The Freedman Archives: Part II

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

Friday, May 21, 2004

It's Legal In Massachusetts


Hey, buddy. What's up? Have these lazy, hazy, cicada-ridden days of late May got you down?
You know, people have been coming up to me on the street, they've been stopping me on the street, and been saying--have been asking me: "Hey, Freedman, what did you think, what did you really think and feel, at the moment, the very moment when William and the good officers of the Metro DC police force told you that you were banned from the Cleveland Park library, after all those years of daily visits? I mean, it must have been rough, devastating really? Well? What was it like for you?"
I have to admit, buddy, at first I was afraid. I was petrified. I was thinking, "I don't know how I could ever live without you by my side." But I grew strong. And I learned how to get along.
And the rest, as they, say, is a pack of letters!
No major opus today. I'm written out. Three major letters in one week is about all I can handle. Like I've said before I'm no Balzac. Even Balzac limited himself to about three major novels per year. That white heat of inspiration can wear a guy out. Then there's always carpal tunnel syndrome to worry about. Too much time at the keyboard--well, you know what they say. You might end up growing hair on your palms.
I was thinking recently, "What would Brian do if I were to call him at the library? Would he get all professional on me and say something like: 'Mr. Freedman, I don't think it's appropriate that we chat on the telephone.'" Or would you agree to meet with me outside the library. What if I were to call you and ask you out to lunch? What would you do? Get all professional on me? Hide behind that veil of professionalism? Is that what you'd do?
The fact is my psychiatrist, Dr. Cooper, suggested that I talk to you. Try to get close to you. Make a social approach to you. Doctor's orders, so to speak. I think it's a little hypocritical of you to, on the one hand, chastise me about not taking the medication that was prescribed for me by my doctor, and yet, on the other, refuse to respond to my social overtures, overtures that were prescribed by that very same doctor. See my point? Isn't that a little inconsistent? The bottom line is--it's you, buddy--you--who are the medication. Medication itself--literal medication--chemical formulations--are a means to an end. That end is social adjustment. Chemicals are a way for a mentally whacked-out person to get into the normal social groove.
The ultimate aim remains, in the end, that social groove. Making a friend, or a group of friends. In the end, the friends are a kind of maintenance therapy. You hook up with friends, and that keeps you on the right track in life. Friends are like non-chemical therapy. You see them, or talk to them periodically--you "ingest them," as it were, periodically, like you would take medication. The aim is to keep you normal, to keep you human.
Simply pumping a person full of meds, with no hope that that person will enter that higher level of functioning is pointless and, really, a little grotesque. It's like the courts ordering a criminally-insane prisoner to be medicated so he can be executed. What are the meds for, in that case? So he can be normal for a few moments before he faces execution?
What are meds for in my case? Make me non-paranoid so I can sit in my apartment alone, and just look at the four walls in a normal mental state? Stare at the TV all day without delusions intruding on my loneliness? I mean what's the point? What's the fucking point?
Think about it. You and the other humans out there are the meds. The ultimate meds. I really think I've hit upon something here. An intriguing paradigm. "Freedman is bad and dangerous because he's not taking his meds. But I, Brian Brown, am good and innocent--an innocent potential victim of Freedman's madness. I, Brian Brown, am the good object, medication is the good object. Freedman has a duty to take meds (in fact, under the law I don't--but, of course, you're not a lawyer), but I have no moral duty to respond to Freedman's social overtures, despite the fact that I've been obsessed with him for the last 12 years and despite the fact that Freedman's own doctor has recommended that Freedman be friendly with me. I, Brian Brown, have no duty to do anything. I'm just a passive object, just like the good old pills in the bottle."
Is that a keen insight into a psychological situation, or is that just my illness speaking? Maybe if I took my meds I wouldn't be having these thoughts. But, hey, look at Oliver Wendell Holmes--a brilliant guy, a logical guy, a lawyer. He was a pathological letter writer. He was a little whacked himself. Some of his ideas were a little off the Supreme Court wall, if you know what I mean. Should he have taken meds, assuming there had been any in his day? Would the Metro DC police be saying to old Oliver, "Listen, buddy. You seem a little strung out. Maybe you need to be taking something. Sure you're a bright guy, but mental illness is mental illness. It's just not normal for a guy to be writing all those letters you've been writing. Writing letters is no substitute for real social relations. And that's what you've been doing, Mr. Holmes. You hide behind your robes writing letters, squirreled away in your study writing letters to your 'friend' Fredric. That's not normal, dude. That's not healthy. That's not the way to make real friends."
I don't know. But, hey, I'm nuts.
Then there's Dr. Bash, The Mad Monk. "You should ask Brian to lunch. You and Brian should go to lunch." Granted, Dr. Bash is a psychologist. Legally, she can't prescribe. But that's her recommendation. Just who do you think you are, Brian, refusing the recommendation of an employee of the D.C. Department of Mental Health? An employee of your own employer. The D.C. Government.
Am I getting a little needy? Putting too much pressure on you? Like you never put pressure on me! "Freedman, you gotta take your meds!"
Funny thing. Back to my paradigm. Back to the issue of duty. Notice how you would say you have no duty to be my friend. But you imply I have a duty to take meds that have been prescribed by my physician. That's fucked up, man. The legal fact is, I have no duty to take meds. Just like you have no duty to be my friend, I HAVE NO DUTY TO TAKE MEDS. My paradigm is a perfect symmetry. A psychoanalyst might be intrigued by that. I wonder what old Dr. Palombo would say about that. The way you've turned everything around. You deny your own duty, and project that on to me. "I, Brian Brown, have no duty to respond to Freedman's social overtures, but Freedman has a duty to take meds." That's whacked, Brian. That's what the analysts would call a paranoid transformation: reversal and projection.
What would you do if I called the cops on you? "Officer, my psychologist says I should go to lunch with Brian, but Brian refuses. Are you going to enforce my psychologist's recommendation?" Officer Williams: "That sounds like a civil matter." Freedman: "Well, I'm not so sure. Dr. Bash, the mad monk, is an employee of the D.C. government; I think her recommendations carry some legal authority in this jurisdiction."
The ultimate symmetry is this. Just as I have no duty to take meds, you have no duty to be my friend. But, other people have made recommendations. That's all. Neither recommendation--the recommendation to take meds nor the recommendation that we be friends--is legally enforceable. And when you look at it, who's being more rational, who's being more reasonable. You? Really? You, Brian? "Call the cops on Freedman. He's not doing what he has a legal right not to do?" What if I called the cops on you, Brian, and said: "Hey, officers, Brian isn't doing what he has no legal duty to do, namely, go to lunch with me as was recommended by my psychologist." At least I have the sanity--crazy as I am--not to do that. I think the cops might really haul me off to St. Elizabeths if I called them and told them that.
You know what I think, Brian. I think, fundamentally, you're just a selfish MF'er. One total social MF'er. A Master of Fraud. We all know what you've been up to, lo, these last 12 years: watching, monitoring, taking note of my every sigh, groan and fart in the library. Reporting everything back to Malcolm and Earl. Who are you kidding, Brian? You've got a thing for me, to put it euphemistically. That's the paradigm.
Then you call the law on me! You have the nerve to call out the law. "Sheriff, I want this straggler banned from my ranch!"
Is what you did sane? No. A resounding no. It carries the deceptive ring of rationality, but it's fundamentally no more reasonable than my calling the cops on you for failing to do what a D.C. employee recommended that you do. Namely, respond to my social overtures.
You might be interested to know, buddy -- no, more than that -- you might be surprised -- no, even more than that -- you might be shocked to learn what an insightful psychoanalyst might say about your act of summoning the law to ban me from the library because I was not doing what I was legally free not to do. Are you aware that a psychoanalyst might interpret that as a latent homosexual fantasy? Think about it. Reversal and projection -- the two ego defenses operative in paranoia.
What is the opposite (the reverse) of legally-enforcing a separation between two people? Why, it's a marriage. In marriage, two people voluntarily assume mutual legal duties. An analyst might say, "Mr. Brown, unconsciously, you wanted Freedman. You wanted him in a powerful way. A way that was extremely threatening to your rational, conscious mind. Consciously you felt threatened by Freedman, but unconsciously you loved him. Unconsciously you wanted to marry him--you wanted to summon the law to compel a union, and you defended against that wish by doing the exact opposite--summoning the law to enforce a ban, to enforce a separation. You, my friend, are what is euphemistically termed a latent homosexual. My prescription? Five years on the couch, Mr. Brown!"
"But that's insane, doctor," you might say. To which the doctor would respond: "Have you ever heard of the famous Schreber case, Mr. Brown?" ("Who??") "In that case, Freud made the discovery that the 'core conflict in the paranoia of a man' is, as he put it in the case history, a 'homosexual wish fantasy of loving a man.' The paranoiac turns the declaration 'I love him' into its opposite, "I hate him'; this is the reversal. He then goes on to say, 'I hate him because he persecutes me'; that is the projection.'"
"And what does that have to do with me," you might ask. "Simple," says the good doctor. "You unconsciously grew to love Mr. Freedman. You felt an internal threat to your masculinity. You transformed that internal psychological threat into an external physical threat. You feared that Freedman might physically attack you. That was the projection. You defended against that threat by summoning the police -- the law, as it were -- to enforce a ban. And that was a reversal of the act of summoning the law to enforce a union, a marriage, between you and Mr. Freedman." (Projection + reversal) = paranoia = latent homosexuality. I would say that you and Mr. Freedman were made for each other. You are both paranoid. You are both . . . " "STOP!," you say, "I don't want to hear anymore!"
"Doctor," you say, "I couldn't care less about Freedman. Since he's been banned, I don't even think about him." To which the doctor would respond: "Out of sight, out of mind."
Anyway, that's the Freudian perspective. Remember, as Ellen would say, it's now legal in Massachusetts.
One word. Face it, Brian. You're a forty-year-old male. You've worked your entire adult life in a profession traditionally dominated by women (with a fair quota of male homosexuals). Sure, you're married. But you have no kids--at an age when most married guys have kids. I think--I really think you may have issues. And I think my letters to you, and some of the openly and persistently sexual content of those letters might have sent you over the top.
Not that I'm any better. Here I am, a fifty-year-old male. No wife, no woman of any kind. An underemployed, then an unemployed lawyer. But quite frankly, maybe we were made for each other. Maybe that's the connection between us. Metaphorically speaking, maybe it's a case of "Billy Bean" meets "David Catania, Esq."
Overture. Opening. Prelude. Season opener. First pitch. First swing at the bat. Whatever.
Listen, buddy. I know we don't have a lot in common--on the surface at least. I'm into baseball. You're into opera (Fag!). But at a deeper level, a symbolic level, aren't they really the same thing -- opera and baseball?
Think about it. Both opera and baseball, as someone once said, are genres of voluptuous lyrical expression, loved beyond rational explanation by the devotee, that any sane human bred into a culture of quick-riff garbage finds skull-numbingly boring, primarily because both demand an extended commitment of time and attention. Both opera and baseball freeze the moment in order to plumb and exalt the soul's emotion, unfurling at a stately, infuriating, nineteenth-century pace until, in one case, the fat lady trills at last or, in the other, Don Zimmer finally finishes scratching himself.
Listen, I'm just looking for a buddy to shoot the shit with in the corner booth of a diner. Is that too much to ask? That's what I'm gonna tell the cops when I call them. "Officer, my psychologist, a D.C. employee has recommended that I ask Brian to shoot the shit with me in the corner booth of a diner, and Brian refuses my overture. Is that legal? Isn't there something you can do? Can't you force him to do something?"
Or what about a friendly game of poker? You know a few years back Len Garment started up his monthly poker club. Bob Strauss and Bob Bennett (yes, Bennett and Strauss are poker buddies) and "the Chief" Bill Rehnquist and Garment get together--or at least they used to -- for a friendly game of poker, once a month.
I don't play poker. But I play Gin Rummy. Maybe we could get together for a high-stakes game of Gin Rummy. High stakes or "high steaks." I could bet my entire monthly food-stamp allowance on a "high steaks" game of Gin Rummy. That's ten bucks, buddy.
What do you say? Remember, in your paradigm, you have a duty--a legally-enforceable duty--to do what you're not legally required to do. You made up that ridiculous rule. You have yourself to blame.
Or are you just a double-standard MF'er? A Master of Fraud!
Check you out later, Brian. Think about the paradigms.
P.S. By the way, I found out that Brad Dolinsky--Brad Matthew Dolinsky, M.D.--is a Columbia grad. Yes, Captain Vagina (apartment 600) is actually Ivy. Can you believe that?


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