A 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 hed been clapped into some hellish psychiatric facility here in town, the New York State Psychiatric Institute. He wanted out.
Theres nothing like a mission to clear up any traces of self-doubt or tendencies toward maudlin introspection. Its 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. Ive 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 much money.
In keeping 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 its a research facility and not very easy to get into. He asked about Jims mental condition.
I told him that Ive known Jim Moser for more than 20 years. Weve collaborated on numerous bizarre and arcane artistic ventures. Owing largely to a whole range of external events, Jims 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, hed 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 friends case and decided to have him involuntarily committed, ostensibly for three days of "observation."
Once he 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.
My doctor 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.
At about 1 on Monday afternoon, a representative of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights called the New York Psychiatric Institute regarding Jims 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.
At 2:30 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 cant 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.
I called John up to thank him. "All in a days 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: "Im comfortable with who I am." Anybody who isnt should at least be made as comfortable as possible.
Psychiatry 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. Its reassuring to know that there is a counterforce to the self-appointed cops of the mind.