In around 800 BC, Homer wrote “The Odyssey” the epic tale of a man named Ulysses cast adrift on an impossible, storm-tossed adventure. “By hook or by crook, this peril too shall be something that we remember,” Homer wrote. And there is no doubt we shall remember the perilous tale almost 3000 years later of the Pacific Survivor, 37-year old Jose Alvarenga.
Heis home now, and like Homer’s hero Ulysses, Jose’s odyssey sounds mythical. In a world filled with grifters and charlatans, we are asked to believe a modest Salvadoran fisherman did something never before achieved, beaten the biggest, baddest ocean, almost bare-handed.
Strange thing is, unlike Homer’s epic hero, Jose Alvarenga’s tale is apparently true.
With scores of suburban kids dying of heroin overdoses in recent months in relatively upscale communities like Ocean County, New Jersey, it was just a matter of time before a high-profile celebrity like 46-year old, Oscar-winning actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman joined the ranks of previous celebrity junkies like Lenny Bruce, Janice Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain and Heath Ledger in a body bag.
Heroin users don’t usually die from bad dope, they die from good dope; accidentally overdosing when the drug they are shooting is cheap and potent and right now heroin is cheaper and stronger than ever.
After the deaths of the superstars and of those clusters of suburban kids who died of overdoses last year, television shrinks rush to the airwaves to ponder what went wrong in their apparently privileged lives that they would sink so low as to use the ghetto drug that epitomizes the lowest of the low.I can’t answer for heroin’s perverse allure; why people who should know better go so far to the dark side, but I do know that once a junkie, always a junkie.
Watching New Jersey Governor Chris Christie twisting in the breeze, and reading a beaten down President Obama’s interview in the current New Yorker magazine, I am reminded of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's caution that in politics as in life, "standing in the middle of the road is very dangerous; you get knocked down by the traffic from both sides."
The governor and the president aspired to break out of their respective stereotypes and attract broad bi-partisan support. Both, though, have been hobbled by self-inflicted wounds. Christie crashed into Bridgegate. Obama seems lost in the Matrix known as Obamacare. Both proud, powerful men are humbled their natural enemies’ ascendant.In Governor Christie’s case, despite his conciliatory inaugural speech, which called for an end to divisive partisanship, it seems unlikely that the pro-life, pro-immigration reform, pro-business conservative will ever again attract the Democrats and independents that propelled him to re-election by 22 points last November.
In the fog of war, on a day I narrowly escaped a sniper's bullet, I confused the aftermath of a friendly fire incident I covered in Tora Bora, with a more widely reported friendly fire incident several hundred miles away in Kandahar.
Folkenflik's editor, William K. Marimow did write me privately praising my 'grit and courage' in combat. Further, he assured me that he did not believe I intended to deceive our audience. Still, after a two month long review process during which I made available to The Sun all our video, air and out-takes of the Tora Bora incident the paper refused to retract or clarify its report publicly.
Living on the Hudson River in the shadow of the graceful George Washington Bridge a half mile from where I’m writing this note, the scandal threatening to cripple and consume the political career of Republican Governor Chris Christie literally hits close to home. Like gun rights in Texas and Alaska or real estate prices in California and Florida, traffic on the George is part of countless Northern New Jersey dinner conversations.
It is also part of the dialogue of national commerce.