Monday, May 10, 2004

The Fortress of Konigstein

The Fortress of Koenigstein Brian--
May 10, 2004
Hey, buddy. I hope this weekend found you in good fettle. Did you do anything?
I spent most of the weekend wandering the Fortress of Freedman.
Wanderer that I am, I explored both internal and external worlds. My external behavior was conventional enough, but my exploration of my inner world and my independence of mind in exploring my relationship in the universe was profound, as usual.
I led an "Arafat existence," as is my wont. I'm old and growing older (or at least middle-aged and growing more so by the minute), trapped in my apartment--like Arafat in his compound at Ramallah--scorned by Malcolm Lassman and Earl Segal, and often ridiculed by my own people (the librarians of this wicked world), but that doesn't mean I or my thoughts are irrelevant. They're simply idiosyncratic. But not irrelevant.
I remained confined to "my compound" on Saturday, plotting strategy. Yes, I feel trapped and hopeless. It's been that way since the occupation. Will I ever come into my own, I wonder.
As the pundits say: "What is Freedman? Everything. What has Freedman been until now? Nothing. What does Freedman want to become? Something." All I want is to come into my own. I don't need a room somewhere, as Alan Jay Lerner would say, (I've already got that)--what I need is to come into my own. I have a book ready for publication. It just sits on a shelf, awaiting its destiny, its publication.
Yes, I spent most of my weekend in my fortress of solitude, like Superman. A fortress in the subterranean depths of 3801 Connecticut Avenue. A futile (or seemingly so), meaningless, and lonely existence in my fortress. Scorned even by God--or, at least, that's how it feels at times. Was it Woody Allen who said: "God Isn't Dead.--He Just Doesn't Want to Get Involved." I sometimes think Lieberson would be a good friend for me. But I'm old enough to be his grandfather. Lieberson is my neighbor, by the way. I'm not a pederast. Young boys aren't my thing. After all, I'm half-Jewish. I'm not a Catholic priest, shunning cloistered nuns for young alter boys. Give me a nubile, young nun with a habit any day. The more lascivious the habit, the better.
"The Fortress of Koenigstein." The King's Stone. Koenigstein--That's Woody Allen's real name, by the way. Did you know that? Koenigstein. No, no. Wait! Allan Stewart Konigsberg. That was Woody Allen's real name. "Konigsberg." The artist whose picture hangs in The National Gallery actually gave his painting the wrong name. The painting should be The Fortress of Konigsberg, but the artist's attention was distracted by a nubile, young nun and he ended up misnaming his own painting. The artist was probably a friend of Rubenstein's.
In any event, Koenigstein translates as "King's Stone." But not the President's Stone. A stone but not a marble block. A stone block. But not a writer's block.
I suffered writer's block most of this weekend. I had no idea what I would write to you about. Right now, it's five antemeridian. It's dark. Should I risk my liberty and admit something? Yes! Let's throw caution to the wind. The dark night of the soul I experienced this weekend led to a more mature and adequate faith.
"How do I revive my creative juices?" "How do I summon the creative spirit? The creative spirit that infuses my communications with you, buddy?" Those are the questions I pondered in my fortress this weekend.
I've moved my writing venue, shall we say. I created a writer's hut within my apartment. A protected cloister. A place where I can meditate, gather my thoughts, and let the transference (my thoughts about you, Brian) take shape. I have a walk-in closet in my apartment, where, this weekend, I set up my word processor along with the paraphernalia of my trade. The signs of my profession, shall we call them. My computer discs, my dictionary. A hard chair suitable for the writer's mind. Comfortable, but not overly so. Yes, I've gone back in the closet. While so many people are coming out of the closet, I've "in-ned" myself. The small space concentrates the spirit and mind. Do you notice a new tone in this letter: a tone of the didactic and enigmatically stoic?
Yesterday I got out. I ventured downtown. I sought inspiration in the outer world. I made my way to The National Gallery of Art. At least, that was my destination.
But on my way, I walked by The National Archives. Did you ever notice, at the Northwest corner of the Archives Building, the memorial to President Franklin Roosevelt? It's touchingly simple. I had seen it before, but I had forgotten about it. The President's Stone. It's a simple block of marble with a terse inscription: "Franklin Delano Roosevelt." And the dates: 1882 - 1945.
A small plaque discusses the history of the monument. And I rephrase from memory: "In the year 194-, in the presence of several close aides, President Roosevelt talked about the kind of memorial he wanted erected when the time came. He pointed to his desk, and said: "It should be a simple marble block, the size of that desk. Engraved on the stone should be my name, and nothing more, except the dates of my birth (1882) and death. And I would like the stone placed on the grounds of the National Archives." The explanatory plaque closes: "Erected by the President's friends, on the fifteenth anniversary of his death." Or words to that effect. And there it stands today. The Franklin Roosevelt Memorial. It is strikingly poignant. The President's stone, as it were.
That's all he ever wanted. A simple marble stone. Of course, the government erected something on a grander scale--more Rooseveltian, shall we say. I've never been to the "official" memorial, have you, Brian? It's a tad silly, don't you think. The statue of FDR's dog, Fala. (And is that a wheelchair under FDR's cape?) I suppose we should be grateful that FDR didn't have a pet hamster. The Memorial Commission would have said: "We need a reproduction of that hamster next to the statue of the President." Yes. The President and his annoyingly-gnawing companion. Fortunately for all of us, he had a dog and not a treadmill-chasing rodent. The bottom line is that President Roosevelt already had what he ever wanted. The President's simple marble block at the northwest corner of The National Archives. What I wonder is, why the Archives? Why did Roosevelt select that site? A question for K.R. Eissler, I suppose.
And so I made my way to The National Gallery. I ventured through the West Wing and the East Wing. Actually, they're all one--East and West. And isn't that a dream come true? I had feelings of nostalgia for the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The Philadelphia Art Museum, which was one of my childhood haunts, has a more extensive collection of mediaeval art than The National Gallery. I've always found mediaeval art odd but intriguing. The Philadelphia museum has several mediaeval rooms--yes, the entire rooms from mediaeval buildings were removed from their European provenance and are housed in the museum. In fact, there's an entire mediaeval cloister in Philadelphia, where nuns -- the nonflying variety -- used to gather their thoughts, meditate, and pray to The Big Jew in the Sky.
A painting in the National Gallery caught my interest. "The Fortress of Koenigstein." The painting depicts a ruined castle on a hill, in the town of Koenigstein in Germany. I suppose Woody Allen can trace his roots to that town. The castle, as depicted in the painting, is partly in ruins, but there it stands--alone, safe from invading forces (for the most part). Above the hoi polloi, standing on a hill, like the Parthenon. A metaphor for the grandiose egotist in me, perhaps. A grand castle, in ruins, standing on a hill--its impressive design an atavism of a forgotten age.
Is it really twenty years since I made the decision to move down here from Philadelphia to practice law? Made the decision to go South--literally and (unintentionally) figuratively?
While at The National Gallery I perused the work of a contemporary artist, Jim Dine--born in about 1933, he's still among the living. His work is naturalistic--or realistic--I suppose you'd say. One room of the Gallery was dedicated to a collection of about 40 sketches that Dine had done of ancient Greek marbles from a Greek temple, marbles that are now housed in a museum in Berlin, Germany. An explanatory plaque quotes the artist. "Drawing is not an exercise. Exercise is working out on a stationary bicycle, going nowhere. Drawing is like riding on a real bicycle, taking a journey."
But of course, Jim Dine never met Stanley Schmulewitz, the vice-president of the Tenants' association in my building. Schmulewitz works out on a stationary bicycle in his street clothes. I suppose you could say old Stanley is all dressed up with no place to go. Schmulewitz wears sneakers in the swimming pool, so they say.
Then I made my way to the East Building. "Go East Young Man," as Justice William O. Douglas titled his autobiography. And that I did. Via the underground concourse. Just like Berlin in the old days. You know the stories about the East Berliners digging tunnels under the Berlin Wall, making their way to freedom, and proclaiming "I am free!" Well, I made my way through the concourse and thought: "I.M. Pei!"
There was an exhibit of American paintings titled: "From Bingham to Eakins." It was a small--and disappointing--exhibit. It featured only one important painting by Eakins, a portrait of Dr. William Thomsson--whoever he was. The exhibit occupied only two rooms. You know, Thomas C. Eakins was a graduate of Central High School in Philadelphia, my alma mater. 38th class. June 1861. That class won't be having a reunion any time soon! At least not on City Avenue.
You know the funny thing about the concourse that connects the East Building and the West Building of The National Gallery is that "moving sidewalk." There's that lengthy moving treadmill that connects the West Wing and the East Wing. You walk along the treadmill and you feel like a pet hamster. Actually, Jerry Seinfeld used to do a bit about "moving sidewalks." They have them at airports. "Did you ever notice?" Everything Seinfeld says is always prefaced by "Did you notice?"--at least so his detractors say. I never heard Seinfeld say that. In any event. Seinfeld complains about the people who think they can just stand still on those treadmills. The people who think that because the treadmill is moving they can just stand still, rest, gather their thoughts, meditate, and let the treadmill do the moving. "Move, move, move!" Seinfeld says. "You idiots, don't you know, the moving treadmill is there to speed up your movement--it's not simply there so you can avoid walking altogether." So Seinfeld turned the moving sidewalk into schtick.
Funny thing how Jewish minds differ, but always gravitate toward the same problems. Einstein worked out the mathematics of traveling along a beam of light. It was a problem that haunted him since his boyhood days. Einstein was the first person to see that there's an ineluctable conclusion that flows from the fact that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light--the C in E=mC2. If a person were to travel on a beam of light--hypothetically speaking, of course--he could never achieve anything by walking. That is, he could never speed up his travel time. That follows from the fact that the beam of light is already moving at optimal speed, namely, the speed of light. I suppose that's the origin of the saying "going nowhere--fast."
I just find that odd and intriguing that Seinfeld and Einstein--radically different minds, with radically different intellectual orientations--in some sense worried about the same problem. The idea of an object moving forward while traveling on a moving object. Whatever that means. All the while I think about people who think about moving on moving objects. A problem of psychology. Well, that's where my head is at, buddy.
Check you out later, Brian.
P.S. What I found really galling about you calling the Police on me was the fact that it implied that you thought I was just a common, garden-variety mental case. I'm a mental case, to be sure. But not common. Not garden variety. I'm special. My psychopathology is unique, as I told David Callet sixteen years ago. Yes, I preserved that issue for the record during my brief chat with David Callet, Esq. "I notice you seem to work very hard," said David Callet. I responded: "It's part of my psychopathology." Buddy, if word gets out that I'm an ordinary nut case, it will ruin me, absolutely ruin me! Don't you know that?
I'm writing this real-time. It's 1:04 postmeridian even as I speak. I'm at the Westend Branch (with Mrs. Jones-is that her name? Jennifer Jones?). There's a nutty guy who frequents this branch. He's here every time I visit this branch. He's neatly dressed, as usual. Today he has on tan slacks and a blue long-sleeved shirt. Anyway, he's always talking to people about his crazy theories about the left-wingers and Communists, and their nefarious schemes that are undermining the world order (or what George Bush, Sr. would call, I suppose, the New World Order. So I got to the library about 8 minutes to 1:00 PM. The library doesn't open till 1:00 PM. The guy was talking in a loud, boisterous voice about how millions are going to die in World War III. How Israel has a nuclear weapon that would make the Hiroshima bomb look like a kid's toy. Really, really horrific stuff. Talk about disrupting the peace. Both the content (violence) and the manner of communication (a boisterous harangue) was probably enough to prompt a passing cop to tell the guy to either shut his trap or move on. Then the guy got into a verbal tussle with another patron, just outside the door of the library. "Shut the fuck up." "You're always in my face, every time I come here." "Nobody's interested in your fucking crap!"
And the librarians inside the library? You mean they couldn't hear the guy outside? Do you see where this is going, buddy? I know you do. The long and short of it is Mrs. Jones opened the door at 1:00 PM and acted like nothing was even a tad askew. It was as if she's used to the guy. When she opened the door, she let everybody--I mean everybody--in. She didn't exclude Mr. Human Bull-Horn.
My thing is - what is it that I did to merit my impeachment? (The question is: Is what you did legal under Scottish law? Is what I did illegal under Scottish law?) I said I was depressed; I said I was not taking one of the three medications that was prescribed for me; and that people will pay for my pain (through lawful means). I didn't talk about millions of people dying, or anybody dying or suffering any physical injury. I'm bemused.
You need to reevaluate your threat assessment procedures, buddy.
By the way, I mentioned before that there's a young lady at this branch (Westend) who lives in my building. Maybe the police should talk to her.

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