Junkie steals 100-year-old morphine, doesn’t get high

morphine, junkie
There’s nobody quite as determined or stupid as a junkie.

Maybe it’s hard to buy a hit on the streets of Cashmere, Washington, or maybe this particular junkie was short of cash. In any case, someone with a craving for drugs broke into the Cashmere Historic Museum and Pioneer Village and made off with a bottle of morphine pills dating back to World War One.

A doctor interviewed by the Wenatchee World newspaper said that the century-old pills would have long since lost their potency and wouldn’t have any effect at all, good or bad.

The intruder left a trail of destruction in his or her wake, as junkies usually do. Museum officials found a broken fence, a broken door, and a trashed display case. The case was a rare original from a period doctor’s office dating to 1890. Volunteers are now cleaning up the office so they can reopen it to the public.

This isn’t the first time the museum has been broken into. Its historic saloon has been burgled a couple of times by drunks looking for booze. There’s no alcohol in the saloon, and the folks at the Cashmere Historic Museum and Pioneer Village may want to rethink having real medication on display in their doctor’s office, even if it hasn’t been able to get anyone high since Burroughs was in short pants.

[Morphine cure ad c.1900 courtesy Mike Cline via Wikimedia Commons]

Visiting the Brontë sisters in Yorkshire

People say literary genius is a rare thing, something seen only once in a thousand or a million people. Maybe so, but the Brontës had three (and maybe five) literary geniuses in the same family.

From their father’s parsonage in Haworth, Yorkshire, in northern England, the three Brontë sisters Charlotte, Emily, and Anne produced some of the most popular books in the English language. Works like Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights are still read more than 150 years after they were published. They’ve survived the test of time. The ebook edition of Wuthering Heights is currently ranked number 457 at Amazon’s Kindle store, and number 5 in the fiction classics category. Their work has been made into numerous movies and another version of Jane Eyre is coming out next year.

The sisters also prompted literary tourism to Haworth. It started not long after they died and has steadily grown ever since. While everyone comes to Haworth to see the Brontë home and related sights, they also enjoy a beautiful and well-preserved nineteenth century village full of shops and fine restaurants.

Now I have to be honest here and admit that until I went on this trip I had never read a Brontë novel. They were the classics I never got assigned in school and I figured I’d get around to whenever. Before I left for Yorkshire I read Jane Eyre and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. The rich prose and sedate pacing definitely belong to the nineteenth century, but the smartass, independent female protagonist belongs to the modern world.

Much of Haworth remains as the Brontës knew it. The Brontë Parsonage Museum preserves their home and tells their story. House museums are tricky to do well. Despite being a museum junkie, some historic homes bore me to death. This one, however, gripped my attention. Besides the usual stuff like the desks they wrote at and the sofas they sat on (and Emily may have died on), there are the little details that make it stick in your memory. In the nursery where they spent their childhood faint pencil drawings can be seen on the wall. While it’s impossible to say if these literary giants doodled these when they were small, it makes you wonder.

There’s also the story of Branwell Brontë. Who? Yeah, that was always his problem. He was their brother, a failed artist and struggling writer living in the shadow of his superstar sisters. He fell into a downward spiral of alcoholism and opium addiction before dying at 31. The above painting of his sisters is Branwell’s work. He originally included himself in the portrait, then unsuccessfully erased himself. He doodled constantly, illustrating letters he sent to friends. One at the museum shows himself in two images. The first is labeled “Paradise” shows him drunk off his ass and shouting, “I am the lord of the manor!” The other is labeled “Purgatory” and shows him hunched over an opium pipe.

%Gallery-104264%The museum also tells the story of their father Patrick, the local pastor who was also a published author. Many a young woman’s ambitions were crushed in those days by domineering fathers who wanted them to get married and get pregnant. Patrick Brontë was progressive enough not to feel threatened by his daughters’ talent and encouraged them in their careers.

Beyond the Brontë parsonage you can see traces of their life everywhere. Patrick Brontë’s church stands nearby and houses the family’s memorial chapel. The pub where Branwell got drunk is just a short stagger away from the apothecary where he bought his opium. The Black Bull Inn still serves up fine Yorkshire ales, but the apothecary shop stopped carrying opiates when they started requiring a prescription. Otherwise it’s a good replica of an early apothecary and still sells traditional cures.

Haworth’s main street is down a steep hill lined with little shops. You can find delicious local cheeses and preserves, a couple of fine tearooms, some excellent secondhand bookshops, and more gift shops than you can shake a copy of Wuthering Heights at. Several historic inns offer beers and beds. At the train station a traditional steam railway offers rides.

But Haworth isn’t all tea and scones and twee little shops. There’s a dark side to the town’s history, full of ghosts, death, and despair. On my second day I discovered I was all too close to the supernatural. . .

This is the first of my new series Exploring Yorkshire: ghosts, castles, and literature in England’s north.

Coming up next: Three nights in a haunted hotel room!


This trip was sponsored by
VisitEngland and Welcome to Yorkshire.

[Photo courtesy user Mr. Absurd via Wikimedia Commons]

Drug tourists banned from Dutch city


Potheads take note: unless you’re Dutch, you are no longer welcome in Maastricht.

The Dutch city passed a measure to ban foreigners from its coffee shops, where marijuana and hash are legal to buy and consume. Marc Josemans, chairman of the Association of Official Maastricht Coffee Shops, brought suit against the city, saying the ruling violates EU laws guaranteeing free commerce and free movement. An EU court, however, just ruled in favor of the city, citing that drugs are not legal everywhere in the EU so do not count as regular goods.

Owing to its location on the border with Belgium and its proximity to France and Germany, Maastricht is popular with drug tourists, attracting about 4,000 a day. An estimated 70 percent of the customers at the city’s coffee shops are foreigners.

Amsterdam has been cleaning up its act too. It has dramatically decreased its red light district and there has been discussion about making coffee shops members-only establishments so as to discourage drug tourists.

The image is an advertisement distributed by the Federal Bureau of Narcotics in 1935. Beware the friendly stranger.

Spanish air contains cocaine

Next time you visit Madrid or Barcelona, breathe deeply. Along with the car exhaust, you’ll be getting a whiff of cocaine, according to a recent study.

The Superior Council of Scientific Investigations tested the air in various barrios in the two cities where drug use is popular, and found trace particles of cannabis, amphetamines, and a host of other drugs besides the ubiquitous Bolivian Marching Powder.

While this may seem like yet another of those headline-grabbing but flawed “scientific studies”, having lived in Madrid for the past several years I can believe it. It’s not unusual to catch a cloud of ganja while engaged in the simple act of walking down the street, or to walk into a club bathroom and find someone sniffing off the counter (I mean really people, have you no sense of hygiene!!!) The government has recently felt it necessary to start a national advertising campaign to remind people that drugs are, in fact, illegal.

This is something that many travelers forget at their peril. While some Spaniards wink at drug use, the cops will bust your ass same as back home.

CNN reporter and business travel expert gets caught with meth in Central Park

When we were in Montana two summers ago, I noticed anti-meth billboards everywhere. The billboards were part of a media blitz to get teens and adults to not start this dreadful drug habit that rots teeth, creates pock marks and wastes away ones body and mind. For people hooked on methamphetamine, the aim was to get them unhooked. In the small town in Montana where we go each year, I have known people who showed the signs of being addicts, and it wasn’t pretty.

According to this Billings Gazette news story from last September, the media blitz has worked and meth use is down more than 50% in Montana. With the news stories about the hazards of meth use that have appeared, it always surprises me to find out when prominent people with much to lose dabble in the stuff. Such is the case with Richard Quest, a CNN International reporter.

Quest, who hosts “Business Traveler” and another program called “Quest,” was in New York City’s Central Park at 3:40 a.m. this morning and was arrested, according to this New York Times tidbit. You aren’t supposed to be in Central Park after 1 a.m. or before 6 a.m. That’s one no-no. The other no-no involves the Ziploc bag with meth in it that Quest had in his pocket. These two missteps have him facing drug charges. He did say the meth was in his pocket before the police found it.

Since methamphetamine is not particularly helpful in the long run for travelers–it may keep you feeling peppy for awhile, but can lead to memory loss and a myriad of other woes, I wonder what Quest was thinking. Not to mention that having a drug record gets in the way of travel to the United States. Quest is British. Look at Amy Winehouse who couldn’t attend the Grammy Awards.

Either life as a prominent CNN reporter is not as terrific as it looks and makes chilling out difficult, or it helps one lose track of common sense. Or, I have no idea. And one more thing. What was Quest thinking when he headed into Central Park in the wee hours of the morning? That’s nuts. Doesn’t he pay attention to the news?