“It was here, all the way out at the tip of Cape Cod—Provincetown, Massachusetts—where the pilgrims first landed, and it was where I first landed. It was 1972, and I washed into a town with a headful of orange sunshine and a few friends. Provincetown was a wonderland of tolerance with a longtime tradition of accepting artists, writers, the badly behaved, the gay, the different. It was paradise.
I left Provincetown with restaurant experience, a suntan, and an ever deepening relationship with recreational drugs. I went to culinary school, then to New York City, and never returned. Today, however, I’m staying in Massachusetts, heading over to the western part of the state, one of the most beautiful areas of the country. There are gorgeous mill towns, Victorian houses, deeply felt, famously upright New England values. This is Norman Rockwell’s America, where something really inexplicable and unexpected has happened.
Today’s heroin epidemic is different than the one that raged through America in the 1970s in a few significant ways. Back then heroin was mostly seen as a poor-people problem, somebody else’s problem. The sort of thing that musicians and criminals got into, marginal people far from the white Main Streets of Mayberry, USA. What those people did to themselves, well, it was unfortunate but not our problem—until somebody broke into your house.
Today it’s absolutely the reverse. The new addicts are almost entirely white, middle-class, and from towns and areas like this.
What happened? How did the kid next door, along with Mom, Pop, and Grandma, too, become users of hardcore illegal narcotic drugs, the worst drug with the worst reputation? Well, maybe start here.”
This field note is excerpted from Bourdain’s narration of the episode.
Highlights from Massachusetts on Explore Parts Unknown:
- How to spend a perfect day in Provincetown
- An edible history of Massachusetts
- A postcard from Shady Glen diner
- A comprehensive list of everywhere Bourdain ate in the episode
- Recipes for mussels mariniere and Portuguese kale soup