Escape from Shawshank

At some point after my release from Mt. Sinai,I suppose it was after my 2nd stroke, I was taken by ambulance (I remember it was cold) to Cardinal Cooke rehab center.

I was on a gurney, wrapped in a sheet so that my hands were pinned to my sides, and one-two-three I was lifted to a bed at Cardinal Cooke.

There was a lady with bright blue hair looking down at me on my right, and a man in a white coat (that I later found out was the only doctor at Cooke) and a black man in the bed next to mine who was watching this procedure.

They didn’t pull the curtain that separated our two beds.

Behind them, especially behind the lady with blue hair was a halogen type of light that was shining through her hair.

I asked, is your hair blue? Or am I in some sort of altered state?

She looked at me, and said: My hair is blue. It’s the latest thing.

Then she and the doctor felt my penis and other stuff down there, and said something to each other, and somehow managed to flip me around so I was ass-up. The doctor did what I later learned was a cavity search (I must’ve looked like a smuggler) and then left.

My roommate, I later learned is name was Claude, and he was from the islands (Caribean I will try and remember which one as I – oh yeah, Jamaica) propped himself up on his elbow, and was facing me.

I never saw them do that before, and I’m here five years, he said.

Why did they do it, I asked.

I dunno. Cheap thrills.

The reason I bring it up, this introduction, was that the next day, when I saw the gruel they were serving for breakfast, I began calling the place Shawshank.

And I was there for a month.

I became good friends with Claude who taught me the rules, let me know which of the blue shirts were trustworthy, who would report you for the slightest infraction, all the while pretending to be your friend.

In all fairness, the PT was very good there, but anything that had to do with management was screwed up. And I remember very well that the social worker had placed cardboard over the window of her office, and the door was always locked so you never knew if she was in there or not.

Even when you knocked on the door, she might peek through a hole in the cardboard and based on who you were decide to see you or not. And when I was trying to get my paperwork to leave the place my sister (the social work professor) said to me: you don’t need that paper. You are a free person. You can leave any time you want.

I told her that if we tried to leave without that pink sheet signed by the social worker, the guards wouldn’t let us out.

I began to see her ivory tower view point was way wrong. I told her stories about guards going out on the street and bringing back inmates who had tried to leave without permission.

And it was then that she looked at me, my own younger sister and said: I think you’re having a psychotic break!

Yeah, right. The stories I can tell. I told her about the initial cavity search. She said I must have been hallucinating. I asked Claude who was in the next bed to tell her what he had seen. And he did.

She whispered to me that Claude too had gone crazy.

(A blue shirt just arrived… She hurt her leg on the metal corner of my bed like Matt did the other day)

Anyway, I had these flashbacks from Shawshank while I was taking a shower in the Castle, and I realized that both places were run by the Catholic Archdiocese. Not only that, but there was a reason the food was disgusting – it was the she same company that supplied the food.

And the same company that supplied the blue shirts.

And I was thinking about a problem I had here, namely that they always wanted to make the bed. Which is not a terrible thing, but they all tucked in the covers tightly, and if I wasn’t there to supervise, they always put the remotes and gadgets (cell phone, a/c remote, two tv remotes, headphones) in different places.

It may not sound like a big deal, but when you have trouble walking, it is. So whenever I left the room, I would leave a note on the bed saying PLEASE PUT REMOTE CONTROLS ETC. BACK ON THE BED WHEN YOU ARE DONE.

And yesterday when I came back after being outside for a few hours, the bed was made – blanket tucked in which would mean a lot of tugging and pulling to get under it, the note was crumpled and in the garbage, and I looked around the room for the cell phone and remotes, and honestly, I didn’t see them.

I thought, oh maybe they put them under the pillows.


On the floor, other side of bed.


Hmmm. Where would be the hardest place for me to get to?

Oh, on top of the high dresser.

Sure enough.

I could see ’em up there, but there was no way I could reach them, seeing as how after the strokes it was nearly impossible to raise my arms and grab stuff. But I had one of those grabbers that you see on t.v. but no idea where it was. S0 it turned into a big project, with a cane that I used to knock them off onto some pillows I pulled from the bed.

And here’s where the Shawshank bit comes in. I began to think, how could I stop them from making the bed and hiding my controls, and it flashed through me – remember I’m sitting on a chair in the shower during this train of thought, that I could make a paper mâché head, and stuff the pillows under the blankets, (did you ever see Escape from Alcatraz ??) and so here I was actually contemplating creating a dummy so that it would look like I was still sleeping.

Okay, in the meantime I have a bunch of things to do. No, I’ll just hide the remotes etc. before anyone has a chance to hide them, but I have kept the print store alive. My plan is to lower my markup to $10 for all the prints. Hopefully that will keep things off the state and federal radar. Whatever price you see, you are paying for their costs and their profit. My profit is $10.

Published by Dave

My name is David Beckerman. I am a fine art photographer working in New York City. Or I was before I had two strokes. I now write from a Nursing Home.

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