Saturday, March 27, 2004

Take This, My Hamantaschen

turday, March 27, 2004

Take This, My Hamantaschen

Take This, My Hamantaschen Brian--
March 27, 2004
Hey, buddy-boy? What's going down?
People ask me--and, possibly, you, too, wonder: what do I do when I'm not raising the dead and walking on water?
It's a reasonable question to which I will give a reasonable answer. To wit: I ponder weighty matters. I've been working on the following intellectual problem for a number of years now. Yes, it's taken years to arrive at even the threshold of the answer to the following puzzle of searing importance: What would the Catholic religion be like if The Big Jew in the Sky had been crucified at Purim instead of at Passover.
I am only now beginning to arrive at some tentative thoughts, thoughts that might open vistas to the solution of a problem of great complexity and overwhelming importance for mankind.
I have shared my thoughts over the years with my colleagues at the Institute for Advanced Psychosis. Out of our careful collegial consideration of the pertinent issues has come some glimpses of a tentative, yes, tentative (but altogether ineluctable) set of inferences.
I am prepared now to share my thoughts with you--yes, you old chap.
The following inferences, though as yet simply inferences, carry a weight and authority so as to render them captivating.
First, the mass as we know it would be, as we say in the trade, radically different. All the mumbo jumbo, the whole magilla, so to speak, would be a totally different can of flour.
Catholic priests through the ages, and around the world, would, I suspect intone the communion formula: Take this my hamantaschen, as a token of Esther's love of baked goods.
Lent would correspond to the 40 days before Purim. It would be a time of sacrifice and abstention. Abstention from what you might ask? Abstention from mun and lekvar, you silly boy! Lent would comprise a holy dedication to low- carb, non-baked goods fare.
Can you imagine going 40 days without Entenman's?
One must assume that, owing to the onerous strictures of such Lenten sacrifice, many Catholics would stray from the ordained path of abstention--thereby committing mortal sin.
We must therefore assume that the holy rite of confession would, in many cases be dedicated to parishioners' Lenten penance. "Forgive me, father, for I have sinned." "And what did you do, my son?" "I ate a poppy seed."
The entire course of European history would have been unrecognizable. It would not have been the present past as we know it.
The religious wars of the 16th and 17th centuries, for example, would have pitted the partisans of the pitted prune against devotees of the unpitted.
Religious artifacts would depict The Big Jew in the Sky, a hamantaschen in hand, wearing a clown outfit--in keeping with Purim frivolity Lenox China would offer an entire line of porcelain Christs, noise-makers in hand.
Special prayers would be said for those poor unfortunates who had overbaked their hamantaschen, and in commemoration of the time the Virgin Mary accidentally left a batch of hamantaschen in the oven too long. Christians would intone the formula: "Oh Christ, theyburned!"
Are you getting the picture, buddy? Now that's a religion I could go for!
Law suits concerning hamantaschen would be making their way up the federal circuitry even as we speak. "May a federal school lunch program offer hamantaschen? Or does that violate the Establishment Clause."
You get the picture?
The implications are wide and varied, affecting every aspect of life: the mind boggles.
Check you out later, Brian. I'm getting hungry.

Friday, March 26, 2004


Well, buddy, how goes it? Bee-ooo-tea-full day, don't you agree? "Der Lenz ist da. Sei kommen uber Nacht," as they say in China.
It's Friday, March 26, 2004. I took a giant leap today, and I owe it all to the D.C. Government. Now that's rare--the circumstance that the D.C. Government actually helped me out. Actually, it's by default.
I got sick and tired of waiting for the computers to get back up at the library, so I went out and got a new adapter for my word processor. My old adapter conked out in '01, at the beginning of the Bush Administration. Although there's no real connection. But as I like to point out, I'm psychotic. People are probably getting tired of being reminded of that. Imagine how I felt when I first learned that I was in fact psychotic after spending over a year with psychiatrists and psychologists (during my tenure at my old law firm) who said I was simply nonpsychotically suspicious or lacking in trust when I reported my belief that I was under surveillance by Bob Strauss, the overwaltzed genius. Yes, from 1989 to mid- October 1991, about two weeks before my termination, I was seeing mental health professionals--and getting superlative job performance ratings, I might add.
Then, in October 1992, I was diagnosed by Napoleon--imagine that!--(it's usually the patient who assumes the identity of Napoleon, not the psychiatrist, but I suppose patients have gotten tired of being Napoleon. That went out with double- knit slacks, in the 70's. These days you'll hear psychiatrists say: "Nobody's Napoleon anymore. What's up with that?")
So in September 1992 I was diagnosed with a psychotic condition for the first time, and the designation stuck. I remember that in August 1993, my then-treating psychiatrist (I keep reaching for the mouse, there is none. This is actually a very clean building). I was seeing a resident in psychiatry at GW at that time who recommended Haldol, which is heavy duty stuff--the kind of medication they pump into people in straight-jackets or padded cells. She was the pits!--she now practices in Warrenton, Virginia--it reminds me of that line from Fiedler on the Roof--"Bless and keep the Tsar, far away from us."
What ever happened to Marc Fiedler by the way? He used to be one of Harold Brazil's partners. Fiedler has done ground- breaking work as an advocate for the disabled. He used to live in Cleveland Park. He's wheel-chair bound himself, just like old FDR. He used to visit the library here. Do you remember? I always had the suspicion that he recognized me somehow. Now why would that be? How on Earth could Marc Fiedler recognize my punim (Malcolm can translate). Fiedler's got a law degree from Harvard. Bright guy. I think he lost the use of his legs as a result of a car accident, when he was in college.
"Be that as it may." (A tribute to Dr. Eissler.)
Now, where was I?
Back to 1993.
When my psychiatrist at GW recommended Haldol, I refused to take it. In protest I set up a consult with a psychiatrist who I had a lot of confidence in--Dr. Palombo. I had been in therapy with him throughout the year 1990.
At my consult with Dr. Palombo in August 1993, I asked him a question. I thought, "now I've got him. He'll never be able to come up with a convincing answer to this question." "Dr. Palombo," I said, "how is it that when I was seeing you in 1990, I told you I thought I was under surveillance--clearly a psychotic idea--but you never recommended that I take anti-psychotic medication. Now, my psychiatrist at GW--based on the same patient report, is saying I have a psychotic disorder that requires a neuroleptic (anti-psychotic medication)."
Would you take a medication whose name translates as "brain cell killer?"--that's what neuroleptic means. The newer class of "neuroleptics," what they call the "second generation" neuroleptics, are much more specific chemically and leave the brain cells--of this psycho freak at least--to rest in peace.
Requiem. March madness. This time of year, my thoughts often go back to March 1968, when Sid Rothstein had the idea, the thoroughly mad idea, that a high school orchestra could perform both the Mozart Requiem and excerpts from Strauss's opera Der Rosenkavalier. That was in the spring of my first year in high school. Central High School. In orchestra (I "played" the violin). We did a concert in March 1968. Now I know I told you about that. Can even remember what I said. So you know we did the Mozart Requiem. Rather, the rest of the orchestra did the Requiem. I wasn't up to Sid's standards. I wasn't major league. Actually I wasn't even minor league. A league of my own, perhaps. To tell you the truth, as I see it, I turned every piece we played into a violin concerto. Opera, symphony, choral work, whatever. It was all a violin concerto, with the entire orchestra playing the right notes as I played my--shall we call them--idiosyncrasies? I suppose there's a metaphor there somewhere.
I remember the time the school orchestra was rehearsing the opening of the Tchaikovsky Fifth. The symphony begins with a bassoon solo, if I recall correctly. Then the strings come in with a repeated two-note phrase. For some peculiar reason I just automatically, without any thought--and really, do I give any thought to anything? (they say I'm manipulative, but doesn't that require thinking?)--held the violin in the pizzicato position. Rothstein (El Maestro--as they say in Tel Aviv) just stared at me, in silence. Then, everyone else in the string section, then the entire orchestra, started to stare at me. I thought--"what's going on." Then it dawned on me--"this is not a pizzicato passage." I suppose Sid started again, from the beginning (nochmals von vorn anfangen!).
In the 1967-1968 season, the Central High Orchestra did the Tchaikovsky Fifth (first movement only) and experts from Rosenkavalier.
Ah, Rosenkavalier. I love the story about Strauss--an incident that occurred in 1945 at the end of World War II. Some American soldiers had made their way to Strauss's villa at Garmisch-Partenkirchen. They knocked on the front door. The 81-year-old Strauss appeared. A soldier said: "Can we see your identification, sir?" Strauss answered: "I am Herr Doctor Strauss, the composer of Rosenkavalier!" Like that meant anything to those GIs. They must have thought he was just a senile old man. But Strauss wasn't senile--he was yet to write The Four Last Songs and Metamorphosen, both some of the best music he had ever written. Ah, The Four Last Songs--so autumnal, so crepuscular, as Nicole would say.
Who knew then that my life would come to a full bar rest in three-four time? Yes, can you believe it? I recently pondered the question: "What if we had done Souza instead of Strauss?" Do you think I'd be stuck in a march rhythm? Four-four time, from here to eternity? I remember telling one of my former psychiatrists in -- of course, March -- 1996 that for a high school orchestra to do Strauss is comparable to a high school biology class being permitted to participate in an autopsy. In other words Strauss is rather advanced for teenage musicians at a high school orchestra. I suppose he (Dr. Georgopoulos) thought my analogy was a bit peculiar. But, in fact, there's a logical, though idiosyncratic, link between "autopsy" and Rosenkavalier--at least for me. The two ideas have an idiosyncratic linkage, owing to the fact that on the same program that we performed Rosenkavalier, in March 1968, we also did the Mozart Requiem.
That's the wonderful thing about psychoanalysis and psychoanalysts, as opposed to psychiatrists. You can say anything that is on your mind. That's permitted--you can say anything. The analyst assumes that there's some underlying logic to what is being said, even if it makes no sense from a surface perspective. Like Adam Smith (Glenn Fine, are you reading this?), the analyst believes an unseen hand is directing the conscious mind. You may say, "Well, what about psychotics?" Ah, that's where the assessment comes in. The analyst assesses a patient--perhaps for several sessions-- before it's determined whether the individual is analyzable. You hear that, Debra and Nicole? Psychotics are considered more or less unanalyzable, and are rejected by most analysts. But see Jennifer Nield, "The Analysis of a Psychotic Man." I don't remember the exact reference--it was published in The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child during the Reagan Administration. The patient believed world peace could be achieved by having the Reagans and the Gorbachevs double- date. (I'm not making this up).
Many non-psychotics are also refused treatment in analysis. Victor Tausk, for example--you know about him. Freud rejected him for analysis. Paul Roazen is right with respect to one thing. Freud was wrong in his treatment of Tausk. But not for the reason Dr. Eissler advances. Freud should have said to Tausk: "Listen, Tausk, you're not analyzable by anyone, not just me." But of course, there was the question of why Tausk was performing psychoanalysis himself in the first place. The Fictitious Case of Freud Contra Tausk is as tortuous as the Fictitious Case of Race Contra Freedman.
Talk about sticky situations. I think Dr. Palombo must have had a pretty sticky time trying to explain my case to the "whomever" in suits. You know what I mean?
Back to 1993.
So Dr. Palombo said (do you remember? We were talking about him--amigo), "The reason I didn't recommend anti-psychotic medication is simple. You were working then. You were able to work at that time. Now you are unemployed (with all that implies about your mental health--and what precisely does it my about my mental health?)."
"You were working then, back in 1990, when I was treating you." Perfectly reasonable. But rationalizations are always reasonable. That's why they are called rationalizations. A rationalization is the transformation of the irrational or the threatening into the rational or benign. Remember rationalizations are not called peculiarizations--they are called rationalizations for a reason. Dr. Palombo's comment still leaves unanswered how I could have suddenly developed manic depression for the first time at age 38, an illness that featured a set of bizarre ideas, when in fact I had had the same bizarre ideas since 1988, but wasn't diagnosed with manic depression or told by Dr. Palombo, in 1990 (when I was seeing him regularly), to take lithium. Do you recognize Simon Gray in that sentence structure, old chap?
What were we talking about? Yes. Dx and Rx. The mystery of it all. Ah, but the world is full of unsolved mysteries.
But all that's behind me now. Or is it above me. Or sideways, or under me, entombed in the bowels of a Metro tunnel? Or as they say in London--the tube.
The fact is I'm now on antipsychotic medication and my days of illness, malingering, and adventurous depravity are in, shall we say, another location. By the way, the medication I'm on is rather expensive. It's called Zyprexa (Olanzapine). I imagine it's at least five bucks a pop. I've read in the Post that the D.C. Mental Health Department, which distributes meds gratis (novel turn of phrase, don't you think?) frequently runs out of anti-psychotic medications for the severely mentally ill. But does anybody care that I, little old and getting older by the minute, me, gets all the meds I need (or don't need, depending on your point of view)? You see I'm not just any old psychotic, I'm a potentially violent psychotic. I'm dangerous, buddy. I'm a dangerous man. Or at least potentially dangerous. But aren't we all at least potentially dangerous?
Don't tell Dr. Cooper, my current psychiatrist (I'm making you the repository of a secret--maybe I'm really anti-Semitic), but I upped the dose of my anti-psychotic medication to 20 mg/day from 10 mg/day. I guessed it was OK, since Dr. Cooper gave me a 20 mg dose at the time of my breakdown (remember that?) and I tolerated that quite well. So, I figured why not try 20 mg/day, every day. I have enough pills to last me till my next appointment. Well, the result has been really strange. I really feel manicky at 20 mg/day. But good manicky, not bad manicky. This morning, during my workout, a young lady in the room said, after watching me work-out for a while: "Wow, that was some work-out!" I was sweating bullets (Am I allowed to say that?)
Then, after my workout, I got the idea of calling North's Business Equipment on K Street to see if they had the type of adapter I needed. They did, of course. And here we wonderfully are. I'll be writing letters to you at home. I'll use the computers at the library just for internet searches, printing from internet (when I do that: it's become a rare occurrence for me to make copies here at the library since you started charging for them), AND transmitting these letters to you in the time-honored manner.
Now I can write letters to you at my leisure. Take as much time as I want to write. No longer constrained by the seventy-minute rule. Also, now, I can write at any time, not just between 9:30 and 5:30 (or 9 to 9, depending on the day). I can also write on Sundays, on holidays, while farting, while scratching my ass, picking my nose, and the all- important (but rarely enjoyed) grand fuck. Yes, I can now write while fucking and fuck while writing. And isn't that a dream come true? Of course, I will need to find a willing fuckee. Which compounds my problems, really. It was bad enough before, finding a suitable fraulein. Imagine the response now when I tell the prospective candidate: "How do you feel about my writing a letter to my friend, Brian, while we . . . "
Yes, truly a marvel. Not all dreams that come true are desirable, though. Sometimes, they're merely odd and pathetic.
I always wanted to see my old friend Craig at least one more time before I got myself embalmed and planted. Well, I got my chance today. It wasn't a good experience. Really, it was-- now how shall I put it? How about if I just describe it?
I was on the west escalator on Connecticut Avenue, emerging out of the bowels of Metro. I was checking out a young fraulein. I had a sense that Craig was above me, on top of me, --or at least some location in my proximity (I'm making that up, of course). I could hear Craig's formaldehyde. Quite noisome. Ninety-percent pure formaldehyde, don't you know? (That's what I always liked about you, buddy. None of that overwhelming scent of male cologne--if that's not an oxymoron). So I reached the top of the Metro escalator. I turned, and looked up. It was all quite Faustian. Blicket auf, and all that. I saw the Embalmer on the balcony. He was seated with a young lady. I don't know if it was the assassination heiress. But I had a suspicion that he had been following me with his glance as I arose out of Metro. When I looked up at the balcony, he turned his head upward to the sky, as it were, with his cell phone in hand.
He looked stunned. What had he thought? What did he think? That I was pining away over a nonsexual romance that had ended years ago, during the Clinton Administration. Or that I had gone bald, fat, and walked with a cane? Or that I had succumbed to blindness (from excessive masturbation--and by the way, what precisely constitutes excessive masturbation?), and now re-lied (as if one lie were not enough!) on a seeing eye dog? Is that what he imagined? Who can say?
In any event, Craig is still handsome, intelligent, manipulative and a womanizer.
Funny thing about Craig's stunned look when he saw me (technically, I can only assume he saw me). My thoughts went back immediately to our last telephone conversation on July 14, 1993 (Bastille Day). He told me he didn't want to get together for lunch with me because time had changed him so much. The Embalmer said: "Gary, I don't think it's wise for us to get together. If you see me now you might be shocked at how much I've changed physically since you last saw me. The last time I had seen him, before the July 1993 phone call, was early February 1992. And today, on this fair March day in the year 2004, it seemed to be he who was shocked to see me! Fancy that. How's that for projection!
Requiem Eternam. It was as if Craig had consigned our bruderschaft to an unmarked pauper's grave. Unmourned and quickly forgotten. All those "congresses" at the Cafe Mozart, all those intimate moments of nothingness and inanity that we shared--in the end, it all meant nothing to him.
I remember the last time I saw Craig--that is, saw his physical being--I've always seen him in my mind, or seen through him (or am I being cheek?); it was after our bitter decoupling, in July '93. I suppose it was back in early '94, when Al Gore still thought he might actually become president of the United States some day by simply getting more votes than his opponent. (Silly boy!). Our beginnings never know our ends. They're always so sad, so sad.
So today, an early Chinese spring day, I saw Craig! I was alone, at mid-day, at the entrance to a Metro station. Above me, through the milky mist of D.C. smog, I saw the physical being of my friend. He had ascended to the second floor balcony of Indique, like an athlete in top form; a downward- peering statue surprised by my presence. Stealthy shadows climbed toward me. Silence. I wait for Craig to offer a salutation. I approached. I glanced at him. It was as if I had become transparent. It was as if I had sufficient physical form for him to recognize me; but his own gaze passed through me as though I were merely a phantom (or chimera, as Nicole would say). Pace Isabel Allende.
So, yes, it was in '94 (don't make me swear to that, though) at the Metro Center subway station that I last saw Der Craigmeister. The embalmer was kissing the assassination heiress goodbye. "Goodbye, sweet princess, Goodbye!" Craig's office at Hogan & Hartson was at Metro Center (Columbia Square--designed by I.M. Pei and who are you?)
I was headed to my psychiatrist at GW; I had gotten off the Red Line at Metro Center to catch the Orange and Blue Line to Foggy Bottom.
Wait, that's another psychotic symptom!
Circumstantiality. Going on and on about trivial details and loosing track, if you'll pardon the pun. Brian, be sure to always stay clear of the third rail. One false step could kill you. Sudden death.
By the way, buddy. Could you transmit a message to Dennis Race for me. Dennis is the fellow who terminated my employment back in '91. I can still remember the termination. How could I forget. Two days before the termination I was employed and non-psychotic. Then at mid-day on October 29, 1991--and in the presence of a former subject of Her Royal Highness, the Queen--I became psychotic. Ideas of reference, you know, old chap. They can be so tiresome, not to mention a predictor of homicidality!
In any event, here's the message. Tell Dennis the following:
If you re-instate the punctuation that you so maliciously deleted, it might help in your sentencing. We can't do anything about your violation of the rules of grammar. The judges of grammar--English professors, shall we say--never forgive grammatical breaches. As my old criminal law professor used to say: "You can't put the toothpaste back in the tube." That is, you can't undo a criminal act. But sometimes English professors do view the re-instatement of a period, a comma, or a semi-colon as a sign of good faith that can mitigate the tedium of a boring and lengthy sentence. It's what they call "a good thing."
Yes, I'll bloody make trouble. Race's prosecution on charges of grammatical and stylistic breaches ("Shortly thereafter," "at the onset," etc.) may well be the only event of the past 16 years that I will actually enjoy.
"Trouble for you, fun for me." That's my motto.
By the way, if I'm ever interviewed by Barbara Walters, and if she should ever ask, "Mr. Freedman, what would you like the epitaph on your tombstone to read?" I will reply:
"Here lies Gary Freedman. He made a fuss."
Buddy, what do you make of my own sentence structure? Rather Faulknerian, don't you think? I'm developing a new tone: a combination of the didactic and the enigmatically stoic.
Check you out later, buddy.
P.S. I liked your professional response to the gift I gave you--the Beethoven CD. You kept it all at a professional level. By the way, did you like it? My favorite part is that Palastrina-esque portion in the Credo; I think it's a canon.
P.P.S. I just had a brainstorm. Why don't courts decide cases simply on the basis of the stylistic merits of the filings. You know what I mean? Judges would assess the merits of a case based on which side (plaintiff or defendant) had submitted the most stylistically-appealing pleadings and briefs. A novel approach to the law, don't you think? I'll have to talk to Ellen about that!

Thursday, March 25, 2004

A Chemical High

March 25, 2004
Hi, buddy. Or should I say, "high, buddy."
That's how I feel: high. I'm on a chemical high. I take a minor tranquilizer (Xanax) to cure my Nixonian insomnia, an anti- depressant (Effexor) for my Lincolnesque melancholy, and an anti-psychotic to cure my--well, my Nixonian paranoia.
I fear that, like Nixon, I'm an incurable paranoiac. We're both beyond help. Nixon is one dead person I'd like to be friendly with. I think we could share "war stories." How everyone is out to get us, the evil academicians and sanctimonious commentators who have tried to blacken our radiance.
What, you may ask, has anti-psychotic medication done for me? Actually, you have a right to know. You and all the other D.C. taxpayers are footing the bill for my chemical transformation (or lack thereof).
Dr. Cooper--my psychiatrist--admits that the medication will probably not cure me of my delusions, such as my belief that you read the documents I leave for you, and the belief--among my many odd and paranoid conjectures--that the Pope has read my autobiography, and that Malcolm and Earl made themselves comfortable in my apartment on a day in early January 1990.
So, what's left to cure? Well, to tell you the truth, I actually feel better. I feel calmer (or does one feel calmerly? have you ever felt a young lady calmerly?), less agitated, more self-assured and more confident, more optimistic. I'm being dead serious (am I allowed to say that?) If Dr. Cooper said: "Mr. Freedman, I'm taking you off Zyprexa," I would protest. I would say, "no, I think the medication is helping me a lot in terms of my sense of well-being." In fact, if I didn't know better, I'd think Zyprexa is an anti-depressant. I feel a kind of wholeness I didn't feel before.
But everything else is the same. And that "everything else" is labeled psychotic by psychiatrists. That "everything else" would comprise: my social isolation, my lack of interest in normal people, my desire for attachment to a sublime spirit--or Erhabene Geist (and I'm not talking Seagrams, though, possibly, I am referring to Edgar Bronfman and his associates), my non- stop idea production, my need to synthesize facts and perceptions and memories, my need to write letters, my leaving letters to you on the hard-drive of the library's computer, my interest in a friendship with you--buddy, my belief that somehow a friendship will arise between us without my taking any concrete steps, my belief that I am hypersensitive to signals in the environment and extremely intuitive, that I can do things that others cannot (like stringing together thousands of quotations from books), my talking to myself, my 2-hour masturbation sessions, my ruminations about the past, my desire to analyze human behavior, my need to view everyday events as expressions of generalized systems of behavior and thought, my feeling that I was a victim of aggression in my family, my belief that I was harassed at my last two places of employment, my feeling that if I were to get a job other employees would gang up on me and eventually get me fired.
I trust you get the idea, that is, to the extent a paranoiac can trust.
Fundamentally, what the anti-psychotic medication has allowed me to do is everything I used to do (which is mostly nothing) but I feel calmer and less agitated doing it. I still have fantasies about the President of the United States. I think if I were to commit an illegal act in connection with the President, I would be more calm doing it. Upon my apprehension by the Secret Service, I'd be calmer during questioning. At my trial I could face the judge and jury with a sure sense of ease and self- confidence.
At my oral argument before the D.C. Court of Appeals on December 16, 1997, well, you know Judge Terry told The Powers That Be that I seemed "high-strung." Or at least that's what got reported back to Akin Gump. I picked up that signal from you, Brian (that somebody who was present at the oral argument said I seemed "high-strung").
In sum, the great thing is that now, if I were to testify on my own behalf as a criminal defendant, or if I decided to handle my own criminal defense (a la Colin Ferguson), I would be less high-strung, calmer, and more self-assured. I want the D.C. Department of Mental Health to know that: that for me, the thousands of dollars it is shelling out for my meds will make me a more credible and self-assured criminal defendant. But I still satisfy the criteria for delusional disorder. a psychotic mental illness.
What follows, buddy, is a typical morning in the life of Freedman.
Wednesday, March 25, 2004.
I wake up at 5:30. I take a leak. I pull my briefs off, and I "listen to Mozart" till about 7:30. I let my mind wander. Farm animals are my favorite mental image during my intimate moments with the little man from Salzburg. Sometimes a sheep is more than just a sheep. I complete that task. I clean up.
I go upstairs to the lobby for some coffee. I say hello to Tim. I have to be careful to say hello to Tim. Elizabeth--the English lady who used to manage the front desk--understood me: my needs and my limitations. She didn't force any social interaction from me, generally. She knew I'm not into the "kiss hello program."
I hate saying good morning. Claudio Grossman used to talk about his days in The Netherlands. There, in Holland, nobody says hello or good morning, or so Dean Grossman claimed. He said the Dutch would think you were crazy if you went around saying good morning to people. Maybe I'm part Dutch.
Then I work out. Every day I work out on the same exercise machine. The same routine. The same sweat. I've taken to listening to my Walkman radio while I work out.
Wednesday March 25, I listened to a tape of the third act of Wagner's opera, Siegfried.
As I was listening and working out, ideas flooded my mind. It's as if the ideas were water and my brain were a sponge. My brain is just saturated with ideas all the time: that's not genius--that's psychosis. I suffer from this even at 20 mg/day of Zyprexa, my antipsychotic medication.
Maybe Gerald Edelman could address this problem. Edelman won a Nobel Prize in Medicine in about 1973. He's an expert in the way the brain works. He addresses a lot of issues that experts in creativity are interested in. Talk to Professor Edelman, why don't you? Ask him about "The Freedman Mind: How it Works and How it Suffers and Makes Others Suffer."
What follows is a case study concerning my idea production. It is important to keep in mind--assuming your mind has not already glazed over--that I have these ideations, despite my current dose (20 mg/day) of anti-psychotic medication (Zyprexa).
The ideas that flooded my mind during the workout are as follows:
1. Paul Lawrence Rose, a professor at Penn State, once said that the opera Siegfried is the most anti-Semitic opera ever written. He bases this claim on the fact that the hero Siegfried embodies those qualities that the Nazis claimed for themselves as the master race. Siegfried, an orphan of illegitimate birth, was raised by the wicked dwarf Mime, who is seen by many commentators as the embodiment of qualities that anti-Semites attribute to Jews. Marc Wiener, an expert on Wagner's anti- Semitism is in accord with this view.
In the third Act the mature Siegfried pledges eternal union with the heroine Brunnhilde. There's a status issue here. Brunnhilde was once a goddess, but lost her godhead as punishment for an act of wrongdoing.
So what do you have?
Siegfried is the grandson of the chief God (Wotan), but was raised by a lowly dwarf, Mime.
In the relationship between Siegfried and his "stepfather" Mime, Siegfried (son) is the exalted Aryan and Mime (stepfather) the lowly Jew.
Brunnhilde was a goddess, but is now a mortal human.
In the relationship between Siegfried and Brunnhilde, Brunnhilde is a goddess turned human, like Siegfried; her status is therefore a debased one. Further, since Siegfried's conquest of Brunnhilde involved an act of courage by Siegfried (he had to pass through a wall of flames to reach Brunnhilde), Siegfried's holds an elevated status as a hero.
Thus, in the Brunnhilde/Siegfried relationship Siegfried is the elevated figure and Brunnhilde is the debased figure.
Basically, in terms of status, Brunnhilde took a step down and Siegfried took a step up.
So, what do we have now?
Siegfried is superior to Mime (his stepfather)
Siegfried is superior to Brunnhilde (his "wife")
Other issues then flooded my mind:
Germany became a unified political entity in 1871. The Reich was formed, under Prussian hegemony, out of a collection of independent German states. Unification brought about a kind of elevation for individual Germans. A German who was formerly, say, a Saxon (i.e., a citizen of the independent state of Saxony), prior to unification, became, after unification, a citizen of the German Reich, a world power.
It might be said that millions of individual Germans achieved an elevation in status upon the unification of Germany.
There is a parallel in American history. With the adoption of the Constitution of the United States, a resident of, say, Rhode Island became a citizen of The United States, an elevation. (Of course, royalists in the colonies would view American nationhood as a loss of status inasmuch as they were no longer subjects of the British crown.)
Wagner wrote three significant marches. The Kaiser March, which he composed in 1871 to glorify the new Reich. The conclusion of the piece features a chorus that glorifies the Kaiser. "Hail, Hail the Kaiser." Wagner had hopes that the chorus would serve as a national anthem for the newly-created German Reich; that dream was never fulfilled.
Wagner also wrote (on commission), oddly enough, a march commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the Signing of the Declaration of Independence, to be performed at the Centennial Exhibition (World's Fair), held in Philadelphia in 1876.
A third march, composed in 1864, The March of Homage (Huldigungsmarsch), commemorated the coronation of King Ludwig II of Bavaria.
A common aspect of the three marches is that they celebrate political matters: national unification or coronation. It might also be said that all three marches celebrate elevations in status. The Kaiser March celebrates the ascent of the King of Prussia to the status of Emperor of Germany; The American Centennial March celebrates the elevation of the thirteen American colonies to sovereign union; and The March of Homage celebrates the elevation of Prince Ludwig of Bavaria to the status of King.
Under the Reich, German Jews were granted legal equality with other Germans. After 1871 German Jews enjoyed an elevation in status.
Incidental, but pertinent facts pertaining to the opera Siegfried are as follows:
1. The third act of the opera was completed in 1869, immediately prior to German unification.
2. The first two acts had been written years earlier. Upon completion of Siegfried Act II, Wagner suspended work on the opera to write Tristan und Isolde and Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg.
3. It was while Wagner was working on Siegfried Act III, in 1868, that Cosima, once called the Baroness, deserted her husband Baron Hans von Bulow to live in an adulterous arrangement with Wagner. Cosima delivered Wagner's son in June 1869, while still legally married to von Bulow. The child, Siegfried, an illegitimate offspring, was the grandson of Franz Liszt (Cosima's father), the chief "god" of nineteenth- century piano virtuosity.
4. The Kaiser March, which features a paean to German unification, was written in 1871. In the later 1870s, Wagner, recognizing that the music would never serve as the official German National Anthem, changed the words to serve as a hymn to Cosima, mother of Siegfried. The tune formerly known as "Hail, Hail the Kaiser" became "Hail, Hail the Mother" (i.e., Cosima).
5. The Siegfried Idyll, a work Wagner wrote for chamber orchestra in 1870, is drawn from music employed in Act III Siegfried. The Siegfried Idyll was written to be performed as a Christmas/birthday present for Cosima (whose birth date was December 25).
6. We may state as a matter of fact that Wagner associated both The Kaiser March and The Siegfried Idyll with Cosima. In the former, a hymn to the Reich was changed to a hymn to Cosima. The latter was expressly written as a "symphonic birthday greeting" to Cosima.
7. Siegfried Act III, particularly the martial-like coda, features musical similarities to The Kaiser March.
a.) The Kaiser March features a solo timpani subject: a repeated motive of tonic / descending dominant.
b.) The coda of Siegfried Act III features a timpani subject (in C major) identical to that of The Kaiser March. (The key of C contains no sharps or flats: "no black notes," possibly suggestive of racial purity.)
c.) The Siegfried Idyll contains a melody for which Wagner wrote words:
Sleep, baby, sleep; in the garden are two sheep: a black one and a white, and if the baby will not sleep, the black will come and bite!
d.) Both the coda of Siegfried Act III and The Kaiser March feature an identical (and extremely common) cadence. In the key of C the cadence can be described as "G F E [(trill) F-G-F-G-F- G-F-G-F-E-F] E. The orchestral treatment of the cadence has a similar feel: martial and ebullient.
Buddy, this was one sweaty enterprise. I'm exhausted. Check you out later, Brian. Don't let the white sheep bite.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Group Therapy: March 3, 2004


Hey, buddy. What’s up today, March 3, 2004?

I think tomorrow, March 4, is the anniversary of the “Catastrophe.” The day I started waltzing
to that unending melody in three-four time. The beginning of my association with Strauss and his band.

But I’m still caught up with the group therapy situation. I telephoned Nicole this morning and left a lengthy and distressed message on her machine. I told her I believe that what I have experienced in group is a violation of my civil rights and my “Consumer Rights Statement” issued by the D.C. Department of Mental Health. I said I plan to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice (U.S. Attorney, Roscoe Howard, District of Columbia) and possibly to the Office of the Attorney General of the United States.

I find it unbelievable and offensive that group members, week after week, make allegations that I’m fabricating evidence of mental illness to maintain my social security benefits, which amounts to an allegation that I’m committing a crime. I don’t think the group members or group leaders recognize that they are, in fact—for all practical purposes—accusing me of engaging in a continuing course of criminal conduct, punishable by imprisonment. Not only do Debra and Nicole say nothing, like perhaps: “Gary’s relationship with the Social Security Administration is out of bounds for discussion,” which I think it is. But on one occasion, Debra actually solicited comments from the female group member about how the group member thought I was malingering—which amounts to her speculating about how I’m committing fraud against a federal agency. Outrageous!

Under the “Consumer Rights Statement” I have a right “to be treated at all times with dignity and respect.” Repeated and unfounded accusations of criminal misconduct are not consistent with my rights.

Under the Statement I have a right to be free of discrimination. Arguably I am being discriminated against because I am the only person receiving disability benefits. None of the other group members have been subjected to accusations of misconduct amounting to a prosecutable offense under federal law. That’s discrimination—abetted by the group leaders, both representatives of the D.C. government.

Also, under the Statement I have a right to “request an exam of my mental condition.” I have repeatedly requested that I be assessed for suitability for group therapy. Debra and Nicole assert that I was in fact assessed for group—that their 30-minute discussion with me prior to my commencement of group constituted an assessment. I don’t think that constituted an appropriate assessment in view of my “long-history of mental illness,” see Letter from Albert M. Taub, M.D. dated February 22, 1999 to the D.C. Board of Medicine, namely “paranoid schizophrenia.”

My illness features the following issues that are pertinent, I believe, to an assessment of my suitability for group:

A history of psychotic ideation of 16 years duration.

The statement made by the late Jerry M. Wiener, M.D. that my paranoia had “crippled my life.” Dr. Wiener was a past President of the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychoanalytical Association. Dr. Wiener commended my action in filing for Social Security Disability Benefits during a meeting I had with him in August 1993.

The diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia by two different psychiatrists at two different institutions. Regardless of the correctness of the diagnosis, the import is ineluctable. My style of thinking was deemed by two different psychiatrists to be similar to that found in the most severely disturbed patients. It is useful to bear in mind: If it walks like a duck, and talks like a duck—and it’s not a duck—the fact remains: two experts believed, based on the evidence before them, that it resembled a duck, with all that implies about the animal’s functioning. Even low-functioning persons are not mistaken for schizophrenics.

The diagnosis of bi-polar disorder by a psychiatrist affiliated with St. Elizabeths.

A history of 12 years of complete social isolation. A life-long history of social isolation.

A history of no communication or contact of any kind with any family member since the year 1996.

Allegations by my last employer that I was unable to function in a group setting. Allegations by that employer that I had engaged in violent and disruptive conduct when I was placed in a group employment situation.

A diagnosis of delusional disorder (a psychotic mental illness) following an extensive battery of psychological testing performed by GW in 1994. See Report of Psychological Testing, prepared under the supervision of William Fabian, Ph.D. (GW, May 1994).

The fact that my delusional thinking has been refractory to three different anti-psychotic medications. And, importantly, that my current treating psychiatrist, Betsy Jane Cooper, M.D., recommends that I try a course of a neuroleptic that is considered a medication of last-resort for psychotic patients.

My involvement with three federal law enforcement agencies (during the period 1994-1998) with respect to concerns that I pose a risk of violence.

Well, I think these are a few issues that Debra and Nicole should educate themselves about.

Some expert in group therapy out there must have come up with some objective criteria that can be used to assess a person’s suitability for group. Perhaps someone like Irvin Yalom, M.D., at Stanford. He’s one of the country’s leading experts on group therapy. Yalom used to serve (along with my former treating psychiatrist, Stanley R. Palombo, M.D.) on the editorial board of the journal Psychiatry.

Also, one of my own former psychiatrists, here in D.C., Lewis Winkler, M.D. is an expert in group therapy. I saw Dr. Winkler for three sessions back in the spring of 1991. I stopped seeing him because I believed he was sharing confidential mental health information about me with Bob Strauss and his partners. And doesn’t that in itself speak volumes about my mental status!

Anyway, Dr. Winkler is routinely listed in Washingtonian Magazine as one of the top psychiatrists in the region. So is Dr. Taub, for that matter (who diagnosed me with paranoid schizophrenia.)

In any event, I think my telephone call to Nicole this morning will get some kind of ball rolling. “They’re off and running,” as Bob Strauss would say at Pimlico.

I just can’t get over some of the things in group. Not only did Nicole use the word “dialectic,” but yesterday she spontaneously mentioned Margaret Mahler. A few weeks ago she started to talk about Alfred Adler. And they say I intellectualize too much in therapy! Nicole acts like this is her Ph.D. orals.

Funny thing. I still remember when I was seeing Dr. Winkler, I happened to mention the psychoanalyst Melanie Klein, who died years ago. Dr. Winkler said to me: “You know, in the twenty years I’ve been practicing psychiatry, this is the first time a patient has mentioned Melanie Klein in therapy.” Yes, I still remember that.

I think Debra and Nicole need to look at the psychodynamics of what’s going on. What does it mean that I’m very unhappy with things that, arguably I have a right to be unhappy about, but I feel I can’t talk about my dissatisfactions in group and feel I have to go to the U.S. Department of Justice? How many mental patients complain about group therapy to John Ashcroft? I wonder.

But I have a right to complain. My Statement of Rights says I have a right “to say how I feel about the services I receive.” I didn’t agree not to write to the Attorney General. In my superego functioning the following precept applies: “What is not forbidden is permitted.”

Well, Debra and Nicole can’t say I didn’t warn them. I’m a moral narcissist. A whistle blower. I will not be sullied by others’ impurities.

Come, come, Brian, you well know, Goethe was quite right: “Es bleibt ein Erdenrest zu tragen peinlich. Und w¬r Er von Asbest, Er ist nicht reinlich!”

Check you out later buddy. I hope our trip to L.A. will put me in a better mental state. Can’t wait to meet Will. Great guy.

One other thing I forgot to mention. A few years back I suggested to a psychiatrist that perhaps group therapy would be good for me. His reply was: “I agree that you’d derive benefit from group therapy. But finding the right group would be a problem in your case. You wouldn’t fit into most groups.” I find that significant. What did he mean: “You wouldn’t fit into most groups?” Also, that was before the onset of my psychotic illness. If anything, I’m arguably even less suitable for group now.

Also, Brian. Thanks again for being here (or there) for me. I don’t know what I would do without you and your empathic ear. Thanks, buddy.