Monday, December 1, 2008

Chapter 23: Sioux City Blues

January 15, 1969


Dee Dee’s bugging me in the worst way--says I have three choices: go to my mom’s, Auntie’s (no way), or go back to Sioux City. He’s really acting scary, and Auntie’s turning up the heat.

I’ll pass on Auntie’s and Iowa, thank you.

I’m going stir crazy in this joint. I want to go out for a walk, but Auntie says no.

“You just want to go and see those damn dirty hippies,” she says.

Yeah, she’s right. Even so, she and Dee Dee can’t keep me locked up forever. Only a few more days of this shit, and I’m splitting into the unknown, though I found out that Dee Dee can make me go back to Sioux City, being that I’m under 21. Bummer. It’s okay for a boy of 18 to be drafted and dodge bullets in Vietnam, but when he gets home his parents can force him to live anywhere they want, even against his will.

One positive: if Dee does make me go, it will be a shorter distance to Pennsylvania. And he’ll think I’m going back to Hollywood--instead, I’ll be headed in the opposite direction.

I miss Jeff in the worst way. I wrote and told him so. Pam’s still putting the moves on him. God, I hope he doesn’t fall for her games. She’s sweet but shallow, a new boyfriend every day--Jeff gets too hung-up, and she’ll break his heart. Pam showed me a letter he wrote while he was on acid, and I’ve never seen him write stuff like that--totally incoherent and far out.

Mo writes everyone I need a psychiatrist; God, she’s so out of it. If everyone who turned onto acid went to a shrink, half the fucking nation would be on the couch.

As soon as Dee leaves, I’m going to hitch cross country--why not? Pam and I were going to take the Greyhound to East Berlin, but it’s $145.00 round trip, and I don’t have that kind of money. I’ll get a map of the U.S. and stick my thumb out.

If Jeff can hitchhike, so can I.

I’ll play Dee Dee’s little game; I’ll stay in Canoga Park. Then when he leaves, I’ll split for Pennsylvania.

Screw Hollywood.


There is only a short time left before Jehovah will destroy this wicked system of things.

--The Watchtower
Goodbye, Hollywood, you bitchin’ town.

I leave tomorrow evening for Sioux City, not that I have much of a choice.

I’m coming back, but not to Hollywood. Maybe I’ll come back and hang out in Pasadena--gotta stay out of Hollywood for a while. It’s too hot, what with all the drugs. I’ve learned from my experiences with Stoney and Rudy and the gun; someone could’ve been killed.

You know what really makes me sick? That I chose Stoney over Jeff--he said it kind of hurt him when he saw me with Stoney, but I didn’t think too much of it then. In my last letter, I asked Jeff if it was too late for us. “If it is, I will say no more,” I wrote. “No matter what, though, if Stoney comes back, I’m not going back to him.”

If Jeff doesn’t feel the same way, I hope I haven’t ruined our friendship by blowing off my mouth. I asked him about coming to Pennsylvania, for maybe about a week.


Mo is hysterical; I told Dee Dee that if she lectured me on morals, I’ll simply leave, and I will, too. When I talked to her on the phone, she kept firing off a list of what I could and couldn’t do.

“You’re not shacking up with any dirty hippies,” Mo said.


I heard Peter will be in Sioux City at the same time I’m there. Bad news. I’m not sure I can face him after what I have done, dumping him in that Dear John letter while he was in Vietnam.

Maybe I can avoid him totally.

Tomorrow at this time, I’ll be in the sky, on the way to Sioux City. I wanted to wait until Saturday or Sunday, but Dee Dee says we have to leave tomorrow. I don’t know what his hurry is--it’s not like he has a job or anything.

I have a bad feeling about this trip.

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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?