We need a new way to make sweeping assumptions about entire populations, and what better place to start than drugs? After all, there’s so much you can tell about a person from their drug of choice. Wouldn’t it be great if we could apply the same logic to entire countries?
Pablo Escobar’s Old Estate Is Now a Weird, Jurassic Park-Themed Zoo
When Colombian National Police finally put a bullet through Pablo Escobar’s head in December 1993, he was running what was probably the most successful cocaine cartel of all time, worth some $25 billion. You can do pretty much anything you want with that kind of money, and Escobar did, building houses for the poor, getting himself elected to Colombia’s Congress, and running much of the northeastern city of Medellín as his own personal fiefdom.
In 1978 he bought up a vast tract of land outside the city and started building Hacienda Nápoles, the sort of sprawling complex that you’d expect the world’s richest drug dealer to inhabit, complete with its own array of wild animals. When he died, the land was ignored for a decade and fell into disrepair. The house was looted by locals who were convinced he’d stashed money or drugs in the walls, and the hippos turned feral.
Eventually, some bright spark hit upon the idea of reopening the estate as an adventure park. They kept the name, gave it a Jurassic Park-style makeover and reopened it to the public, creating the ultimate family-friendly tourist destination: a still pretty run-down complex with some dinosaur figurines, some hippos, and the enduring, unavoidable legacy of a man whose cartel were responsible for anywhere between 3,000 to 60,000 deaths.
Sex, Snow, and Cocaine: My Life As a Ski Resort ‘Chalet Bitch’
Belle de Neige (“Beautiful Snow”, if you didn’t take French) is a blog about what people who work ski seasons get up to when they’re not fixing snow blades, or delivery apres-ski drinks to Jemima Khan and whoever else goes on ski holidays. The writer just condensed a bunch of her blog posts into a book, so we asked her to condense her book back into a blog post. This is that.
I’ve been blogging about all the unpalatable shit people get up to on ski seasons for five years. And I’d say I’ve covered all the major bases: sex, ill-advised drug consumption, orgies, avalanches, immoral workplace behavior, rich delinquents, Russian prostitutes—everything you’d expect when you mix young people with high altitudes. So wrapping that all up into one snappy article should be easy, right? All I need to do is reel off a few anecdotes involving undignified sexual encounters as a result of British teens exporting British drinking culture, and I’m set.
But the problem is that I don’t want to start out like that, because perpetuating bullshit myths is boring. And because not everyone behind the scenes of Europe’s ski resorts are Harrovian drop-outs or braying packs of Hollister homeboys. In fact, many “seasonaires”—the word for people who work ski seaons up in the mountains—aren’t like that at all. Many of those who I know are laborers, or lost their jobs in the recession.
The sticky-sweet smell of Pink Sugar perfume permeates the air. A Latina girl with bottle-blonde streaked hair crouches on all fours, looking over her shoulder, and pouting her frosted fuschia lips. She…
I Do Drugs Because Doing Drugs Is Fun
Like any good British girl, I can sit and down pills till the hallucinatory cows come home. But if I have to read one more nonsense story about some celebrity checking into rehab after trying one bump of coke, I’m actually going to break into the Daily Mail’s headquarters and shit and piss on their computers so that they can’t print any more fucking shit and piss about people taking drugs.
The English actor Michael Le Vell had a tough time last year. He was suspended from the soap opera, Coronation Street, while on trial for child sex charges and has since been found not guilty. Recently, he was suspended again after he admitted to doing coke—as in the refreshing white stuff, not the syrup that rots babies if you pour it over them. Michael told the Sunday Mirror that he first tried coke during the stressful lead up to his trial, “For a few brief minutes, the first time was a relief from everything that was going on. Afterwards I felt so ashamed and I never thought I’d do it again. But I did it once more after the trial… I never thought that I was the sort of guy who would like cocaine.”
Seriously, how much bullshit was that statement cut with? I don’t know, maybe Michael “I never thought that I was the sort of guy who would like cocaine” Le Vell really does look down on people who take drugs. Maybe he’s just playing sad boy for the media. Who knows? We’re about as capable of knowing how much crap his statement contains as we are of knowing how much levamisole was in last weekend’s bag of sniff. (Answer: always far, far too much.)
I have no doubt that Michael—and other recent cocaine apologists, such as Nigella Lawson, Demi Lovato, and Jim Davidson—have felt pain in their lives, and that truly sucks. But are we really supposed to believe that people only do coke when they’re in mourning, or in abusive relationships, or on trial for child-sex charges? Could it be that some people do a fat line of coke simply because they love a fat line of coke?
If the War on Drugs Is Failing, Where’d All the Cocaine Go?
Toward the end of last year, the DEA published its 2013 National Drug Threat Assessment Summary, a 28-page report chronicling drug consumption trends across the United States. These include the continued rise in abuse of prescription drugs (second only to marijuana in popularity), the increase in the production of heroin in Mexico and its availability in the U.S., and the emergence of synthetic designer drugs.
Much of the report is unremarkable—until you arrive at the section on cocaine. “According to [National Seizure System] data,” it reads, “approximately 16,908 kilograms of cocaine were seized at the southwest Border in 2011. During 2012, only 7,143 kilograms of cocaine were seized, a decrease of 58 percent.”
That sharp decline echoes an ongoing trend: 40 percent fewer people in the United States used cocaine in 2012 than they did in 2006; only 19 percent of Chicago arrestees had cocaine in their system two years ago compared to 50 percent in 2000; and less high school seniors say they’ve used cocaine in the last 12 months than at any time since the mid-70s. In fact, the report indicates cocaine was sporadically unavailable in Chicago, Houston, Baltimore, and St. Louis in the spring of 2012. So where’d the blow go?
Buying Your Drugs Online Is Good for You
Silk Road 2.0, the successor to the deep web’s most infamous marketplace, just passed a new milestone. Despite a dramatic holiday season, when three of its staff and several vendors were arrested on conspiracy charges, there are now over 10,000 narcotics listings on its pixelated shelves. And, according to its acting administrator “Defcon”, traffic to the website has doubled since December.
So it appears that the site—where you can anonymously get your hands on pretty much any substance you want, as well as a bunch of other illegal stuff that you’d usually need Turkish mob connections to access—is just as resilient to the feds as its current ownershad promised it would be.
And far from the digital trap house many have depicted it to be, Silk Road 2.0 has continued its predecessor’s aim of allowing drug users to make informed decisions about their use of psychoactive substances, both by providing products that are open to quality checks and through the spread of honest information about how to take those products as safely as possible.
Dimebag’s Last Christmas
I don’t know if you’ve ever met any of your untouchable, godlike, rock ’n’ roll heroes. But I have, many times, and it usually sucks. They’re never as impressive as when you first saw them in a magazine, and I should know—I’m a photographer, and it’s my job to make rock stars look cool in magazines. I’ve been disillusioned over and over, but in 2003, when I met Pantera’s guitarist, Dimebag Darrell, things went differently. I had done a few photo shoots with Dimebag for a guitar mag, and after the second one, he invited me to his home in Arlington, Texas, to attend a Christmas party.
On Christmas Eve, I arrived at his house—it was obvious which was his because it was the only one in the neighborhood with a huge Confederate flag on the roof. I was expecting a bacchanalian drug fest fit for a metal god, but when Dimebag’s wife, Rita, answered the door in an apron, I realized this was just a straight-up Christmas party. I drank countless “blacktooth grins,” his signature drink of Seagram’s Seven Crown, Crown Royal, and a tiny bit of Coke. There were dudes with ponytails and women in mom jeans, and Dimebag was beneath a black, upside-down Christmas tree passing out presents like spice racks and potpourri.
“Matt!” he yelped when he saw me. “Welcome to the party!” Not long after, the lights dimmed and a smoke machine spewed fog from the base of the tree. Someone threw Black Sabbath on the stereo and the party really started. A random buddy brought a crumpled stop sign he’d knocked down during a recent drunk joyride in Dimebag’s beat-up truck. Jerry Cantrell from Alice in Chains came late, strolling in holding a fist-size Ziploc of white powder in a decorative holiday bag with a rolled-up dollar bill taped to it. It was a white Christmas for all.
I’ve had these photos stuffed in a drawer since then, but I guess it’s time I shared them. A year after they were taken, Dimebag was shot and killed by a crazed fan, and I figure we should remember him in his true element: surrounded by a bunch of women in mom jeans, novelty drinks, and suburban raging.
This Guy Is Mapping London’s Drug Use with a Discarded Baggie Map
What do you do with your leftover drug paraphernalia? Unless you’re one of those ambitious stoner hoarders who insists on keeping stems for pots of weed tea you’ll never brew, chances are you throw everything away. And if you’re homeless—or someone who enjoys getting high around strangers, or in parks—it’s likely you chuck your empty baggies on the floor or into a bush, kindly leaving them for 10-year-olds to bring into school and use as props in stories about their fictional weekend exploits.
Since January of this year, photographer Dan Giannopoulos has been taking photos of all the discarded baggies he finds throughout south-east London. He’s also been jotting down their geographic coordinates with the aim of eventually mapping out all the bags he’s found and working out whether any patterns emerge. I had a quick chat with Dan about his project.
A map we made out of the baggie coordinates that Dan has gathered so far (Click to enlarge)
VICE: Hey Dan. So far, what has the project taught you about Londoners’ drug use?
Dan Giannopoulos: I’ve been working on it since about January this year, and I haven’t had a chance to map everything fully yet, so at the moment it’s isolated to south-east London. But I tend to find more bags in more of the working-class areas I’ve been to—the kind of areas that have a reputation for drug use. But then I’ve had bags show up in places like Blackheath, which is quite a posh area. It’s quite random at the moment, but I was going to carry on working on it for a year or so and map any patterns that show up.
Is there a variation of drugs between those areas?
It tends to be more weed around the well-to-do areas.
Ibiza Looked Just As Fun Before the Ravers Came
Before the crap ecstasy and Paul Oakenfold, Ibiza was something else entirely: a sleepy Balearic island known for being the favored vacation destination of famous, wealthy hippies hoping to escape the exhausting stresses of making music for a living. There was, however, a short period of change between the boho years and the Ibiza Uncovered era—a span of time that last roughly from the mid-1970s until the late-80s.
During that time, instead of being overrun by tourists getting dressed up in their best pair of shorts to hurl $15 at a luminous bottle of drink in Pacha, Ibiza Town was full of beautiful European people wearing weird clothes and dancing around in open-air nightclubs. It was a bit like Berlin was in the 2000s but with glorious, blazing sunlight and sandy beaches rather than Arctic winds and stern Soviet architecture.
Photographer Derek Ridgers happened to be on a family holiday in Ibiza in 1983 when he came across all these European club kids, and fresh from photographing London’s skinheads, he trained his camera upon them. For whatever reason, no publications would buy his photos at the time, so they’d been sitting around unseen for decades until he dug them out and put them on display this month as part of the ICA’s “Ibiza: Moments in Love" exhibition.
I gave Derek a call to chat about his pictures.