Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Behind every great man . . . a stimulant?

From Christopher Buckley's profile of his father (William F. Buckley, famous conservative) and mother in Sunday's NYT:

I looked at the blister pack of Ritalin, which Pup took for low blood pressure and energy. “How many Rits did we take yesterday?”

(Fully annoyed.) “What does Rit have to do with not sleeping?”

I still can’t say whether this stunner was denial or a “Firing Line”-quality countermove. I had made the (pretty obvious) point to Pup — 50 times over recent years? — that Ritalin, which acted on him as a stimulant, was no means to a good night’s sleep, especially if you took your final one of the day at dinnertime and washed it down with coffee.

WTF? This is a man in his eighties still taking speed. I must be naive, because I find this a little shocking, both because I keep imagining Buckely rocking arrogantly back in his Firing Line chair while high on dexidrine or some other speedy substance and that a dying man would continue the habit -- and it is a habit (an addiction) if you can't stop taking something in anticipation of sleep. It seems wrong, somehow, like an athlete using performance enhancing drugs. It's hard not to jump to conclusions. Buckley was a prolific, influential man, I can only assume, thanks to some substantial chemical help.

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