Tuesday, October 31, 2006

October 31, 2006--Hallo-Mart

Last Saturday, Rona and I literally pushed our way into Halloween Adventure, an immense store on lower Broadway where all of its 14,000 square feet are devoted to displaying and selling costumes. Rona was looking to replace her 50-cent rubber spider ring, her only concession to dressing up for the big day. I of course hoped to lure her toward the Nurse Betty outfits. We extracted ourselves forty minutes later with neither.

The place was packed. There must have been at least a thousand shoppers snaking their way through the cramped aisles. And no one else was looking to spend just half a buck. The longest lines, in fact, were at those shelves where Dominatrix costumes were on prominent display—all costing upwards of $50 to $100. We were by far the oldest customers in sight; most of the others looked as if they had just come from freshmen orientation at NYU.

We live in Greenwich Village, the site of the now nationally-televised Halloween Parade. When we first moved there, about 20 years ago, the parade was for children and was quite informal. Five years later it had been transformed into something so commercialized, so taken over by adults that there was the need to establish an alternative event just for children. But even that one has become, in its own way, almost equally commodified. True, it does not have motorized floats with Bud Lite or Coppertone as sponsors, but virtually every kid who shows up is duded out in a store-bought costume.

No longer in sight, wrapped in aluminum foil, is Little Jimmy masquerading as the Tin Man. Nor is there Little Lois as the Fairy Godmother, clomping along in her mother’s high heels waving a homemade rhinestone wand. Their parents have also been to the costume shop, most likely the one at the K-Mart on Astor Place. So we have a hundred Little Stewie’s and Tiny Alice’s in $25 Spider Man suits (we have at least become less sexually stereotypical) and an equal number of munchkins dressed up like, well, Munchkins.

The NY Times reports that Halloween, if you haven’t noticed, has become a growth industry—costume sales this year are projected to be about $5.0 billion, up from last year’s $3.29. (Article attached.) A National Retail Federation news release says that the “average customer” plans to spend $59.06 on Halloween (up from $49.48 last year). They attribute this to a general “surge in celebrating.”

Considering what’s going on in the world I can understand why there has been that surge—putting on a costume and pretending to be someone or something else makes a lot of sense. Considering how many of us are scared out our wits by terrorism and cataclysmic events seemingly beyond our control it at first glance appears not to make sense to want to submit oneself to be scared by a neighborhood ghost or goblin. Maybe we need the help of social psychologists to figure out the meaning of this willing submission to fear and disbelief.

But while waiting for that, wouldn’t it be great if the parents would get out of the business of appropriating Halloween to themselves and allow their kids to make their own costumes (whatever happened to the ideology of fostering creativity in one’s children?) and to stop walking them around as they go Trick or Treating. Turn them loose, for God’s sake, and let them have some fun and even, hold your breath, let them make some good-old-fashioned mayhem.

Monday, October 30, 2006

October 30, 2006--Standing Down

I rarely comment about articles that appear on the front page of the NY Times. Rather, I troll for stories hidden in the paper’s inner recesses, those decidedly well below the fold, feeling that’s where the follies are most often to be found.

But today is an exception—the madness is right there, revealed in two side-by-side stories, both on page one and both well above the fold. Thinking you may have missed these since, like me, you are probably putting finishing touches on your Halloween outfit, you may have overlooked them and thus I need to bring them to your attention. Both are linked below.

The first reports about how weapons we are making available to the Iraqi army and police appear to be disappearing. Not because of indigenous incompetence but because of simple things like our military folks not keeping track of them as they are distributed. I am talking about big-time weapons such as rocket-propelled grenades, assault rifles, machine guns, and sniper rifles. Perhaps some that have fallen into “insurgents’” hands and have been used to kill U.S. troops.

All of these weapons have serial numbers and it should, therefore, be easy to keep track of them; but almost none of the numbers have been kept by the army—our Inspector general looked at the fate of 505,093 and found just 12,128 serial numbers were recorded.

Further, we have also spent hundreds of millions of dollars to build the capacity of Iraqi logistics personnel so that Americans will not be needed to deliver fuel and ammunition, transport Iraqi soldiers, or provide maintenance for the equipment and weapons we are giving to the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, in other words so we can “stand down” when they “stand up.”

But we have failed in this as well—we haven’t trained sufficient Iraqis to do this logistical work and haven’t supplied them with instructional manuals. In fact we do not know how many have been trained because the military told the Inspector General that “a computer network crash erased the records.”

“Good job, Brownie.”

How did all of this incompetence become known? Because Senator Warner requested the study. Recall, as the all-powerful chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee and as a staunch supporter of both the military and the war, he very recently came to conclude that the situation on the ground is moving “sideways” and we may need to change course. I wonder what he is thinking now. Do I hear U-Turn?

And then, from the adjacent front page story, you will undoubtedly not be surprised to learn that the trustees of Gallaudet University, in another victory for the Enlightenment, did their own version of a U-Turn over the weekend—they gave in to student demands that they appoint someone as president who is appropriately deaf.

So what costume will you be wearing?

Saturday, October 28, 2006

October 28, 2006--Saturday Story: Heshy's Complaint (First of Three)

After forty years I finally heard from Heshy (Big Dick) Perlmutter.

He said, “What’s all this shit you’re writing about me?”

I said, “After all these years, without even a hello, this is what you have to say to me?” To which he replied, “I’ve seen some of your stuff and none of it is true.” I asked, “Even your nickname, Big Dick? That’s what everyone called you because of . . . you know.” “Well yes, that is true; but the rest of it, as I said, is a bunch of shit.”

“Give me some examples, please, I want to be true to our lives at that time and I did the best I could to remember things accurately.” After some silence, which I assumed meant he was considering whether or not to hang up on me, he said, “Well, for one thing there were no Siegel twins. Yes, there were the Kershner twins, Irving and Bernie, but no Siegels.” “But,” I pressed him, “wasn’t there a pair of twin girls in sixth grade? I just named them ‘Siegel’ because I couldn’t remember their real names.” “There were twin girls, I agree, but they were the Schwartz twins and they were anything but attractive.” He raced on, “And while I’m on the subject of your so-called Siegel twins,” I could feel his contempt, “what’s all this business about me feeling them up in the coat closet? I never did that. You made that up, and frankly it’s defamatory.” Now I was the one to pause, thinking, am I in trouble with this? What happens if this book gets published? Will just changing everyone’s names be enough to pass the publisher’s lawyer’s scrutiny? How much will I have to fictionalize in order to stay out of court?

“But,” I said to Heshy, “even though they weren’t that attractive you still wanted to take them into the closet, didn’t you, and feel them up? They were by far the most developed girls in our class as you, for certain, were the most, how should I put it, well equipped.”

“You have me there, I did think all the time about what their tits would feel like and would have loved to go into the closet with them; but the truth is that I never did it—I just thought about it.”

“Well,” I said, groping toward an answer that would work for both Heshy and me, “that’s sort of the point and why if this thing ever does get published I want to subtitle it A Fictional Memoir. Not just to keep the legal folks out of my few remaining hairs but because it will maybe help anyone who picks it up understand what I am attempting to do.”

“But what does that have to do with me and the Schwartz, sorry, Siegel twins?”

His tone at least had softened and so I proceeded, “You know that after college, though I had been a pre-med like you, though you became a urologist . . . .”

“Hold on, hold on, that’s another thing--you know I’m an ophthalmologist so why do you keep referring to me in your writing as a urologist? That really pisses me off.”

I could hear that in his voice, so as gently as I could, said, “You’re not getting the point—shouldn’t Big Dick have become a urologist just as he should have been the one to feel up the Siegel twins.”

He felt calmed down again, so I continued, “As I was saying, I never went to medical school but rather went on to graduate school to study Literature and then ultimately became a professor. I always wanted to write fiction, not just teach it, and now that I am writing, I want to produce something ‘literary,’ not just tell humorous and sentimental stories from ‘the old days.’”

He had been listening, “And so what do you mean by ‘literary?’ You know that wasn’t much of an interest of mine.”

So I said, “At the time I was a graduate student many of my teachers and then my colleagues were interested in issues of reality and illusion. Actually, these ideas go back to the Greeks. And then later on, in post-modern times, that interest shifted to questions about the nature of reality itself—how even ’truth’ itself is socially constructed.”

I felt myself lecturing him and apparently so did he, “You mean like the Siegel twins?” I picked up his mocking tone, feeling I deserved it.

In truth, I need to confess, I hardly knew what I was talking about when throwing around post-modern this and socially-constructed that. I left the study of literature many years ago when I became a dean at New York University and then went on to work for the Ford Foundation as a senior director. I had in truth drifted away from literary and cultural-studies issues.

Since I caught myself trying to take advantage of Heshy here, being entirely too glib, I acknowledged, “You’re right to make fun of me, Hesh, because what I’ve been writing is not that literary. I’m no Proust, no Roth, Philip Roth. That should only be. I know what I am and especially what I’m not. But I do want my writing to have at least a literary patina. This is my first novel and at my age and in my state of health, who knows, it may be my last.”

“Are you OK?” I could hear his concern, thinking, from what I remembered about him, he must be a wonderful doctor with exceptional bed-side manner, assuming he ever sees a patient in a bed—he is after all an ophthalmologist.

“I’m fine. Really fine. I did have some colon surgery a couple of years back; and though I did have to wear a bag for a while, they removed it and I’m feeling better than ever.”

“Oh my, glad to hear that.”

“But I do know from that,” I went on, “and from having so many people my age already having died, that I can’t assume anything. So I want this to be as good as I can make it. Which means that it has to be interesting on a number of levels, including the reality-illusion level."

He remained silent so I continued in this vein, "We’ve been talking about the twins. Let me stay with that. I want to tell the truth about them. This at times means the literal truth, as best I can recall it, but also the essential truth. For me to get to that kind of truth I often have to make things up. Embellish some, elaborate others, and at times invent things entirely. With the Siegel twins I not only changed or forgot their actual names but I in effect made them up as well as your encounters with them. I knew that there should have been twins like the Siegel twins at P.S. 244 (that’s not made up—that’s really where we went to school) and I knew that if there had been such a couple of twelve-year-old bombshells there they would have wanted you to go into the coat closet with them and feel them up. But since this is not about you (though you, Heshy, are both a major character and my muse), it’s about a version of me—thus a memoir—and, since it is a version of me, not totally, literally, really me, it is also a fictional memoir. I needed the Siegel twins to exist, as I have imagined them here, and for you, as my alter ego, representing things I wanted for myself, equipment front and center, you needed to exist as I imagined you.”

“I understand now what you’re trying to do, but still have to think about it because I’m not sure I like what you’re up to with this. I’m still feeling uncomfortable."

"And by the way,” he added without missing a beat, “the candy store on the corner wasn’t ‘Bob’s’ but ‘Krinsky’s.’ Why did you imagine it as ‘Bob’s,’ or did you forget that too? Like the Schwartz twins.” Was he mocking me again? “I mean,” he continued, “what’s wrong with ‘Krinsky’s? Isn’t that actually a better name?” I could feel him getting excited, sensing blood in the water, “If the store had really been called ‘Bob’s’ wouldn’t you have been getting closer to your essential truth by imagining it to be ‘Krinsky’s’ and naming it that? That is if you are really interested in the truth about our neighborhood.” I caught that emphasis on our, “Or for that matter the truth about your life,” I noted that emphasis as well, “and whatever meaning anyone else might take from this Dirty Jew Bastards!"

I could hear him chuckling, thinking he had gotten me there. And in truth he was right about that. Thus, if you read on through this, when you get to the chapter “Mr. Perly’s World of Mirrors,” about Heshy’s father, where at least half is imagined, fictionalized, made up, you will see that the candy store is in fact called by its real name, ‘Krinsky’s.’

* * *

We rang off, promising to stay in touch, maybe even getting together for a real catch up so, among other things, our wives could meet us and each other--they both had heard so much, too much, about Heshy and me and East Flatbush in Brooklyn.

But I was reluctant to do so too soon. I still needed my distance if I was to get this right—I didn’t want too much truth to get in the way of my recollections and imaginings. I also didn’t want to see Heshy without his full shock of electrified black hair and the bulge in his pants, more afraid in truth of what he would not be seeing in me.

Then three days later a large brown envelop arrived with a six-page handwritten letter from Dr. Harold S. Perlmutter, M.D. in which he offered news of Donny Harris, Mel Leshowitz, and Carol Shtupstein, saying that if this gets published he’d like me to use his real name and nickname.

And about Carol he wrote, “Shtupstein not only lives, she just remarried--to Stevie "Bummy" Glockman, the boxer, who killed an opponent in the ring! I saw her at the P.S. 244 reunion a few years ago & would you believe, she looks EXACTLY the same.”

Four days after that, a similar envelop appeared, also containing a long handwritten note, this time Heshy enclosed a photo from the New York City Archives of “Perly Glass Work” (sic) in case I wanted to describe his room and needed to be reminded about how it looked.

It’s a murky photo to be sure, but if you put it under a good light and peer at it the right way, you can see the Venetian blinds lifting just enough so you can look into that bedroom where we . . . .

Two more Complaints to follow during 2007 . . . .

Friday, October 27, 2006

October 27, 2006--Fanaticism LXXI--No Deaf Enough

“You’re saying deaf people are not good enough, they need to be fixed. I don’t need to be fixed.”

And thus, because so many students at Gallaudet University, the nation’s only liberal arts college for the deaf, feel this way about their deafness they have been protesting the appointment of Jane Fernandes as president. Her “problem”--though she was born deaf, she grew up speaking rather than using sign language, went to mainstream public schools, and did not learn to sign until she was twenty-three.

In Deaf Culture, with a capital “D,” this disqualifies her. Though there have been remarkable medical advances in electronic cochlear implants which enable deaf people to hear sounds that they can interpret to understand as words, among deaf activists there is resistance to undergoing the operation. They contend that there is nothing “wrong” with being deaf and American Sign Language (ASL) is as good a language, perhaps even a better language than English—it is richer, subtler, and more nuanced.

The NY Times reports that 96 percent of deaf children are born to hearing parents and more and more of these parents are choosing implants for them. (Article linked below.) This too is being decried. The chair of the Deaf Studies Department at California State University, Northridge claims that this offers “false hope.” Because the implants do not transmit perfectly formed words to the brain, parents are bringing “magical consciousness” to their children. Meaning that though the consciousness implants impart is way below average parents “pretend” that their kids have a consciousness “they don’t really have.”

Things have gotten so bad at Gallaudet that not only has Fernandes been called upon to resign by demonstrating students and faculty, some asserting that since she is insufficiently sensitive to the learning and cultural needs of deaf students and thus allows faculty to be hired who do not sign well; but she has also been guilty of the ultimate transgression for a deaf person—she married someone who hears!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

October 26, 2006--McOscopies

I don’t know about you but I need a break. I’ve had it with staying-the-course no longer being operative; political ads featuring Playboy Bunnies; gay marriages in New Jersey of all places; Mark Foley and Father Mercieca; Kurt Cobain making $50 million last year even though he’s dead (Einstein, by the way, earned $20 million); Barry Diller pulling down $295 million even though he’s still alive (from, can you believe it, QVC!); and now, I suppose inevitably, Madonna and Oprah.

There’s just so much that I can handle in a day. So I was relieved to stumble on some good news—I learned that the next time I need my Botox, rather than having to wait for an appointment with my dermatologist and then having to sit in his waiting room along with a bunch of adolescents with acne, I can head off to the nearest mall and get my wrinkles filled in at Klingers Advanced Aesthetics. (See NY Times article linked below.)

Considering that the “cosmetic medical procedures” industry now takes in $12 billion a year, I suppose it is surprising that it has taken this long for McDermatology to appear.

They’ve got this Botox business down to such a science that even nurse practitioners can zap it into your lips. So why not mall it? No matter that Botox is a toxic bacteria that paralyses muscles (ironing out wrinkles in the process when it works as advertised) and thus not infrequently leads to serious complications. And I don’t just mean that you wind up in the parking lot looking like Joan Rivers.

If you think Klingers is an amateur operation, which along with Botox treatments also serves cappuccinos, think again. Their operation in the Chevy Chase Mall pays a fee to Johns Hopkins Medicine which for the money offers consulting services for their “aesthetic medicine protocols.” The Texas Southwestern Medical Center provides similar assistance at the Klingers store in the posh NorthPark Mall in Dallas, saying that since “we are in an era of medicine where we have to go where the customers are,” we should do it right and, of course, make a few bucks in the process.

That seems to make sense for medical customers but what about us poor patients? Wouldn’t it be great if we could pop off to the Kings Plaza Mall and do some shopping, get a colonoscopy, and after that grab a bagel and take in a movie?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

October 25, 2006--Rush (Limbaugh) to Judgement

Even if you just awoke from a month-long sleep you undoubtedly know that for the Democrats to take control of the House they need to pick up at least 15 seats and to win the Senate they have to gain six.

Most pundits, Republican as well as Democrat, pretty much agree that the House will tip, unless Karl Rove has a November Surprise up his sleeve. The Senate, though, is too-close-to-call. Also agreed is that the balance in the Senate is likely to depend on two-to-three races, including the one in Tennessee and the one in Missouri. So it is interesting and nauseating to look in on some of the last-minute TV commercials and the controversies that have erupted around them.

In Tennessee, the Republican National Committee had its intermediary flunky produce and run a TV spot that more than implied that the African-American Democrat candidate Harold Ford has lust in more than his heart for white women. It ends with a half-naked Playboy Bunny look-alike whispering leeringly, “Call me Harold.” The not so subliminal message—lock up your sisters and daughters if he is elected. This ad, hands down, wins the Willie Horton Lifetime Achievement Award.

In Missouri, voter support for stem cell research may lead to the election of Claire McCaskill, the Democrat, since there is a measure on the ballot that would amend the state constitution to protect all approved forms of stem cell research. Those turning out to vote for that measure, it is assumed, are more likely to also vote for McCaskill than her opponent. Thus, in support of McCaskill’s candidacy, Michael J. Fox, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease, made a commercial that is being aired in Missouri.

This in itself is not all that innovative—Republicans after all have been adept at including referenda about gay marriage on various state ballots to bring out their base. So turn about seems like fair play.

But I suppose that the power of the image of the beloved Michael J. Fox twitching and trembling from the effects of the disease, which some say might be cured through stem cell research, so frightened Republicans that they immediately launched a counteroffensive (see NY Times article linked below). In addition to ads of their own that attack stem cell research, with James Caviezel front and center—he played Jesus in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ!--they also wheeled out heavier guns, most notably Rush Limbaugh.

He ranted about how Fox’s uncontrollable movements were in fact the result of “acting” since he didn’t take his medication, which reduces the tremors, before the filming.

Somehow, during this tirade, Limbaugh was being filmed by someone with a cell phone camera, and images of him quivering and shaking in mocking imitation of Fox quickly showed up on the Internet. It was so despicable, even for him, that he later apologized. Or should I say his Republican collaborators were so worried that it would be counterproductive that they got him to recant?

Better yet, old Rush, rather than doing any acting of his own, could have played videos of his own quacking and shaking when he went Cold Turkey as he withdrew from his addiction to Oxycontin.

Now that’s what I call Reality TV!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

October 24, 2006--$tudent Aid

It’s not just Members of Congress who get whisked off on private jets to Caribbean islands for a little golf and schmoozing with lobbyists. These days college and university officials are horning in on the act.

In a little-known shift in policy during the Bush years, the private student loan business, a rapidly expanding mega-billion industry ($13.8 last year), has been substantially unleashed from federal regulation and thus has been effectively transformed into a “free market.” This private version of the better-known federally Guaranteed Student Loan Program has experienced exponential growth in recent years—it is ten times larger than it was last decade--because of the crossfire effect of dramatically rising tuition and student fees and concomitant declines in other forms of federal aid. Students and their families, thus, have been more and more forced into the hands of private lenders to cover their college costs.

Here’s how this scam works to benefit colleges and universities while taking advantage of students.

There are many private lenders eager to sell their loans to students. So for one company to catch the eye of potential borrowers they ask colleges to represent them to students as so-called “preferred lenders.” Oftimes colleges list just two among many, the clear implication being that these have been identified as preferred since they offer the lowest interest rates. Sounds good on the surface. How many students have the time or capacity to do all the research required to find the most advantageous deal? Since the university has its students’ best interest at heart, such a list is invaluable.

Not necessarily, because quite often the university has not done any due diligence at all. Rather their financial aid officials have either been wined-and-dined on Eleuthera or, better yet, the loan company has agreed to pay the sponsoring university itself a commission on all the loans it brokers to its students.

If you are thinking that those universities benefiting from these arrangements are those founded by Jerry Falwell and Bob Jones, think again. According to the NY Times they include Fordham, Boston University, Purdue, and New York University, among many, many others. (Article linked below.)

Sadly, this money-grubbing on the part of some of the nation’s greatest institutions exemplifies a larger set of issues—how many have lost their focus on students and turned more and more of their attention to fundraising and providing for the good life of its faculty and senior administration. To accomplish this, to pay for it, many universities raise money in this and other ways so faculty can be “bought-out” of teaching. This means that rather than their having to teach one or two courses per semester, all in a two- to three-day work week, faculty are “released” from that heavy burden so they can do some research or travel or attend conferences; and in their place their courses are taught for them by “adjunct” faculty, usually graduate students, who get paid a few thousand dollars per course.

This is yet another way that students are defrauded. To enable senior faculty members to teach as little as possible universities have to raise increasing sums of money. They do this in large part by increasing tuition at rates way beyond that of inflation. They also raise money by directing students to private lenders who have the institutions themselves on their payrolls. With this money they then can support faculty sabbaticals and released time and thereby, in this way too, wind up short changing their students who are more and more being taught by well-intentioned but under-experienced part time faculty.

Alma mater, “bountiful mother,” indeed!

Monday, October 23, 2006

October 23, 2006--It's Over! . . . Now What?

The good news—the war in Iraq is over. The bad news—just as we didn’t have a plan for what to do after “winning,” we do not have one for what to do after “losing.”

OK, after declaring that the mission this time is really accomplished.

I know you are probably saying “But how can the war be over if American troops are being killed at a record rate?” Well, sometimes it takes a while, especially in these kinds of murky and gory circumstances, to realize that it’s over because the word is slow in getting to you.

The war ended on the day Senator Warner, the powerful chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee returned from another trip to Iraq and declared that things there were moving “sideways” and that if the situation doesn’t improve during the next 30-60 days it will be time for a new approach.

Yes, we’ve heard this 30-60-day-prediction many times before—Bush and Chaney and Rumsfeld have said on numerous occasions during the last two years that “the next 30-60 days are important, critical, crucial . . . . ” But this is not another example of them spinning and stalling for time, this time it’s coming from Senator Warner. So when he says we need to consider new strategies, we’d better get started.

So the Bush team is getting started. I suspect this very weekend when Bush assembled his War Council to talk about new “tactics,” being careful to make a distinction between “tactics” and “strategies.” This distinction is the beginning of the attempted post-war-post-mortem cover-up. While they in truth will by political and practical necessity institute a new strategy, or grand plan, they will say that all they are doing is being “flexible” and only “adjusting the tactics to the changing conditions.” So, if they do decide to alter the strategy, sorry tactics, and begin to “stand down,” they will be able to claim that this is not really anything new but only a reflection of their strategy of flexibility—they are still “staying the course.”

This will require more than the usual smoke-and-mirrors since everyone will see that we are conceding that we lost the war and are looking for a fig leaf to cover our embarrassment. Thus, the Bush folks will need to do a few more things, things with which they are already quite familiar. Foremost, will be a new strategy of blame-assignment.

Keep your eyes open for the early manifestations of this. The media will be further savaged for undermining the war effort by pointing out that the US body count is rapidly approaching the number killed on 9/11. Though they have tried to blame North Korea and Congressman Foley on Bill Clinton, it will be difficult to get away with blaming him for the Iraq fiasco, so look for an all-out-war on "traitorous" members of Congress.

More cynical will be the assault on our own generals. Maybe they will start with the one who just last week said the situation in Iraq is “disheartening” but then they will turn on the U.S. commanders in Baghdad—Michael Gordon in today’s NY Times says that for them it will all come down to “standing or falling in Baghdad” (article linked below).

Of course, more than anything else we will see an escalation in placing the blame on the Iraqis themselves. After all we did for them. We brought down Saddam and instituted a pluralistic democracy there, and what do they do to show their appreciation--they start a civil war! The ingrates. Ultimately blame will be placed on the Iraqis’ failed efforts, not ours.

So, it’s over and we stand down, what next?

Probably chaos. Iraq is not a “real” country. It was created by the French and British, effectively, after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Any country in that part of the world that has much of its physical border made up of straight lines drawn on a map is an artificial construct. The so-called James Baker Commission, which is about to release its report on what to do, undoubtedly already leaked to Bush so he can begin to adjust his “tactics” and spin to coincide with the findings, will undoubtedly call for a version of the Yugoslav solution (also not a “real” country)—partitioning Iraq into three entities.

This obviously has many, many complications, not the least of which is that the Sunni central region has almost no oil. So what might work even better? Though a pie-in-the-sky suggestion, maybe all the interested parties, as after the First World War, including Syria and Iran this time (I sense Baker sees the need to include them even though they are part of the Axis of Evil) should sit down with a map and redraw it. This time creating borders that are cultural. They did something like that in the former-Yugoslavia and it is sort of working. Over time, maybe it will in fact turn out to be an historical success.

And of course while all of this is going on we’d better figure out a way to fill our cars' tanks with something other than gasoline.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

October 21, 2006--Saturday Story: "I Married Lydia"--Concluded

In Part Four Lloyd had his third and final session with Dr. Luven. It would fulfill the bargain he had struck with his fiancé, Lydia, who had insisted on these visits before agreeing to allow their wedding to proceed. It was a session in which there was more talk than is typical in Bioenergetic Analysis, principally about the connection between the mind and the body, as if the lapsing pre-med Lloyd and the physician Arthur, were colleagues, though there was as well considerable body-work. In this latter instance, after Dr. Luven painfully probed Lloyd’s body until he located the somatic source of his anger, just below the diaphragm it was no surprise to learn, that body-work involved beating the cot in the doctor’s office with a battered tennis racket. This to let out all that accumulated rage. Which it did. Part Four concluded with Lloyd indeed venting considerable anger—both toward his sacrificing parents as well as toward his thus far unsatisfiable fiancé. With the release of all that anger, Lloyd even found himself weeping in Arthur’s compassionate arms. That is, “compassionate,” until Dr. Luven asked where to send his bill.

In Part Five, we at last conclude when . . . .

What now to do about Lydia I thought while sitting in the subway as it thundered its way north toward Columbia. I would have to tell her something about my third and final session with her Dr. Luven. There could be no avoiding that. After all, I had been indiscrete when blubbering about my previous session to her roommate, and Lydia had incorporated what I reported in her Psych paper, so how could I this time say nothing, claiming client-doctor confidentiality? This in spite of the fact that Lydia never told me anything, anything at all about her own sessions. My times with Luven, though, were considered, by agreement, to be “ours,” and thus were open to her scrutiny.

By the time the train reached 96th Street, I was in such turmoil that I bolted to the street even though the College Residence Hotel was still fourteen blocks away up on 110th Street. Which was where I knew Lydia was waiting. That was the arrangement—for her to be there to receive me, with or without open arms, after I completed my end of the bargain.

I was particularly stressed about what I would tell her about the body-work I had done—the bed beating and what it had opened up. I was all right to fill her in in considerable detail about my talking with Dr. Luven, if I could represent it that way, as talking together rather than just listening to him lecture about things like the limitations of Western thought and the linguistic roots of phrenic. Lydia had an interest in psychoanalytic theory and was taking a course on Greek Drama that semester. Thus I felt I would be all right with the mind-body stuff and the Greek etymology.

I could even take the risk of telling her some of what came out about my parents, though not of course how they were angry with her for not wanting to visit them more often than once a month. But I could not even consider telling her about the bloody cock business or my having accused her of being a frigid cunt.

So I needed those fourteen blocks to think things through and get my story straight.

I raced along for the first few streets, leaning into the wind that sheared down Broadway after hooking south off the Hudson. But as soon as I realized I hadn’t as yet figured out how to approach Lydia, I slowed down to allow myself enough time to come up with a scenario that would satisfy her and at the same time keep me out of further trouble.

I assumed she would not sit still for too much talk about the talking part of the analytic hour. I knew this from the little she had revealed through the year about her own work with Luven and, from her, on occasion, practicing a version of his craft on my body. She had done some of her own poking around in a few of the same hot spots he had probed in an attempt to treat me “on the cheap,” as she had described it, suspecting that I would never agree to submit myself directly to his ministering.

Once when we were having sex, in full flagrante delicto so to speak, Lydia tried to grab hold of my now professionally-explored diaphragm. After my third session with Dr. Luven, I realized that’s what she was attempting. I understood, after my time in the Accumulator and from the results of beating the bed, that she had, on her own, in that way, been wanting to attack some of my blockages and thereby redirect some of that stored anger into my orgastic performance.

Perhaps because she lacked Luven’s training and experience, all she managed to do was inflict such excruciating pain that I had literally passed out on top of her; and as she struggled to extract herself, she inadvertently rolled me off the bed and onto the floor where I landed with such unconscious dead weight that I broke my nose and needed to go to the emergency room at St. Luke’s Hospital to get it repaired. It was not much fun attempting to explain to the young and beautiful nurse-in-training what had happened to me—she was unable to stifle her giggles as the blood from my nose dripped down onto one of my best shirts.

Therefore, I would have to be prepared to tell Lydia something at a minimum about beating the cot with the racket. Maybe I could get away with just telling her I did it but nothing much happened. But I just as quickly realized that that might not work because the next time she went to Luven for a session of her own he probably would consult with her about what had really transpired. I needed, then, to tell her enough to provide me with the cover of plausible deniability. Maybe I should say that I discovered that there is in fact some anger bottled up in me, things from my childhood like my parents always wanting me to get short haircuts or wear short itchy tweed pants even though my friends had moved on to long ones and how that made me feel like a baby. Things of that kind. And that, thanks to Dr. Luven, I had gotten a glimpse of these repressed feelings; and he had said, or at least implied, on my own, without any more of his treatments, I wanted out of that too, I could continue to discover more anger and in that way exorcise it.

But then again, I thought, maybe it wouldn’t be such a good idea to suggest a comparison between Luven’s methods and those of an exorcist. In any case, if I shared this much with Lydia, maybe she would feel I had fulfilled my side of our arrangement; and if she double-checked about me with Luven, whatever he would tell her would confirm that I was telling at least a version of the truth. Or, sad for me to contemplate, he might sigh, pointing out to her that what I had reported to her was as much of the truth as I was capable of perceiving and recounting.

Then, and maybe then, I could do a better job of satisfying Lydia, possibly as soon as I got back to my room where she was eagerly awaiting me, and that this would make her feel better about me and would convince her to agree to proceed with the wedding. We needed to get to that too.

Feeling thus that I had at least an adequate plan I again picked up my pace and after nearly getting run over by a careening taxicab crossed 110th Street and raced up the stairs to my room as much out of desire to see Lydia as to avoid the likelihood of getting stuck in the elevator, which half the time jolted to a stop between floors. I was too charged up with a new kind of energy to risk that.

I was so breathless and aquiver by the time I got there that I could barely get the key into the lock and was surprised that Lydia, who was just inside and had to hear my attempts, out of concern and passion, didn’t rush to unlatch it. Wasn’t she as eager to see me as I was to see and embrace her? But happily there was no time to pursue that thought further since I was quickly able to get the door opened and plunged into the room full of enthusiasm to tell her the story I had so carefully scripted.

“You’re not going to believe what happened today,” I burst out, “at Dr. Luven’s.” She stood in the dim room, at the window, with her back to me and was revealed only in alluring silhouette. “It was amazing, Lyd, just how you told me it would be. How it’s all about the body-work.” She didn’t acknowledge my presence; but I had a head of steam and raced on, “Of course I wanted to avoid that, the body-work, just as you suspected, so I tried to get us talking, you know, psychoanalytic style. Classic avoidance.” She began to stir but still did not turn to me. “He did though tell me a little more about the mind-body continuum but I was eager to get to work, as you know he describes it—as work.”

While remaining at the window, Lydia stamped her foot on the floor. It startled me out of my streaming narrative. I also thought I heard her say, “Shit!”

I was as much confused by that reaction as about why I had so immediately subverted my own well-rehearsed plan to tell her as little as possible, especially about attacking the sites of my repressed anger. But there I was being so revealing about what really went on in Luven’s office. I suspected that the next thing I would be doing would be to tell her about what I had actually said about my parents—not, of course, anything I had said about her. And here I thought my reporting about more-or-less everything would please her, make her feel good about me; but there she was stomping her foot and cursing. Which she again did.

To avoid having to ask about what was going on with her, in truth seeking to ignore whatever it was that she was feeling, I pushed along with my report—“You know that bed in his office, Lyd? I’m sure you do. He had me go over to it and take off all my clothes, actually most of them, and after he found out where all my inner anger was pent up and drew a circle around it with his pen, which at first, to be honest with you I thought was a little strange, he had me beat the bed with an old wooden tennis racket. I also thought that was weird; but since I had this agreement with you I did what he told me; and after whacking the mattress a few times, harder and harder, all that anger and rage began to pour out.”

I checked to see if this was getting to her; if she was beginning to feel better about me. She, though, stayed put looking out enigmatically onto Broadway, but at least she didn’t stamp her foot again or do any more cursing. Thus encouraged, I continued, “As I said, it was amazing, what came out of me, just from beating that bed. To tell you the truth, Lyd, I didn’t realize how angry I was about so many things. About my parents too. And not only about little things like haircuts and itchy pants. I’m talking about some pretty heavy stuff.” I looked at her tentatively, “You know what I mean?”

I paused since I needed to have some reaction from her, to know how she was feeling about what I was revealing. I didn’t want to go much further without some sign from her that she understood, that she empathized with me since she too had had similar sessions with Luven, perhaps she would even share some of her own experiences with the cot and tennis racket. I had to know if what had happened to me, which I was now recounting, was what she wanted to hear or was it making matters worse between us. So I took a chance and asked, “Lyd, are you . . . ?”

As if shot, she wheeled on me and, though the light was behind her, and none of the room lights were on, I could still see that her eyes were blazing. “I can’t fucking believe it!” she exploded.

“I’m sorry, Lyd, I assumed you wanted to hear what happened today with Dr. Luven. It was my last session and I thought you’d be happy to . . . . “

“Happy? Happy? I don’t give a shit about your Dr. Luven and his stupid Orgone Box and tennis racket.”

To say the least I was shocked beyond speechlessness. She was talking about her Dr. Luven, not mine, the “Great Man” as she always referred to him, the person to whom she had insisted I go in one last attempt to save our relationship, to learn from him how to bring her to fulfillment. And here I was reporting back to her that it had worked—he had identified my blockages, they had been successfully attacked, I had wept in his office, I had even had an erection there and ejaculated all over him. Beyond that I was also all set to try it on her! What more could she want from me?
Again I tried, saying, “But Lyd . . . .”

“It’s so typical of you,” she spat back, “to think that everything’s about you.” She resumed stamping her foot. She was wearing steel-toed construction boots and I was worried about the people living on the floor below.

I shook my head, “Not at all. I was only trying to . . . . “

“Well stop that ‘trying’ and listen for a change, will you.” I signaled that I would by moving toward the desk and sitting on the chair, looking up at her as she stormed around the small room, stopping on her second circuit to kick over the wastebasket.

“I can’t begin to tell you how she makes me feel. I’ve been involved with her for two years; but today was the end, the last straw. I loved her and thought she loved me.” Her tone had softened and she began gently to whimper.

Though I should have gotten up and tried to comfort her, I instead sat there so stunned that, as if in a cartoon, my mouth dropped open.
Until then I had always thought of Lydia as heterosexual. Totally so. Incredibly so. But this? When I recovered from my initial shock at this confession, a thought flickered through my mind--maybe this has been the source of her problem with me.

I stammered, “I didn’t know, Lyd. I’m so sorry. Everything is becoming clearer now. Have you ever talked about this with Dr, Luven? I mean worked on it with him? I think he would be quite helpful with this kind of a problem. As I understand it, isn’t it also all because of Orgone Energy? It’s displacement or redirection or something like that?”

“I can’t believe you,” she stamped, no longer crying. She was again the familiar Lydia, “You’re such an asshole.” I think I might have smiled at that anatomical reference.

“You’re right, sorry. I don’t know what I’m talking about,” adding under my breath, “as usual.”

But I continued to sit stolidly at my desk while Lydia resumed her pacing. And as I slowly began to get used to the idea that Lydia was a lesbian, I must admit that I felt some relief. She was right—it wasn’t about me. It was about her! I knew, of course that this would probably get in the way of the wedding plans, that is unless Dr. Luven could work one of his famous miracles. But if not, so be it—I could tell my parents about her or maybe, better, make up some kind of less scandalous excuse. And when they were being apoplectic about needing to put the marriage on hold, I would slip into the conversation that I wasn’t going to med school. They would be so upset about the wedding that they probably wouldn’t even notice.

With some hesitation I asked, “Have you, Lyd, have you worked on this with Arthur?” From my chair I was leaning toward her, attempting to hold her in my gaze.

“How could I? It just happened today.” She was back at the window.

I thought, incredulously, that while I was beating on the bed at Luven’s, at her insistence, she was out trysting, cheating on me with her girlfriend! Who knows, maybe with another modern dancer. But I was, I amazed myself to find, actually more amused by this than angry. “Well, maybe it’s a good thing.” I slipped into my liberal mode—after all, the world was changing, becoming more tolerant and permissive. I had even participated in a few Civil Rights marches. In fact, one right there at Woolworths, on Broadway, protesting their treatment of Negroes in the South. So why was it such a big deal being a lesbian?

Still in that tolerant mode, I said, “It’s OK with me, Lyd. Everyone has to find out who they really are and attempt to lead an authentic life.” I had been reading the French Existentialists in Lionel Trilling’s class and living authentically was one of their dogmas.

“I can’t believe you,” she screamed, “Here I had a fight in class today with Martha Graham and all you can talk about is authentic-this and authentic-that bullshit. You’re useless!” She was standing by the bed and kicked it so hard that it jumped off the floor.

Again my mouth dropped open. So Lydia was not gay! I stammered, “I, I didn’t know . . . I thought that . . . .”

“Well stop thinking then. You were never very good at that anyway.” I began again to think about what I would say to my parents. I obviously would need a new plan.

“With Graham herself? I know you take classes in her school but with her?” That seemed impossible. “Isn’t she like a hundred years old?”

“She’s only seventy,” Lydia said, her voice dripping with contempt, “And she not only still conducts classes, master classes, the ones I’m in, thank you, but she also performs. If you had been paying attention to me, rather than jumping on my every minute, you’d know this.”

This charge hardly seemed fair, considering who in fact did most of the “jumping”; but I restrained myself, still wanting to be helpful. “So what happened, Lyd?” She didn’t respond. “You actually had a fight with her?” That too was incredible to me—Lydia had a fight with Martha Graham herself, a true immortal?

“I told you about that too.” I did not in truth know what she was referring to but I nodded back at her as if I did. She turned her back to me again and said, “It’s about her next concert. At City Center. Where we saw Merce last year.” I nodded some more even though she wasn’t facing me, thinking perhaps she could see my reflection in the window. I wanted her to know I was not only listening but was also being empathetic.

“Today she told me, that bitch, that she was putting that suck-up, Mercedes Simpson in the company.” Once more she stomped on the floor. “And not me. For Clytemnestra, of all things. She’s reviving it. It might be the last time Martha performs, I should say stands around preening on stage since she can barely move any more. Wrapped to disguise her sagging body in a bunch of scarves and veils, the old bitch. I was born to be Iphigenia. Not that Mercedes tramp!”

I kept nodding in her direction and emitted only, as Lydia’s roommate had done when she was getting me to tell her all about my first session with Luven, “Uhmm.”

“I even studied Aeschylus’ version this term in Greek Drama. So I’m prefect for the company.” She growled, “That Mercedes can’t even read!” And she added malevolently, “She’s such a slut!”

Lydia kicked at the bed again but missed it this time, losing her balance in the process, and as a result gracelessly tumbled onto it. She landed so hard, hitting the back of her head on the wall with such force, that my Columbia pennant came loose and fluttered down onto her. In a rage she smacked the mattress ferociously with a clenched fist.

I couldn’t help noticing how ridiculous she looked, bouncing up and down on the bed out of frustration, with the banner crumpled across her lap. But, trying to remain objective, I continued to maintain my poise and said again, “Uhmm.”

Lydia began to shake her head back and forth so violently that spittle flew out of her mouth and dribbled all over her leotard and the pennant. She gasped, “That Bitch . . . . Martha. . . . That slut . . . . Simpson . . . .” With each name and curse she slammed her fists on the bed, each blast harder than the last so that my pillows began to bounce in the air launched by the trampolineing mattress.

I didn’t moved, still attempting to keep eye contact, as much transfixed by her full-blown tantrum as by my desire to read her body language and, thereby, also attempt to help her. In that spirit I began to pose, “So tell me, Lydia . . . .”

“I’m never going back there . . . .” She broke off and began to cry again, which this time quickly became deep sobs as she continued to pound the bed.

“Where is that, Lydia?” I asked with as much compassion as I could muster, which was difficult for me to do because I was surprised, at that delicate moment, by something very strange and disturbing that was beginning to happen to me. Something I am more reluctant than at any previous time to reveal. Something to this day about which I am both ashamed and mortified. But I must, in spite of that try . . . .

All the while that I was attempting to be there for her, to truly hear her, to do all that I was capable of doing to help her through this desperate crisis, one which was tearing at her heart and which was releasing, should I say unblocking, so much of her pent-up anger; all that while, as I sat there at my desk, but turned to her, trying to hold her gaze, all that time, as I leaned toward her in an act of compassionate caring, I was, I must force myself to confess, I was getting the largest, hardest erection I had ever had! Yes, I know you are curious, even more tumescent than the one I acquired the previous week as I sat in the Accumulator!

But still, in spite of my pleasure and simultaneous discomfort, I attempted to keep my body leaning toward her, to signify my desire to be close, to show sincerity but as a consequence crushing it. I one more time tried to reach out to Lydia, “I understand, Lyd, that you won’t go back to Martha. From what you say it is clear that she is a bitch. I agree with you.”

At the mention of Graham’s name, Lydia began to use both fists on the mattress, with such power that she began to bounce on the springs along with the pillows and cushions. “And that Luven too. I’m never going back to him. That quack!” This reference to him only increased my, yes, excitement and the size of my . . . .

But she was in such distress that I hoisted myself, literally that was what was required, out of the swivel chair and clumsily and painfully shuffled toward her, thinking, once I dragged myself there, I would sit down beside her and maybe even cradle her in my arms while at the same time restraining her from beating the bed. So she could get control of herself. But, glancing surreptitiously at my watch, I also realized it was getting to be time for me to begin to make my way over to the Organic lab where I needed to complete my assignment. I had, thus to bring this session to some kind of closure.

It had grown quite dark in the room; but still, when Lydia raised her head as I inched close to her, with my crotch at her eye level, she hissed at me with even more venom than she had expended toward Mercedes and Martha, “Get that thing away from me,” she was pointing at my exploding trousers, “It’s the most grotesque and disgusting thing I have ever seen!

If possible, the looming sight of it intensified her fury and her assault upon the bed, which did not abate as the phone began to ring. The unexpected sound jolted me. “Don’t answer it,” she shrieked.

“I have to. It could be the technician calling to tell me the make-up lab has been cancelled.”

“You are such a shit,” Lydia yelled. “You and your stupid pre-med business.”

But since it might have been an important call for me, I began to turn back toward the desk where it continued to ring. A bed cushion cracked me in the back of the head. “I can’t believe you. A phone call is more important to you than me.” Another pillow, missing me, slammed off the desk lamp, tipping it onto the floor, where the bulb shattered. My erection began to deflate.

The ringing ended just as I got my hand on the receiver. At the same moment the answering machine clicked on. I had set is so that I could hear whomever was leaving a message as a way, while studying, to screen calls.

It was my father. His voice unmistakable even modulated by the cheap instrument. “Son, it’s me, dad. Are you there?" I reached again to answer; but Lydia, who had leaped from the bed, had jumped up onto my back, wrapping her arms around my throat and her legs around my waist. From her unexpected weight I fell backwards and locked together this way we crashed onto the bed.

I guess you’re not,” my father’s voice continued, “so I’ll leave you a message.” He was talking very slowly and deliberately, not used to leaving messages.

I unsuccessfully tried to wrestle loose from Lydia, who was extremely strong and muscular from all her dance training. “This message is from your mother and me.” Since I had never heard him say anything like this, anything that sounded so ominous, I redoubled my efforts to extricate myself. But could not. Still entangled, we slammed into the wall together. My reproduction of Van Gogh’s Starry Night crashed down on top of us. “She wants you to know that it’s all right if the Lichters will not allow us to invite anyone else to the wedding.

“The wedding again,” Lydia snapped, “I can’t believe any of you.” We were rolling back and forth in a knot of arms and legs.

Your Aunt Madeline,” my father’s disembodied voice went on, “says she can’t come to the wedding. Which is fine with us. Your mother, you know, never really liked her.”

I hate her,” I could hear my mother saying in the background.

“I also hate Madeline,” Lydia panted. She was beginning to weaken, and I managed to twist myself out of her clutches.

But ask the Lichters, when you tell them about Madeline, if they can add shrimp cocktail to the menu.”

“Pick up the phone will you,” Lydia at last screeched, “And tell them to send out the fucking invitations!

With that the tape ran out, and I instantly regained my erection.

The End!

Friday, October 20, 2006

October 20, 2006--Fanaticism XLXX--Father Mercieca

The Republicans came into power six years ago by, among other things, articulating an ideology in which they called on people to take RESPONSIBILITY for their choices and actions, claiming that, as opposed to the out-of-control Democrats, they would. They pointed to Clinton, Satan In Chief, who exemplified the problem when he said “It depends on what your definition of ‘is’ is.”

The insurgent Republicans called for greater accountability in politics, domestic and foreign affairs, and especially, of course, within family life. It was at the heart of their “values” revolution. And it worked. They gained control of all three branches of government—the White House, Congress, and yes the Supreme Court too.

So now that they are in political peril what are they doing? Why, what every responsible person does when in trouble—they are shirking RESPONSIBILITY and blaming others for their problems. Actually, they are most frequently pointing fingers at each other. Thus, in addition to making a mess of things at home and abroad, they are compounding the consequences of their cowardess by opening themselves up to obvious charges of cravenness and hypocrisy.

Here’s what some of the rats are saying about each other, right from the front page of today’s NY Times (article attached):

David Frum, Bush’s former speech writer, is blaming Republican senators’ support for the president’s guest-worker immigration program for angering the “grass-roots talk-radio crowd.” He adds that there is a battle underway between the stay-the-coursers and the tax-cut addicts—one side says, “Hey, your tax cuts wrecked our war”; and the other is firing back saying, “Hey, your war wrecked our tax cuts.”

Dick Armey, remember him, has also gotten into this internecine fight. He is showering criticism on James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family. The disgraced former House majority leader is whimpering that “Congressional Republicans have blatantly pandered to his gang of thugs,” thugs Armey is labeling “real nasty bullies.” He should know from bullies!

And, anticipating that they may lose control of one or both Houses (can you imagine what the Democrats will do if they thus acquire subpoena power?), Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, is offering this consolation--“It will make you feel better to say, ‘I didn’t lose the election; Foley lost if for me,’” cynically adding, “Your wife and kids will believe it.”

Yeah, just as they will believe you when you tell them you were “working late “ and weren’t standing out in the rain hallowing at the moon in front of the pages’ dorm.

Speaking of former Congressman Foley, when from rehab he seemed to be blaming his problems on having been abused by his priest when he was just a boy, many thought that was yet another example of Republicans running from taking RESPONSIBILITY. Well, it turns out that he was telling the truth! Just yesterday, from the tiny Mediterranean island of Gozo (no, not Gonzo) dear-old Father Mercieca, now 69, actually stood up and took RESPONSIBILITY! (Times article also linked below.)

He spoke wistfully about how he and the young-Foley lounged together naked in the sauna; and though he didn’t do any “raping” or “penetrating, he did give little Markie a massage. Adding that his ward seemed to want it and they both had a good time.

At last, here is someone willing to stand up, sorry about that, someone willing to take it like a man, whoops, and say, “Yes, I’m RESPONSIBLE.”
He’s my kind of Republican

Thursday, October 19, 2006

October 19, 2006-- Not MyTube

Walking east last night across Greenwich Village after seeing the wonderfully lunatic Nixon’s Nixon, Dick and Henry drinking and praying and reminiscing together the night before Nixon resigned the presidency, two blocks ahead the sky was so brightly lit that it looked as if aliens had landed in Washington Square Park.

As Rona and I approached we realized that they were shooting scenes from the latest Will Smith movie. There were literally hundreds of technicians and grips and sound and makeup people racing around. The entire neighborhood surrounding the park was blockaded and there were vans and dressing-room trailers and catering trucks and generators all over the place. Will’s personal trailer was about a block long, had a raised roof on which there were three satellite dishes and with its pushed out sides the inner space must have been at least 1,500 square feet, much larger than almost all the nearby apartments. As if there weren’t enough real trees and bushes in the park, the set designers had added about a dozen artificial trees so as to turn the place into a virtual jungle.

We have a friend who is a feature film producer and from him we have a pretty good sense of the hourly burn rate for a major production. Let’s say in this case it was well into the hundreds of thousand of dollars per hour.

And to produce what? Something as good as Nixon’s Nixon? Your call.

So when I read the piece in today’s NY Times, “Why Old Media and Tom Cruise Should Worry About Cheaper Technology” (attached below), from last night’s experience I immediately understood. With exponential advances in computer-simulated “actors,” not only might “real” actors (if I can call him that) like Tom Cruise find themselves replaced by electronic images, and with so many people creating and airing what media folks call “content” via outlets such as YouTube, maybe Tom and his ilk’s days are ending. Minimally, they are likely to get something substantially less than their current $20+ million per picture.

So I checked YouTube this morning to see what’s in store for me in the post-Tom-Cruise Era.

Among today’s Featured Videos is one called “Power-Hungry Cop Takes Over Walter’s.” It runs for just 41 seconds, so it won’t take up too much of your time if you want to check it out. If you’re not inclined, below is how the video-maker describes it--

Great concert cut short: A few songs into Two Gallants' set at Walter's on Washington in Houston, an officer appeared on stage very near the mic. I then either made sure it was set to video or switched my digital camera to movie mode and hit record. The physical confrontation seemed to begin immediately after that and I quickly moved toward the stage to document the already surreal setting we were all quickly lost in.

According to police, the officer asked that the music be turned down. I was attacked and used his Taser in self-defense. I spent the better part of a day in jail because of that crazy cop.

Call me old-fashioned, but at the moment Will and Tom are looking pretty good. I am loving those Hollywood trees.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

October 18, 2006--Meat Pie Mums

Things these days are not going so well in England.

First former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw got into all sorts of trouble by suggesting that Islamic women wearing face-covering veils are impeding their own assimilation into British society—if one can’t encounter one’s neighbor face-to-face, so to speak, it interferes with the normal social interactions that are essential to community building. I say, good try, Jack—this will get the job done: if it weren’t for those darn veils the British would open their arms to their Moslem neighbors. Dream on.

And then, after well-know English chef Jamie Oliver went on a campaign to have junk food banned in the schools, and substantially succeeded, his good work is being subverted by, of all people, the kids’ Mums.

If, as the NY Times reports (article below) that many of the children feel the healthier food is just “rubbish,” to quote one 11th grader, what’s a mother to do? If junior misses his Chip Butty, hold your nose—a vinegar-saturated French-fries-and-butter sandwich, he can count on his Mum to slip one to him through the schoolyard fence. Literally.

The new rules which went into effect in September require schools to provide a minimum of two portions of fruit and vegetables a day, offer fish once a week, remove salt shakers, and eliminate all candy, soda, and snack foods. No wonder the kids are gathering at the fence to get their hands on burgers and fries. At least on Fish Day wouldn't you?

But there is an upside. Some mothers have turned this contraband provisioning into a business, selling this stuff to those kids who have working Mums who are thus not able to show up every day at the schools with super-sized Cokes.

As you might imagine, things have also turned ugly. Many parents are furious about being lectured to by Jamie Oliver and to find their freedoms limited by these new school rules. On the other side of the debate, the transgressive mothers have not only been criticized but they have also been mockingly labeled “Meat Pie Mums.”

So where do things stand? Islamic teachers are not allowed to wear veils in public school; in the spirit of not singling out just one symbol of religious practice, Christian teachers cannot wear crosses and Jews are not allowed yarmulkes or Stars of David; and the kids can’t any longer get their hands on Turkey Twizzlers.

And I naively thought we had problems here with our Evangelical foreign policy and the fact that our students can read or do math and science.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

October 17, 2006--Et Tu, U2?

For years I’ve stifled my aversion to Bono’s sunglass fetish, thinking that, though I hate all those pretentious shades, if they contribute to his image and fame and he in turn uses that fame to promote good causes such as AIDS research and treatment, so be it. If he can live with them, then so can I. Anyone who can get George Bush’s Treasury Secretary, whichever one it was, to spend two weeks in Africa experiencing poverty first hand can’t be all that bad.

Well, maybe.

Did you catch the report in today’s International Herald Tribune (owned by the NY Times) about U2 moving its music publishing business from Ireland to the Netherlands? (If not, it is linked below.) Sounds benign enough since both countries are a part of the borderless European Union.

But when we learn they did this to avoid Irish taxes, which for royalty income is twice that of Holland’s, their decision deserves a closer look. Especially since Bono and other members of the band have been excoriating the Prime Minister of Ireland for spending only 0.5 percent of the country’s budget on foreign aid.

Where does Bono think the money to do that would come from? From taxes don’t you think? And with U2, which earns about $110 million a year, avoiding Irish taxes that of course means less is available for the beleaguered Irish government to contribute to African aid.

Bono refused to comment about their tax moves and so there was only U2’s guitarist The Edge available to speak for them. He said, “Of course we’re trying to be tax-efficient. Who doesn’t want to be tax-efficient?” Maybe those folks who would like to see more of their taxes directed to the alleviation of poverty.

Hypocrisy is not one of the Seven Deadly Sins. Perhaps it’s too modern a concept to have been included when the list was originally composed. In those days Lust and Greed and Envy better suited the times. I, though, vote to modernize it by adding Hypocrisy. If you are a purist and want to keep the sins to seven (I’m sure Ingmar Bergman, for example, doesn’t want to change the title of his remarkable film to The Eight Deadly Sins) I suggest dropping Gluttony—leave it to McDonald’s and others to deal with that one. But we need to elevate Hypocrisy. It’s too important not to be considered Deadly.

Who after all deserves Eternal Damnation more—Al Roker or Bono?

Monday, October 16, 2006

October 16, 2006--Beyond the Blue Horizon

The last election was supposed to have been decided because Republicans were able to bring out their base by talking about “values.” John Kerry lost, pundits claimed, because the Evangelical minions were able to mobilize their voters by appealing to them around issues such as prayer in schools (in favor of it), flag burning (against), pornography (against), gay marriage (against), and heterosexual marriage (a sacrament).

Never mind that Kerry pathetically allowed himself to be Swift-Boated, and if he had carried Ohio he would today be our president. Also ignore the fact that more folks from the Red States click on pornography Websites than those of us who live in Sodom on the Hudson.

And now we have something else to ignore—yesterday, the NY Times reported that for the first time in US history more couples living together are not married than married: only 49.7 percent of couples are now living in blissful wedlock, down from 52 percent five years ago. (Article linked below.)

For sure, when looking at some of the inner details of the couples report from the U.S. Census Bureau, one finds that there are more gay couples in San Francisco than anywhere else; that only 26 percent of couples living in Manhattan are married (has anyone taken a look at the cost of apartments recently?); and, no surprise, the percentage of married couples is highest in the Mormon state of Utah—not including three or four or twelve person marriages.

But what interests me is closer to the data about where people are most likely to download X-rated material—more in Kansas than New York City. Thus, where did the survey find the largest increase in the growth of gay couples living together? In the rural Midwest where male-male couples increased by an astonishing 77 percent since the year 2000!

After the last presidential election we all became familiar with the maps of the U.S. that showed the Democrat blue, coastal states bracketing the red Republican states in the middle of the country. That seemed to make intuitive sense. But then when analysts took a closer look, and produced red-blue maps county-by-county, those revealed that in the bluest of blue states such as New York and California, if looked at in square-miles terms, overwhelmingly these states were also red, with many, many red counties surrounding high-population, much smaller pockets of blue cities.

But now, if we take a closer look at the couples-data, particularly at the map the Times included with its article, we find that not only is rural-red-state America becoming gayer, but “conservative” states such as Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Alabama, and South Carolina are experiencing a much more rapid increase in the number of unmarried couples than “liberal” Washington and California and Massachusetts.

As someone is quoted in the Times as saying, “This would seem to close the book on the Ozzie and Harriet era.” Maybe this also signals the beginning of the end of the era of Carl Rove??

Saturday, October 14, 2006

October 14, 2006--Saturday Story: I Married Lydia--Part Four

In Part Three, Lloyd Zazlo had the second of his three sessions with the eminent Orgonomist, Dr. Arthur Luven. As Lloyd’s fiancé Lydia had intimated, Dr. Luven promptly wheeled out the Orgone Energy Accumulator; and, after presenting a brief lesson on Wilhelm Reich’s theories about Orgone Energy and the orgasm itself, he had Lloyd take off all his clothes before helping to stuff him into the undersized Box. Telling Lloyd that though he would find it to be pitch black in there, if all the forces were in alignment, he might have the ecstatic experience of spotting blue light from the Orgone Energy that permeates the cosmos. And ecstatic it was because, in addition to seeing the light and hearing the Music of the Spheres, Lloyd experienced a remarkable tumescence, one that found immediate release once he stepped back into the blinding light of the doctor’s chambers. He could not wait to report to Lydia, actually to provide her with a demonstration; but she was otherwise occupied writing her Psych paper and had her roommate Helga debrief Lloyd and take notes of his experiences since she planned to incorporate them in her own research.

Thus, in Part Four, we encounter Lloyd once again with Dr. Luven and . . . .

The following Tuesday I found myself back in Dr. Luven’s waiting room, excitedly anticipating my third and final session. I was hoping there would be enough time to talk with him about the many things I had been thinking about since last week. From all that had happened, I could barely sleep and had not been able to concentrate on my classes. In addition, I was especially pent up and frustrated since Lydia had refused to see me before I had completed all three sessions, saying, “Before I let you see me, much less touch me, you need to complete your side of the bargain.” So there I was waiting to complete it.

Thus when Dr. Luven ushered me into his office, after first checking to see that the Orgone Accumulator was back behind its curtain, even before taking my place on the stool, I blurted out, “Dr. Luven, last week was amazing.” I paced around the room without looking at him, as if talking to myself, “After what occurred here, especially in the Accumulator and then in your office, well first of all I am embarrassed by that and what I did to you and want to apologize; but then when I went back to my room, and though I tried to talk with my fiancé, you know Lydia, and even show her what happened, Helga, her roommate told me she was busy writing a paper about Orgonomy and wanted to include in it everything that happened to me; and though I knew I wasn’t supposed to talk about that or anything else that goes on between you and me, I was so excited that I couldn’t restrain myself, though I know I should have; still I told Helga, do you know about her from Lydia, she’s a Neo-Freudian, but in spite of that I told her everything on the telephone even with her boyfriend listening on the extension; I supposed it was OK to do that since he’s a pre-med too and will be studying to be a shrink, I mean a psychiatrist, at NYU; and even with him there I told Helga about what I experienced and she took notes and told me that Lydia was going to use them in her paper; but in spite of that, I need to be honest with you, I didn’t care because I feel certain now, after just two sessions with you, based on what happened last week, that when I see Lydia again, I’ll be able to get her there--‘there’ is how she describes it; you of course know what I mean since that’s what your practice and your whole life are all about—getting there, and that she’ll then agree to get married; and so I don’t know how to thank you enough for all that you did for me; and . . . .”

“Sit down right there,” Dr. Luven interrupted, cutting me off and pointing at the stool. I was taken aback by how stern he sounded after all the good news I was sharing with him! “Some good things did happen last week, that I will grant you,” he said, “but there is much, much more to accomplish; and we have very little time left to us. I do not want to waste any of it by having to listen to any more of what you have to report. Frankly, it is not helpful. Not helpful at all. Actually, quite the contrary. Bioenergetics is not about talking—I leave that to the Freudians,” he sneered, “including the so-called ‘neo’-version. Here we work on the mind through the body.” Feeling chastised, I began to deflate and slumped on the stool, self-conscious that my posture might be regressing into its former question-mark configuration.

“I do not believe in or work miracles” he continued, “in spite of what some would say about me, but I do believe in hard work. Relentless hard word.” He paused very briefly and said, sounding very clinical, “Now, please again, take off your clothes. But you can this time keep on your briefs. I need to look at your body as we do our work. And I do not want a replay or what happened the other day.” I thought I saw the inkling of a smile, which eased my sense of upset; but he quickly suppressed it when he noticed that I had detected it.

I did as I was directed, this time stacking my clothing on a side table since Dr. Luven emphatically told me not to put them on the bed.
“Stand over there, close to the light.” I did as he said and moved to the corner of the room where I took my place by the standing lamp near the cot. He put on his glasses, huge black-rimmed bifocals, which magnified his gleaming black eyes. “Good. Right there.” He approached me and stood about a yard away. The top of his electrically-charged head reaching to no higher than my rib cage. I was near the shuttered window, but it still let in a draft and I began to shiver. “You recall how I told you from my initial examination of the blockages in your body that there was evidence of your being cut off from many of man’s most basic feelings?” I began my familiar nodding, in part to generate some body heat. “Good. Happiness and sadness, joy and love, anger and of course sensuality, yes? You remember?” I did and so indicated.

“Last week we began to deal with sensuality, with some promising outcomes—about which you appear to be very pleased with yourself.” I shook my head as if to contradict him. But he ignored me and said, “Today we will commence an even more difficult task—the release of anger.”

He sensed that I seemed puzzled by that, as if I had said, “But that’s not why I am here, is it? I thought it was to release my Orgastic Potency and that I had made a pretty good down payment on that last week? Why then are we talking about anger?” Of course I said nothing.

He moved even closer to me. So near that I could feel his breath warming my chest. He tipped the lampshade so that more light poured onto my upper body, and without so much of a warning with his hands he began to explore my torso. First he inserted them into my armpits; and as I attempted not to squirm, he palpated what I assumed from my pre-med studies were my lymph nodes; then raising his hands to my shoulders, he ran them down the length of my arms, pausing at seemingly significant intervals to squeeze them, kneading my bi- and triceps as if searching within for knots or evidence of what I imagined to be blockages.

When satisfied that he had detected whatever it was that he was seeking, he slid his hands toward the center of my chest, working them, when they met, one atop the other, down the length of my sternum, thumping here and there not unlike what my childhood pediatrician had done whenever I contracted the croup. He was, though, unlike my childhood doctor, not interested in whatever the echoes from my lungs might reveal about infections lurking there, but rather, I suspected, was probing for places where the physical manifestations of tension might reside.

And when he arrived at the base of my rib cage, at the site of my tenth rib, just above my floating ribs, in Latin, the costae spuriae, the false or spurious tenth rib, behind which my diaphragm was sheltered, at that most critical of orgonomic locations, where I knew from both Dr. Luven and Lydia the most powerful blockages were often hidden, there he truly went to work.

His powerful yet nimble fingers rapidly explored every centimeter of my belly, moving first in tight circles from side to side across my quivering flesh, pressing in here and there. Then he crisscrossed my stomach in a pattern of long diagonals that bisected my abdomen, which if he had left tracks might later have revealed that they had inscribed there the shape of the mystical pentagon. But about that, since there was no lingering evidence, I of course could not be certain.

He next worked his fingers well up under my ribs, as if seeking to grab hold of the diaphragm itself in order to, with his own hands, feel and measure its rhythmic expansion and contraction--to assess the quality of my inhales and exhales. This was so excruciatingly painful that, try as I did, I could not stifle a scream; and to control the bolts of pain that rocketed through my body, I stood as high up on my toes as possible without toppling over, hoping that perhaps that would alleviate the pain or minimally signal him to relent. But he pressed on, plunging in even deeper among my organs; and to calm me, said, “We are almost there. This is very good, very helpful. You will see. It is painful, yes, but soon you will appreciate all that I am doing for you.”

All I could think as I gasped for breath and while perspiration engulfed me was that the best way he could help me would be to leave me alone, let me get dressed, send me on my way, declaring me cured. Or, if not cured, at least as having fulfilled my obligations to Lydia.

But just as I was about to pass out from a combination of hyperventilation and agony, with one hand he reached into the pocket of his tee shirt and took from it what looked like a marking pen. He put the capped end in his mouth, bit into it, and pulled it open, all the while moving closer to me and holding onto to my lowest rib with his other hand. He spit out the cap and it rattled across the floor. “Here,” he said, “right here. This is what I have been searching for.” And with the marking pen, he drew a two-inch long black ellipse right beneath where he was still clamped on to me. “This is the site we will attack today. As if we are an invading army. Right there,” he jabbed his index finger into the demarked enemy territory, “Where much of your pent-up anger resides.”

I yowled like an alley cat, which startling him, causing him to twitch reflexively and thereby at last release me. I stumbled backwards and fell onto the cot, panting. “Good,” he said, “sit there for a moment.” I was dying and he considered this “good”? “We need to talk for a few moments.” I was soaking wet and gulping for air, remembering that just a short time ago he had mockingly said that he didn’t believe in talking, just “working.” I was quickly losing my remaining respect for him, for the “Great Man,” but was happy to have his hands off of me. Every minute of talk would bring us closer to 3:40 when this final session would thankfully end.

“I have found much of your accumulated anger, hiding there, right there,” he jabbed me again, staining his finger in the still-drying ink that was running down into my navel along with the pooling sweat. “The body is a remarkable thing,” he said in a dramatic hush, “both in its power and beauty yet also in its capacity to deceive and destroy. One part divine; another fallible and, yes, sadly at times depraved. It allows us to experience the ecstatic and to transcend, while at the same time endlessly reminding us of our baser nature. It is all written there, across your body.” I covered myself with my arms concerned that he would continue to scrawl all over me with his marking pen.

“We will now proceed to do battle with that deceiving part, right there!” He attempted to jab me for the third time but I was ready for him this time and contracted myself, armadillo-like, into a defensive ball. Seeing that, he roared with laughter, “You see, you see! How the body cringes to protect its defenses. To hide its infamy. But we will overcome that!” Pleased with himself, with his self-proclaimed intrepidness, he clapped his hands together with such force that they emitted a thunderous sound so violent that it rocked me back on my haunches.

“And so we begin,” he sang out as he sprang toward me with his eyes ablaze.

I pushed myself across the bed so quickly and forcefully that I slammed into the wall. The leather absorbed much of the impact. I pulled my legs up to my chest to protect myself from further assault and said, with more vigor than I imagined myself capable, “Begin what, Dr. Luven?”

This startled him, freezing him in mid-leap. “To of course unblock the anger,” he responded and added in a quizzical tone. “Isn’t that what we have been discussing?”

“That’s what you have been talking about. Not me. There has been no discussion.” Where was this resistance to him coming from I wondered? Was it because I was beginning to find his theories and methods suspect, was it coming from the pain that still wracked my innards, or was it again the product, as he would probably say, of more “avoidance”?

But whatever its source, I pressed on, continuing to surprise myself, “In fact,” I asserted indignantly, “I’m not angry about anything. At least not angry in the way you talk about it.” He stood there looking at me skeptically, not saying a word, waiting, as shrinks always do, for me to tangle myself up. Which I proceeded to do.

“Yes, there are some things that annoy and bother me. But they are little things, really small things like my parents always pressuring me about my grades or telling me which of my friends they dislike or Lydia only wanting to visit them once a month, which also upsets them. That bothers me I’ll admit, but it doesn’t make me angry,” I almost sneered, “not angry by your definition.” He continued to stand there, silent and smiling, staring at me with his arms folded across his chest. “So I don’t see why you keep saying that I’m all knotted up with anger and that suppressed rage is at the heart of my problem. My problem, again to be honest with you, has been to get Lydia to be satisfied. And after what happened to me here last week I’m convinced I can do it; and . . .”

Again, he cut me off before I could finish my thought and said, gentler than I would have imagined considering the circumstances, “As much as I would prefer not to, it is usually unnecessary, it does look as if we do have to spend some more time talking. But that is all right,” he looked at his watch, “We have that time.” He turned away from me to roll the stool over to the bed. He sat down on it and leaned toward me. I remained pressed against the wall with my legs still in their defensive position. He smiled softly, “Occasionally even Reich had to talk.”

I didn’t say a word, suspecting that as with all therapists he would wait me out. I was determined to say nothing. The clock was ticking and in only twenty-five more minutes the session would be over and I would be free of him. But, unexpectedly, he began, “The diaphragm, as you know from your studies, is controlled by the Phrenic Nerve, yes?” I did not nod but he continued without pause, “What little we know of the etymology of phrenic is quite revealing. It is from the Greek and means both heart and mind. From a time when the heart was thought to be the source of both thought and feeling. Though today we know better, this concept, this intuition of the ancient Greeks is still important. It, as you know,” he was I felt certain manipulating me by including me in this way, by pretending that I was not just a pathetic patient of his but a peer, perhaps even an emerging medical colleague. Though tempted to be thus seduced, I managed to resist and simply stared back at him, not averting my eyes, knowing that psychotherapists read signs of weakness or strength, and I was attempting to radiate the latter, from body language such as one’s ability to unwaveringly hold a gaze.

“As you know,” he continued, easily maintaining my gaze, “the Western tradition that the mind and body are separate entities, or biological functions has been successfully challenged by not just Reich and his students.” He knew I would know that he was here making reference to himself. I did not however give any signs of acknowledgement while holding my breath, knowing there were only about twenty minutes to go.
“There have been many experiments, again not just by Wilhelm, yes, that show the inseparability of consciousness, physiology, thought, and emotion. That they are in fact one. There is more and more evidence of this kind, no, from the latest studies of the brain.” He tapped his prefrontal lobes, the neurological source for human motivation, which I was drawing upon with all my will, so much so that I could almost feel my synapses sparking!

I knew he was right about that and suspected that I probably did give some subtle sign that I was about to begin to nod back at him. I do think, though, that I must have successfully intercepted that because he modified his tone still further in reaction to my own lack of responsiveness.

If at the time I had been in more control of my own raging emotions, I would feel more secure now in saying that he, incredibly, seemed to began to beseech me, “We have spend intimate time together, haven’t we Lloyd?” I didn’t move. “Last week, at our last session, as you were saying earlier, something remarkable happened. Am I quoting you correctly?” At that I broke down and gave him one full shake of my head.

“If that is true,” he leaned further forward to peer even more deeply at me, “and if from that and from your own studies you know of this mind-body continuum, and from your experience in the Accumulator where you reported that you did see the Energy, yes, though you were not certain of its color . . . ”

“It might have been blue,” I blurted out. “As I told you, I’m color blind.” What was I doing, engaging him, after all my, until-then, hard won restraint?

“Yes, you did tell me. I of course remember.” He reached out and, though I twitched reflexively,so took my hand in his, “So what would be wrong about trusting me again? We have very little time left,” he glanced again at his watch, “Maybe no more than twenty minutes.” According to the clock on his desk it looked to me more like maybe seventeen minutes. He ended sessions very promptly, even in mid-sentence. I had been counting on that. “Although my next patient cancelled so if we need it we can have more time today.” At that I inhaled so much saliva that I began to cough and choke.

“Let me get you some water,” he said, jumping up. Which he did, from a pitcher also on his desk. He stood by the bed and, for the first time, in spite of his size, since I was slumped on it, he towered over me.

“Thank you,” I said, “I’m feeling better now; but I can’t stay longer. I have a make-up Organic Chemistry lab I have to complete.”

“I understand; you told me you haven’t been able to study since our last session.” I was surprised by that as well—that he had remembered. “But before you begin to get dressed let me make one last appeal to you. I want to show you before you go, to demonstrate to you, and also to do some more work with you, I want you to see and feel, especially feel, even more of this somatic connection to our emotional life. OK?”

I looked up at him, I suppose now in a way that indicated I would grant that appeal. He had, after all, been careful to say “our” and not “your” emotional life. “So please, again stand up. I suspect the pain from the examination has subsided?” It had. “Good,” he said as I uncoiled and got to my feet, though resuming my shivering. “Please now, turn to the bed.” I did. “And on it you will find that old tennis racket.” I had in fact been sitting on it. “Please pick it up.” Again, as previously, I did as instructed; there could not be more than ten minutes left so I did not feel I had again only succumbed to his spell—I was simply going along with him, counting down the time.

“Not that way, you will not be playing tennis,” though my back was to him, I felt certain he smiled at that, “So hold it in both hands,” which I did. “Ach, yes, like that.” I couldn’t begin to imagine what would be next.

“And now, it is very simple, I want you to use the racket to strike the bed.”

“To what?” I asked, twisting to look back at him.

“Just to hit the bed with it. Nothing more.”


“Initially, yes. To see how you do. To see what you might feel.”

So I did as he instructed, raising the racket to just above my head and swinging it down toward the cot where it thumped against the mattress.

“Excellent. Did you feel anything?”

“Nothing really. What should I be feeling?”
Not answering, he said, “Once more then. This time please do it more powerfully.”

Which I did, giving the bed a good slam. So much so that I felt the force of the percussion jolt up my arms, into my shoulders, and from there down to my chest.

“If you can, I now want you to do that three consecutive times, each time with more force, all right?”

Without further encouragement I began, not knowing what had gotten into me, to beat the bed ferociously. By the third swing I was gasping for breath because the cot’s resistance made this hard work. I was sweating again.

“Finally,” he said, with a hint of excitement “since we are almost there,” I noted that reference to there, “we can end after you do it six more times, with each stroke just as hard of the last one. You will do this for me please?”

“Yes,” I panted without hesitation. And even before recovering from the previous three swings, I attacked that bed with such fury that I thought I would shred its threadbare mattress. But this did not stop me because whatever force I was imparting to the bed was being transmitted right back up into my body with such a reciprocally equal-and-opposite reaction, a living demonstration right out my study of mechanics in Physics, that by only the second strike the pulses moving through my body, and there is no other way to adequately describe this, had moved to the very center of my being, attacking it with such precision that all feeling became focused right there at the site of the oval Dr. Luven had inked on my diaphragm!

And by the seventh or eight stroke, I was so captured, actually intoxicated by what I was doing that I raced right passed what should have been the sixth and conclusive swing, the one that would have released me forever from Dr, Luven’s care, that I lost count and totally gave myself over to battering the bed.

Between the explosive percussion of the racket on the mattress, I thought I heard him in the background humming to himself. It sounded like something from a Schubert string quartet I had heard in my sophomore Music Appreciation class. But I could not be sure because I was deafened by the blood pounding in my ears.

In spite of the thunder in my head, did I somehow still manage to hear Dr. Luven ask, “What about your parents? Is there anything about them that makes you feel anger?” Or was I imagining that?

And did I scream as I struck the bed with enough force to rock me back onto my bare heels, “I hate it when they make me feel I am their possession. When they tell me that they are living their lives for me.” Slam. “When they list all the things they have denied themselves so that I can have a different life, a life unlike theirs. I hate them when they then make me feel guilty about this. Telling me when I do well it is because of all they have done for me. All that they have sacrificed for me.” Slam.

Good,” I might have heard Dr. Luven say. And did he then ask, “And what about Lydia?"

I did at this, even if imagined, smash the cot so hard that the mattress exploded into a shower of ticking. I hardly paused to notice. “I hate her too with her ‘getting there’ and her perfect orgasm! The last time she made me fuck her so hard that my cock bled.” Slam. “And of course she didn’t come, that frigid cunt. And she was so mad at me. At me!" Slam. “That she wouldn’t talk to me for a week. To me!" Slam. “Me, with my bloody cock!” Slam.

“I think that is enough,” Dr. Luven, I am sure, said. “You now know, you have demonstrated, above all you now feel the lessons, the truth of Bioenergetics.”

But I kept hammering the bed with the racket. I couldn’t care less about Bioenergetics or Orgone Energy or Reich or Luven for that matter. I continued to flail away, screaming, “Shit! Shit! Shit!” The mattress was in shreds. I was ironically getting there!

“You need to stop now, Lloyd,” he insisted, “You have completed your work.” From his tone I felt understanding and, was it present, love. I, though, kept striking the bed, but with lessening intensity.

But when he added, “Your time is up. The session is over. You have to leave,” he was now sounding very different. He was again being his former clinical self. How could he, I thought, after all we had gone through together? After the gentle talk; the seeming compassion; the perceived colleagueship; and, yes, the touching—there had been that too.
In that instant I realized I had, out of weakness and self-deception, misattributed his behavior. I had been taken in, duped by his well-honed analytical techniques, mistaking them for concern and affection because of my insecurity and self doubts. I had succumbed to the tricks of his trade that were so craftily designed to take advantage of someone so insatiably needy. Someone just like me.

Though I was disgusted, more with myself than with him, I still allowed him to embrace me when he moved to take hold of me. Because it seemed, I hoped, that he wanted to restrain as well as cradle me. From this, for at least that moment, it appeared that perhaps my suspicions about him might have been ill-founded—maybe he did in fact care about me, that he was being compassionate because of what I had suffered.
And so, as he held me, I ceased striking the bed and, taking advantage of being in his arms, sobbed uncontrollably, watching as my tears dripped down onto his tangled hair.

He, though, quickly untangled himself from my wet clutches and handed me my clothing. Embarrassed now by the nakedness of my body and by the flow of emotions that were so evidently somatically connected to it, proving all of his theories, I hastily pulled them on and, without looking at him again, ever again, turned to leave.

“Wait,” he said to my back, “There is one more thing.” I didn’t move; I just stood there facing the door. “Should I mail my bill to your dormitory or to your parents’ apartment in Brooklyn?”

Without looking back at him, I shouted, with considerable earthly energy, “Go fuck yourself!” And slammed the door so hard that, in spite of its padding, I heard what I was certain was the glass-covered picture of Wilhelm Reich shattering on the floor.

* * *
To be concluded next Saturday . . . .