Friday, January 15, 2010

The Loneliness of the long distance runner

Beth and Ron had both had escaped from the mental institution in recent weeks, temporarily attaining the mythic freedom we often discussed in the sanitized atmosphere of our communal living room. Each of us had roommates in the open ward. Most were there for drug or anger-coping problems, but not me. No, I was there because my basketball dreams had deflated. The patients would sometimes play basketball in the dungy basement too; and there I still had much of the natural ballet flow with which I grew up. Mellaril stifled some of this; but the bigger problem was that I realized how doubtful it was that any basketball scouts would be following up on their scholarship offers, by peeking in on me at the drab mental institution.

After several weeks of loitering there, I felt as if this wasn’t a place for me to make progress. So, I took a cue from Ron and went over to the nurse’s station to hang out for a final time. As the nurse dipped behind the partition to parse out a patients evening dose, I slipped over quietly and quickly tapped the elevator button. It wasn’t going to be enough time though, and I knew this from timing it before, while hatching my escape plan. So I hustled back and leaned against a far wall corner, stroking my beard and reading an important newspaper from my clipboard.

After checking under the tongue of her patient to ensure the dosage was properly swallowed, the nurse drifted behind the partition for more medicine, opening the chance for me to dash to the awaiting elevator. I hopped on soundlessly, hit the button for floor one and placed my palm over the floor indicator bell. The elevator took me down, and as I exited, I clung to my clipboard as if it was breaming with important information, then I nonchalantly walked out, pretending I was a doctor, while stroking my beard, and slipped past the two hypnotized woman at the lower administration desk and through the unlocked glass door to freedom!

It was a frigid freedom however, with the temperature in the lower twenties. Immediately after I strode past the front desk and up the hilly grass, I sprinted to the far end of Macarthur Park and slipped into a shady grove. There I followed an ancient railroad track though some thick woods. Even though the path was amid a bustling metro area, it was not well traveled, probably because of the large amount of briars in that neighborhood. The path came out conveniently near Key Bridge, which would be the natural route for me to head into Virginia. However, that’s precisely where authorities recaptured Ron and I wasn’t going to make the same mistake.

Therefore, I purposely walked deeper into the city. It was Saturday, December 23, 1978 – a long holiday weekend and not many people were out for this cold late night. Fortunately, I was dressed warm enough to walk around. I trudged into the heart of the red-light district, to elude police, alerted to any escaped mental patients, fitting my description. After a few hours of gerrymandering around the Capitol, I wound my way over to the 14th Street Bridge. Back then, it did not have a pedestrian walkway, and the guardrail was only thirty inches high, but as the traffic was sparse, it felt safe enough to cross the river there.

While crossing the 14th St. Bridge, there was a brief period when it became completely barren of traffic. Here*, I stopped and reflected above the Potomac for a few minutes, wondering if back at the institute they were aware of my escape yet. Then looking down at the dark water, it struck me, “So this is what it comes to for some people.” The thought naturally occurred, to make me wonder what would happen if I jumped in. The river didn’t appear to be flowing very fast, but that probably was deceptive, because it must certainly be powerful. Then I thought that if I jumped in, deception or not, there was a chance I would survive, because I was still a strong young man. Next, I thought, what a cliché this tragic event would be, and if I was to go, it should certainly be under circumstances that are more dramatic! Here they might not even find me, unless somebody actually sees me jump.

Thinking again about the cliché, I realized that this was something funny. Even though the doctors had drugged me badly, I recognized the element of dry humor above the river there and remembered that I had often been a funny guy. As I looked over at some vehicles approaching from the Rosslyn end of the bridge, I thought I could laugh at this incident in a year or two, if I filed the humorous fragment away for future use. Then I walked to end of the bridge to my Virginia freedom.

*Two years later, Air Florida’s Flight 90 crashed at the same spot of the bridge where I stood reflecting that dark evening. The crash resulted in some heroic, dramatic rescues, along with 78 fatalities, most in the frigid river:

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Anonymous said...

quite interesting article. I would love to follow you on twitter. By the way, did you guys hear that some chinese hacker had hacked twitter yesterday again.

marlowsghost said...

In the intelligence community, one of the most important defensive tactics is the so called "limited hang out." When the core of a nefarious plot risks public exposure, the powers that be have resort to the limited hang out. For example, "You're right, Lee Harvey Oswald did not act alone. He was part of a mafia-run vendetta against JFK and RFK for their abandonment of the mafia who helped steal the 1960 election." In reality, LHO was a patriot, enlisted at an early age schooled by the govmint in Russian langauge and sent, with many others, as a false defector to Moscow where his cover was blown and he was forced to return with Marina to the good old U. S. of A. Few know that LHO memorized the Marine Corp handbook front to back at the early age of 15. He desired to be a spy for America. When his cover was blown in Moscow, the State Department paid for his return after his "false defection" to the Soviet Union and his new mission by the Office of Naval Intelligence (Read AG RFK) was to infiltrate the militant anti-Castro, CIA trained Cuban John Bircher groups training in Fla. and Nawlins' for a Cuba invasion. Well, David Ferrie, Jack Ruby and David Philips a.k.a. "Maurice Bishop" cottoned on to RFK's plant and set LHO up as the "lone assassin" of his brother. RFK couldn't go public as LHO was "his guy" and RFK may have actually believed that LHO had been "turned". So when the flimsy Warren Report began to crumble, the "limited hang out" was activated and supposedly succeded with Jack Rubenstein's "death" in prison. You see, the mafia did it, RFK was clumsily eliminated (please, powder burns behind his ear and collar (1" - 2" inches) when SS was supposedly only as close as 2 and a half feet in front of RFK? and Teddy ran into his "bear trap" in Chappaquidick and the life of every living and future Kennedy offspring was threatened if Teddy pushed the matter? But I digress. Not making the squad, PTSD from buddies burried in Lebanon rubble and post-partum depression are other examples that by no means do I attempt, nor desire, to trivialize. The question still remains: "Who are the real Monsters?" and more importantly "Who has the Courage to Face Them?"