Otto's Books

Otto's Books

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Codeine got me through the Disco days

The following are excerpts from Memoirs of a Drugged-Up, Sex-Crazed Yippie,Tales from the 1970s counter-culture: Drugs, sex, politics and rock and roll

By Steve Otto

Chapter Twelve
Disco sucked
But the cocaine was real good

Cocaine was a popular drug among the disco set. That was definitely the case here in Kansas. That may be part of the reason that Rusty and I were able to get nearly pure cocaine on such a regular basis.
I still preferred narcotics to coke. I remember when Tony first explained to me the process of signing for a bottle of codeine cough syrup. We were sitting at his apartment one evening after I got off work.
“I usually ask for Novahistine,” he said. “There’s one called DH and another called expectorant. They both have the same amount of codeine.”
Naturally I couldn’t wait to try it. I went to a pharmacy on the main street of Lawrence. The regular counter was in the front. I had to walk to the back of the building, passed the rows of shelves covered with over-the-counter medical items and up to the prescription service area. It was one of Lawrence’s older buildings, with white cement walls.
“Yes?” the dark haired clerk, in his 40s, asked.
“I’d like some Novahistine DH,” I said nervously.
He pulled out a bottle, then a ledger. He filled in everything except my name and address.
“Fill this out,” he said.
I filled out the ledger, paid about $3.90 for the bottle and left. Once out the door and out of sight, I drank half the bottle. Once I started to feel it, I drank the rest. By the time I got home, I kept feeling these little rushes going down my back. I felt great. This was one of the best highs I had ever had.
“Why don’t you just get a bottle of whiskey?” Rusty asked, when I got home.
“This is a much better high than whiskey,” I said.

I’m sure he thought it sounded disgusting, but I didn’t care. There were restrictions on how often a person could buy it and how much they could buy. Over the next few months I went to some other pharmacies and discovered I liked the DH the best.
On one occasion I went out to Quantrill’s Saloon, using codeine, with Harry. I met Harry while I was hanging out in the various main street bars. We played pool one night and I had an unusual sense of confidence that allowed us to run the tables a few times. We played partners and we seemed unbeatable. When I was high on that stuff, I could function as if I seemed straight and I had this overwhelming sense of well-being.
Quantrill’s was a popular bar with both local young people and some of the long-term college kids. It was a large building in the older section of town. The bar itself was in the middle of the room and there was a few pool tables near the back, and lots of brown wooden chairs and tables near the front door. It had pale green walls and a slightly damp and musty smell that no doubt came from the building’s old walls. There was a jukebox and a picture of Quantrill on the wall.
Josh, from the Public Notice, complained one evening that people would name things after William Quantrill.
“He burns down most of the town for the Southern cause and they name a flea market and bar after him,” Josh said.
The paper had run an article on the same theme. Quantrill was famous for his raid on Lawrence, in 1863, in which he and his men slaughtered much of the town’s male population. They were Confederate irregulars and they burned most of the buildings. Lawrence was considered a Union stronghold. The article had a cartoon with a man holding a bloody knife. He had a button on his shirt that read: “Our hero.”
Despite Josh’s reservations about the place, it attracted many good-looking young women. Harry and I often tried to pick them up. I remember talking to one woman, a tall blond bombshell, after I took some codeine. I had an easy time talking to her because I was calm and cool. I wasn’t nervous at all.
“So you’re a business major,” I said to her. “That’s interesting. I’m interested in journalism.”
“Aren’t journalists idealists?” she asked?
Our conversation went nowhere and I never talked to her again.