Saturday, November 17, 2007

Only 12 Beds? (and "the West" of Jack Burden)

Call me crazy, but you'd think childhood psychiatric units in major hospitals on the rich, white side of the third largest city in America would have more than 12 "beds" each for inpatient care. But that seems to be a magic number. Wonder how they came up with that? Highland Park, Lincoln Park, and Park Ridge. Like hell I'm driving down to Rush or even bothering to give them a call. No room in the inn. One of the more surreal experiences: "we've got 20-30 kids in the emergency room, it's the crazy time of the year." Tell me about it.

I remember being surprised hearing about the low number (maybe less than a 100) of "beds" (are these "beds" individual rooms or two neat rows of six where they strap screaming kids down) available in post-Katrina New Orleans (and all the mayhem that ensues), but I guess that is the state of mental health care system in America. Which is something I've been meaning to blog on for a while, cause I've got some stories to tell. And folks think the "normal" health care system is messed up?

But things are strangely peaceful as I struggle to assemble cheap Ikea dresser, in preparation for the baby (my daughter urging me to get back to work) listening to the title track Lucinda Williams latest album:

Who knows what the future holds
Or where the cards may fall
But if you don’t come out west and see
You’ll never know at all

I look off in the distance
And blow a kiss your way
The thousand miles between us
Will disappear some day

I watch as all the starling
Fly in from the north
The beating of their wings
Echoes the beating of my heart

I sleep out in the desert
Under the stars above
And keep making an effort
To wander in your love

Who knows what the future holds
Or where the cards may fall
But if you don’t come out west and see
You’ll never know at all

Every time I hear this song I think of the 6:00 AM American "Nerd Bird" flight from Austin to San Jose. Leave Central Austin by 4:00 AM and be in your first meeting on Tasman by nine as the poor suckers are stuck in traffic on the 101. I loved those flights up over the Hill Country, over the flat West Texas plains, over the Rockies, over the Central Valley, then that last worn line of mountains before that scary approach over downtown. Peace in the sleepy silence of a Super 80. Catch a bit of shut-eye and wake up for an crystaline ice cream sundae if you were lucky enough to upgrade to first class.

That is the west and this westward movement was as close as I've come to Jack Burden's road trip in All the King's Men. And this rainy late Fall/Early Winter evening (the orange leaves, as bright as inthat fight scene between Maggie Cheung and Ziyi Zhang in Hero, neatly raked into piles on the narrow Skokie streets) is as about as far from the West as you can be.

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