Prologue: Caged

(February 19, 1969)


I was caged.

Then, I was driven.

Driven to Cherokee.

A hazy memory of riding caged in the back of a police car.

Two shadows in the front seat, the county sheriff and a female escort.

Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” buzzing from a tinny transistor radio.

Outside, the Iowa landscape bleak:

Cloudy and cold, condensation and frost riming the windows, piles of dirty snow dotting the countryside.

I, cargo.

Destination: Cherokee’s other place, the outline on the hill.

Shifting, crossing my legs…

Please, can we stop?

Hot and steamy inside.

Shivering, my teeth rattling.

Please…I have to go!

Hear something, George?

Naw, nothin’ important.


Cargo has no voice.

Madness has no voice.

Listen, crazy girl…

Two voices: We have come to take you away, ha, ha…

“I’m crazy, crazy…”

Fragments, crazy-quilt impressions, acid flashbacks…

I, crazy?

* * * * *

From I, Driven: a memoir of involuntary commitment ("Prologue")

© 2008-2010, by Jennifer Semple Siegel

Excerpt may not be used or copied without author’s permission.


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Monday, July 21, 2008

Excerpt--October 5, 1968: "Wallich's Music City and Eleanor's Radio"


WGDY Top Ten

1. Hey Jude/Revolution, Beatles (1)

2. Harper Valley P.T.A., Jeannie C. Riley (2)

3. Fire, Crazy World of Arthur Brown (5)

4. Midnight Confessions, Grass Roots (9)

5. I've Got to Get a Message to You, Bee Gees (6)

6. Time Has Come Today, Chambers Bros. (13)

7. Indian Reservation, Don Fardon (7)

8. Girl Watcher, O’Kaysions (11)

9. Little Green Apples, O.C. Smith (8)

10. On the Road Again, Canned Heat (4)


It was after eight, a crisp evening, and Rick was still missing.

Damn him . A total jerk.

I kicked at the ground, scuffing my shoes on the pavement. If he weren’t so cute...

“Hey, Eleanor, would you turn up your radio?” From my left, a male voice, not too deep, with a funny accent I’ve never heard before. I turned; a strange dude sat next to me, tapping his right foot, left foot on the wall, knee tucked under his chin. A homemade cardboard badge, with “Rent-a-Cop” written in Magic Marker, safety-pinned on his hat. He wore a plaid shirt, denim jacket, and bellbottoms, the outfit worn and ragged, the pants baggy. Long light brown hair, thin and a bit scraggly. Horned-rimmed glasses, thick lenses–probably almost blind without them.

Not too spectacular–not even a good pickup line.

“I’m not Eleanor. She’s my roommate. I’m Jennifer.”

“Oh. Sorry. But could you still turn up your radio?”

“It’s Eleanor’s radio,” I said, turning it up as loud as it would go.

“Hey Jude,” my favorite Beatles song, wafted out of the speaker.

Paul McCartney sings like an angel, and I don’t care if the lyrics are about shooting heroin, as some people seem to think.

“That’s why I thought you were Eleanor. I recognized the radio.” A kind smile, showing perfectly white teeth, but one front tooth slightly overlapping the other. He looked older, about 25. “So you’re Jennifer. I should have looked at the chick, not the radio.”

“That’s okay.”

“No, not okay. Sorry about the mistaken identity. Call me ‘Virgil,’ but my real name is ‘Jeff.’” Maybe not so strange and definitely not a pervert. On the street, one never knows.

“Well, then. I’d better call you Virgil, because my family and friends back home call me ‘Jeff’ all the time. It’s been my nickname forever.”

He laughed. “So how does a girl get a boy’s nickname?”

“My cousin couldn’t say ‘Jennifer’; he called me ‘Jeffer,’ which got shortened to ‘Jeff.’ So I got stuck with it. How’d you get your nickname?”

“I made it up. I needed a street name, and I’m a Virgo. Seemed logical.”

“I didn’t think you looked like a Virgil.”

“Well, you don’t look like a Jeff, either.”

We both cracked up, laughing at the silliness of it all.

Usually, I feel so awkward when meeting new people, but I felt totally comfortable around this guy.

Rick never showed up, but it didn’t matter; I had a groovy time rapping with Jeff; he was funny and smart. He’s from East Berlin, Pennsylvania, in L.A. only about a month, hitchhiking cross country because he wanted to see the world. Now he was homesick.

His birthday was a few weeks before mine. At first, I didn’t believe he was my age, but he showed me his driver’s license; he seemed so much older, but in a good way, not at all like Establishment. He lived on Hudson Street, where he rented a room from some chick who agreed to give him cheap rent in return for some babysitting. His favorite Beatle album: Sgt. Pepper, but The Magical Mystery Tour followed a close second.

Maybe I’d see him again.

We exchanged phone numbers.



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