Heroin: Cape Cod


There’s an extra layer of eeriness watching  Heroin: Cape Cod as a Cape Cod native.

Little things are jarring, like all-too-familiar scenic shots of the Wellfleet Drive-in, Main Street Hyannis, or any given harbor. One addict lays on a bed during her interview, propped up with one arm that sports a traditional Cape Cod bracelet.

And there’s a moment during filming of a moms’ support group wherein one woman says “…if this was any other illness, people’d be bringin’ casseroles.”

Laughter from her fellow moms ensues. That got me first… a true Cape Cod response to stress. Laugh now. Cry later.

It was the accent that got me next… that ‘we don’t have an accent’ Cape Cod accent. It’s not Boston, not Southie… it’s its own breed of tongue-tying that makes us throw away our Gs, turn As into Os, take Rs out and put them back where they oughtn’t be, and avoid prepositions at all costs.

I’ve lived away from the Cape for a long while now, so I couldn’t help but giggle at that drawn out Yankee pronunciation of ‘casserole.’ It’s not so much an addition or subtraction of syllables as it is a celebration of each and every one: “cahhhssss-ahhh-rollll.”

To me that sounds like home — so I reveled in it for a minute. Then, finally, the true meaning  of what she was saying reached me. She’s right. Any illness with an -itis or a -stoma or an -osis after it would, indeed, bring a torrent of hot dishes in oven-ready pans to any Cape Codder’s doorstep. But an addiction, even a death from an addiction, that can be another story.

Not always, of course, and the choice to stay away isn’t always one with judgmental roots. But sometimes people just don’t know what the right thing to do is or when to do it. Overdoses weren’t covered in the last edition of Emily Post, last I checked, and when faced with the choice of doing nothing or potentially causing further emotional harm to a neighbor or friend, many people would just assume the former.


Those little glimpses of home are also reminders, however. If I dug just a little deeper, I’d probably find some real connection with at least one of the subjects followed in the film: a mutual friend, a shared work experience, maybe a familiar address. The kinds of people on whom, by definition, we beach kids like to keep tabs.

That said, this is not the Cape Cod I grew up with (or, to follow the appropriate parlance, on). It’s close, but something has shifted left of the center I remember. Drugs? Rural malaise? Feelings of isolation? Yes, we had all of those in my formative years in the eighties and nineties. And it’s not as though heroin was a foreign concept to us. But it still seemed very remote, far away, and few between.

Today, it seems to have taken up full residence; a neighbor no one wanted, a tenant impossible to evict. Heroin: Cape Cod zooms in on the sand, ocean, and clam shacks of my youth, but these could be any little towns.

Perhaps it’s time for a new book of etiquette to be drafted.


The Media Mash-up

Some other documentaries, books, and articles similar to Heroin: Cape Cod

Documentary (HBO, via YouTube)

High on Crack Street

Article (CNN)

Hollywood Heroin claims at least eight lives in Western Mass.

Book (via Amazon)

High on Arrival: A Memoir, by Mackenzie Phillips


Photos: Skaket Beach, Dennis, and Martha’s Vineyard; (c) JCS.




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