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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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Flashback--October 1968: Wild Man Fischer's Merry-go-round



As Stoney, Jeff, and I prowled the strip, we ran into Wild Man Fischer, clenching a tape recorder, one of those portable Juliettes, blasting a song from his new album An Evening with Wild Man Fischer.

He shoved it under my nose and shouted, “Hear my song?”

C’mon let’s merry go, merry go, merry go round! Boop boop boop!

Merry go, merry go, merry go round! Boop boop boop!

Merry go, merry go, merry go round! Boop boop boop!

Me and you can go merry go round!

It’s very easy, just go up and down!

C’mon, c’mon let’s merry go, merry go, merry go round! Boop boop boop!

–“Merry-Go-Round,” Wild Man Fischer

“Yes, Wild Man, we hear it.”


Circle Song



“You like my song?”

“It’s a cool song.”

“You wanna buy it? Only ten cents.”

“Not today, Wild Man. Thanks, anyway.”

A pest, but harmless--probably a rich pest. He fit his name; he was manic, always wound up tight, fast like a fly or hummingbird. He even looked manic: eyes practically popping out of his head, his hair, black and frizzy, stuck out at all angles. He wore a loud yellow shirt with blobs of red, orange, and green, and flip flops, though, sometimes, only one, even when it was cold. Plus, he was constantly running around the strip with that tape recorder.

I’ve heard that he’d spent some time in a mental hospital.

“I’ll play it again,” he said, pushing the rewind button.

“That’s okay.” We inched away.

I didn’t want to hurt his feelings, but he had a way of getting under your skin. And then he’d be off to the next group of freaks. They were all out tonight, unusual for a week night: Julius Caesar, drag queens, streetwalkers–a circus. We verbally sparred with Caesar, an old dude, his Roman soldier costume stolen from 20th Century Fox. He harassed tourists, the middle-aged straights who arrived on the strip decked out in Hawaiian shirts, Bermuda shorts, straw hats, and sunglasses, big clunky cameras around their necks, loud voices: “Hey, Herman, look at the dirty hippies.” Everyone was a dirty hippie because the straights couldn’t distinguish between groups that populate the strip.

Caesar yelled out his standard slogans: “LBJ is a necrophiliac; he digs dead dudes” and “All the way with LBJ; Lady Bird Johnson is a nymphomaniac.”

What a freak; his slogans angered many of the gawkers, who turned red.

Some even yelled back, “America: Love it or Leave it.”

Caesar paid no attention to the counter-yellers--like he was in a trance.

What a nark.


Excerpt copyright 2008, Jennifer Semple Siegel.

Text may not be reposted or republished without permission.



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