Monday, November 21, 2005

Chicken-Cooped In A Cuckoo's Nest

It is the last night of my stay at a very strange place called Griffin Memorial Hospital in Norman, Oklahoma. I am standing in the courtyard, bouncing a basketball, looking out alternately at the coming dusk thunderstorm, the crackle of lightning on the southern sky, and the residents and staff of this grand institute for the improvement of mental health. They are all puffing away at their pathetic cigarettes with complete abandon, discussing the day's drama, large and small.

Five days ago, with a court order, a Tulsa County Sheriff's deputy roused me from sleep, handcuffed me, and rudely chaffuered me 130 miles to this cuckoo's nest.

Instead of improving my mental well-being, this nut house made me more mentally ill. Somewhere along the way, I discovered the meaning of unconditional friendships, injustices against the mentally ill, and an angst-prone, lone wolf who used the pay phone to order a navy blue, Mercedes-Benz convertible 690SEL. Delivery: FOB Fallujah.

When Jesus Christ Superstar is not dispensing uncommonly accurate stock tips to any and all who will listen, he's killing everyone with lurid details of his sexual prowess with his sister-in-law.

Hello, NASA? This is one very strange movie set, with a cast of characters unlike any other. And, it's all very real. Maybe too real.

Matt Andrews was a former kempo karate champ. Though his athletic days are long gone, his violent temper is not. He just slid his mini-fudge striped short bread cookies, across the table, while asking if I wanted them. Automatically, I say no thanks. I accept them, nonetheless, as he leaves, back to bed at 1 a.m. on the morning of my departure back to Tulsa County.

Tommorrow, I will appear in front of the judge who issued an illegal detention order remanding me to Griffin. My mother convinced the judge I need to be examined for mental competence. In one fell swoop, my mother, the pathetic old bitch, was able to do what no police officer has been able to do, incarcerate me for all my sins, great and small, real and perceived. After trying to understand the various characters on this crazy set, I am not too sure I'll be able to convince the judge I am a normal, productive human being, harmless and nothing more than just a screwball, not a nut.

Mr. Alfred, a big diabetic gentleman, grossly obese, confined to a wheel chair, is awake, like a Krispy-Kreme vampire, to relieve his bladder through a catherter. While drooling at the pristine beauties parading across the TV screen, vying for the Miss America title a few hours earlier, Mr. Alfred remarked that he has a permanent boner. A bit too much information.

Drama occurs even at 2 a.m. in the nut house. The men's night orderly just busted Mr. Andrews for smoking in his room. Suddenly, without warning the lyrics of that classic rock tune rings out in my head. Smokin' in the boys room. Lighter confiscated, the orderly comes out of the room to ask me if I can smell the cigarettes. I said I don't know what he's talking about. The orderly bags and labels the lighter. Mr. Andrews may retrive it when he leaves the facilities, which may be never.

Mr. Andrews is prone to fits of violent anger, snuggly wrapped under a warm, engaging smile of Gunsmoke's Festus. He is roughly in his mid-40's, ruggedly handsome, Malboro man. His visage chiseled by several stints in the pen, bouts with meth, and marriage.

His immediate future will depend on his performance with his wife for Dr. Wang, the head doc. No, it is not some sick sex act. Mr. Andrews and his wife must convince Dr. Wang that he will not be a danger to his wife or anyone else. Unfortunately, his outbursts last afternoon will not be in his favor. Mr. Andrews is facing 15 to life for his third felony under the three strike rule. I ask him to look up my brother.

While there may be shortages of basic common sense, mental soundness, and great sex that is not solo, drama can be counted upon 24/7. In a world where the slightest outbursts of direct challenge to the staff's supreme authority can summon the needle, the smoke break becomes a matter of clock work that must be on schedule, lest the cuckoo's nest should suffer a grand mutiny.

I had my own run-in's with staff. Immediately upon arrival, the attending doctor ordered 5 mg of Haldol, chemical handcuffs, without due process or provocation. After I stridently protested the gross invision of my personhood, the injection was 10 mg.

A few days later, I tried to reconfigure the ping pong table, for solo play. Unfortunately, the table didn't cooperate, which drew strong rebuke from the staff. After some heated exchange and struggling with a recalcitrant table, another nut case offered to play with me. I said no. I am a screwball. I don't play with nut cases. I rather play with the wall. His name is not "The Wall." Nothing personal.

I might have been rebellious, obnoxious, and out-spoken. But, another 5 mg of Haldol did not fit the infraction.

If God exists, He must reside on the buttocks of Ms. Tiffany, a staff nurse. Before I got her 411, I was head over heels with the most painful, sinful lust of her body, her walk, and her fetching smile. On my first encounter with her, she asked about the dry spot of skin on my forehead. She said she had just the perfect lotion to cure it, and promptly scooped out a pearly cream into a small plastic cup.

Even though I had no cash and had become ambivalent about God's existance, I wagered Mr. Andrews all the money he had in his pocket I would pray to God. When he agreed, I asked Mr. Anthony, the big black staff enforcer, for permission to pray to God. He said yes. I got down on my knees behind Ms. Tiffany's buttocks and began a silent prayer. No one noticed, except Mr. Andrews.

When he pulled out a wad of bills, all of $4, I declined to take his money. But, he bought me two Cokes, which I dubbed Cock-a-Colas. I am going have a really tough time convincing the judge I am not a nut, just a screwball.

Even in this great institution for the improvement of mental health, love and its close cousin, lust, do abound in all the wrong places. Ms. Ashby, mid-20's, cute caucasian, single mother of three, hair dyed red and blonde, a la Boy George/Cyndi Lauper, is totally smitten with T.J. , an equally cute, late teens, black boy with smudgenly nappy hair. She remarked she would take him home, if she only had a home. At which point, Mr. Anthony shot back, "Jail bait."

Throughout the whole five day ordeal, I wonder how anyone could put up with all the characters that must pass through the hallowed doors of this cuckoo's nest. Certainly, it's not the money. Oklahoma has been slowly dismantling its mental health system for years.

But, not one single staff member expressed a complete hatred of their job, the kind of hatred I've had with my own past jobs. Sure, they get the occasional bonehead who fights violently, kicks the doors, and keep everyone awake at 3 a.m, trash talking to the trash. They all seem to take their job seriously, grin and bear the rest. For that, I give virtual high fives to Ms. Tiffany, Mr. Anthony, T.J., Scott, Deanna, Stacey, and Richie. If I have left anyone else out, you looked like how I felt, crap, and I was too shy, too brain-dead, too uncaring, to really pry.

God, in all his infinite wisdom, hoisted me in this surreal nut house. I resent what my mother did. I resent the Judge who needs a better way to keep screwballs out of the nut house. I will leave today with great sadness in my soul and big, warm tears from my eyes, lost in the surreality of this space.

I was detained for five days, against my will, only by the whims of a mad woman, a misguided judge, the Sheriff's deputy, who all collectively caused mental illness, instead of improvement. The State must develop more stringent criteria to keep the mentally healthy out of the system and not cave into frivolous accusations. As I tried to read Mr. Anthony this missive at 3 a.m., I realized the staff really cared about the patients' well-being, even if it is against their will.

Mr. Andrews senses feelings I might have repressed in the deep crevices of my soul. He asks if I would stay longer. Thanks, but no. I will miss everyone all very dearly. Au revoir, Ciao, and G'day, mate.