Care Force One


Care Force One
John F Kennedy President of the USA 1961-1963. Photo: Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images.

Where Can I Get the President's Pep Pills?

I'VE BEEN FIXATED on the presidential drugs for years now, ever since 2015 or 2016, when I looked at the presidential nominees, aged 68 and 70, getting on flight after flight, going from city to city on overstuffed schedules, and I realized that I couldn't possibly do what they were doing. Ever since I'd exited my 30s, the mere act of getting on a flight had been enough to wipe me out for a day. How were these people managing it, over and over, at their ages? I knew they didn't have to ride the M60 bus or grind their way through TSA checkpoints; other people were handling their luggage for them. Even so. What were these people doing that kept them moving?

Someone suggested it was probably Provigil, the Air Force stealth pilot drug. Maybe vitamin B-12 injections, or whatever "vitamin B-12 injections" might be a euphemism for. Plain old speed? Whence this perpetual bright-eyed vigor?

Certainly everything about major politicians is phony and has been, by necessity, since the arrival of the mass-media age. Their job is to project personability through the most impersonal of means. But what was haunting about this particular question was that it revolved around one last ineradicable connection to physical reality. No matter how cynical you may be about a public persona, there still is, literally, a human being underneath there somewhere. Usually an elderly human being, nowadays. And yet that human body is out there functioning beyond normal human endurance.

I didn't envy the candidates this, originally. Quite the opposite. I believed that our bodies have limits for good reasons, and that feeling those limits tighten up with age was normal and healthy. It's bad to be crammed into a pressurized tube and whisked off to a place where today's sunset will be hours different from yesterday's. It's not healthy to shake thousands of strangers' hands and pretend to like them day after day. The body will resist it, by shutting down if necessary.

So I watched with dread as people defied these principles. Hillary Clinton wobbled and stumbled and had to leave a 9/11 memorial event in 2016, and her doctor announced that it was brought on by an ongoing case of pneumonia, and she resumed her schedule within hours. Bernie Sanders, age 78, had a heart attack at a campaign event, and he got back on the trail in a few days. Joe Biden, dragged out of retirement to run for president at age 77, had his eye fill up with blood on national television in the middle of a town hall.

And then Biden won, and now he's 80 and despite the motivated claims about his feebleness and incapacity, he mostly presents as trim and spry. He's been to Seoul, Madrid, the West Bank, Bali, Hiroshima, Helsinki. He showed up in Kyiv in the middle of the war in Ukraine, by plane and motorcade and secret midnight train ride.

Biden did have a break in his schedule in the summer of 2022, when he caught Covid. He even had the Paxlovid rebound and had to isolate twice. Six weeks later, though, he was at the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II, who had kept up her own travel schedule deep into her 80s, under whatever medical support they give a monarch.

Donald Trump likewise caught Covid as president—as an overweight and sedentary person, in the first year of the pandemic, before there were any vaccines. For a day or two, people (reportedly including Trump) wondered if he might die, and then people scoffed at the obviously faked pictures of him doing work in the hospital. But 10 days after Trump came down with the virus, he was flying to Florida for a rally.

Ten days after I caught Covid, the health app on my phone reports I took 485 steps in the course of the day. I did not fly off to a rally 700-some miles away; I can't remember whether or not I even managed to stumble out onto my balcony.

At some point in the blur of fatigue, after I'd finished my course of Paxlovid and drained all the NyQuil in the apartment, I realized I had developed a real and sincere craving for the presidential drugs. For nearly 52 years I had gone along with the wisdom of my body; now my body was witless, hollowed out by one stupid virus, crashing over and over again.

This would not be happening if I were someone more important—if instead of my own doctor, who was barely willing to even prescribe the Paxlovid, I were enjoying the ministrations of White House Physician Doctor Robert. Was it sad and frightening to see septuagenarian or octogenarian leaders bouncing through the world with counterfeit energy? Well, it turns out it's sad and frightening to be a quinquagenarian who can't stay upright, too.

Nature has taken its course, and I still need something to crank me out of bed and keep me there. There's a big suitcase that's been by the front door for three weeks now, half-filled with the older boy's no-longer-needed summer camp uniforms. It needs to go down two flights of steps, up the block, and around the corner into the basement storage. Right now, getting it there feels as plausible as getting to Kyiv. That is to say, it should be easy, if only I could get the right stuff in my system. Isn't this country built on the proposition that we're all created equal? Where are my presidential drugs?


The Indignity Morning Podcast now features a transcript. [Beta].


Indignity Morning Podcast No. 133: What are you gonna do?

Tom Scocca • Aug 28, 2023

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WE PRESENT INSTRUCTIONS for the assembly of select sandwiches from Handy Household Hints and Recipes, compiled by Mattie Lee Wehrley. Published in 1916, this book is in the Public Domain and available at for the delectation of all.

Lettuce Sandwiches.
Butter thin slices of bread and lay between them in sandwich form crisp leaves of heart lettuce which have been dipped in mayonnaise dressing. One leaf of lettuce suffices for each sandwich.

Nasturtium Sandwiches.
Substitute for the lettuce leaves petals of nasturtium flowers dipped in French dressing. This is a piquant and appetizing sandwich.

Cream Cheese and Sweet Pepper Sandwiches.
Scald the peppers to take off the biting taste, and drain them. Lay on the ice for some hours. Wipe and mince. Mix two-thirds cream cheese and one-third peppers into a smooth paste. Spread upon lightly buttered bread and put together in sandwich form.

Toasted Sandwiches.
Cut slices of white or of graham bread thin, butter lightly, and spread one with cream cheese. Press the two slices firmly together and toast the outside of each before a quick fire. Send to table wrapped in a napkin.

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19 FOLKTALES collects a series of timeless tales of canny animals, foolish people, monsters, magic, ambition, adventure, glory, failure, inexorable death, and ripe fruits and vegetables. Written by Tom Scocca and richly illustrated by Jim Cooke, these fables stand at the crossroads of wisdom and absurdity.

HMM WEEKLY MINI-ZINE, Subject: GAME SHOW, Joe MacLeod’s account of his Total Experience of a Journey Into Television, expanded from the original published account found here at Hmm Daily. The special MINI ZINE features other viewpoints related to an appearance on, at, and inside the teevee game show Who Wants to Be A Millionaire. Your $20 plus shipping and tax helps fund The Brick House collective, a Publishing Concern featuring a globally diverse set of publishers doing their own thing, with interesting items and publications available for purchase at SHOPULA.

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