A cautionary tale: Riding the 71 bus and the death of Whitney Houston

11 Feb

This is a portion of the Seattle Times article, Whitney Houston, superstar of records, films, dies:

Houston’s publicist, Kristen Foster, said the cause of death was unknown.

Rosen said police received a 911 call from hotel security about Houston at 3:43 p.m. Saturday. Paramedics who were already at the hotel because of a Grammy party unsuccessfully tried to resuscitate the singer, he said.

Houston’s end came on the eve of music’s biggest night – the Grammy Awards. It’s a showcase where she once reigned, and her death was sure to cast a heavy pall on Sunday’s ceremony…

At her peak, Houston was the golden girl of the music industry. From the middle 1980s to the late 1990s, she was one of the world’s best-selling artists. She wowed audiences with effortless, powerful, and peerless vocals that were rooted in the black church but made palatable to the masses with a pop sheen….

But by the end of her career, Houston became a stunning cautionary tale of the toll of drug use. Her album sales plummeted and the hits stopped coming; her once serene image was shattered by a wild demeanor and bizarre public appearances. She confessed to abusing cocaine, marijuana and pills, and her once pristine voice became raspy and hoarse, unable to hit the high notes as she had during her prime.

“The biggest devil is me. I’m either my best friend or my worst enemy,” Houston told ABC’s Diane Sawyer in an infamous 2002 interview with then-husband Brown by her side.

It was a tragic fall for a superstar who was one of the top-selling artists in pop music history, with more than 55 million records sold in the United States alone.

She seemed to be born into greatness. She was the daughter of gospel singer Cissy Houston, the cousin of 1960s pop diva Dionne Warwick and the goddaughter of Aretha Franklin....http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/entertainment/2017485885_apusobitwhitneyhouston.html

The 71 bus was crowded, it usually is. The run is from downtown to the university district. I don’t know how many thousands attend the University of Washington, but they all seem to be riding the bus at the same time. It promised to be an uneventful trip from city center to the “district.”

I was at the end of a seat because my seatmate took over half the bench seat. But, I was happy to be sitting down and not be a strap hanger. I just wanted to close my eyes and think about nothing in particular. The gangly, black guy across from me, said “hey, did you know that Whitney Houston died?” I said that that was the first I had heard about her death. Then I asked, drugs? He said “yeh, probably, but nobody said nothing about it.” I said I wondered what causes people to start with drugs. He began to tell me his story.

At this point, I didn’t know his name or even why he began talking to me. He said that he had taken just about every drug imaginable and had even come back from the dead a couple of times. He once had a wife, children, and other family. He had made a lot of money in the fishing industry in Alaska in the 70’s. Proudly he told me about managing a team of over 75 and being respected for that. “That was something for a black man in the 70’s.” he said he made over $1400 per week back then. What happened, I said. “We were young, reckless, and we wanted to try everything because we thought nothing could touch us.” Eventually he was using heavily and began dealing to support his habit. Other members of his family including his wife were using as well.

He asked me if I worked for METRO, the local bus company. No, I said, I’m a writer. Why did you think I worked for METRO? “Because your jacket has the METRO colors.” I’m guessing he probably likes hitting on bus drivers. The conversation continued. How do you get out of the drug life, I asked. “You die, you relapse, you struggle.” He talked about his struggles. The fact that the AA he liked to attend because it was a small group folded and how hard it was for him to go to a bigger group of thirty or so. Why, I asked. “Because out of thirty folks, about ten of them will relapse and that is discouraging.” He is currently on methadone and his tests have been coming up clean. Now, “I just want to tell the truth, I just want a real life.”

His bus stop approached. I asked him if I could have his first name and whether it would be OK if I wrote about his story. “My name is Ron and I just might read your blog.”

I’m guessing, Ms. Houston never made it to the point where she just wanted to tell the truth.

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

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