With dry wit and caustic flair, a writer confronts his many addictions
“Tweaked: A Crystal Meth Memoir,” by Patrick Moore. (Kensington Books, 2006), 224 pp., $15. Paper.
Since crystal meth abuse began running rampant in the gay community, it stands to reason that memoirs written by ex-crystal addicts would mushroom as well. Books like Ron Nyswaner’s “Blue Days, Black Nights” have graphically illustrated the drug’s seductive pull and destructive grip. In the case of writer Patrick Moore (“Beyond Shame”), however, “crystal completed, with amazing efficiency, a trajectory that had begun with alcohol, moved through psychedelics and escalated into a whirlwind of pills and cocaine.”
However, calling “Tweaked” “a crystal meth memoir” is something of a misnomer, partly because of the sheer variety of pharmaceuticals involved.
And partly because Moore spends most of the memoir sober, albeit constantly struggling with “The Voice that speaks to me incessantly, whining and needling.”
And to make matters worse, he’s decided to serve as a counselor-facilitator at the House, a clinic of sorts for meth addicts.
“There are moments when I suddenly realize that I’m a nice boy from Iowa who is entirely comfortable sitting in a room of freaks,” Moore writes.
The House is presided over by Judy, an astonishingly blunt lesbian who stoically endures her charges’ outbursts, then responds blisteringly in kind.
The majority of “Tweaked” chronicles the two decades of substance abuse that ultimately led to Moore’s addiction. A sensitive boy, he spent most of his time with his grandmother Zelma, a character in her own right. Growing up gay in rural Iowa, he quickly turned to drugs and alcohol to smother his inner turmoil and “to add some kind of sparkle to the dullness of those gray cornfields.”
Much like Bruce Benderson’s “The Romanian” (a similarly drug-fueled enterprise), “Tweaked” transports the reader to a milieu most would never consider visiting, but vividly conveys why so many get drawn in and can never leave. And like Benderson, Moore spent a good deal of time in New York City’s seedier and more notorious locales.
In the 1980s, he could be found in any number of disreputable discos, bars, bathhouses and clubs. Frequently he did so in the company of Lee, the Patsy to Moore’s Edina, “that one friend who delights in the behaviors that horrify everyone else in our lives.”
Moore also had an older boyfriend named Dino, who ultimately died of AIDS in 1993 at age 32. Moore somehow remained free of the virus, despite their mutual non-monogamous escapades.
“I would slide into bed beside him, with the filth of other men still on me, and hold him, knowing full well that I had betrayed him but unable or unwilling to ask him for help,” Moore writes.
A near-perfect example of passive-aggressive dysfunction, their relationship and its gradual disintegration is a three-car pile-up on the highway of life terrible to experience, yet morbidly compelling to watch from a safe distance.
Not surprisingly, Moore sees ghosts of the past everywhere. And occasionally, he regrets the consequences of his actions, such as going on a shopping spree with his late lover’s credit cards the day after Dino died. Through the text of “Tweaked,” the chic squalor of locales like The Saint briefly shimmers back to fetid life.
Moore’s writing style is stark yet wry, like an Augusten Burroughs from the Midwest. Although he pulls no punches with his tawdry tales, neither does he scrounge for the reader’s sympathy or try to sermonize about the obvious evils of crystal meth, which should be apparent enough to anyone with half a brain cell.
Moore’s commitment to the truth no matter how bleak is the book’s saving grace.
“Gay men, like little boys, know how to reach forbidden places and squeeze through the tight openings that block the passage of all but the most determined.” Patrick Moore has peered into his own personal abyss, and emerged stronger as a result. His may be a journey that few can take, but his success should serve as inspiration for those seeking to escape crystal’s insidious grip.
TOURIST ATTRACTION: BERENDT DOES DALLAS
He vividly captured the dark mystique of Savannah, Ga., and he transformed The Lady Chablis into a transgender superstar.
On Wednesday, journalist-author John Berendt (“Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”) visits Dallas for “Authors at The Adolphus” luncheon series. And when Berendt visits a locale, you might wonder how things look through his eyes.
“Midnight,” a story built around the murder of a prominent citizen, was published 12 years ago. Berendt’s most recent book, “The City of Falling Angels,” chronicles interwoven lives in Venice in the aftermath of a fire that destroyed an opera house. Like “Midnight,” “Falling Angels” captures remarkable characters and, more importantly, a sense of place a vibe that has readers checking Web fares to experience Venice’s exotic charms.
Maybe during his lunch, Berendt can offer us a quickie about what he sees in Dallas.
The French Room at The Adolphus, 1321 Commerce St. Oct. 4. 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Complimentary valet parking. $45 per person, plus applicable service charge and tax. Reservations required: firstname.lastname@example.org. 214-651-3520.
THE WORLD ACCORDING TO AL
This speech could save the world.
Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” is a multimedia lecture aimed to both admonish and inspire. The former vice president confronts environmental issues especially global warming and their impact on our civilization.
Gore’s forecast is dire. And his argument is very troubling.
Recently made into a compelling documentary with an excellent track by Melissa Etheridge, the film reminded us that Gore is an amazingly eloquent political figure. We were also reminded about the disgraceful results of the 2000 election. Gore spreads his global gospel to North Texas on Saturday.
Nokia Theatre, 1001 Performance Place. Grand Prairie. Sept. 30 at 8 p.m. $37.50-$69.50 972-854-5081.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, September 29, 2006.