Monday, December 31, 2007

The Vault

My feelings lie frozen within me, encased in an unseen and unseeable compartment. Inaccessible and inert, my feelings do not animate and enliven my existence. They are a numb, dead weight -- cold and mute.

For years my feelings lay in an iron box buried so deep inside me that I was never sure just what it was. I knew I carried slippery, combustible things more secret than sex and more dangerous than any shadow or ghost. Ghosts had shape and name. What lay inside my iron box had none. Whatever lived inside me was so potent that words crumbled before they could describe.

Sometimes I felt my iron box contained a tomb. The walls were stone, like those guarding the mummies in an archeological museum and the air was cool. My mother sat in one corner on a chair like a throne. Her blonde hair was swept up above her ears and she looked stern. My father stood beside her, erect and tall like a military man. The tomb contained the frozen feelings surrounding all the significant persons in my life.

I built my iron box carefully, the way we were taught in school that nuclear reactors were built. I conceived lead walls around the dangerous parts, concentric circles of water channels and air ducts that would soften and contain any kind of explosion. I enclosed it all with metal casing and buried the box far away from my brain toward the small of my back, in the part of my body that seemed least alive.

The box became a vault, collecting in darkness, always collecting, pictures, words, my parents' glances, becoming loaded with weight. It sank deeper as I grew older, so packed with undigested things that finally it became impossible to ignore. I knew the iron box would some day have to be dredged up into the light, opened, its contents sorted our, but I had built such fortifications that it had become inaccessible.

I needed tricks to get near it, strategies to cut through the belt of numbness that formed each time I made a move toward it. I needed company to look inside it, other voices to confirm that those things I carried inside me were real, that I had not made them up. My parents could not help me with this; they were part of it. Psychiatrists I distrusted; they had even more names to disguise things than I had already tried. There had to be other people like me, who shared what I carried, who had their own version of my iron box. There had to be, I thought, an invisible, silent family scattered about the world.

I am not a whole person. Whole people have access to their feelings. I do not. My iron box is a vault composed of inaccessible feelings and memories that, for the most part, are beyond recollection. My personality lies on an inert foundation, which is a frozen wasteland.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

A Boundless Sense of Guilt

According to the psychoanalyst Melanie Klein all loss is experienced as a result of one's own destructiveness and as a retaliation for past hatefulness and injuries. In concrete terms, if a child is jealous of a younger sibling, and fantasizes about the younger child's death, well, if the younger child in fact dies, the older child will perceive the death as resulting from his own destructive fantasies. Through loss, says Klein, the world and one's own insides are experienced as depleted and desolate. One's love and capacity to create and protect good relations with others are felt to be impotent and paltry. Good experiences with others, by contrast, augment the belief in the power of one's love and reparative capacities. Hatefulness and malice can be accepted and forgiven; others can be approached with a sense of hope and possibility. Real other people are extremely important in Klein's formulations. The child regrets the damage he feels he has 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 myself suffer from a boundless sense of guilt. That sense of guilt is the prism through which I view the world. I see myself as an undiscovered murderer and try to avoid contributing to my guilt by means of withdrawing from the world as much as possible. I seek thereby to attain a state of innocence, but my maneuvers only serve to prevent the development of any relations with others and obviate any meaningful interaction in the world of men. I live in a black and white world populated by murderers and innocents, by players and the uncorrupted. In my warped value system, human interaction, no matter how well-meaning, is rife with corruption, while the status of innocence is reserved for those who minimize their commerce with the world.

I know I have no place in the world of today; once I'd definitely refused to kill, to be a player, I doomed myself to an exile that can never end. I leave it to others to make history, to live their lives in the world of men. I know, too, that I'm not qualified to pass judgment on those others. There's something lacking in my mental make-up, and its lack prevents me from being a rational murderer. So it's a deficiency, not a superiority. But as things are, I'm willing to be as I am; I've learned modesty. All I maintain is that on this earth there are players and there are victims, and it's up to us, so far as possible, not to join forces with the players: those who would exploit. That may sound simple to the point of childishness; I can't judge if it's simple, but I know it's true. You see, I'd heard such quantities of arguments, which very nearly turned my head, and turned other people's heads enough to make them approve of murder; and I'd come to realize that all our troubles spring from our failure to use plain, clean-cut language. So I resolved always to speak--and to act--quite clearly, as this was the only way of setting myself on the right track. That's why I say there are players and there are victims; no more than that. If, by making that statement, I, too, become a contributor to exploitation, at least I don't do it willfully. I try, in short, to be an innocent murderer. You see, I've no great ambitions.

My sole ambition at this point in my life is to state my philosophy of life and to expound my passions, my struggles and my woes. I have become a monologist, well-equipped for speech--never at a loss for words. And while this monologue of my existence as an undiscovered murderer is a cryptic passion, it is not poetry, the fact is that I live as a fugitive and speak as a fugitive, and when I die bleeding from the sutured holes in my chest I will die as a discovered murderer of my self; as my blood will flow from me, I will die dispensing myself in utterance, as if death were chattered-out being, or as if all we are made of is words and when we die the soul of speech decants itself into the universe.

Friday, December 28, 2007

School Days

"At school he was an average student," recalls an elementary school classmate of mine, "rather dreamy and inattentive. But what soon struck me about him was the absolute certainty in his own mind that one day he would become famous. In what he would be famous -- that had yet to be determined -- but famous whatever the circumstances." The "dreamy and inattentive" side of my personality -- the romantic and impractical visionary -- has been broadly affirmed by those who knew me. My ambition has been all but forgotten.

It's worth noting that I never quite fit into the local society of boys. I usually would not play with them, preferring my lone pursuits. In school I seemed an isolated, dreamy boy who didn't like rough play and whose preoccupation with dressing up in fine clothes that my mother had bought for me set me apart from the usual run of boys in my neighborhood. One classmate found me strange and conceited, without the usual interests of a boy. Another observed that I had no close friends, and that I seemed to prefer writing stories to the more routine school subjects. I was lazy, too, and did not participate in class projects with any enthusiasm, at least that is what some of my classmates thought. A survey of my report cards from the Rowan Elementary School in Philadelphia, however, suggests otherwise. My report card from Mrs. Lewis in 1963, for example, reports "admirable" work in writing, drawing, and arithmetic. I did, however, show a "lack of progress in grammar and language." Remembering my boyhood, I would say I never did like school and stopped going to school as soon as I got big enough to play hooky and not get caught at it. I would say that April, in particular, was the very best time not to have to go to school.

The usual sports that attract boys did not interest me. I often stayed away from the playground except when I felt like eavesdropping. I was never popular, although most of my classmates considered me friendly and courteous. Certainly no one thought I was academically gifted. I did my homework in a halfhearted way, though my writing ability was such that I could manage without much effort. One of my teachers, Miss Kaempfer, actually assumed that my mother was doing my homework for me.

At recess, I would stand apart from the other children, watching, seeming to study their movements, to listen to their voices, without reacting myself or wishing to participate. My daydreaming in class made me a subject of ridicule among my classmates and did not endear me to my teachers. What I was dreaming about I can only guess now, but it seems likely that I thought about heroism and glory, about crime, about human desire in its various manifestations. As a boy I felt that I contained all the contradictory possibilities of the human spirit within my heart.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

An Intricately Guilty Defendant on Trial

I am usually holed up in my room, writing relentlessly. I am myself a singular being tricked up in many alter egos and attacked from many angles, not only examined but cross-examined, an intricately guilty defendant on trial. One wonders if I could have found my existence so absorbingly important if I had been born in some other place and time, where the edges of my ego might have frayed into the general fabric of indifference.

I believe that subjectively speaking, each existence is the center of the universe. I am fundamentally a complete neurotic and unfit for life. I lead a quiet life, occupied primarily in study and writing.

A blogger is never better than his most recent post, and I struggle to surpass myself every time. I never forget the anxiety I myself feel, that I might be unable to equal what I had previously achieved. I am also concerned about how my blog will be received by the reading public. I have several blogs. The Freedman Archives does not have as many readers as My Daily Struggles and attracts virtually no attention. This is excellent. In this way I shake off the gawking mob that insists on being present whenever it thinks there is a disturbance. A deficit in the material world becomes a surplus in the world of the spirit.

I would very much like to be praised, of course -- "Oh, yes!," -- but not by a nobody like some of the people who visit my blogs who come and go like a sneeze. If I am to be praised I ask that it be done by one of the genuine authorities.

There are those who say that I am rather hasty with my productivity and am thus merely a hack. "They think I'm a hack writer," I sometimes think. I am completely convinced that there is no other blog author who treats even the most insignificant word with the extraordinary care that I exhibit. Not only do I myself rewrite my posts at least two times -- indeed, some portions even three or four times -- but there are also the meditations when I take walks, which are so conducive to my productivity that when I arrive home, I often have the post finished, in fact have even committed its stylistic form to memory.

Thus there are times when I can sit for hours, enamored with the sound of language -- when, of course, it resonates with the pregnancy of thought. Thus I can sit for hours at a time, like a flautist who entertains himself with his flute. Most of what I have written has been spoken aloud many, many times, often perhaps scores of times; it was heard before it was written down. I have lived and enjoyed and experienced so much in the evolution of these thoughts and their quest for form that the structure of my sentences could be called my world of memories.

For the most part I am indeed in the proper mood. Who else could move so easily from the charming to the demonic, from sentimentality to a cynical snort? Who else could manage an everyday conversational tone even when dealing with the subtlest abstractions? Who else could situate platitudes or uproarious comedy just a line and a half after the most recondite profundities? Or withdraw, become diffuse, vague, and incomprehensible -- and then in the next instant snap his fingers with a seductive stylistic fillip, inspire his pen, and become so intensely captivating that the reader simply loses track of himself? In sum, what blog writer has ever produced anything so fertile and prodigious? And then they call it "hack writing!" Hack writing, indeed.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A Dream Interpreted

I recently submitted a dream to Dr. Dreamland for interpretation. What follows is a description of the dream together with Dr. Dreamland's interpretation.

Doctor Dreamland, I am looking at a man's shirt; it is blue with a buttoned-down collar. I know intuitively that the shirt belongs to my friend Craig. There is no objective evidence that the shirt belongs to Craig, however... I feel a great deal of satisfaction to learn that Craig and I wear the same size shirt. I have an impulse to smell the shirt. At that moment I think: "Only a queer would smell another guy's shirt." I examine the collar of the shirt and notice that it is frayed in one location.

DOCTOR DREAMLAND: Interesting dream, Gary. It reminds me of all those stories you hear of widows sleeping with their husband's shirts. Why? Because the shirt is the magic repository of that "dead husband smell." I don't mean it smells like a rotting corpse. I mean it smells like the husband smelled before he became a rotting corpse.But it is a behavior that is dictated by loss. You've lost something, Gary. You don't want to acknowledge the loss, so you presume that the symbol of that loss must belong to someone else (Craig). That attribution in your dream is symbolic of your waking denial. There is some part of yourself with which you have lost touch and you desire to get reconnected. Many times, those connections lie with friends and family. Have you been living an insular existence, Gary? Are you isolated? If so, I would suggest you get out and start repairing your old ties (no pun intended).

Oh... wait a minute. You said the shirt was frayed?Geez, that's embarrassing. I must have missed that the first time around. Well, let's just say, you're right: only a queer would smell another man's shirt. There's nothing wrong with being queer, of course (and the preferred term is "gay," by the way). But the frayed collar... well...

Monday, December 24, 2007

How I Perceive My World

From early on I valued the gift of memory above all others. I understood that as we grow older we carry a whole nation around inside of us, places and ways that have disappeared, believing that they are ours, that we alone hold the torch for our past, that we are as impenetrable as stone. Memory still seems a gift to me and I hold tight to those few things that are forever gone and always a part of me, while the new life, the changing view streams by.

Recently I had a vision. Memories as far back as my earliest forgotten childhood, yes, even as far back as my pre-existence at earlier stages of evolution, thronged past me. But these memories that seemed to repeat every secret of my life to me did not stop with the past and the present. They went beyond it, mirroring the future, tore me away from the present into new forms of life whose images shone blindingly clear -- not one could I clearly remember later on.

I seem to apprehend the background of the physical world rather than its surface. The decisive thing for me is not the reality of the objective world, but the reality of the subjective factor -- the world within myself -- of the primordial images which, in their totality, constitute a psychic mirror-world. It is a mirror with the peculiar faculty of reflecting the existing contents of consciousness not in their known and customary form but, as it were, sub specie aeternitatis, somewhat as a million-year-old consciousness might see them. Such a consciousness would see the becoming and passing away of things simultaneously with their momentary existence in the present, and not only that, it would also see what was before their becoming and will be after their passing from this world.

Naturally this is only a figure of speech, but one that I needed in order to illustrate in some way the peculiar way in which I perceive, or sense, the world within myself as well as the world "out there." It is as if an image is transmitted to me which does not so much reproduce the external object as spread over it the patina of age-old subjective experience and the shimmer of events still unborn. The bare sense impression develops in depth, reaching into the past and future, which is probably the case for all introverts like me. While for extraverts sensation seizes on the momentary existence of things open to the light of day.

Mine is a murky netherworld of sensations and images, stripped of temporality. Sensations, images, and feelings for me exist beyond time, and seem to emanate from the past, present, and future simultaneously and indiscriminately.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Plague of Isolation

I am in exile from humanity. No one visits me, and no one ever calls. It is undoubtedly the feeling of exile--that sensation of a void which never leaves me, that irrational longing to hark back to the past or else to speed up the march of time, and those keen shafts of memory that sting like fire. Sometimes I toy with my imagination, composing myself to wait for a ring at the front door bell announcing somebody's visit, or for the sound of the telephone ringing; but, though I might deliberately stay at home at the hour when somebody might call, and though I might contrive to forget for the moment that no one ever calls, that game of make-believe, for obvious reasons, cannot last.

Always a moment comes when I have to face the fact that no one is coming. And then I realize that my separation from other people is destined to continue, I have no choice but to come to terms with the days, the months, and the years ahead. In short, I return to my mental prison, I have nothing left but the past, and even if I am tempted to live in the future, I have speedily to abandon the idea--anyhow, as soon as can be--once I feel the wounds that the imagination inflicts on those who yield themselves to it.

And thus there is always something missing in my life. Hostile to the past, impatient of the present, and cheated of the future, I am much like those whom men's justice, or hatred, forces to live behind prison bars. Thus the only way of escaping from that intolerable leisure is to set the telephone ringing in my imagination and in filling the silence with the fancied tinkle of the doorbell, in practice obstinately mute.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Armchair Emperor

When I walk out of the refuge of my room into the world, I see a place of torment, where creatures of prey perpetually thrust their claws into the quivering flesh of the doomed, defenseless children of light. I realize how constantly the tenderness of growing life is at the mercy of personal tyranny and I hate the tyranny of persons over each other.

A passage in a book on child abuse resonates deeply with my image, developed at an early age, of my father as a tyrannical bully:

A male patient described the following as a "typical event" to his psychoanalyst. The father 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?

The boy was left with a terrible confusion. What had happened? Who was to blame? Was father bad, or was the boy himself bad? Mother and the others had not reacted as he had--why did he make that fuss about the banana? The father, so confident of his greatness and rightness (like a character out of Dostoevsky), must be good and innocent. But how could that be?

I used to hide from my father when I was a little boy. When I grew older I always dodged him and hid from him, in my room, among my books, with my music, or with extravagant ideas. There was a lack of communication between me and my father, not only because of his physical and emotional differences, but because of differences in our needs which caused me to find secret selves. When my father was home and not at work, he ranted and raved and bullied, so that I sought out areas in myself where my father could not enter.

From his armchair my father ruled the world, or so it seemed. From my father's point of view, I was little more than a small thing whose moods and needs -- communication, affection, love -- were swept aside in the larger need to survive through hard, relentless work. My own experiences were negated by my father's stories of his struggling childhood, struggles that I could never hope to equal. I lived in relative luxury, whereas my father had lived on the edge. My moods, needs, personality changes, all, had no significance in this large Darwinian sweep. Without being conscious of it, my father was a pure Darwinian, the most vulgar kind who could speak only of the fittest and of their survival, at least in my perception of him. My father was capable of great rages, and they seemed to pre-exist, that the pretext for them was slight, and that, therefore, he carried around the rage merely waiting for an opportunity to let it roar.

I never knew what to expect. No matter what I did or, later, tried to achieve, my father retorted that little of it mattered, that it was foolishness compared with what had occurred to him in the great world. "You want to be a lawyer?" my father would say. "You? You could never practice law. You have to be tough to be a lawyer. You don't have what it takes." There was no opportunity to distinguish myself in the world as he had done. I had lost my self-confidence where my father was concerned, and in its place had developed a boundless sense of guilt. My father instilled in me such mistrust about any of my abilities that he left me no room for my own maneuvers. I came to fear success. I came to feel the more things I was successful in, the worse the final outcome would inevitably be.

My core image of myself, my aspiring self, as a growing plant, as an innocently evolving organism, has remained with me throughout adulthood. The struggle to maintain the incorruptible innocence of the unfolding flower, has always been threatened by what I saw as my father's false values of ingratiation. And yet, paradoxically, in none of my fantasies is the tyrant destroyed--the tyrant is always the "innocent," an incarnation of the good. In the end it is always I who am destroyed, crushed like a piece of fruit.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Creative Contradictions

I am an artist, even if I fail to bring forth a single work of art. I lack the practical skill and the theoretical basis to be a musician, painter, or sculptor and the general, historical, and linguistic education for poet and philosopher. Well, the skills might be acquired, the rest I have. It seems too late for acquiring these skills systematically; moreover, beginning in youth, because of ignorance, and at ripe manhood because of knowledge, I have lacked perseverance and focus on a small area. I have tasted too many fruits.

My mind is a cornucopia, overflowing with ideas and interests. Instead of choosing an art, I have made a study of the artist type, that is myself, one who has a creative gift and drive even if I never produce a work of art in the conventional sense. Self-consciousness, I say, is the artist's only good fortune; and self-consciousness I have in abundance, in addition to the drive to write about it.

According to one theory, creativity depends on the ability of the artist or scientist to hold opposite ideas in the mind simultaneously, to live and work with contradictions. "No mind can engender till divided in two," wrote W. B. Yeats. Or as my blogger friend Rick likes to say, quoting F. Scott Fitzgerald: "The test of first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function." Sigmund Freud not only coped with ambivalence; he raised it to a new level of consciousness. Reaction formation, denial, repression, and dream work are some of the terms he used to accommodate the phenomenon of opposites that he observed in himself and others: Disgust conceals attraction, altruism conceals sadism, behind the fear lies the wish, etc. Many people cannot tolerate such oxymorons in their lives; they feel out of control, or "crazy." Their notion of sanity stifles creativity. Freud's elucidation of the dynamic unconscious enabled people to cope better with normal inconsistency and to be more creative as a result.

A psychiatrist, Albert Rothenberg, M.D., has described a creative cognitive sequence that he has termed the janusian process, after Janus, the Roman god of doorways and beginnings, whose faces look in opposite directions at the same time. The janusian process lies at the heart of the most striking creative breakthroughs. Contrary to the romantic notion that creativity grows largely out of inspiration, the thinking of dreams, or some unconscious source, Rothenberg has found the janusian process--a major element of the creative process--to be a conscious, rational process.

In the janusian process, multiple opposites or antitheses are conceived simultaneously, either as existing side by side or as equally operative, valid, or true. In an apparent defiance of logic or of physical possibility, the creative person consciously formulates the simultaneous operation of antithetical elements or factors and develops those formulations into integrated entities and creations. It is a leap that transcends ordinary logic. What emerges is no mere combination or blending of elements: the conception contains not only different entities, but also opposing and antagonistic elements that are experienced and understood as coexistent. As a self-contradictory structure, the janusian formulation is surprising when seriously posited. Although it usually appears modified and transformed in the final product, it leaves the mark of implicit unexpectedness and paradox on the work.

The British sculptor Henry Moore said, "To know one thing, you must know the opposite . . . just as much, else you don't know that one thing. So that, quite often, one does the opposite as an expression of the positive." Josef Albers, a painter, described his own approach. "I start from experiences and read . . . always between polarities . . . loud and not loud . . . young and old . . . spring and winter. . . . If I can make black and white behave together instead of shooting at each other only, I feel proud."

Although the janusian process derives from healthy functions, it generates mental conflict and tension. While causing difficulties for their users, it leads to the gratifying achievement of lasting works of art, novels, poems, and scientific theories.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Atlantic City Remembered . . . by Eddie Lischin

Submitted by aceddie from Boardwalk West. Entered on October 12, 2007
"OK Ratso, Where was Kerstetters exactly? I could have sworn it was a little half street between Pacific and Atlantic and between Maryland and Delaware Aves, but I could be wrong. ...... I remember Community Synagogue was on the Southwest corner of Maryland Ave. I could have sworn it was a little half street between Pacific and Atlantic and between Maryland and Delaware Aves, but I could be wrong..... On my last visit to the South Inlet I noticed a for sale sign on the synagogue. I thought that was a bit sad.....All of us guys from the South Inlet put in our time at Wolfie's Pennyland. For my money the best arcade their ever was. You could go down to Texas and Chelsea Ave to find the latest games but Wolfie's had the "The Classics. I remember the "Shoot the Bear ' game . If you hit the bear with a beam of light it roared up and reversed itself. The first gambling I ever did was on the "Catch the Marble " game. The player had to catch a metal marble with a small moving bucket and deposit into the safe port and was rewarded with a penny after catching a minimum of 3 of 5. Being good with hand to eye co-ordination I was able to play alot longer on just a little bit of money .....My favorite pinball game was "Hay Burners". There were six horses who moved corresponding to how many times you hit the bumpers until one of them won the race. I've seen a variation of the old pitch and hit baseball machines around. I still play a little pinball but not like back then......Didn't the Sodamat have automated drinks made by machines? ....Anyway thanks for the memories. They are good for our souls... has good map of the streets in Atlantic City."

Submitted by AC Eddie from Boardwalk West. Entered on September 25, 2007
"It's been a month and a half since I made my yearly sojourn back to AC. I took my wife to the South Inlet where I grew up. I must admit that I got rather saddened by the sight. I'd been there many times before of course but this time seemed to hit me harder than ever. Like Ratso and Luigi, I remember the joys and happiness we had so many years ago. Unfortunately our children and their children will never be able to enjoy the things we did. What has happened to this once great town is a real tragedy. I think our longing for those days it what keeps this blog alive and so enjoyable.....I did visit the new museum at Gardener's Basin. I loved seeing and touching the old "Steel Pier Diving Bell". I lamented for my days playing Little League on the same piece of ground back in the late 50's. I was alarmed however at how dirty the old seawall was just steps away from the new museum. Of course I made my pilgrimage to "The White House" and to "Tony's Baltimore Grill".... "Pennyland", "The Globe Theater" and "The Dude Ranch" are all distant memories along with all the great art deco movie houses.... The Absecon Light House still stands as a monolith to a time gone by,like the one in Stanley Kubrick's "2001 A Space Odyssey". If my thoughts have caused you any sadness I apologize in advance. As the Doomsday Clock ticks ever closer to thermonuclear World War III and the world seems so out of balance [Koyaanisqatsi], I can't help but to hold onto the sweet memories of my childhood in the South Inlet. Keep those cards and letters coming in kiddies "

Submitted by Eddie Lischin from Boardwalk West. Entered on February 25, 2007
"Hurricanes and Nor'easters were always exciting at Blum's. The store was about one foot below sea level and anytime the ocean rose with an accompanied deluge we had to break out the sand bags and the custom fit piece of plywood and block the front entrance. Once that had been done we lifted things off the floor and moved them to higher places. The funny thing is the plywood and sand bags reached about midway up the front door and we sold things over this barricade. Of course if the water level rose to an unmanageable level we would close the store and I would run down to Oriental and the Boardwalk and jump from the top railing into the bay by the T jetty. What a bunch of thrill seekers showed up there. I can remember a few times that people actually rowed boats around the South Inlet to get around."

Submitted by Eddie Lischin from Boardwalk West. Entered on November 13, 2006
"Barry, every once in a while I take a nostalgic cruise through your photos. The movie theatres are exceptional. I didn't remember many of them until I saw them on your website. I noticed you have a postcard image of the Astor Theatre. Being a South Inlet kid, I went there alot. I will never forget seeing "The Creeper" there. Scared the livin' daylights out of me. They used to have an old popcorn machine there. I remember putting a nickel in and placing the ready made bags around the spout which dispensed the popcorn. Probably worth a fortune now on "Antiques Roadshow" ....... My father's family meat market Lischin Brothers was right next door on the New Jersey Ave side and Sarkee's Soda fountain was on the Connecticut Ave side. The correct name may have been Sarkos but we affectionately called the old man who owned it Sarkee. Ratso may remember that place as it was close to his Congress ave neighborhood. Do you have any photos of Blum's grocery, Barry? If not I will see if my uncle Sheldon Blum has some in his memoribilia. Thanks for the memories. They are all that is really left of a magical time in my life."

Submitted by Eddie Lischin from Boardwalk West. Entered on November 4, 2006
"Thanks for the nice words Ron Green. Yes I remember Leon Chudnow and Murray Starr. leon's brother Joel was an original in "the Inlet Five" with myself, Norm Chazin , Rickey Bobbins and Eddie Goldstein. I can remember sitting in Leon's Bonneville while Joel waited for the green "COLD" light to go off. Leon told Joel not to drive the car until it went off. Of course I realize now how ridiculous that was......Altman field was where I cut my basketball teeth. I can remember many hours spent shooting hoops there as a child. My basketball memories are still vivid in my mind. I started organized b-ball at the Virginia Ave JCC with Uncle Sam Greenberg. I played for the Akiba Club. Didn't you play in that league, Ratso? I was fortunate enough to be chosen at the ripe age of 12 to represent Atlantic City on the St. Michael's team. Along with myself, Normie Chazin, Joel Chudnow, Eddie Goldstein and I believe Ronnie Gabler; we joined Bubby Walker and Wilfred Turner from the Arctic Ave Y.M.C.A. and Jimmie Rando, Mike Pavese, Marty Wilson, Joe Rich and the Bucci boys Georgie and Joe from St Michael's on the team. We travelled to Jersey City and competed against all-stars from other New Jersey towns for the right to represent NJ in the National Biddy Basketball tournament. We lost to the home standing Jersey City team led by a Dennis DeFeo in the final seconds on some bad calls. We were all heart broken. Does anybody remember the year that the National Biddy tournament was held in Convention Hall? The Atlantic City team was represented in part by Richie Goldstein, Kenny Mauer and Jimmy Bradley amongst others. I could go on and on.......Does anybody remember the Colonial Theatre? It was adjacent to the Hollywood Theatre on Atlantic. I remember it so well because my Aunt Anna Mae used to work the ticket booth and let us in for free. Just up the street on the same side was the Embassy Thetare and across the street and up a block or so was The Beach Theatre. I think it was tragic they could not preserve all those old Art Deco masterpieces. Oh well(sigh). Keep those cards and letters coming in because there are alot of people out there like myself who enjoy the hell out of them."

Submitted by Eddie Lischin from Boardwalk West. Entered on October 31, 2006
"Lucky You Julius. Thank you for a well written journey into "MemoryLand". I would give anything to walk through my old house. "Blums" was demolished sometime in the 80's I believe. I don't believe anyone other than our family ever lived there. I think it was built or perhaps purchased by my grandparents Ethel and Jack Blum back around the Depression Era . I am going to have to do some research on that subject................... It was a big brown 4 story cedar shake house with a brick first floor. The grocery store was located of course on the bottom level. It was actually about a foot below sea level and every time we had a hurricane or Nor'easter combined with an accompanying high tide, we had to "shlep" out the plywood board (cut to size to fit the grocery store entrance ) and the sand bags and get to work protecting the groceries from the water. We would move the items on the lowest shelves and on the floors to higher ground attempting to minimize the possible losses. Once I was done with the work I would join the kids in the South Inlet up at the end of Oriental Ave and the Boardwalk and jump off the top railing into the water. In retrospect maybe we were a little foolhardy but when you are young you are invincible or so it seems. I was certainly not the wildest or bravest in the bunch........................... The second story had three staircases to it. The first led to the porch at the front of the house. I remember sleeping on the porch many nights in the summer because inside was just too hot. I remember listening to the NY Giants game out there because of better reception on my little transistor radio. We also sat out as a family. The enighborhood was alive in the summer back then. There was an unmistakable "buzz" to the South Inlet. Many of the people were visitors and staying in the many "guest houses" which lined Vermont , Seaside, and the rest of the neighborhood. The guest houses were huge many of them 3 and 4 stories high. They came in all hues and tones many with elaborately designed porches and balconies . The South Inlet was really a visual treat in its hey day.................. Always more to come. Keep those cards and letters coming in."

Submitted by Eddie Lischin from Boardwalk West. Entered on October 22, 2006
"Thanks for the kind words about my entries , Joe from Pa. 1977. You experienced the "Last Days of the Golden Age in the South Inlet". Indeed Sylvia Lischin (born Sylvia Blum)was my mother and Jeryl Blum was my cousin. My mom worked in Blum's for over 30 years. She was an angel of a person. Many in the neighborhood came just to tell my mom the troubles they were having in their lives. She had an open heart and always listened attentively to them. Jeryl Blum was Sheldon Blum's daughter. You mentioned the drowning at Seaside Ave beach. Jack Lischin was my brother. He swam every day and so it was quite surprising they found him washed up there. Blum's was truly an Atlantic City landmark. I worked there in my younger years doing everything from selling at the cash register, unloading the van, stocking the shelves and delivering to customers. I have so many rich memories of my childhood in the South Inlet. It was a neighborhood with colorful characters and a rich history...... I often watch the Louis Malle movie "Atlantic City" starring an aging Burt Lancaster and a younger Susan Sarandon. I can remember delivering to the Vermont Apartments (Burt and Susan's residence in the movie). In the scene where they come out of the apartment building and onto the boardwalk, I can catch a glimpse of 231 Oriental; the big brown 4 story building which housed Blum's on the bottom floor. Many a morning, someone would climb the steps to the second floor, where we lived and beg us to open the store so they could get their morning danish pastry or bread from Ginsburg's Bakery..... There are many many memories and one day I hope I can put them all down in print and share them with everybody. Here are just a few. 1) the Merion Hotel fire at Oriental and Vermont Aves. 2) the many times we had to sandbag the entrance to Blum's for fear of flooding in a hurricane or high tide 3) the Astor Theatre (14 cents admission) 4) Sarkee's Soda Fountain (adjacent to the Astor and just two doors down from Lischin Bros Meat Market) 5) The Jewish Community Center on Virginia Ave 6) Kerstetter's Ice Cream Parlor on States Ave 7) Playing Little League ball on Capt Starn's team with mailman Hank MacDonald as manager. I can still remember the starting line-up on our championship team.......Film at 11:00. Thanks for all the entries and keep those cards and letters coming in!!!"

Submitted by Eddie (Blum's ) Lischin from Boardwalk West. Entered on May 11, 2006
"Ahhh...."The Inlet" . Say the secret word and collect $100. When the weather gets warm here on the West Coast, I often think about my childhood in the 50's growing up there. "Wolfies" arcade remains my favorite place. The times we had in there were really great. My favorite game was "Hayburners" It featured 8 Triple Crown horses racing one another using "advances" from certain bumpers. Horseracing was a favorite pasttime for many at "The Shore". The "Inlet" certainly had a strong cadre of followers and participants. If you didn't GO to the track you could always bet with the neighborhood "bookie". I've got alot of A.C. Race Track stories but thats for another time. Talking about horse racing ."Barbaro"!! Is he the first Triple Crown winner since 1978? My second favorite place was Steel Pier. It truly was an entertainment city at sea. That was a terrible loss. Anyway see ya in July!!"

Submitted by Eddie Lischin from Santa Cruz, CA. Entered on February 9, 2006
"Can't say that I ever hung out in Ducktown. I knew all those guys from Biddy Basketball and some from ACHS (those that didn't go to Holy Spirit). I had a crush on Shorty Sacco's niece but her name escapes me. It may have been Terry Sacco. Back then I just hung out in the South Inlet. It is my belief that the South Inlet began at New Jersey Ave and stretched from the boardwalk to Atlantic Ave. "

Submitted by Eddie Lischin from Santa Cruz. Entered on December 25, 2005
"Yes Dave, I can remember those days at the Virginia Ave JCC but perhaps not as well as you. I do remember all those things that "Uncle Sam" taught us.... "Its not who wins or loses but how you play the game that counts".. ..."If you don't have anything good to say , why say anything at all?". Such great advice, I still adhere to many of those.... Do you remember the oversized boxing gloves? Uncle Sam would break them out whenever there was a conflict brewing between two kids. He would take everybody into the handball court , strap the gloves on the combatants and let them punch themselves into submission. The gloves were so heavy and over padded that no one ever got hurt. I believe "Uncle Sam" guided more kids in a postive way than anybody I can think of during my life. He lived in the Soth Inlet of course in the apartment buliding on the corner of New Hapshire and Oriental Aves with his wife, Yetta if I am not mistaken........I can remember the JCC vividly. Ihad so many memories from that place. I can remember Mr Ross's Health(Sex) Education class, of course Joe's Pool Room with Ping Pong table room adjoining and the large auditorium on the second floor which housed many amateur acting plays and musical events. Eddie Goldstein's mom< Jean worked in the JCC office. Can anyone else jog my memory about some of the goings on at the "Old Center"?"

Submitted by Eddie Lischin from Santa Cruz. Entered on December 18, 2005
"I have been reading some of the entries. They should call this page "The Atlantic City of My Mind" because it doesn't exist anymore except in our minds and hearts. By reading other people's memories it helps to bring back some of my own which there are many. I was born in the South Inlet in Feb, 1946. One of my earliest memories was waking to my mother's pleading to get up out of bed and get out of the house. I looked out our bedroom window and all I could see was a wall of fire. It was the Merion Hotel fire just across from Blum's on the corner of Vermont and Oriental. I can't remember the exact year but I couldn't have been more than 5 or 6 years old. Eventually it was to be torn down because it was not restorable. It was like a ghost or skeleton of its former self. In future years it became a sandlot baseball field for the youth of the neighborhood. I was always amazed at how small the lot was to have housed such a big hotel. OK I am going to put out some names of places to see if they jog anybody's memories. Pat's Sub Shop(Atlantic between Vermont and New Hampshire), Gary's Restaurant( corner of Rhode Island and Oriental), Sarkie's Soda Place (next to the Astor Theater on Atlantic Aves between Connectuicut and New Jersey), The Picadilly Restaurant(on the corner of Pacific and Connecticut Aves). Pats was the very first place I ever gambled. He had one of those pinball machines with 30 holes in it, I believe. The display on the top of the machine (perpendicular) was like a bingo card actually many bingo cards. The object was to get at least three in a row to be awarded credits. Each credit was actually a nickel because once you earned enough credits you could cash it in to money. Gary's Restaurant was famous for "The Thing". It was a huge waffle covered with scoops and scoops of various flavored ice creams. The deal was , if you could finish one , by yourself, you didn't have to pay for it. Sarkie's was an old fashioned soda shop with the silver plated taps which dispensed seltzer water. he used to make a mean Vanilla 500. We used to stop there often because Lischin Bros meats was only two doors down and I often stopped in after visiting with my father. The Astor Theater was a great AC Inlet landmark. My earliest recollections was a .14 cent admission. The Picadilly restaurant was on the bottom floor of a hotel. I used to go there with Joe Goldstein amongst others. They had pizza comparable to Tony's which was only a short 5 minute walk away. They had one of those old bowling machines that used a hockey puck like ball to knock up the pins. I could go on and on about Wolfie's Penny Arcade on the boardwalk at Massachusetts Ave. I spent alot of money and many hours there. I've read some earlier memories on this site about it. If only I had collected the machines from that place. I loved "Hayburners". it was a pinball machine with triple Crown winners racing each other in a pinball format. I remember the rifle shooting bear game and the old style kinescope type movie shorts which you had to handcrank to make the still photos move. Last but not least was the penny game where you could win 3 cents if you caught the silver balls and placed them in your home base. Anybody?"

Submitted by Eddie Lischin from Santa Cruz. Entered on December 11, 2005
"Thank you for your kind comments all. Firstly , I am Eddie Lischin. My mother was a Blum. I think there was more celebrity attached to the "Blum" name and thus many people mistakenly call me Eddie Blum. Actually, my mother had a brother name Eddie Blum. That of course made him my Uncle Eddie. He owned a restaurant on the corner of Vermont and Pacific Aves, caddy corner to the Absecon Lighthouse Park. The "Adelphia Bar" was on the south corner across from "Eddie's Restaurant". I have always felt that somehow my life and especially my childhood was deserving a book. I am a walking encyclopaedia of 50's and 60's A.C. I really see my childhood as a special time in my life. Playing Little League in the North Inlet where Gardener's Basin is now. I played on the "Captain Starn's" team coached by "Mailman" Hank MacDonald. I never realized how important Hank would be in my life because he was the one who taught me how to bodysurf on New Hampshire Ave beach alongside the "T-Jetty". Since then i have bodysurfed in Hawaii, Thailand and of course in California where I presently live. I remember the wiffle ball games we played on the New Hampshire Ave beach. If you really "tagged" one you could reach the Boardwalk for a "round tripper". We actually played baseball , of some sort, at various venues around the South Inlet from Altman Field to the boardwalk sand lots (literally) at Seaside and New Hampshire aves. I'll never forget the time "Big" Paul Lavigna hit a baseball through Mr Haskell's picture window on Seaside Avenue. Oh so many rich stories to tell, but I must away to work now. "Can anybody tell me why the ACHS Class of 1964 link on this page does not function? Has the website been down? Is it being maintained? Barry Rich, I have submitted my email address if you want to contact me. I clicked your link but was unable to connect to yours. Everybody "Have a Happy Holiday Season"."

Submitted by AC Eddie from Santa Cruz,CA. Entered on December 7, 2005
"Born and raised in the South Inlet. I don't know really where to start because I have so many memories. I guess I could start with Massachusetts Ave School. My brothers and I and the rest of the Inlet Gang would walk to school from Oriental and Vermont. We owned Blums Grocery and Delicatessan. It was a time before supermarkets and K-marts and Wal-Marts and chain drugstores. It was a time when neighborhoods were still little communities and everybody knew each other. The corner butcher, the barber and the pharmacist all knew you by name. A haircut was .75 cents. aquart of milk was .32 cents. We had Ginsburg's bakery deliver fresh Kaiser rolls and assorted danish every morning. If Blum's wasn't open by 7 AM, people would come knocking at our door. "Blum, open up! We don't have milk for our coffee. We need to have some rolls for our breakfast." The store was an intinsic part of that community. I have so many fond memories of my childhood. Needless to say "It really was a kinder gentler time back in the 50's." I used to deliver groceries to the Vermont Ave Apartments, which of course made it to the "Silver Screen" in the Louis Malle picture "Atlantic City". I actually was able to see my old house as Burt Lancaster and Susan Sarandon exited the apartment building onto the Boardwalk on her way to her job training at the casino. My home is no longer there, having been razed like so many others in the South inlet. What used to be one of the greatest neighborhoods in Atlantic City is now a vast prairie waiting to be the site of some giant casino. The Steel Pier, Steeplechase Pier, Million Dollar Pier, Wolfie's Penny Arcade, Louis Artist Village, Planter's Peanuts all gone but not forgotten. I can remmber sitting in brand new cars at the GM Showroom next to Steel Pier. I would daydream about owning a big new American car when I got older. Of course now that I live in California, I own a fuel efficient Japanese car. I still live by the Boardwalk but here in Santa Cruz, it's made of concrete not wood. There is so much more to write but I must ready myself to go to work now. Please tell me if you enjoyed this brief trip down memory lane. I have much more to impart. tell me what you'd like to hear about. Does anybody remember the Astor Theatre on Atlantic ave between New Jersey and Connecticut Aves? I remember the admission was .14 cents at one time. How about "Cowboy Morning" on Steel Pier sponored by Borden's and promoted by "Elsie the Cow"? Was George Hamid really the first Al Qaida?"

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Portrait of an Artist

This post is dedicated to my friend, Perry Rubenstein.

In some patients who had turned away from their mother, in dislike or hate, or used other mechanisms to get away from her, I have found that there existed in their minds nevertheless a beautiful picture of the mother, but one who was felt to be a picture of her only, not her real self. The real object was felt to be unattractive—really an injured, incurable and therefore dreaded person. The beautiful picture had been dislocated from the real object but had never been given up, and played a great part in the specific ways of their sublimation.
Melanie Klein, Love, Guilt and Reparation.
Three nights before his death, . . .
Martin Gregor-Dellin, Richard Wagner: His Life, His Work, His Century.
Almost poetically, . . .
Peter Gay, Freud: A Life for Our Time.
. . . he dreamed of meeting . . .
Martin Gregor-Dellin, Richard Wagner: His Life, His Work, His Century.
. . . his mother . . .
Richard Wagner, Parsifal.
. . . looking young and attractive and altogether unlike his early recollections of her.
Martin Gregor-Dellin, Richard Wagner: His Life, His Work, His Century.
Yet again the occasion for the dream was a real event. The day before . . .
Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams.
. . . he had received . . .
Charles Dickens, The Old Curiosity Shop.
. . . a photograph of his mother as a young woman. He looked at it, long and closely, remarking in a scarcely audible tone: "Fantastic!" Was this the bond of trust and the sense of "I" connecting mother and newborn, old man and "Ultimate Other"?
Lawrence J. Friedman, Identity's Architect: A Biography of Erik H. Erikson.
Everything in the sphere of this first attachment to the mother seemed to me so difficult to grasp in analysis—so grey with age and shadowy and almost impossible to revivify—that it was as if it has succumbed to an especially inexorable repression.
Sigmund Freud, Female Sexuality.
Later in life, it became quite difficult for me to recapture how deeply attached I must have been to . . .
Sophie Freud, My Three Mothers and Other Passions.
. . . my mother, . . .
William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet.
. . . but I have numerous childhood photographs in which I melt into her body, while she, always beautifully dressed, stares into the camera. I continue to feel anguish, puzzlement and guilt about my frozen feelings toward this . . .
Sophie Freud, My Three Mothers and Other Passions.
. . . mother . . .
Gloria Vanderbilt, A Mother’s Story.
. . . who seems to have loved me so much. This relationship has set the stage for my constant yearning to be intensely loved, while I remain terrified of the costs should this ever really happen.
Sophie Freud, My Three Mothers and Other Passions.
Of late I have been increasingly able to catch, if I listen attentively, the sound of the sobs . . . which broke out only when I found myself alone with Mamma. Actually, their echo . . .
Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past.
. . . the echo of an original identity . . .
Otto Rank, Art and Artist.
. . . has never ceased: it is only because life is now growing more and more quiet round about me that I hear them afresh, like those convent bells which are so effectively drowned during the day by the noises of the streets . . .
Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past.
. . . just as lamplight is nullified by the light of day . . .
Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy.
. . . that one would suppose them to have been stopped for ever, until they sound out again through the silent evening air.
Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past.
Desire is our door into the world. We see shapes there and want them and we go after them into the world. But desire is our door out again also when the shapes we saw leave our desires unsatisfied. What could we ever have wanted? More than a door to enter, the world offers us a prospect to peer into whose shapes suggest a reality which they, themselves, are not. . . . Reality is shapeless and disparate . . .
William Bronk, Vectors and Smoothable Curves.
A certain dream, or fantasy, that kept recurring gained in meaning for me. The dream, the most important and enduringly significant of my life, went something like this: I was returning to my father's house—above the entrance glowed the heraldic bird, yellow on a blue background; in the house itself . . .
Hermann Hesse, Demian.
. . . through the glass door . . .
D.H. Lawrence, Sons and Lovers.
. . . my mother was coming toward me—but as I entered and wanted to embrace her, it was not she but a form I had never set eyes on before, tall and strong, resembling Max Demian and the picture I had painted; yet different, for despite its strength it was completely feminine. This form drew me to itself and enveloped me in a deep, tremulous embrace. I felt a mixture of ecstasy and horror—the embrace was at once an act of divine worship and a crime. Too many associations with my mother and friend commingled with this figure embracing me. Its embrace violated all sense of reverence, yet it was bliss. Sometimes I awoke from this dream with a feeling of profound ecstasy, at others in mortal fear and with a racked conscience as though I had committed some terrible crime.
Hermann Hesse, Demian.
To the extent that the maternal image is a derivative of the mother, it too is separated into good and bad.
Sheldon Cashdan, Object Relations Therapy.
Only gradually and unconsciously did this very intimate image become linked with the hint about the God I was to search for, the hint that had come to me from the outside. The link grew closer and more intimate and I began to sense that I was calling on Abraxas particularly in this dreamed presentiment. Delight and horror, man and woman commingled, the holiest and most delicate innocence: that was the appearance of my love-dream image and Abraxas, too. . . . It was the image of an angel and Satan, man and woman in one flesh, man and beast, the highest good and the worst evil. It seemed my preordained fate. I yearned for it but feared it at the same time. It was ever-present, hovering constantly above me.
Hermann Hesse, Demian.
It was an apparition that came and went. Sometimes it came up close, looking at me through the glass, smiling before disappearing. Would it ever return? And who was it? Mother—I was told.
Gloria Vanderbilt, A Mother’s Story.
He adored and depended on his mother and yearned to approach her for the satisfaction of his needs, but he could not help fearing, avoiding and defying her. He was torn by his love and hatred of her. This paralyzing conflict of ambivalence forced an early splitting of his mother's image.
Ruth Abraham, Freud's Mother Conflict and the Formulation of the Oedipal Father.
I often saw the beloved apparition of my dream with a clarity greater than life, more distinct than my own hand, spoke with it, wept before it, cursed it. I called it mother and knelt down in front of it in tears. I called it my beloved and had a premonition of its ripe all-fulfilling kiss. I called it devil and whore, vampire and murderer. It enticed me to the gentlest love-dreams and to devastating shamelessness, nothing was too good and precious, nothing was too wicked and low for it.
Hermann Hesse, Demian.
In the images of a poet and a painter we find these opposites fused. The lost parent is both dead and alive, absent but enduring, far and near.
Martha Wolfenstein, The Image of the Lost Parent.
"Living" aesthetic forms of responsive creative illusion may supersede actual persons in living form.
Gilbert J. Rose, Necessary Illusion: Art as Witness.
In my life I had been like a painter climbing a road high above a lake, a view of which is denied him by a curtain of rocks and trees. Suddenly through a gap in the curtain he sees the lake, its whole expanse is before him, he takes up his brushes.
Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past.
Art saves him, and through art—life.
Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy.
And as art exactly reconstitutes life, around the truths to which we have attained inside ourselves there will always float an atmosphere of poetry, the soft charm of a mystery which is merely a vestige of the shadow which we have had to traverse, the indication, as precise as the markings of an altimeter, of the depth of a work . . .
Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past.
. . . which constitutes . . .
Charles Darwin, Origin of Species.
. . . the visible reflections of . . .
Victor Hugo, Les Miserables.
. . . the depths of an individual's inner psyche.
Lawrence J. Friedman, Identity's Architect: A Biography of Erik H. Erikson.
What is otherwise contradiction assumes for the artist the aspect of rich ambiguity. The boundness to an ever-living past, which prevents the neurotic from living in the present, provides the artist with the source and substance of his work, which embodies, in Proust's phrase, "the past recaptured."
Martha Wolfenstein, The Image of the Lost Parent.
The poet sees his mother as both the liberator and the confiner of his sexual identity. Her body is the child's bridge to the other worlds, the worlds before birth and after death.
Leonard Shengold, Soul Murder.
Life stared at him, filled with secrets, a somber, unfathomable world, a rigid forest bristling with fairy-tale dangers—but these were mother secrets, they came from her, led to her, they were the small dark circle, the tiny abyss in her clear eye.

So much of his forgotten childhood surged up during these mother dreams, so many small flowers of memory bloomed from the endless depth of forgetfulness, golden-faced premonition-scented memories of childhood emotions, of incidents perhaps, or perhaps of dreams. Occasionally he'd dream of fish, black and silver, swimming toward him, cool and smooth, . . .
Hermann Hesse, Narcissus and Goldmund.
. . . shapes seen through the doorway of desire . . .
Gilbert J. Rose, Necessary Illusion: Art as Witness.
. . . swimming into him, through him, coming like messengers bearing joyous news of a more gracious, more beautiful reality and vanishing, tails flipping, shadowlike, gone, having brought new enigmas rather than messages. Or he'd dream of swimming fish and flying birds, and each fish or bird was his creature, depended on him, could be guided like a breath, radiated from him like an eye, like a thought, returned to him. Or he'd dream of a garden, a magic
garden . . .
Hermann Hesse, Narcissus and Goldmund.
The truth surely was that the being within me which had enjoyed these impressions had enjoyed them because they had in them something that was common to a day long past and to the present, because in some way they were extra-temporal, and this being . . .
Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past.
. . . a supernatural being, . . .
Webster's Third New International Dictionary.
. . . twined with the chant of my soul, . . .
Walt Whitman, Excerpt from When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd.
. . . made its appearance only when, through one of these identifications of the present with the past, it was likely to find itself in the one and only medium in which it could exist and enjoy the essence of things, that is to say: outside time.
Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past.
Yes, my friends, believe with me . . .
Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy.
The echoes by which . . .
George Steiner, In Bluebeard's Castle.
. . . the inconceivable mystery of a soul . . .
Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness.
. . . seeks to determine the reach, the logic and authority of its own voice, come from the rear. Evidently, the mechanisms at work are complex and rooted in diffuse but vital needs . . .
George Steiner, In Bluebeard's Castle.
. . . of continuity and . . .
Jack London, Before Adam.
. . . of self, of security and identity.
Leonard Shengold, Soul Murder.
The illusion of a responsive presence in the form of art confirms that I am I . . .
Gilbert J. Rose, Necessary Illusion: Art as Witness.
—that elusive it . . .
Gloria Vanderbilt, A Mother’s Story.
. . . establishes a sort of identity . . .
Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past.
. . . and, like art, itself, perhaps perfectible in the confident expectation of a future which one knows is also an illusion, while true as far as it goes because in the service of life.
Gilbert J. Rose, Necessary Illusion: Art as Witness.
This fantasy, if you transpose it into the domain of what is for each one of us the sole reality, the domain of his own sensibility, becomes the truth.
Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past.
And it is true that each genuine recovery of forgotten experience and, with it, something of the person that one was when having the experience carries with it an element of enrichment, adds to the light of consciousness, and thus widens the conscious scope of one's life.
Ernest G. Schachtel, Metamorphosis.
So that my personality of today may be compared to an abandoned quarry, which supposes everything it contains to be uniform and monotonous, but from which memory, selecting here and there, can like some Greek sculptor, extract . . .
Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past.
. . . between the temple ruins . . .
Sigmund Freud, The Future of an Illusion.
. . . innumerable different statues.
Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past.
Each man's life represents a road toward himself, an attempt at such a road, the intimation of a path. No man has ever been entirely and completely himself. Yet each one strives to become that—one in an awkward, the other in a more intelligent way, each as best he can. Each man carries the vestiges of his birth—the slime and eggshells of his primeval past—with him to the end of his days. Some never become human remaining frog, lizard, ant. Some are human above the waist, fish below. Each represents a gamble on the part of nature in creation of the human. We all share the same origin, our mothers; all of us come in at the same door. But each of us—experiments of the depths—strives toward his own destiny.
Hermann Hesse, Demian.
This awareness . . .
Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, Freud's Moses.
. . that I am I . . .
Gilbert J. Rose, Necessary Illusion: Art as Witness.
. . is also an inheritance.
Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, Freud's Moses.
And now . . .
A.E. Housman, Excerpt from Oh, When I Was in Love with You.
Let us ask what precisely . . .
Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil.
. . . are these "shapes" the poet insistently refers to—shapes seen through the doorway of desire leading into the world?
Gilbert J. Rose, Necessary Illusion: Art as Witness.
Beyond any doubt . . .
Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil.
They are shapes of early feeling . . .
Gilbert J. Rose, Necessary Illusion: Art as Witness.
. . . modeled on memories or fantasies of an Edenic state . . .
Maynard Solomon, Beethoven.
. . . sought in the outside world, to be recaptured in the present, if only through the beneficence of the controlled illusion that is art: an objective realization that witnesses the ongoing interplay between self and other, luring life on beyond itself in the illusion of a future attuned to transformations at higher levels of the same resonating responsiveness that existed in the beginning.
Gilbert J. Rose, Necessary Illusion: Art as Witness.
And presently it became quiet and secret around; but from the depth the sound of a bell came up slowly.
Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra.
The hour has come!—
Richard Wagner, Parsifal.
It's time! It's late!
Friedrich Nietzsche, Excerpt from From High Mountains: Aftersong.
How it sighs! How it laughs in a dream! Old deep, deep midnight!

Still! Still! Here things are heard that by day may not become loud; but now in the cool air, when all the noise of your hearts too has become still—now it speaks, now it is heard, now it steals into nocturnal, overawake souls. Alas! Alas!
Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra.
He sighed deeply, closed his eye, and,
as in a dream, whispered these words:
Richard Wagner, Gotterdammerung.
Now I will do nothing but listen,
To accrue what I hear into this song, to let sounds
contribute toward it.
Walt Whitman, Excerpt from Song of Myself.
I hear a . . .
Henry David Thoreau, Walden.
. . . macabre rhythm . . .
K.R. Eissler, Talent and Genius.
. . . that continues . . .
James Fenimore Cooper, The Pioneers.
. . . beyond the grave in the manner of echoes that go on sounding long after the original voice has become silent.
K.R. Eissler, Talent and Genius.
Something sinister in the tone
Told me my secret must be known:
Word I was in the house alone
Somehow must have gotten abroad,
Word I was in my life alone,
Word I had no one left but God.
Robert Frost, Excerpt from Bereft.
Now I . . .
Walt Whitman, Excerpt from Song of Myself.
—I alone . . .
Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness.
. . . Frozen in a moment—
George Gordon, Lord Byron, Manfred.
. . . feel the puzzle of puzzles, . . .
Walt Whitman, Excerpt from Song of Myself.
. . . the great riddle . . .
Sigmund Freud, Notes Upon a Case of Obsessional Neurosis.
And that . . .
Walt Whitman, Excerpt from Song of Myself.
. . . that . . .
Gloria Vanderbilt, A Mother’s Story.
. . . we call Being.
Walt Whitman, Excerpt from Song of Myself.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Paradise Lost

Everyone goes through a crisis in adolescence. For the average person this is the point when the demands of his own life come into the sharpest conflict with his environment, when the way forward has to be sought with the bitterest means at his command. Many people experience the dying and rebirth--which is our fate--only this once during their entire life. Their childhood becomes hollow and gradually collapses, everything they love abandons them and they suddenly feel surrounded by the loneliness and moral cold of the universe. Very many are caught forever in this impasse, and for the rest of their lives cling painfully to an irrevocable past, the dream of the lost paradise--which is the worst and most ruthless of dreams.

Life seemed rather daunting to me in adolescence. It seems so to me even now. Life seemed like too long a time to have to stick around, a huge span of years through which one would be required to settle on a career and forge a new path in the world. I was tired of life by the time I was sixteen. I was tired of being too much, too intense, too depressed.

The dissonance in the brain is extreme at this point. Some children have the capacity to bore through it. I didn't. The idea of my future simultaneously thrilled and terrified me, like standing at the lip of a very sheer cliff--I could fly, or fall. I didn't know how to fly, and I didn't want to fall. So I backed away from the cliff and went in search of something that had a clear, solid trajectory for me to follow, like the line from third base to home plate.

I projected my dream of the lost paradise of childhood onto history itself and I became obsessed with the seeming decline of Western Civilization. It appeared to me that with Richard Strauss (1864-1949) music reflecting the human world vanished and all that remained of music was dissonance and disarray. The novel found its last representative, so I thought, in Proust (1871-1922). Heidegger once again turned full face toward pure metaphysics. And I became convinced, and mournfully obsessed with the view, that Auguste Rodin was the last sculptor of human woes, passions and felicities. I remember visiting the Rodin Museum in Philadelphia at age sixteen, and, gazing at the artist's work, thinking that with the passing of Rodin European culture had entered an irrevocable decline. What now dominated music, art and literature, so I thought, was dehumanized abstractions, which are of crushing proportions when they are wielded by a towering mind. In college, after reading a book about Freud and his work, I was sure that psychoanalysis never recovered from the loss of its founder: were not discoveries in the fields of the dream and of sex nowadays made in dehumanized laboratories that conducted investigations?

Most history seems to carry on its back vestiges of paradise. At some point in more or less remote times things were better, almost golden. A deep concordance lay between man and the natural setting. The myth of the Fall runs stronger than any particular religion. There is hardly a civilization, perhaps hardly an individual consciousness, that does not carry inwardly an answer to intimations of a sense of distant catastrophe. Somewhere a wrong turn was taken in that "dark and sacred wood," after which man has had to labor, socially, psychologically, against the natural grain of being.

In adolescence I became obsessed with the idea of the decline of the West. Thus did my preoccupation with the squandered utopia of nineteenth-century romanticism reflect my psychological struggle, in symbolic form, in adolescence, with the dream of the lost paradise of my own childhood.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Great Irony of Life

by Suzanne Jacobson

The great irony of life is that by the time you figure out how to live it, it's over. The torment of life's third decade, often discarded by those who forgot with the justification that youth alone is a great elixir, is wretchedly undocumented.

Perhaps the great literary bore of "coming-of-age" is to blame. But, then aren't humans constantly coming of age? If great lessons ever cease to transform my way of seeing the world, I shall walk into the forest in the guise of a great elk during hunting season.

Life's third decade offers imperative lessons. The 20s are an era of struggle, of self-establishment, a tug-of-war between the still lingering great dreams of youth and life's often stark realities.

The practicalities. The realization of the steps necessary to reach the Goal. And the subsequent discovery that one might not be willing to do what it takes to arrive there.

To be truly great at one thing necessarily implies the forgoing of many other minute pleasures. It's not that everyone can't be Great. On the contrary, not many have the stomach for what it takes.

The distractions are plentiful and enticing, and in the end, greatness is most likely an isolating phenomenon. Eccentricities developed during the pursuit contain possibilities of alienation.

(Or, perhaps our culture is less tolerant of them. Perhaps America's commercialization is killing greatness.)

But to create something lasting and substantial as judged by the annals of history, that is where humans can discover redemption.

We are but mere mortals. Attempts at adding to the collective unconscious shared by all living beings, and possibly those deceased, is in my opinion, what should define a life.

Everything else is superfluous.

During life's 20s, foundations set precedent, and the gravity of everyday choices is an exhausting burden to bear. The recklessness of youth slowly erodes, replaced by the desire to categorize ambiguity. The rush cuts the journey short, cementing a life well before events unfold at their own -- often glacial -- pace.

The opposite is equally terrifying: Prolonging the journey with selfish stoicism masked in dedication, eradicating any chance for mortal happiness.

The 20s are when the majority of journey prolonging or shortening decisions are made. And I, for one, wish there were more documentation of man's struggle through the decade.

Come, Creative Spirit!

Friday, December 07, 2007

Saved by Strauss

I came near to killing myself. I saw no other way out. Why didn't I do it?

When I was in my twenties I suffered a period of intense depression, what psychiatrists term clinical depression. One day I resolved with conviction to kill myself. I still remember clearly the details of that dark and tormented period, the days leading up to my contemplated suicide.

A phenomenon that a number of people have noted while in deep depression is the sense of being accompanied by a second self--a wraithlike observer who, not sharing the dementia of his double, is able to watch with dispassionate curiosity as his companion struggles against the oncoming disaster, or decides to embrace it. There is a theatrical quality about all this, and during the several days after I decided to kill myself, as I went about stolidly preparing for extinction, I couldn't shake off a sense of melodrama--a melodrama in which, I the victim-to-be of self-murder, was both the solitary actor and lone member of the audience. I had not yet chosen the mode of departure, but I knew that that step would come next, and soon, as inescapable as nightfall.

I watched myself in mingled terror and fascination as I began to make the necessary preparation, spending part of a couple of afternoons in a muddled attempt to bestow upon posterity a letter of farewell. It turned out that putting together a suicide note, which I felt obsessed with a necessity to compose, was the most difficult task of writing that I had ever tackled. There were too many people to acknowledge, to thank, to bequeath final bouquets. And finally I couldn't manage the sheer dirgelike solemnity of it; there was something I found almost comically offensive in the pomposity of such a comment as "For some time now I have sensed in my work a growing psychosis that is doubtless a reflection of the psychotic strain tainting my life" (this is one of the few lines I recall verbatim), as well as something degrading in the prospect of a testament, which I wished to infuse with at least some dignity and eloquence, reduced to an exhausted stutter of inadequate apologies and self-serving explanations. I should have used as an example the mordant statement of the Italian writer Cesare Pavese, who in parting wrote simply: No more words. An act. I'll never write again.

But even a few words came to seem to me too long-winded, and I tore up all my efforts, resolving to go out in silence. Late one bitterly cold night, when I knew that I could not possibly get myself through the following day, I sat in my room bundled up against the chill. I forced myself to watch the tape of a movie, one of my favorites, The Year of Living Dangerously. At one point in the film, which is set in Indonesia in the mid-1960s, a character plays a phonograph recording of a song by Richard Strauss, one of the Four Last Songs, titled "Going to Sleep." There came a soprano voice, and a sudden soaring passage on the violin.

And my ardent longing shall
the stormy night in friendship
enfold like a tired child.

Hands, leave all work,
brow, forget all thought.
Now all my senses
long to sink themselves in slumber.

And the spirit unguarded
longs to soar on free wings,
so that, in the magic circle of night,
it may live deeply, and a thousandfold.

This sound, which like all music--indeed, like all pleasure--I had been numbly unresponsive to for months, pierced my heart like a dagger, and in a flood of swift recollection I thought of all the joys I had known. This I realized was more than I could ever abandon, even as what I had set out so deliberately to do was more than I could inflict on those memories. And just as powerfully I realized I could not commit this desecration on myself. I drew upon some last gleam of sanity to perceive the terrifying dimensions of the moral predicament I had fallen into and I resolved not to kill myself.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Underdog

In a profound sense, I have always remained the underdog. All my life I have 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. Some days I chisel my way through time, 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 upon himself. In my case, the deep reservoir of vehemence I carry within me backs up at times, and I am plunged into fathomless gloom. At such times, thoughts of self-destruction are never far away.

What a creature of strange moods I am. In times of disappointment, rejection, or bereavement, feelings of hopelessness overwhelm me. I told my psychiatrist: "I don't like standing near the edge of a subway platform when a train is passing through. I like to stand back as far as possible to get a pillar between me and the train. A second's action would end everything."

I've no desire to quit this world, but thoughts, desperate thoughts, come into the head. Like Nietzsche I believe that the thought of suicide is a powerful comfort: it helps one through many a dreadful night.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

my niece

Monday, December 03, 2007

The Indian Ascetic and I

The disillusionment of the Indian ascetic is very similar to the chronic pessimism so characteristic of me. It is my profound belief that happiness is a myth and that attachments bring nothing but pain; one day they must all be relinquished or they will become too draining. The outcome of such philosophy of life leads to a withdrawal, similar to the Indian ascetic's, into my inner world. Hence, the inability to reach happiness through external reality and involvement with others is the Indian ascetic's main problem, as it is mine. In this instance, then, when I describe this aspect of the Indian ascetic's character, I am really writing about myself. The involvement with our inner world is a characteristic we hold in common. I have a way of losing myself in my creative spells and daydreams, from which I emerge a bit dazed and disoriented; similarly, the Indian ascetic withdraws into himself after reading the Sacred Texts, only to be jarred, at times, by the happy trumpeting of the elephant herd.

Finally, just as the Indian ascetic is unable to find satisfaction in a heterosexual relation and falls back more and more on the illusion of happiness and fulfillment, so we find that I flee from an involvement with women to the warmth and security of my room, with a warm rug and an inviting collection of books, and the illusion of a mother who, in my fantasies, hovers over me, catering to my every whim, ordering the household around my needs, and treating me with respect and awe. Both the Indian ascetic and I are too self-involved to develop a true object-relation to members of the opposite sex. For both of us, the roots of disillusion seem to center on the inability of real people to fulfill the primitive needs of a narcissistic nature.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Why I Write

From a very early age, perhaps the age of five or six, I knew that when I grew up I should be a writer, a writer of some sort. I was somewhat lonely as a child, and I soon developed disagreeable mannerisms which made me unpopular throughout my schooldays. I had the lonely child's habit of making up stories and holding imaginary conversations with imaginary persons, and I think from the very start my literary ambitions were mixed up with the feeling of being isolated and undervalued. I knew that I had a facility with words and a power of facing unpleasant facts, and I felt that this created a sort of private world in which I could get my own back for my failure in everyday life.

Together with early writings, I started carrying out a literary exercise of quite a different kind: this was the making up of a continuous "story" about myself, a sort of diary existing only in the mind. I believe this is a common habit of children and adolescents. My "story" became a description of what I was doing and the things I saw. For minutes at a time this kind of thing would be running through my head: "He pushed the door open and entered the room. A yellow beam of sunlight, filtering through the muslin curtains, slanted on to the table, where a matchbox, half-open, lay beside the ashtray. With his right hand in his pocket he moved across to the window . . . etc., etc." This habit continued till I was about twenty-five. Since I started writing regularly, later in adulthood, this habit abated.

What does writing mean for me? It is exalting to search and find, or create, the right word, that is, commensurate, concise, and strong; to dredge up events from my memory and describe them with the greatest rigor and the least clutter. Paradoxically, my baggage of atrocious memories became a wealth, a seed; it seemed to me that, by writing, I was growing like a plant.