I picked up 5150 last week and thoroughly enjoyed it. It is a well written story about a Gay young man called Ethan who in drugged hazes goes slowly but surely bonkers to put it nicely. To avoid giving away too much it is a great tale of his decent into madness and extreme and sometimes comic confusion. Good read and I would recommend it. ~ Review by Anon
Set in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district in the 1980’s, 5150 depicts a failure in the rite of passage from adolescence to adulthood. When young, gay Ethan Lloyd awakens to tremors he is first convinced they are little earthquakes. They turn out to be a forewarning of a psychotic episode that lands him first in jail, and then transferred or “5150’ed” to the mental hospital. Told in the first person with an extremely unreliable narrator, the book drags the reader into the world of madness and mental hospitals, with only the occasional gasp for air in the agreed-upon common reality most of us share. Ethan’s struggle to regain his sanity is pockmarked with psychosis and cigarette smoke intertwined in a coffee-ringed world of hairspray, dyed black hair, hobos, and hospital gowns. Were it not for society’s waterlogged safety nets, he might never have returned to share his tale of survival.
Excerpt from 5150: A Transfer
THE EXPERIENCE OF LOSING TOUCH with reality and undergoing a psychotic break is perhaps the single most frightening thing that can happen to a human being short of a near-death encounter. Although I changed most of the names, the locations and the incidents described in this book are all based on a real events that occurred in my life in 1987. In 1986, I graduated from a prestigious prep school on the East Coast and went off to Columbia University to continue my upward trajectory towards fame, fortune and success. My brain had other plans for me.
By the winter of 1986, I had come mildly unglued, fighting off depression and loneliness with alcohol, cigarettes and drugs. In a desperate attempt to hold on to my sense of self, I returned to the Bay Area to be close to my father and my beloved Aunt Jacqui. The arrogance of youth, a diet of pizza and beer, and a continued determination to “make it on my own” landed me in the Tenderloin, sharing a studio apartment with a beloved friend who was struggling himself with heroin. This set the stage for the ungluing that took place in June 1987.
To help the reader understand exactly what constitutes madness, I chose to tell the story in the first person present tense, intertwining actual events with my perception of the events themselves. Although I doubt I was able to float or hear the thoughts of others, for the moment, it was what I thought was happening. So even though this is technically a work of fiction, it is intended as a manual for understanding the thoughts, feelings and perceptions of the psychotic mind.
Young Ethan is actually young Duncan. It was only through the grace of God and the amazing capacity of the human body to heal itself that I was eventually able to return from madness to the place I am now, where I could write this book and share the psychotic experience with my readers. So thank you for attempting to understand the mentally ill. I met so many hundreds of young men and women who were struggling with the same racing thoughts, broken logic, fantastical and magical thinking, and sadly, very few ever returned from that place. A psychiatrist I
met at the time said that the psychotic person is “ drowning in the waters in which the mystic swims.” It was an intensely mystical experience. The desire to return to that state is powerful, for when we are there, we no longer have to follow the rules of logic, or listen to the prevailing scientific method that permeates all of our lives.
I have never doubted that I was given a mission while in touch with the mystical realm of angels, to bring back a measure of understanding that might allow the loved ones of the mentally ill know that even in our madness, we are still human and capable of feeling love, sympathy, affection and understanding. Please read this book with this message in mind.
Los Angeles, California ~ September 2010