Todd Hartley: I’m With Stupid |

Todd Hartley: I’m With Stupid

Todd Hartley
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

I have a college education, and I value my dentition, so as you can probably guess, I’ve never done meth. I know that to some people, that might paint me as an elitist snob, but that’s my cross to bear, I suppose. I also used to count myself among the people who thought that only a colossal imbecile would use or make meth, but that’s no longer the case.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m still not sure what the point of meth is. To me, it just seems like a race to see if you can get your teeth to fall out of your head before your house explodes, but I no longer view meth cooks as the uncultured hicks I used to assume they were – at least not to the extent I once did.

Mind you, this has nothing to do with the TV show “Breaking Bad.” I’ve been told it does a great job of portraying the glamorous side of America’s meth culture, but I’ve never really seen the show, so I can’t comment on it. My change of heart regarding meth-heads is based entirely on other factors.

You see, I’ve long been a fan of “pop-up” restaurants. Admittedly, back in my day we used to call them hotdog trucks, but the idea is the same, and I think the pop-up restaurant movement is a good thing. Apparently other people do, too, which explains why such eateries are so popular among hipsters in places such as Portland, Ore., and Los Angeles.

Just a week ago, I would have assumed that a chi-chi, big-city trend like pop-up restaurants would have completely eluded meth cooks, who always seem to come from rural areas and be immune to anything hip or, for that matter, intelligent. Happily, such is not the case. Apparently meth cooks are dialed in to the current zeitgeist and have figured out a way to create their own pop-up meth labs based on a method for manufacturing the drug called the “shake and bake” process.

Once upon a time, creating meth involved cooking the ingredients over an open flame and then running for your life after the ensuing explosion and house fire. Nowadays, however, small amounts of the drug evidently can be made in a 2-liter soda bottle.

According to a very erudite article I read on the subject, the “shake and bake” process simply requires the meth cook to drop a few cold pills into the bottle, combine them with such delicious, healthy ingredients as Drano, brake fluid, lighter fluid or lye, and then shake the bottle until the mixture has achieved the proper level of toxicity.

Of course, the “shake and bake” process is said to be even more dangerous than the traditional way of making meth. According to the article, “if the bottle is shaken the wrong way, of (sic) if any oxygen gets inside of it, or if the cap is loosened too quickly, the bottle can exploded (sic) into a giant fireball.” But seeing as how meth cooks are culinary artists on par with celebrity chefs, I can understand why they’re willing to endure the risks involved.

And let it not be said of meth cooks that they lack an understanding of ambience and how best to create just the right mood for their clientele. Whereas chefs at pop-up restaurants are typically relegated to back alleys and sculleries, pop-up meth cooks have done a wonderful job of situating their establishments in settings that are much more suited to meth users.

A perfect example is the pop-up meth lab that police discovered just last week in Purcell, Okla. According to authorities there, some enterprising meth cook was manufacturing his product in a portapotty on a golf course. That might seem a little gross to those of us who aren’t into filthy, life-destroying drugs, but I imagine that to meth addicts, doing drugs in a crapper is probably an apt metaphor for what their lives have become.

So the next time you hear of some meth lab getting busted, don’t be so quick to assume that the person manufacturing the meth is some degenerate, functionally illiterate criminal. I mean, sure, that person is still very much a criminal, but he or she also might be an artist of the highest order; meth just happens to be the medium in which said artist chooses to express himself or herself, and sitting in a rancid portapotty just might be where meth tastes best for his or her clients.

Todd Hartley is also a fan of pop-up books and is currently working his way through “A is for Animals,” by David Pelham. To read more or leave a comment, please visit

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