I spent more time at the St Cloud VAMC than I can probably remember. I worked there during the year I studied beer drinking and gas station attendant as a student at St Cloud State University. I had just gotten out of the Army and I still didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. However, I had a vague premonition that whatever it was I was going to do, I’d need a college education to achieve it. So I took a few General Education classes to get some of the basics out of the way, and I enrolled in a work/study program. Because I was a veteran, I got a job at the St Cloud VAMC. I mopped floors, mostly. There are something like ten miles of hallways at the SCVAMC, and I probably mopped all of them at least once.
I spent three months there (from early October to just before Christmas) as a patient in the Chemical Dependency Recovery Program after I got a DWI in 1979(?) I have a memory problem. I think half of all the things that happened in my life before I became a nurse occurred in either 1979 or 1980. At any rate, the three months I spent there resulted in the only lengthy period of sobriety I had in my life until I was almost fifty.
Part of my Psychiatric rotation in nursing school was at the SCVAMC. I met some interesting guys out there. There was Leander. He was an older guy, a Norwegian bachelor farmer, perhaps. I asked why he was in the hospital.
“Oh, I hear voices, yah.”
“Oh, yah? Well, what do your voices say, then?”
“Yah, well.” he hesitated, then moved in closer. “They say, Kill, kill, kill.” he whispered.
“Oh, you don’t say! Well, I sure hope you’re not planning on committing any murders!” I tried to act shocked.
“Oh, God no!” Leander said, then looked around before he spoke. “I’m not really hearing voices. I just tell everyone that because I want to stay here until May.” It was maybe late October or early November. Leander just wanted a warm place to stay during the Minnesota winter. That, I would come to discover once I started working at the Minneapolis VAMC, was a pretty common goal for VA patients. Yeah, go figure on that one.
Henry was an older African American man. He didn’t understand how he suddenly became a black man because Henry was a white man. He had been a white man all of his life. And that’s why he was in the hospital. Henry would spend hours of time standing in front of the mirror in his bathroom, staring at the image he saw staring back at him, trying to figure out how THAT got happened.
And then there was David Smith, the Prophet of the Living God. David was perhaps the most interesting guy I’d ever met up to that point in my life, and certainly during my time as a nursing student. The Prophet David was bipolar, and he spent most of his life at the SCVAMC, according to him.
“I am the anointed Prophet of the Presbyterian Morman Church.” David informed me.
“I’ve never heard of that religion,” I replied.
“Of course you haven’t! It’s been a little difficult for me to spread the word because I’ve been locked up in this goddamn hellhole!”
For a guy that was locked up so much, David had been a remarkably busy guy. For starters, he had fifty wives. And each of his fifty wives had fifty kids. That’s one hundred, no, five hundred… That’s a lots of fucking kids. Clearly, David’s mother hadn’t cursed him!
He lived in a big ass mansion on the Mississippi River with Errol Flynn.
“Isn’t he…dead?” I asked.
“That’s what everyone thinks!” David whispered in my ear. He lived in the mansion with his wife and kids and Errol, and one of his Army buddies. “He’s the only black man in America. I sent all the rest of them back to Africa!” No wonder Henry was so dismayed to discover he was black. Maybe he didn’t want to go back to Africa… David could do that because he was also the richest man in the world. He had amassed his great fortune by finding and raising the greatest sunken ships in world and repurposing them. In fact, the Titanic was his personal yacht, and it was berthed in his backyard on the Mississippi River. “Do you know how I did it?” I did not. “I filled them with ping pong balls, and they floated right to the surface!”
I had to admit, it sounded like a stroke of genius. It also sounded like something only a crazy man would think up. So, I had to ask this question, “Say, Dave. Do you ever drink?” The Prophet David gave me a long, hard look. His response was the response of a man who had suffered immeasurable trials, tribulations and woe during his life.
“Let me tell you something, kid. When you sit at the left hand of God, and you have fifty wives, you are going to have a drink every now and then.”
And there you have it. If hanging out with a harem of women doesn’t make you lose your grip on sanity, hanging out with God will. This totally supported my theory that King Solomon was a complete idiot, and now I knew why.
I’ve often wondered what it takes to become a Presbyterian Morman. I’ve never seen so much as one temple, and I’ve looked. This might be hard to believe, but I’ve always wanted to be a prophet. I’m not sure what the criteria for being a prophet is. I’m not sure anyone does anymore, but then again, I’m not sure why everyone thinks Solomon is so goddamn smart either. His story doesn’t illuminate a lots of brilliance on Solomon’s part, and by the time you get to the end, Solomon is a moron.
But if I ever figure the prophetic criteria out, that’s what my next career is going to be. If I don’t, I’ll settle for being the Guy with Lea, a FB photojournalist and an obscure blogger guy. I’ve had worse options before.