The Freedman Archives: Part II

The following is a collection of letters written by Gary Freedman to his imagined friend.

Friday, March 26, 2004

One Fine Day


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


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