Sept. 26: Airplane glue is no madeleine

Sign Up For Our FREE Daily eNews!

Tiny White Box newToday at Hope, we’re having new flooring put down, which is a great thing, of course. The older new flooring hadn’t held up well and the flooring company is replacing it, a very good thing. As in much of life, this good thing travels with evil companions. In this case, my lizard brain took me back 50 years or more. Let me explain.

Subliminal Message:  Hope’s Recovery Festival is this Saturday, from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. at Arms Park. You really should be there.

Near the beginning of Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past, he introduces the catalyst for the book: the madeleine, a small sponge cake, the taste of which transforms him: “No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs… The sight of the little madeleine had recalled nothing to my mind before I tasted it.” Today, I had a Proustian moment, although not as carefree.  

The adhesive used to stick that flooring to the subfloor emitted fumes, fumes that overwhelmed my emotions and time-traveled me to the early-mid 1970s. At the time, I enjoyed getting high on polystyrene cement aka Toluene aka airplane glue. Yes, boys and girls, I am old enough to have gotten messed up on chemicals other kids my age were using to build model rockets and Batmobiles.  From 13-16, when I couldn’t find weed or pills or acid or even booze, I’d get together with friends, a paper bag with tin foil on the bottom, and squeeze out a generous dollop of glue. In turn, we’d hold the bag in a tight seal up to our faces and inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale, inhale, feel like we were drunk, experience a severed connection to our central nervous systems, then, typically, fall down with King Hell headaches. Because we were young, and dumb and full of self-destructiveness, as soon as we felt safe to stand up, we’d take another turn. This would continue until our heads throbbed with pain, confusion and sadness.

It was not a good high, but it did get us out of ourselves.

Got glue?

Subliminal Message:  Hope’s Recovery Festival is this Saturday, from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. at Arms Park. All the cool kids are going.

It may be glue-sniffing that made me go into the Army instead of off to college. Maybe, but I doubt it. I’d taken the PSAT (Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test—pre-college boards) in my sophomore year. Despite having a D- average, I scored high enough to be named a National Merit Scholarship Semi-Finalist. It was all very exciting for my guidance counselor and my parents. Everyone else in my universe simply saw further evidence of a smartass without portfolio, of potential ever to be left unfulfilled. Still, gaining the highest PSAT score in my class—a class full of future lawyers, doctors, and a billionaire—suggested I’d do equally well in taking the SAT, the REAL test colleges consider.

I didn’t.=

Subliminal Message:  Hope’s Recovery Festival is this Saturday, from 11 a.m.- 2 p.m. at Arms Park. Think what you’d miss if you’re not there.

You see, the college boards were typically given one summer morning after one’s junior year. I stayed up until three in the morning huffing glue, which may explain my good but hardly great scores. I was exhausted and sounded like a dying seagull when I breathed—chemical buildup in my lungs, I suspect. At graduation, I received a piece of paper celebrating my early high scores, and placed 3rd from the bottom in my class.  Three weeks later, I left for Army basic training. In the military, I discovered access to real drugs—meth and heroin—and put away the childish paper bags, tin foil and glue.

Subliminal Message:  Hope’s Recovery Festival is this Saturday, from 11 a.m.- 2 p.m. at Arms Park. Don’t miss it!

Today, that old chemical magic came rolling down the hall. I didn’t romanticize it, didn’t try to get a “freelapse,” didn’t think back to the wonderful brain damage I’d done to myself. Instead, I went outside to clear my head, and thought:

You matter. I matter. We matter.

Oh, yes, and I also thought about this Saturday’s Recovery Festival from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. at Arms Park.  See you there!


About this Author

Keith Howard

Keith Howard is former Executive Director of Hope for NH Recovery and author of Tiny White Box