Tuesday, December 2, 2008

October 12, 1968: The Birthday Party


Finally! My real birthday party.

When Eleanor and I arrived at Rudy’s, Pam was already there with her new old man, a tall, about 6'5", Indian dude, like from India, with wide shoulders and huge brown muscles.

“This is Draino,” Pam, barely five-foot, said, tucked under his arm.

“I dreenk anything, hence the name.” He crushed Pam against him.

“He drops anything.”

The party in full swing, Mel, Derrick, and some chick with them were stoned out of their heads. She looked about 15--no way should she have been at a party like this.

Eleanor and Derrick on the outs.

There were some new people here, too, my eye on a dark-haired dude across the room.

Rudy greeted me like I was his best friend in the world. “For the birthday girl, I have a special present.” He handed me a tab of multi-colored acid. “Rainbow. Supposed to be the best on the street.”

The Rolling Stone's "She's a Rainbow" blasts from two large speakers.

I slipped the Rainbow into my pocket. For later. I wanted to check out the dude across the room, who had caught my eye.

“We get together tonight?” Rudy slid his arm around my shoulder.

“Maybe later.” I slipped away. “Thanks for the present.” I found Pam, on the sofa, her top off, kissing Draino.

“Pam,” I said, tapping on her bare shoulder.

“Honey, can’t you see I’m busy?”

“I need to talk with you.”

Pam sighed, disengaged from Draino, and threw on her top. “What’s up?”

“Rudy wants to ball me.”


“Not cool.” I nodded toward the dude across the room. “I want to meet him.”

“You don’t know what you’re missing. You’ve been anointed.”

“That’s okay. How do I get out of it?”

“Look. The thing about Rudy, he doesn’t push--doesn’t have to. He’s got women lined up. He’ll get over it, maybe try again some time, but not tonight. Go to Prince Charming over there.”

I pulled the tab out of my pocket. “He gave me this.”

“Whoa, girl, that’s some super shit. You lucky bitch.”

“Maybe I should give it back.”

“That’s another thing about Rudy--he’s not an Indian giver. Now, I’ve got a date with a super-stud. Split.”

I drew a deep breath and moved across the room.

Prince Charming smiled and introduced himself as Richard, but call him Rick.

I was drawn to this guy, his dusky complexion, brown eyes, and perfect teeth. He didn’t strike me as a true hippie--he was dressed too well and his hair was too short--but he was so gorgeous, and he was interested in me. He was already tripping, his pupils fully dilated, two black coals.

He could be the one.

I dropped my Rainbow.

Rick and I stayed up all night, talking and tripping--

A birthday sendoff, the best acid I’ve ever had.

Rainbow colors, dimensions, music that paints the sky with its broad strokes, fluid walls, incredible glittering trails flowing from our fingers and mouths, even our feet...Maybe some day I can describe an acid trip without stumbling over my own words.

Rick and I slow danced, swaying to the music, even fast hard rock, he growing hard.

I was excited, too, but--

“I want you,” he whispered.

“Let’s just stay this way.”

He didn’t push, though I sensed impatient animal instinct, something sexually dangerous about him, like a panther, held back by a thin tether. That if I offered all myself, he’d rip into my body and consume my flesh, leaving behind nothing but a pile of bones.

We made out, French kissing and feeling each other up--each kiss reaching deep into my throat and down to my loins--

Each kiss a different color of the rainbow; a different note on the musical scale; each flick multi-textured: flutter, rock, hot lava, feather, pillow, sand paper, fire and ice.

He undid his belt and unzipped his jeans--no underwear. He thrust hard against my jeans, a shudder rumbling through him, me, the room, all of Hollywood, like a quake. He jerked upward and groaned. When he stopped, a warm wetness on my jeans. “Oh, baby.”

Too stoned to worry about the stain on my crotch.

Rick grew slack; we sprawled on the floor, he, apparently satisfied and calm, I relieved I hadn’t balled him.

We fell asleep.

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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?