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"My grandfather always said that living is like licking honey off a thorn."
--Louis Adamic

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10/13/19

"OW-OW-OWOOOO!"
      
      
      "Heh heh heh! Yes, kids, it's me, Count Floyd! Oh, today we have a tale for you that will chill you! It'll chill your chilblains, it's so chilling! The only way to calm down after hearing it will be to Netflix and Chilblains! The story's called--what? That's what 'Netflix and Chill' means?! Whoa, no wonder my great aunt stopped returning my calls. But our tale for today, whoo, is called 'IT STARTED WITH A LEAKY SINK"! Whoa, doesn't that make your goosebumps afraid of the dark, I bet! It has more twists and turns than...a pretzel! Okay, Count Floyd's a little out of practice, I'll work on that metaphor."
      (off screen voice) "Floyd, we're not doing that today."
      "WHAT? You know you still have to pay me for this gig! Leaky Sink, jeez, how could that even be interesting? So we're doing...'Sixteen is a Lot of Sousaphones'?! The hell? I'm out of here! And you still have to pay me! I'm leaving the very second my included Continental Breakfast arrives!"

      "I need to ask you for a really big favor!" said my sister Patty (the cool sister). "OF COURSE!" I said, thinking of all she's done for me in the 6 weeks since the Leaky Sink Incident. (EDITOR: Needs context; maybe just shorten it to something catchy, like..."Sinkcident," yeah) She said "Can you let our dog Maisie out to poop Saturday?" I'm like all "...Sure!" because I would've done anything for her since the Sinkcident. I would've agreed to "There's kind of this dead mobster in our basement? Can you dig a shallow roadside grave for us?" "SURE, SIS! Should I pee on it too?"
      This conversation took place at Panera. It was my first time in Panera! Unfortunately, it was apparently also the first time in Panera for the kid who took my order. I ordered a flatbread, and this was "CHICKEN PAN" according to the receipt. The top slice of bread was over 2 inches thick, the bottom slice--well, bottom slab, was about 6 inches. Some vague paste was on the inside. I basically had to unhinge my lower jaw like I was a cottonmouth snake to take a bite. Patty said "This is wrong" and went to order a replacement. The supervisor said to the kid "I don't even know how you did this!" He did it because you left the new guy alone and wandered off while he was struggling.
      Maisie is a big yellow mutt with a heart as golden as her fur. Luckily, Patty had cut my hair 3 days earlier, so Maisie recognized me. This was my 2nd haircut in 25 years. I look so k. d. lang-y now. I noticed some signs saying "BAND THING" on the way. Later, I heard some band things going on. Since I live a short walk from the high school, I went to see what the Band Thing was. My first sight was 25+ school busses and the UConn marching band rehearsing. I felt a little weird, as I was this old loner watching some 20 year old cheerleader doing some amazing baton work, and literally no one else in the world was witnessing it besides her. I walked to the main field, and It turned out to be "The 27th Annual Festival of Bands," although "Band Things" would've been funnier. I passed a group of teens dressed like The Last Jedi and HOLY FUCK don't tell me I missed that routine! I found a big and abandoned program, and found out that I was there for the next to last show, Rockville High's "Alice's Adventures." Thumbs up to whatever teen did the logo. It was a teacup, but if you looked closely, the Cheshire Cat was peeking out. It was based on "Moby Dick" haha, no it wasn't. I didn't find the program until after it was over, and they could've been doing a Youtube on how the Moon landings were faked (because the MOON is a fake! It's a hollow ball made by time-travelling Freemasons, and oh god how I wish that wasn't something people really believe). I think I was the only person there who wasn't either a band parent or a member of a band not performing. The main thing I noticed was a girl flipping some flag baton and dropping it. I thought "You'll forget this in a few years--high school is hell." After that ended, I heard some other band person say as Rockville marched off the field "Did you see she was crying? The twirler? She was crying." and I felt awful for her. Maybe today she's ruefully laughing about it. Maybe in 20 years she'll be crying at 3AM about it. Fucking high school, the gift that keeps on giving. Giving you misery for decades.
      Then UConn took the field. I guess that they're the Goal for marching bands. There were a lot of them. Fucking wars have been won with battles that involved as many people. They had 16 Sousaphones (which is a lot of Sousaphones), the same amount of trombones, and 6 marimbas. How...do you fit ONE marimba in a car? There was less equipment shipped on fucking D-Day! They did "Lady Gaga, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Random of Tantrum!" according to the announcer, although I may have got the last one wrong. I guess I finally heard "Old Town Road"? Marching band music sounds the same to me. (At Oberlin College, the "band" was a bunch of ironic art students. At my suggestion, my roomie played the toy machine gun. Their first number: "And now, the National Anthem! Of Indonesia." [terrible cacophonous version of the Indonesian anthem, and yes I saw the sheet music and they were playing that] "And now--'Teenage Lobotomy' by the Ramones!" [exactly the same terrible cacophonous version of the Indonesian anthem]) The UConn Cheerleader Woman flipped 3 batons at once! Which, you know, super cool but a terrible survival skill.
      I'll say this: it sure looks like high school bands have each others' backs. They cheered the other bands as heartily as they did their own. When they handed out the awards, their color guards (?? Is that what they're called? If only one of my 15 readers knew!) either stood at attention, or did wonderful little choreographed dances. The Star Wars group--3 Reys, a Finn, and a Kylo--stood still except for a Rey raising her lightsaber in defiance. Manchester High, you fucking rock!
      The program I absconded with is professionally done, except when it totally isn't. They left in the squiggly underlines you see in autocorrect! But it does list the shows I didn't see. So, here they are! You SO care!
      The Blackstone-Millville Regional High School Chargers Marching Band did "TAKE A BITE," pictured as a withered black tree with a giant apple. "When Temptation is too much, you have to TAKE A BITE" I have no idea what that means. I also thought "Blackstone? The only town called that is...Oh. It's right outside Uxbridge, where Jess lives. A fucking HOUR from here. That's a long way to drag your marimbas!"
      The Mark T. Sheehan High School Marching Titans of Wallingford (also an hour away) presented "The Pursuit of Happiness." A clipart of the Statue of Liberty, text "Over the years, people have left their homelands In Search of a New life. Many passed through Ellis Island chasing the dream of life, liberty, and freedom. In their pursuit of happiness, they found A new Beginning." I may be projecting here, but I sense a middle finger to Our Favorite President...
      Enfield High School Marching Eagles, which I guess are like regular eagles but too lazy to fly because of all the cow farts (ELLINGTON CONNECTICUT JOKE! I don't care if you didn't get it! Oh wait, it's Enfield, not Ellington. VICIOUS ENFIELD DRUG WAR JOKE!! "In Enfield, everyone's barefoot because their sneakers are all on phone lines, HAW!" I don't care if you didn't get that either) have "BABA: A Musical Journey" and they did Baba O'Riley (by the Who), The Hut of Baba Yaga (by Mussorgsky), Thula Baba, a traditional African hymn, and Baba Yetu, by you got me. The picture is of Baba Yaga's chicken-legged hut, and something that looks like if Hiroshima was A-bombed by a giant squid. I admit to being a bit put off by the "Baba" theme, as the Band Thing was only 2 days off from the anniversary of Baba Yar, one of the most horrific atrocities in history. While the SS killed 33,000 Jews, even the Nazis realized how inhumane it was--to not give the SS a break from slaughter. Have a coffee and a cigarette, guys! YOU'VE EARNED IT
      The Berlin High School Redcoat Marching Band, whose logo is a guy with a dark maroon coat and a saxophone and running on one leg wtf Berlin? Is this a visual representation of how no one outside of CT knows how to pronounce your town's name? (It's not ber-LIN, it's BERL-in) Their program is Finding Home, including such hits as Coming Home, A House is Not a Home, Home, and Baby Shark doot doot.
      The Ellington High School Farting Cows (HA! I got you anyway, Ellington!) is West Side Story. "Just play it cool, boy...Real cool." Yeah, keep it cool, Ellington. Don't step in no cow pies, boy boy crazy boy.
      Song from Ellington's West Side Story: "DI-A-RHHEA! I just stepped in some Cow diarhhea!" Hahaha, fuck you.
      Manchester High School Fuck Yeah Marching Band: "THE FORCE AWAKENS." And I didn't get to see it! Rey's Theme, March of the Resistance, the Jedi Steps. And I missed it! If it was done by Ellington, the Jedi would've stepped in cow flop!
      The Robert E. Fitch Senior High School Falcon Marching Band that Uses All the Words in the Dictionary in their Name: "Spark of Invention." It has a quote from Edison, "I'm going to light up the world!" which sounds like something Thanos would yell as he exploded your planet. Includes Bach and a song from Willy Wonka. No, really.
      New Britain Golden Hurricanes HAHAHA You named your band after something every teenage boy would scream at you after learning what "Golden Showers" means? Program: "Clara's Dream." With a drawing of Clara, whose expression indicates someone just explained what "golden hurricane" might mean.
      East Haven High School Co-op Marchi--what? Co-op? What does that mean? Do you have to take turns milking the cows NO THAT'S ELLINGTON HAHA! Logo looks like someone ate the bat-signal and then puked it. "IN ASHES ENDING" wow, maybe not let the Emo kid design this. Program: Inferno. Dies Irae. Skyfall. Vesuvius. Don't let the Emo kid do this, Co-op.
      Rockville High School Marching Ram Band. Alice's Adventures in High School Twirler Depression.
      And now--UCONN! The only part of Connecticut you've ever heard of! A full page of "EXHIBITION DIRECTOR DAVID MILLS" in a spotlight, and the most murdery-looking Husky ever. Opposite page "MUSIC" in a dripping blood font. Somebody at UConn sure liebs Leni Riefenstahl!!
      And now it's boring. Several pages of the local group, all of them photographed looking directly into the sun. Clint Eastwood: "Man, these kids are squinty. I think I'll go yell at an empty chair now." (What, too soon?) Several pages of "paid by my parents" pics that are gonna be sooo cringey when Mom & Pop show them to your college crush. Direct quote: "Keep rocking that piccolo!"
      Ads! Yes, Ron A Roll, which began circa 1977 as a roller disco rink, but it still exists. "INJURED? Then it's time to call Kerry! Slip and Fall, Dog Bites." Prescient: An ad for band members by a hearing care center, because in 30 years, you're going to wish you weren't so close to those damn marimbas. "GO BAND!" in comic sans and autocorrect underlines for candidate Claire Janowski! Out-of-cntext pictures of girls holding pics of a rabbit, a faceless grin, a caterpillar--oh I got it. Alice's Adventures! A bunch of truly out-of-context "fill in the rest of the book" pics, like these 2 boys in different Green Day shirts, and one looks like he's trying to do "ERR MAH GERD" An ad for driver's education! Followed by an ad for the Ladd-Turkington & Carmon Funeral Home! ("CREMATION") The SECOND ad for "Drive in Package Store"! because liquor and teens go together like driving school and cremation! Bolton Vet, where a certain deaf boy with extra toes came from!

      

"OW-OW-OWOOOO!"
      
      
      "Well, that's over with! Now it's time for--THE TALE OF THE LEAKY SINK!"
      "Floyd, we've run out of time."
      "GOD DA--okay. Sure. YOU--are going to a place much warmer! MUCH warmer, My Friend!"
      "Floyd, don't foreshadow."

10/21

"What the hell's that banging?!" I thought. It was coming from the bathroom. "The guy downstairs is snaking out his toilet. Damn those Laotians!" He wasn't Laotian, but the previous occupants were. Apparently the bottom, top, and middle of their food pyramid was grease. That they dropped into the kitchen sink. When that clogged, they'd dump it down any drain they had. Maybe you remember how my bathtub looked one day.

      

      That's food grease.
      (To clarify, I'm not being racist. When Jess bought her dream home, she was cleaning grease of off the chandelier. She said "The previous owners were from...where's that country, not Vietnam, but near it?" Me: "Laos." "YES! How did you know?!")
      Then an hour later, water poured from under my bathroom sink. Then another hour later, the guy downstairs said "I'm getting water through my roof." I said "Yeah, well, you snaked out your sink, so it must be coming from you!" He said "What? No, I didn't."
      "Then it must be...(points at opposite wall)...I guess it's from them? I haven't even used that sink!" A few days later, I got a phone call from the Condo Association about it. They only said "You should get this fixed. It's not a big deal now, but over time, it could be."
      It all started with a leaky sink.
      In 10 days, it went from the Condo Ass basically shrugging their shoulders to a call screaming "FIX THIS NOW!!" The guy downstairs--for brevity, let's call him "Phil," for that is his name--wasn't particularly worried about it. So I dragged my feet for a day in calling the plumber.
      This was too long. The Asses sent their own plumber, one certainly to be impartial about the company that was paying him. Their angry plumber Wario came and left quickly. The next day, the Sinkcident was now at DefCon 1. "3 plumbers refused to go in your house!" the Condo Ass yelled. (In a day?) Because it was "too dirty." I admit to being a slob. But...it's not like the suddenly Marie Condo Ass didn't already know that. Why is it now the end of the world? The property manager and his stooge were coming the next day. Yeah, that night I slept well. I was awake at 2AM. I went to get the mail in my pajamas and long black Matrix coat. I watched some Netflix DVD, then later returned it in the mailbox, but couldn't find my house keys, so I grabbed the spare from the glove compartment. Should've just left the door unlocked for those few minutes...
      When they came, I was showered and dressed in civilian clothes. "You have to clean your house NOW, or we'll have to take it to the next level!"
      "What does that mean?"
      "We'll have to take it to the next level!"
      "But what does that MEAN?!"
      (silent smirking)
      "How long do I have?"
      (mentally reaches over to pull something from his ass) "ONE WEEK!" they smirked, clearly triumphant.
      I started to have a panic attack. They didn't say I'd be evicted, but holy shit was that heavily implied. My catastrophic thinking kicked in. My greatest fear, being homeless! My god, I'm going to be living out of my car with my cats! To cope, I decided to have a beer. And another. Normally--or as normal as anything is when you're in a panic attack, and convinced you're the only one who clearly sees what's about to happen, so there's no "normally" here--I'd call Jessica. But I had barely heard from her in a year, and at the last panic attack, she said "I can't be here for you 24/7. You can call the suicide hotline if I'm not." Yes! Stop being a pathetic loser, be a fucking adult for once, Bill! Call a professional!
      Ever here of "The Jonbar Hinge"? It's an old sci-fi trope. In the first use, it involved a child who could find something one day. If it's a magnet, he becomes a scientist, which leads to Earth becoming Jonbar, a Utopia. If he finds a rock, he never cares about science, and Earth becomes an eternal fascist nightmare.
      I called the hotline, and not Jessica. I had hinged, and hinged bad. And kept the fuck on hinging.
      I talked to the hotline for about 30 minutes. She asked "Do you have a plan?" I said "Of course I do. Every suicidal person has a plan. I have a gun." I told her at the end that I was calm now--all I needed was to talk myself out of the panic attack, just like every time I've called Jess while having one. She said "I'll call back in an hour." I said "No, this has really burned me out physically, I'm going to turn the phone off and go to bed." And that's what I did.
      Call, hinge. Gun, hinge. Turn phone off, hingiest.
      I awoke with someone at my door. In my PJs, half asleep, still recovering from a panic attack, and very drunk, I opened the doo
      WHAT THE FUCK!!!!!! A COP IS BODY-SLAMMING ME TO THE FLOOR AND HANDCUFFING ME! THE FUCK THE FUCK!
      Dragged downstairs, with most of my neighbors home. In my state, I flashed on what cops would do to a black man and screamed "KILL ME! JUST FUCKING KILL ME NOW!!"
      This did not help.
      Then I was strapped to a gurney by a cop yelling "FIND THE GUN!" to his 12 or more Gestapo agents. I got a good look at his face, as I guess it's true that your brain records well when it thinks it's GOING TO FUCKING DIE. In...5 seconds? 5 minutes? A year? the cops came back saying "We couldn't find the gun!" And then the 5 cop SUVs (five! I saw from my gurney a sixth one get waved off) began to leave, with me bound in an EMT van, with EMTs who didn't give a shit. They were probably thinking "Thursdays, right?"
      What happened next? I guess we'll find out in part two of "The Jonbar Sink," but here's a spoiler...

      

      "It was all because of a Leaky Sink" had now become "It was all because of The Wrong Phone Call."

10/28

      I entered through the gift shop.
      Yes, gurneys go to the hospital through the front entrance, by the gift shop. Why, I don't know. Maybe to build ambience, like the robot parrots in the Tiki Room at Disney World.
      Before this, the police had taken the zip strap handcuffs off of me when they couldn't find the gun, but I was still strapped in at the emergency room. They undid that so that I could fill out paperwork. I'm surprised they didn't make me do it holding a pencil in my teeth. Then there was nothing to do but scream "I NEED TO POOOOP!"
      Not me, of course. That person was in a room; I was left next to the reception desk, staring at the ceiling. With a "watcher," a person whose only job was to make sure the crazy people like me didn't run away. This person's screaming went on for...a time frame, I had no watch, as I was kidnapped in my damn PJs. It had variants. Sometimes she needed to "PEEEE!" Every time they took her in to the bathroom, it required 2 people, and she didn't need to go, and then it'd just repeat. Eventually a very worn looking woman finally came in, and the staff said "Oh, hi, [name]. She's in this room." She was the patient's mother, and the first-name-basis made it clear her daughter's visits were a common occurence. I just kept staring at the ceiling, particularly at one patch of peeling paint. After X hours, someone brought me a sandwich, because what gives you the munchies more than a police assault and being trapped in the ER? (I passed, because I was sure I was going to die soon, and that is not a joke)
      My watcher took her break, and a guy came to cover her. He too stared at the ceiling, and I said "Hey, nice ceiling, right?" and that the paint was my favorite. He said "Me, I like that piece of tape over there. It's been there for years." Then he asked me "Did you know Mark [name]?" Startled, I said "Yes, he was my best friend in middle school!" "I'm his brother." My friend had died 25 years ago. His brother didn't say how, and I didn't ask.
      As the sun set, eventually some nurse said "I think he's heard enough of [screaming pooper]; let's move him somewhere else." They moved me outside a "room," which was indeed a room, in the exact sense that a garage with a sheet of plastic over its front is. I was now by a woman who, by my guess, would be going under extreme drug withdrawal. Less a "LOOK AT ME!" scream than an agonized, heartbreaking, painful one. I said to my watcher "Why am I here? People like her need this more." Eventually, I got wheeled again, this time to a room of my own. And I laid there for...a period of time. Besides the plastic sheet, the main difference between the corridor and a room was that it was fucking freezing. In August.
      I saw some dismissive doctor or nurse, and of course asked when I could get out the hospital I was waiting to be transferred to. I received no answer. I begged to use email for just 5 minutes. I was the only one that knew I was here. What about my cats? 5 minutes, I could do a group email to my family and friend ("friend" not being a typo; I only have one) to let them know. Nope. I was a ward of the state now.
      Somehow--I guess because what the hell else was there to do--I fell asleep, glasses in hand, as they were the only possession besides my clothes that I currently owned. I woke up in the dark and cold, said "Oh. Hello." to my new watcher, a Black woman. She told a male nurse that I was awake, and I got my blood pressure taken for the 3rd time. I told him what happened, and added if "If I looked like you, the cops would've killed me." (Guess what his skin color was) My watcher gave a head-shaking, rueful chuckle at this. When he left, she said "I heard what you said about 'looking like him'." And we spent the next hours talking about the police, their militarization into a force that seems to think it's an army of occupation that hates all of the people they're here to "serve and protect," and the state of race relations in modern America. We had a similar opinion about the President, but had to mildly disagree about religion and LGBTQ rights. She thought that "The gays are setting a bad example for our kids." I thought that this was just how they were born, so why would God make them that way? When it was established that I was an atheist, she accepted that. I said "Sometimes I'm jealous of religious people. When someone you love dies, you know you'll see them again. I know I won't." I didn't point out that I was referring to what triggered Mr Young's Wild Ride, which was a sweet and smart cat dying. I would refer to that incident, now and I'm sure forever, as "The pebble that started the avalanche."
      Her shift ended, and another WOC took over. They talked for a bit, and the departing watcher (I asked her name right at the start, but I've forgotten what it was) pointed at me and said "He's one of the good ones." I assume meaning "He doesn't have withdrawal symptoms while screaming about pooping." Or maybe...she just liked me as a person? The new watcher asked me my story, I told it, and we had some of the same conversations I had with the previous woman. Mr The My Favorite President (self-described), do not count on the vote from the Black community. It was around the time Orange Foolius said "Go back to your own country" and said "But I'm not a racist!" I said to her "He's the raciest racist that ever...raced a race!" yeah, it was a good argument from me. She laughed and agreed. Eventually, it was time to be strapped down again to go to the "real" hospital." My watcher, like the woman before her, wished me luck and assured me "This isn't going to last forever. It'll be okay."
      A bumpy ride to the hospital as an EMT flipped through 11 pages on a clipboard. Yes, I counted. I asked "Is that about me?" EMT: "grunt" EMTs don't like you. You mean as much to them as a pork chop does to a butcher.
       And then I passed the hospital gift shop. It was just like the Monty Python's Meaning of Life scene, pushing through endless swinging doors. I got up, was wanded for...the knife I had jammed up my ass? I don't know, had to turn my clothes over into hospital "johnnies," and had my ER hospital socks taken away and tossed. "I'll be back with new socks," said the nurse or tech, but he never came back. Hospitals are fucking cold, so fucking cold, so I fished my old ones from the trash before frostbite set in.
      Now, I was in the lock-down mental ward. Whoops, "Behavioral Health Unit," as if that made it any different. I was in Hospital Jail.
      A thing I learned quickly: the staff doesn't like it when you call it "Hospital Jail."

      Thing I got emailed a couple of months after this roller coaster of fun & frivolity, selected reasons why "To Go to the Immediate Care Facility":
      Unable to get an appointment with your PCP
      Sore throat or cough
      Mild rash
      Toothache

      And the "Reasons to Go to the Emergency Room":
      Broken bones and dislocated joints
      Severe pain
      Bleeding from a large open wound
      Serious burns
      USA Health Care, people! Do not waste your corporate master's time with Bleeding form a small-ish open wound, and c'mon, that burn's just comical. It's a Sick Burn!
      Is this story done yet? Of course it isn't fucking done yet! If I went through this bizarre shit, A) so are YOU going to, and B) you think I'm throwing away perfect blog-fodder like it made me throw away weeks of my life?
      So goodbye until Next Time! An adventure that can only be titled "This Adventure Needs a Catchy Title!' EXCELSIOR and it was so, so fucking cold in that place.

11/3

      Well, I got my steps in.
      There was so little to do in the nut house--umm, Behavioral Health Unit. Just pace from one end of the L-shaped corridor to the other and then back. While mentally singing the lyrics to the song above, Mental Ward. It wasn't until I got out that I discovered that the lyric I'd thought went "The stinkin' shrink has me so damn bored" was really "The stink of my cell has me totally floored." I should've just sang it as "My leakin' sink put me on this floor."
      I don't know if this is going to be the longest chapter here, or the shortest. It was the longest in time spent, but it was all a blur, every day the same. "I had breakfast, so now there's nothing to do until lunch." It won't get written unless I write, so here goes.
      And then they let me out, The End!
      I should probably give it more effort than that.
      The first night, I continued to beg to use email, or a phone, to let anyone know I was there and my cats were alone. My worst-case-scenario thinking had me leaping to the conclusion that I would end up evicted and homeless, living in my car with my cats. There was a patient's phone, but all my phone numbers were on the phone I didn't have. Who remembers phone numbers anymore? Since I was new, the staff really didn't seem interested in helping. I gave up and shut my brain down to avoid my problems through sleep. My roommate said "Hello" and went back to his heavily medicated sleep.
      In the morning, I was awakened for a test of blood pressure and temperature. This would be a thrice-daily ritual. My nurse filled out a survey on why I was there, and of course I asked again to use email. She said she couldn't...then thought for a second, and said "Let me try my computer, it has internet." She brought it in, but it wouldn't connect to outside approved sites. She tried another one. Same result, but at least it was slightly calming to know I wasn't going to deal with any Nurse Ratcheds there.
      It was the weekend, but I did get to see my therapist. We talked for 30 minutes about my situation. She seemed sympathetic. But she said I wasn't going anywhere, and if I kept asking, it would just make my stay longer. By the next day, I gave up even asking. Especially when I realized that every patient thought that they were the only one who didn't need to be there.
      My roommate was awakened by a nurse. He was clearly out of it. I can see waking up in a strange bed and groggily asking "Where are my shoes?" But the first thing she asked him was "Do you know why you don't have shoes?". He didn't know. I thought "Because they have laces." I decided this was none of my business, so I left when I heard that had attacked his roommate at the VA hospital. With his shoes? He...attacked his roommate?. He was then moved to another room. He needed a walker, and that was where the physically impaired people went, right by the office. And the more attacky ones.
       I...think this was Sunday? No, Saturday. I tried again to get some phone numbers. I knew my sister Patty and my Mom were in Delaware for the weekend, but t least they might check their voice mail. They found my mother's phone number--I wasn't allowed to call even 411 on my own--but Patty simply didn't exist. Neither did Jessica, but I didn't really need to call her. 411, it's great. It kept autocorrecting everything into something I didn't say, so it found ducking nothing. the next day, I finally found my sister Sue's number, which went to voice mail. She called soon, and said she and Patty's husband John would be in during visiting hours. I asked for my phone, wallet, and any damn clothes that were warm. Ducking freezing in there, in tiny slipper socks, a tshirt, and pants made of toilet paper. I had some dorm pants and slippers, but those were taken away because the pants had a drawstring and the slippers laces. This was so I didn't hang myself, although how one could possibly do that with 10 inches of lace is beyind me. This was also the place where the kitchen had a sign that said "REMEMBER: Tea Bags have Staples!!" You don't want anyone self-harming, but a tea bag staple? I didn't tell them that I'd recently read a Cracked article about a captured soldier who committed suicide with his socks. Just jammed 'em down his throat. They'd already tried to not give me socks. I wasn't going to try to off myself with toe frostbite.
      Sue and John came. The house key I kept in the car glove compartment was not there. "How'd you get in?" Sue said "John didn't say, and I didn't ask." He just laughed. "I've learned a few skills over the years!" I gave them my sordid story, and they were clearly shocked. I've kept my depression and SI (suicidal ideation) secret from my family. I explained the Fucking Sink with a bucket under it that needed to be emptied. John said he'd do that, and make sure the cats got fed and watered.
      Of course the Hospital Police confiscated everything, including a sweatsuit Sue had bought me. The pants had a drawstring, and the top...a hoodie? Why was that banned? (It wouldn't have mattered anyway. It didn't fit)
      Another visit with the therapist. 5 minutes this time. She did not seem sympathetic, nor would she again.
      With no roomie, I could sleep easier! Just as soon as a gigantic thunderstorm passed. The hospital was built so that it had to be directly over it to hear it at all. 5 minutes after it ended, I was passing into sleep when the SCREAMING MATCH began. 2 patients really hated each other. It went on for an hour. They were screaming about how noisy the other one was. They went to their rooms after an exasperated nurse told them to. They then proceeded to make as much noise as possible to prove how not-noisy they were. Doors slamming, rolling tables being bashed against the wall, even off-key singing. Eventually they stopped. Unfortunately, the Writerly part of my brain was now at full function. If I could've written it down, I could've gotten it out of my system. But we weren't trusted with the tiny golf pencils they had. So instead, no sleep that night.
      The next day, John came in for a very short visit. "The cats didn't touch the food or the water. I had a feeling, so I called the police. Animal control has them."
      John is a trained psychologist, but I don't think he needed that training to read my face. "I wasn't going to lie to you." I said No, I wouldn't want you to. I laid down thinking "Animal control are the people who put down the rabid raccoons." I was going to be homeless, living in my car withOUT my cats! Then it struck--now I had a reason to call Jessica! I got them to get my phone and let me write down her number, and a few others. I called, leaving the briefest of messages. It took a half hour to realize that she was going to see the hospital number on caller ID, and just assume it was spam. I begged them to use my own phone. There was an exchange of looks. They said yes. Behaving myself for 3 days finally paid off.
      She didn't pick up. I just sat there numb. After a few hours, I went back to pacing. I never purposely eavesdropped, but I'd hear patients loudly talking by the office all the time. A woman said "I went to Hell. The first thing you see is the ovens they use to cook people." I walked down the hall and looped back. "I turned on the school's sprinkler system. They said I was crazy! I said, No I'm not crazy! I'm trying to put out the fires in Satan's ovens!" Suddenly a tech ran out of the always-busy office and slapped my shoulder. She handed me their phone.
      It was Jess, just in from a late night (for her; it was 930). I gave her the tl;dr version of my current version of a life, but of course the main subject was My Boys. Luckily, it was the Sunday before Labor Day. It was an hour trip one way for her to animal control, and her narcolepsy prevents her from driving more than half an hour. But Monday, her husband or daughter could drive her. Ron might have Labor Day off, but Jacqueline would. (She's a schoolteacher now. The first time you likely heard of her here was a party we went to when she was four. Yes, you are indeed a LTRotD) She said that she was a registered rescue worker--she's her county's go-to for feral cats--and that was fine with them. DJ came into the carrier instantly. Byron required wrapping in a towel and some elbow grease from Ron (who got scratched).
      Well, that crisis was averted! And thus came a new one. The cops wanted the gun. They wanted to get it themselves; I wanted John to get it. My therapist wanted to know why I didn't want the police breaking into my condo. I asked "Would you want the cops to ransack your house?" What a fucking stupid question. Thanks, already had the Gestapo smash my home in while I laid helpless. (I would later find out that they literally did just randomly trash the place. Did they think there would be a gun under a desk lamp? Inside a thermometer? Maybe ripping out a drawer in my bed made some sense, but why the fuck did they use a fireaxe or steel-toed boot to kick in a side that didn't open? Note: the only thing that was under the bed was DJ, terrfied) Would the doctor like it if I SWATted her? (Note: these are emotions I feel now, not at the time. Don't get the parole board get mad at you)
      John found the gun. After 20 minutes, because I'd buried that deep. I should've just thrown it in the dumpster decades ago. He said the police told him that I'd have to make a statement, and was warned that I could face being on parole. Wouldn't that...require a trial? My town's police have a bit of a power obsession. It would take John 3 attempts to actually give them this illegal weapon--and it was a fucking bespoke sawed-off shotgun, a flat-out murder weapon. Enough to go to trial, but not enough that the cop failed to show to receive it twice, and when he did, made John wait 30 minutes. In a moment, the results of that trial: There weren't no trial. Just a power trip.
      With no roomie, I slept poorly. Because they'd been weaning him off his anti-murder meds. He became increasingly angry, over important things like telling his new roommate "JESUS CHRIST CAN'T YOU AT LEAST SHUT THE DOOR WHEN YOU PISS?!" (The door was actually more of a plastic flap) And "Bessie!' Half the unit was there because they needed to get no therapy. They were medicated zombies. Did they really think they were going to cure a woman of being 95 years old? "Bessie!" was another clearly senile woman that they simply locked into a chair in front of the office. She would randomly and endlessly shout certain words. "Bessie!" was the most common of these, and the name of her sister. Bessie came in once a week, and that was the only time D. would calm down. Her husband was there every day, cradling her. She'd ignore him and yell "Bessie!" as he did. It was heartbreaking. Someimes when he came in, it was to have her sign bank accounts and such over to him, as he was now the administer of her estate. The chanting became just aural wallpaper to most of us. My old roomie started screaming "SHUT UP!" at her, because I'm sure no one had ever tried that brilliant psychological trick before. He came out of the lunchroom angrily yelling "OTHER people get more than ONE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE!"
      I slept poorly because apparently the meds wore off completely. I was in the room farthest from anything with my door shut, but he spent a long time screaming about something. In one 20 minute long, not-a-breath-taken rage. The only words I could make out were "I'LL GET YOU ALL FIRED! ALL OF YOU, YOU HEAR ME?! FIIIIIRED!' and then abrupt silence. I assumed he was put into the isolation room, with his old meds mainlined into his brain. Good thing he didn't have his shoes! He was back to being a zombie for the rest of my time in stir. He was later transferred back to the VA hospital. I'm sure his roomie there was thrilled.
      And that would be the last time I had a bad roommate experience! hahaha you know it wouldn't be.
      And this is getting long, so I think I'll stop for now.

      More foreshadowing: Jaw-Dropping Christian Ephemera From The 20th Century

11/6

      We're at the midpoint of the madness, time-wise. I'm just going to finish up the chronology and move to some random anecdotes. Because by this time, I'd given up any hope of influencing the outcome. I assumed that I would be in there until my insurance coverage ran out, and then I'd suddenly be declared either cured or incurable and released.
      When I was admitted, I was accompanied by two armed security guards. Best to be careful; I could make a break for it and try to kill everyone with a staple from a tea bag. Several nurses and techs assisted them. ("Look out! He may have a golf pencil!") One guy in jeans and 2 shirt-johnnies was at the nurses station, quite unhappy about the fact none of them were able at that moment to go change the channel on the break room TV. "I hope he's not my roommate," I thought, before meeting my actual zombified one.
      Tuesday late they brought in a new guy. He was disheveled, ranting quite happily about God and Jesus while waving his arms around. Okay, in this instance I was deliberately eavesdropping. It took 3 people 20 minutes to take his blood pressure, as he wouldn't stop waving those arms. He was like an 80s sitcom version of a mentally ill person. Not just the spasming and the Jesus Christing and random bits of his history, but he literally talked like the Rain Man on speed. Right down to same voice. Lots of preaching like the cliched street corner messiah about God and "the rabbi" who I think was a real person and "Call HR at Corning, they'll tell you what a great worker I am! I never missed a day!" I'm guessing HR and the rabbi decided he needed to be there. I tried not to imagine what it must've been like to be a coworker of his.
      It was now 8PM, which is feeding time at the med station. They were all lined up by 755. There was a definite placebo effect in play. When patients didn't get heir meds *exactly* on time, they started to get very antsy. I get it--some of these people were on a lot of meds, with Klonopin being distributed like it was aspirin. I had 8PM meds too (folic acid, a B vitamin, a sleeping pill that didn't work, and an antidepressant that didn't work), but the nurses were clearly involved with Reverend Jim here. This did not stop some people complaining.
      Snippets I would pick up from God Boy over the next days: "My sister's DNA and mine got mixed up in the egg, so that's why she came out evil. My Mom, my Dad, my Sister, they're all evil and controlled by demons." Actually, just leave it at that. I've willfully forgotten most of it, as it was non-stop. He was another person I was glad wasn't my roommate. He would talk anybody's ear off. The most awful person on the unit--can you go to the loony bin just for being an asshole?--even stopped talking to him after the first day. He cornered her in her wheelchair and spent like 3 hours babbling about Jesus. I only caught bits of his theology, but it was...interesting. He ended up in the closely watched part of the floor, with a roomie who I hoped could turn off his hearing aid.
      Well, I seem to be writing in linear time anyway. The short version of my relationship with the staff: They liked me because I didn't bother them and was always polite. If I needed something, like towels or new pants, I'd wait until someone else had already dragged them away from what they were doing. My therapist...not so much. She pretty much dismissed me, with sessions under 10 minutes. She decided "alcoholic" was all I was, yeah suicidal whatEVer and even said "We'll send you to a 12-step program, and in 6 months, you'll relapse and be right back in the emergency room!" Way to motivate, Doc! You're like that poster with the kitten hanging on a branch, and the caption "FALL OFF AND DIE, LOSER!" She would later say "I think you have an unhealthy relationship with your cats" which led to me saying "You want me to get rid of my cats?!" "No. I just think it's unhealthy." and no explanation as to what I should do, or even what she wanted me to do. My SW (social worker) was about 12 years old or something, and clearly not fully trained. In one notable instance, she'd been in contact with my sister Patty and John, and even other brother-in-law Mike. She came to me and said "I talked to them. The housing department visited your condo, and they condemned it, and you won't be able to live there when you get out." She said this like she was saying "We're out of Coke, is Pepsi OK?" I sat there stunned and said "What exactly did Mike say?" She checked her notepad--all health care people have yellow legal notepads--and said "It said 'Cease and Desist'." I should point out that she kept pronouncing Cease as Seize. What, are they sending Viking plunderers?
      I then went to the phone. Mike, who is a lawyer, although not in real estate, his office phone kept hanging up after long pauses. So, If there's something strange in your neighborhood, who you gonna call? JESS BUSTERS! She'd been on a condo board for years. She immediately named the exact law, statute, paragraph of how this was bullshit. "They're based in Enfield? That's not even the same county!" She finally said as I was forced off of the phone by staff (I wish I was making this up, but it was coloring book time) and said "Cease and desist what?! Fixing the plumbing?! I'm calling Mike to get to the bottom of this!" (Writing this Pulp Fiction style is going to lead to a lot of brief flashbacks. John had met the plumbers at my condo, again mysteriously teleporting in without a key, and they said they could replace my sink. For $3,000. John said "I can replace it for $40!") It turned out that it was the health department, and they'd left a polite note saying "Sorry we missed you, please call me at this number." Pat called, and the guy was very nice and pretty unconcerned about my "condemned" building.
      And that was...Friday. My therapist and my SW and some other random SW said "You could be out next week." I nodded. "Sure I will." And they added something that they'd both said multiple times: "Nothing lasts forever!" What a great thing to say to a suicidal person! "This won't last forever! One day you'll be cold in your grave!"
      And then, boom, I was out Monday. Reason? None given. Why'd I have to be in there over the weekend? None given. Which would've been the exact same number of my current fucks.
      "But," you say, "then what was the point of all that foreshadowing crap?" To which I reply
      Of course fucking God Boy became my roommate.
      They shifted people from room to room in some order of their whimsical choosing. Someone was coming in, and we need a room near the front. So, let's take the most mentally ill person on the floor, and let him tuck the least mentally ill guy into bed at night! Despite the room across the hall from them being empty!
      Me, walking into the room: "Hello." God Boy: "Hi I was lving with demons they were evil demons they wanted to kill me because they worked for Satan everyone in the house was demons but I'll be out of here soon because I paid back the money--" Me: "...." (walks out, thinking): "Demons have a money-back guarantee, that's handy."
      My entire conversations with him totaled to about 10 words, because that was what it always defaulted to. God and Demons and Have I Told You About It? Our next "conversation" he tried to drag me in, and I just said "Talk to the staff." Some time later, I'm sitting half awake in the break room waiting for breakfast. He was told to get off the phone, like I was that one time, and then told again and again. Just my luck, he sat at my table. The nurse left, and he said to her, plus about a hundred words, "You're a good one, you're going to Heaven to sit by His side!" Then he turned to me and said "YOU are going to a place where it's much warmer! Much, MUCH warmer my friend!" I hadn't even made fucking eye contact. I got aother table. Nothing like first thing in the morning being told you're gonna burn in Hell! I really wanted to say "And you're going to have a fraction of a second when you realize that there is no afterlife before worms eat you," but I realized that probably wan't going to make things better. Not if saying fucking nothing made things worse.
      It was his room now. He only left it to harass nurses and techs and doctors. I saw a nurse duck into the office to get away from him, and he kept trying to talk through the window. He went away, and after 5 minutes she left to do her rounds. He immediately pounced on her, and she ran, literally, back to the office. There was another nurse named Isabella. He called her "Jezebel," which isn't very nice.
      He would wake up around 3AM, and pray. Out loud. And loud. If your God's hard of hearing, he must kind of suck. And maybe he's also uncaring, since he made you this way. When I found out I was leaving, for some reason he was convinced he was as well. His name didn't appear on the "Free at last, thank God almighty!" whiteboard in the office. His enthusiasm curbed over the day. And now--who cares? Not my problem now, talk to the staff.
      And now, just random incidents.

      I saw only 3 people leave. Some others were there, then they weren't. Two went right to other hospitals. One said she was only stuck there because she'd otherwise be homeless. I talked to her enough to believe her. She had a history of depression and drug use. She ruefully said "I got caught smoking weed through my old crack pipe, so here I am. And I'm in the local newspaper! My parents will be so proud." But a friend who didn't even know she was in there (cf. my story) offered her a room, and bang, she was out!

      About half the ward was in chemical straitjackets, or had dementia. Not sure how being there was ever going to help them. The rest of us were what you'd expect--depression that led to some Incident that threw us in there. One patient's sister came in and was yelling at the nurses: "Is he getting physical therapy for his walking? Is he getting any therapy at ALL, or are you just medicating him to sleep?!" I didn't say anything, but the answers were No, No, and Oh Yes. They gave him something that perked him up instantly, and lowered his meds after that, and he went back to a different ward. I heard him say that he got so depressed in an unlocked hospital ward over his failing health, he said "I wish I was dead" and pow, there he was in a stupor. I assume that they can bill you more in the BHU ward.

      Remember "Bessie!"? One time her husband was there--he was there almost daily--with I guess her son, and--Holy Shit! I know this guy! From...somewhere. We locked eyes and he clearly knew me. He turned away sharply, and spent a long time talking to the staff. Later, one of the staff was trying to talk to his mother while she was semi-lucid. "Was that your son?"
      "...Yes."
      "Is he a police officer?"
      "...Yes."
      "Which town?"
      "...Vernon."
      Holy shit, he was the stormtrooper who threw me to the fucking ground and cuffed me.
      I kept pacing by, looking at him with each pass, and he was clearly aware of this, but never looked back. The point of this is: Can I foreshadow, or what?

      You know what? About 15 years ago, there was someone I knew who worked in this same unit! And was there until they expanded it, and they moved the open door mental health therapy groups to another building up the road! Foreshadowing? Of course not! Also, this person's name was Jessica, I should tell you about her sometime.

      Jess knew I was liked by the staff from her first phone call to me. "They let me call you after visiting hours!" When news of my Cat Crisis got out, every cat-friendly nurse or tech would ask about them. Most of all a tall platinum blond. She had just adopted 2 tuxedo kitten sisters. "I gave them grandmother names!" I think 1 was called Mabel, the other something equally Victorian. On the rare occasions she had free time, we'd talk cat. Every so often, Jess would call me with updates on The Boys, and she and the nurse would chat. "She's sooo nice!" Jess would say. So would every one of my family who met her.

      The first time I had a visit from family, I had to add them to a list of approved people. The list had room for 20 names. We nutjobs were allowed a maximum of 4. Hospital visiting hours are 10-8. Bughouse hours are 5 to 7--and incorrectly listed on the website as 6-8. Too bad American hospitals don't have the money to change 2 digits of code! I had visitors every day except one (once they found out that I was there). Usually, updates from RL and the status of my eviction and Seize & Dessert. Mainly cleaning--Patty and John decided my condo was getting Marie Kondo'ed, and they wanted to make sure nothing I wanted got tossed. They asked after John had started, so the first thing that went was a bunch of clementine mini-crates. I laughed when told this--"You didn't notice that they were upside down and glued together like stairs? They were cat stairs." Byron's found alternate ways to get to his beloved high spots since.
      Meeting places there was the break room, where we Bedlamites ate, and the Quiet Room, where people did puzzles. One guy did, and he didn't like it if you went in there for some dumb reason like "My roomie is a frothing religious madman." You'd think the quiet room would be the preferred place for visits, but it was, y'know, quiet in there, and if more than 2 groups were in there, you could hear each other. The break room was better, because the TV was always on and so loud you couldn't hear people at the next table. I was lucky; some people never got visitors. Such as my roomie, not even from his mysterious "rabbi". One was a woman in her early 20s who'd play Uno with her mom every weekend for the whole 2 hours. One regular was the sister of the aforementioned guy who was getting no therapy, who would always have someone with her, and they played cards. This man improved greatly with this company. Other people just kind of sat there, as their relative did the same. That was sad.

      Thing I expected, but didn't get: a library. I thought they had little rolling libraries in hospitals. All of my family was surprised that they didn't as well. What the 2 rooms had were donated books and magazines. Wait, sorry, "magazine." A fucking House Beautiful from 2017. The books were all coffee table books--"Crazy people like them the pictures!"--and an old library copy of Tom Jones, the best selling novel of fucking 1749 (not a typo). The ones I read were a history of American prints (pub. 1973) translated from Italian, a 50th anniversary of D-Day (1994, so read just in time for the 75th anniversary) translated from French and donated by the Cat Nurse, and the Guinness Book of World Records 2012, translated from Amazon Wish List. Mom saw it and said "I bet you're the one reading this!" I have just discovered while cleaning my 1986 copy of it, so let's just open it at random--"Smoke Ring Blowing: 355." "Formed by the lips from a single pull of a cigarette with cheek tapping disallowed," and holy shit there are rules for blowing smoke rings. THAT, my friend who is not going to a place much warmer, is MY Guinness Book! This one had to have "NEW RECORD!" multiple times per page, so it had "fattest stormy petrel with a limp" stuff. That's said only because I can't remember actual "records" scattered throughout the animal pages about some bird I'd never even heard of. We all could have our own records! "The Most Tacos Eaten In One Sitting By [your name here] Without Farting!" This one had a lot of already outdated records, even after only 7 years. It also had the record for "The Most Product-Placemented Guinness Book Ever!" More than one 2 page spread listed every now-obsolete bit of tech, right down to the model number. A lot were for made-up publicity stunts just to get in the book. I'm pretty sure 2012's "Most People Dressed as Superheroes" has been beaten every year since. I told Mom and John that there was one sponsored by TomTom. There was a brief pause, and then they remembered that there once was a TomTom. John: "I was cleaning out the basement, and threw a TomTom in the recyling!"
      It had a bookmark of a ripped piece of paper. I left it open, and the cleaning staff threw the scrap away. I wanted to leave it in the same spot as when I first started reading it. So I ripped some paper and placed it where it was, goofy food "records"--then said, No, this is going to mark "CATS."

      One of the people who never seemed to get visitors was that guy who wanted the TV channel changed while I was being checked in. Why he was in there, I never found out, unless--just being unbearably self-centered. Since when does that get you into the Behavioral Health Stalag? I mean, that was the only thing I could see wrong with him. Another time I saw him yelling at the nurses because "Someone stole my ginger ale!" "Where did you leave it?" "RIGHT--THERE!" and he pointed at the top of personal belongings locker. Because if I'm in a department store and see a near-empty Big Gulp on a display, obviously I steal it for the resale value! I had no interest in finding out what his deal was, because, as I said, "I hope he's not my roomie." He never shut up, knew everything and was always right, was frequently angry at everyone, wanted everything right now--Hey, dude, run for President as a Republican! When I explained Byron's name to the Cat Nurse, she said "I have a friend I have to tell, he loves poetry! And also [patient K.], because I'm sure he'll decide he's an expert on English literature!" At which point K. came wheeling around the corner, and she repressed an "OMG shit!' laugh, expecting the worst. K. said "Is there ANYONE who can get me some ICEWATER?!"
      As stated, he was the Master of the Remote, even if that involved dragging staff from something that actually mattered. I think I'm making him sound more obnoxious than he was. But no, the whole unit doesn't want to watch an "inspiring Christmas movie" on Labor Day. They don't want you to get in a screaming match with "Doc Bach" when you want to switch "Sooner" off near the climax to watch some reality show. Eh, I don't care. He was also the guy who thought the Quiet Room was his personal fief. I overheard him talking on the phone to his old boss / landlord asking to come back, and ID'ed himself as "Haywire." Which is kind of a cool nickname, but it depends of why you have it. But his sister came up from one of the Carolinas for an entire week, and he finally got a visitor. Sisters, they can be good with mentally ill bothers. (So I've heard)

      "Doc Bach" sounds like a third-tier Spider-Man villain whose power is...Sonatas? He can eat a lot of Brandenburgers? He's the ILL-Tempered Clavier! His catchphrase is "Toccato and FUGUE YOU!" Oh, you come up with stupid Bach puns of your own. She was easily the most obnoxious person there, until the Son of (a bitch of) God turned up. She was the instigator in pretty much any screaming match between patients. She was in a wheelchair, which was the only difference between her and Baron Harkonnen. She was a screaming big baby. I mean, she'd pee her bed and just scream for someone to come take care of it and before you say it, even the nurses knew she didn't need the wheelchair. And she was "LOOK AT ME!" all the time. the only person who didn't hate her was God Boy, because he could rant knowing that the only way she could escape was to show she didn't need the chair. She latched onto any new patient who didn't know how awful she was, and basically make them her personal slave. She once dropped a Bible, which somehow landed behind her chair. Me, innocent and naive back then, picked it up. "I know you're here for your own reasons," she said to me, "but I know why. God put you here to help ME." ME: "Talk to the staff." and walked away, like Liam Neeson with a big explosion behind him.
      I was there to get my own ass out of there. The staff gets paid to deal with you; I don't.
      In one of her more over the top staged scenes, she screamed "I'VE BEEN IN THIS PLACE FOR 3 MONTHS AND SHOULDN'T BE HERE! I'VE BEEN HERE 3 MONTHS AND I NEED A BRASSIERE!!" Everyone I've told that to has questioned whether that was the start of the worst rap song ever, or the best.

      Oh, the places you'll go, the things you will see! Not much when you're locked in Arkham. There was one big window with a couple of very big, very un-comfy chairs that I would hang out in. It got direct sun for about 90 minutes. The bedrooms had windows, but they looked out on the other drab brick buildings. One night, I was so bored I tried to figure out what was playing on the break room TV from across the courtyard. (Spoiler: the screensaver on the monitor of the office next door) Mainly I saw teenagers getting on busses in the afternoon, or playing basketball earlier. They had some day program for teens, I guess. There was a "CARRYING SCHOOL CHILDREN" van that only had 1 rider. Another had 2. A pretty girl who would race to it as soon as school ended, and almost 10 minutes later an overweight boy would slowly walk on. Was there some backstory to this? I hope he didn't tip an imaginary fedora at her and say "M'lady."
      The breakroom TV was usually set to the local CBS station. Boy, does daytime TV have a lot of ads aimed at old people and their various maladies! Don't watch daytime broadcast TV while playing a drinking game that revolves around taking a shot every time you hear "Ask your Doctor if..."! One day, There was a big storm coming. It was the only story for literally hours. I guess daytime TV is watched by very old people who don't have even have internet. Three of us (the "here for depression" ones) watched it intently from the back window. We saw one lightning bolt each in an hour. We left the storm One Star on Yelp.
      One of us (the "caught with crack pipe" lady) had been freed, so her ex-roomie / BFF and I were just kinda hanging by the window. I bolted from my cement chair. "Did you see that?!" "See what?" she said. "That car! It had a camera or something on its roof, and a logo on the side! It's NOT a Google street view car!" She said "A...Google what?" and I explained. It was like the time I tried to explain to Jess what a "POG" was. The more you explain, the more you realize that they don't understand, and the more you realize that maybe you don't know enough to explain it. It came back, and I jumped up again! Still couldn't read the logo, and why were they doing something as basic as a hospital? How is that not in their database? Why do I accept the fact that we're being spied on by corporations constantly?
      Thing I noticed as a kid: Squirrels never walk. They scamper, they scuttle, they run like they're possessed by Tom Cruise. So they have difficulty with McCafe cups. This guy was obsessed with a discarded one. Hazelnut blend inside maybe? He kept trying to drag it and jump with it, up stairs, over a wall, and it was the most entertaining 5 minutes I had there.

      Our doors had our (abbreviated) names on them. I was Bill Y. For some reason beyond the ken of mortal men, our names were in Comic Sans and had some weird MS-Paint doodles on them. Mine were just squiggles. My roomie's looked like TIE Fighters. Praise the Sith Lord!

      More Tales From the Heavy Chair: Some suit came in, marveling at the recent remodel of the Cracker Factory. "I like these hardwood floors!" He took issue at any tiny bit of splattered floor wax on a door. I decided "Time for a pace!" and followed him. He continued to praise the heating ducts, and point out little bits of wax. I wanted to point out that he'd missed the days-old toenail clippings "Bessie!"'s visitor had left. And...shit, what was the other thing I wanted to point out to him? Oh, right. "I hope you lose your insurance and get really sick so that the only way you can pay for it is to scrub fucking floor wax off of gutters."

      I heard Cat Nurse say at the end of her shift "Let's go record now." I guess that at the end of a shift, the staff tapes whatever happened during it for the next shift. Makes sense; quicker than writing, but still leaves an evidence trail. The Heavy Chairs were near the room where these were reviewed . I only could hear mumbles through the noise-cancelling doors. But there was an altercation with--sigh--some sad soul's Messianic roommate. He was yelling something to the eternally put-upon head nurse about getting his blood checked. Not sure who started it, but it seemed to be him, demanding the test now. He kept bugging her about the results, despite being told it would take at least 2 hours. Then it was done, and he was angry again. The next thing I knew--after a nurse and a tech came to help her--that he was being put on an IV drip. Since MYOB was my motto, I just hoped that maybe this would mean he'd explode in hellfire and I'd get my room back. Whatever they gave him whyever, he was finally quiet. Until every time he tried to get out of bed, and set off alarms. The tape reviewing ended, and 3 women I'd never seen before came out, tip-toed to my room, and whispered about him. Spoiler: he was so dehydrated that he needed saline solution. "But he drinks all the time!' I said to a nurse, expecting no answer. She whispered "Yes, but he only drinks coffee." I said "Oh, right, that's a diuretic." Said the guy who was drinking cranberry juice as much as they allowed.

      My room--okay, it wasn't my room anymore--was next to "The Quiet Zone." This was the meds station. I guess the sign was to keep the unruly peasant mobs from storming the Pill Bastille. It actually wasn't quiet at all. The pill dispenser required a battery of keypunches and scanning of barcodes before it dispensed any meds. And to reset it, it required a large metal drawer being slammed hard closed. That's a lot of fun, feeling your bedroom wall move at 6AM! Right after you fell asleep after some madman's 3AM pleadings to G*D for a Starbucks or whatever.

      This would be a good place to say that I don't think the slam-drawer was designed like that. I think that everything in the hospital was made by Janky-Ass Shit LLC. Since American hospitals charge you the cost of a used Geo for a single aspirin, and their CEOs can only afford to have demolition derbies with their tiny 50 foot yachts, everything is made as cheap as dead leaves in the Fall. The shower required 2 hands to turn on or off, and, no shit, one nurse admitted that sometimes to turn it on, they needed a fucking wrench. You have to ask for toothpaste, which comes in tiny paper cups and is good for maybe 2 brushings before it turns to mint-flavored caulk. (I checked after release: yes, it is possible to commit suicide via toothpaste! If you ingest FIFTY TUBES WORTH OF IT. Christ, just suck your socks down)

      Sitting in the fleeting morning sun, I saw a bunch of security guards roaming outside. Acting like "What a lovely day! I certainly have my hand on my Glock only so that I tan evenly." There were 3 guys outside this one window. I connected it to some alert broadcast to the whole hospital, in their Enigma code. They had an escapee! One lumbering, neckless mesomorph came up and looked out the window, hand on one part of his hip. "Hi." I said. "Hello." grunted he, and left. I heard a nurse say "They have a walker." Meaning, someone who just said "Fuck this noise" and walked out of a low security unit.
      So, like man, I'm chillaxin' in my favorite 100-pound chairs by the window like a day later, right, and some other security guard comes up, right? Whoa, whoa, I'm totally telling this wrong, lemme start again.
      To Mom and Susan: "We had an escapee yesterday!' (gasps) "I was reading by the window, and then the alarm goes off! I had to plug my ears! It was some dumbass security guard who pushed on the emergency exit door. 'I thought it was a short cut!' he said. What an idiot."

      The chairs literally did weigh about 100 pounds. You could push them across the beautiful hardwood floors, but you couldn't pick them up. Because then you could throw them! in the wrong hands, they could be as dangerous as a teabag!! This turned out to be the "logic" behind a lot of things. Why did the Kleenex boxes only hold 90 tissues? Because you could throw the bigger ones and ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!
      THOR lunges in with Stormbreaker, impaling Thanos. THANOS: "ARRGH! Heh... You should have gone for the head!"
      The scrawny villain with male pattern baldness from Ant-Man II lobs a Kleenex box.
      THANOS: "OWWW! SHIT DUDE WHAT THE FUCK?!" (collapses to ground) "My...only weakness...a 90 count of 2-ply tissue paper..." CAPTAIN AMERICA, lifting his shield: "How about--THIS?" (throws a dry kitchen sponge)

      Said to sister Sue & my Mom: "If you're planning a Labor Day dinner, don't schedule it here!"
      The food was actually pretty good there. You could choose from a very large menu. You had to decide at breakfast what you wanted for dinner tomorrow night, which is a thing we all do in some universe. Parts of the menu were unexplained. "Circle One" meant you could, say, circle "chocolate chip cookie," and then put a "6" next to it, which is how SOME people get 6 chocolate chip cookies. It took me a while to get that was how I wasn't restricted to a single cranberry juice per meal. Have one, you could dehydrate on coffee, or be victimized by the used ginger ale market.
      This was one of the only times that I actually ate 3 meals a day. Not that I can't afford to, just that food at 8AM, gross. But that's because I say "gross" at the very concept of 8AM. Let's see: I think I generally had bacon, turkey sausage, a banana, and some cereal at breakfast. Pro tip: ordering cereal doesn't mean you'll get milk; order that with your juice. Lunch: generally a chic sal sand, which was really good, a side or 2. Dinner, usually some chicken, try the banana pudding parfait it's the chef's specialty. Make sure you have your disposable plastic utensils, because there's no way to open your damn juice without one. And have napkins, that juice is loaded to the top, so you'll wear as much as you drink.
      I guess that they were short-handed on Labor Day. The hospital was short-handed every day, because in America hospital, they don't charge no big moneys to staff properly like they do in the Canada!! So poor are we, we must hire Dickensian orphans as CEOs! So tiny are their yachts! I forgot what I'd ordered yesterday morning, but there was a cranberry juice. And 8 other things. Eight other wrong things. I got a grilled cheese sandwich, which was amazing. How can you make something so greasy, yet so unbelievably dry? It was like they dipped an old magazine in lard, then cooked it with a blowtorch. (I should've checked to see if that House Beautiful 2017 was still there) It wasn't all bad--I got to try the banana parfait. But the rest went to waste, besides the stuff Doc Bach grabbed off my tray without asking, while stuffing food in her mouth at the same time."Help yourself!" I said "I didn't order any of it!" while thinking "Did you escape from a Hieronymus Bosch painting?" I mentioned the food to the person who served it, in a "Hey, no big deal, just so you know" way, and she was hostile. I left it at that, because I don't want to be eating a rat tomorrow.
      The next day literally everything was wrong, again with double what I hadn't ordered which would all go in the garbage, except the juice. And...who would order this? A disgusting, wet slice of "pizza" paired with--stuffing? As I said to my sister Sue the next day "It's the saddest Thanksgiving ever!" She said "That's a lot of carbs!" I said "And it came with a side of mac and cheese!" I mentioned it to that day's server, and he got angry. "Who took the order?!" "I...don't know. I'm just saying, this is happening to everyone for the last 4 meals, and this is food just going to waste.." He nodded, clearly angry at someone. Every meal after that was perfect. He even made sure that it was right with everyone. Still, don't order the grilled cheese.

      I was intently watching hurricane Dorian bear down on the Bahamas. I said "My nephew and his wife live in the Bahamas." A tech said "Suuure they do" in a voice that implied "At least it won't hurt your cousins on Mars!" She made sure to repeat "Bill has a nephew in the Ba-ha-mas!" to anyone in earshot. I vowed to never speak again. And I didn't. (Jeff & Caroline live on the south island. They volunteered to help the refugees on the north island after the storm passed) (And as for my volunteering--I never volunteered any information unasked for over the rest of my stay. I'm just a lunatic, who believes what those people say)

      "I'm going to a book sale tomorrow!' said Awesome Cat Nurse. "If I find a cat book, I'll get it for you!" I laughed and said "I'm sure you will!"
      That was...one of those days near the end. I don't remember which. That weekend that I really didn't need to be there. Then I was told I'd be free on Monday, as soon as Patty could come get me. They got my stuff out of my locker and called security to send some armed knucklehead to get my money from the safe. "We can't give you your slippers until you physically leave the unit. The laces, you know." I said "I understand! As long as I have my socks!" They smiled, not getting the truly obscure joke from a Cracked article.
      Just hanging out in the Quiet Zone, in the giant chairs, counting the hours. Suddenly there was something going on up front. Well, one last stretch of my legs, I guess...
      A disoriented woman, in her johnnies. A nurse asked "Can you walk?" Another nurse laughed "Oh, she sure can! That's why she's here!"
      She was the walker that just said "La-dee-dah, fuck this noise" and decided to go home.
      Oh! I don't think I mentioned: In the ER, I tried this. They lock the doors from the inside, who knew?
      She came up to me soon after. She said "......." Fill any words you want into that. She mumbled in a whisper, and what few fragments I could understand, I didn't understand. She "talked" to me for a few minutes. I just kept nodding and saying "I don't understand." She nodded back, smiled, and walked up to someone else, and did the same thing.
      As I said at the beginning of this--no one wants to be there. A lot of us need to be there. She seemed like a kind and innocent soul, lost in this world of horror, of random chaos, of cold calculation by the truly evil people in power.
      The next patient in screamed and screamed. It was sheer pain to hear her, and know that I wasn't hearing more than a fraction of the pain she felt. Maybe she'd just awakened in this place, not knowing where or why she was there. She only spoke Spanish. She was only being translated to the exclusively Anglophone staff via the cleaning lady. How...how was this poor woman to get help here, where no one can even understand her?
      Her screaming became
      Christ, there are no words. If there's anything that crosses language, it's pain. She ended up in the Quiet Room. The staff deserted her to her tortured cries.
      She eventually quieted. From being calmed by the woman who no one could understand, the walker. I fake-paced by them. Did she also speak Spanish? No. They were speaking the universal language of "I Am Here. I Will Help." They were holding hands as I walked by. Just nodding, a smile on one's face, as the other's tears continued to fall, but now falling with another's. Miss Whisper calmed her. They spoke a different launguage than the rest of us.
      I sat in the hard chair for an hour. Yeah, snarky asshole. You're so much better than everyone here. You're the one who decided as soon as you entered, I'm here for me, no one else. "Talk to the staff." In that hallway, in that moment, with only one shared language, those two women understood each other more than I've ever understood any human in my life.

      "Your sister's here!" said the Cat Nurse. "I guess I'll have to give that book I got to someone else! 'The Metropolitan Museum of Cats' book!" And I left with Patty. I changed clothes in the public bathroom, because I didn't want to wear johnnies any more! I came out with the pants in my hand and looked for a place to leave them. Patty, who had just spent a week digging out the crap in my condo, said "Don't throw them away, they'd make good sleep pants!"
      After half a second, I said "Now you're just enabling me!' and threw them on the bench. We exited through, yes, the gift shop. We were on our way to see my Kondo'd condo!
      And behind me, two women were in the BHU, trying to make sense of their new lives. Just as I did.

      The end! Of inpatient. Next, let's dip our toes in the frigid waters of--outpatient! If you're thinking, Jeez is this ever going to end?!
      No. It doesn't. It's life.

      To cheer you up: The Poems of Curious Zelda, A Cat

11/11

       I hope this one won't be another 45K slab of text.
      There was a whiteboard outside the nurse's station. It had the date, the day's activities, and an Inspirational Quote. Except on the weekends. It actually is hard to know what day it is when you're locked in and every day is basically the same. The weather, I'm not sure why that was there. "It's a beautiful day...outside! Sucks to be you!" For some reason, it almost always said that it was a sunny day, even if it wasn't. It's Always Sunny in Schizophrenia!
      One weekend the quote was left up for 3 days. It was "Be Happy for what you have." Someone--not me--wiped it down to "Be Happy for what"?
      I filled out the last of my paperwork just before leaving. The last things I was handed were refills for my non-working prescriptions, and the schedule for STEPS, the substance abuse support group. I couldn't wait to finally get to sleep in, especially without the 3AM call to prayer from my roomie. I was told that the group would start in a week. It started at 8AM the next morning.
      I got home via Patty, with John waiting. Waiting for AAA, as he tried to move my car and the battery was dead. I'd been having trouble with it all year. It drained itself with doors closed; it even drained the power from my iPod. I went inside my condo, via John's sekrit knowledge that he was using to break in. it was a putty knife. At this point, there were 2 housekeys that were AWOL, so this was how I could get in. "I'm Ethan Hunt in Mission Impossible!" I said. "Next time I do this, I'm going to do it hangin' from wires! And I'll never walk, just run like this!" (does that weird Tom Cruise karate-chopping running. Does he think that looks cool? He runs like a penguin 100 feet from a Port-a-Potty and has diarrhea)
      The house was...very clean. The cleanest in 20 years, aka the last time I had a girlfriend over (Jess doesn't count). It also smelled...clean. Grotesquely clean. I can't stand the smell of cleaning products. Ammonia and bleach and at the same time, that's how you make chlorine gas. The windows were open on a breezy day, thank gourd. It was certainly clean of one thing.
      Cats.
      They were safe with their Auntie Jessie. But it was so empty there. And they couldn't come back until I got the all-clear from the health department.
      They both left, so that Patty could wait for AAA and I could get acclimated. I noticed stuff that was thrown away that I didn't need, and stuff I did that was also gone. Those plastic cat food can lids, they're not easy to find cheap. Apparently, Patty had found my 3 spatulas and said "No one needs 3 spatulas! What he needs is no spatulas!" A spatula is not a thing you make out of anything else. (Mom said that Patty got like that when cleaning. She'd recently bought a brand new pair of dance shoes for her daughter at Savers. Which she had donated by mistake) I did something I really needed to do. Shower and shave! Not that I didn't shower while in the asylum, but with actual shampoo (another forbidden substance there), and shaved for real. I was allowed to shave there, under supervision with a single-use razor. I said "Well, if I ever become homeless, at least I know it'll only take me a week to get the look!" It was not a very good shave. Bad enough that the (female) nurse volunteered to get the bits I missed. Maybe that's some turn-on for some guys, but not for me. No scissors, of course, and my beard was lookng like I was growing an Albert Einstein Chia Pet. So at home, I trimmed that down. After a while of catching up on email, I wondered why Patty handn't called me down for AAA. They'd replaced the battery, without asking me, Car Owner. The mechanic couldn't turn it on, so he was nearly in a panic. I took the keys and said "It's got one of those electronic deadbolts," and wanded it on. He was embarrassed. I hate that damn thing, and asked "Do you remove these?"
      I continued to clean. Attention must be paid! How else would I get the cats back? Jessica recommended this--"Don't give the Condo Ass any excuse! Let them stay with me until the health dept is done."
      That first night, I got so sick from the cleaning fumes. A pounding headache, and an open sluice at opposite ends of my body. And if I called out on my first day of STEPS, it was going to look bad. Which is what I should've done. The big threat they hung over me was that I couldn't get refills on my prescriptions. The ones that didn't work. I got maybe 3 hours sleep and dragged in. The guy who gave the initial interview had a familiar name. I asked "Are you the J.S. that used to come into Kay-Bee Toys and buy model kits?" And he was! In fact, he was still friends with one of his old babysitters--Patty! He'd just seen her a couple of weeks before. His father and mine were great friends. I mentioned the time his dad bought him a model of the battleship New Jersey, and that I thought it was above his skill level. It was, he said, "It was for my brother. I broke it playing with it, and he was so mad!' Interesting fact: I knew he was adopted, but not from where. It was Vietnam. He was an orphan on the very last helicopter out of Saigon as the Viet Cong were about to take the city.
      My first group wasn't until the next day. I think I can fit my experiences there all in one post, so I'll save those. I cleaned and cleaned. I dug out the closet of clothes that literally hadn't been worn since the Clinton years. Six bags full! I used the putty knife to clean my kitchen, which should give you an idea of how crusty it was. I called the health dept in a game of phone tag, before he agreed to come see my condo. I drove the hour one way to Jessica's to see my boys. I was expecting excited greetings, but Nope. DJ refused to come out from under a chair, although he purred quite loudly when I reached under to pet him. Byron sat on another chair, and alternated between purrs and growls. I'd brought some worn and unwashed clothes so that they could at least get my scent when I wasn't there. They weren't interested. I pointed at the open crotch of my pants and said to DJ, "You're in here all the time when I shit, why not now?!" Byron got thirsty or hungry, and s l o w l y came down from his chair. In 5 minutes he still was in mid-descent. "Don't worry, continental drift will bring you to the bowl in a million years."
      I was there almost 4 hours before I left dejected. I knew they were in the best of hands, and she said that they'd accepted her, although they weren't thrilled, and certainly a bit PTSD after the Gestapo raid.
      The health dept guy came. I had Patty with me, both because she'd talked to him more than once, and most guys are distracted by her (she's quite charming and pretty). He looked around, said "I can detect a little pet odor" but wasn't concerned. He said "My boss said I didn't really need to come here, but I said they basically invited me in." Patty and I exchanged a look of "We did all this for nothing?!" But all was fine and good, and I was glad he had come. If the Condo Ass talked to him, he clearly wasn't going to give them anything to use against me. And so far, they haven't. Besides the property manager twice asking John "How many cats does he have? He's only allowed one!" Which is A: True, and B: Bullshit. They changed the rules after I'd lived there 25 years. At first they grandfathered the old owners in, but I guess they changed it. You can keep more than one pet, but it's like a $25 per month fine. John said he didn't know how many I had, though obviously he did. I'm just going to point out to them that when I said I had 3, it was on a survey from almost 10 years ago. Since I currently have 2, one of whom now runs away any time he hears something that may be the cops coming the stairs, yeah, prove I have 2, assholes.
      As soon as the health dept sounded the all clear, it was back to Massachusetts to grab the Boys! They usually scream and fight going into carriers, but they were very happy to get in this time. (Byron was a bit stroppy, but that's B) They were happy to be home. A bit confused by how things looked and smelled now, but happy. DJ a little clingier and jumpier at outside noises, Byron a bit back to his "The floor is lava!" phase. But we were now about as normal as things were before.
      Next time: group therapy, or Bill Y meets Bill W!

      Old-Timey Life Hacks from Forever Ago

      The 100 best, worst, and weirdest things we saw on the internet in the 2010s

11/11

       Couple of things from the hospital stay:
      Some "mindfulness" meeting that was just quiet music. I skimmed a book. The woman running it was certainly still in college. To encourage conversation, she asked "Who here has grandchildren?" This was the 50+ ward, so not an unreasonable icebreaker. Out of 7 patients, only one raised her hand. Which kind of surprised me, until I thought that none of my 3 sisters have any. She continued "Good! How many?'
      "Two. A boy and a girl."
      "Good, good! Do you have any children?"

      I went to my room--when it was still my room--and thought "Huh, I guess I must've tossed a blanket on the floor during the night." I bent over to pick it up, but stopped before throwing it on the bed. I went to the nurse's station. I patiently waited until one of them was free. I said "Who's that in my bed?" The head nurse screamed from down the hall "THERE'S SOMEONE IN YOUR BED?!" And 3 nurses immediately ran to the room. It was one of the heavily medicated patients. My room had once been hers. "We'll change the sheets!" they said. I walked out of the room and saw a couple of fellow inmates smiling at me, trying not to laugh. I said "And she ate all my porridge, too!"

      Speaking of thin gruel, that was group therapy. Just the saem thing, 3 days a week. Less than 4 hours a day, including an hour's worth of breaks (with a free lunch!). I've never been a group person. Get me with people I don't know, I shut up. And, as Patty said as I was deciding to leave the program, "If you have as little in common with the people in your group as you did with the people in the hospital, I don't see why you're going." In the first group, there was a guy who was there for the sixth time in a couple of years. One said she'd been clean for 11 years, then had an incident that led to her taking 15-20 bags of Fentanyl a day. A guy graduating listed the many drugs he'd been doing, which meant little to me, and the other addicts gasped. "You were doing 400mg of [prescription drug] every day?!"
      It was out of my experience. I basically apologized one time, saying that my family and friends were very supportive, as this was my first time. This led to the rest of group's rueful half-smiles. Their stories had a lot of burned bridges. The 11-years-clean woman's mother thought she was missing some money (she wasn't) and immediately accused her daughter. There were people who'd lost their jobs, their fiancee of years, their wife and kids. One owned a 3-star restaraunt in New York CIty in the 80s that was very popular. She coped with the endless crush of restaraunt business in that 80s way, cocaine. The place was gone soon.
      The graduation ceremonies I liked , because someone had beaten their addiction, at least for now. But we others had to list what we identified with in their stories, and it wasn't always easy for me. I even said so at one, and the graduate just nodded and smiled. No, I do not identify with making $1500 a day dealing drugs. I don't identify with having $180K in your house, before it was stolen by another gang. (Advice from him: Don't spend your drug money in a flashy way) I sure haven't ever decided to recoup my losses by stealing a loaded UPS truck. "I figured there must be at least $70K in stuff in one of those!' Other patient: "Oh yeah, $75 to 80, easy!" This is not a question I would get on The Price is Right. "They never found the truck--oh, wait, yeah, they did." Where? At the bottom of the Housatonic River?
      Several people were there because their parole demanded it. One guy, during our recap, said "I finally got off probation! And, I admit it, I celebrated with a couple of drinks and some weed." Counselor: "...Thank you for your honesty." He didn't graduate. Was he thrown out for his honesty, or just waited for that one last free lunch and legal freedom to quit?
      One guy was fresh out of detox and still shaking. He'd arrive 10 minutes to an hour late, because he didn't know what time it was. We began each session with a brief recap of what we'd done since the last one. When I said I'd cleaned out 6 trash bags of clothes, I added "If you know any short skinny guys who want to wear 80s dress shirts, I'm your guy!" This guy's eyes sparkled. "There are places where you can sell old clothes for cash!" I thanked him, saying I was donating them to charity and thinking "He's not out of the addict mindset yet." On his last day, that recovered guy gave his history and hopes to stay clean. Every graduate of the program gets a coin from AA (the program was basically just AA, with smaller groups and more supervision). It was passed from each of us to finally him, where we told him what we thought of him and wished him luck. When it got to our clothes-selling friend, he examined it closely. The coins have inspirational mottos on each side, so I thought he was pondering what to say. After 2 minutes, he stopped and said "Do I get to keep this?" The counselor said "No...that's Mike's." "Oh." And was surprisingly eloquent in his speech. When it finally made it to Mike, he asked "So...is that gold?" "No, it's brass, dude." "You sure? Is it gold-plated?" "Dude! It's just brass!' said in a tone of "You're embarassing us other addicts!" He never came back.
      The drop-out rate was unsurprsingly high. I'm sure group worked for some people. But it's group. There's always the 2-4 people who dominate every conversation, and even interrupt a direct question to someone else. Who would generally be like me, and just cede the floor to them. The counselors sometimes would steer it back to the person asked--or steer it to themselves and talk at length. About nothing.
      The very first thing we did every meeting was take a breathalyser test. I flunked once! It was the day after visiting the Boys, which was depressing. So I took my meds and drank beer. I quit 12 hours before the test, and drank a half gallon of water over the time I slept. But still I failed. At twice the limit! Less than 10 minutes later, they took it again, and I was now under the limit. In 10 minutes? I was told to leave the meeting for the day. I hung out 20 minutes in the parking lot, then went to an AA meeting, as they'd recommended. It was the all woman's meeting, so I just went home and googled. Did I fail because of my meds? No, there's really no med that will give a false positive. But both of them warned "Do not take with alcohol," so maybe they just extended it. Hey Therapist who said my only problem was drinking, why'd you prescribe those? What I did find out is you can get a false positive from the breathalyser itself. The cheap handheld ones are so inaccurate that they're frequently not even entered into evidence in court.
      There really isn't much else to tell about the month I was in group. Except maybe me mentioning my local police, and everyone groaned and said "Vernon?! They're like the Gestapo!" Finally I asked for a recommendation for an outside therapist for one-on-one. This was greeted like I asked for 15 bags of Fentanyl. I found a list through state medicare, and one of the ones listed was assigned to the group. He wasn't happy either, and told a counselor to get me a list of therapists that my insurance would take. He was still mad about this. I mentioned that I could also talk to my sister, whose husband is a licensed psychologist (for minors), and that my friend Jess had some background in therapy, having worked for the BHU in that very building for a couple of years. (As a receptionist, but she'd also sat in on groups) "Well," he nearly spat, "I guess she's not much use then, because you're here!" Wow...did you just slag my closest friend and heavily imply that everyone in group is a loser? I guess we must be, if we have to talk to you! My plan was to do both group and one-on-one for a while, but that kind of cemented it. Especially the next day, when Patty said the quote above.
      "Send me the link!" said Patty. "Maybe John knows some of the therapists!' He didn't, but she did. So now I have an outside therapist. I saw her weekly over the last month, and just switched to monthly. I like her very much, but I'm really just trying to forge a support system so that shit never happens to me again. And to repeat: Don't call the suicide hotline. They sent me a bill of $364 for calling them. If someone was suicidal over debt, what do they think that's going to do? I haven't paid them, as they didn't say anything on their site or in the call about it costing me anything. It may just be their scam, hitting people when they're most vulnerable. For all I know, they've sold my address to other vendors!
      (Opens today's mail, finds an offer from "Neptune Cremation Services")
      Two days after Pat and my visit to Panera and the Unfortunate Sandwich, I was pacing the floor, thinking about having just quit group. I looked out the window at 130AM. There was a town EMT truck outside. And a police SUV! And, here comes another SUV! And they're all parked in front of my building! And now, the cops are walking to the door of my common hallway! And now, I'm literally tiptoeing to my own door. I drew the little chain closed, thinking "This will only slow them down long enough for me to say 'Do you have a warrant?' but if they smash the door in, I'll have proof of forced entry, and this is how I'm going to think about cops for the rest of my life, isn't it?"
      I heard someone open their door and say "Hello." Wait, what, is that...? Yes, it was my downstairs neighbor the Dog Whisperer, the one in the apartment that my sink leaked water into. Where this whole thing started.
      He was strapped to a gurney, in a much more voluntary and violence-free way than I was. Is he having a medical emergency? I guess not. An ambulance turned up, but he was put in the EMT truck, and it sat there for 20 minutes. It finally left, turning into the front of his garage. That was off; he never parks in his garage but in front of it, but his car mustn't have been there. A cop climbed up to my floor, and yeah that felt fun. He looked around briefly. Maybe he was remembering "Ah, the third floor! I remember smashing into both these units!" (My peaceful neighbors also had a visit from the goon squad a few years back) He left, sat in the SUV probably filling out an incident report. He left; the ambulance stayed, with the engine running. An hour later, the EMT returned and out got the ambulance guys. Huh? I could've have stolen an ambulance!
      The next day, I saw him walking his dog. What? You get locked up for 12 hours, I get locked up for 12 days?! What happened to him? I don't know, or much care. However, his car was back, minus the big signs on the sides about his dog training service that described him as "the Dog Whisperer." When I first saw that car, I thought "Copyright infringement." I assume there was some connection, but none a my beeswax.

      And now we're pretty much up to date. It all ended as it began, with a leaky sink and a trip via the PD. And so ends The Saga of the Sinkcident. Except for how it'll affect me for the rest of my life.
      

      


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