I am writing this with a five-for-a-dollar Bic ballpoint on lined notebook paper, both purchased for me in the hospital gift shop by a black orderly named Andre with a bebop walk and the hairdo known, I believe, as the Drippy. For someone who has always been quite sniffy about the materials of his craft—stationery by Balfour, pens by Mont Blanc—these are damned poor tools. But then I shouldn’t be complaining. That the staff in the small psychiatric ward here at Louis A. Weiss Memorial Hospital allows me to have a pen or anything with a sharp point at all is a concession, a victory, a great leap forward in my recovery. Seven weeks ago, on the night I was dragged in here by the police, in a hammerlock, a cop’s meaty hand over my mouth, through the emergency-room entrance on Clarendon Avenue, they made the mistake of leaving my watch on my wrist. When I woke from the first strong sedative I smashed the crystal and tried to eat the glass; or so they tell me. I guess I broke down in a big way, really flipped, cracked up in italics.
Life’s bitter little ironies, both my parents died at Louis A. Weiss Memorial. Louie Weiss was a big-time liquor distributor, from which, as we say in Chicago, you can draw your own conclusions. I can remember when the hospital was first built, on Marine Drive with views of the lake, in the 1950’s. It seemed a grand place. Forgive the literary allusion, but whenever I thought of Louis A. Weiss Memorial Hospital I always remembered a passage from a Karl Shapiro poem which runs: