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166 pages, Paperback
First published April 15, 1953
“I have learned the cellular stoicism that junk teaches the user. I have seen a cell full of sick junkies silent and immobile in separate misery. They knew the pointlessness of complaining or moving. They knew that basically no one can help anyone else. There is no key, no secret someone else has that he can give you.”
There are people in New Orleans who have never been outside the city limits. The New Orleans accent is exactly similar to the accent of Brooklyn. The French Quarter is always crowded. Tourists, servicemen, merchant seamen, gamblers, perverts, drifters, and lamsters from every State in the Union. People wander around, unrelated, purposeless, most of them looking vaguely sullen and hostile. This is a place where you enjoy yourself. Even the criminals have to come here to cool off and relax.
But a complex pattern of tensions, like the electrical mazes devised by psychologists to unhinge the nervous systems of white rats and guinea pigs, keeps the unhappy pleasure-seekers in a condition of unconsummated alertness. For one thing, New Orleans in inordinately noisy. The drivers orient themselves largely by the use of their horns, like bats. The residents are surly. The transient population is completely miscellaneous and unrelated, so that you never know what sort of behavior to expect from anybody.
“I have learned the junk equation. Junk is not, like alcohol or weed, a means of increased enjoyment of life. Junk is not a kick. It is a way of life.”