8/15/2008

My New Cell Phone, Memory Lane, and Mama

1. I love technology. Thanks to my new cell phone and its internet connection I could follow my emails on the ride from Maryland to NC. We pulled into the Welcome Center at the NC border so that I could participate in a telephone conference call for some business and Jim could walk and enjoy the sun while I sonferenced. Later, at another rest area I used the Broad Band computer hook-up to check the graphics for my new cd with the designer. It is amazing. In the olden days, working out a piece of printing art work required more than month lead time to take it to printing and half a dozen trips to the designer to check proofs.

2. When we approached the large green sign, Butner, Jim and I decided to pull off for a side trip. When Jim was in residency at Chapel Hill he was assigned to a half year rotation at John Umstead Hospital, the NC State Mental Hopsital, in Butner. He had never been back since his last day on that stint.

Butner was more than a half hour drive from Chapel Hill so we bought our first second car, a used black VW "bug".

Well, ofcourse in more than fifty years things have changed. The oldest buildings are gone - replaced by 1970s brick sprawling complexes - that are now vacant. A month ago everything moved into a ner-by brand new modern facility. We did find one older building where there was a 1947 commemorative medallion in the floor, laid in 1947. The sprawling land set in a highly rural area is the same. The federal prison is still near-by and a mammoth water tower which was raised in 1942. We wondered - who is John Umstead? Why was the hospital named for him? No library in Butner so we will have to look elsewhere for the answer to the question.

Jim did not remember these buildings - nothing looked particularly familiar but just being there jogged his memory. He talked about how it had been to have 60 patients in a locked ward under his care. Scary. "I started smoking there" he recalled, "it made me feel I had some protection when I held ward meetings surrounded by 60 patients who were meeting with me to discuss their grievances about the situation." We smiled at each other, nodding - thinking of the young man he was then and how vulnerable he must have felt.

3, Mama - I have not been to visit Mama in six weeks because of my knee. Her voice may have sounded strong and good on the phone but she is not good nor strong. I am very glad to be here this week-end.