Sunday, August 17, 2008

Rainbows Made of Ice Cream

Researching old newspapers is a risky proposition for me. I start rolling through a microfilm knowing exactly what I’m looking for and, invariably, I get side-tracked. While some people fail to appreciate it, I marvel at the writing found in some of those articles from the nineteenth century. Take for instance, this piece originally published in the New York Dutchman and reprinted in an 1855 edition of the Asheville News:

We never could understand how people can get a taste of opium fastened on them. We tried a small quantity of it the other day for a “pain internally.” We were ordered to take two pills a day for four days.

The first dose was really delicious. It gave us a pink-tinged sleep, filled to the brim with girls made of rose leaves. We indulged in dreams of the most oriental order. In one of them we had a mother-of-pearl hand sled, with golden runners. With this we glided down a rainbow made of ice cream, and brought up on a terrace, the supports of which were great spars of emerald.

The second night things began to change. About the supports of the terrace anacondas began to appear, while in the distance a lot of green monkeys, with their tails burnt off, were quarrelling about the propriety of making a pin-cushion of us.

The third evening matters grew appalling. The terrace had gone, and so had the rainbow and the girls made of rose leaves, and in their stead we had a bed filled with rattlesnakes, and on the head-board four grizzly bears pulling at a hawser, one end of which was fastened to our neck and the other to an iceberg.

That men should use opium for a day does not surprise us in the least; that they should do so, however, for a month seems really wonderful. Rather than become a confirmed opium-eater we would throw ourselves into Aetna. We can imagine nothing more terrible.

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