Monday, December 1, 2008

Chapter 24: "...While I Kiss the Sky"

January 16, 1969

(United Airlines, Flight #266, on approach to Denver, Colorado)


Purple haze all in my brain

Lately things just don’t seem the same

Actin’ funny, but I don’t know why

‘Scuse me while I kiss the sky
--Jimi Hendrix, "Purple Haze"

I hate flying, especially when I’m going somewhere I don’t want to be. Last summer, it wasn’t so bad flying to California--somehow, the prospect of crashing to earth and becoming part of a smoldering heap doesn’t seem so likely when you’re going somewhere fun.

But I’m headed for Sioux City, in the dead of winter, my grandfather snoring next to me, my grandmother lying in wait for me at the Sioux City airport.

I can’t wait.

We’re approaching Denver--I hate landings the most–then we get to do it all over again where we’ll catch our connecting flight to Sioux City.

A nighttime flight.

Just get this bucket of bolts safely on the ground!

We’re flying in a figure 8, stacked somewhere over Denver, my stomach lurching, in sync with the winding and curving of the plane.

Why did I agree to this trip, anyway? I’m 18, for God’s sake, a woman now.

Though being 18 floats you in a no-man’s land of not-quite-adulthood, 18 to 20, a purgatory of conditional freedom: be good, get married, or fight in Vietnam, don’t make waves...Don’t drop acid and live with your drug-dealing boyfriend. Exile to Sioux City: my sentence for not conforming to Establishment rules. I was so naïve back in October, when I turned 18.

Enduring the entire afternoon with my family and their friends didn’t seem so bad: the reward of true adulthood awaiting me, a final shedding of parental rules.
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Memoir Madness Excerpts: Table of Contents

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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.

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About Memoir Madness...


Memoir Madness: Driven to Involuntary Commitment (Amazon)
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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?