Tuesday, December 2, 2008

October 1968: Rev. Arthur Blessitt and His Place


Jeff, Eleanor, Pam, and I were hanging out at Wallich’s, though not much happening.

Eleanor met up with Jim, her new guy, and split.

Before Pam, Eleanor and I had been getting close, but now we seemed to be pulling away. Maybe it was because she was still in high school. True, she had all this freedom to come and go as she pleased and did drugs on weekends, but she still had to go to school and do her homework, so we didn’t do as much together anymore.

When we were roommates, I had to be quiet on week nights.

I also found out that Eleanor wasn’t supposed to do drugs on school nights, only on weekends; her dad came down hard on her when he discovered she was dropping acid on weekdays.

Rick, who stood me up the previous night, showed up.

My heart skipped a beat.

“Sorry about last night.”

I tried to act nonchalant. “It’s cool.”

Rick eyed Jeff up and down and threw his arm around my waist.

“Hey,” Pam said. “Let’s go to His Place.”

“What’s that?” Jeff asked.

“It’s this really cool church on the strip, filled with freaks,” I said.

“I don’t want to go to church,” Rick said.

“It’s not an ordinary church,” I said. “You’ll just have to see it to believe it.”

“I heard someone spiked the Kool-Aid with acid one night,” Pam said.

“Groovy! Getting high for Christ!” Jeff said.

“Over a hundred kids were stoned out of their gourds. Must’ve freaked out Rev. Blessitt.”

“Gives Jesus freaks a whole new meaning,” I said. “I can’t even imagine being around 100 acid heads. In church, yet.”

“Good thing the pigs didn’t get wind of it,” Rick said.

“Funny thing. The cops weren’t even around that night. How lucky was that?” Pam said.

“I still don’t wanna go,” Rick said.

“Come on, it’s really far out, and they serve food,” I said, suddenly starved. I couldn’t eat the gruel served at the dorm: Fish sticks and overcooked broccoli.

“Bagels and sandwiches, Kool-Aid–” we all snickered “–and coffee.”

“I am hungry,” Rick said.


When we arrived at His Place, a toilet service had just begun.

Rev. Blessitt read from the Bible,

“Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” [2 Corinthians 5:17].
A few heads witnessed in the john as they tossed their dope into the toilet and sang,

Down, down, down, down,

All my dope is gone.

Down, down, down, down,

All my dope is gone.

I fished around in my pocket; I still had that Blue Cheer from Rudy’s party two weeks ago–no way was I going to dump it down the toilet and watch it swirl away.

After the service ended, we dug in and ate bagels smothered with peanut butter and jelly.

We hung around for a bit.

I don’t buy into the religious bit, but I can’t help it: I like Rev. Blessitt. He believes in what he does, not just going through the motions, like some of those priests back home. The Reverend puts his ass on the line every day, and the Establishment kicks it daily, especially the religious Establishment. What hypocrites. You’d think they’d want to help Rev. Blessitt in his mission. But they can’t see past the run-down church on the strip, the long hair, and the dope.

Still, there was something creepy about ex-heads taking up Jesus in place of acid.

The worst converts in the world, always shoving tracts and Bible verses in your face, the “Eithers/Ors,” the black and whites–you’re either for Christ or against him, no room for doubt.

If I wanted to be told what to believe, I’d still be going to Mass.


2008 Update: Rev. Arthur Blessitt is now known as "The man who carried the cross around the world in every nation, The World's Longest Walk as listed in the Guinness World"
See His Website

1 comment:

  1. The Kool-Aid story is only a story. The bagels were stale. The toilet hardly ever flushed properly. But Rev. Blessit gave off colorful auras during his sermons. People are strange.


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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?