|Site Map and Tour Relocator Guide|
For starters, I had to endure a year of horrifying nightmares mixed in with my triumphant dreams every night. 1986, that first year free of sedation, was tough. Like I said, I was totally alone in Kansas. With the exception of a couple hours a month with Dr. Goodman, I had no one to talk to. For the first time in decades, I knew I wasn't a bad or crazy person, but could figure no way out of my lonely predicament. Physically, I was a basket case and struggled just to keep myself and living quarters sort of clean.
The anger of frustration grew inside of me, as I dared wonder for the first time in my adult life, what I might have done with my adult life if my mind (my only positive trait as far as I was personally concerned) had not been sedated. The anger and the confusion grew until I felt like a caged animal ready to go berserk.
It was inevitable, one day in late 1986, I decided I could go on no longer. Justified or not, before doing anything rash (i.e. suicide), I wanted to document the medical gauntlet I had endured. So I wrote a ten page summary of the twenty year medical fiasco and showed it to the night clerk that I knew up at the Quik Trip.
Biff had known me before I got off the Nullium and was amazed at how I no longer "talked in slow motion." He and several other latenight merchants I'd befriended read my story and recommended I show it to a lawyer. So I did.
I made an appointment to see Leo Leonard, a rather young Kansas lawyer I'd shot some video depositions for and who seemed like an intelligent and caring person. After Leo read my story, a tear came to his eye and he said my medical misfortune was a human tragedy. He said my only problem in seeking recompense could be the statue of limitations for malpractice suits, which was two years.
Leo was a Kansas lawyer, so he referred me to an expert in Missouri law, Martin Pyre. Pyre was a super high-class attorney and after first reviewing my story said boldly "we will seek and attain a monumental settlement."
I told him my complaint was really only against one of the doctors involved. I held no great grudge against Dr. Lump, for her mistakes of over-medication and electrification were honest ones, ones she really felt were in my best interest. And, besides, she was well into her 70's. I was mostly angry at her for sending me to Farmington to cover up her error in ordering me to cease the Scarnate on my own, which resulted in the tantrum with the gun.
My very main complaint was with Dr. Capol. He was not a psychiatrist and had no right keeping me medicated for 8 years as a "free" favor to the country club set. And, as of 1987, he was continuing to medicate the country club, pro bono; and I wanted to stop that, too.
But Lawyer Pyre said it would be difficult to sue Lump or Capol without suing Dr. Goodman. Additionally Pyre said the statute of limitations might protect Lump and Capol so we had to sue Goodman. But I objected. True, Dr. Goodman had prescribed me Nullium for a couple years after I moved to Kansas City and started to see him after leaving Braggs Electric. But he was a bonofide psychiatrist and when I first visited him and told him I'd been taking it for several years, he honestly felt it in my best interest to continue the Nullium.
Furthermore, Goodman knew nothing of my dark past - shock treatments or incarcerations. However, when he realized what the chemicals were doing to me in 1985, he immediately put me in the hospital to get me off of them. That bold act was for no one's good but my own. Dr. Goodman had also become a friend. And when I told Lawyer Pyre I would never consider suing Dr. Goodman, Pyre dropped my case.
I wasn't totally upset about it. Sure I was living in poverty, but I had never relished the idea of living off money from someone else's default, not from my own contribution. At any rate, I had started to expand my ten page story into a full-blown bestseller book, or so I thought, and was confident financial and social relief as a result of it was just around the corner.
Driven like never before, I worked on my book 7 days a week, writing 5-10 pages a day. I was able to do that in a 2-3 hour burst of energy each otherwise bedridden day. Though I was still suffering a myriad of side affects from all the years of medication, I forced myself to struggle to my Macintosh computer each day as if my life depended on it (which it did...and still does).
During the year 1987, I completed the first draft. At the onset, my book was simply going to be an expanded autobiography. I went to great lengths to make it 100% factual and not exaggerate at all. But early on I decided to change the names of all the characters. And the urge to exaggerate and fictionalize became too great, almost necessary to entertain and sustain my daily interest. So I turned it into a novel, a lucid novel (the meaning of which will later be apparent).
As I said, I hadn't had a single dream in twenty years while on medication, and now the several dreams I had every night (after the aforementioned year of nightmares) gave me great insight into the human psyche and proved a fertile environment for my fictional story. Fiction aside, I managed to keep all autobiographical sections factual except for the names.
My social isolation continued as I worked. Onetime friends seemed to avoid me and I was more alone than ever in my life. Even the video store I hung out at went out of business and the several workers I'd befriended at the convenience store suddenly got transferred. But I felt, rightly or wrongly, there was some higher purpose for these things, possibly to let me focus on my chosen task. Just a convenient rationalization, maybe. But I really felt the isolation would end when I was finished with my writing. It had to, because I just knew there was justice in the world.
Justice or not, in August of 1987, while working on the second thousand pages of my first draft, my entire lower body started to go numb.
Dr. Goodman, who I still saw and who counseled me from getting back on medication, sent me to a neurologist. An $800 Magnetic Resonance Image showed I had Multiple Sclerosis, and it had been affecting my muscles and nervous system for many years. Indeed, I related to the doctor at that time how I had temporarily lost part of my vision fifteen years before, while working as a draftsman at Braggs-a typical early symptom of MS.
But I was so intent on finishing my book I missed only one day working on it, the actual day the neurologist gave me the MS diagnosis. I finished the first draft of 1800 pages near the end of 1987.
But I had no idea where to go from there. While I was pondering that, I allowed a neurologist to coax me into taking muscle relaxants for the MS.
And, after depression and withdrawal from them resulted in two short but very frightening hospitalizations (not to mention their causing the reckless death of my first dog, Junior), I pledged to choose my own death rather than ever take such medications again (and I didn't until 1998).
Yes, the first three years I'd been off medication had been rocky and lonely ones, but I wasn't depressed and my mind was clear for the first time in my adult life. I had hope. At last, I was in control and I repeatedly promised myself that no matter what the future brought I would die with a clear mind.
In late 1989, I began receiving Social Security Disability (based on the contributions I'd made while working at Bragg's) and received $28,000 from a profit-sharing plan in which I had invested. I finally quit the two-pack-a-day smoking I'd started at Farmington 17 years before. And I went back to work on the second draft of my book in January. I was determined to pen a great book.
During the first half of 1990 I edited my 1800 pages down to about 70, then built it back up to 350. And during that time, many stranger-than-fiction things happened. Many things I wrote about as fiction seemed to happen in reality, as if I had some sort of ESP. I wasn't sure what to make of it, other than a sign that I was on the right track at last. So, to celebrate a rosy future, I adopted a Dachshund, named him Sparky, and kept working.
A number of people I knew read parts of my book and thought it was great, but they also thought my chances of getting it published and it becoming a bestseller "were about as good as the chances of a snowball in hell." Dr. Goodman, in particular, said no matter how good the book was, finding a publisher would be a "crap shoot at best."
Though these dismal forecasts were from persons whose judgment I trusted, I thought I knew something they didn't. I knew how so many things I'd written about had come to pass.
Somehow privy to world-changing events, I felt I'd been inspired at the very least, and that if God had afforded me His or Her trust on such monumental events, certainly He or She would reward me with a little personal satisfaction, comfort, and maybe even companionship. So, despite Dr. Goodman's well-intentioned warning that,"finding a publisher will be a crap shoot at best," I kept toiling away on this wondrous book I'd come to call an Omnovel. I worked every energetic moment (which happened to be about three hours a day) for the next three years. And my life during those disciplined years continued to be very austere. Other than the satisfaction I felt each day after my writing session and the companionship of Sparky, my only diversion came in the form of browsing around several all-night groceries.
During that ascetic time the money from my Braggs profit-sharing settlement started to run out, and I had to find a cheaper apartment. So, in early 1991, I moved from suburban Lenexa to rural Clearview City, Kansas.
At the time that I moved to Clearview City, I thought my book was pretty much finished, even though several literary agents I'd contacted had rejected it. But several things happened in my own life and in the world which motivated me to rewrite it one more time. Indeed, I had already naively come to think of it in neo-biblical terms. But a professor named Gunn thought otherwise.
After being rejected by the several agents I mentioned, I had sent a couple chapters to the English Professor a friend of mine in Lenexa knew. Professor Gunn was a published writer. And the bastard had the balls to laugh at my work after he read it. I was humiliated and crushed. I had failed.
But shortly after moving to Clearview City, I met a strange lady in the Sunflower Park named Barbra. Amazingly, her best friend back in Lawrence turned out to be none other than Gunn's wife. What an amazing coincidence, I thought. The cities of Kansas were this all played itself out was a big place with hundreds of thousands of people...and I had been befriended by one of the few people who really knew Gunn intimately.
Barbra said Gunn was a genuine screwball, so I took this encounter with her as a message from above, adopted a second Dachson, Pip, and went to work on my book for another year. During that time my legs began giving out really bad; and I became increasingly dependent on a cane. In all honesty, I must admit that the looming threat of a wheelchair made me desperate to reach a certain stage in my life and work-before that occurred and further restricted my activities. Allowing myself just to be a little melodramatic, I hoped to still be able to walk for a few of my days in MacArthur's sunlight.
Sunlight or not, my book was finally finished in 1992. The owner of a local bookstore in Lenexa who had helped me edit it for two years and who was very enthusiastic about it, recommended I submit it to the Jewish Publication Society.
But when the JPS informed me they weren't currently publishing fiction, I took it as a rejection. I figured that if they had liked it enough they would have published it, fiction or not. I had been rejected by "my own people" and was sadly convinced it was just not meant to be at that time. So I submitted the tome to no one else.
Yes, I was totally stunned by the rejection. I failed to consider that they, at the JPS, had not experienced the same synchronistic happenings (real world coincidences) while reading the book as I had observed while writing it.
Hoping for salvation from someplace other than the literary marketplace, I busied myself publishing "The Clearview Writer" a weekly newsletter of pundit humor, insight, and wishful thinking. Unexplainable connections between what I had written in my book, and now my newsletter too, convinced me more than ever that there was some special purpose in our reality, some unexplained tie between creative visualization and reality.
But I didn't know what it was, nor did I know what to do next. I had almost become numb to my financial plight. But I paused to think that I was in my late 40's and in deteriorating physical condition, and I got scared. I was afraid I might run out of time - time for what, other than some minimal amount of creature comfort and creative satisfaction, I wasn't sure.
I found my self in a particularly desperate situation in late 1992, at a definite crossroads to say the very least. For over half a decade, I had been subsisting in semi-seclusion, struggling to adjust to an unmedicated body and mind, wrestling with the continual fatigue of MS while writing my book.
While writing my book during those years of solitude, I had become very interested in dreams and read about a certain type called "a lucid dream," the type where the dreamer realizes in the dream that it is actually a dream. Though I had never had a lucid dream and they are supposedly rare, the dream pundits say that if you ever have one, you can ask any person in that dream any question in the world and it's like asking the ultimate authority. This concept fascinated me; for I certainly needed help from a higher-up. So I took certain concentration steps at bedtime that were supposed to precipitate a lucid dream, But they never did.
Indeed, I forgot about the lucid dream concept for over a year, until I was just about finished with my book in 1991. To be honest, the hope that the book would be my salvation kept me going day to day, though I never compromised writing what I though was right, in lieu of writing what might make it more marketable. Naively, I believed I could be righteous and somewhat marketable at the same time. But as completion neared I began to dread what I would do if all the literati rejected my work.
Like I said, I had forgotten about the idea of a lucid dream for quite sometime, until just another uneventful night while I was finishing up my book. I fell asleep and discovered myself in a dream, standing in Ladue High School's library. Immediately, I realized I was in dream, having a lucid dream. I remembered that I had read that I could ask anyone any question in the world and get the ultimate answer. But the library was empty. There was no one to ask anything of.
Suddenly, Larry Ludwig, an Olivette neighbor and high school friend, walked from behind the stacks. I told him that I knew that he had died in the 1960's and that this was just a dream in 1991. He agreed that he was dead, but insisted that he really was doing just fine. I asked for his understanding, that it really was good to see him and that there were a lot of things I wanted to talk to him about, but first I had a big question for him. I told him that I knew that in this lucid dream he would give me the right answer. Feeling a bit selfish, I nevertheless asked the one big question, "What should I do to accomplish the things I want to in life?"
I was expecting some detailed explanation of maybe how to find a publisher, but instead Larry answered simply, "Go to art school." And I woke up. Suddenly and somewhat sadly, I realized I'd been busy at the time of Larry's illness and resulting death years before, busy at the hands of the medical mavens.
But this was 1991 and when I told the guys at the QuikTrip about Larry's advice to go to art school, we all laughed. I was 45 and had never drawn anything but an electrical construction line in my life. Boy, had I been steered wrong, I thought. So much for lucid dreams and such hocus-pocus, I also thought.
To my surprise, though, while making illustrations in 1992 on my computer, first for the Clearview Writer and then for the first two chapters of my book (I hoped it might help attract a publisher), I could see I had a knack for graphics. So I decided to compose a cover for my book. When that worked out well, I remembered the dream of a year before and decided to follow Larry's lucid advice and sign up for a night course in charcoal drawing...just to see.
I found drawing still-lifes in the fall of 1992 very boring and was just about to abandon the course when we started to draw faces during the next-to-last class. I was challenged and fascinated like I had never before been in my life. To make a drawing was like pulling teeth, but once it was done the gratification was immense.
The course met once a week for two hours and lasted only ten weeks. The last week, my teacher, a nice lady who worked at Hallmark during the day and taught at the community college at night, gave me some surprising and inspirational advice. She said that from what little she could see of my work, that if I worked fulltime, everyday for a year or so, she thought I could draw like Leonardo da Vinci.
Other students may have thought her ridiculous, but I was desperate and vulnerable and gullible and egotistical-and I believed her. One of the first drawings I made on my own was of George Bush, just a week before his re-election bid. Needless to say, when he was pushed out of office, my faith in creative visualization (or simply in political or professional justice) was shattered.
For a couple years, my neighbor, the elderly Mrs. Blue, had been throwing me her Kansas City Star after she was finished with it. But after the mediatizement of the 1992 election, I quit taking her or anyone else's so-called newspaper-my own little gesture of civil disobedience.
Back to the subject of art-my very first charcoal drawing of a female was of Candice Bergen from a Sprint long-distance commercial I'd seen in TV Guide. The very next week my nephew came to KC from St. Louis and asked me to meet him at his hotel for dinner. When I showed him the drawing of Candice, we were both shocked. Neither I nor him had known a week before, when I had done the drawing, that he would be in Kansas City for a job interview at Sprint's national headquarters. And he worked with them for the four years that followed.
I continued to work on my own for about another month, making about 20 more drawings - and decided it was about time to try painting. My hand control was manageable when it came to drawing. Several years before, when my lower body had gone numb for awhile, I had also lost all movement in my left thumb. Being left-handed, I was forced to train myself to write without the use of the thumb, by simply wrapping it statically around the pen or pencil. I was able to use the same prehensile technique in my drawings. But painting with a brush threatened to be an animal of a different color.
So, to make things as easy on myself as possible, I signed up for 15 painting lessons during January, 1993. But I found working in a classroom setting very difficult. The teacher, a nice enough guy, could see my brushwork was rather unsteady and suggested I refrain from portraiture and start painting landscapes or still-lifes instead.
Not to be discouraged from my chosen focus by him or anyone else, I quit the course after 2 lessons and went to work painting portraits on my own.
Back in December, I had done a colored pencil drawing of Elvis and an acrylic of Marilyn Monroe. But now it was time to do my first oil painting. In my mind I suddenly believed that if I could become a good enough artist, I could not only end my financial desperation, but would also have many friends, and maybe even meet a few sweet young ladies at various art functions.
And, most importantly, would any state hospital dare to forcibly incarcerate a renowned artist, crippled or otherwise?? I was naive enough to think not!!
The pressure I put on myself that watershed month was immense - and I knew it. The fear of failure had my stomach churning.
|Site Map and Tour Relocator Guide|