If Yann sat on the front step of the 600-unit apartment complex where he lived (in a not particularly bad part of town), he would be offered crystal meth every 10 minutes. If he left the lights on after 10:00 p.m., meth buyers would ring his bell. Apparently, this is ordinary life in Phoenix, which stands at the forefront of America's fastest-growing drug habit. Every day a meth lab is busted or burns in the metropolitan area, so often that the TV news doesn't report such incidents unless a child is trapped in the blaze or suffocates from the toxic fumes of the speed-making process (which itself happens every few days).
Rebecca Solnit has written eloquently of the way a sudden catastrophe -- an earthquake, hurricane, or tornado -- can dissolve social divisions and cause a community to cohere, bringing out the best in its citizenry. Drought and heat waves are different. You don’t know that they have taken hold until you are already in them, and you never know when they will end. The unpleasantness eats away at you. It corrodes your state of mind. You have lots of time to meditate on the deficiencies of your neighbors, which loom larger the longer the crisis goes on.
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