Monday, October 25, 2004

Autumn Leaves


October 25, 2004

Hey, buddy. How does late October find you? Are you one of the happy few, you and your band of librarians?

I've been reading Arthur Miller. Fall, it seems to me, is the best time to read Arthur Miller. The green world -- as well as the world of greenbacks and other media of exchange; or as Der Greenspan (overseer of The Great Account) would say, the world of fourth quarter earnings -- is turning mottled and brown, the evenings darken ever more quickly, we feel the chill in the brisk morning air, even as some of us anticipate a world of Lomanesque decline. In the fall we find ourselves turning naturally to mild philosophical meditation, reflecting in our vague way on the purposes of life, the passage of time, the petty affairs of humanity. For brief moments, we even view our own selves from a distance, sub specie aeternitatis (whatever the hell that means). In such a mood one might profitably reread parts of "Death of a Salesman" --or take up "After the Fall."

"After the Fall," like most of Miller's work, is urban, Jewish, and leftist, and like his best writing examines the work of the individual conscience when pitted against the uniform thinking of the mob.

You know, Brian, there are entire pages of Miller that read like something out of the confessions of my own tortured life: the life of a lawyer manque or the failed lawyer-as-metaphor.

"You know, more and more I think that for many years I looked at life like a case at law, a series of proofs. When you're young you prove how brave you are, or smart; then, what a good lover (at least some men do that); then a good father (assuming you propagate); finally, how wise, or powerful, or what-the-hell-ever. But underlying it all, I see now, there was a presumption. That I was moving on an upward path toward some elevation, where -- God knows what -- I would be justified, or even condemned -- a verdict anyway. I think now that my disaster really began when I looked up one day -- and the bench was empty. No judge in sight. And all that remained was this endless argument with oneself -- this pointless litigation of existence before an empty bench. Which, of course, is another way of saying -- despair."

Actually, I think that for many years I looked at life like a case at equity (rather than a case at law), a motion practice with one end: "psychosis by estoppel." Yes, I have become a psychotic in equity, and here I wonderfully am. A metaphorical lawyer and a metaphorical psychotic whose life is estopped in mid-stream.

You are well-acquainted with my interpretation of your life, "Buddy." We've talked about that before. I see you as a frustrated leader of men. By inclination and temperament you are a Top Dog. You are bossy, arrogant, and, fortunately for you, you possess sufficient abilities to permit you to release your Top Dog propensities, commanding your merry pack of librarians and support staff. You are fundamentally a pack animal, a role that suits you so long as you are at the head of the pack. The library is a suitable niche for you. You'll probably never be a Bob Strauss or a George Bush. Leadership on a grand scale is not in your future, as I see it. But for you, it suffices to lead something; to boss someone, anyone; to be the man who reports to the higher authorities; to run the show, any show. You discharge your propensities as you can.

Your life is "a dog's life" -- in the more agreeable sense of the term. Your life is a charmed existence of dominance and control of your fellows. You lead the pack, and the pack serves you.

That's something we have in common, in an odd sense: in a kind of metaphorical or semantic sense. I too am a pack animal. (I suppose all humans are; humans are social beasts.) But I'm not a Top Dog. My life is "a dog's life," to be sure. But in the less agreeable sense of the term. I am a lone wolf, an outsider, who craves the camaraderie of the pack but is unable to subordinate his individuality to the demands of the mob.

I am a dog in the Kafkaesque, persecutory sense. Franz Kafka's classic novel of paranoia and persecution, "The Trial," conjures up visions of an unreasoning society in which "innocent persons are accused of guilt, and senseless proceedings are put in motion against them." His protagonist is Josef K., a helpless library patron banned from his local library and ultimately transported to the loony bin (a veritable human dog-pound) for a psych exam for an unknown crime. His last words -- "Like a dog!" -- remind us that humanity is the first victim of a totalitarian state -- which is what, in essence, my friend, if not a dog pack? What is the prototype of the totalitarian state, if not a pack of wolves or a pack of wild dogs, beholden to The-Leader-of-the-Pack for security and protection. "The bloody dingos ate my humanity," as they say down under. Or, as an old joke asks: "What's the difference between a dog and a Nazi?" Answer: "The Nazi raises his arm, the dog raises its hind leg."

The image of the dog is one to which Kafka returns, as for example, in the story "Investigations of a Dog." Here Kafka describes the dog-as-outsider, alone and against the pack. "Why do I not do as the others: live in harmony with my people and accept in silence whatever disturbs the harmony, ignoring it as a small error in the great account, always keeping in mind the things that bind us happily together, not those that drive us again and again, as though by sheer force out of our social circle?"

For the human being who is bent on preserving his singularity -- as for the dog who lives apart from the pack -- the individual conscience is a tortured one, pitted as it is in embarrassed and fearful conflict against the uniform thinking of the mob. There is always but one end for such an individual -- despair.

"How much my life has changed, and yet how unchanged it has remained at bottom! When I think back and recall the time when I was still a member of the canine community," writes Kafka, "sharing in all its preoccupations, a dog among dogs I find on closer examination that from the very beginning I sensed some discrepancy, some little maladjustment, causing a slight feeling of discomfort which not even the most decorous public functions could eliminate; more, that sometimes, no, not sometimes, but very often, the mere look of some fellow-dog of my own circle that I was fond of, the mere look of him, as if I had just caught it for the first time, would fill me with helpless embarrassment and fear, even with despair."

You, Brian, are Top Dog. I am lone wolf. You command the pack. I command myself (perhaps too rigorously), and struggle against the pack. This is not idle word play. I think I've hit upon some fundamental psychological connection (and source of conflict) between us. You lead; I will not be led (either by my peers or by accepted wisdom).

"I'm doing my own investigation," as it were. By inclination and temperament I'm a scientist and a truth seeker. I lack sufficient abilities in the form of creative intelligence, drive, or courage to make any meaningful or universal contribution in any field. But I have found a niche -- or at least sought a niche, however socially maladaptive -- for my curious, questioning, investigative tendencies. My probing, my questions, and my curiosity will contribute as much to humanity as the olfactory "Investigations of a Dog," but I discharge my propensities as I can.

My last place of employment, the law firm of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld was a suitable niche for me. The corruption there was mild and minuscule; but the faint scent of rot has been enough to occupy this dog's nostrils for the last thirteen years. I'll never be a Sam Dash or a Ken Starr, pursuing presidents and property scams with equal fervor and fine impartiality. The career of an Inspector General is not in my future, as any sane person would know. But it's enough for me to investigate something, smell something, anything, even if that something is only a stinking bone hidden under a pile of mottled and brown leaves -- and make a report to the higher authorities. Isn't that the role of a dog? I believe it is. I believe that it is the role of a dog to proceed even in very sensitive areas.

Go ahead, Brian, tease me about my overactive sense of destiny, my theatrical sense of gravitas, and my initials, which are the same as Glenn Fine's (the current Inspector General at the Justice Department). Go ahead -- I'm a narcissist who unashamedly gravitates toward the grandiose. I'm out and proud.

We had a party -- a most decorous public function -- at my apartment building last week, October 19. Before the Fall ended, the building's managers wanted to have a get-together for the tenants: "A Party in the Lobby," as it were. The party was billed as "Octoberfest," and featured an assortment of hearty German fare. Sausage, German potato salad with bacon chips, and so forth. It was "tres formidable," as Fred Cohen (the French-speaking mohel) would say. (Or was it simply treif?)

I enjoyed it, actually. The food was good. The weather was mild enough for the hosts to set up some tables outside. I sat at a table with Stanley Schmulewitz, past president of the tenant's association. I was seated between Andrew Gerst (legal adviser for Councilwoman Carol Schwartz) and another fellow, Conrad Hilton, I think. Well, maybe it wasn't Conrad Hilton, but the kid's in the hotel business -- the hospitality trade, as they call it.

The table was crowded; there was no possible movement you could make that would make everyone better off. And it hardly seemed like fall; green spanned the entire courtyard.

Stanley Schmulewitz. What can you say about Stanley Schmulewitz? You've heard the expression, "Like the fifth wheel on a wagon?" Stanley Schmulewitz is, socially speaking, like the "fifth Stanley" at a party table. Four Stanleys are enough. At one point Schmulewitz raised a bottle of beer to his mouth, cigarette dangling from his lip, and said: "Here's to feeling good all the time."

The conversation was, as I recall, dominated by politics ("It's a tight race; Florida could decide the election again") and baseball--with a brief digression into the issue of rent-control. In truth, in mid-October, in an election year, what other conversational topics suit an informal social gathering? I wasn't in a talkative mood. I sat silently at the table the whole evening. I was at the party from about just after 6:00 PM till about 7:30 PM and I said nothing the whole time: NOT A F****** THING.

The following day I told my psychologist, The Mad Monk, about the party. I told her about how I said nothing at the party. I talked to no one. "Why? Why didn't you talk to anyone?" asked The Mad Monk. "How many times have you told me that if I went to a social event, I didn't have to talk -- that I could just watch, just observe? You said I could talk when I felt ready to talk." I swear to God this woman's like a bait-and-switch operator. She tells me I don't have to talk if I'm at a social function. That's the inducement. But that's all it is, an inducement. She really expects me to talk. How do I know? When I actually go to a social event and don't talk, she wants to know why I didn't talk. She's not a psychologist, this woman, The Mad Monk. She's a salesman. She's like the Willy Loman of psychologists.

But really, what do I have to talk about? There isn't all that much of a story to tell. Apart from my letter writing -- which in my mind seems to take place in its own separate universe, a point that the Metro DC Police made with some care and skill several weeks ago -- I really don't do much. I spend an appalling amount of time not just under the influence of television but in a falling-down TV-induced haze; television being for me "a form of self-medication, a way of fending off the pains of my own past as well as the continuing agony of my personal life"; my sibling relationship to the former Estelle Freedman was mostly unhappy, at times drastically so, yet we have granted the other a perverse loyalty (when we're not ignoring each other entirely); I putter around my one-room apartment where I have spent most of my adult life; and I, like Alan Greenspan, worry excessively about money, though Greenspan's turned it into a career. I just worry about money.

So, yes, I played the lone wolf at Octoberfest. Actually, that reminds me of an anecdote that Theresa Heinz Kerry tells about her first date with J.F.K. -- John Forbes Kerry. "I thought he was interesting, but . . . a specimen who'd been out in the woods a long time." She said, "He was like having a pet wolf who comes in and you say, "Yeh, cute. -- I needed to teach him a few things." Believe me, Brian, I need to be taught a lot!

From a social standpoint, John Kerry and I are comparable -- and it's not simply that we avoid the first person, "I." One of Kerry's friends said: "His looks say something about him that's different from what he actually is. He's very easy to hang out with. There isn't an excessive use of the pronoun 'I.' He's not the loner that he once was, he's not as aloof, he's more comfortable than he used to be, he's grown as a person--."

As I've said before, Brian, I'm everything you'd ever want in a friend, except for the talking.

Perhaps my social problems in adulthood can be attributed, in part, to my Rooseveltian upbringing. One biographer writes about FDR's childhood: "If anything, he was overprotected. 'Much of his time, until he went to Groton [an all boys school], was spent with his father and me,' [his mother] Sara wrote, and though she disagreed with the assessment, there were 'many people who pitied him for a lonely little boy, and thought he was missing a great deal of fun.' [A neighbor reported] that Franklin was unable to make the Hyde Park baseball team recruited from the great houses; that, because he spent so much time with his mother and father, he found it difficult to play with the other children; and that the children who knew him felt sorry for him."

Apparently, FDR was no Mike Shapiro. Michael Shapiro -- now a medical doctor who practices nephrology in Colorado -- was the star pitcher of The Lancers, my high school baseball team. Shapiro, whose pitching arm was major league, passed up the chance (the highly speculative chance) for a possible future cover story in Sports Illustrated in favor of authoring an occasional editorial in The New England Journal of Medicine. "Kidneys, kid, kidneys!"

I need a friend -- a buddy -- so bad. Somebody who'll teach me how to be a little less lupine (or at least a little less loopy) and a little more human. Last night I was walking past my neighbor's apartment. My neighbor is a young French guy. There's a mirror on the wall in the hallway, just outside my neighbor's door. As you know I never pass a mirror without saying hello. So I paused for a moment (in front of the mirror). And my neighbor's television was on -- pretty loud. It was the first game of the World Series. And I thought, "What does a French guy know about baseball?" And then I heard his buddy, an American, say, "Do you know what a curve ball is?" -- "Non." "Do you know what a fast ball is?" -- "Non." "Do you know what a change up is?" -- "Non." Just as I thought! (I'll tell you this, though, Brian. That French guy knows a lot about "extra innings." Believe me, he knows just about all there is to know about "extra innings.")

Anyway, a buddy's what I need. Speaking metaphorically, I'm like a Frenchman watching the World Series. I need an American Friend to teach me things.

At my last session with The Mad Monk, she asked me what you were interested in, what you liked. I said, "Brian likes baseball and soccer." "Do you like baseball and soccer?" she then asked me. "Not really." "So you have nothing in common. And you want to be friends with the guy?" "Well," I said, "I think he also likes opera." Opera and tight pants, I suppose.

Which reminds me. I was sitting at the table at the "Octoberfest," daydreaming -- sitting between Andrew Gerst and "Conrad Hilton," two tenants in my building. I was musing about the past: about my high school prom. Yes, I went to my senior prom. I went alone. I dated myself. I was sandwiched between Elliott Feldman (who's now a lawyer, by the way) and Perry Rubenstein (God knows what he's doing). Mike Shapiro was at another table, sitting next to Jim Kahn (Kahn -- now a stockbroker in Manhattan -- was sniffing his head off; Kahn's allergic to New Zealand sheep's wool).

I remember the following conversation from the prom because it's the only thing I said all night. Feldman said to me, "Why you wear those pants? I told you the seat is tight." I said: "Well, they made them too tight, but I can take a walk in them." So Rubenstein butts in, "Fags wear pants like that, I told you. They attract each other with their asses." "You calling me a fag now?" I said to Rubenstein. Then Rubenstein said, "Just I've known fags and some of them didn't even know themselves that they were. . . . And I didn't know if you knew about that." Rubenstein! It was rented formal wear, Rubenstein.

Actually, those are lines from Arthur Miller's "After the Fall." And, no, I didn't go to my senior prom.

In point of fact, while I was sitting at the outdoor table at the party the other night -- the party at my apartment building -- I was thinking "lone wolf thoughts." My thoughts went back to the summer of 1987. I was working at the law firm of Hogan & Hartson at the time. Craig the Embalmer and Daniel Cutler (now Daniel Cutler, Esq.) asked me to go to lunch with them. We -- The Embalmer, Cutler, Tom MacIsaac (like Jesse Raben, a future and past attorney), and Michael Wilson (now Michael Wilson, Esq.) and I -- went to lunch at a restaurant on Capitol Hill, called Bullfeathers. We sat at an outdoor table. Everybody ordered a hamburger for lunch: everybody except me. I ordered a pasta salad. I have to turn every occasion into a heroic struggle between the individual and the uniform thinking of the mob. Someone said: "This place is known for its hamburgers. We traveled all this way for a hamburger, and what do YOU do? YOU order a pasta salad." At least they didn't comment on my pants.

It was on that occasion that Daniel Cutler told me that I reminded him of the character Wolf Larsen -- captain of the seal-hunting "Ghost" in Jack London's novel, "The Sea-Wolf."

Jack London writes: "Sometimes I think Wolf Larsen mad, or half mad at least, what of his strange moods and vagaries. At other times I take him for a great man, a genius who has never arrived. And finally, I am convinced that he is the perfect type of the primitive man born a thousand years or generations too late and an anachronism in this culminating century of civilization. He is certainly an individualist of the most pronounced type. Not only that, but he is very lonely. There is no congeniality between him and the rest of the men aboard ship. His tremendous virility and mental strength wall him apart. They are more like children to him, even the hunters, and as children he treats them, descending perforce to their level and playing with them as a man plays with puppies. Or else he probes them with the cruel hand of a vivisectionist, groping about in their mental processes and examining their souls as though to see of what soul-stuff is made."

In any event, that was Cutler's comparison, not mine.

Be that as it may.

The campaign, you ask? How is the campaign going? Well this past week ends one phase of the campaign and begins a new one.

I received a letter dated October 20, 2004 from Lawrence K. Bloom, Staff Attorney with the Office of Bar Counsel. I had sent an employment inquiry to the DC Bar Counsel in early September. The Bar Counsel seems to have misread my letter, interpreting my inquiry as, partly, a complaint against Dennis M. Race. My letter, in point of fact, said nothing about lodging a disciplinary complaint against Dennis Race. That's interesting, psychologically. When the police read the letter they saw a threat; when the Bar Counsel read the letter they saw a disciplinary complaint. Now that -- THAT -- is externalization. Different people filter a message differently based on their orientation and experience. It's like I was saying to Mike Shirazzi the other day at the Brookville Supermarket (Mike's the manager): "Mike, I'm in a dark place." So Mike says to me: "Light bulbs are in aisle 3."

In any event, the letter from the Bar Counsel reads: "Dear Mr. Freedman: This office has completed its review of the disciplinary complaint that you filed against Dennis M. Race, Esquire. You state that Mr. Race, in connection with a civil matter, improperly terminated your employment because he determined that you had the potential to engage in violent activity. You also state that you are interested in employment with our office. Upon review, we do not find allegations of disciplinary misconduct warranting a formal investigation. We do not find a factual basis upon which to continue our preliminary inquiry, and as such, we are closing our file. Additionally, we thank you for your interest in employment with our office, however, we do not currently have a position available at this time. We thank you for bringing your concerns to our attention. Sincerely, Lawrence K. Bloom, Staff Attorney."

So ends Phase I. Phase II is being set in motion with a letter that I mailed on Saturday October 23, 2004 to the District of Columbia Office of Inspector General.

The letter to the IG is loopy enough so that I sound crazy (especially the part I put in it about you, buddy--a picture of you sitting on the toilet), but not so disturbed that they'll be tempted to send me to the pound again.

Check you out next week, "Buddy." Still waiting for your call. The call of the wild, Brother-Animal, You!

Monday, October 18, 2004

A Tempest Without Miranda


October 18, 2004

Hey, buddy. "How now? Moody?"

October 12, 2004. Columbus Day. A day for visionary mariners sailing on voyages of discovery aboard wood-framed caravels. A day for innovative seekers of distant marvels, of abiding fame and expansive riches. A day of triumph for self-possessed risk-takers. Columbus followed a map of possibilities, routes taken, neglected, and cut fresh -- always careful to avoid shark-infested waters. I identify with Columbus. Perhaps you don't, my friend. One need not accept the identification to value the discovery.

And what did you do on Columbus Day, Brian?

I spent the day at the theater. I saw a performance of -- ironically -- "The Tempest," speaking metaphorically, of course. "The Tempest" was the last entire play that Shakespeare wrote before he left London to lead the life of a man of property in Stratford. Do you know it, Brian? "The Tempest?" I know it intimately. The play commences with a frightful storm at sea: at least a category 3 or 4 on the meteorological scale. On the F-scale the opening storm is off the charts.

Act I, Scene 1: "[A ship at sea.] A tempestuous noise of thunder and lightening heard. Enter a Shipmate and a Boatswain [without warrants, I might add]." As the scene ends, the ship seems about to sink and all fear they are lost.

The audience appeared to be terrified. I sat there thinking, "No, this is the way it's supposed to go. This is what Shakespeare wrote. This is how the play begins." My curiosity was only aroused in Scene II. [The island. Before Prospero's cell]. It's the scene where Miranda makes her entrance. She never appeared. I thought, "This is odd. All these actors, traipsing about -- from two theater companies, no less (four players from a national touring troupe and ten players from a local company: fourteen in all)." I thought: "Where's Miranda? Where IS Miranda?" Well, in point of fact, Miranda never did appear. Her part had been excised from this production. Watered down Shakespeare, I suppose you'd call it.

All in all, the production was a grim affair, frightfully tedious. There was a special irony to the line: "Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows." Yes, there were many strange bedfellows in that production. In any event, it was a night out. And I got a free ride to the theater! Someone said to me, "How did you survive the ordeal?" "Will Power," I replied.

To tell you the truth, I could hardly wait for the denouement -- the final lines. The Epilogue, spoken by Prospero. You must remember this. "Now 'tis true I must be here confined by you, or sent home. Let me not, since I have my own home got, dwell in this bare island in Southeast by your spell; But release me from my bands with the help of your good hands. Gentle breath of yours my sails must fill, or else my project fails, which was to please. Now I want spirits to enforce, art to enchant; and my ending is despair unless I be relieved by prayer, which pierces so that it assaults mercy itself and frees all faults. As you from crimes would pardoned be, let your indulgence set me free."

And so Prospero was set free, as even I was set free -- Thank God!

Shakespeare. Poets and playwrights (like letter writers who send red flags up the mast) may often write things they do not feel, but they rarely feel things that they do not, sooner or later, write. The absence of one emotion in Shakespeare, the undue intensity of another are powerful indicators of a mind and a man at work.

People say to me, "You had a horrific time at the theater the other night. Yet you seem emotionally unaffected by the experience." That's true. Attendance at one performance of "The Tempest" does not a life make. My emotional investment remains tied up with the Campaign. The Campaign's the thing -- everything else is just commentary. Shakespeare himself lived through far worse. Against the old notion of an expansive Elizabethan culture connected by the open English road, Shakespeare drew a portrait of a society nearly Soviet, or perhaps South American, in its paranoias, public persecutions, and sudden assaults on free expression and personal freedom. For Shakespeare, as for me, a bad night at the theater is just a bad night at the theater. "It's not the worst so long as you can say, 'This is the worst.'"

There are many points of comparison between Shakespeare and me. In some ways we are similar: in other ways, not. One tenet that Shakespeare lived by was that it was insane to throw your life away on a principle of faith. That's a lesson I never learned. My whole campaign -- the last thirteen years of my life, in fact -- bears testimony to that. As Shakespeare scholar Stephen Greenblatt points out, among the vast array of human types that Shakespeare drew -- prostitutes and sorcerers, pickpockets and Egyptian queens -- the only one he never attempted a sympathetic portrait of is the saint-fanatic, the visionary religious. Shakespeare could write "The Tempest," but he would never have written a play about Gandhi with a title like "Monsoon for the Mahatma."

It makes sense if you imagine both Shakespeare and me not as men running away to seek fortune but as already experienced players, trying to resume an interrupted career. I would like to get back to work. I would like to resume my career.

All Shakespeare's tragic heroes -- Othello, Macbeth, Lear, even Hamlet -- have plenty of courage; what they lack is prudence and judgment. Sound familiar, buddy? Prudence and judgment are two qualities that I lack as well. Unlike Richard Nixon's, my tragedy is more Shakespearean than Biblical. Nixon's life drama, in Len Garment's view, was that of a man who sinned, suffered, died, and rose again. The career of Richard Nixon was a set of variations on the same theme. As Shakespeare put it: "What's past is prologue." (By the way, Brian, what's your stand on the Log Cabin Republicans? Are you pro-Log or anti-Log?)

A Nixonian realist I'm not. I, like Shakespeare's heroes, never seemed to have learned what conviction coupled with a lack of realism (or sound legal advice) can get you. My life drama is that of a man who never sinned (what a pity!), but suffered the obloquy of his peers, and, in trying to extricate himself from a lifelong fate-neurosis, dug himself into ever-deeper holes. I have lived the last thirteen years as a tragic Falstaff-like epistolarian (if that can be imagined), but without a Master Ford to offer pardon. At times I play the cunning fool, and, at others, I appear to be an unbalanced mountebank.

Can anyone understand me in my totality? I have certain abilities, yes. I have managed, as few have done since, to play a perfect "psychotic -- functional -- hopeless fool" trifecta. I am a hustler and an egotist; a deluded and dysfunctional mental patient (when I need to be); and a naive fool. But I play these roles to my advantage, hoping someday for the big payoff; hoping (speaking metaphorically) to someday sight land -- a "brave, new world" at the edge of a desolate horizon.

Perhaps I, too, like Shakespeare, will prosper -- truly prosper -- some day, and leave the capital for a country estate. In his rent-controlled apartment in London Shakespeare had prospered. He had invested his money wisely, bought the best house in Stratford, and, as he sat down to write "The Tempest," was looking forward to taking his ease in his garden at New Place where he might contemplate his London successes and write a bit when it suited him. Life could be calm and serene.

Dennis Race probably thought I was rather naive and guileless and that he could take advantage of me. He will discover, if he hasn't already, that the naive young outsider he last saw thirteen years ago was just as ambitious as any Akin Gump associate (or partner, even), and far more able and adaptable in certain situations.

Yes, everything always leads back to The Termination: my job termination back in 1991. It was the crushing and transforming blow to my life. My life since has been a new version of an old revenge play. The knot of griefs and obsessions that entangle me emotionally find expression and discharge in "walking the boards" (i.e., acting), avoiding boredom, writing and, of course, the theater. Theater is my religion, both in the sense that it is what I care most about and in the sense that the ritual of theater is the only available substitute for the utter vacuity of my outer life.

In my revenge play I have feigned madness. I have waited for years, acting like an idiot, until the moment is right for me to strike and claim my rightful station as a victim of a Federal civil rights violation. My show of madness is not just superfluous but truly self-destructive -- it does nothing but draw suspicious attention to me. Yes, I acknowledge that. But my hope is that someday attention will be paid to my supporting cast: the entire troupe and company of players without which my play would not exist. Attention must be paid.

People say to me: "But what is your motive? Why do you do it? Why do you persist in acting this role? Why do you continue with this play?"

A motive? What is my motive? In all honesty, I have replaced the clear exposition of motive with a kind of chattering, compulsive, image-chasing interior monologue of dreads and desires. These letters are part of my interior monologue, an interior monologue made public. Letters are my substitute for soliloquy. And you, my friend, are my Horatio.

My handling of "motive" is what distinguishes my theater from conventional theater. In conventional theater, the motives of each of the key characters are perfectly clear. Their behavior is as transparently motivated as that of people in melodramas. What I have done is to eliminate the motive in ways that make a mess of the story, and allows it to become something more than a story. My characters have drives that are rooted in who they are, not motives generated by plot. "Why would the managers of Akin Gump put you under surveillance?" asks The Mad Monk. "What would possess them to gain unlawful access to your apartment and videotape its contents?" she queries. "What you know you know," I say to The Mad Monk, and there is no more I can say.

The compulsive nature of my behavior allows for both black comedy -- Dennis Race can be mocked (like Lear) because his behavior is ridiculous in a way that Oedipus' is not -- and human sympathy; we feel sorry for Dennis Race (as we do for Lear) in a way that we never feel sorry for Oedipus. Do you remember your "King Lear?" He had three daughters: Cordelia, who was faithful and sincere -- as well as the two British bitches, Goneril and Regan. Cordelia remained silent at the termination meeting in Act I, and Lear misread her. The old king was conned by Goneril and Regan, who eventually destroyed him; more precisely, Lear's credulity brought about his own downfall. Poor old Lear. In my theater, as in Shakespeare's, the plot deepens and darkens in ways that no one could ever have imagined at first.

In my tragedy, it didn't have to happen; a decision not to terminate my employment was one telephone call or timely doubt or conversation away. By canceling out the ordinary neatness of narrative explanation, I do not merely mystify my people; I humanize them. We know my characters the way we know real people -- not as illustrations of some principle, or as exemplary remote figures who have "desires" and "arcs" of success and failure, but as compulsion machines capable of charm. And I certainly do charm you, buddy, don't I?

There is not, of course, a formula that can be universally applied; if it could, every melodrama could become Shakespearean just by muddying up the plot. President Nixon, for example -- at least according to Len Garment -- remained fundamentally Biblical rather than Shakespearean. Nixon muddied up the plot, all right, but only for about eighteen-and-half minutes: a brief interlude in a lengthy history play.

As Glickman put it: "The questions forced on every screenwriter -- where is the character's motive? what does he 'want?' -- are exactly the questions Shakespeare ignored. (When Hollywood melodrama does touch the edge of the tragic, it is nearly always through the removal of motive. Why does Michael ruin his own values and dearest hopes by shooting the policeman and Sollozzo? Why does Gittes pursue Noah? All that keeps 'Citizen Kane' from tragedy is Rosebud.) With Shakespeare, the inner life is no longer a condition of narrative but one of existence. They are, therefore they think." Smart guy, that Glickman.

Fundamentally, I -- like Shakespeare -- am an instinctive liberal humanist, capable of empathy, because, in a world of sharks, I can imagine what it feels like to be sharked, and I know how to bracket experience -- to ask, What is it like for "them?"

I hope that law enforcement has learned something from "The Tempest." Drama can seem, can even be, incredibly potent art -- very big stuff, the work of magi and majesties, reanimating the past and restoring losses. But in the end it is just rough magic -- show business, the craft of the conjurer and the juggler and the player, making shadows in candlelight. At the theater the other night, I asked James Brown (yes, Brian, THE James Brown): "How do you know I'm not just a scam artist, a con artist pulling a hustle? Maybe I'm just acting." James Brown said to me: "That's what we're here to find out." I wonder if the audience ever did get the plot of "The Tempest": a peculiar and motiveless play of the tragic and the absurd, the latest (is it the last?) play in a canon of thirteen years duration. Yes, I wonder.

In the end, who am I? I am a connoisseur of comedy, a free flowing natural who will do anything for a joke or a pun, and whom life and ability bend toward tragedy. I have evolved a matchless all-sidedness and negative capability, which can probe two ideas at once and never quite come down on the "side" of either: I am a man in whom a temperamental timidity and caution has blossomed artistically into the nearest thing we have to permanent disability benefits.

My normalcy is not philistine or easy -- in my play, people lose jobs, library privileges, minds, and lawsuits -- and it entails a conservative obeisance to the common order: I believe in the Metro DC Police, the FBI, bosses, authority. But I do not believe "too much" in those things, and in this lies the beginning of sanity.

My Campaign? How is that going? It goes, it goes.

On Saturday I received a reply to a letter dated October 12, 2004 that I wrote to the Office of Human Resources of Montgomery County, Maryland. Yes, I'm serious. The government of Montgomery County actually replied to THE letter that aroused such a tempestuous response from the Metro DC Police. Not only did they send me a response, they also sent me a photocopy of my letter (they kept the original), and stamped my letter "RECEIVED -- HUMAN RESOURCES -- '04 OCT 13 A10:47." They also sent me a copy of information from their website on employment opportunities in Montgomery Country. The letter reads: "October 14, 2004. Dear Applicant: Enclosed you will find the resume/application that you submitted to the Office of Human Resources. We are returning this resume/application because you must apply for a specific position. In order to be considered for employment with Montgomery County Government, you must apply for an announced position. Information pertaining to current employment opportunities is available on our website at - click on "careers" We appreciate your interest in Montgomery County and wish you continued success in your employment endeavors. Sincerely, Office of Human Resources, Montgomery County Government" (unsigned) (Joseph Adler, Director, telephone 240 777 5000). An important piece of documentary evidence, don't you think, Brian?

I've been asked to remove myself from the Campaign. I will not back down. I am still a candidate for a Federal civil rights violation. I will continue to run. This isn't 1972. Remember that campaign? The Senator Tom Eagleton affair. The press disclosed that George McGovern's running mate, Tom Eagleton, had been treated for depression -- The Black Dog -- and had received electroshock therapy. Well, as I say, this isn't 1972. Yes, "I am a depressed American." But I'm out and proud. We depressed Americans are no longer consigned to closet space. We are just like the rest of Americans. We are the leaders of society. We are people like Mike ("Cuff 'im") Wallace of CBS NEWS, who is a depressed American. We are Patty Duke, former President of the Screen Actors Guild, a bi-polar American. (Coincidentally, both Patty Duke and I were treated by the same psychiatrist: Jay D. Amsterdam, M.D., a psychopharmacologist affiliated with The University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia).

Yes, I will modify my campaign, but it will continue. I plan to visit government offices personally, with a collection of documents in toe: the U.S. Social Security Administration, The EEOC, the U.S. Attorney's Office, the D.C. Office of Human Rights, the office of Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton. I will continue to fight the fight.

I was recently asked at a press conference about a statement I made several weeks ago. A reporter said: "Mr. Freedman, you stated that you formed a belief in the year 1992, during the summer of that year, while you were on extended unemployment benefits, you formed a belief that Dennis Race became very angry about your action of including his name and telephone number in employment inquiries to prospective employers. Is there any documentary evidence that would point directly or circumstantially to the fact that you actually did put Dennis Race's name on employment inquiries, or that you formed a belief that Dennis Race was angered by your action?" Yes, I was asked that question. Let me respond to that in this forum.

Yes, as a matter of fact, there is a contemporaneous document that talks about my putting Dennis Race's name on employment applications in the summer of 1992, when I was receiving extended unemployment benefits. The document is page 17 of the document submission I made on June 14, 1993 to Paul Yessler, M.D., the U.S. Social Security Administration psychiatric consultant who evaluated me for disability benefits in June 1993. The letter is part of my Social Security disability file; indeed, it is part of my original disability claim from 1993.

The letter is a fax I sent to my sister that reads:

I have been sending out resumes to prospective employers.

My last place of employment was Akin Gump. There's always a chance that a prospective employer will, on his own initiative, contact Akin Gump. In all likelihood, the prospective employer would wish to speak to the legal assistant administrator or another supervisory employee.

My termination from Akin Gump was unlawful, and resulted in part from the knowingly
false and malicious statements made by the legal assistant administrator and other supervisory employees to management. Further, there is reason to believe that it was supervisory employees who, for three and one-half years, helped to instigate a course of harassment and helped to instigate malicious and defamatory rumors. Further there is evidence that this harassing conduct by supervisory employees did not end with the termination of my employment with Akin Gump, but continued on for months afterwards by use of the telephone for harassment purposes and not for legitimate business purposes.

In order to protect the firm and in mitigation of my own damages I have indicated on the cover letter that if there are to be any contacts they are to be with Dennis Race. (I know that Dennis Race will act responsibly in relation to third parties.) This may help prevent any further unlawful behavior by the legal assistant administrator or other supervisory employees, which would only compound the firm's legal liability.

I hope Dennis Race and the management of the firm understand and appreciate this course of action, which, unfortunately, is unavoidable in a case such as this. What do you do in a case like this, do you have any suggestions?


The letter is pure campaign B.S. I had put Dennis Race's name on the letter so that he would be getting calls that he would find annoying. The reason I wrote the above letter to my sister is that you, Brian, and Debra were acting out so wildly in the library ("I want my name taken off that letter. I want my name taken off that letter!") that I knew there were some real storms brewing at the firm about my letter writing campaign, back in the summer of 1992. There is an old French expression, "Qui s'excuse, s'accuse." He who excuses himself, accuses himself. Why did I find it necessary to explain my actions to my sister, if I was not feeling defensive about my behavior? Why was I feeling defensive about my behavior? I was picking up strong signals at Cleveland Park Library that you knew exactly what was going on at the firm. And I believed that my sister was faxing my letters back to the firm. Hence, the above letter. I faxed the above letter to my sister in the hope (or belief) that she would fax the letter to Akin Gump.

Check you out next week, buddy. Piece of advice: always leave a paper trail (or try to generate one, -- The Montgomery County Government can be very helpful in that regard.)

P.S. If you're ever in Bombay, never yell "Monsoon!" in a crowded theater. It gets the locals nervous as hell.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

The Underground Man


October 12, 2004

Hey, buddy. What's up? Working hard? Being chief executive is hard work, so the nation's been told recently. George Bush has the grudge-meister Osama bin Laden to worry about. What bleak realities occupy your workday thoughts, my friend?

To paraphrase the opening of FDR's Fala speech from the '44 campaign: Well, here we are together again -- after eight days -- and what days they have been! I am actually more of a letter writer than I originally thought, which is a fact that seems to annoy some people. In fact, in the mathematical field, there are several employers out there who are more letter-rich than when I started in to deal with the messy situation that was dumped in my lap back in April of this year.

It's been a long day's night, and I've been working like a dog. Yes, the campaign continues. This past week I got two more responses to my job inquiries. I received a letter from the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, dated October 5, 2004: "Thank you for your letter of September 23, 2004, inquiring about employment opportunities at the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless. Unfortunately, we have no positions available at this time. I appreciate your interest and I wish you the very best of luck in your job search." (Patricia Mullahy Fugere, Executive Director). I guess when your client pool is a class of people who sleep on grates in the street, you have a different perspective on desperate people who occupy precarious situations. I think the folks at the Legal Clinic for the Homeless can spot a screwee -- a hapless victim-- when they see one. Speaking metaphorically, I suppose a polio-stricken, wheelchair bound president has a special feeling for society's underdogs. (Different rules of empathy apply to wheelchair-bound Corporation Counsels, apparently).

I also got a letter from People For The American Way (a constitutional rights advocacy organization), dated October 6, 2004: "Thank you for your interest in a position on the staff of People For The American Way. We do not currently have any openings for an attorney. However, we appreciate your interest and wish you success in your job search." (Dibby Johnson, Director of Human Resources).

The race for President of the United States ends Tuesday November 2, 2004, barring a replay of the year 2000 election year debacle. And when do you think my campaign will end? Not bloody soon, I suspect. According to the rules of the game as I've set them up, the campaign will end when Dennis Race contacts me to rehire me, or when you contact me to arrange lunch or other social activity. Crazy, huh? Yea. Right. As if the electoral college makes any more sense than the rules of my game! Like Al Gore, Dennis Race may learn that you can win a judgment in one forum (namely, The Reeve Center), but ultimately lose later on, in a different forum.

I have a lot of time on my hands. I feel like a prisoner at the start of a forty-year sentence. "Sure, it might take me 20 years to chisel a tunnel out of this place, one scratch at a time, with rat-like determination. But, hey, that'll still put me 20 years ahead of the game." I might have to spend a few years writing letters, but I'm not going anywhere and my rent is paid for. If it takes that long to get my old job back or to be friends with you, buddy, what the hell -- my right hand is used to the exercise. Just hand me the scratch paper.

What is done cannot be undone, or should not be undone without restitution. I've been hurt, buddy. I've been maimed. And you want me to return to the library, status quo ante maim?
No way. No how. I've paid my dues. I suffered. My summer was ruined. For what? Because I suffer from depression -- "the black dog," as The Prime Minister used to call it? Because I'm angry at people who've wronged me in the past? Because I refused to do what I had no legal duty to do? Because I did something that I was never told not to do?

The library ban. It was all so sudden. It was a sudden loss. The loss of my library privileges was like a life cut short in its prime, "Buddy."

Well, here's the story.

I'm not returning to the library on October 21. I'm still carrying a lot of pain about what you did, Brian. People say I'm spiteful and vindictive. Well, your behavior, Mr. Brown, can be equally irrational at times. Your decision to ban me from the library was a tad nutty; it was a gratification of the perverse, no less neurotic than my current campaign.

William said, "Mr. Freedman, we think you should take a break." How about if we extend that break a little. By a few weeks, a few months, a few years. After six months of my feverish letter writing, let's just see who "breaks" first -- you or our mutual friends at Akin Gump.

To put things bluntly, buddy, I -- not you -- will decide when I will use a public facility, if I have a right to use that facility. (Maybe you should post a sign at the entrance to the Cleveland Park Library: "Normals Only: People With Black Dogs Not Allowed." That would suit you, wouldn't it?) I may have had no power about when I got thrown out, but I'll bloody well exercise some power over when I return and under what conditions I return. Yea, I'm carrying a lot of pain. Let me say once again, returning to where we started six months ago: "People will pay for my pain."

Brian, do you remember the opening line of that story you once told me: "I no sooner laid down my umbrella to open up my briefcase, and the next thing I knew . . . " Big surprise!

Funny thing. My father always used to say about Hitler, "He told the whole world what he planned to do in that book of his, 'Mein Kampf,' then everybody acts surprised when he actually goes and does it!"

Back in April I wrote: "People will pay for my pain." And what do you do? You immediately proceed to inflict pain. What did you think would come of that? You know me as well as anyone. You know I can carry a grudge -- for years, even; you know I can be vindictive and spiteful; you know I am quick to feel ill used, to blame and accuse others; you know that I can be intensely sadistic and masochistic; you know I'm creative and "le grand fuck" is my forte; you know I'm nonviolent; you know I'm a letter writer. All I can say is, in what grade did you study first grade math? Didn't you ever learn that 1 + 1 + 1 equals, well, what does it equal, Brian? You need to learn a thing or two about the mathematical field.

People say to me, people come up to me at campaign rallies, at stump speeches, at Town Hall meetings -- they ask, they want to know, "But aren't you just hurting yourself by not returning to the library? You know how much you like it there. You like the resources -- the books, the newspapers, the magazines. You like the people, you like the sense of community. You like the branch librarian. What good can come of not returning to the library on the date you were told you were permitted to return? Aren't you only injuring yourself and no one else?"

Well, it's like I told John Ashcroft a few months ago. I told the A.G. that I hear voices. I hear the voices of Dostoyevsky characters. One of my favorite Dostoyevsky voices is that of Underground Man. Underground Man was a rat person.

The rat imago is used repetitively by some analytic patients who have been overstimulated and continue to be; beside themselves with rage and frustration, they long for a discharge to escape the traumatic state of too-muchness. The psychoanalyst Leonard Shengold describes some of the concomitant ego and superego regressions of soul-murder victims as part of the reaction to trauma. These victims, rat people included, are quick to feel ill used, to blame and accuse others, to project their rage; this can give their feelings and thoughts a paranoid cast, hidden and latent or strikingly overt. An alternative that can coexist is intense masochism.

Dostoyevsky's "Notes from Underground" captures the atmosphere of the lives of rat people. The Underground Man characterizes himself repeatedly as a "mouse" (he is predominantly masochistic, but his sadism is a constant presence) who lives "underground" in a kind of prison cell, a cloacal rat hole. He gnashes his teeth and longs to bite, suffers from toothache and finally claims to enjoy turning sadism into masochism: "I got to the point of feeling a sort of secret abnormal, despicable enjoyment in returning home to my corner on some disgusting Petersburg night, acutely conscious that that day I had committed a loathsome action again, that what was done could never be undone, and secretly, inwardly gnawing, gnawing at myself for it, tearing and consuming myself till at least the bitterness turned into a sort of shameful accursed sweetness, and at last -- into positive real enjoyment! Yes, into enjoyment, into enjoyment!"

The Underground Man vents and courts spite -- the mouse has identified with the rat, has been endowed with the tooth and bites himself: "I am a spiteful man. I am an unattractive man. I believe my liver is diseased . . . I refuse to consult a doctor from spite . . . I am perfectly well aware that I cannot 'pay out' the doctors by not consulting them; I know better than anyone that by all this I am only injuring myself and no one else. But still, if I don't consult a doctor it is from spite. My liver is bad, well -- let it get worse!" Later the man describes himself in the third person, his "I" split-off: "There in its nasty, stinking underground home our insulted, crushed and ridiculed mouse promptly becomes absorbed in cold, malignant and, above all, everlasting spite."

Such is my immortality, too! Everlasting spite.

I'm a hater, Brian. A nonviolent hater, to be sure. Yes, let's be sure about that! But I'm a hater nonetheless. It's part of my psychopathology. It's part of my disability. "People will pay for my pain." That pronouncement, coming from an Underground Man -- the Underground Man's pathology being what it is -- that pronouncement MUST be protected by The Americans with Disabilities Act. At least I would think so. Restricting the library to "Normals Only?" I don't think that's legal. Haters have a right to use the library.

Sigmund Freud was a hater. K.R. Eissler writes: "In examining the orbit of Freud's emotional responses, it is impressive to take note of its wide circumference. It is particularly important that the circumference of emotions also contained within it the emotion of hatred. Freud belonged among those who did have the ability to experience strong hatred."

Like Freud, Richard Nixon was a hater. So was Winston Churchill. Oddly enough, both Nixon and Freud had an "enemies list." (Incidentally, Freud and Nixon also both liked dogs. I don't know if Freud's wife wore a cloth coat, though.) "Freud set up once a list of persons he hated. It contained seven or eight names. People in general deny the presence of such an affect, unless they feel protected by group support. Thus there was hardly anybody in the West who would not have felt free to express hatred against Hitler, but it is rather rare for a person to aver a hatred that is the result solely of his personal inclinations. Since other geniuses have left no known record of people they hated, one cannot determine whether the figure of seven or eight persons on Freud's 'hate list,' as he called it, ought to be appraised as high or low."

Funny thing about Freud, Nixon, and Churchill. They were all disposed to depression; they were susceptible to losing themselves in psychological "dark places." From time to time each of these men occupied "a dark place" of the soul.

Depression and hatred can be related.

William Manchester has written the following about Churchill's "Black Dog," as Sir Winston called his depressive spells: "In a profound sense, he himself always remained the underdog. All his life he suffered spells of depression, sinking into the brooding depths of melancholia, an emotional state which, though little understood, resembles the passing sadness of the normal man as a malignancy resembles a canker sore. The depressive knows what Dante knew: that hell is an endless, hopeless conversation with oneself. Every day he chisels his way through time [like a rat, as Shengold would point out], praying for relief. The etiology of the disease is complex, but is thought to include family history, childhood influences, biological deficiencies, and -- particularly among those of aggressive temperament -- feelings of intense hostility which the victim, lacking other targets, turns inward upon himself [like Underground Man]. Having chosen to be macho, Churchill became the pugnacious, assertive fighter ready to cock a snook at anyone who got in his way. That was why he began carrying a Bren gun in his car when he became prime minister, then took bayonet lessons, and insisted that his lifeboat on the wartime Queen Mary be equipped with a mounted machine gun. But in peacetime he often lacked adequate outlets for his aggression. The deep reservoir of vehemence he carried within him backed up, and he was plunged into fathomless gloom."

Manchester goes on to discuss what a psychological boon Hitler was to Churchill late in life. Yes, a boon! It can be so much fun to hate. I know from personal experience; in my late thirties I felt I was going nowhere in life. I felt adrift, aimless. Then, in late October 1991, my prospects were dramatically altered. Dennis Race entered my life and I turned the termination -- "The Termination" -- into a career in itself. The Termination gave new meaning to my life. I had found an object to hate other than myself.

Manchester writes of Churchill: "Nothing could match the satisfaction of directing his hostility outward, toward a great antagonist, a figure worthy of massive enmity. But as the years rolled by and he approached old age, the possibilities of finding such an object became remote. The strain began to tell. Anthony Storr writes: 'In day-to-day existence, antagonists are not wicked enough, and depressives suffer from pangs of conscience about their own hostility.' Then Churchill's prospects were dramatically altered. Adolf Hitler entered his life. It would be fatuous to suggest that the Nazi dictator's only significance for Churchill was as an answer to an emotional longing. Churchill was no warmonger. He was a statesman, a humanitarian, a thinker in cosmic terms; he would have been profoundly graceful if Hitler had strangled on his own venom. But the Fuhrer's repeated lunges across the borders of peaceful neighboring states did arouse a Churchillian belligerence far beyond the capacity of ordinary men. His basic weakness became his basic strength. Here, at last, was pure evil, a monster who deserved no pity, a tyrant he could claw and maim [again, like one of Shengold's rats or, even more, like Shengold's image of the talon-endowed Sphinx] without admonishment from his scruples. By provoking his titanic wrath, the challenge from central Europe released enormous stores of long-suppressed vitality within him. In the beginning Hitler responded in kind. He, too, was a hoarder of rage, and he was a great hater. He may have felt that Britain's prime minister met an ache in him, too. As it turned out, he needed Churchill the way a murderer needs a noose."

Are you better off than you were six months ago, Brian? Are you more secure? Has anything really changed? I can tell you "frankly and boldly" that nothing has changed for me. Mind you, even a psychological cripple can, like some paralyzed Superman, hurl thunderbolts from his mental wheelchair. Those thunderbolts are my letters. Didn't you ever hear of "protected speech?" Didn't you ever hear of the preferred position of the First Amendment? Maybe we should have lunch with Floyd Abrams. He could teach you a thing or two.

I am still in a dark place. Yes, I suffer from depression. "I am a depressed American." "I am in a dark place." It's a statement of fact. Metaphorically put, of course, but a fact. I simply stated a clinical fact back in April. And you proceeded to attack me, call the cops on me, punish me, ban me, as if I had blasphemed against all things holy.

Well, I don't mind attacks, and my family don't mind attacks, but my Black Dog (depression) does mind. My friends, "I am accustomed to hearing malicious falsehoods about myself, such as that old worm-eaten chestnut that I have represented myself as indispensable. But I think I have a right to resent, to object to libelous statements about my [black] dog." Depression is not a crime -- it deserves no punishment.

Check you out next week, buddy. Send my regards to the Governor. "Opera is for fags." That's a joke, Brian. Can't you take a joke? Apparently not.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Reasonable Apprehensions


October 4, 2004

Hey, buddy. What's going down? Have you been arousing any reasonable apprehensions? Any unreasonable apprehensions?

That's what I do. I arouse reasonable apprehensions. Reasonable anticipations. I do it well. I've turned it into a career. My whole livelihood is based on the reasonable apprehensions I've raised in the past. Reasonable apprehensions have been good to me. They've paid the rent for the last 13 years. Reasonable apprehensions--namely, your reasonable apprehensions that I might do something unreasonable--are what set off my present campaign. And who knows where that will lead, eh, buddy?

Despite the pressures of nonstop campaigning, I continue to write to you, Brian. Memory and the written memorialization of my thoughts and experiences are my salvation; they are the source of my sense of empowerment and my means of understanding -- both strengths that I lacked as a child. The British writer Rudyard Kipling describes the child's helplessness, made so terrible by its lack of understanding. He also mentions what was for himself a way toward transcendence: when grown, the child may be able to write of the earlier experiences. This means the child must know what happened, and the more that is known of what happened to soul as well as to body, the more free the child can become. The soul--the identity--can be preserved if like Whitman the adult can say, "I am the man, I suffered, I was there." Rudyard Kipling used his mind to fight to preserve his soul. At least that's Leonard Shengold's interpretation.

October 4. October, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing. It's a series of thirty-one days between September 30th and November 1st. October is a month of foggy mornings and decaying leaves, and--in this election year, the year of my campaign--an endless stream of letters.

Yes, my campaign continues. This past week I received two more responses. You have to wonder who would respond to the letters I've been sending out, but there are employers out there who do respond. I got a letter from the law firm of Thompson Coburn: "Thank you for your interest in Thompson Coburn. We have received your resume. If your qualifications meet our requirements, you will be contacted." Not bloody likely, I must say. Not unless the firm's requirements are a thirteen-years unemployed attorney who suffers from intermittent bouts of paranoid schizophrenia and who believes he's on intimate terms with His Holiness, Pope John Paul II. But hey, you never know what an employer is looking for. I also got a letter from the Human Rights Campaign (Varnita Tyer, Recruitment) dated October 1, 2004: "Thank you for your interest with the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). Unfortunately, HRC currently does not have a job for an entry-level attorney's position. Thank you for your time and we wish you success in your employment endeavors."

I guess you know, by now, that I forwarded a letter to the Martin Luther King Library, downtown. They must have called you. "Brian, we just got a letter from some crazed maniac. He claims you booted him out of Cleveland Park. Just what did he do?" I trust you apprised the folks downtown of the precise details of my sordid banishment.

I wonder how Dennis Race is taking all this. He must be getting phone calls from all and sundry about one Gary Freedman. "Everyday I get telephone calls from all over the city about how awful you are, Freedman. How dare you make such a fuss about a job termination!" I am reminded of a story that Anna Freud told about an experience she had, in London, during World War II. A German shell landed in a neighbor's garden. It didn't explode. At first, the whole neighborhood was terrified. Everyone thought the bloody thing would explode, resulting in horrible injury and terrific property damage. Well, it didn't explode. It was a dud. After several days, the initial terror changed to mild amusement about the curiosity in the garden. Finally, the mild amusement gave way to a lingering feeling of irritation about the nuisance in the garden.

Perhaps, my letters have evoked the same reaction. The initial horror that I had started writing letters again, later gave way to amusement, and finally, to a smoldering irritation about my campaign. Yes, I suppose it's like the blitz. After a while, Londoners just saw it as a bloody nuisance -- at least, if they or their loved ones were lucky enough to avoid injury.

You know, there's an odd comparison that can be made between World War II, on the one hand, and my job termination, on the other. Yes, my job termination: the Big One. The termination to end all terminations.

The last century, through its great cataclysms, offers two clear, ringing, and, unfortunately, contradictory lessons. My job termination, late in the last century, teaches that territorial compromise (in the form of giving a "close-to-perfect" paralegal his own private office) is better than full scale litigation and its consequences, that an "honor-bound" allegiance of the great powers (such as hiring partner Dennis Race) to small and insignificant supervisors is a recipe for mass disbarments, and that it is crazy to let the blind mechanisms of the dynamics of an organization, here, a law firm, trump common sense. The Second World War teaches that searching for an accommodation with tyranny by selling out small nations only encourages the tyrant, that refusing to fight now leads to a worse fight later on, and that only the steadfast rejection of compromise can prevent the natural tendency to rush to a bad peace with worse men. My job termination teaches us never to rush into a fight, the Second World War never to back down from a bully.

These two lessons are taught less as morals than as collective memory: the lore of the Second World War remains on the whole heroic, while the imagery of my job termination, remains that of utter waste. Every time an Akin Gump manager with any historical sense faces a crisis, he has to decide whether he should back down and search for whatever compromise he can find, for fear of repeating "1991," that is, the Termination, or step up and slug somebody, for fear of repeating 1939--that's to say, World War II.

In retrospect, thinking back to 1991, we find ourselves contending with the issues of historical judgment: how much can you blame the people of the past for getting something wrong when they could not have known it was going to go so wrong? The question is what they knew, when they knew it, if there was any way for them to know more, given what anyone knew at the time, and how in God's name we could ever know about our own time not to do the same thing all over again. Or, to put it another way, are there lessons in history, or just stories, mostly sad? Well, Brian, "Mr. History Major," what do you think, old boy?

People say to me, "It's been so many years now. Thirteen years, almost. Why don't you just give it up. Enough already. Why don't you just get on with things, and let everybody else get on with things?"

For one thing, I'm a narcissist. Yes, a narcissist. I know my new diagnosis is Schizoid Personality Disorder. But I still think I'm a self-centered, egotistical, garden-variety narcissist.

I have to admit it humbly, mon cher compatriote, I am always bursting with vanity. I, I, I is the refrain of my whole life, which can be heard in everything I say. I could never talk without boasting, especially if I did so with that shattering discretion that was my specialty. It is quite true that I always lived free and powerful. I simply felt released in regard to all for the excellent reason that I recognized no equals. I always considered myself more intelligent than everyone else, as I've told you, but also more sensitive and more skillful, a crack shot (am I allowed to say that?), an incomparable letter writer, a better lover of fine beers. Even in the fields in which it was easy for me to verify my inferiority--like piano, for instance, in which I was but a passable four-hands partner--it was hard for me to think that, with a little time for practice, I would surpass the best players. I admitted only superiorities in me and this explained my good will and serenity. When I was concerned with others, I was so out of pure condescension, in utter freedom, and all the credit went to me: my self-esteem would go up a degree.

I hope you like Albert Camus, Brian. Because that's what I've been paraphrasing. The preceding paragraph is a slightly modified quote from "The Fall." And I'm not talking September, October, November. "The Fall" is devoted to the calculated confession of a Parisian lawyer, a pleader of noble causes, secure in his self-esteem, privately a libertine, yet apparently immune to judgment--the portrait of a modern man. The irony of his recital predicts the downfall. Inescapable, it comes in the narrator's intense discovery, in the space of one terrible and unforgettable instant, that no man is innocent and no man may therefore judge others from a standpoint of righteousness. Those are my sentiments exactly. If you're going to judge someone else, let it be out of vindictiveness, a desire for revenge, and a reasonable anticipation of a large punitive damages award! Yes, I am a selfish narcissist.

But there is more than this.

I love playing the role of the wronged innocent: a "Dreyfus for Our Time." It is a countervailing force to my core sense of guilt. That is to say, my guilt about nothing (and, of course, I mean "nothing" in the technical Seinfeldian sense). Throughout my childhood I was blamed for so much, I was always getting punished--unjustly, I believe. Now, I have been given a great opportunity to exercise power, a rare chance for self-empowerment. I can say with total justification: "I -- who you call violent, potentially violent, a potential mass killer -- I am innocent. You have no right to insult me. I am innocent. The facts are clear, incontrovertible, and--as they say at the 'big-time law firms' -- ineluctable. I am innocent. Those who say otherwise are fools. I will damn you with your defamation. You who defame me will be seen as the fools, the intellectual lightweights, that you are." That's the sense of power I get from my campaign. It is fundamentally a sense of power over an internal force: an ineradicable guilt. The sense of empowerment I derive from my campaign is a substitute for a pardon, an exoneration, an atonement, if you will. A friend, an intimate--you, for example--would have the same psychological effect for me. But I have no friends, no intimates. The role of friend or "best friend" is there for the taking, buddy.

There is a fundamental psychological equivalence between my relationship with you and my world-wide campaign, whose slogan I proclaim far and wide: "I am innocent. I am not violent, I am not a mass killer." Both you and the "campaign" are "objects" that relate back to an internal sense of guilt and narcissistic disturbance. My relationship with you, buddy, reflects my need to reestablish a sense of narcissistic integrity by means of a connection with what Heinz Kohut would call a "selfobject." While my campaign reflects my need to reestablish a sense of narcissistic integrity by means of diminishing, or denying, a core sense of guilt.

As I've pointed out before I need a "brother" or comrade-in-arms to serve as an alter ego or "narcissistic object." The choice of such a friend is based on characteristics that I feel I need in order to complete myself and restore my original feeling of narcissistic safety and well-being.

And my campaign? Its origins can be seen as a reaction to the extreme blaming behavior that I experienced from my parents and other harsh superego figures in childhood. Melanie Klein has some pertinent observations. According to her, the child regrets the damage he feels he inflicted -- or was brainwashed to believe he inflicted -- upon his parents. He attempts to repair that damage, to make good, over and over again. The quality of his relations with his parents and the quality of his subsequent relations with others determine the sense he has of himself, in the extremes, either as a secret and undiscovered murderer or as a repentant and absolved sinner.

I seem to draw accusations -- false accusations -- to myself so that I can proclaim my innocence. Underlying that behavior is a profound unconscious sense of guilt: a sense of myself as "a secret and undiscovered murderer."

The Metro DC Police need to read Melanie Klein. Really. I'm serious. I have two needs: a need for a special comrade to reduce guilt (that is, a need to restore my narcissistic integrity by means of identification with a special comrade) and a need to deny my core image as a malefactor. Impair my access to one form of remediation, and I will redouble my efforts in the other direction. That is to say, ban me from the library (that is, ban me from access to my selfobject) and I will start "campaigning." That's politics, I suppose.

Some additional insights from Melanie Klein that I wrote about before bear repeating here. Klein suggests that the early establishment of harsh superego figures actually stimulates object relations in the real world, as the child seeks out allies (Allies!) and sources of reassurance which in turn transform his internal objects. This process is also the basis for the repetition compulsion (yes, "Mr. History Major," history does repeat itself), which involves a constant attempt to establish external danger situations to represent internal anxieties. To the extent to which one can perceive discrepancies between internally derived anticipations (or "reasonable apprehensions") and reality, to allow something new to happen, the internal world is transformed accordingly, and the cycle of projection and introjection has a positive, progressive direction. To the extent to which one finds confirmation in reality for internally derived anticipations, or is able to induce others to play the anticipated roles, the bad internal objects are reinforced, and the cycle has a negative, regressive direction.

I feel like I've been living my whole life in a regressive direction, playing the role of Shengold's boy-with-the-squashed-fruit. Playing the role to great acclaim, I might add. My whole "campaign" is a fuss over a triviality: a fuss over nothing. Yet, I can't give it up. I revel in my "life at the dinner table." That dinner is repeated again and again, with endless variations; my life at the dinner table is quite literally a "re-past."

Let me clarify the butter.

Leonard Shengold speaks of a male patient who described the following as a "typical event": The father (whom Shengold characterizes as "a domestic Hitler") entered the dining room where the table was set for the family meal. Beside each plate was a fresh piece of fruit--the dessert. The man made a complete round of the table, stopping at every chair to reach out and squeeze to a pulp every piece of fruit except his own. The older children and the intimidated mother, used to such happenings, said nothing. But the youngest, a five-year-old boy, cried when he saw the mangled banana at his plate. The father then turned on him viciously, demanding that he be
quiet--how dare he make such a fuss about a banana?

Why did the boy make such a fuss about the banana? Why do I make such a fuss about a job termination? Maybe because it is for me what Dr. Shengold would call a "prototypal instance." I see reflected in this employment situation a repetition of my childhood and its internalized consequences.

New Yorker magazine "Critic at Large" Adam Gopnik concludes a recently published article on the subject of World War I (which I paraphrased above) with a quote from Rudyard Kipling. By the way, Dr. Shengold devotes an entire chapter in his book on child abuse, "Soul Murder," to Kipling's disturbed childhood. (In the end all the threads intertwine: child abuse, disturbed adult relations, international relations, war, employment difficulties, disturbed organizations, disturbed families.)

Gopnik calls the following simple couplet produced after his son was killed "the best poem Kipling ever wrote about war and its consequences:"

If any question why we died
Tell them, because our fathers lied.

Perhaps a paraphrase of Kipling's poem offers insight into the motives for my campaign:

If any question why we were terminated
Tell them, because the managing partners lied.

Grim stuff, eh Brian? Listen, buddy, feel free to give me a call. Maybe you can help me transform my inner objects, as Melanie Klein would say. How about lunch? In the words of Teresa Heinz Kerry, on the campaign trail: "Come what may, John, we'll always have catsup." Anticipation. Or is it a reasonable apprehension? I always get the two confused.

Check you out next week, buddy. "War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing."