Monday, December 30, 2013

My Outpatient Stay at a Mental Hospital

frances farmer arrest

For 3 weeks, I was an outpatient at the rehab and mental health facility Las Encinas.  In some ways, I’d always assumed I would end up here.  I remember me and my mom going to visit a family friend there once when I was a kid, and my mom half-joking about wishing her Medi-Cal benefits were accepted there.  She wasn't interested in sobriety at that time and wasn't in the middle of one of her existential breakdowns, so I believe she really wanted to be there like being on vacation; the grounds were beautiful and you got 3 square meals a day and were surrounded by interesting fuck ups.  We visited her friend.  He was detoxing from crack and seemed fragile but also fortified by the crisp eucalyptus-smelling air there and relieved to be taken care of by professionals.  

I had heart surgery when I was in my early twenties, and dumped by a live-in boyfriend shortly afterwards.  I was single and very ready to mingle so I instantly jumped back into a routine of bar-hopping and partying, breaking in my new heart, self-defeatingly hoping to break it for good. I hardly slept on work nights, and usually slept all day on the weekends.  I lived in a basement apartment with a beautiful view but the landlord who lived upstairs was mentally and physically ill; he spied on me, passing judgments and regularly overstepping his bounds tremendously, like deciding my mail would go in the same mailbox as his, and having his boyfriend sneak into my bedroom one morning when it was assumed I would be asleep, to steal a press photo from a Munchkin scene of the Wizard of Oz – the last living Munchkin was signing autographs at an antiques fair that day and I’d ignored all the landlord's voicemails about it the day before, so, obviously, breaking and entering was the next logical step.  I was not going crazy, but I was so depressed it hurt. It hurts so  bad.  I left my office one morning and hid in my car, finally going into hysterics over the phone with my therapist until she arranged for Las Encinas to take me in.

I went to Las Encinas every morning at 7 AM, for 3 weeks, insurance-paid, thank god.  I’d stopped caring to feed myself, so all the breakfast food there was a comfort.  After everyone arrived, there were group therapy sessions everyone broke into.  Like one of my recurring dreams where I’m back in high school and I can’t figure out what classes to go to next, I seemed to be the only person who’d never gotten a schedule of what therapy sessions I was to go to, so I went where the wind took me.

A girl named Angela from this outpatient group had recently committed suicide, and several group members cried about it throughout the day.  She’d been a young woman. 

I was the highest functioning person in the group, and honestly, I feel like I wasn’t given enough attention because of this.  It’s true, I wasn’t actively contemplating suicide like some of my mentally wounded colleagues, but on the other hand, I’ve been somewhat considering and contemplating suicide since I was 12, so while it wasn’t a situation of immediacy, it is a thought I'd have liked some professional to have unearthed and coaxed me out of.

I loved the meals at the cafeteria.  Sometimes someone would freak out though and it would set everyone else off, a domino effect of the shakes and screaming and paranoid fears.

There was a woman who was convinced that people she used to work for in Las

Vegas had followed her to L.A. and were following her constantly.  Objectively this seems unrealistic, but to hear it from her, it sounded feasible.

Tom Sizemore was there, a big famous asshole whose bragging voice drowned out all others.

Everyone there was diagnose with Bipolar II, a California trend at the time, I believe.  When I moved to Philly later and told psychiatrists, “I have Bipolar II and am treated with a drug called Lamictal,” nobody knew what the fuck I was talking about.  I think Las Encinas is sort of a dishonest place and perhaps got some kickback from Lamictal, seemingly the only drug used to treat Bipolar II.

The saddest thing about this experience was the fear that I could never go back to normalcy again.  I thought I’d have to make people  treat me with kid gloves and that I’d never have sex or feel sexy or have fun.  I’d have to speak in funereal tones about my moods.  Luckily, that never happened.

My last day there, a boy who resembled Icabod Crane in height and prominent adam’s apple decided to go for it and ask for my telephone number.  He was nice in a way but also a drag.  I hung out with him maybe 4 times, and only as a friend, as I always reiterated.  His house was beautiful, in South Pasadena, owned by his Greek great grandpa who was on vacation.  This boy took me to fancy restaurants, bought me gelato before the one movie we went to see (sadly ironically a story about the guy who improbably gets the girl of his dreams, even though she’s great and he kind of sucks to be around).  We watched a dvd or two at his home and he made gourmet grilled cheeses using a special sandwich press, like a panini maker that left an imprint of Hello Kitty on the bread.  In some ways, he would have been a good boyfriend for someone, and in fact, I’d learned that before trying to date me, he’d had a little fling with a judge’s daughter from our group, who received several sessions of electric shock therapy which left her open-mouthed, drooling and sedate for the rest of the day.  I finally extricated myself from this sad boy’s clutches when I showed up with a hickey from a man who today is my husband.

Later on, Las Encinas was never named in the whole "Celebrity Rehab Reality TV is exploitive" controversy, but Dr Drew Pinsky’s little reality shows took place in a high-end Pasadena rehab place that looked just like Las Encinas, and he was also listed on their page as a staff member, so it was pretty safe to assume that these celebrity rehab shows were filmed here.  People he’s treated have often died afterwards, after the season was over and they probably felt abandoned by their watchers.

This makes one wonder about the ethics of a place like Las Encinas.  My feeling is that you can’t trust any place that doles out the same diagnosis and pills to everyone who walks through the door and that, in general, nobody cares enough about a sad person who has lost the will to live.  I saw many examples, while there, of people not listened to enough or paid enough attention to.  Psychiatry is a pseudoscience.  The doctors often start out by giving someone too high a dosage, then go “oops” when the person flips out, and figure out by trial and error what the patient can tolerate.  My own psychiatrist, just a few weeks ago, was reading from the wrong chart when he was speaking to me and it took a loooong time and me correcting him before he realized his error.  Sometimes I think that the people who are charged with helping people are the same people who could not give less of a fuck about a wounded soul.  When I consider my off-experiences at this hospital and with mental healthcare professionals, I often think of my favorite Kimye Dawson song, which sums it all up perfectly, the lack of empathy from people who are supposed to help:

Hold My Hand (Kimye Dawson)

once i knew a little girl who refused to eat
she just banged her head against the floor and didn't sleep for a week
both of her parents were mentally delayed and they
lived in constant fear that their daughter would be taken away
so instead of getting help they just pretended
that everything was okay
so i called the social worker and said "something is wrong"
she said "you know how she turns into a brat
when she doesn't get what she wants
i'll call ya later when i'm done playing with my dogs"

sometimes the world is dark and cold
and no matter what i'm told
i'm scared and i'm alone and i'm five years old
will you hold my hand?

once i knew a little guy runny nose and bruises on his thighs
and i said "hey, what happened here?"
he looked at me and said "well my dad he hates me"
so i called the social worker confidentially and she called his mom
and said "guess who thinks your husband is beating up your son?"
next thing i knew that family packed up and they were gone

back pressed flat against the wall
and they hit me with a ball
pretend it didn't hurt at all
will you hold my hand?

maybe i'll call oprah there must be something she can do
i'll say "i'm fat and i'm black and i'm sick of seeing little kids feel blue"
and me and oprah we will fix c.p.s.
and make sure the people working with kids have bigger hearts than the rest
and if you wanna have a baby you'll hafta pass a test

it sucks when for a little kid living means lying
and the only place you feel safe is pretending your flying
and you'd rather be caught dead than be caught crying
will you hold my hand?

abuse and neglect are highly contagious so
i called that social worker up and i said "hey lady you're outrageous"
she said "smarty-pants, you want a gold star?" i said
"no i wanna bash your head in with a crowbar, but
the cycle of violence has to end somewhere"

come and take a swim with me
we'll wait underwater patiently
for the output of endorphins as we're swallowed by the sea
will you hold my hand?
will you hold my hand?
will you hold my hand?

Las Encinas

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Treasure Box

I've always been someone lucky enough to have people think of me as a jewelry girl.  Over the years I have received some of the most beautiful and bizarre jewelry I've ever seen.  Only, I suppose I defeat the purpose of jewelry a bit; instead of wearing it,which I'm honestly too lazy to do sometimes, I like to look at these treasures inside their jewelry boxes and be overwhelmed by the loveliness.  Today, I've taken some of my jewels out of a Christ-themed jewelry box I've had since college.  The funny thing about this jewelry box is that when me and my friends James and Leandra were sophomores, we once ate dinner at our friend Susan's house.  our friend Nick was late in showing up.  when he finally did, we all had a nice meal, then went back home, and Nick presented me with this cute box from a thrift store, but the previous owner had written her name inside:  Susan.  It was very hard to convince us that he hadn't stolen it from our neighbor Susan while we were busy distracting her.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Mama Bear Needs Porridge

I don't have quite enough money right now.  do you?  and are you also a fan of well constructed crafts that contain the slight imperfections of lovely folk art?  Then I'd like to suggest that you check out my craft site:

or my page on etsy:

This is basically a Friends-Price situation.  If something seems to expensive, I will consider a reasonable offer, though the shipping fees are non-negotiable of course.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Film Review: Pain and Gain

You may have noticed, I like violent action-comedies.  A big part of that is that I will probably never be a big muscular man who shoots bad guys with semi-automatics while cracking wise, and even though these action-comedies are only fictional portrayals of such men and violence, it’s good enough for me. 
Also, I think there’s a great deal of the contrarian in me, who was raised on art films and later on in college and grad school continued my art film education.  So now I’m sort of like “Fuck you mom, you can’t make me watch Jules and Jim or Billy Liar anymore!  I’m a plebeian now!” 
Anyhow, some action comedies are very bad, and some I quite like, including the one I watched last night, Pain and Gain, starring The Rock and Marky Mark, with a good supporting cast of Rebel Wilson,Tony Shaloub, Rob Cordry, and some other people I don’t care about.  This movie is based on a true story that took place in Dade County in the early 1990’s.  3 ambitious but undereducated and na├»ve bodybuilders bet tired of having the bodies of Gods but the lives of schleppy losers and decide to kidnap a rich man for weeks until he can be coersed into signing over all his property to them.  When this plan finally works, the rich man is penniless, holed up in a horrible hotel room paid for by the Private Eye (Ed Harris) who tries to prove the criminal deeds of the bodybuilders.  Meanwhile, the 3 bodybuilders and a stripper who believes they are CIA agents and she is a spy, finally have a piece of the American Pie.  They take over his life, and the rich man’s former acquaintances and associates seem to prefer Marky Mark as their new neighbor; he wants to mow a lawn he can call his own and contribute to the community – he feels he’s deserved such pleasantries and such a chance to be house-proud his whole life.  This movie’s motif is a series of voice-overs from each of the main characters, and Marky Mark’s monologues were written with the most care, to show a dumb lovable lug/sociopath who believes in “fitness and America.”  Things turn bad for these 3 bodybuilders when they bite off more than they can chew and mess up a second crime they attempt to pull off once they’ve run through the funds they got during their first caper.  The characters Adrian Doorbal (played by Anthony Mackie) and Daniel Lugo (Marky Mark) are sentenced to death, while Paul Doyle (The Rock) gets only 15 years, a stretch of time he is pleased by, because while back in society, he missed the easiness of being a sober Christian; he liked to be back in what to him was the peaceful enforced goodness of prison, where God and the Godly gesture of sobriety are a comfort and he gets to be in the prison choir. 

Does the synopsis sound horrible?  Perhaps.  This is a charming movie, though.  The naivete of the main characters is heartbreaking, and the point that the American Dream fucks over the working class is, while sometimes overtly and tiresomely repeated, still a valid point.  These poor men didn’t understand why they didn’t deserve to be rich, when the rich people that they served at the gym were such unremarkable, unappreciative pricks.  The comedic aspect of this film is funny and the violent parts are just gruesome enough to make one go “Oh my god, holy shit” instead of so gruesome it made me question the value of humanity.  

Friday, December 13, 2013

December: Month of Christmas Movie Reviews

Arthur Christmas
I’m often unclear on who my target audience is with Sweetheart Redux– someone just like me, I guess:  a passionate warrior camouflaged in business-casual clothes from Target.  So I write this like a mommy-blog/literary-journal/old-fashioned-riot grrrl-zine.  That being said, I recently posted a film review of the only good Harmony Korine movie, “Spring Breakers”, in which I went on and on about titties.  But it’s Christmas-time now, and this is a review of the endearing, cute animated kid’s movie that is “Arthur Christmas” (2011) .

For some reason I thought Justin Beiber had something to do with “Arthur Christmas”, and the fact that it was the only animated Christmas film that didn’t have a “very long wait” on Netflix but was instead available immediately made me think it was going to be horrible.  But instead, it’s a charming little English movie put out by Aardman Studios, those wonderful people who brought us such amazing films as “The Curse of the Were-Rabbit” (2005) and “Chicken Run” (2000).  It’s about the Claus family – Mr. and Mrs. Claus are no longer genuinely moved by the miracle of Christmas and are really ready for a leisurely retirement.  The Claus clan all lives together.  Santa’s eldest son Steve is an alpha-male jock who wants to turn Christmas Eve into a precision operation, while the younger son, Arthur is a sweet, tender-hearted kid intent on keeping children believing in the wonder of Santa.   Grandpa Claus used to act as Santa but now he is a cranky old man who talks about his glory days.  I don’t really care for any Santa Claus back-story other than the one L. Frank Baum tells in his Life and Adventures of Santa Claus (1902), in which Santa is a foundling human baby raised by fairies.  But as far as Santa backstories go, the one in Arthur Christmas isn’t bad, because the dialogue is clever enough to make it all work; instead of being like, “Are you serious?  There’s a succession of Santa’s instead of just one eternal one, and they’re just some typical Extended Family household?!” I felt more like, “Aw, it’s funny that Grandpa Claus talks like Tom Brokaw bragging about being a member of the Greatest Generation, winning World War II and having a great work ethic.”  Grandpa Claus is a grump but he helps sweet Arthur Claus on his seeming fool’s errand to deliver the one present Santa forgot to deliver, and even the mean older brother Steve has his good points.  It is a sweet and funny movie that is un-ironic about its sweetness, and if you have a little kid who likes British accents and rooting for the underdog, I definitely recommend it.  And when your little angel goes to sleep, titties.  

Rankin-Bass Films

Christmas Movie December:  Rankin-Bass films

In a similar spirit to Horror Movie October, this month has been Christmas Movie December.

There are a couple big differences between Halloween movies and Christmas movies; for starters, Halloween-related and Horror movies are appropriate to watch year-round, but it is depressing to watch Christmas movies in any other month than December.  Secondly, most Christmas movies, even if they star Vince Vaughn or contain the occasional sly BJ joke to keep the parents in the theatre awake while their children smile at elves and Santa’s kindness, Christmas movies are for kids.  This is okay by me.  I nurture my wounded inner child on the regular by watching Harry Potter movies practically daily, so a month of children’s holiday movies is definitely not a stomach turning experience, as I imagine it is for some parents.

I bought a 4 dvd-pack of Rankin-Bass Christmas movies, and each dvd has at least 2 movies on it, so this has been the year of Rankin-Bass.  These tv-movies are probably very familiar to children of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s who were raised on TV.  The back stories provided to such classic characters as Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, Jack Frost, the New Year’s baby and Santa Claus are so bizarre it’s a little obnoxious.  For instance, in Rudolph’s Shiny New Year (1976) … shit, where to begin?... let me just be lazy and copy and paste the Wikipedia synopsis of this weirdo movie:
Rudolph has just come back from delivering Christmas presents with Santa Claus when he is asked by Father Time to find the missing Baby New Year before midnight on New Year's Eve. Unless Happy is returned before December 31 to take his position as the new year, the current year will not end and the date will perpetually remain December 31 forever. If this happens, an evil vulture named Aeon will rule the world forever.
Father Time speculates that Happy, who ran away, due to his big ears, is hiding out in the "Archipelago of Last Years", where the Old Years retire and rule over an island styled to resemble the year over which they ruled. Sent to assist in this journey are some agents of Father Time including General Ticker (a military clock), The Great Quarter-Past-Five, later named Quart for short, (a camel with a clock in his hump), and Big Ben (a whale with a clock attached to his tail).
Upon arrival in the Archipelagos, Rudolph first travels to the island belonging to acaveman named One Million B.C. ("O.M." for short). O.M. inhabits an island anachronistically inhabited with friendly dinosaurs and other prehistoric and long-extinct creatures. As Rudolph and his friends search for the baby, they repeatedly encounter Aeon. Aeon is destined to live for exactly one aeon after which he will turn into ice and snow and disintegrate. As his particular aeon will end at the turn of January 1 of the New Year, he plans to kidnap Happy to prevent the year from ending and thus prevent his predestined death on January 1, thus stopping time. After other off-screen visits to the islands of 4000 B.C., 1492, 1893, and 1965 have been completed without success, Rudolph and O.M. head for the island of Sir 1023 (pronounced ten-two-three), a knight whose island is filled with medieval trappings along with several fairy tale and Mother Goose characters. The group then travels to the island of 1776, which reflects Colonial America and is ruled over by "Sev" (AKA 1776), who resembles Benjamin Franklin.
Following Happy's seeming rejection on the Island of 1776, Aeon kidnaps the baby and takes him to his lair on the Island of No-Name, which is said to be located "due north of the North Pole". The group (which now includes O.M., Sir 1023, and Sev) now leaves the Archipelego in pursuit. Catching up to the buzzard, they attempt to rescue the baby. However, Aeon thwarts them by sending an avalanche down on the group and trapping them inside giant snowballs. Managing to melt his way free using his nose, Rudolph climbs up to Aeon's nest where he finds Happy who refuses to leave. Rudolph shows Happy his nose and tells him his own story of being shunned because of his "non-conformity" before asking Happy to let him see his ears. Happy does so, and Rudolph, like everyone else before him, laughs at the sight. Although Happy is again upset, Rudolph explains that the sight of Happy's ears had made him feel so wonderful that he had to laugh out loud, just like it had done with everyone else.
As Happy shouts out with joy at this declaration, Aeon is awakened. Rudolph quickly instructs Happy to take off his hat and leave it off for good. At the sight of Happy's large ears, Aeon bursts into uncontrollable laughter which sends him tumbling down the side of the mountain and into the snowball, freeing Sev, O.M. and Sir 1023. Rudolph realizes that Aeon, since he is now so full of warmth and happiness, that it would be impossible for him to turn to ice and snow. With Santa's help, they return to Father Time's castle with Happy just in time for the beginning of the new year, which is designated "nineteen-wonderful". After the celebration, everyone wishes the viewers a happy new year and Rudolph adds, "And may it be shiny, too!"
Archipelago of Last years[edit]
Among the islands of the Archipelagos of Last Years are:
·         1,000,000 BC: Represented as a prehistoric island that consists of dinosaurs and cavemen. O.M. lives here.
·         4000 BC: Rudolph mentions that all its inhabitants wanted to do was build pyramids.
·         1023: Represented as a medieval island filled with fairytale characters. The year 1023 is said to be when all the well-known fairy tales and nursery rhymes actually happened. Sir 1023 lives here.
·         1492: Rudolph mentions that the people on that island were too busy discovering things to help them (a reference to the year ofChristopher Columbus's voyage to the New World).
·         1776: Represented as a Colonial American island that celebrates American Independence Day on a daily basis. 1776 (AKA "Sev") lives here.
·         1893: Rudolph mentions that the inhabitants have never heard of Happy due to the Panic of 1893.
·         1965: Rudolph stated that island was "too noisy" to search for Happy. This is theoretically in reference to Beatlemania (which revolved around the British Invasion of The Beatles) and growing political unrest in the United States brought on by inner city rioting and the escalation of the Vietnam War.

Um, what? 

The Rankin-Bass interpretation of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas (1974) is another gem of weirdness.  Again, from Wikipedia: 

Set in the fictional town of Junctionville, NY around the turn of the 20th century, Santa Claus is offended by an anonymous letter printed in the town's newspaper (and signed "all of us") claiming that he doesn't exist. In response, Santa returns the entire town's letters to them unopened. Upon reading the anonymous letter printed in thenewspaper, Father Mouse (voiced by George Gobel) — a mouse assistant to the human clockmaker Joshua Trundle (voiced by Joel Grey, the credited narrator) — immediately suspects that his brainy son Albert is its author. Albert (voiced by Tammy Grimes) confirms his suspicions, repeating the letter verbatim to him.
Father Mouse and the Trundle Family devise a plan to appease Santa by building a singing clock tower for him, built with a special recording to play a song to coax him not to bypass Junctionville on Christmas Eve. Unfortunately, Albert enters the clock to explore it without permission, and inadvertently damages it seriously, thus rendering it inoperable and seriously damaging Trundle's professional reputation. Furthermore, the mayor (voiced by John McGiver), publicly embarrassed at the clock tower's failure, refuses to give the clockmaker access to it for repairs.
Confessing his mistake, Albert volunteers to repair it himself and Father Mouse tells Joshua of the situation before waiting at his bed with worry on Christmas Eve. Although Albert does not complete his task until about one minute after the Midnight deadline, the clock does play its song within earshot of Santa which convinces him to turn around and come to town after all.
Oh god, I can’t even get into the maudlin, grotesque Pinocchio’s Christmas (1980), except to say that the moralistic trials that poor little puppet has to go through are inappropriately masochistic.  Did the meanest Calvinist ever write the script. 

The moralistic Christian trend of all the Rankin-Bass films is creepier than Christian moralism usually is, so much so that I did some research on the Rankin-Bass production company to see if any questions were ever raised as the whether they were a cult and their kid’s holiday movies were brainwashing propaganda, but no research seems to have been done on this.

My last gripe with the Rankin-Bass movies, which are visually interesting enough to make all their flaws tolerable, is the fact that the bad guys often have traits stereotypically ascribed to Jews, mainly:
-having prominent noses
-possessing jobs like money lender or salesman
-not believing in Christmas

I’m slightly Jewish – my dad’s family are Jewish but only half of them are practicing – but shit like this really rankles.  Ooh, what a dick Ebenezer Scrooge is – a stingy money-lender who doesn’t celebrate Christmas.  Anyway, happy holidays.