Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Memoir Madness: driven to involuntary commitment (Summary)
Eighteen-year-old Jennifer L. Semple embarks on a different kind of odyssey: tripping on LSD with her boyfriend Stoney, the teenager begins her remarkable journey at The Crystal Ship, a head shop near Hollywood, California, and ends with her fleeing Iowa, after her conditional release from the Cherokee Mental Health Institute in Cherokee, Iowa.
“I was driven to Cherokee,” the author says, referring to a northwest Iowa regionalism synonymous with being committed to a mental institution.
Her real-life story begins on the steamy streets of Hollywood, where heads, 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 our history.
The story continues with Jennifer’s involuntary commitment to Cherokee, where she is introduced to a world of archaic psychiatric treatments, doctors, psychologists, social workers, and hospital staff.
She corresponds with Jeff Brown, 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”; and D.J., a 42-year-old mentally challenged man and 25 year resident of Cherokee, among others.
Finally, released from the institution, she flees Iowa, escaping to York, Pennsylvania, where Jeff awaits her.
As the teenager narrates her story, 53-year-old Jennifer, seeking another kind of release, returns to Cherokee, this time voluntarily and as a visitor.
Memoir Madness Excerpts: Table of Contents
Before the Institution
Chapter Two: Funny Little Naked Clowns
Chapter Three: Wallich's Music City and Eleanor's Radio
Chapters Four and Six: New Year's Eve, 1968--Fire
Chapter Eleven: The Luckiest Hand
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
Memoir Madness Excerpts: The Institution
The Other Patients: Perky Penny
The Other Patients: Carrie the Cutter
The Other Patients: D.J., The Mighty Sage
The Other Patients: Anna on the Lam
Memoir Madness Excerpts: After the Institution
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
A media-rich version of these excerpts (with photos, artwork, videos, out takes, essays, etc.,) can be accessed here.
Memoir Madness Photos: Links
Prologue – Bird’s Eye View of Cherokee Mental Health Institute
Chapter 1 – Christmas Eve, 1968
Chapter 3 – Wallich’s Music City
Chapter 5 – Dee Dee: Rescuing Jennifer
Chapter 7 – Dee Dee: Angel Kisser
Chapter 11 – The Luckiest Hand
Chapter 22 – Mo: A Bad Feeling
Chapter 26 – Devils Dance in Me
Chapter 55 – Informant Report for Jennifer L. Semple
Chapter 63 – February 19-28, 1969
Chapter 87 – May 5, 1969: A Journey Ends, Another Begins
Chapter 88 – A Journey Ends and Epilogue
Photos of Jennifer (Childhood to Young Woman)More Photographs of The Cherokee Mental Health Institute (Google)
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?
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