More evidence that Houston has arrived as a world-class city: It is now apparently the kind of town where you can get your hands on large quantities of opium.
Yes, if Harris County Court records are to be believed, Houston is now a market for the same "celestial drug" that in 1822 Thomas De Quincey rhapsodized thusly in Confessions of an English Opium-Eater:
"Here was a panacea...for all human woes; here was the secret of happiness about which the philosophers had disputed for so many ages, at once discovered." [Opium] communicates serenity and equipoise to all the faculties, active or passive," and "introduces amongst them the most exquisite order, legislation, and harmony." No one, "having once tasted the divine luxuries of opium, will afterwards descend to the gross and mortal enjoyments of alcohol."
Thirteen years ago, after whiffing on attempts at scoring opium in Paris, Rome, London and New York, the great Nick Tosches went on a quest for "the celestial drug" in Southeast Asia. He chased the dragon from Hong Kong to Bangkok to Phnom Penh, and was only able to score it at last in the jungles of Cambodia and Thailand, far from the capitals.
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But if Harris County Court Records are to be believed, dedicated dragon-chasers would do well to come to the Bayou City, where evidently there are now opium dens alongside our longstanding crack houses, meth motels, shooting galleries, pill mills and grow houses.
On June 16, on the West Loop near the 290 split, HPD pulled over a 2004 Kia driven by 62-year-old Bahram Arabpour, an Austin-area realtor. After they claimed to have smelled burning narcotics, they requested and were granted permission to search the Kia. In a gym bag in the back seat, they allegedly found roughly a kilo of opium. (Estimated street value: $87,000.)
Arabpour, whose online bio states that he also sells real estate in Dubai, claimed that it was for his own personal use. That would indicate a pretty serious habit, and despite his contention, he has been charged with first-degree felony possession with intent to distribute. They also found $6,400 in cash, which they have moved to seize as contraband.
Arabpour is free on $174,520 bail, and has acquired the top-shelf legal services of Kent Schaeffer.