Writing “Got no spoons”

The slow blues, “Got no spoons”, on our debut EP, Uncorked, had been in the works for a long time. As you may or may not know, I’ve been in Emergency Medical Services (EMS) for over 20 years. When I started, I worked “the bus” (as the ambulance is often referred to here in the Northeast) in the coastal city of Lynn, Massachusetts. While the city once had a thriving manufacturing-based economy, during prohibition it’s reputation grew for “less savory” economic activities, as characterized in the poem “Lynn, Lynn, the city of sin”. While 20 years ago, the opioid problem had not hit crisis level of today, we went through a lot of narcan. (We had to give it IV back then.)

Initially, I had no empathy for the countless overdoses we reversed. We’d revive them, take them to the hospital, they’d sign out AMA (Against Medical Advise) and we’d see them again, the next time a stronger batch came to town. My attitude started to shift when we treated a fellow a few years my junior. When I was gathering information for my report, I realized he was the younger brother of a singer I had worked with a few years previous. When I asked him “You’re Xxxxx’s little brother, aren’t you?” the color that had come back to his face from breathing again, drained away.

More recently, in a generally affluent suburb,  we were called to a family’s house when the mother found her son near colorless and not breathing in his bedroom. As we took her now somewhat agitated son out to the ambulance, his mother said to me: “Thank you for saving my son!” While I usually maintain a strong “filter” when responding in a professional situation, my response was a little more blunt than perhaps appropriate: “Ma’am, I didn’t save him. I only kept him alive.”

In recent years, there has been a lot written on Big Pharma’s alleged contribution to the mounting opioid addiction crisis in the US. In particular, “The family that built an empire of pain”  documented how Perdue Pharma used data and aggressive marketing tactics to push the opioid Oxcontin and bring in billions of dollars of profits. More recently, this led to a lawsuit by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts against Perdue Pharma.

The topic of medication assisted addiction treatment is controversial among treatment specialists. Perhaps even more so is the use of Suboxone® (buprenorphine and naloxone). My indirect reference to this medication is, in no way an endorsement of it’s efficacy, I am simply pointing out irony/shameless greed in the fact that the patent is held by…Perdue Pharma.

The concept for the song had been kicking around in my head for a long time. Sometimes, projects need a catalyst to get them going. The ingredients are there; the reaction needs to be jump-started.  Sometimes, you just need a boot to the back side. In this case it was the latter. When Toby and I found out we would be heading to Memphis to compete in the International Blues Challenge, we agreed we needed some more original “pure blues” material.  I sat down in my bunk room at work one evening. I knew I had about 45 minutes until my room mate would heading to bed, so I pulled out a Telecaster and half an hour later, “Got no spoons” was down on paper.

The title? I heard an interview earlier that day on the radio. A reporter was interviewing a mother who had just buried her son, lost to an overdose. She said something to the effect of: “I was so naive. I didn’t see any of the signs. I was wondering what happened to all our spoons.”


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