few Sundays ago I got caught up in a massive anxiety attack over finances, which
I treated in my usual way: beer and video. I was sitting in my favorite chair,
chainsmoking Marlboro Lights and knocking back the third in a series of 12-ounce
Budweisers, half-watching Natural Born Killers for the zillionth time,
feeling the cloud lift as I marked several unopened medical bills "Deceased–Return
To Sender," when the phone rang. It was my good buddy Jim Moser, calling
to tell me he’d been clapped into some hellish psychiatric facility here
in town, the New York State Psychiatric Institute. He wanted out.
nothing like a mission to clear up any traces of self-doubt or tendencies toward
maudlin introspection. It’s especially invigorating when the mission involves
a hate object as charged as the institution of psychiatry is for me. Some people
hate others on the basis of race or religion or gender. I hate psychiatrists.
I’ve never known anyone whose life was in any way improved by psychiatric
treatment, and I know quite a few people whose lives have been seriously damaged
by it. Further, these sanctimonious lazy-ass medical dickweeds make far too
with my desire to avoid being overly consistent, one of my best friends happens
to be a semiretired psychiatrist. I called him up to see about springing Moser.
He said it would take at least three days, and expressed puzzlement over how
Jim could be held against his will for 10 days already without a hearing. He
also opined that it was rather weird that Jim would be held at the New York
Psychiatric Institute, explaining that it’s a research facility and not
very easy to get into. He asked about Jim’s mental condition.
I told him
that I’ve known Jim Moser for more than 20 years. We’ve collaborated
on numerous bizarre and arcane artistic ventures. Owing largely to a whole range
of external events, Jim’s been in a rather nasty funk for the last three
years and has been conned out of a substantial sum of money by various charlatans,
quacks and frauds of the psychiatric persuasion. Drained of monetary resources,
out of work and uninsured, he’d sought help by responding to one of those
ads looking for depressed human guinea pigs for "research." Some young
whelp fresh out of medical school, a Dr. Joshua Gordon, apparently found himself
out of his depth with my friend’s case and decided to have him involuntarily
committed, ostensibly for three days of "observation."
was safely under lock and key, things went downhill fast for Jim. Young Dr.
Gordon was replaced by a rotating cast of MDs acting under the direction of
Dr. Ewald Horwath and Dr. Peter Bookstein. Jim got no blanket and no pillow,
and the fluorescent lights above him never went out.
friend was appalled, but insisted there was no way we could get Jim out before
Thursday. This was not acceptable. I called my friend John Carmichael at the
Church of Scientology and recounted the facts of the case. He told me to call
Jim and instruct him to be cool and relax. John assured me that Jim would be
"out in time to watch The Simpsons on Monday night. I called Jim
and relayed the message.
1 on Monday afternoon, a representative of the Citizen’s Commission on
Human Rights called the New York Psychiatric Institute regarding Jim’s
situation. She also contacted Jim directly. According to Jim, her call resulted
in a flurry of meetings and Maalox moments among the medical staff, culminating
in a confrontation with the elusive Dr. Horwath in which the formerly strident
and authoritative caregivers of NYSPI suddenly became solicitous and obsequious,
not to say polite.
p.m., I cracked open my fourth beer of the day and called the hospital. I told
them I was coming to pick up my friend and that it would be best for all concerned
if everything went smoothly. I had to get fairly looped to deal with the kind
of pompous, self-righteous arrogance these medical idiots exude and still keep
my sense of humor. I threw on a tie and lurched down to 168th St., where I picked
Jim up at 3:30 sharp, no trouble, no hassle, just a few nervous bureaucrats.
The first thing he wanted was a cigarette. You can’t smoke in psych wards.
We took a cab back up to Inwood, where Jim cooked me some fine white-trash food
and punched up some earsplitting KMFDM.
John up to thank him. "All in a day’s work," he said nonchalantly.
"Make sure your friend gets a thorough physical exam." Jim, being
a nondrinker, guzzled a pitcher of fresh lemonade while I chugged down Budweisers.
We watched Buckaroo Banzai and waited for The Simpsons to come
on. Bart says it best: "I’m comfortable with who I am." Anybody
who isn’t should at least be made as comfortable as possible.
sucks. I am not an epiphenomenon of my brain. Scientology works. It liberated
my best friend from the clutches of a pack of credentialed swine in record time.
It’s reassuring to know that there is a counterforce to the self-appointed
cops of the mind.