Documentary missed out on the shock value of meth victims

By John DiMambro

Can you hear that? It's my applause for Carson City's most recent installment in its dogged battle against methamphetamine use and addiction - a TV special titled, "Crystal Darkness," which aired Jan. 9. My applause is mainly for Carson City's aggressive support of coalitions against this deadly drug - the kind of support that continues to give our city a seat in front of the class of so many other cities.

Mayor Teixeira's strong belief that this once-underground subculture of slow-motion suicide is now uprooted and above ground, and has been sprouting blossoms as ugly as those on the faces of the addicted and afflicted, is one of our city's boldest underscores of war against this fatality flirtation.

I also believe Kenny Furlong and his daughter Kendra should be cheered for their soul-baring testimony. If what they said looked easy, it was only because of their undaunted willingness to share the nightmare of the addiction's waking hours with those who are about to have their dreams marred and broken. Darrell, the imprisoned ex-addict, was compellingly articulate as well.

I do, however, think the show fell short of its prescribed objective. Bear with me on this, because it's harder than you think to be critical of something when its intentions were so honorable.

Did the makers of the documentary really identify their targeted audience? Was it for the parents? Or was it for the youth? I think the intention of the message was for the youth, but the language was delivered to the parents.

If a child's eyes are not pasted to the TV screen, then something is not sticking. We have to think like children and teens when trying to talk to them. Did "Crystal Darkness" really talk to them? Or did it talk at them?

I still maintain that unrelenting and unmerciful shock is the most jarring and terrifying cause and affect of trying to reach the youth who are lost in or at the entrance of the meth maze.

In the documentary, we didn't see the unforgiving images of hell-dwelling lives during their addiction.

It's OK to listen to students offering academically correct denouncements of meth, but seeing grisly street scenes of drug-induced activity, or listening to the tortured disgorge of words spilling from a lifeless mouth that craters the deteriorated terrain of a once-beautiful face, are oppressive images that belie the nightingale to the fallen angel. We need less talk and much more uninhibited visual repulsion.

When a child or a teen looks at pictures of themselves with something as common as dental braces, they are usually repelled by the thought of cosmetic imperfection.

What would happen if they saw a real person - not a picture - but a real person in motion and sound, whose droned voice whistles through a forest of rotted tree-stump teeth, with eyes that are lit only by a broken bulb vacancy sign, and facial flesh that reeks of irreparable degeneration?

Some cynics would claim that such shock would only cause uncontrollable laughter from the youth whose faces have already fallen into the toolbox and come out with enough piercing to make complexion impurity seem like improvement. But again, if we for a moment think like them, even they wouldn't want their questionable beautification by metallic punctures upstaged by the indisputable ugliness of meth's decomposition properties. Again, the impetus of shock.

If the senses of our youth are not shaken by the bruised numbness of the brain and its failure of structured thought that can no longer put a sentence together, or even an expression of pure and decipherable emotion, or trace its own path toward life's treasure trove of memories, then feeding their eyes with the dead skin of a person who is not well as consequence to the necrotic powers of meth may jar their deathwatch with sudden life.

Maybe we can then look at them and ask, "Is it all clear to you now?" And we can hear the answer we all long to believe, "Yes. Crystal."

• John DiMambro is publisher of the Nevada Appeal. Write to him at


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