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J Grant

PARADISE REGAINED

Without telling Jane I sold the Nikon camera we bought at Shannon airport for a fraction of the cost we paid for it. We had left California four months earlier on an impulse inspired at a marijuana party.
“We’re going on an extended tour of Spain and the Pyrenees,” Joan said through a breath held deep, as she handed me the wrinkled little white tube with smoke curling upward.
“Really,” I said, then pulled a long drag. “We should do something like that.” The words barely came out through a puff of fog-like smoke, as I handed the joint to my wife, Jane
Without taking a drag Jane passed it on to Ray, sitting crossed legged by her side. He said, “Sure why not? Joan and I are going to enjoy our freedom now before we have kids. Kids will change everything. Brayden, you guys should travel too before you hear the pattering of little feet coming into your bedroom every morning.”
“I know what Jane.” I became excited. “Let’s rent one of those cars we saw advertised in that travel magazine; you know, the Europe by Car plan. We could sell my Le Mans and use that money for traveling.”
“You know I’ve always wanted to go to Europe. That was my plan when I was a stewardess, but I married you instead.” She gave me a long deep kiss.
“You got a good deal though, right,” I teased.
“Maybe, if you take me to Europe.”

We sold my 1966 metallic-blue Le Mans, all of our furniture and a saxophone I had been carrying around since high school. As we were driving to the airport with a friend, “I’m Leaving on a Jet Plane. Don’t know when I’ll be back again” was loud over the radio. It was a sign – we were aligned with the universe.
We picked up the dark green Volvo we had ordered via Europe by Car when we arrived in London. The front seats folded completely back against the back seats, making comfortable sleeping arrangements, our no-cost accommodations.
We spent the better part of the next four months literally free-wheeling around much of Europe. Jane mapped out a rough idea of our destinations: London, Edenborough, Brussels, Paris, Nuremberg, Munich, Salzburg, Zurich, Milan, Venice, Split, Dubrovnik, Pec, Skopje, Athens, Iraklion, Knossos, Rome, Paris, Madrid, and Toledo. In Toledo we had our only episode of bad luck. I had gone swimming in the Adriatic off the coast of Yugoslavia. It had been chilly. By the time we got to Toledo, something the Europeans called la Grippe, had found its way into my lungs. We were held up there for about a week while I recovered with the help of a local physician.
This incident decided for us that it was time to return home. Having abandoned our Volvo and shipped it back to New York to wait for us, we made our way back through Spain and France by train to Lichtenstein, where we found the cheapest airfare back to the U.S. It was an older prop plane, operated by Icelandic Airways. It took sixteen hours for the plane’s wheels to finally touch the ground at Dulles International Airport with a stopover in Reykjavik for refueling. I immediately collapsed on a bench after we made it through customs. La grippe had returned we thought, but no, after we made it to my home town in Tennessee, we discovered it had turned into pneumonia. I spent several days recuperating before we went to Kentucky to spend Thanksgiving with Jane’s family.
In spite of my “crash landing”, I felt a sense of accomplishment. We were back in the U.S., full of confidence that we had “arrived” – we had traveled abroad. It had been heaven, the tour of a lifetime.
On our way back to California from Kentucky, we visited my brother in New Orleans. He convinced us to stay. There was a job opening for a theraapist at a mental health clinic in the beautiful Garden District adjacent to Audubon Park. Since we were free to settle wherever we wanted and Jane was interested in taking some art history classes at Tulane, I interviewed and got the job. We found a quaint old carriage house near the clinic where I worked.
The rent of one hundred twenty-five dollars a month was too much of a stretch for my meager salary. Changing dollars into pounds, franks, lira, drachma and pesos screwed up our judgment about the value of money in the U.S. We were living on red beans and rice, melting in the sweltering humidity, and sleeping on a mattress on the floor; the only other furniture we had was a small table in the tiny dining room and two rickety antique chairs we found in a garbage bin. We found some old dishes and cooking utensils in a junk store. The counterculture movement was still going strong and we were content to pretend we didn’t need money.
But this posing grew thin. There was that day we couldn’t even afford the gas to get out to lake Pontchartrain for a picnic. Then, income taxes came due. The Spanish moss hanging from the ancient live oak outside our dining room seemed to drip with mocking innuendo that our pseudo-hippy lifestyle wasn’t working.
I could think of no alternative but to sell our only disposable luxury item, the Nikon camera. We of course did have the Volvo, but we had already gotten a loan in order pay off the “Europe by Car” folks. Jane was relieved the taxes were paid, but very upset that I didn’t discuss the sale of the camera with her.
“We could have found another way,” she admonished.
“Well, we could buy it back, if you can think of another way,” I said with firm conviction that
she couldn’t. And she couldn’t. I knew the idea of her taking a job as a salesclerk in a
dress shop or waiting tables was not something she would be happy doing. Selling the camera had kept us solvent but we were still just barely getting by. We were both depressed. My way out
of this squeeze was to call my friend Alex, a native of Kentucky. He had returned there after our graduation from Tulane three years before, to work as a mental health consultant for the State. We had enjoyed the wildness of sharing an apartment in the French Quarter so we had been close.
“Hey, Alex. How’s the bluegrass up there?”
“It’s still beautiful blue, Brayden. What’s going on with you?”
“It’s no good here for us Alex. It’s one thing to go to school here and live the good life and
partying in the French Quarter, but another to work here. The traffic is terrible and it’s so
damned hot and humid and I don’t remember it being so dirty!”
“You didn’t seem to mind all the clutter and the heat when we were there.”
“It was different then, Alex. We were having a blast. But Jane hates it here. She’s been
taking classes and was hoping to get a scholarship to Tulane, but that didn’t pan out. She can’t
find work and my income doesn’t allow any luxuries. We’re just not making it here. I was
wondering if there are any jobs up there. We would really like something in a small town, maybe
near the river. Are you aware of any positions open up there?”
“Why, actually there is Brayden. I know of a mental health center in a small town in the eastern part of the State. And it is on the Ohio. They’re looking for a therapist.”
Jane had always wanted to get back to Kentucky where she grew up; she would be able to see her family more often. And, the mental health center payed for moving expenses.
So, we moved.
The salary was good. I bought another Nikon as soon as we settled in, an act of recuperation of our former standard of living I thought. Financially it was, but professionally it was a nightmare.
Oakville was a picturesque little town of about 8,000 folks. Rolling hills fell off into the River. Main Street followed the curve of the River and was lined with small shops and stores colorfully decorated. Baskets of flowers hung from the lampposts and artfully carved wooden benches invited shoppers to sit and lick their ice cream cones. Mansions and bungalows were scattered along the winding streets and up the green hills dotted with oaks, maples and sycamores. Atop the hills lay fertile fields for growing tobacco and pasturing cattle.
For Jane this was a wonderful move. She became an art teacher at the local community college. She loved it and the students loved her. And, she visited with her parents almost every weekend.
But for me it was disaster. The mental health center was located in an old unkempt Victorian in the middle of town on Main Street. Confidentiality was something of a joke. Anyone on the street or in the shops nearby could see whomever went into the center. The “remodeled” offices had very little privacy. One could hear the sessions next door because the temporary makeshift walls only went up a short way toward the very high ceilings, leaving the tops of the offices open.
But the worst part was the staff.
The administrator, I’ll call him Boozy, was the former mayor of a larger town in Kentucky and had been ousted in the last election. He was a short, stubby, freckled-faced man of about forty years with red hair, a pot belly and frequently had alcohol on his breath. He laughed at anything and everything.
The director, I’ll call him Satyr, was a thirty-something psychologist. His claim to fame was that his brother was the boyfriend of Mamie Van Doren. He drank a lot too. His sociopathic behavior was notorious. He had sex parties on his lawn. He punched out a staff psychologist because he had been jailed for public drunkenness. He nibbled on Jane’s ear at a company picnic. He bragged about his pubic hair itching because he and his wife made a pack: if she shaved off the hair on her head, he would shave off his pubic hair. And I’m sure there was a lot more of this kind of behavior that I never heard about.
All this was reason enough to drive a conscientious social worker into deep depression. I tried to put on a good front. I smiled and tried to be cordial. But I’m sure I looked distressed most of the time. Several members of the staff frequently asked me if I was OK. My depression leaked out via hostility.
“I’m not going to a silly valentine celebration,” I strongly declared, when Susan, the administrative assistant, handed me the invitation. She looked hurt and I felt guilty, but I couldn’t tolerate another company party with all the shenanigans Satyr would perform. Sometimes I was nearly psychotic with delusions.
I remember thinking Jane was suicidal. I called the college where she was teaching to see if she was still there. She was of course. I felt foolish when she came to the phone.
“Are you OK?” I asked.
“Of course. I’m OK. Why are you calling me to ask that?”
“I just needed to hear your voice.”
“Well, you heard it!” She was irritated and hung up.
It was a crazy projection. Perhaps I just wanted to know she was alive. Perhaps I needed to know if I my heaviness was driving her away from me.
Depression is like starvation. Energy is not available, like there is no food available to the psyche. Inside there’s guilt, hurt and irritation or raw anger, even rage. Depressed people often go through the motions and try to be decent. It’s not that they are unaware of their effects on others. They haven’t lost their sensitivity to others. They are aware, but they can’t stop the internal shroud from covering the outside too. Loved ones think “Come on, snap out of it. Look on the bright side.” To the depressed there is no bright side. Sometimes they wear a mask, just to be civil, but the mask can eventually come off as they spiral deeper and deeper into a hopeless pit of despair. Despair can become intolerable. Without relief they prefer to be gone.
I had insomnia almost every night. I tossed and turned for several hours. Powerful thoughts bounced around in my brain. Images of red destruction tore into cherished objects. Hurt, like a blunt instrument went deep into all parts of my body. I gave up on the idea of sleep. I was giving up on the idea of living. The unconscious suicidal impulses which I had projected onto Jane had erupted into my consciousness. After hours of obsessing about how to kill myself, I got out of bed carefully so as not to wake her, got dressed and began walking down the country road away from our house.
My plan was to jump in front of a passing car. Every time a car passed I tried to determine if it was going fast enough to kill me. I was afraid I would simply, or not so simply, just maim myself. But alas, none of the passing cars were ever fast enough. I went back home, sat and stared into the darkness. My eyes fell onto a shiny magazine cover, reflecting the light from the street. I turned on the lamp and began reading Psychology Today. An ad leaped out at me. It was a saving grace.
ORTHOPSYCHIATRY CONFERENCE, WASHINGTON D.C. May 11, 1971
The next day I asked Satyr if the center would pay for me to go to the conference. He agreed. Three weeks later I was in D.C. where I interviewed for a job in Monterey, California. A week later back at the clinic I got a call. The mental health center in Monterey wanted me to come right away. The following day I turned in my resignation the date to be exactly one year from the day I had started working there.
Jane didn’t really want to leave Kentucky and her family, but she knew how depressed I was, so she agreed. She had enjoyed living in California, the ocean, the beaches, San Francisco and we had made close friends there. We packed up a U-Haul truck. Jane drove the Volvo. Her brother, Keith, drove the little Sprite we had bought for her, and I commanded the U-Haul.
We reached Monterrey five days later. I was lucky. Compared to the clinic in Oakville, the Monterrey Mental Health Clinic was heaven. It was like breathing the fresh air of a pine-scented forest after living in a medieval dungeon. My supervisor was a kind, gentle, older woman who had studied with some of the big names in the psychoanalytic circles. She led me to a spacious office which overlooked the Bay. I thought it was hers.
“What a nice office you have, Dr. Goode. You even have a view of the Bay.”
“Oh, no, Brayden. This is your office. Mine is down the hall.” She smiled approvingly.
Jane and I drove Keith to the airport. On our way back we passed a cliff overlooking the Pacific. Jane said,
“Let’s stop for a while. I want to watch the sunset.”
It was spectacular. Wisps of fog surrounded us and large puffy cumulus clouds slowly moved eastward above us, colored pink, gold and red-orange by the sun sinking into the Pacific. I sat in awe of this nourishing scene, reflecting on the day we left California, our adventures in Europe and our struggles to regain our ground, this ground.
Jane must have been musing on the same track. “Was the price we paid for that wild European adventure worth it?”
I didn’t answer. My psyche absorbed the wonderful salty air, the warmth of the sun coursing through the fog, and the sound of waves crashing on the rocks below. My depression attached itself to the fog as it disappeared into the sunset.
PARADISE REGAINED
Without telling Jane I sold the Nikon camera we bought at Shannon airport for a fraction of the cost we paid for it. We had left California four months earlier on an impulse inspired at a marijuana party.
“We’re going on an extended tour of Spain and the Pyrenees,” Joan said through a breath held deep, as she handed me the wrinkled little white tube with smoke curling upward.
“Really,” I said, then pulled a long drag. “We should do something like that.” The words barely came out through a puff of fog-like smoke, as I handed the joint to my wife, Jane
Without taking a drag Jane passed it on to Ray, sitting crossed legged by her side. He said, “Sure why not? Joan and I are going to enjoy our freedom now before we have kids. Kids will change everything. Brayden, you guys should travel too before you hear the pattering of little feet coming into your bedroom every morning.”
“I know what Jane.” I became excited. “Let’s rent one of those cars we saw advertised in that travel magazine; you know, the Europe by Car plan. We could sell my Le Mans and use that money for traveling.”
“You know I’ve always wanted to go to Europe. That was my plan when I was a stewardess, but I married you instead.” She gave me a long deep kiss.
“You got a good deal though, right,” I teased.
“Maybe, if you take me to Europe.”

We sold my 1966 metallic-blue Le Mans, all of our furniture and a saxophone I had been carrying around since high school. As we were driving to the airport with a friend, “I’m Leaving on a Jet Plane. Don’t know when I’ll be back again” was loud over the radio. It was a sign – we were aligned with the universe.
We picked up the dark green Volvo we had ordered via Europe by Car when we arrived in London. The front seats folded completely back against the back seats, making comfortable sleeping arrangements, our no-cost accommodations.
We spent the better part of the next four months literally free-wheeling around much of Europe. Jane mapped out a rough idea of our destinations: London, Edenborough, Brussels, Paris, Nuremberg, Munich, Salzburg, Zurich, Milan, Venice, Split, Dubrovnik, Pec, Skopje, Athens, Iraklion, Knossos, Rome, Paris, Madrid, and Toledo. In Toledo we had our only episode of bad luck. I had gone swimming in the Adriatic off the coast of Yugoslavia. It had been chilly. By the time we got to Toledo, something the Europeans called la Grippe, had found its way into my lungs. We were held up there for about a week while I recovered with the help of a local physician.
This incident decided for us that it was time to return home. Having abandoned our Volvo and shipped it back to New York to wait for us, we made our way back through Spain and France by train to Lichtenstein, where we found the cheapest airfare back to the U.S. It was an older prop plane, operated by Icelandic Airways. It took sixteen hours for the plane’s wheels to finally touch the ground at Dulles International Airport with a stopover in Reykjavik for refueling. I immediately collapsed on a bench after we made it through customs. La grippe had returned we thought, but no, after we made it to my home town in Tennessee, we discovered it had turned into pneumonia. I spent several days recuperating before we went to Kentucky to spend Thanksgiving with Jane’s family.
In spite of my “crash landing”, I felt a sense of accomplishment. We were back in the U.S., full of confidence that we had “arrived” – we had traveled abroad. It had been heaven, the tour of a lifetime.
On our way back to California from Kentucky, we visited my brother in New Orleans. He convinced us to stay. There was a job opening for a theraapist at a mental health clinic in the beautiful Garden District adjacent to Audubon Park. Since we were free to settle wherever we wanted and Jane was interested in taking some art history classes at Tulane, I interviewed and got the job. We found a quaint old carriage house near the clinic where I worked.
The rent of one hundred twenty-five dollars a month was too much of a stretch for my meager salary. Changing dollars into pounds, franks, lira, drachma and pesos screwed up our judgment about the value of money in the U.S. We were living on red beans and rice, melting in the sweltering humidity, and sleeping on a mattress on the floor; the only other furniture we had was a small table in the tiny dining room and two rickety antique chairs we found in a garbage bin. We found some old dishes and cooking utensils in a junk store. The counterculture movement was still going strong and we were content to pretend we didn’t need money.
But this posing grew thin. There was that day we couldn’t even afford the gas to get out to lake Pontchartrain for a picnic. Then, income taxes came due. The Spanish moss hanging from the ancient live oak outside our dining room seemed to drip with mocking innuendo that our pseudo-hippy lifestyle wasn’t working.
I could think of no alternative but to sell our only disposable luxury item, the Nikon camera. We of course did have the Volvo, but we had already gotten a loan in order pay off the “Europe by Car” folks. Jane was relieved the taxes were paid, but very upset that I didn’t discuss the sale of the camera with her.
“We could have found another way,” she admonished.
“Well, we could buy it back, if you can think of another way,” I said with firm conviction that
she couldn’t. And she couldn’t. I knew the idea of her taking a job as a salesclerk in a
dress shop or waiting tables was not something she would be happy doing. Selling the camera had kept us solvent but we were still just barely getting by. We were both depressed. My way out
of this squeeze was to call my friend Alex, a native of Kentucky. He had returned there after our graduation from Tulane three years before, to work as a mental health consultant for the State. We had enjoyed the wildness of sharing an apartment in the French Quarter so we had been close.
“Hey, Alex. How’s the bluegrass up there?”
“It’s still beautiful blue, Brayden. What’s going on with you?”
“It’s no good here for us Alex. It’s one thing to go to school here and live the good life and
partying in the French Quarter, but another to work here. The traffic is terrible and it’s so
damned hot and humid and I don’t remember it being so dirty!”
“You didn’t seem to mind all the clutter and the heat when we were there.”
“It was different then, Alex. We were having a blast. But Jane hates it here. She’s been
taking classes and was hoping to get a scholarship to Tulane, but that didn’t pan out. She can’t
find work and my income doesn’t allow any luxuries. We’re just not making it here. I was
wondering if there are any jobs up there. We would really like something in a small town, maybe
near the river. Are you aware of any positions open up there?”
“Why, actually there is Brayden. I know of a mental health center in a small town in the eastern part of the State. And it is on the Ohio. They’re looking for a therapist.”
Jane had always wanted to get back to Kentucky where she grew up; she would be able to see her family more often. And, the mental health center payed for moving expenses.
So, we moved.
The salary was good. I bought another Nikon as soon as we settled in, an act of recuperation of our former standard of living I thought. Financially it was, but professionally it was a nightmare.
Oakville was a picturesque little town of about 8,000 folks. Rolling hills fell off into the River. Main Street followed the curve of the River and was lined with small shops and stores colorfully decorated. Baskets of flowers hung from the lampposts and artfully carved wooden benches invited shoppers to sit and lick their ice cream cones. Mansions and bungalows were scattered along the winding streets and up the green hills dotted with oaks, maples and sycamores. Atop the hills lay fertile fields for growing tobacco and pasturing cattle.
For Jane this was a wonderful move. She became an art teacher at the local community college. She loved it and the students loved her. And, she visited with her parents almost every weekend.
But for me it was disaster. The mental health center was located in an old unkempt Victorian in the middle of town on Main Street. Confidentiality was something of a joke. Anyone on the street or in the shops nearby could see whomever went into the center. The “remodeled” offices had very little privacy. One could hear the sessions next door because the temporary makeshift walls only went up a short way toward the very high ceilings, leaving the tops of the offices open.
But the worst part was the staff.
The administrator, I’ll call him Boozy, was the former mayor of a larger town in Kentucky and had been ousted in the last election. He was a short, stubby, freckled-faced man of about forty years with red hair, a pot belly and frequently had alcohol on his breath. He laughed at anything and everything.
The director, I’ll call him Satyr, was a thirty-something psychologist. His claim to fame was that his brother was the boyfriend of Mamie Van Doren. He drank a lot too. His sociopathic behavior was notorious. He had sex parties on his lawn. He punched out a staff psychologist because he had been jailed for public drunkenness. He nibbled on Jane’s ear at a company picnic. He bragged about his pubic hair itching because he and his wife made a pack: if she shaved off the hair on her head, he would shave off his pubic hair. And I’m sure there was a lot more of this kind of behavior that I never heard about.
All this was reason enough to drive a conscientious social worker into deep depression. I tried to put on a good front. I smiled and tried to be cordial. But I’m sure I looked distressed most of the time. Several members of the staff frequently asked me if I was OK. My depression leaked out via hostility.
“I’m not going to a silly valentine celebration,” I strongly declared, when Susan, the administrative assistant, handed me the invitation. She looked hurt and I felt guilty, but I couldn’t tolerate another company party with all the shenanigans Satyr would perform. Sometimes I was nearly psychotic with delusions.
I remember thinking Jane was suicidal. I called the college where she was teaching to see if she was still there. She was of course. I felt foolish when she came to the phone.
“Are you OK?” I asked.
“Of course. I’m OK. Why are you calling me to ask that?”
“I just needed to hear your voice.”
“Well, you heard it!” She was irritated and hung up.
It was a crazy projection. Perhaps I just wanted to know she was alive. Perhaps I needed to know if I my heaviness was driving her away from me.
Depression is like starvation. Energy is not available, like there is no food available to the psyche. Inside there’s guilt, hurt and irritation or raw anger, even rage. Depressed people often go through the motions and try to be decent. It’s not that they are unaware of their effects on others. They haven’t lost their sensitivity to others. They are aware, but they can’t stop the internal shroud from covering the outside too. Loved ones think “Come on, snap out of it. Look on the bright side.” To the depressed there is no bright side. Sometimes they wear a mask, just to be civil, but the mask can eventually come off as they spiral deeper and deeper into a hopeless pit of despair. Despair can become intolerable. Without relief they prefer to be gone.
I had insomnia almost every night. I tossed and turned for several hours. Powerful thoughts bounced around in my brain. Images of red destruction tore into cherished objects. Hurt, like a blunt instrument went deep into all parts of my body. I gave up on the idea of sleep. I was giving up on the idea of living. The unconscious suicidal impulses which I had projected onto Jane had erupted into my consciousness. After hours of obsessing about how to kill myself, I got out of bed carefully so as not to wake her, got dressed and began walking down the country road away from our house.
My plan was to jump in front of a passing car. Every time a car passed I tried to determine if it was going fast enough to kill me. I was afraid I would simply, or not so simply, just maim myself. But alas, none of the passing cars were ever fast enough. I went back home, sat and stared into the darkness. My eyes fell onto a shiny magazine cover, reflecting the light from the street. I turned on the lamp and began reading Psychology Today. An ad leaped out at me. It was a saving grace.
ORTHOPSYCHIATRY CONFERENCE, WASHINGTON D.C. May 11, 1971
The next day I asked Satyr if the center would pay for me to go to the conference. He agreed. Three weeks later I was in D.C. where I interviewed for a job in Monterey, California. A week later back at the clinic I got a call. The mental health center in Monterey wanted me to come right away. The following day I turned in my resignation the date to be exactly one year from the day I had started working there.
Jane didn’t really want to leave Kentucky and her family, but she knew how depressed I was, so she agreed. She had enjoyed living in California, the ocean, the beaches, San Francisco and we had made close friends there. We packed up a U-Haul truck. Jane drove the Volvo. Her brother, Keith, drove the little Sprite we had bought for her, and I commanded the U-Haul.
We reached Monterrey five days later. I was lucky. Compared to the clinic in Oakville, the Monterrey Mental Health Clinic was heaven. It was like breathing the fresh air of a pine-scented forest after living in a medieval dungeon. My supervisor was a kind, gentle, older woman who had studied with some of the big names in the psychoanalytic circles. She led me to a spacious office which overlooked the Bay. I thought it was hers.
“What a nice office you have, Dr. Goode. You even have a view of the Bay.”
“Oh, no, Brayden. This is your office. Mine is down the hall.” She smiled approvingly.
Jane and I drove Keith to the airport. On our way back we passed a cliff overlooking the Pacific. Jane said,
“Let’s stop for a while. I want to watch the sunset.”
It was spectacular. Wisps of fog surrounded us and large puffy cumulus clouds slowly moved eastward above us, colored pink, gold and red-orange by the sun sinking into the Pacific. I sat in awe of this nourishing scene, reflecting on the day we left California, our adventures in Europe and our struggles to regain our ground, this ground.
Jane must have been musing on the same track. “Was the price we paid for that wild European adventure worth it?”
I didn’t answer. My psyche absorbed the wonderful salty air, the warmth of the sun coursing through the fog, and the sound of waves crashing on the rocks below. My depression attached itself to the fog as it disappeared into the sunset.

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