21 Years: Pinewood Crap Merchants

Journal, June 23, 1992

“Do you feel it when I hold you? -Me
“Sometimes.” -Emma

21 years ago today I drove to New Mexico to be with a woman who claimed she’d been sexually abused as a child and as a result was spending a month at a treatment center. Those close to me know the real places and players, but the names have been changed. We begin with my drive to the Pinewood Treatment Center in the Albuquerque, New Mexico area.

Years later during my travels in the American west, I swung by "Pinewood" to find that for a while it was a drug and alcohol treatment center, then appeared to be abandoned.
Years later during my travels in the American west, I swung by “Pinewood” to find that for a while it was a drug and alcohol treatment center, then appeared to be abandoned.

Journal, Sunday, October 4, 1992:

6:35 am. The letter Emma read to my answering machine came in the mail yesterday. I haven’t opened it and don’t know if I will. Thinking about it, I feel so angry I am suddenly wide awake.

7:29 am. “Batesville Casket Company. Drive Safely.” Ha, ha.

11:00 am. Dangerously close to Emma.

Afternoon: we are together again, looking into each other’s eyes. She had doubts of me even coming to see her. But there I was, suddenly holding her close.

Journal, Monday, October 5, 1992:

I feel sad this morning, awaking from nightmares about her. Her voice plays over and over in my head: “I need you in my life and I love you,” and, “I am moving away as soon as I get home.”

What will become of us? I can’t ask her to stay, and I won’t go with her. {Sidebar: this became a recurring theme in my love life until I got married.} We’ll have no time to discover who we are together. All I can do is let her go.

I came to the airport, bought a sectional (a type of aeronautical chart), sat on the hood of my car and watched the jets fly, listening to them on the scanner. When I can’t fly, being near aviation soothes me.

Blue notebook, Monday, October 5, 1992:

Worst case scenario: Emma will go insane and kill herself.

At this treatment center, which is a cluster of residential houses, I am joined by about ten “family program” participants here to visit a patient. We sit in a living room, in a large circle of couches. A counsellor places a box of tissue between each participant, presumably expecting us all to cry. Most of us are husbands and boyfriends, referred to as “S. O.” for significant other. There are also a couple of parents.

Two of our group claim to have been sexually abused.

“My father sexually abused me for 10 years.” -Charlie

Journal, Tuesday, October 6, 1992:

Albuquerque is visible in the distance in this view from Sandia Crest.
Albuquerque is visible in the distance in this view from Sandia Crest.

I’ve come to one of my favorite places, Sandia Peak, to see what nature has to offer my situation. I was given the sound of winter-like wind in the trees and the auburn sky turning dark.

Blue notebook, Tuesday, October 6, 1992:

“None of us are going to see things the same way after this,” someone says. I don’t exactly believe that.

“It becomes a swirling toilet of despair.” -Arye, recovering heroin addict

Five basic freedoms: perceptions, feelings, thoughts, desires, fantasies.

Journal, Wednesday, October 7, 1992:

Our tearful eyes as she told me she had to go away; I told her I would let her go. So many tears and it’s only 11 am.

Blue notebook, Wednesday, October 7, 1992:

Nightmare last night: Emma and I were forced to sleep in a graveyard.

One family member, a mom named “Putzie” felt convinced that if she told her daughter the truth about what went on in their family, her daughter would kill herself. I sort of talked her down, and she hugged me afterwards.

This program is not very polished.

Night: Putzie freaked out and disappeared into the desert. We searched. Four hours later, she returned, shivering and muttering incoherently.

Thursday, October 8, 1992:

Some part of me never really believed Emma loved me in the first place.

I drove eight hours home listening to baseball playoffs on the radio.

* * *

In the end, I felt the entire “sexual abuse treatment center” experience was suspect, and history has adjudicated that conclusion.

"My ex-girlfriend went to Pinewood and all I got was this shitty medallion." Yeah, as if. This medallion is my prize for sitting through what Andy Garcia described in "When a Man Loves a Woman" as, "a bunch of losers feeling sorry for themselves." The medallion is sitting on another token from the experience, the "God bag." You are supposed to write your problems down and put them in the bag, thus "giving them to God."
“My ex-girlfriend went to Pinewood and all I got was this shitty medallion.” Yeah, as if. This medallion is my prize for sitting through what Andy Garcia described in “When a Man Loves a Woman” as, “a bunch of losers feeling sorry for themselves.” The medallion is sitting on another token from the experience, the “God bag.” You are supposed to write your problems down and put them in the bag, thus “giving them to God.”
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