Hurry up and Forget

By Marc Dion

April 9, 2012 4 min read

The sad thing about life is that, unless you're a professional musician, your world dies before you do.

As a 54-year-old man trying to resist nostalgia, I listen to rap music. I play war games online. I Facebook. I have a Kindle and an iPod Shuffle. I download, upload and tweet. I try to have young guy friends. I do some of these things because of my job and some of them because I don't want to live in a frozen world in which Jim Croce is forever singing "Operator." God, I loved that song.

Once you get past 50, the urge to return to some safer world of childhood is nearly irresistible. You have to fight it, or you live with the crying ghosts of dissatisfaction.

Or, you join a political sub-movement aimed at rolling America back to 1963.

And I liked 1963. I had good parents, a dog, franks and beans for supper, long New England dusks and the calm, heaven-seeking nuns of my red-brick Catholic grade school. I was an altar boy.

I am a reporter at a daily newspaper. Not too long ago, a few of my colleagues were engaging in the bored reporter's game of, "should drugs be legalized?" Like the bored reporter's game of, "Why don't people vote?" the game is best played in a newsroom, on a Tuesday afternoon, when the police scanner's static offers no shootings, nothing is on fire, and the mayor is in Washington, begging for money to hire back the 20 police officers the city laid off last August.

I don't think anyone playing the game was over 45. I wasn't playing.

And it struck me, as they trotted out arguments for and against, that I was the only one in that room who remembered America before illegal drugs were everywhere.

That's the funny thing about the war on drugs. Right now, a huge percentage of the population doesn't remember the world that war was supposed to preserve.

My wife, who is 42, doesn't remember a time before junkies were the source of most urban crime. Pretty soon, I'll be working with reporters who can't remember an America without crack cocaine. Or crystal meth. Or Oxycontin.

This isn't to say that drinking didn't cause misery when I was a kid. In one neighborhood where we lived, a fellow who lived down the block drank too much canned beer every Friday night and beat his wife until she couldn't get up off the floor. Over the decades, we've added a dozen or more drugs to the Friday night menu, which only got us more houses of horror.

But it stunned me to realize that the drug-addled nation my parents had so feared was normal now, that I was the ancient mariner who remembered safer streets, remembered when 18-year-old gang members didn't use automatic weapons to protect their bit of a national drug trade that is as big in America now as U.S. Steel was in 1963.

And I guess if you asked me the biggest change I've seen in my life so far, it would be the use of illegal drugs by Americans and the chaos that followed.

Face it: The Internet is what people used to talk about in bars, crammed together on a Facebook page. Cable television is crap and commercials, just like free TV. A cellphone is still just a phone.

But drugs. There you had a game-changer. Crack is whiskey times a million, beer times 3 million. Sometimes, you have to drink for 20 years before you become a worthless street bum in urine-soaked pants. You can do it in three months with crystal meth.

If someone breaks into my car tonight, it'll be a junkie. If someone breaks into my house tomorrow, it'll be a crackhead. If someone shoots me dead when I leave the newspaper office after next Tuesday's night shift, the guy behind the gun will probably be a drug addict.

Your world dies before you do. My world overdosed.

To find out more about Marc Munroe Dion and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit

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