By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
So where the BNE in California spends its time tracking down large shipments of precursor chemicals, Sergeant Glaser has to make sure that local convenience stores know they can‘t sell more than three bottles of Sudafed to a customer. As a result, local cookers have to go around ”smurfing“ ingredients -- either sending multiple friends in to buy from the local Wal-Mart, or else driving from convenience store to convenience store around the region, whenever they want to cook.
Sergeant Glaser arranges for us to interview a couple of his informants. Their 5-year-old son is only now learning to talk. ”When he was 2,“ the woman explains to us, ”he’d sit on the floor with a pencil and a cup, pretending to draw up dope and shoot it. Because that‘s all he’d ever seen.“
That evening, we go into Lambert‘s Restaurant, ”home of the throwed roll.“ Inside, the waiters are throwing dinner rolls to the diners. We eat barbecue and field rolls while Serena walks around, working the restaurant until she comes up with a meth user. The meth user looks like one, now that we know what they look like, particularly in the definition at the back of his jaw, which has been made prominent due to the continuous clenching of teeth. He takes us to his brother’s house. The brother is even leaner and meaner looking. It‘s like in Nintendo. At each level, the monster gets more formidable. The brother’s speech is slowed way beyond simple slurring. He is drinking beer, smoking joints. The brother‘s bright-eyed girlfriend explains how she once left him for his best friend, because his best friend was cooking meth, and whoever a makes meth has money and status and power. If we were in a coffee shop in Mountain View, California, she’d be telling us how she‘d left him for someone who had an Internet start-up.
The next night, we follow the brothers and their girlfriends an hour down the highway to Poplar Bluff. All four are high on meth, which they have at first confided to us, then denied. Already, after only a week on the road, we’re exhausted as we drive behind them, but we‘re also excited. And after a while, we begin to understand the deadly appeal of a drug that makes you stay up past exhaustion. It’s the busyness. After all, what is success in this age, except for being too busy, too intense? We live in an age of billionaires, but they‘re not the idle rich. It’s the age of the busy rich. Meth apparently imparts no feeling of ironic detachment, no transcendence, nor any of the other feelings of other illegal drugs that are supposed to take you out of your life and your environs. Meth seems to push users further into where they already are, but it makes them feel purposeful, involved, too engrossed to sleep. That is, apparently, successful.
In Poplar Bluff, we pull onto a suburban-looking street of small one-story houses. The people inside one of them, the people we have come to see, are cousins of the brothers. But as we pull up, they are fighting, and we can‘t enter. We wait in the dark on the front lawn, chatting with some 16-year-old neighbor girls who use meth. One of the brothers explains to me how he used to drink a fifth of whiskey a night when he was 16. ”But it made me too violent. My daddy was real relieved when I switched to pot.“ When we finally go inside the house, the 27-year-old cousin, who is facing 120 days in jail for probation violation, wants us to videotape her 7-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son before she sends them to bed. Her 22-year-old brother, who is sitting down the couch from her, is the top of the Nintendo hierarchy, the complete meth monster, with muscular forearms and sunken eyes. Our original contacts, the two brothers and their girlfriends, also take seats on the couch. The house, owned and maintained by the cousins’ mother, is adorned with mid-American knickknacks. The whole scene is completely ordinary and completely nightmarish. It‘s just another Friday night with Meth Family Robinson.
According to the DEA, in 1996 there were four labs seized in Georgia. In 1998, the last year for which there are complete numbers, there were 26.
Source Country, USA
Once the Mexican national organizations have assembled the precursor chemicals, they move them to the superlabs. Some of these are in the deserts of Southern California, outside Lancaster or Riverside or San Bernardino. But most of them are in the Central Valley of California, agribusiness country.
”What Colombia is to cocaine, the Central Valley of California is to meth labs. We’re the source country,“ explains Bob Pennal, the BNE special agent supervisor in charge of anti-meth-lab operations out of Fresno. ”It‘s perfect for them here. A big farm might have dozens of houses on it for farmworkers. The owners never check. Someone from one of these Mexican national operations approaches a farmworker and offers money for the use of his house. Then they set up a superlab and cook meth in 25-to-100-pound batches.“