Here's one drug industry extravaganza that you won't forget in a hurry.
From the Phabulous Phellows Phollies (think Chippendales squared) opening to the after-dinner mints laced with metoclopramide (Reglan) FedExed in from Tokyo at the Phumungous Prime Rib Pheed put on by Billy Bill's Car-Wash-Big-Box-Super-Market and Free Antibiotics-We-Take-Coupons Pharmacy. This was the kind of weekend that makes you peacock-proud to be a part of the drug industry.
Sitting in the dimly lit Smoking-Big-Cigars-and-Popping-Champagne-Corks-Café, sponsored by Bigg Profit$, I had to grin when the sommelier with the pencil-thin mustache asked, "Decanter une bouteille poussiéreuse de largent de Bordeaux?"
"Oh, Monsieur, you are too funneee."
"Do they know 'Ghost Riders in the Sky?'" I was asking about the cowboy band arranged around a campfire on the center stage. They were decked out to look like Roy Rogers and The Riders of the Purple Sage.
A couple at an adjoining table was served some kind of too-big, too-red sizzling meat. The husband dug in. "Now, this is what I'm talking about, Mabel."
Lunch was a grilled Gruyère cheese sandwich. The spring salad with arugula, bits of sweet onion, and Mandarin orange slices had a tangy shaved cheese tossed into it. When I asked, the server giggled and said, "The cheese is Chabichou du Poitou." She blushed. "I had to memorize that." She handed me a little stack of $50 chips. "For the casino," she smiled. "Courtesy of the American pharmacists' profit-making partners."
A dowdy older woman was standing outside the café. She was thin, with big eyes. Her graying red hair was tied back in the pigtails of a young girl. She seemed to be trying to get someone to notice her. Two crew-cut security guards in official-looking purple-and-gold blazers took her by the arms and led her away. She struggled feebly.
For reasons that were not clear, the strobe-lit PBMsychedelic Throw-Back Show sponsored by America's Pharmacy Benefits Managers was locked. The official line had it that the Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin impersonators did not show up. I got different stories from pharmacists.
"It was crazy in there." "I felt like I was going insane." "My head was spinning and I wanted to get out." "It felt like my life force was being drained." "People around me were screaming." "I needed to throw up." "That right-handed-guitar-playing fake-Jimi-Hendrix idiot just kept playing." "They expected us to like the show when we hated it."
An intimate coffee bar sponsored by TPA was a safe haven. The wait to get in was long. I asked to share a table with the redhead in pigtails. She looked familiar, I told her. "Do I know you?"
"I think you do." Her shoulders drooped and she looked at me. "I had hoped to find compassion." Her face drained of hope. "The Donut Hole! He's gonna die."
This was at the Baghdad Princess Hotel on the strip, the brainchild of an immensely rich industrialist who had made his money in psychotherapeutic pharmaceuticals. I was suspicious from the moment I saw the two-bedroom suite that my Benjamin got me. The basket of fruit held a bottle of Cristal. The card was addressed to JP, not Jim Plagakis. Aha! I was onto them. I searched for listening devices.
I wandered over to the dimly lit corner reserved for retailers. The Billy Bill's production team looked stunned. Sitting on a bench were a NASCAR driver, a famous cage-fighter, and the stars of a hot-tub movie. Nothing against the most famous Car Wash and Pharmacy in America, but the music was strictly beer-joint thumpa-chang-thump. I overheard this: "I didn't know, Harry. This is for all the boys I expected to show up. Nobody told me that most new pharmacists are girls."
The Big Three drugstore chains had well-lit presentations. One that is not named Three Pee Ex had a production vital to all pharmacy staff: How to get a six-pack of beer, chips, and four microwaved hot pastrami sandwiches through the Rx drive-through tube.
Phantasmagorial Phantastic Pharmacy. This bizarre drug industry. It is all ours, so own it. What an amazing thing we have begotten.
JIM PLAGAKIS is a community pharmacist in Galveston, Texas. You can e-mail him at email@example.com and cc us at firstname.lastname@example.org
. You can also check out his Web site at http://jimplagakis.com/.