Mark Palermo

If You Wanna Be a Junkie, Why?

He Was Our S.O.B.
Long Ago Saturday Nights at the Circle 9
The Dark Side of Vaccinations
Wine: Where Ignorance and Pretension Find their Loudest Voice
A 1976 Journey in Search of Self
The Machinery of Mass Dreams
The Outlaw Georgie Bush
Sex Offender Registries Out of Control
Extreme Makeover for Airheads
The Fault Lies not in the Stars, but in Ourselves
Reconsidering George Carlin
If You Think Liberals Are Jerks...
She Couldn't Do Her Chores
Remembering Viktor Frankl
One Day on the Farm-1977
A Fresh Look at Meat
How the Real World Works: A Lesson
30 Bucks for the Human Touch
1929 All Over Again
An Old Man's War, A Young Man's Fight
More Things in Heaven and Earth...
Our Dumbed-down Public Discourse
Bread, But No Roses
Earth's the Right Place for Love
Read This Before Enlisting
Poison Is Good for You: The Fluoridation Scam
Ron Paul:He Makes Too Much Sense
War Is a Racket
Brazil's National Orgasm Day
Calling all Liberals!
Why I Don't Get Flu Shots
What is Community?
Haverhillicus Homocrisicum
If You Wanna Be a Junkie, Why?
Do We Know His Family?
Scam: Youth Sports
A Subsidy for the Human Touch?
How Not to Be Boring
If the Bread and Roses Strike Were NOW
America's Problem with the Body
Columbus Day? or Renaissance Day?
Depleted Uranium Weapons
Mitt Romney: A Clintonian Republican
A Checklist for Conservatives
On Torture and Torturers
Pimp of the Nation
Romney is a Jerk
Hypocrisy and its Champions
The Dumb Society
The Men's Taverns of Yesteryear
On Dittoheads!
Let China Sleep
2004 McDebates
Animal Rights Page
US Wealth Distribution Chart
Public Grief, Private Lives


The good old days where I grew up weren’t always so good. In the late 1960’s Lawrence earned a well-deserved reputation (along with Beverly and Springfield) for having the highest percentage of junkies in the state. Junkies were so common in Lawrence’s old neighborhoods, there even existed a certain “junkie chic.” Users had a style of dress and behavior. Pushers strutted around with pride and self-satisfaction, as if they were successful entrepreneurs or rock stars. I knew beautiful girls that were attracted to junkies and sought them out. It seems incredible now that this loathsome, diabolical habit was cool; but it was a statement of disenfranchised youth.

Thinking back to that time, a popular song by Curtis Mayfield called “Freddie’s Dead” resonated with me; it portrayed my own feelings about the everyday lives I observed and the dissolution of the inner life of the old mill city.

This could be such a beautiful world

With a wonderful girl...

Why can’t we be brothers?

Protect one another?

No one’s serious,

And it makes me furious,

Another Freddie’s on the corner now...

If you wanna be a junkie, why?

Remember Freddie’s dead...

Why are drugs so seductive? Even the happiest, most well-balanced person can feel existential loneliness, even on the happiest day of their life. What do I mean by existential loneliness? I have always remembered an old “Star Trek” episode from several years ago where, an alien in spirit form, came to the earth on some sort of mission to satisfy his curiosity. He wanted to inhabit a human body to see what it was like. Somebody on the Enterprise crew let him enter their body. Once he found himself inside, he started too weep uncontrollably.  When he came back out of out the body, he was overcome with sorrow for human beings: he had not been able to feel the beauty, mystery and active participation in the universe. Existential loneliness is the default ground of people’s being, the place they live inside themselves which is debased from their natural higher selves.

It doesn’t matter that this feeling of separateness and isolation from the universe itself is illusory. The philosopher Alan Watts says, “In the same way an apple tree ‘apples,’ the universe ‘peoples’.” We are indeed active participants and  truly connected, we just can’t feel it. And herein lies the problem.

Pain is the human condition. We must all- sooner or later- face separation, sickness, loss of friends and family, old age, and we all have to die. Philosopher and guru Ram Dass once said that suffering existed even inside the Playboy mansion- he had stayed there.  But suffering itself is not nearly as much of a problem as the lack of meaning that modern people experience in their lives.

I used to ask some of my old doper friends what heroin feels like. The answer was inevitably something to do with heaven. One guy actually told me he felt like “God’s son.”  He had found something to fill his existential separateness, and he assured me that heroin does this very well- even  better than  sex. No wonder then that people steal from friends and family, sell their bodies and destroy their lives for it. 

If life is sad at times, if we are filled with doubt, or paralyzed with fear, the way is forward. Viktor Frankyl addressed the question of meaning after  he survived the Holocaust, during which he experienced the murder of his family. In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning,” he used the Holocaust as an existential laboratory to examine the reactions of people under the most wretched and brutal conditions imaginable. He told the world that even under these conditions, some people were nevertheless able to find a sense of meaning .

The Bible tells us there is nothing new under the sun. In the old days, heroin and meth were the epedemic. In the 1980’s it was coke. Now it’s heroin and cocaine, with meth use accelerating. But even the worst hard-core dopers I knew from the old days- people whose whole life was getting high- had a fearful respect for crystal meth. And with good reason. It may be the worst drug of all. 

If you want to see what they saw. If you want to impress upon your kids the dangers of this drug, go to a website called “faces of meth.” Here you can show kids what meth is capable of. Here you can see unretouched “before and after” photos of beautiful, healthy girls turned into toothless, wasted hags. Young men in the prime of their lives that look like starved refugees. When I gaze at these pictures, I hear Curtis Mayfield’s lyrics, “If you want to be a junkie, why?”

We all must find our own way home. And there is much to be learned during our brief visit on this planet. In the words of Viktor Frankyl, “The door to life opens outwards.”



  • Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.
    C.G. Jung