Christmas Eve, 1968: from lunar orbit, Apollo 8 astronauts deliver their Christmas message, a passage from Genesis.
On earth, 18-year-old Jennifer Semple, tripping on LSD with her drug-dealing boyfriend, embarks on her own odyssey.
Jennifer’s journey begins on the steamy streets of Hollywood, where heads, 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.
Jennifer’s life soon spirals out of control: she loses her Bank of America job, her boyfriend abandons her, and cops threaten to arrest her. Her grandparents and legal guardians convince her to leave Hollywood and return to Iowa, where she can "get her head on straight."
Instead, Jennifer is committed, against her will, to the Cherokee Mental Health Institute in Cherokee, Iowa, where she is introduced to a world of questionable psychiatric treatments, doctors, psychologists, social workers, and hospital staff.
While incarcerated, she corresponds with a new boyfriend and interacts with other patients: a psychopath who preys on other patients, a 17-year-old unwed mother, a teen cutter obsessed with rats, a young married mother enthralled with "10 ways of suicide," and a 42-year-old mentally challenged man and 25 year resident of Cherokee, among others.
Finally released, she flees Iowa, escaping to Pennsylvania.
In 2004, Jennifer, seeking another kind of release, has returned to Cherokee, this time voluntarily and as a visitor.
"I was driven to Cherokee," the author says, referring to a northwest Iowa regionalism synonymous with being committed. "Writing this memoir has driven Cherokee from me."*
I was caged.
Then, I was driven.
Driven to Cherokee.
A hazy memory of riding caged in the back of a police car.
Two shadows in the front seat, the county sheriff and a female escort.
Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” buzzing from a tinny transistor radio.
Outside, the Iowa landscape bleak.
Cloudy and cold.
Condensation and frost riming the windows.
Piles of dirty snow dotting the countryside.
Destination: Cherokee’s other place, the outline on the hill.
Shifting, crossing my legs…
Please, can we stop?
Hot and steamy inside.
Shivering, my teeth rattling.
Please…I have to go!
Hear something, George?
Naw, nothin’ important.
Cargo has no voice.
Madness has no voice.
Listen, crazy girl…
Two voices: We have come to take you away, ha, ha…
“I’m crazy, crazy…”
Fragments, crazy-quilt impressions, acid flashbacks…
Table of Contents for Memoir Madness
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