Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Leaving Sioux City: Dee Dee

(Sioux City, Iowa)

Monday, May 5

I wake up at 6:00 a.m., ready by 7:00. I splurge and take a taxi to the bus station, there by 7:30--this is one bus I don’t want to miss.

I’m not angry with Mo and Dee--well, maybe a little with Mo, but only because she was so ridiculous the other day. I wish they understood that this is something I have to do and would do eventually anyway. I’m not running away to get even with them for the Cherokee bit--

I’m running to my new life.

Once, when I was four, I ran away from home. I wanted to be in the movies, and I thought that one had to run away to do that. I was not angry at anyone--it was just something I had to do. Hours later, when Dee Dee and Uncle Dude found me wandering around in the dark, they snatched me from the street, and slid me into the car.

It was deep into an Iowa winter. I wore only a red snowsuit; they must have felt relieved to find me alive and okay.

I bawled and pitched a fit; I was so angry with them for thwarting me. They just didn’t understand I wasn’t running away to leave them but to find something else.

I would come back.

Obviously, I was too young back then, but I’m not too young now...

I show my ticket to the agent and check the footlocker at the desk--fortunately, no one questions my business. I sit and wait.

Dead time, but, nonetheless, necessary.

At 8:45, Dee Dee, alone, slips through the station door.

Oh, oh.

Dee Dee spies me and slides toward me.

Before I can even open my mouth, Dee says, “Before you say anything, just hear me out.”


“I’m not going to stop you from going.”

“That’s good.”

“I just want to make one more plea--”

“My mind’s made up.”

“You’re breaking our hearts--”

“I’m sorry about that--”

“No, you’re not--you wouldn’t be leaving if you knew how much this was killing us.”

“I have to go.”

Dee Dee sighs. “Stay a few months, get a good job, save up some money--think about what you’re doing.”

“I’ve had several, longmonths to think.” Like I’m going to fall for that ploy again. “I’ve made up my mind.”

“You know, your grandmother was going to call Cherokee and report you as a runaway, but I told her it wouldn’t do any good.”


“She might still do it. Once she’s decided something, you know how she is.”

“I know.”

“I was hoping to reason with you.”

“Dee Dee, I’m leaving in a few minutes.”

“I see. You know, you’ll always have a home back here.” Dee pauses. “If you ever need a bus ticket back to Sioux City, just call.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.”

“I despise Jeff Brown with all my heart; he has only one thing on his mind--”

“It’s time for you to go,” I say, turning away.

Without another word, Dee Dee disappears, through the crowd and out of the terminal.

(Greyhound bus)

The bus has just pulled out of the station, and we’re headed out of town, toward Des Moines, where I’ll pick up my next connection to York, Pennsylvania: a long journey. Des Moines, Chicago, Pittsburgh. York.

Goodbye, Sioux City and Woodbury County--

Good riddance to Cherokee and all of Iowa.


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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?