Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Boost Junkies

Even heroin junkies must have looked young, vibrant and fresh-faced once. Perhaps back when they first started using; back when the drug wasn't the driving force of their life. Back then, it had been a heady, exhilarating rush of art and culture, music and friendship, self-exploration and reinvention which brought these once passionate people together in a spirit of social abandon and thrill-seeking.

Perhaps it was their alternative views; their love of a perceived beauty within the lustreless urban landscape of our increasingly homogenous cities which sent beautiful, vibrant, talented young people in search of each other, and of something new and life-giving. So it was not so much the dependence on the drug, not initially, which egged these ones along, but the good times - the fun, the laughs, the smiles … the belonging.

At first it’s all good – fun people having fun and enjoying each others’ company. Eventually, the heroin helps the fun along a little … well, a lot, really. The positive conditioning of the good times drives them to further drug use, and before long, the dependency kicks-in, and it’s about then that the thing which once gave everyone such a boost [sic] starts to have a whole new effect on the young, vibrant and fresh-faced.

Initially their skin loses that rosy-cheeked, shiny complexion as it dries up and the life-blood slowly drains away. The glinting eyes and tantalising lashes retreat deeper into their skulls, leaving behind sinister, oily shadows, and their vivacious, plump red lips become dry, cracked, thin and grim. The full and rounded curves are soon replaced by spindly limbs and pendulous flaps of loose skin, and their bounding interest in, and enthusiasm for a big, wide world becomes consumed by a jaded paranoia directed at those in their immediate proximity. Before long, these once vibrant young beauties have become haggard, walking zombies, present only in their stagnant, sluggish consciousness, and we discover that the wonderful thing which once gave these people such a buzz begins to use them up; to suck the will to live right out of them ...

Just like fruit juice does!

About five years ago here in Australia, there was a massive revolution in the shopping malls and food courts of the outer suburbs. At this time, McDonalds was losing its massive, decades long dominance of the fast food market and was forced to completely alter the way it did business after nearly half a century of flipping the same five burgers; fruit, salads and wraps were now on the menu, and all the other pretenders were following suit. Why? Because someone had got onto the idea that whacking fruit, yoghurt, ice and low-fat ice-cream into a blender and dumping the lot into a massive, polystyrene cup was not only healthy, but a brilliant way to make a great, steaming pile of cash.

These smart folks also realised that there was a huge market of young people out there who wanted to be active and healthy, but had no shining beacon other than the Golden Arches to go to for fun. Virtually overnight, the Boost Juice Company came into being and opened their outlets all over the 'burbs. Within them they placed an army of staff who were the happiest, smiliest, most energetic, outgoing, healthy young playthings you've ever seen. I remember not really understanding the attraction one day as I stood, four-deep at the counter trying to buy an OJ, but when I got up to the front and held up a tenner, I remember being bathed in the radiance of four semi-naked young men and women with six-packs and tans throwing cups here and there, juggling fruit and doing cartwheels while my order (rapidly upgraded to a super-sized power fruit shake with extra Boosters and performance-enhancing Wheatgerm SyrupTM), was crushed and blended into a creamy, fluorescent sludge. It was the most brilliant marketing coup of all time, and like every self-proclaimed sexy young person in the country, I fell into step with the hipsters behind the blenders and became addicted to fruity goodness.

As soon as this fast food revolution hit the ground, however, I was off. I took up residence overseas, and I lost touch with the fortunes of the young folk at Boost. But just the other day, feeling a bit sore and sorry for myself at having wound-up back in the big city after so long away, I wandered through the doorway of Boost Juice looking for some sunshine and happiness.

Now everyone knows what a long-time heroin user looks like – they're easy to spot when they've been using for many years, but most families of long-time users will later tell you that they were unaware of the physical changes that were taking place in their loved ones over many years of drug abuse, because they were seeing them everyday. It's not until someone who hasn't seen the user in years points out their drawn, haggard face and spindly arms that they realise the dramatic, pathetic change that has come over their son, brother, sister or daughter.

And that was what I saw, after years of absence, when I walked up to the juice bar the other day. Just like the heroin junkies hitting passers-by up for 20 cents outside on Chapel Street, the corpse-like gaze staring at me across the grimy blender-top was slack jawed, under-nourished and disinterested in “How my day’s going”, whether I would “like any special Boosters today” or what my “plans are for tonight”. Instead of the cartwheels, six-packs and shining teeth, this zombie was completely spent from years of Booster abuse, had handles hanging out the end of her stretched crop-top from too much super-charged passionfruit sorbet and her teeth were stained with the tell-tale signs of having overdone it on the pick-me-up-carrot-juice. Her entire appearance was like someone who’d been on a twelve week wilderness endurance trek – even the Boost Juice logo on her bedraggled headband had split and was crusted with strawberry puree.

“Hang on a minute?”, I thought to myself, “What happened to the vibrant, young playthings bouncing around on the energy-inducing goodness of blended fruit, yoghurt, ice and fancy grass?” And then the penny dropped – these poor things are completely spent. There’s only so long one can keep pushing one’s body, with or without psychological or physical stimulants. Muscles will eventually give up, as will your brain, because they are only cells. As with the heroin addicts, the high might be great, and your brain might want more and more, but a snazzy image, sexy, young staff and sweet, fruity drinks will only push an individual for so long before the body stops bouncing off the walls, and lands with a painful thud.

The Boost Juice Company has, I am sad to say, had its day. It has provided its staff, and indeed the rest of us, with too much of a good thing, and while that thing once gave us all a great … well, Boost, it failed to recognise when enough was enough, and the result is an entire nation of washed-up, disinterested and brain-dead juice junkies who have lost the will and ability to function normally.

So be careful what you wish for – you can have too much of a good thing.
No one working at a sink could ever be this happy - this shot was obviously taken in the heady, hey day of Boost's urban expansion - it's a different story now. Pic: