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Confessions of a Dope Dealer, by Sheldon Norberg

James Kent

A long strange trip from cover to cover

North Mountain Publishing

In "Confessions of a Dope Dealer," we follow prototypical disillusioned white-boy Sheldon Norberg through his not-so-illustrious career as a small-time marijuana and LSD 'connect' in the crazy world of California in the early '80s. Starting off as the high-school weirdo who just wants to get everyone high (thanks to the UC Berkeley connections of his older brother Dave), Sheldon partakes on the ever escalating adventure of 'running the party' wherever he happens to be, fat doob, clean hits, and screaming nitrous tank in his meticulously fucked-up hands the whole way. From high-school hijinks to college frat life, Dead show to Dead show, massive LSD trip to massive LSD trip, pot growing season to pot growing season, Sheldon's own sense of responsibility to 'keep the party alive' grows heavier and more extreme with each hair-raising turn, leaving a trail of broken-hearted women, destroyed vehicles, burnt-out friends, and dead dogs in his ever-party hyper-paranoid wake. He eventually turns from college drop-out to full-time Humboldt country grower, a life that keeps him high until the government choppers and a psycho neighbor come to take it all away.

Confessions of a Dope Dealer is nothing if not a page turner. Each story of good times gone bad escalates with a psychotic rhythm that keeps the reader screaming for some kind of lesson or insight to be learned by the author, some little gem of wisdom that he could use to wake up and turn his life around, but the party just keeps going full tilt boogie. The zany cast of characters which fill out this cautionary tale are the stuff of drug burnout legend: drunks who pass out in the mud, Deadheads running around naked, psychotically paranoid weed growers, clueless cops, acid gurus turned heroin junkies, coke tweakers, goofy stoners, and, of course, good girls gone bad. Each section of Sheldon's big trip are set between musings on the five elements of Chinese medicine: wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. Each stage sheds new light on another level of Sheldon's struggle to undo the damage he's done to his own psyche with drugs, or how he manages to dig himself deeper and deeper with each massive dose. Sheldon is not necessarily a likeable character, nor do his actions reflect those of a well-meaning, self-aware individual, but we can't help feeling sympathy for him in his Quixotic quest to keep the high alive at any cost.

While the book never has a final epiphany where Sheldon stops and says, "and that's how I learned my lesson," and the moral of the story remains murky at best (drugs fuck you up?), there are two chapters at the end in a section named "Yin & Yang" where the author reflects on his life and lays out the most eloquent examination of the wonders and dangers of drug use that I have ever read. These are the insights I was waiting for, packed solidly into a critique of both the self and culture, observations that could only be made by someone who 'lived the adventure' of being an American dope dealer. Congrats for surviving the trip Norberger, here's to better highs to come.

Tags : psychedelic
Rating : Teen - Drugs
Posted on: 2001-06-26 00:00:00