I saw red and blue flashing lights reflecting off the window pane

Posted in Uncategorized on March 27, 2011 by captaineer

I got a call that my daughter was sick and that my wife needed me.  I took the same route through Skippack, then bend on Route 73 and cut through Limerick to Lynnfield.  I would always stare at the river driving as fast as my eyes could attempt to count each ripple in the Schulykill River.  Blind right, sharp ninety-degree left, right at the stop sign and then only a half a mile or so until the barn.

I pulled down the long stone driveway.  No lights in the apartment are visible as I reach the first level door.  My wife is sitting there crying, shaking her head and mouthing “I’m sorry.”  In the minute and a half that it took me to comprehend what she had said, a faint flash of color bounced left and right.  As it grew in diameter the colors were obvious.  I saw red and blue lights blinking in the window pane and then in my full view as I turned around.

Where was my daughter, why are the cops here and why won’t my wife let me in?

In a moment of reflex, i knocked on the window.  “Let me in!”  “Please, let me in, where’s our daughter?”

“FREEZE!”  “Step away!”  “Walk towards me.”  The voice slowly calmed with each command.

“What the fuck?!” is all I could think.  I complied, in a way, and walked toward the high beam light shining from the driver side door of the cruiser.  With anxious control, he kept the beam annoyingly pointed on my face.  I figured I was taking a ride with him, so I opened my truck door and stuck the key in the ignition.

“Freeze and exit the vehicle or else…”

I put up all the windows of my truck, grabbed my wallet and turned the truck off.  By this time, the cop was on full guard, hand on his pistole now yelling to put my hands behind my back.

If you’ve never been arrested or placed in the back of a police vehicle, let me be the first to tell you it is not a comfortable experience.  Officer Daniel, as I’d come to know him is three years in and chews Skoal Straight.

“Unit *** to base, over.”  “Base to unit, come in.”  “Need directions on final drop, over.”  “Building 5o is SE on 422, over.”  “Um, can you give me a landmark on that, over.”  I had to interject.  “You’re taking me to Building 50?  I’ll show you where to go.

“Disregard last com, over.”

I gave Officer Daniel direct directions to Norristown State Hospital, Building 50.  After all, I had been there before and knew what was to come.

Kissing your medication away…

Posted in Building 50 with tags , , , , on October 30, 2008 by captaineer

After a nice cold dinner, the lot of us were escorted from the dining hall.  We made two rights passing through the long hallways.  At this particular time of the day, there was nothing to do.  You can either sit in the hallways and talk or go to your room.  I of course had no clue what to do so i just sat in the hallway kind of falling in line with the rest of the herd.  Across from me was a guy and a girl who quickly inquired as to why i was in this paradise with them.  “Just came to observe the crazies,” i said.  That seemed to satisfy the girl who smiled and introduced herself to me as Jessie.  The guy, who i now learned was Steve gave me a dismissive “hey” and attempted to pick up his conversation with Jessie.  I butted in and said, “So what the fuck are we suppose to do around here?”  Jessie gave me the quick schedule.  7-8am was breakfast, 815 was meds.  9-10 was either group session or Israel’s group and you ‘wanted’ to be in Israel’s group.  10-11 was arts and crafts and 11-12 was exercise.  12:00 was of course lunch.  Then there was a long break until 3pm where there was another group session, followed by another hour break and then dinner at 5.

OK, great.  This already didn’t seem remotely possible to have thirty of us spend the majority of the time in the hallways doing nothing.

I asked Jessie what exactly we did for the rest of the night and she said this was it until 10pm meds.  She followed up by educating me on the staff.  Which ones will get you cigarettes, which ones will loan you money and which ones to steer clear from.  Good information to have as a new fish…the inside scoop.  I loved the help.  Now it was story time.  It was time to find out the real reason Jessie and Steve were in Building 50.  Jessie was all too eager to tell me.  She was a pharmacy major at a university in philly.  She came from a good family, but her education mixed with a boyfriend with connections got her hooked on several illicit pills.  She told how she digested a concoction of medications that she carefully researched in her PDR.  Next thing she knew she saw spiders everywhere and according to her mother’s experience, Jessie was tripping for hours before her parents even knew why.  So they sent her to the hospital and the hospital sent her here.  Very interesting.  I was eager to here more when someone called out “Jeffrey, Jeffrey M.”

In places like this, its not customary to give out last names.  I stood up and looked down the hall where another staffer held a clip board.  “This way, move it.” She barked.  “Coming honey,” i said as i smiled at Jessie and skipped down the hall.  Ms. C was a caseworker and gave me her rendition of the rules and showed me around.  She was short and to the point with the tour and dismissed any questions i asked.  She finally concluded her introduction to Building 50 in my room.  Well, not my room, our room.  I was sharing a room with eleven other guys.  It was a small room and i immediately noticed the pungent odor.  Showers or any hygiene-practicing habits were definitely not enforced.  There were scattered beds surrounding the walls and even more beds bunched up in the middle of Stinky Room.  I couldn’t resist and turned to Ms. C.  “As i suspected, my travel agent really screwed up this time because i specifically remember requesting a room with an ocean view.”  She didn’t even flinch a smirk.

So there i was, sitting in the middle of Stinky Room with eleven other compadres.  I was tired.  I layed down on the rubber mattress and closed my eyes for what seemed like a minute.  The lights flickered on and they were bright and buzzing to life.  I had slept nearly four hours, it was 10pm.

I followed the rest of the herd out into the hallway and saw a line forming in front of a glass window.  I spotted Jessie and walked up to her cutting in line and not really giving a shit what anyone else thought.  She asked me, “what did they put you on, if it’s good i’ll kiss you.”  This statement shocked me.  First, i was not here to date or hook up.  I was in fact married and had little interest in psych-ward fornication.  I dismissed her remark and slowly two stepped my way to the window keeping the rythm of the line with the rest of the herd.  The nurse said name and then grabbed my left wrist under the small space in the window not unlike the ones you see in convenience stores.  Just enough room to transact your goodies or get a pack of smokes.  She verified my name by the hospital-like name tag on my wrist.  It was my ID to let her know what shit she was suppose to sedate me with.  I refused the medication and instead insisted on a copy of their “Patient’s Rights” booklet.  Believe it or not, i had experience in this sort of matter.  The nurse rolled her eyes, took back the medication and slapped a loosely stapled group of papers on the counter.  “Thank you” i said with a smile.  I turned left walked down the hall and glanced into the activities room.  Jessie was kissing some guy.  It was a short kiss and Jessie looked at me blushing and said, “Got anything worth a kiss?”  “OK, explain this now, i’m not on the same page.”  “Well,” she began “its like kissing your medication away.  If you got something good that you want to pass, you can’t just hand it over with cameras everywhere.  We kiss and this way they can’t say anything unless they piss test you, but they never bother.”

OK, now i know i’m in a new world.  And it’s only been a couple of hours and i had this aching feeling in my stomache that things can only get worse before they get better.

Sleeping was difficult now that it was night-night time.  Here i was, sleeping in a roomful of crazies, not knowing what standard hazing rituals took place and fearing the worst.

It was a subtle beeping…

Posted in Building 50 with tags , on October 29, 2008 by captaineer

It was a warm day in September when i arrived at Building 50.  Vines seemed to grow out of the brick structure and a rusted metal door was opened toward me as i stepped out of the van.  I was directed down a hallway and placed into a waiting room which had the comfort of a cell.  Heavy doors with the typical narrow window secluded me while i waited on a cold green chair that no doubt had lasted since the seventies.  Minutes passed and hours passed as i sat there spinning all different emotions and questioning why in fact i was here in the first place.  Finally the door opened and two men entered sitting across from me holding their notebooks and a thick file.  They asked me to read aloud five pages of a twenty page document that stated the reasons for us all arriving here today.  I noticed the handwriting immediately and any fears or apprehensions soon turned to disbelief and anger.  I was here because someone close to me had a plan.  For better or worse, i was in for a long stay at Building 50.  The man, who apparently was the doctor as the other individual remained silent, questioned me in regards to numerous accusations of my behavior the last 30 days of my life.  I immediately was defensive and the fact that this “doctor” spoke broken english made me question how an institution which relies on communication can validate my state of mind when there was clearly a lack of communication.  In hind site, my actions, body language and demeanor in general made me a prime candidate for evaluation…weeks of eval in fact.

After this four hour drama, i was escorted by Jones.  Jones was an animated member of the staff who despite his intimidating stature was quite an entertaining and calming individual.  I felt quite at ease as i was following directions for my, let’s say, physical evaluation.  Standard procedures took place to categorize any scars, tattoos or physical marks and the oh-so comforting cavity search to look for confiscated paraphanalia.  It was at this point that i realized i would soon enter a new world beyond this private room where survival tactics may have to be deployed.  My heart began to race as i dressed into my arrival clothes minus shoe laces, belt and dignity.  The door i now exited from into the common hallway of Building 50 did not have a door handle on the other side clearly indicating a “no access” message.  It was now time to join the rest of the population for dinner.

Jones escorted me into the dining room not unlike a prison scene, but with a mixed gender audience.  There was no talking or noise, there wasn’t even the expected tings of silverware on plastic trays.  As i scanned the room taking it all in, my eyes fixed on two men squared off in the middle of the tables.  “You effin nigga” screamed the buzzed cut twenty-something.  There was no verbal reply from the other guy, just a lighting fast uppercut that sent this agressor to the concrete floor.  Then to my amazement, the winner – who would later be known as “Sarge” fell square back on the same concrete floor and began to convulce.  As if scripted and rehearsed, a subtle beeping was played over the loudspeakers as everyone went about their conversations and continued to chow down.  The dining hall doors slammed open.  Four large orderlies jogged in followed by two staff members wearing white coats armed with syringes.  They removed the scufflers and were gone within seconds.  This was no doubt an organized routine.  My ears once again fixed on the noise and it was a subtle beeping.  Then it stopped.

I glanced to my left as someone called out, “hey newbie.  If you wanna eat, you better get it now.  This ain’t no dine on my dime place and i gots to go.”  I picked up a tray moved down the line having my dinner plopped on a styrofoam plate.  I turned around and looked for an open seat.  It felt like the first day in a new school, but this was no school and for the others, it was not a new day.  I took a deep breath, moved forward into the mix of tables looking as confident and relaxed as i possibly could and sat down next to two girls who seemed to have hijacked a large table all to themselves.  “What time is the next fight?” i asked in my attempt to quickly break the ice.  “Could be right now if you think you’re going to sit here,” replied one of the girls.  “I’ll take my chances,” i said.  At this point, patience was not in my arsenal of virtues.  I was angry and didn’t care much about what could happen to me.  My response seemed to be acceptable to the two girls and they introduced themselves.  Charlene and Tia were frequent visitors of Building 50.  For the next seven minutes or so, they kindly gave me the brief on the place and offered a simple piece of advice – if anyone starts with you, don’t take it personally, and most importantly, don’t take it period.

I arrived in Ambler driving my “borrowed” golden charriot

Posted in Building 50 on September 23, 2008 by captaineer

Around 11:15am i pulled onto battleson road.  I was tired having driven straight from denver only to catch a couple winks along the way.  I was on a mission…a mission from god…a mission from a troll.  It didn’t really matter what the mission because i couldn’t keep things straight in my mind.  I pulled into the driveway of my uncle’s house and turned the ignition off of my newly “borrowed” 2006 Chevy Avalanche.  It was metallic orange and was loaded to the teeth with options.  The fucking truck has built in coolers and is the closest thing to a transformer that i had ever piloted.

I stepped up into the house through the back door and saw my cousin sitting on the couch.  We had talked several times during my journey so she was aware of the current situation.  I sat down in my late grandmother’s black rocking chair and relaxed my body.  I pushed from heel to toe as i started the chair’s back and forth motion further calming down from the arduous trip.  My uncle now entered from the same door as I and looked particularly antsy.  “Hi” he said as he peered around the room and fixated on the front door.  The door bell rang.

The first person to enter the room was in a blue uniform followed by a second who was squawking into his shoulder-clipped radio.  “Subject positively identified, over.”  The next four people to enter the room were dressed in white and seemed well rehearsed in what was about to take place.  At that moment, i couldn’t imagine why they were there or what they were going to do.  “Please come with us.”

I consider myself an adventurer, an entrepreneur and a definite risk taker; every sense of my being was telling me to run.  But i walked surrounded by policemen and medical and was restrained in the back of a hospital van.  It was a tough scene to digest.  My cousin was crying.  None of us knew what was going on.  My uncle asked, “where are you taking him.”  The response…”to building 50.”

When i arrived at Norristown State Hospital, i knew that i had gotten myself into a pretty serious predicament.  Just a week prior, i was living it up in Denver driving around in my “borrowed” golden charriot.