Sunday, November 30, 2008

Chapter 2: Thirteen Tabs

(December 1968)

Stoney didn’t come home last night. I worry that he’s been busted, so I hunt all over Hollywood and Santa Monica for him. I even check with the fuzz down at L.A. County.

I find him hanging out at The Crystal Ship, flirting with his ex old lady Syndi, she hanging all over him. She’s a skinny chick with short red hair, in a pixie style popular about three years ago, all doe-eyed, and looks about 15. But there’s nothing innocent about her; she’s fucked half of Hollywood, and I wouldn’t put it past her to have another go-round with my old man.

"You better not be screwing that bitch!" I yell.

I shove Syndi away from Stoney.

Stoney pushes me away. "So what if I am?"

We get into a huge argument, right in the shop, and stay at it until he shoves me smack into the wall.

I lose my balance; Stoney grabs me, steadying me to my feet.

"Fuck you!" I push him away. "You’re an asshole!" I stomp out of the shop.

I storm back to the pad and sulk--trying to think up things to make his life miserable. I could kill that bastard.

An hour later, he drags himself through the door and apologizes, says he ate some strange mescaline that made him sick; he passed out at the shop and couldn’t move. Says he didn’t fuck Syndi: "No way. Took me months to get rid of her," he says. "Why would I want to reopen up that can of worms?"

I believe him. I still want to sock him, though I’m glad to see him safe. But then he ruins our good karma.

After the bad mescaline, you’d think he’d be a bit reluctant to use any more dope, right? Wrong. He pours those 500 tabs onto the table, counts out 13.

"I wonder what would happen," he says, holding them out in the palm of his hand, "If I dropped every last stinking one of these?"

"I wouldn’t try it," I say. "Probably kill you."

"I’d have one helluva super trip."

"Maybe your last trip."

"The ultimate trip!" Then he pops them into his mouth.

"No!" I try prying open his mouth, but it’s too late--he’s already swallowed the tabs.

He grabs a Coke from the refrigerator and guzzles it. "I’m on my way to the best trip of my life!"

"Oh, shit!" What am I going to do? Call an ambulance? I can’t call an ambulance; there’s too much dope in this place–after the doctors pumped his stomach, we’d each get about 50 years...

Stoney laughs. "Jesus, Jennifer, you’re such a drag."

God damn. If he’s willing to risk his life for the ultimate trip, then who am I to stop him? I’ll stay here, pop some bennies, keep watch on him all night, and if he gets to a critical stage, I’ll get Rudy from downstairs to help me out; he’ll know what to do without ringing in the heat.

Stoney slips into some strange trance-like state; he doesn’t move, but his eyes and muscles twitch like crazy, and his carotid artery looks like it might pop out of his neck. Yet when I put my ear to his chest, his heartbeat sounds regular, though I don’t know exactly what constitutes a normal rhythm. Though his face is puffy and little redder than usual, he doesn’t seem to be dying. He’s even smiling--something cool’s happening in there, so who am I to ruin a perfectly good trip?

Okay, so Stoney blows some circuits; he’s done that already--what’s a few more?

While I watch him, the mail arrives--a letter from Jeff. Cool letters, a bit over my head. But he’s groovy and sensitive--I doubt if he would drop 13 tabs of acid.

God, just look at Stoney--that shit’s got to be eating up his brain cells. Strange. I love him, but I don’t always like him. We don’t do regular things together. Yeah, we drop acid and, sometimes, make love, but he leaves me alone a lot--does his own thing--and, at times, he can be hateful and mean. Then he does stupid crap like dropping 13 tabs. I wish he were more like Jeff, not do so much dope, but some of the time, he’s very sweet and gentle.

Then there’s Jeff...When he was still here, we did a lot of fun stuff together--we laughed and carried on like two kids, ran around the strip.

Haven’t I known him forever?

No, only since October.

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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?