A long time ago a guy wound up in a ward at the local VA hospital. He tried to drive his car through a tree, on purpose. Needless to say he wasn’t successful. He was brought to the local hospital but the daily charge was too steep to allow him to stay there. Anyhow the hospital priest was on the verge of giving the “suicide is a mortal sin” lecture. He’d also want a confession of the sin and a promise to let God run the man’s life. So he wound up at the VA. It was about this time of year. Upon admission he was interviewed by the staff psychologist and was turned loose to wander the ward. I, I mean he, hated it. The other patients avoided him. He was new on the block and an unknown quantity. He tried spending time in bed but the nurses chased him out. He tried the TV lounge. It was smoke-filled, you could smoke in hospitals then, and everybody just sat and watched whatever was on. the guy’s mind was moving a bit too fast to sit and stare at the box even though it was one of his favorite pastimes. He spent time in the game room. It was full of old magazines and puzzles. He tried a puzzle with a thousand pieces but got bored when it took him about an hour to get one corner of the outside edge. The one thing that kept him a least close to sane was the radio. It was tuned to a rock station because most of the denizens of the game room were in their twenties and thirties. The older vets hung together and usually spent time on the outside talking about war stories and how these kids had it easy.

The guy was beginning to believe that they were going to keep him until they thought he’d stabilized. Another interview, this time with a psychiatrist washed that away. The doctor had read the initial interview and the observations of the staff. He determined that a dose of Thorazine would do the trick. The doctor talked about the benefits of the drug and some of the side effects. If the patient had been listening he would have heard the phrase “attention difficulties” and asked what they were. He didn’t. the next round of meds he got a paper shot glass with a liquid in it. He swallowed it. There was no taste. He wandered back to the game room and went back to reading back issues of Time and Newsweek. He couldn’t feel it at first but it became hard to read. He caught himself rereading passages. He lasered in on the page but he couldn’t follow the article. He dropped the magazine and began to stare. He would have spent the rest of the day in that condition but a patient named Kangaroo Jim dropped into the seat next to him.

“You’re spacing. It’s the Thorazine. You’ll get used to it”


“The meds get your brain to lock onto things. It’s their way of making you behave. They don’t want you thinking bad thoughts.”

The man nodded or at least he thought he did. Kangaroo Jim’s voice was the only thing in the room. He didn’t want to move. He was locked in some bubble around his head. The nurses cam in and out of the game room. They were watching him. He just sat there. when it was time for meals Kangaroo Jim guided him out of the game room and to the cart. With his tray on the bedside table he played with his food. He shuffled out into the hall, holding onto the tray, afraid to drop it. He brought it to the cart and took his place in line for meds. He didn’t get any. The time until lights out were spent with Kangaroo Jim. He talked about the weekend pass he was going to get. The man got into bed and stared at the ceiling. Sometime before dawn he fell asleep.

He had another talk with the shrink. After one day’s observation it was decided to cut back on the dosage. He got in line, swallowed his shot and waited. This time the focus wasn’t a strong. He was able to look out the window and walk away from it. He spent the day moving through the meetings, art therapy and meals. He got a shot every time meds were passed out. He could feel the drug take control gradually and he was able to function even though attempts at conversation were disjointed and he spoke in non sequiturs. some of the methadone patients got him in the TV lounge and gave him helpful hints on how to ride out being zoned.

He took the meds and gained some control over what happened inside his head. He still spaced out but he caught himself. It was going pretty well until one night in the game room. The patient was sitting right in front of the radio. Every song spoke to him. He remembered back to when he was in the service. He’d taken a bad fall and the doctors gave him painkillers. They hit him hard. While on barracks guard he found himself immersed in McArthur Park. The song went out forever. This was the same thing. Only the song was different. It was American Pie. He heard every word and understood its meaning. He didn’t know how long the song ran or if the staff was staring at him. He was in a world that he’d made. It was inside and the meds were the key. He spent a lot of time in front of the radio. He began to make cogent arguments for his discharge at patient meetings. He participated in group therapy and made sure the staff saw him as a recovering patient.

They let him out five weeks later. He had to meet with a psychologist every week and take the meds given to him. They weren’t as strong as Thorazine but they kept his mind under some semblance of control. He was upbeat at meetings and attended AA meetings. He didn’t fully embrace sobriety but he tried. The appointments tapered off over a year. The man went back to school but there was something else he couldn’t put his finger on. There were crashes. He moved on.

Coming soon: How Kangaroo Jim got his name and how recovering junkies bailed our hero out.

Birthdays on November 30:

Mark Twain; I want to be like him when I grow up.

Johnathan Swift: Again. if I work at it.

Winston Churchill: A pragmatic politician who had the people in mind. He wrote a damn good history too.

Oliver Winchester: Facilitated man’s ability to deal with problematic people.

G. Gordon Liddy: He ain’t dead yet? How come?

See you on Monday. Tomorrow the tech visits to remedy my connection problems. If not, a provider change.