Sunday, November 30, 2008

Chapter 3: Wallich's Music City and Eleanor's Radio

October 5, 1968

WGDY Top Ten

1. Hey Jude/Revolution, Beatles (1)

2. Harper Valley P.T.A., Jeannie C. Riley (2)

3. Fire, Crazy World of Arthur Brown (5)

4. Midnight Confessions, Grass Roots (9)

5. I've Got to Get a Message to You, Bee Gees (6)

6. Time Has Come Today, Chambers Bros. (13)

7. Indian Reservation, Don Fardon (7)

8. Girl Watcher, O’Kaysions (11)

9. Little Green Apples, O.C. Smith (8)

10. On the Road Again, Canned Heat (4)

It was after eight, a crisp evening, and Rick was still missing.

Damn him. A total jerk.

I kicked at the ground, scuffing my shoes on the pavement. If he weren’t so cute...

“Hey, Eleanor, would you turn up your radio?” From my left, a male voice, not too deep, with a funny accent I’ve never heard before. I turned; a strange dude sat next to me, tapping his right foot, left foot on the wall, knee tucked under his chin. A homemade cardboard badge, with “Rent-a-Cop” written in Magic Marker, safety-pinned on his hat. He wore a plaid shirt, denim jacket, and bellbottoms, the outfit worn and ragged, the pants baggy. Long light brown hair, thin and a bit scraggly. Horned-rimmed glasses, thick lenses--probably almost blind without them.

Not too spectacular--not even a good pickup line.

“I’m not Eleanor. She’s my roommate. I’m Jennifer.”

“Oh. Sorry. But could you still turn up your radio?”

“It’s Eleanor’s radio,” I said, turning it up as loud as it would go.

“Hey Jude,” my favorite Beatles song, wafted out of the speaker.

Paul McCartney sings like an angel, and I don’t care if the lyrics are about shooting heroin, as some people seem to think.

“That’s why I thought you were Eleanor. I recognized the radio.” A kind smile, showing perfectly white teeth, but one front tooth slightly overlapping the other. He looked older, about 25. “So you’re Jennifer. I should have looked at the chick, not the radio.”

“That’s okay.”

“No, not okay. Sorry about the mistaken identity. Call me ‘Virgil,’ but my real name is ‘Jeff.’” Maybe not so strange and definitely not a pervert. On the street, one never knows.

“Well, then. I’d better call you Virgil, because my family and friends back home call me ‘Jeff’ all the time. It’s been my nickname forever.”

He laughed. “So how does a girl get a boy’s nickname?”

“My cousin couldn’t say ‘Jennifer’; he called me ‘Jeffer,’ which got shortened to ‘Jeff.’ So I got stuck with it. How’d you get your nickname?”

“I made it up. I needed a street name, and I’m a Virgo. Seemed logical.”

“I didn’t think you looked like a Virgil.”

“Well, you don’t look like a Jeff, either.”

We both cracked up, laughing at the silliness of it all.

Usually, I feel so awkward when meeting new people, but I felt totally comfortable around this guy.

Rick never showed up, but it didn’t matter; I had a groovy time rapping with Jeff; he was funny and smart. He’s from East Berlin, Pennsylvania, in L.A. only about a month, hitchhiking cross country because he wanted to see the world. Now he was homesick.

His birthday was a few weeks before mine. At first, I didn’t believe he was my age, but he showed me his driver’s license; he seemed so much older, but in a good way, not at all like Establishment. He lived on Hudson Street, where he rented a room from some chick who agreed to give him cheap rent in return for some babysitting. His favorite Beatle album: Sgt. Pepper, but The Magical Mystery Tour followed a close second.

Maybe I’d see him again.

We exchanged phone numbers.

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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?