The Erdedy section right at the beginning of IJ is one of my favorites. This is partly because a friend of mine, who read part of the book in college, thought the phrase “high-resin dope” was about the funniest damn thing he’d ever heard and went around saying it all the time. It’s a perfect marriage of high-brow connoisseurship (“high-resin”) and low-brow depravity (“dope”). Why does Wallace put this section right after the first, which ends “So yo, man, what’s your story?”
This section of the book has a special resonance for me this evening as I’ll be ordering my Last Bottle Ever of tramadol pills from my favorite clearly-sketchy-but-otherwise-totally-reliable online pharmacy. What happens is you go to the pharmacy website, which greets you with a stock photograph of a young attractive couple to make you feel at ease. Tramadol happens to be given prime real estate on their homepage, making it clear how they do most of their business. You then fill out a convenient online form which asks you for some vitals (age, weight, etc.) along with a description of your ailment. Since tramadol is a pain-killer, you write something along the lines of “TMJ pain caused by night-time tooth grinding.” You then get a series of radio buttons intended to put up red flags if you’re some kind of problem customer who shouldn’t be served — do you have high blood pressure? Does your doctor know you’re requesting this medication? Do you have a history of addiction to opiates? Etc. These radio buttons are all pre-set to the “right” answers, which tells you that the place has very few pretentions to legitimacy.
Then you enter your credit card information and you’re good to go. 24 hours later, the nice motherly FedEx lady comes to your door and asks you to sign for a suspiciously rattling package. No road trips to some sketchy unshorn drug dealer’s house. No compromising sex-for-drug-access entanglements, like poor Erdedy. The thing I want to say is that this seems like the perfect drug transaction for our times, but I’m too tired and too foggy to flesh this idea out further.