Ethnographic Anecdotes from the Junk Shop – C Smith

On accidents and auto-ethnography

“Back from the dead,” a transcript dated a few days after your first overdose, September 11, 2009:

The dead
part a place
a feeling of having
come to pass
like so much
coming home
to sense

or how polite you were
surfacing from nod
to the face of emergency
personnel, or her passing
as if in (cliché)
dream
dreamt all alone

and it’s lovely to see you
and I apologize for my condition
gesturing
at the bed or the chair –
the all around situation in its
entire helplessness –
like something I wasn’t supposed
to see, she later said

or earlier, when
she asked the first
responding  official
idling in the flashing
lights who,
either confused
or intentionally evasive
said that ‘a girl
was sick upstairs.’

She tells him that her friend
lives upstairs  And maybe
lingers a moment or
two too long until the EMS,
subtleties dissolving, asks
if her friend gets sick
often
and she shakes her head
ambiguously but sort
of like no

or,
the EMS, doctors and nurses
and you’re back from the dead
after ‘blue lips’ and ‘you gotta
stop that shit,’ not unlike
the cop in the emergency
room following the pavement-
kissing car crash
gash
a few months after
that first horrific
and prolonged kick
so many years back

who said, as an aside, smirking:
‘that looks like a pussy’
as if he might want to fuck
that open
wound
or else just didn’t know
what else to say
in that awkward interval
before the opening was closed

 

‘Fractal interiorities’ and the poetics of insider ethnography

The fall having sped past in the blur of intense focus and work that is the oscillation between absent and ill, nodding and screaming, dopesick and in my own little world, I started the lit review feeling heavy. This material wasn’t going to be easy or pleasant to negotiate. I’d seen the pictures, peeked out the window as the bus sped past, saw the dirty bombed out zone of conflict, and knew the illusory, hallucination-inducing state of clinical, public health science research re. drugs: the numbers didn’t lie: my hourly wage as a consultant was almost equivalent to the worth of a flap of junk in those days – and at least on paper, at least in the beginning, I was working more than enough to maintain a healthy balanced habit; differently put, I was using so little that I hardly needed to keep track of my hours. Having watched this play out more than a few times before, I could just say that at the start of that contract, I was feeling whole again there for a while, in one of my ‘busy’ periods that interspersed the long bouts of flailing (what one of my old professors once called the ‘fallow-time’) in between – the volatile and unfixed threshold point where writing/production/getting-stuff-done became indistinguishable from junk, and work collapsed into using. And like any good conforming creature of capitalism, I threw myself into the material, splashing into the research, as they say, with both feet…

Image: “C looking out”. Photo courtesy of the author.

C Smith grew up outside Toronto to become an unlikely and improbable academic by accident, and now teaches a discipline in which he has zero degrees at a uni in the Land of Oz (Melbourne, Australia). His habits include bending institutional rules, going to bed early, leading a virtually asocial, asexual existence, doing heaps of ‘consulting’ work (sometimes as the token dopefiend) for all manner of public health bodies, and junk, heaps and heaps of junk. His dealer is a 72 year old Mafioso grandma. Presently, his research explores the use of zombie metaphors in addiction treatment and mental health service user discourse, the recruitment of addiction treatment physicians, and the awkward intersection between middle class, educated white activists in the ‘Occupy’ movement and people who use drugs and have no home. C is really good at creating heaps more work for himself than is necessary, and in Melbourne he recently made a documentary about inequality in ‘(k)illadelphia’ with his friends there (where he attended a poison ivy league school to do his postdoc and his best friends were dopefiends and ex-crack dealers). C hates most conventional academics. With a burning, screaming passion.



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