Too much junkie business

June 24, 2010 at 10:37 am | Posted in anchorage, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I’ve been reading Julia O’Malley’s series on heroin addict Kristin Alexander with interest.  A taste for morbid modern real life horror stories?  Or only idle curiosity? 

Reading about junkies used to mostly involve celebrity subjects.  Bowie, Lou Reed, Jim Carroll, Johnny Thunders, etc.  Or even the train wreck of Cris Kirkwood in a 1998 piece penned by David Holthouse, writer and former Anchorage Press editor.

The more cynical side of my brain thinks whenever a major media outlet does a serialized story about a social issue, they pick rather pedestrian subjects.  Like the series on homeless alcoholics a few years back — they could have focused on a guy battling mental illness, with a history of abuse who had been on the streets 20 plus years, instead of who they did write about — someone who’d been homeless for a month or two, who liked drinking more than working and didn’t want to pay child support to his ex-wife.

That’s a different conversation, though; and shouldn’t take away any humanity or urgency from Ms. Alexander’s story, which is still compelling.  Part of the point O’Malley is making is the magnitude of the problem, and how many people are intimately involved, directly, indirectly or otherwise.

Maybe Alexander’s seeming lack of strong qualities, her normalcy, her all-around lack of distinction are what is shocking.  I had an ever so brief encounter with a homeless woman in Seattle four or five years ago.  Waiting around on Alaskan Way for the arrival of a ferry to Bainbridge, walking down the sidewalk… she was sitting on the concrete against a railing and muttering.  When I walked up, she stood up and looked directly at me for a moment.  I thought, wow! — this woman just needs some teeth, nicer clothes, and to get cleaned up a little, and she could be getting frustrated daily in a pretty nice house in some suburb, wondering how to juggle errands and soccer matches while still having some away time.  Not a stretch at all, actually.  Take away the signs of abuse and neglect, and she looked like any other woman in her late 30s.

Nice to see ADN pursuing meaningful stories again, after so many changes and downsizing.  O’Malley pushes all the right buttons, making the reader wonder about the social compact, distribution of wealth, lack of awareness and a hundred other little bugs that came running out when she turned over a very large, heavy rock.

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