Sunday, February 8, 2009
(part 134) THE WHEELCHAIR
After about three months in USC's orthopedic ward, I was getting stir crazy, to say the least. I convinced someone to sneak me in a pint of booze during a visit, which was a common practice among some of the patients.
While drinking, I got rowdy from my bed with one of the hospital janitor's. We were jabbing at each other verbally, and it led to an argument. This particular event ended, when I told the guy, "If I could walk, I'd kick your ass."
Following, what was deemed my threat against a member of the hospital staff, two uniformed security guards showed up and told me I was being thrown out of the hospital.
I looked at them like they were crazy and asked, "Well where is it you'd like me to go?" They told me that they didn't care, and began digging my clothes out of a small locker next to my bed. I was basically in shock when I realized they were deadly serious about removing me.
They helped get me dressed, which consisted of cutting off the left leg of my pants, because it wouldn't fit over one of my casts. I was then taken out of bed and put in a wheel chair by the guards, and wheeled into the corridor for the long ride down to County General's massive lobby.
Once there, they continued on to the giant entry doors, and then pushed me out into the open air onto a concrete terrace at the top of the stairs that led down to the parking lot. Without so much as a word, they fixed the wheel chair brake, turned and walked back into the hospital.
I sat there alone looking out at hundreds of parked cars wondering what the hell I was gonna do now? It all happened so fast I hadn't had any time to think about where I could go.
One minute I was in bed, and now I was out here. If I could have gotten up and walked away, I would have, but I couldn't. I was stuck in that Goddamn wheel chair and could only maneuver around in that limited space.
I do not recall with much clarity, how long I sat there, but knowing me, I probably got pretty angry as the time passed. I soon began raising hell on the front steps of the hospital.
I knew I'd done something wrong to get where I was, hell I always knew that, but what I didn't know was why there was such overkill when others dealt with my mistakes. I wasn't warned or counseled in any way, just dumped out into the world at the first opportunity to be rid of me.
* * *
As a kid growing up, it was always like that. I'd screw up at something, but the punishment would always be overly severe. In 1959 or 60, in Mesa, AZ, my mother had gotten married to my second step father, Francis Farr, a paraplegic Mormon, who I was forced to work for, loading hay trucks around Phoenix.
I was about to turn 16, and he said he'd buy me a car if I worked all summer for him, with no pay. I agreed. At the end of all that hard work, I prepared myself for the well earned payoff.
During a weekend with a couple of redneck friends of mine, I drank some beer, which my stepfather found out about. His version of fair was that he was no longer obligated to keep up his end of the bargain, because, as he said, I'd violated his moral code by drinking.
Without payment of any kind, I angrily told him it was unfair, saying, "You don't have to get me the car, but you do have to pay me something, because I already did the work and you benefitted from it." His response was, "You're not getting anything, as punishment for drinking the beer."
I guess you can figure out this didn't go over too well with me, in fact it led to a complete split from Francis Farr. Soon after, I ran away from home.
This episode was a key component in teaching me that my work, once done, did not deserve or require payment from those I worked for. This insidious lesson was repeated over and over in my experience with the music business, and remains true to this day.
* * *
I angrily wheeled back and forth on the concrete landing at the entrance of County General Hospital, until I got the attention of what appeared to be a doctor on his way inside. He listened, as I explained my circumstances to him, promising he would investigate the matter immediately, which he did.
His opinion was, that if what I'd told him was true, the hospital had over reacted by throwing me out without following up on an alternative location to place me in, because of my condition.
As a result of this, I was transported to Long Beach General's orthopedic unit and given a bed in a small individual glass enclosed cubical, where I stayed for over 2 months, until I was thrown out for throwing a fire extinguisher through a glass partition.