Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Chapter 1: The Crystal Ship

Christmas Eve, 1968

(Ninth revolution around the Moon)

85 hours, 44 minutes, and 58 seconds into the Apollo 8 mission, astronauts James Lovell, William Anders, and Frank Borman broadcast photographs of Earth from lunar orbit.

"The vast loneliness up here on the moon is awe-inspiring...makes you realize just what you have back there on Earth," says Lovell. "The Earth from here is a grand oasis in the big vastness of space."

"We are now approaching lunar sunrise," Anders says. "For all the people back on Earth, the crew of Apollo 8 has a message..."

"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth..."

(Santa Monica, California)

I’m sprawled out in the work room with Levi, a some-time clerk at The Crystal Ship and a drug dealer on the Strip.

My old man Stoney drops stones into a rock polisher.

Duane and Pi, owners, arrive to lock up for the holidays.

The Crystal Ship sells semi-precious gems in the rough, crystals, polished rocks, pipes, beaded jewelry, incense, rolling papers, and drug paraphernalia.

"You gotta hear this," Pi says, clicking on the radio. "The astronauts..."

And the earth was without form...

"That is so fucking far out," Stoney says, shutting off the polisher.

...And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

President Kennedy’s promise of landing men on the moon before 1970...will it really happen?

...God divided the light from the darkness.

Imagine! Men circling the moon, 250,000 miles from earth, something I’ll never experience–except in my own head.

...called the light Day...

Levi rolls a joint and lights up. "To Apollo 8!"
...the first day.

"Yeah!" Stoney says.

...God made the firmament...

We all take a toke, except Pi, who’s seven months pregnant.

...and it was so.

The shop now closed, we hover around Duane and Pi’s radio, to wonder what Earth looks like from outer space.

...God called the firmament Heaven.

Duane takes the last toke. He hands the roach to Levi, who eats the evidence.

...Let the waters under the heavens be gathered...

"Yummmm," Levi says, "Priceless."

...and it was so.

"Yeah, like not getting busted in my own shop," Duane says.

"I have a present for everyone," Levi says.

...God saw that it was good.

"Not wrapped. Sorry." Levi offers each of us a blue tab of acid.

...from the crew of Apollo 8...a Merry Christmas...

"Blue Moons, the best shit on the market. Merry F. Christmas!"

...and God bless all of you...

"Now we can all split," Duane says, turning out the lights.
...on the good Earth.

"Far fucking out!" Stoney says.

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Memoir Madness Excerpts: Table of Contents


Before the Institution

Prologue: Caged

Chapter One: The Crystal Ship

Chapter One: Blue Moons

Chapter Two: Dark Side

Chapter Two: Flying Solo

Chapter Two: Weed and Seeds

Chapter Two: Funny Little Naked Clowns

Chapter Two: Decision Time

Chapter Two: Thirteen Tabs

Chapter Three: Wallich's Music City and Eleanor's Radio

Chapters Four and Six: New Year's Eve, 1968--Fire

Chapter Eight: Rudy

Chapter Ten: Cops

Chapter Eleven: The Luckiest Hand

Chapter Twelve: Downers

Chapter Twenty Three: Sioux City Blues

Chapter Twenty Four: ..."While I Kiss the Sky"

Chapter Twenty six: The Miracle of Google

Chapter Thirty: There Must be Some Way Outta Here

Chapter Thirty Eight: What to Do With My Life?

Chapter Forty One: My Country 'Tis of Thee, Sweet Land of Tyranny

Chapter Fifty One: Nabbed at the Bus Station

Chapter Fifty Three: "Let's See What the Police Have to Say"

Chapter Fifty Four: A Possible Scenario at the Police Station

Chapter Fifty Six: Driven

Chapter Fifty Eight: Driven 2

Memoir Madness Excerpts: The Institution

The First Five Days

The Other Patients: Perky Penny

The Other Patients: Carrie the Cutter

The Other Patients: Joyce

The Other Patients: D.J., The Mighty Sage

The Other Patients: Anna on the Lam

Proving My Sanity

Memoir Madness Excerpts: After the Institution

Denise's Tips

Leaving Sioux City: Dee Dee

Epilogue: A Short History of the Cherokee Mental Health Institute

Memoir Madness Excerpts: Flashbacks (Fall 1968)

October 1968: Rev. Arthur Blessitt and His Place

October 12, 1968: A Mother's Warning

October 12, 1968: The Birthday Party

October 1968: Wild Man Fischer's Merry-go-round

A media-rich version of these excerpts (with photos, artwork, videos, out takes, essays, etc.,) can be accessed here.


About Memoir Madness...

Memoir Madness: Driven to Involuntary Commitment (Amazon)

About Memoir Madness: Driven to Involuntary Commitment...

Christmas Eve, 1968: history is made as Apollo 8 astronauts deliver their Christmas message from orbit around the moon.

On earth, at The Crystal Ship, a rock and head shop near Hollywood, California, Jennifer Semple listens to the iconic broadcast and, through the fog of drugs, ponders the future.

In the ensuing days, the 18-year-old girl experiments with LSD and other drugs; juggles a crumbling relationship with a notorious drug dealer; and tries to make sense of life at 2001 Ivar Street, a Hollywood, California, apartment complex where hippies, drug dealers, freaks, strippers, groupies, college students, Jesus Freaks, counterculture gurus, drag queens, rock stars and wannabe rocksters, svengalis, and con artists converge during one of the most volatile periods in history.

Then her grandfather finds the girl and coaxes her into returning to her Iowa hometown, where, unknown to her, she is still considered a minor.

After a series of events and blowups with her grandparents, she is dragged into the Iowa court system and involuntarily committed to the Cherokee Mental Institute in Cherokee, Iowa.

While incarcerated, she corresponds with Jeff, a new boyfriend, and also interacts with other patients: Wolfie, a psychopath who preys on other patients; Penny, a 17-year-old unwed mother; Carrie, a teen cutter with strange obsessions about rats; Joyce, a young married mother enthralled with “10 ways of suicide”; Drew, a young man facing a stiff prison sentence for possession of marijuana; and D.J., a 42-year-old mentally challenged man and 25-year resident of Cherokee, among others.

Finally released from the institution, Jennifer flees Iowa and settles in Pennsylvania, where she still lives today.

As young Jennifer narrates her late 1960’s memoir, how will the older and wiser Jennifer, now voluntarily returning to Cherokee as a visitor, reconcile that painful time in her history with her current ordinary life as a wife, mother, grandmother, and teacher?