Of Monsters and Men

From Bride of Frankenstein (all rights reserved)
Film still from The Bride of Frankenstein
(all rights reserved)

(NOTE: if you are easily disturbed by reality, you might want to skip this one.
This was written while I was recovering from open-heart surgery and stuck for a week in a private rehab facility in the early Summer of 2014.

No rainbows and bunny farts this time..and it is likely to stretch your literary muscles a bit.)

As I was growing up, I was shielded from suffering. The very old or sick people in my family would just disappear one day amid hushed conversations by my parents and grandparents. I play acted the suffering of monstrous characters from the movies, like Wolf Man, The Mummy, and of course…Frankenstein. My mother revealed just before she walked on from this life, that she was reading the classic tale of Frankenstein’s monster while she was waiting for me to arrive in this world.

Explains a lot.

I mentioned that being in the rehab facility sometimes reminded me of what it might be like to be stuck in the nightmare-like mindscape of a surrealist film. Salvador Dali made films and they sometimes reflected the bad dreams he experienced, as well as the realities experienced growing up in an extremely violent Europe a hundred years ago. Most folks, when I mention his name, have no idea who he is, but that’s ok, as with most artistic masters, he will be rediscovered generations from now and people will wonder at his paintings, his sculptures and his films. They might even write songs about him, he was that cool.

Frankenstein seems to be recycled every decade or so, his untenable suffering reintroduced again and again.

Well, being in a rehab facility at times feels like being stuck in a nightmare, or at least being sucked into a Dali film with no way to escape suffering that calls out from darkened rooms down seemingly endless hallways.

My roomie Carl has been suffering since I joined him last Wednesday, a little less this evening than at first, dealing with a broken hip that, while he was laying in the hospital post-op, brought on a touch of pneumonia. Without sharing too many details, there has been a reasonable amount of moaning, coughing and calling out for pain medication in the middle of the night. This is layered under the tough experiences of the seventy-five other residents, some adept at laying on their ‘call buttons’ ..causing beeping noises from all directions while nurses and aids scramble to do what they can to provide relief.

Carl is not prone to hysterics or drama; he grew up in an orphanage and was essentially forced to join the military immediately after finishing high school, serving in the South Pacific during the period that included the Korean police action of the early 1950s. A manly man, farmer, mechanic and product of growing up during the great depression of the 1930s, which was a lot worse than what we have experienced over the last six years.

Not a whiner.

He is getting better, but indirectly experiencing his pain and humility has been unavoidable since there are just a few feet and a thin curtain that separate his world from mine. We have both apologized at least once for disturbing the other’s sleep, but for the most part, we act like men and just don’t talk about it.

Janet Watkins brought me a stack of magazines two nights ago and an unbelievable modern gothic treatment of the classic tale of Frankenstein.

It’s a pop-up book!

Unbelievable art and engineering went into this, and it is a more accurate adaptation of Mary Shelley’s book, which is widely regarded as the world’s first science fiction story. Like the legendary monster, the story will endure for centuries, a cautionary tale recounting the suffering of a creature who seemingly cannot die, thus is forced to endure his suffering without relief for all time.

My brain is obviously working overtime due to significantly increased blood flow, and although my body has a long road to 100% recovery, I will get there.

Technology and pharmacology will help me along, and the stiches that hold the grafted vessels to my heart will remind me of the stiches I always associated with the creature that was pieced together on an imaginary operating table almost two hundred years ago.

Terry Wilson

June 2014
Rockbridge Rehab Facility
Carroll, Ohio

 

From a FB post

Steampunk_Frankenstein by_z_a_l-d4r9dsm
Steampunk_Frankenstein by_z_a_l-d4r9dsm

Meetings with Remarkable Humans: Joan Baez

The recently late, and certainly great Joe Cocker was one of the stars of the Woodstock Music and Arts Festival in 1969 and the subsequent movie that was made of the famous three-day hippie happening.

This was another sad reminder that I had several connections to the event, even though I missed attending (hearing about it the week after from one of my classmates who attended, and who incidentally… was never the same.)

During my radio career (1971 – 2002) I interviewed three performers from Woodstock; Joan Baez, John Entwisle of the Who and Jorma Kaukonen of The Jefferson Airplane.

Joan Baez was to be my very first radio interview.

It happened in the Fall of 1971.

Rather than join me at the ‘luxurious basement studio facilities’ of WOSR Campus Radio, then located in Drackett Residence Hall at Ohio State, I was asked to bring my cassette recorder to St. John Arena, where she would perform that evening. After the concert, I would get an audience with her (shared with a reporter from The Columbus Dispatch).

Two free tickets to a major campus concert event!

Plus, to get to hang out afterward with the star of the show; a Civil rights activist, Vietnam-protesting legend, and one of the highlight performers of the still recent Woodstock movie.

I was ecstatic, and since my girlfriend was to be in Columbus for the weekend, I was sure that I would be scoring major points with her as well.

The concert, as I recall, was good, but I mostly remember Debbie (the girlfriend) acting fairly strange about the prospects of going backstage with me after the concert. It turned into a minor tantrum as I cajoled her toward participation.

“..come on, it’s Joan Baez for cryin’ in a bucket”

Flat refusal.

I was flabbergasted!

After all, it was Debbie who had filled my head with all kinds of leftist thought, she also being from my hometown and a year ahead of me in college, a veteran of mild forms of campus insurrection.

Actually, ANY form of campus insurrection could end up costing dearly, as the families of four student at Kent State University would learn a year and a half earlier.

Joan knew the value of her on-screen Woodstock performance to broaden her anti-war reputation while touring campuses around the country with her sweet, sweet voice.

Today she is still a genuine hero of the revolution, and her name will be forever linked to the poet laureate of the times, Bob Dylan!

Yes folks, we eventually stopped the war, her music was a big part of the soundtrack of the era.

After the concert that evening ended, I found the contact who was to get us back to Joan’s dressing room. Although encouraged once again to go backstage, again Debbie refused.

“So what are you going to do while I’m back there?” I asked.

“Sit right here.”

“Oh really, all by yourself… in a thirteen-thousand seat arena?”

“Yep, right here” she said with resolve.

So I proceeded in to do the interview.

I remember Joan Baez looking tired, and a bit sad.

The woman from The Dispatch asked better questions, and got her to talk about Joan’s then-husband, author and anti-war activist Davis Harris, who had just been released from jail.

The tape from the evening is long-gone, it’s okay because I doubt if I asked anything of substance.

I was pretty nervous.

Joan was on TV recently talking about Woodstock, she looked pretty hot for being well over sixty.

Joan Baez, 1973 Photographer unknown.
Joan Baez, 1973
Photographer unknown.

And Debbie?

By the time I came out to look for her after the interview, she was still sitting there, stewing all by herself in the cavernously empty St. John Arena.

By her own admission, she was frequently an anti-social grouch, but I think she got over it that weekend.

We never spoke of it after that night, but remained in contact until her passing in 2013.

 

(Adventures with Woodstock alums John Entwistle of The Who and Jorma Kalkonen of The Jefferson Airplane in future journals.)