Friday, February 27, 2004

Group Therapy: February 27, 2004


Hey, buddy. What’s going on with you? You always seem in a balanced state of mind. You have a Goldie Locks personality—not too hot, not too cold.

I, on the other hand, contend with sleepless nights, restless days, fractured relationships and vials of pills that help with the psychological pain—but not enough. Such are the permanent scars of growing up a Freedman. Yes, buddy. I am one sorry sod.

Summer’s right around the corner. Do you ever go to the shore? Virginia Beach, Ocean City, Dewey Beach? I notice you never seem to have a suntan. Maybe you’re not a beach person.

I can tell you there are hazards to being a beach bum. Try eating McDonalds On the Beach. Sand everywhere. You always end up with grit in your mouth, the result of a sandy burger. Ever try to get intimate with a young lady on the beach? Try kissing her On the Beach, all the while managing a sandy burger in one hand. That’s more than any man can handle.

Did you ever do it with a young lady under the boardwalk? To paraphrase T.S. Eliot “Between the erection and the orgasm falls the shadow of the boardwalk.” I remember when I was a kid, on the beach in Atlantic City. The perennially-unsatisfied curiosity about the odd goings on under the boardwalk. I’d run to my mother: “There are people under the boardwalk. What are they doing?” My mother always responded with evasion and a stern admonition not to go under the boardwalk.

I always wanted to do that—a tryst under the boards. But I guess you first have to find a lady to do it with. That’s where my troubles start. Finding the female.

My old friend at Akin Gump, Bob Dillon, used to go to Dewey Beach. That’s in Delaware. Dillon was a paralegal. We worked adjacent to each other in 1991, down in the subterranean depths of 1333 New Hampshire Avenue—the office suite euphemistically termed “The Terrace.”

Anyway, Dillon was an Irish-Catholic kid from Philadelphia. He attended night school at Catholic University Law School. I guess he’s a practiced attorney by now. He was a product of the parochial school system in Philadelphia. Anyway, Dillon and his buddies used to spend summer weekends at Dewey Beach. I think there’s a gay beach up there, though Dillon would have stayed clear of that section I’m sure.

I think I told you about Dillon before, didn’t I? He reminded me of my old psychiatrist, I. Jay Oberman. Dillon, like Oberman, was a “fuck” maniac. Every other word out of that kid’s mouth was “fuck.” Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck.

Tell you who else I was thinking about recently: David Christopher Tobin, Esq. He was an up-and-coming associate at Akin Gump. He had an office on the fifth floor; I worked on the fifth floor from June 1988 to March 1989. Tobin was Smart and Good-looking. But more than that—he had star quality. I had a feeling he was headed somewhere. I had the feeling also he was someone the partners had their eye on, someone who was headed for early partnership. Of course, he did the partners one better. He left Akin Gump and set up his own firm, Tobin & O’Connor. Do I know people or do I know people?

Be that as it may.

At my last couple of group sessions, Debra suggested that perhaps I was malingering. I don’t know whether I am or not. I know I actually believe the things I say I believe. I told Nicole that I thought I had been under surveillance by firm managers since 1988. Last Tuesday, she asked me if I still believed that.
I said yes. Not only do I believe what I always have believed, but—as these letters attest—I believe I’m still being watched and read. Yes, I believe Malcolm and Earl are behind it all. Malcolm and Earl are behind everything. Very little happens in this world without the knowledge of Malcolm and Earl.

Do you think I’m malingering? Something’s obviously wrong with me. And it must be serious. Whether or not you call me psychotic. I have no friends. I’ve made no friends in the last 48 hours, as you know. I write letters to an imaginary friend. I believe I have the ability to understand subtle meanings in words and phrases people use. I’ve written three autobiographies. Count them. Three autobiographies. I haven’t been to the movies since September 1992. I haven’t had any social contact of any kind since early February 1992. I believe the Pope knows about me. Not to mention President Clinton, Presidents Bush and Bush (Father and Son), President Carter, President Ford and probably enough Prime Ministers of Israel to form a minyan.

Tell me that’s not severely abnormal. I’ve seen countless therapists since 1977. Only two of them I really liked. Dr. Palombo and poor old Dr. Sack. I really miss seeing Dr. Sack in the building. Those were the two biggest mistakes of my life—failing to continue in therapy with either Dr. Palombo or Dr. Sack. I think either of them could have really helped me.

Such is my life. We could friends too, Brian. But that’s up to you. Like President Nixon, I don’t grovel.
One historian writes that Nixon’s narcissistic “preoccupation with himself,” translated into an inability to achieve intimacy with others (on or under the boardwalk). Sound familiar? Maybe groveling is the way to go. Maybe if Nixon groveled a little more, he could have saved his presidency. Who knows what I might achieve with a little well-positioned groveling?

Speaking of Presidents, you know what occurred to me? All the therapists I’ve worked with who’ve been associated with St. Elizabeths Hospital have been a little whacked.

First, there’s Dr. Albert M. Taub. He diagnosed me with paranoid schizophrenia. Nobody agrees with that diagnosis. Dr. Taub supervised residents at St. Elizabeths.

Then there was Dr. Napoleon Cuenco, a St. Elizabeths resident, who diagnosed me as manic-depressive—another diagnosis that’s turned out to be way off base. Dr. Cuenco did my initial assessment at GW in September 1992.

Then there’s Debra and Nicole. I’ve already told you more than enough about those two. All these people are (or were) associated with St. Elizabeths.

What gets me is that it’s psychiatrists and other mental health professionals at St. Elizabeths who have given a clean bill of mental health to John Hinckley. Doesn’t that say something? All I can say, from my experience, is that the folks at St. E’s leave something to be desired in terms of mental health expertise, and these are the same people who want to grant John Hinckley his freedom! I ought to write the Secret Service about that. I think the Secret Service would get a chuckle out of that.

Check you out later, buddy. What are you doing this weekend?

P.S. Let me recommend a recently-published book to you. It’s David Greenberg’s book about President Nixon titled Nixon’s Shadow: The History of an Image. Greenberg is a history professor at Yale. The title is based on Eliot’s poem, The Hollow Men. “Between the idea and the reality falls the shadow.” That line sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

A particular passage jumped off the page when I glanced at the book:

“I don’t know what happened to [Nixon] as a teenager with his mother or father,”
mused his Attorney General Richard Kleindienst, “whether someone caught him
masturbating or something that scarred his character.” (page 235).

People are bemused by me. You know, I’m often asked “What happened to you as a child? Something had to have happened for you to turn out like you did.” I say to them: “’Or something.’ ‘Or something’ happened to me.”

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