Monday, June 05, 2006

As a child, Charlie Chaplin developed a illness that confined him to his bed for weeks at a time. It is difficult to imagine the difficulties this would provide for a five year old.

After dusk his mother would return from the theater. She too was a showman. In the light of a dwindling sun she sat near his window and acted out the activities on the street below. Perhaps she made creative additions to amuse her bedridden boy. Maybe an Arabian camel made its way down the street. Or a fabulous march, full of regalia, flags and stern martial order. Or a panther snaking its way through an unsuspecting crowd. Or maybe the Ernst the baker was having trouble with his window as he usually did in the later hours.
His mother was later overcome by a mental illness and admitted to Cane Hill Asylum, now known as Cane Hill Psychiatric Hospital(CHPH). She lived there for years and had few lucid moments within those confines.

Later Charlie invented "The Tramp" and galvanized new standards in American cinema with his awesome creativity. He and his older brother Sydney returned to England to visit her.
"Sydney saw her, but I had not the courage, so I waited. He came back upset, and said that she had been given shock treatment of icy cold showers and that her face was quite blue."
They took her to a private institution. This time Charlie did see her. He told her she would be well soon.

She said "Of course, if only you had given me a cup of tea that afternoon, I would have been alright." This cryptic sentence haunted the Tramp for quite some time.

CHPH's administration block is cartoonishly featured on the original US 1970 cover of The Man Who $old the World by David Bowie. The glamourous musician's brother, Terry Burns, was a inmate there. He later escaped to walked in front of a train. That wasn't the first of his suicide attempts but it was the most successful. He believed his brother would come and "rescue him".

The great artist feared seeing his brother. He feared that he would loose his own sanity. So he wrote letters and sent albums. David Bowie seems like a brave man in my opinion, one not prone to those kinds of mortal problems. He is fiercely independent. The man once declined a invitation to join The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire as a Commander. He also has permanently dilated pupils and differently colored eyes due to a schoolyard fight. Perhaps he is simply an alien.

We are all tied to life's nuanced tragedies. I have fewer tethers than so many others. This is something I am thankful for. Although, now that I'm thinking about it, more philosophizing must be rolled over to know who I should be thanking.

Here are the last words of one of CHPH's wards:

This man thanked his retainers. He had my name. I have my fathers name and like me, he his. I'm reminded of the 'Peter Movie Credit Phenomenon'.

Next time you see a movie in the theater stay for the credits. Look for the name 'Peter'. You will likely find that the name is disproportionally represented. I find it often exceeds in quantity the more common named like 'John' for instance. Sometimes 'Michael' beats it out. Michael happens to be my middle name. I have no idea why this is or what it means.

Its pretty tangental anyway.

The Cane Hill Psychiatric Hospital is a beautiful building. Some of it is still in mint condition. Other parts have been bombed, burned, vandalized, or have simply experienced dilapidation.
It is the kind of place I would like to take up residence. I believe that its variety is inspiring. I think the incredible history is inspiring. Michael Caine's estranged brother was once a resident there.

One of the rooms has a carpet of moss.

Chairs sink in the old wood floor.
Glass guides light in for
Natural reclamation.

With time all things become soil.

In the mountains of North Carolina we have a tenacious vine named Kudzu. It is native to Japan and parts of China. The word for "vine" is "kuzu" in Japanese. Now it is a invasive exotic in the south east United States.

I like to think of kudzu as a "plant warrior". One vine can grow up to a entire foot per day. You can see it slowly overtaking large trees and old buildings. Uprooting and demolishing everything within its reach. vehicles,
fences and all manner of other objects become shambling leaf covered giants once enveloped. Sometimes they look like dinosaurs in costume. Monstrous reptiles motionlessly masquerading in plant materials. It happens fast and yet just slow enough to keep most of us unaware. I've seen a houseboat consumed by kudzu in Cullowhee N.C.. The plant wears the crown of a conqueror.

One covered in purple jewels.


Blogger santoritimes said...

Dear Pete,

Sometime ago I leant Malcolm Knighten a book called 'Being Dead.' I think you should read it.


j. vernon johnson, esq.

2:39 PM  
Blogger fairclavicle said...

Peter, happy late birthday! I am as old as you used to be, but you are as old as my television, which recently left the confines of my room to see 'better days' in tv-heaven/hell.
by the way, I enjoyed this issue of Rice.

8:32 AM  

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