road in Cookeville, Tennessee during the winter and spring of 1991.
I was struggling to get ‘clean’ from narcotics at the time and going to lots of 12 Step meetings and the like. Terry had supposedly been free of drugs for about three years, but shortly after I moved in I found that he had burgled some kind of motorcycle shop and was selling the leather jackets and doing a roaring trade. He was also selling Dilaudid (like a kiss from an angel Dilaudid is) and handguns. These days I think junkies sell rocket-propelled grenades.
Sleeping on the lounge floor in the trailer was a 17 year old Indian ‘squaw’ called Rachel and Terry would say: “Get you some of that.” Rachel’s boyfriend, Billy, was in a juvenile jail at the time. Billy was a real good bloke and a quintessential and qualitative hillbilly type, but Rachel and Billy just couldn’t hold it together and it was like a mule talking to a fish.
When the drugs and alcohol step into a person’s life in the way they did for Rachel and Billy, then being just one day clean is a mind altering and genuine miracle.
There is much less of a social welfare system in the USA than in New Zealand and so when an addict hits ‘rock bottom’ it tends to go deeper and deeper. It is hard to know what to do, but I think drug addiction is strangling much of society and we need to find out why these people are unhappy. Because I’m ‘old school’, I think they actually are unhappy and that there is no glamour in drug addiction. Keith Richards or no Keith Richards.
You want to smoke a joint? Fine. That’s not drug addiction as I know it.
While I was living with Terry I met another hillbilly at an AA meeting and he saved my life. I worked on his lifestyle farm for about a year. He was a tough gentleman who had been of quite a substantial rank in the US Army. I built up my ‘clean time’ and became fit and healthy again. I received constant care and love from a staunch group of people for the longest time and I became less afraid. I was then more capable of making new friends and they sustained me and still do. These people are on a different pathway in life to the black suited demons that I used to hang around with. Evil is as evil does. No question about that. Watch what they do because they are still doing it.
I met my good mate Russell Pirie in about 1973 in Christchurch. We shot a lot of speed together and my overwhelming memory of him is that soon after we met we were in Cashel Street on his Suzuki 500. It was a bright and sunny Christchurch day and the Garden City is world class on days like this and y’all know that.
On this day, the speed that we had been shooting had made us paranoid and Russell thought he saw a cop (Jim Marshall, head of the drug squad at the time) and so he gunned the bike through town. He didn’t stop until we were crouched behind a rock somewhere out in Ferrymead and shooting speed again. I have no idea how we explained that to ourselves. I also think Jim Marshall was in Queenstown at the time.
Russell was an adopted kid of part Maori descent (but raised by white people) and I have noticed over time that adopted kids sometimes have a harder time of it and quite a few become addicts. They often have no sense of attachment and have shaky lives because of that fact.
Russell did a detention centre leg and he may have done two or three borstals in Invercargill. Then he might have done a small one in Paparua. I honestly can’t remember, but I do know that he did at least one borstal and something in Pap. He was dead proud of all of this. He was a real good looking bloke and with a heart of gold, but I think he was looking desperately for something his whole life through. We shared girlfriends, we shared needles, we did all that good stuff and we were ‘attached’ as much as we could be. When you’re racing down Ferry Road on a Suzuki 500 at 75mph, or more, then you are definitely attached.
At one point in Christchurch we were all having a hard time getting a decent supply of opiates and speed and so Russell became hooked on barbiturates (Tuinal, Seconal, Nembutal). Doctors used to throw these in the streets for all comers like it was all a lollie scramble. They (the doctors and drugs companies) also kept inventing these drugs that supposedly cured drug addiction and each one was worse than the last. I got out alive (today) how about you?
Here are a couple of Russell Pirie stories from this period of time:
Russell ‘stepped out’ the whole public bar in Warners Hotel in Christchurch one day. This was where the Polynesians drank at the time and Russell woke up on the South Brighton bus stop several hours later.
One time Russell, high on barbiturates, dove into a swimming pool. Unfortunately, the pool was empty and Russell suffered quite severe injuries. He climbed out and dived in again. Broken collarbones were his forte. He had a passion for self-degradation. Junkies often do. Hard to arrest that.
At one stage in 1975 I burgled a chemist shop and there was pure Heroin in it. My co-offender and I were hot (I was on bail for other chemist shop burglaries at the time) and so we ended up dividing the dope in Russell’s flat down England Street. This was as far away from the cops as we could get and it wasn’t very far.
Whilst we were dividing the jar of Heroin over a Formica counter, some was spilling. We were in a hurry of course and Russell was scratching up what we were spilling. He shot it and overdosed and turned blue on the floor he did.
At the time Russell was going out with ‘Bill’ Rowling’s daughter and Wallace was Prime Minister of New Zealand. Russell had been to government house and had fallen asleep in the spaghetti bolognese at dinner which he, of course, found to be hilarious. I still laugh about it myself.
In England Street, down by the famous England Street hall, Bill’s daughter (Janey?) was on the floor trying to force a fish tank hose down Russell’s throat to help him breathe. My co-offender and I beat the feet as junkies worldwide like to do. My co-offender died of a Heroin overdose in Warner’s Hotel the next night. The cops came and got me to identify the body, wouldn’t you?
But, Russell lived and went on to shoot some guy dead with a gun in Christchurch some years later as part of a drug deal. That’s closing the deal for sure. He ended up doing ‘life’ in Paremoremo and a lot of it in ‘D Block’. I visited him from time to time and he never stopped laughing. Good Christ we laughed.
He got out (a life sentence at the time was anywhere between 10-15 years) and received some sort of payment through ACC as we all have done in our time. It’s a bad move for an addict to use such funds to get a Harley Davidson and Russell came off that bike in South Brighton and il est mort. I miss him, of course I do, I still laugh sometimes when I think of what we did.
“Addiction” is a savage ‘disease’ and there are many strands to it. People often hurt themselves and many times they laugh. They have strange and unusual accidents and even years after they have been ‘clean and sober’. The devil follows them closely and makes smash and grab attempts at taking them back to what they managed to leave and with a great deal of grief and sorrow to boot.
There are various branches and subsets of the disease of addiction and I must say I have often found some clean and sober people to be more difficult than ‘using’ junkies who tend to get to the truth and quickly. But, you know, the quality of mercy is never strained…
I am glad I have moved forward. I do (as they say) get by with a little help from my friends. Here’s to you, Russell Pirie…