May 31, 2006

It’s OOOOOOOOOOONNNNNNNNN!!!

Filed under: PolenPoker, PolenBabble — Twin C @ 7:52 pm
Online Poker

I have registered to play in the PokerStars World Blogger Championship of Online Poker!

This Online Poker Tournament is a No Limit Texas Holdem event exclusive to Bloggers.

Registration code: 4907503

UPDATE: Crap. I can’t actually play it - I’m totally booked at that time. Why are they doing it on Father’s Day anyway????? Feh feh feh feh.

DAMMIT.

Filed under: PolenBabble, Kvetch! Kvetch! Kvetch! — Twin C @ 5:00 pm

I was trying not to post for a day or two, as I was enjoying having only the letters from Lem up.

But the kvetch must come out.

My job has now decided to block instant messaging, one of the few things that helped keep me sane. No more IM Madness. I’m so fucking pissed.

Lots of stories from last weekend. . . coming soon.

May 30, 2006

The Last Letter From Lem

Filed under: Letters From Lem — Twin A @ 10:22 pm

Todd:

“In the late 70’s and early 80’s the Lower East Side
was a war zone, and I lay on my back in an empty
building with cockroaches crawling over my chest. I
made love to two women in that building, but there was
a third that I wanted more than any, and her name was
Mercury.” Harry Lomax laughed. “You know Mercury,
right? With the wings on the helmet?” I nodded
hesitantly, afraid that he was going to eat my head.
“Ha ha,” he cackled. “I know you know her.”

Red and I sat at the back of the day room, stupefied.
Harry sat back and started mumbling to himself. I
then came up with an excuse to slip by him (something
about cups and snacks) and Red followed. On the way
out, he whispered something to Red. “What was that?”
I asked. “He asked me if you were my husband or my
brother. I told him you were my friend.”

I have to admit, I felt a certain protective fraternal
feeling towards Red, but she’s the kind of girl who
can look out for herself. And after a day where we
had seen Harry Lomax try to leave 20 East by throwing
himself with full force upon one of the grated windows
in the day room, we felt like the Bobsey Twins getting
past him while he was still lucid.

Now we’re both out, Todd. We left at the same time
today, Tuesday 11 a.m. I walked across the yellow
line that patients may not cross, but somehow I feel
like I’m still there. Tonight I am haunted by the
people that still sleep on those shitty little beds,
cursed by a Republican government to live out the rest
of their lives in a contracting welfare system where
the bottom rung is the mentally ill, and the lowest of
the low are the mentally ill substance abusers.

I ended up there because I had a nervous breakdown and
threw myself out a window while high on a couple
things. Those things go on your record, and that
determines where you stay if and when you go to a
psych ward. I went to a dual-diagnosis locked unit–
that is, a unit you can’t leave for at least a week
for mentally ill substance abusers.

I voluntarily committed myself, which cut my stay down
to two weeks. That, and the fact that I played it
cool as ice while I was in there, going with the flow,
telling the doctors no, no, and no in as calm a voice
I could muster, while inside I wanted to go all Girl
Interrupted.

That’s the name Red and I gave to the little
20-year-old who freaked out and kicked the walls and
screamed one night when they dragged her in, screamed
and screamed until they put her down with a five-foot
needle. Turns out she was a junkie but that didn’t
console me any.

Anyhow, I’m still in 20 East, thinking about how my
skin color and my social class got me out of that
sooner than my fellow inmates. Let me tell you who
I’m thinking about tonight:

Samuel Baptista, who played the best game of checkers
I had ever seen until I saw him get beaten by a West
African staffer,

Austin, the young guy who tagged along with Shakeer
and talked about how he was going prescribe ‘gnac and
sex all night to all the patients (the ultimate cure
in my opinion),

Vivian, who cleaned up after everyone and taught me
how to play spades,

Nasheeda, or Yvette, who is HIV-positive but still
talked about how she wants some dick loudly, while I
was finishing The Arabian Nights (thanks Twin B),

James, who had been in and out of the system since ‘95
and kept creeping up behind Red and telling her she
smelled good,

Ed Michaels, a vagrant from Detroit who ended up here
because his feet hurt and he wanted to rest in the
hospital,

Ray, an old bruiser of a man who reminded me of one of
my mother’s lumberjack uncles,

Phil, another well-off suicide (slit wrists for him),

Peter, who claimed he was there by accident and was
ALMOST totally convincing,

Denise, who had a strange lump in her belly but wasn’t
pregnant or cancerous,

Anthony, who walked around like a zombie,

LaFawn, who rapped poorly, had a lazy eye and stuck
his finger in my belly button and asked Red about hers
(turns out he’s a bisexual fetishist),

Miguel, the only sane person left after Red and I
left– the sweetest, most gentle-hearted man you could
meet– full of self-loathing and convinced he was
going to die an alcoholic.

For all of these people, trapped in a downward spiral
in a system that offers no help, I say a prayer
tonight. Because prayer is what you do when you have
no other options left.

Please, God, Universe, whatever– have mercy on them.
Get them through the endless cycle of days and nights
where you are constantly medicated and prodded and
bored and you forget what day of the month it is. And
you snap and then you stay there.

Like I almost did. Tonight, I’m still there. I half
expect that this apartment, which I have been gazing
at from a distance for two weeks, will melt away
during the night and I will be back in that white room
with Felix Felix, plotting how to hoard snacks for the
day. That’s the kind of thing that happens in The
Arabian Nights, you know.

White boy, interrupted,

Lem

May 29, 2006

Letters From Lem #11

Filed under: Letters From Lem — Twin A @ 12:43 pm

Todd,

Felix Felix is hanging out with Samuel and one of the new patients in the dining room. They’re taking turns singing sad songs in Spanish that float into my room as I read The Arabian Nights. Behind their singing is music from a boombox, nurses snapping, and patients lazily acting out their impulses in the hallway. Today is the day that I read and nap with glorious weekend sunshine pouring through the safety grating.

There’s been a lot of new admissions to the ward in the past couple of days. I saw an older Polish man with fierce eyebrows and tucked in pajamas looking longingly across the river at Greenpoint so intensely that I thought he might fly across the water to return there. I aslo saw a tiny 20 year old woman tearfully beg her parents not to leave her in this place, and then explode in pain and rage, kicking the walls and reinforced windows, when they turned their backs on her and walked away. Eight nurses wearing purple gloves helped tuck her into bed.

At least four patients are under one to one observation. I can’t keep track of why anymore — one of them is always Harry Lomax and the rest are probably suicide cases. Speaking of which, Red my favorite wall street headcase just told me about everything that happend today while I was hiding in my room. Apparently in a group meeting Harry burst out in a complete rendition of “All you need is Love” (despite the protestations of the group leader.) Also Red went to church this morning. Church was a short-tempered priest lecturing at an altar on wheels butted up against a ping-pong table in a rec room whose walls were covered with patients artwork. (Red has asked that I make it clear to the world that she is not Catholic. Just bored.)

Tody was grooming day and Felix Felix is now sporting a buzz cut. Also, there were banana splits in the afternoon which I missed because I was having visiting hours with my mother.

I’d like to give a shout out to my mom who has been typing my pitiful handwritten letters and sending them to you Todd. She says she doesn’t mind but I wouldn’t have been able to smuggle these messages out of here without her formidable secretarial skills.

Two more days — looking forward to wearing shoelaces again,

Lem

May 28, 2006

Letters From Lem #10

Filed under: Letters From Lem — Twin A @ 2:26 pm

Todd,

The cast came off my arm today, and with every third word I scrawl, my entire forearm twinges with pain. So let me get right to the point — they let me onto the roof today, and I smelled the polluted air and felt the wet, hot sun bake the back of my neck. The rooftop area is completely fenced in, like an enormous batting cage, and paved with the black playground rubber that keeps little children from breaking their limbs. I clutched the chain link and stared at the city skyline, gulping freedom.

To be honest, being out in the open air for the first time in weeks made me a little sad and anxious. I’m worried about what real life is going to be like, and the rooftop smelled like real life. When I descended back into the hospital, though, I noticed for the first time an acrid, metallic tang in the air. Hospital air has a distinct, flat, unpleasant odor and I blocked it out until today. Between the uncertainty of the asphalt and stormclouds, and an antiseptic blanket, I’ll take the rooftop.

The name of the gigantic man who is wrecking havoc in the ward is Harry Lomax. Last night at dinner he flipped over an entire table, dinner trays and all and walked through our midst with a quivering bowl of pea soup in his hand. This morning my door creaked open terribly and slowly. “Where are my shoes?” rasped a hulkiing mass. “Get out of this room!” I replied as authoritatively as possible. Harry Lomax closed the door and I heard his bellowing echo down the hallway as he lumbered toward the nurses’ station — “I want my motherfucking shoes!”

Later, everyone was hanging out in the day room watching a VHS copy of Return of the Jedi, and Harry started pounding his fists on his knees and yelling “Jam Nad Sox!” at the top of his lungs. My roommate Felix Felix (I found out yesterday he has the same first and last names) threw a chair across the floor just to add to the chaos.

My right arm is scrawny and bent like a chicken wing. It will not defend me from the depradation of Harry Lomax. I’m counting on Felix Felix to protect me as I sleep, and common sense to keep me out of trouble during waking hours.

Now, medication time!

Three more crazy days,

Lem

May 27, 2006

Letters From Lem #9

Filed under: Letters From Lem — Twin A @ 8:15 pm

Todd,

Waters, the guy who tried to climb over the railing of the Empire State Building, was finally allowed to leave this morning. When they asked him to share his thoughts in the morning Community Meeting, he grinned and said, “Well, uh, I grew up watching Daffy Duck in Bellevue Hospital and now I’m out of here and y’all are still in the nuthouse.”

David W. left too, on a bus to New Hampshire carrying his ten trillion dollar blueprints in his pocket. A couple of other people are leaving after the three-day weekend, including me — they’ve finally given me a definite discharge date of Tuesday at 11 AM.

Felix and Shakeer got caught smoking cigarettes (they tried sneaking one in Shakeer’s shower.) We were all confined to the day room while they searched the rooms one by one. I witnessed the humiliating spectacle of Shakeer taking off his pants and standing bare-asses in the day room while the staff truned them inside out looking for smokes. Now Felix is stuck in his room indefinitely. I gave him chocolates from my care package and donuts that I bought from the Friday snack guy. He looked wretched.

The ward is messy, the staff seems tired and unfocused, already half out the door to their Memorial day Holiday. Keys jangle, nurses shake their heads.

Nasheeda is a relative new comer to the ward. “Geth the fuck out of my face, you fucking broke-down motherfucking New Jersey nigger!” she hollers at Carl. (Carl said he would play spades iwth her, then gleefully refused to play. Carl is a little unbalanced.)

There are two new additions to the ward today — both huge men with glazed expressions. One of them jostled me in the snack line, smelling of burnt garbage. The other just looks like he wants to hurt somebody.

Jerry Springer blares on TV. Patients wander in erratic patterns through the day room, into the hallway, with intense expressions on their faces. James, a deranged male patient, edges a seat close to Red. “It’s gonna be a long weekend, dude,” she growls to me under her breath. I grin and nod, knowing that I have just received the wall street forecast.

Sure enough, as soon as I walk out of the room, one of the new heavyset guys lunges for a total stranger, trying to choke him. He is removed. Five burly staffers descend on his room to give him an injection.

Then, lunch is served. For no good reason, Nasheeda starts to serenade us, toothlessly and tunelessly. “They call me Star,” she proclaims to a captive audience.

More to come,

Lem

Letters From Lem #8

Filed under: Letters From Lem — Twin A @ 8:14 pm

Todd,

Today an excort showed up and walked me out of 20 East, down some elevators, through a long bustling corridor and up another set of elevators to Bellevue’s Outpatient Chemical Dependency Clinic.

The clinic is close to ground level, and I could smell dirt and grease and sunshine through the propped-open windows; a three-dimensional odor of Manhattan that I had almost forgotten. I drank some freshly brewed coffee and sat next to Joyce, a gigantic black woman who pointed to a piece of paper and made me run to a relapse group down the hall.

I sat at a huge table and for the first time, listened to a somewhat coherent round-table discussion of various peoples problems with addiction. Sure, some eccentric personalities dominated, but the conversation wasn’t run off the rails by the ravings of a lone wacko the way they so often are on 20 East.

After sitting in on a Patient Government group (where the patients discussed cooking up group meals and maintaining the communal garden), I was surprised to find myself in genuine conversation over a lunch that hadn’t been re-heated. It was served up soup-kitchen style and as Al Green sang “Help me mend this broken man” in the background, I chatted with Charlie and Antolin, the men sitting across and to the right of me. I explained to them that I was on a visitor’s pass from 20 East, the psychiatric ward upstairs. I braced myself for the inevitable flinches.

Charlie smiled, “I was on 18 west.” “I was on 17 west” added Antolin. Just take it easy, go with the flow, don’t fight it, they advised me. Antolin went on to describe the relationship between spirituality and bipolar disorder. His prosed link was persuasive: both topics involve our volatile relationships with our own unconscious minds. Antolin left me with his buisiness card, which described him as “spiritually sensitive.” On the back of the card was printed a small blue circle and the words, “Look at the circle and ask any question. Trust the response you get. keep on asking questions.”

I was escorted back up to 20 East. I looked over a care package I had received from some old friends in Chicago — the nurses had confiscated everything in it except a book two issues of the Onion and some greeting cards, which they had opened and read. Shakeer and Felix snuck out of my room to smoke a cigarette. I kept my eyes on this piece of paper — I gotta keep my nose clean if I’m gonna spring this joint.

More to come,

Lem

May 26, 2006

Guest Post!

Filed under: Kvetch! Kvetch! Kvetch!, PolenNews — Twin C @ 1:50 pm

Here’s is R. Ooghe’s retelling of The Great Canoe Incident of 2006:

After several cups of coffee from the McKleinfeld Wedding Mug, I chose to join the Boating Activity Group led by Sarah over the Hiking Expedition that Sven was going to lead. The promise of nautical adventure was too much for me to resist, and especially with the view of all the sleek and smart-looking green canoes set out on the waterfront it was clear there would be no other way to experience this lake, even if it were drizzly, cold and windy. There were also two paddleboats, Twin C and I opting for a modular yellow one looking like a set piece from a 1970’s Saturday morning science fiction show. Twin C and I charged into the breech, shoving off within minutes of getting down to the water. The stability and sturdiness of the paddleboat allowed us to believe that the limited supply of life-jackets should best be left to those in the canoes, namely Sarah, Sally and Matt Shaw in one, Ross and his girlfriend in another, and Sally’s uncle and his son in a third. Rainbow and Chris also set off on the second paddleboat.

Twin C and I paddled around feeling like pirate raiders for as long as it took for the other canoes to launch into the lake. Then we felt like hopeless retirees splashing and flailing ineffectually and exhaustingly, as the canoes glided out past us towards high adventure. It was obvious that the intent of the boating expedition was to get out of the little inlet we were situated on, round a spit of land extending into the main body of the lake, and then investigate a mysterious island in the middle of the lake Twin C and I imaginatively dubbed “Mystery Island�. Twin C boisterously launched into a the yar of a pirate captain inciting us onwards to greater and greater effort, which began to seem increasingly futile as the canoes sped away from us. On top of that, some design flaw in our craft boded ill in that the paddleboat was really taking on a lot of water, it’s prow tipping into the glassy lake and sloshing water into the compartment with each peddle such that my shoes were splashing into the water more and more as we seemed to be settling deeper and deeper into the water.

Realizing that this was not getting any better, Twin C and I peddled slowly back to shore and claimed the last canoe now that the challenge was clearly to make it to this island as soon as possible, since Sarah, Matt and Sally were already halfway there. Twin C and I shoved off of the pier, mightily making up for lost time with the clockwork precision rowing of the Princeton Crew, or at least it felt that way compared to the sinking paddleboat experience, until we rounded the spit of land and set out onto the open lake.

Mystery Island was visible in the distance, but once out on the main part of the lake the wind began to buffet us in a way that dramatically slowed our progress. The immediate problem was that Twin C and I had to often switch the side we were paddling on, as whenever the canoe was pointed even slightly away from Mystery Island which was almost directly windward, we would be spun one way or the over on the choppy waves in a way that took extremely strenuous effort to correct. Sarah and Sally’s distant canoe had clearly made landfall a long time ago, but no matter how hard we paddled we only made slow, creeping progress. I removed my coat and sweater, really heaving the oar into the water as Twin C did the same, water splashing everywhere.

Then an awful thing happened.

About fifty yards from Mystery Island, choppy, white tipped waves rocked the canoe as we battled forward against the wind. In one sickeningly inevitable moment, I felt the canoe rock just past the center of balance- (I would later come to suspect that what had happened was that Twin C and I simultaneously tried to counter the wind by both paddling on the opposite side of where the wind was coming from, the side which also was sending waves against us)- such that for one moment we were lurching over and the next moment we were plunged fully, and heavily, clothed, into a suddenly wet , cold, very watery, lake.

Treading water, and speaking very clipped, the immediately understood thing to do was to get back in the now stupid, hateful canoe. Fortunately, the canoe itself had not tipped over, it just bobbed mockingly, and Twin C swum around to the other side to stabilize it while I clambered awkwardly back in, and moved to the center to steady it while Twin C did the same. Soaking wet and cold, we both plopped into the body of the canoe to catch our breath, gather our wits and let the adrenaline jitters pass. Neither of us were speaking, but it was clear that the moment had been simultaneously scary and infuriating, water was sloshing around the canoe, shoes were wet and sweaters were soaked, wind was cold and it was altogether just a wretched feeling.

After delicately paddling a few yards, Sarah, Sally and Matt Shaw were with us to suggest we still go ahead aways to the island (the previous reverie of calling it Mystery Island now beyond inappropriate), while I tried to convey that the only thing that would now be happening was a return to the closest shore on our side of the lake. Twin C had still not spoken, but the vibe I was getting from him was about the same as Marilyn would have emanated had she been chucked overboard. I switched from soaked tee shirt to merely wet sweater, and we haphazardly made it to some other miniature marina, and staggered ashore. Twin C and I went our soggy ways, and long hot showers followed.

A big, mayonnaisy sandwich and coffee had the desired effect, while I tried to explain to about a dozen armchair canoe-ologists the circumstances of the accident, and that there were simply no life-jackets *left* when we had set back out, nor was it that windy at that point. This pivotal episode placed me directly into the consciousness of most of the wedding party for the rest of the trip as one of the capsized-without-a-life-jacket guys, although I fortunately missed the blandishments of the park ranger who was moved to visit our camp after the accident.

Last Weekend’s Madness, or The Dampening of My Spirits, part 2

Filed under: PolenBabble, Kvetch! Kvetch! Kvetch! — Twin C @ 12:28 pm

I dragged a canoe over to the dock, where R. was patiently waiting, sans shoes and socks, grabbed paddles, and set back out. Our first mission: recover R.’s shoes and socks, which he had (probably wisely) given to another paddle boat to hold onto while we got back to shore. We paddled out to the boat and made a quick recovery. Then: on to the mysterious island!

Getting to the island started to prove difficult. It was kind of far out, and we had turned a corner and suddenly noticed that it had gotten a lot windier, and the water seemed to be moving against us, and it was really wavy for a lake. So wavy, in fact, that there were actually little whitecaps crashing against us. I also noticed that every once in a while the canoe would suddenly tip rapidly in one direction, causing R. and I a bit of a scare, and a bit of a laugh. I figured weight was just getting uncentered every once in a while, and I was in the back steering and guiding, I did my best to stay centered. We slogged on, especially when we saw that another canoe had made it to the island - if they could make it, so could we!

Suddenly, the canoe did the weird rapid tip thing, except this time, it was a LOT steeper. Time slowed down as I realized the one thing I did not want to happen, did not even think was possibly going to happen, was going to happen. I thought “NO I’m not going in the water, it’s too cold and I’m wearing all my clothes and it’s going to suck no no NOOOOOOOOOOOOO well if I’m going to go in I should just let myself and stop fighting it NO ARE CRAZY? you DON’T want to fall in LEAN BACK MORE FIGHT IT NOOOOOOOOOOOO”. And in we went.

The water was pretty cold, but not freezing. I surfaced immediately and grabbed the canoe. R. had done the same. My first thought was (believe it or not) “Fuck. My cigarettes.”, followed closely by “I WANT OOOUUTTTT NNNNNNNNOOOOOOOOOWWWWWW!!!!” R. kept a level head and suggested that I should stop frantically struggling to get in the canoe, and switch to the other side so we could counterbalance each other. I agreed, and moved around, R. got himself in, and then I pulled myself up and in, somehow ending up facing backwards, sitting on the floor of the canoe in three inches of water.

Other canoes came over to make sure we were okay, which we were, just soaked and cold. (I was also highly irritated, not with R. or myself, just at the situation we had gotten ourselves into.) We decided to not bother going all the way back to the beach, but to just get over to the closest dock and get out. I got myself facing forwards again and slowly paddled over, through the wind and the waves and the weird tipping thing that was still happening. (I suppose since we were already soaked, it wouldn’t have mattered if we had gone in again.) We got to the dock and got out, and one of the other canoes tied ours to theirs so the could tow it back. R. and I slinked back to our cabins, where I peeled everything off downstairs and then took a half hour long hot shower to warm back up. My sneakers went into the oven for a little while to dry out (it worked pretty well), and I wrung out the rest of my clothes and hung them in the bathroom to dry (it didn’t work - they were brought home in a plastic bag, as not to soak everything else in a five foot radius).

R. and I became infamous for the rest of the weekend as “those guys who went in the lake”. As it turns out DKNY was also thrown into the lake the night before, and managed to take one of his attackers in with him.

The rest of the weekend was not nearly as tumultuous - the wedding ceremony a few hours later was lovely. The wedding banquet was tasty (but cold - I ended up in a seat sticking half-way out of the tent, with nowhere else to go). We ran away from the dancing and instead decided to indulge in some tasty vowels that Twin A had procured. They made the rest of the evening MUCH nicer. The trip home the next day was long but uneventful.

R.’s guest post will fill in more of the weekend. At this point, there’s just one thing I can say. . .

Congratulations DKNY and Sally!!!!

May 25, 2006

Letters From Lem #7

Filed under: Letters From Lem — Twin A @ 4:38 pm

Shakeer is dancing to the radio in Room 20E47. He’s a big black guy shaking it all up in powder blue pajamas. As I walk by I meet his eyes and smile. The staff lets the patients listen to the radio or watch movies in this room when things are settling down in the evening. Vivian pulls Austin out of the room; it’s his turn to help prepare the evening snack (peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as usual).

Standing in the snack line, Randy and David walk up to me. “How are you feeling, sir?” asks David courteously. I wonder who he thinks I am tonight. Levine is acting up - “My beard is not funny!” He then takes it upon himself to run down the hallway yelling “SNACK TIME!” at the top of his lungs.

We file in. Hushed with awe, we enter the dining room to find that tuna fish sandwiches have been added to the usual pyramid of pb&j. Greedy fingers snatch at wax paper. The nurses’ voices become shrill. In a burst of violence, my roomate Felix and Shakeer (two huge, coiled men) fight over a half a sandwich across the room. The altercation peters out & confusion hangs over my head as I swallow cheap bread.

I’m finishing this with an orange sharpie because someone stole my pen. The orange link is bleeding through on to the dictionary I used to play Scrabble with Red tonight. Red is a commodities trader who tried to kill herself with half a bottle of vodka and seventy sleeping pills. Tomorrow will be her 29th birthday. As our meds kick in, our scrabble game gets less and less competitive, and we start counting made-up words to get rid of our chips. Red ends with “jube,” which we later find out is a real word, meaning “to bid or command.” A double dose of Seroquel jubes me to escape another night at 20 East in dreamless sleep.

More to come,
Lem

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