There was a message on the answering machine in my office. (Apparently this was because Alice didn't have her address book and so didn't have my home number, and it never occurred to her that I might have a listed number.) Something to this effect: ``Hi, this is Alice. Frank and I are here in Honolulu to get married. I know you weren't expecting us now, but we're at the Hyatt and this afternoon we'll be moving to one of the Outrigger Hotels, the one near what I call the Pink Hotel, registered under Frank's name. You know that I have helped you out several times in the past and now it's your turn to help me, so call us when you get this message. I know that you are an intelligent person and I have given you ample information so that you will be able to find us.''
Well, the one piece of information she hadn't included was Frank's last name, and I didn't have the faintest idea what it was.
When I came home that afternoon, though, I was able to locate a letter from Alice that had Frank's last name in the return address. I then looked up the Outrigger and saw that there are about fifteen hotels in that chain, almost all in Waikiki. Checking a map, I found that about four of them were almost right next to the Royal Hawaiian, commonly referred to as the Pink Palace. If I'd known Frank and Alice the way I know them now, I would have skipped the three budget hotels. But in any case, it turns out that there is a central register for all the guests in all the Outrigger Hotels and I was told that they were at the big Outrigger on Kalakau'a.
I called and got Alice right away and she asked if I'd like to have dinner with her. Of course I said yes.
She said, ``I'm not allowed to leave this hotel without Frank. It's possible that he would be willing to put me into your care if you ask, if you want to go to a restaurant that's not in the hotel. But you would have to arrange that directly with him, I can't arrange that for you.'' She also asked if there was a washer and dryer in my building, because she had some laundry that needed being done. I suggested that it would be foolish to drive all the way to my apartment for that when there were many laundromats closer by and the hotel itself could easily take care of her laundry. ``Well, we don't need to discuss that right now,'' she said. Indeed.
When I got to her hotel lobby, she ran up and literally jumped off the floor into my arms. After I put her down she said, ``We had to come here without luggage because we were arrested by the Japanese police and were in the police station for three days and while we were there they had an earthquake. Now you get to ask me any questions you want.''
``I wouldn't even know where to begin,'' I said.
She then threw herself down on the couch and said, ``Oh goody, that means I get to just sit here and relax.''
Frank then showed up and we looked at all the restaurants in the hotel and Alice chose an all-you-can eat buffet for $9 a person. I paid, since neither Frank nor Alice had much cash.
We went through the buffet line and Alice chose four or five pieces of lettuce and maybe a radish or something. Suddenly $9 a person didn't seem like such a bargain, but I figured that my money was going towards spending time with Alice and how much she chose to eat or not was her business.
The dining room was open-air and Alice wanted to eat (or at least sit!) at one of the tables by the railing dividing the restaurant from the beach. The tables along the railing were actually not under the roof, and as the waiter began to put down our table settings and water glasses and so on, it began to rain lightly and he suggested we might want to move to a protected table, but Alice said she did't mind the rain. (She didn't ask Frank and me whether we did.)
By the time we started eating though, it was getting dark and Alice called the waiter over and said we needed to move to a table where there was more light. The waiter offered to bring candles, but no. So with some help he transferred everything to a table further inside. (I can't remember now why there was so much stuff to be set up and moved and so much for the waiter to do, since we'd carried our own plates through the buffet line. Maybe they had brought us secondary plates to actually eat off. In any case, it did take a little time.)
Alice kept calling the waiter back with various requests. I remember that she wanted chopsticks, and people went off to look for some but couldn't find any. Alice said, ``This restaurant is in Hawaii, how can you not have chopsticks? Did you ask the manager to look everywhere? Maybe there are some somewhere else in the hotel.'' Of course Frank and I and the waiter were looking at Alice's four pieces of lettuce and thinking that maybe it would not be too great a sacrifice if she had to pick them up with a fork. In any case, she didn't seem to have any real interest in eating them, although maybe she would have if she'd had chopsticks.
The waiter had a New York accent and was extremely nice. (I left him a $15 tip when we left.) Fortunately it was a Monday or Tuesday night (Monday, most likely) and we were almost the only customers there. I remember that at one point Alice called the waiter over and said she wanted him to be a witness. He said, ``I don't think I could really do that. I'm just a waiter, I wouldn't be qualified to be a witness.'' But Alice had Frank tell her he loved her, or something like that, and asked the waiter to be a witness to it.
Then she said to me, ``I want you to be my teacher.''
``Well, that's a fairly serious request,'' I said. ``When I accept a student on an individual basis, we usually have quite a bit of preliminary discussion to try and determine whether we will really be appropriate for each other and to make clear what the expectations are on both sides.'' I was somewhat stepping into my Zen Master persona. ``What would you like me to teach you?"
``Whatever you think I need to know,'' Alice said.
A day or two later, Frank would say to the psychiatric resident at Queens that he was worried that they might not be able to tell when Alice was back to normal. At the moment, I was having the same problem myself. With her liking for elaborate fantasy games, I couldn't be absolutely sure whether Alice was as far out of it as she seemed, or whether she and Frank were involved in some elaborate charade.
She said she needed to find a bathroom. As she left the table, she said, ``I'm sure that you two will have a lot to discuss while I'm gone.''
Frank had been remarkably calm throughout all this, but now he said to me, ``In the two years I've known her, I've never seen her like this before. Do you have any advice on how to deal with her?''
``All that I can tell you,'' I said, ``is that from my limited experience with people in her state, one of her could wear down ten of us.''
``She hasn't been to sleep in five days,'' Frank said.
Alice took a long time coming back from the restroom. When she did, she said, ``I bought a bathing suit. I want to go in the ocean.''
By now it was quite dark. The beach was only a few steps away from where we were sitting. Frank said, ``There don't seem to be any people out swimming now, it's too late,'' although there were in fact quite a few people walking on the beach.
We managed to dissuade her, in any case, and kept telling her that she needed to get some sleep. ``I don't need sleep,'' she said. ``I'm too busy to sleep, I have too much to do.'' (This urgent feeling of needing to be busy is quite typical for manic-depression.)
I said to her, ``I think you should accept the fact that at the moment, other people's judgement about you is more reliable than your own. You've been behaving very inappropriately tonight and have been behaving very unreasonably to our waiter.''
Then she started to cry. ``This is terrible,'' she said. ``I've been inappropriate. I'm so ashamed. I need to apologize to the waiter.''
``No, you don't need to apologize. You just need to calm down and sit quietly and let other people take charge of things.''
Eventually we got left the restaurant and Alice said, ``I'm going upstairs now to go to sleep with my fiance.''
While on the bus back to my apartment, it occurred to me that I really should have gone up to her room with her and tried to help put her to sleep. Aside from my experience doing hypnosis, I can also stroke and caress women in a way that many find very calming --- I woman I dated a few times once told me that I could get a job as an anesthesiologist (and calming her down is quite a trick indeed!) But I later realized that Alice had been far beyond any help I could have given.
Frank did go to sleep, however, being exhausted at that point. And then Alice ran out on the beach, yelling at everyone and saying that she should be arrested. Finally, a pair of officers did come and told her that there was no reason to arrest her since she hadn't done anything wrong. She picked up a handful of sand and said, ``You think this is sand? This isn't sand, this is shit,'' and shoved it on the officer's uniform. She then ran out into the ocean. As one of the officers told her a few weeks later, ``That was the only thing we really didn't like, because we didn't want to have to go in after you. But we knew you'd come back out eventually, so we just waited.''
They then took her to the Kekela Ward at Queens hospital, where she was put on the mauka (locked) side.
When Frank called me the next day, he said they'd given her some sedatives and that I shouldn't worry about visiting her right away. But about 6:30 that night she called me, told me that I needed to come see her and said that she needed a bag of some sort. I came down as fast as I could on the bus, bringing a plastic shopping bag which was the best thing I could come up with, and which in any case the head nurse said she wouldn't be allowed to keep on the ward.
When I got there, I was told that she was asleep and they showed me into her little room. The nurse said it was up to me whether to wake her up or not. I wasn't sure what to do. I knew that she needed her sleep very badly, but on the phone it had sounded like it was very important for her to see me. So I spoke to her gently and she woke up.
She said that she was now changing her name to Alice Mahalo. Mahalo was the first word in the Hawaiian language she'd heard and therefore she knew that it had profound significance for her.
I said that ``mahalo'' is Hawaiian for ``thank you,'' and that the reason it was the first Hawaiian word she'd heard is because at the end of the flight her stewardess would have said, ``Mahalo for flying Japan Airlines,'' or whatever, and that ``mahalo'' is in fact the most trite word in Hawaiian. But she insisted that that was irrelevant, and from now on she was Alice Mahalo.
As I remember it, she was wearing her own nightdress. Now she draped herself in her bedsheet and wandered out into the ward, and then she went out to a little outdoor alcove where patients could go to smoke and wandered around among the little stone tables chanting, ``Mahalo, mahalo.''
When visiting hours were over, she told the nurse that she wanted Heather Somebody added to her visitor list. I explained that there wasn't any list of allowed visitors, that anybody who wanted to could come visit her. She then said, ``I don't want all kinds of people coming to visit me. I don't want anybody allowed except my fiance Frank, and Lee, and Heather Somebody.'' The nurse then said that they could straighten all that out later and that it was time for me to leave.
Frank later told me that Heather Somebody was a woman she had met on the plane coming to Hawaii.
Needless to say, Frank was incredibly worried for the next two weeks until Alice was finally let out. Her psychiatrist gave him a book on manic-depression, called Mood Swings, and he told me, ``You would think that this book had been written by someone who knows Alice.''
I was less worried, because I knew she would come out of it eventually. But it was disturbing that for about a week she didn't want to get out of the hospital. She kept saying that she was meant to be there, that she had been put there because there were things for her to learn, that Kekela was a school for her, a university.
When I came to visit her, she would have a space on one of the big tables in the ward set up as an office, with yellow pads, pencils, and the like. Her yellow pads were covered with very repetitious notes, mostly the names of staff and other patients. For the first few days, she couldn't even remember the names of the nurses in the ward who regularly took care of her.
She asked me to get her textbooks for Tahitian and Tagolog, since her roommate was Tahitian and one of the other women in the ward was a Filipino. I did buy her texts in the University bookstore, although it was clear that she would not be able to concentrate well enough to even read a page or two. I also got her some more readable books on Hawaiian culture and some crossword puzzles. I was convinced that anything that could stimulate left-brain activity would be very useful to her. (I know for myself that if I'm very upset about something, doing some serious mathematics is almost better than an anti-depressant and that afterwards I will be able to think about emotional issues much more clearly.)
She needed lithium, but they were not willing to prescribe that non-consensually. All they were giving her was ativan, a mild tranquilizer. She insisted that there was nothing wrong with her and when the nurses would cite various crazy things she had done, either she would deny having done them or say, ``It's this ativan [which she called 'at-attack'] that's making me crazy. You've got to stop them giving me these pills, then I'd be fine.''
She said that the staff didn't like her because she was curing the other patients, and I think it was probably true that she really was helping some of them, and it was certainly true that the staff didn't like her interfering in their treatment plans. There was one patient named Becky who Alice was especially taking care of. Becky seemed to be heavily tranquilized and was, perhaps partly in consequence, childishly simple minded. I later learned that she was in Kekela as a result of having murdered someone, her father-in-law, I believe. Much later, when Alice was staying with me, she would attempt to visit Becky in prison by virtue of being a reverend of the Universal Life Church, but this ploy turned out to be unsuccessful since Becky was already being visited by Jehovah's Witnesses.
Alice's stormy love affair with Kekela came to an end after she convinced her roommate's psychiatrist to talk to her. As Alice later said, ``Dr. Patel cured me in ten minutes. Why couldn't my psychiatrist have done that?"
Dr. Patel simply told her bluntly that Kekela was not a university, it was a hospital, and she was not there as a student, she was there because she was sick and needed to be cured.
I had not dared to be that direct with her. I had always tried to avoid direct confrontation and use my NLP skills to try and step inside her belief system and then work indirectly to get her to see the contradictions in it.
I later realized, though, that with Alice a very blunt direct approach is often effective. Months after she got out of Kekela, she was still trying to fight with the psychiatrist who had treated her there. She showed me a letter she had written to him, saying among other things, ``I think you hurt me more than you helped me.'' She asked me what I thought of it.
I asked her, ``What do you hope this letter to accomplish?''
``I want him to agree to see me and discuss things,'' she said.
``And do you think this letter will be effective in making him want to do that?"
``Well, I certainly hope he'll understand that I really have some things I want to discuss with him.''
I tried to be very diplomatic. ``You have to look at this from his point of view. When he gets this letter, I don't think that what you've written is going to make much sense to him. I'm not saying that he's right, but what he's going to say is that when you went into Kekela, you were raving incoherently, demanding that the police arrest you, and couldn't even manage to remember the names of your own nurses. Now you're behaving pretty rationally (although he may not consider your letter completely rational!) He treated you according to the generally accepted protocol and prescribed lithium for you, which is the drug of choice for your condition. And you agree yourself that lithium does help you. So when you tell him that he hurt you more than he helped you, I don't think that he's going to believe that you're making sense.''
Mostly I was satisfied just with the fact that Alice didn't get angry when I said this. I wasn't hoping to actually change her mind. But several days later, to my surprise, she said, ``I've been thinking about what you said about Dr. Buffenstein and I've decided that maybe he did help me more than I've been willing to admit. So I'm not going to send him that letter, I've written him another letter instead.'' I noticed, though, that she didn't show me the second letter!
After Dr. Patel had talked to Alice, she put his name on a pillow and then spent an afternoon punching it. She then made an escape attempt and kept trying to convince Frank and me to help her escape. And she called San Francisco to get her friend Joan to come visit her.
Alice said, ``Joan will get me out of here.'' Joan is fairly well off financially, but she is also, among other things, a fairly obvious transsexual. Frank and I looked at each other and thought that it we were in a situation where we needed someone to testify to our sanity, Joan would be the last person we'd want. ``I'm not sure Honolulu is ready for Joan,'' Frank said. I thought that if Joan ever went into the Kekela Ward, it might be a little dicey as to whether they'd let her back out again.
I saw Joan after her first visit with Alice and as she came out of the ward she just rolled her eyes. I think she only went back for one more visit, although she stayed in town for most of a week. I think her main function in Honolulu was to make Frank's life miserable. They were sharing a hotel room and living with her absolutely drove Frank bats.
The whole time Alice was in Kekela, she kept saying that she wanted to live in Hawaii now and stay in my apartment. Frank and I both tried to discourage this, and when she was finally released she got on a plane with him to San Francisco. He would then go back to Japan and she would stay in San Francisco with her parents. She was still talking about coming back to Hawaii, but after three or four weeks went by I hoped that in the process of becoming more rational, she would have forgotten that idea.
Then I got a call from Phoenix on Friday afternoon, saying, ``I'm arriving in Honolulu tomorrow morning. Do I need to make a hotel reservation?"
``Are you sane?'' I asked.
``I ... think so.''
``Are you taking your lithium?''
``Oh yes, I like the lithium.''
``Okay, we'll try it for a few days and see how it works out.''
``Are you going to meet me at the airport?"
``What time are you arriving?''
``I don't know. It's America West, it leaves Phoenix at nine in the morning.''
``What's your flight number?''
``I don't know. It's America West.''
``Okay. I'll probably be at the airport to meet you.''
May 15, 1996