With his nickname, Dirty Jersey, tattooed on the inside of his left forearm, James Salant wanted everyone to know he was a tough guy.
At the age of eighteen, after one too many run-ins with the cops for drug possession, he left his upper-middle-class home in Princeton, New Jersey, for a stint at a rehab facility in Riverside, California. Instead of getting clean, he spent his year there shooting crystal meth and living as a petty criminal among not-so-petty ones until a near psychotic episode (among other things) convinced him to clean up.
In stark prose infused with heartbreaking insight, wicked humor, and complete veracity, Salant provides graphic descriptions of life on crystal meth -- the incredible sex drive, the paranoia, the cravings. He details the slang, the scams, and the psychoses, and weaves them into a narrative that is breathtakingly honest and authentic. Salant grapples with his attraction to the thuggish life, eschewing easy answers -- his parents, both therapists, were loving and supportive, and his family's subtle dysfunctions typical of almost any American family.
Exploring the allure and effects of the least understood drug of our time, Leaving Dirty Jersey is that rarity among memoirs -- a compulsively readable, superbly told story that is shocking precisely because it could happen to almost anyone.
In its first pages, this disturbing memoir sees upper middle-class New Jersey 18-year-old Salant plopped in a California drug recovery center by his parents, where he attempts "kicking heroin among strangers" some 3,000 miles from home. Before long, Salant has ditched the recovery center and embarked on a chaotic, crime-riddled year addicted to crystal meth and the whopping sex life that's part of its allure. Supported by both his well-meaning parents and by selling drugs, Salant deals with a cast of dysfunctional junkies at turns caring, comical and highly unsettling. Though he never addresses the big picture-the so-called epidemic of meth use in America-there's plenty of gory details about life as a drug addict, from a dealer shooting meth into her neck while her daughter watches TV in the next room, to an uncomfortable, drug-fueled threesome with a violent paranoiac. The tale of Salant's recovery, however, is remarkably abrupt; Savant explains he "didn't decide to turn my life around. I just stopped trying so hard to ruin it." Savant's story is a depressing, at times disgusting, and largely demoralizing tale; as such, it offers an unrelentingly bleak account of one man's encounter with America's crystal meth culture, for readers who have the stomach for it.
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Leaving dirty jersey
Such a fascinating story! Great detail, I could picture everything perfectly in my head. I was so engrossed in the story, I finished the book in one day! Love it