I heard on the radio that Lance Armstrong recently celebrated a birthday. I hope he had a nice birthday, and I wish him only the best. I really don’t give a fuck about sports, but I have a lot of respect for Lance as an athlete and as a human being. I don’t care what anyone says. The guy got struck down with a terrible disease, in the prime of his life and fought back to become one of the greatest athletes in history. Period, in case you didn’t notice that little dot at the end of that last sentence.
I don’t know why it bothers us when athletes use drugs. We sure don’t hold it against musicians. I’ve never heard anyone say: “I used to really love the Grateful Dead, until I found out that Jerry used drugs.
I can’t believe he would let us down like that. Now I think they suck, but hey, why don’t you come over and check out my collection of Ted Nugent records.” Not once have I ever heard anyone say that.
When it comes to music, we assume that anyone who is any good at music, uses drugs, at least I do. I was crushed when I found out that Frank Zappa didn’t use drugs. What a letdown that was. I used to think that Frank Zappa was this totally original psychedelic genius. I thought he must eat LSD every morning for breakfast to compose all of that freaky music.
Then I found out that he didn’t use drugs, and I began to realize that Frank was a geeky American kid with questionable taste, who really dug Edgar Varese, and some other classical weirdos, as well as blues, R+B and rock n’ roll, and he liked to make fun of people. He thought about musicians the way most people think about athletes. He wanted the best, and he drove them to play their best. He made his music as complicated as possible, and played it with a monstrously lascivious groove.
Drugs had nothing to do with it. Well, drugs had nothing to do with creating it. I think drugs had something to do with why so many people love Frank Zappa’s music. On drugs, people often discover tremendous satisfaction and joy in listening, but when they’re not on drugs, they never shut-up long enough to experience that pleasure.
Thanks to drugs, a lot of people, who would have been just as happy to chew your ear off all night without regard for the music in the background, got too high to think of anything to say. In that stoned silence, they heard music, as if for the first time. Very soon, they realized how stupid most of it was, and began searching for more interesting things to listen to. In other words, drugs didn’t help Frank Zappa make music, drugs helped make Frank Zappa’s music popular.
Still I was a little disappointed to realize that all of Frank’s inspiration was earthly, even civilized, in origin, and that drugs, besides caffeine and nicotine, had nothing to do with it. We thought we were all connected in this wild other-worldly psychedelic experience, and Frank just thought we were a bunch of fucked up kids who didn’t get his music. In some ways Frank Zappa is the Lance Armstrong of music. Frank’s got nothing to be ashamed of, and neither does Lance. They both did amazing things in their field. Why should we give a fuck what they do, or don’t do, off-the-field?
Some people make a big deal about the fact that Lance Armstrong lied about using drugs. I don’t hold that against him at all. Everyone lies about using drugs. I’ve lied to my own mother about using drugs. “John, are you high on something?” she’d ask. “No!” I would reply. Why do people even ask? I’ve lied to teachers about drugs. I’ve lied to cops about drugs. I’ve lied to my boss about drugs. What business is it of theirs anyway? As long as drugs remain illegal, everyone will take them, and everyone will lie about them. It’s as simple as that.
If I have one piece of advice for you, it is this. Assume that everyone you meet anywhere, any time, is both armed, and on drugs. I offer this advice for a few reasons: First, it’s true. Almost everyone is armed and on drugs. This is especially true in my neighborhood, but it’s pretty much true, pretty much everywhere. You may find exceptions, but I wouldn’t count on it.
Second, most of what is wrong with our culture comes, not from people being armed and on drugs, but from people assuming that other people are sane and competent, despite clear overwhelming evidence to the contrary. This is very dangerous. If you have chosen to have “elective surgery” It’s probably because you assume that the surgeon is competent and sane. If you knew he had a three tab a day Oxycontin habit and carried a lethal syringe full of digitalis in his lab-coat, that weird, but benign, grape-sized growth on the end of your nose might not seem so unsightly.
Would you get into a cab if you knew the driver was a paranoid speed-freak with an uzi under the drivers seat? Would you stop for dinner at a restaurant if you knew the waitress washed down her Prozac with a flask of sloe gin and kept a nickel-plated semi-automatic handgun in her purse, the cook was mainlining cocaine in the bathroom, with a revolver tucked into his boot, and the dishwasher is zonked on heroin and carries a big knife? Would you call the cops to investigate the burglary of your home if you knew they were all fucked up on bath salts and PCP? Of course not, but they are, and you do. What are you, crazy?
Third, and finally, if you heed this sage advice, and treat everyone you meet as though they are armed and on drugs, you soon realize that the best strategy in life is to stay the hell away from everyone, and do everything you need done, yourself. That may seem drastic, but it’s fucking crazy out there, and it’s time you faced facts, everyone you know and rely on is armed and on drugs, and just about to snap, and you don’t want to be there when it happens.
Besides, doing things yourself is good for your sanity, and it increases your competence level. It doesn’t do anything about the drugs and the weapons and the craziness, but we could sure use more sanity and competence in this world. You see that when we realize how crazy and dangerous the world has become, and begin acting accordingly, we actually bring more sanity and competence into the world. In this way we use the bad craziness of modern civilization to heal, and strengthen ourselves.
So, lets learn this lesson from the greatest bicycle champion that ever lived, Lance Armstrong. It’s time to stop worrying about who is or isn’t using drugs. Let’s assume everyone is using drugs all the time. If you choose not to use drugs, that’s your business, and none of mine. Instead, let’s judge people by their sanity, and their competence. When it comes to winning the Tour de France, no one is more competent that Lance Armstrong.