Tag Archives: America

Community and CEOs

Folks who have heard me speak know that that community-building behavior by CEOs is something I admire and long for more of, nowadays particularly. Jack Brown, CEO of Stater Bros. Markets, is now my
hero.

A story in today’s LA Times reports the death of Mr. Brown, though¬†folks in Southern California will recognize his comstater-brospany as a household brand name. We lived near a Stater Bros. Market when we were growing up and shopped there all the time.

Sadly, before his death, I was unaware of Brown’s story, of his philanthropy and decision to not move the company HQ from its base in San Bernardino, a tough town that didn’t need any more companies leaving. He founded the Boys and Girls club of San Bernardino and the Children’s Fund of San Bernardino.

Too often CEOs have their own wealth lining in mind. I’m reminded of the behavior of the CEO of Wells Fargo, who oversaw a lot of unethical stuff, then fired the mid-level folks who were allegedly ordered to perpetrate it, then retired with a $124 million paycheck.

The story of U.S. capitalism over the last generation or two is replete with guys behaving in this way. Shredded communities are the result. So is, if you ask me, our national opiate epidemic.

Communities, seems to me, are built by many people. But an important part of that are the decisions made by company owners and managers. Those decisions can crush, or enliven, a community. Too often, in the recent history of our country, it’s the former.

Sounds like Jack Brown retired fairly wealthy for doing the right thing. That’s the way it should be.

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Filed under Southern California, The Heroin Heartland

DEA: Heroin now increasing everywhere in America

The DEA today issued a press release that begins like this: “Heroin use has increased across the United States among men and women, most age groups, and all income levels. The greatest increases have occurred in groups with historically lower rates of heroin use, including women and people with private insurance and higher incomes.”cropped-IMG_4841.jpg

The release discusses a new report by the FDA and CDC about heroin’s use across the country.

The only fact it appears to leave out is that almost all the new addicts are white.

Still, for a long time, heroin has seemed to me a way of talking about America.

One reason for that is what the DEA expresses – that heroin is so widespread and in areas and populations that never knew it.

But heroin is also a way of talking about our loss of community and publicly shared assets – streets, parks, etc. Of a retreat indoors, figuratively and literally.

I believe heroin is the final expression, the final extension of our multi-decade exaltation of the free market, the individual and consumption. How else to view a drug that turns everyone addicted to it into self-absorbed hyperconsumers?

That’s why I wrote Dreamland and didn’t have one addict shooting up. To do so would have been to distract from the larger point, that this drug thrives in areas without much community feel, community anchor – the area could be poor, could be wealthy. What they share is a lack of community and public interaction and encounter.

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Filed under Drugs, The Heroin Heartland

DREAMLAND … in two weeks

Two weeks from today, my third book, Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic (Bloomsbury Press), is officially Dreamland-HCBigreleased.

The story of this epidemic involves shoelaces, rebar, Levi’s 501s, cellphones, football, Walmart, American prosperity, with marketing, with Mexican poverty and social competition, and with the biggest swimming pool in the US and what happened when that was destroyed.

It’s about the marketing of prescription pills as a solution to pain of all kinds, and about a small town in Mexico where young men have devised a system for retailing heroin across America like it was pizza.

The tale took me from Appalachia to suburbs in Southern California, into one of the biggest drug-abuse stories of our time – and one of the quietest, and whitest as well.

Until April 21, you can buy the book presale, at a discount, at Amazon here … or at Barnes & Noble here.

It’s been a long haul, and I thank the many people I met and spoke to along the way as I put together this American saga.

Hope you like it.

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Filed under Border, Business, Drugs, Global Economy, Mexico, The Heroin Heartland

Dispatches from the frontlines of America’s addiction

The Addict's MomAs I’ve spent the last year-plus writing a book about the opiate abuse epidemic in America, I’ve come across some remarkable people in times of frightening stress.

Along the way I encountered one of the most poignant pages on FB. It’s called The Addict’s Mom, run by Barbara Theodosiou, a Florida PR consultant and mother of two addicts, one in recovery and one in jail. She set up the site a few years ago feeling that no one could understand her but another mother of an addict.

The site now has 12,000 members. They are American mothers who write in the rawest, most honest terms about the arguments, jail, kids who lie and steal from grandparents, prison, their children homeless, raising their children’s children, mortgaging all they own to send their kids to $40,000 rehabs, the joy of seeing a child 200 days clean, and the terror of the late-night phone call, or policeman’s knock on the door.

I hope to be quoting some of these posts, without names, simply because they, like poetry, evoke stories you can imagine in full. (Note: AS=Addicted Son.) Here’s one that I’ve broken out from the original prose into verse:

I have found myself planning my AS’s funeral in my mind.

Recently I have even found myself praying for God to at least take one of us because the pain is just too much.

And then I step back and ask myself what kind of mother could pray for death for one of her own children !?!

I feel horrible even putting these words on paper but i just need to let it out.

I am tired of fighting this fight.

I am tired of seeing my only son destroy himself.

I am tired of all the arguments with him.

I am tired of living with fear of getting that ‘phone call’.

I just don’t know how much longer he can survive at the rate he is using .

 

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Filed under Drugs, The Heroin Heartland

THE HEROIN HEARTLAND: We Have Red Belly Piranhas, and other photos

I’m in Portsmouth, in southern Ohio, a region that has taken a beating from so many corners in the last 30 years.

Farm crisis, factory jobs going overseas, and lately, the hyper-marketing of prescription painkillers, which led to the nation’s first pill mills (unscrupulous docs selling prescriptions like candy for cash).

That led, before many years had passed, to great amounts of addiction to Mexican black-tar heroin delivered by guys from the town of Xalisco, Nayarit — a massive and quiet epidemic, and what the book I’m working on is all about.

The heartland of America — who knew?

This area is showing a few signs of coming back. I just today had conversations with two women today who give me hope. But it’s slow and there’s a long way to go, for having fallen so far.

By the way, the pet store said the people by Red Belly Piranhas to raise in aquariums. They get about as big as a human hand.

 

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Filed under Drugs, The Heroin Heartland, Writing