The Freedman Archives: Part II

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

Monday, May 17, 2004

Monet, Manet, Tippy-Tippy Day Day


Hey buddy. How was your weekend? My weekend was as vacuous as usual. My life is lived in my mind. I wander the highways and by-ways of my mind, with little concern for what transpires beyond the border of my blood-brain barrier.
Although I've written innumerable letters, many of them among the tensest and most poignant ever written, I have been little more than an unimportant bachelor to my contemporaries, a recluse, a nobody. I am undoubtedly aware of the sharp originality of my work, but I refuse to think of a publisher and, during my lifetime -- to date -- only one of my letters has found its way into print. That was a letter I wrote to "The Daily Collegian" in the Winter term 1974, at Penn State. It concerned the issue of organized labor. It was pro-labor. I regard publication as "the auction of the mind." and, secretly trying to perfect my daringly unorthodox missives, I hide the writing from all but a few privileged eyes. Consider yourself a privileged person, buddy.
My weekend repeated in large part my weekend last. I ventured out to The National Gallery once again. This time to see the exhibits I missed last weekend. I stopped off to see the exhibit of ancient Mayan art. It is the art of a lost world. It's peculiar when you think about it. A group of people, a collection of tribes in Central America, for a brief moment in history, rose to glory out of the tropical rain forests and created lasting monuments to their culture--only to succumb to the ravages of war, degradation of the environment and disease, finally retreating back into the rain forests from whence they came. Some law firms are like that, you know. A handful of lawyers get together, form a partnership--the firm grows to glorious heights, then withers and the partnership is dissolved.
While at the Gallery I perused the collection of small French paintings. Impressionistic paintings. I've seen the exhibit before. But it never ceases to delight. The paintings depict a lost world of elegance and grace. But that society was rotten to the core, really. What the paintings conceal are the ravages of uncontrolled economic exploitation--child labor, the mines, factories where people worked 16-hour days, six days a week. Not to mention the corruption of the French Third Republic, which reached the culmination of moral decay in the Dreyfus Affair of the 1890's. And then when you stop to think that this was the very society that immediately preceded the catastrophe of the First World War! It's really a fool's paradise in a sense. All you see in those paintings, really, is a fragment of a society, window-dressing, no more. Those painters certainly had a perspective on perspective, but had no perspective on the social problems of the day. I, too, loose perspective gazing at those enchanting scenes of life's most charming moments: a faux paradise.
There's an odd parallel between the exhibit of French paintings and the Mayan exhibit. The Mayan exhibit shows the art of courtly life. But what of the common Mayan, living at the edge of the rain forests, eking out an existence, fighting a never-ending battle with tropical diseases and the ever-present threat of famine. So too the French Impressionists depicted, unknowingly, a world at the edge of an abyss.
Don't you think those French painters had to have been near-sighted? Monet, Manet, Tippy-Tippy-Day-Day? The paintings all seem to have been painted as through a fog. Another oddity. The paintings comprise an exhibit of "small French paintings." The pictures were painted by artists no more than five-feet high, I guess. Impressionistic Lilliputians. Small French paintings painted by small French painters. Toulouse-Lautrec is a case in point. A case of stunted-growth -- poor Toulouse. A pathetic genius.
I also paid a visit to The National Building Museum. Have you ever been there? It's a rather bizarre architectural creation. The huge columns are a fraud, by the way. They mimic marble. But of course, they're faux marble: they're really plaster-covered brick columns painted to resemble marble.
They're a convincing fraud, though. Architectural RICO, as it were. They're totally believable in their deception until you begin to think about the fact that there are no seams in them. If they were marble, they would be blocks of marble with seams. The faux marble is continuous from floor to ceiling, a dead give-away. No marble columns that size could possibly be one large block of marble without a break. I'm sure Ellen--architectural maven that she is--would notice that scam immediately.
I suppose the building gives you some idea of what the ancient baths in Rome looked like in their day. I guess you've been to the Baths of Caracalla in Rome. Shame they weren't preserved for future generations. Perhaps St. Peter's gives some idea of the breadth and feel of what the ancient baths must have been like.
In any event, The National Building Museum is like walking into a Seinfeld episode. Instead of a coffee table book about coffee tables, you're confronted with an architectural curiosity about architecture: a building about buildings. I'm sure that's where Larry David got the idea for the coffee table episodes, don't you think, buddy?
You know The National Building Museum started out as The Pension Building. Now there's a complex symbolism! When I entered the building I thought: how fitting! Faux marble confronts the faux disabled-worker on disability. No--that's just a little attempt at humor. I'm in fact disabled. Make no mistake about that. And if there was ever any question about the bona fides of my disability claim, well, just ask your friends on the Metro D.C. Police. They know I'm disabled. William made that perfectly clear to the officers. Then there's Dr. Cooper and Dr. Taub. Dr. Meghana Tembe--otherwise known as Indira Gandhi. Virtually everyone is convinced that there's real insanity lurking behind the "paint and plaster" of my columns. Everybody except Dr. Israela Bash, The Mad Monk. I think The Mad Monk is still wedded to the idea that I'm basically functional: silly woman.
Do you think you and William are in the clear about the scam you pulled on the Metro Police? I wouldn't count on it. Anybody with half a brain could see that the whole thing smells.
First of all, I'm alleged to have engaged in the dastardly crime of icon manipulation and the lesser-included offense of icon tampering. William represented this to the Metro Police as if it were a heinous crime, a dastardly act, reeking of depravity. Yet at the same time quite seemingly-ingenuously -- or should I say insouciantly - William denied that he or you, Brian, were aware that I had been tampering with the icons for the entire previous twelve months. You see the problem? Just how serious can the act be (the act of icon tampering) if you can engage in the conduct, undetected, for a 12-month period. It doesn't take a Sherlock Holmes to see that your position is untenable. The ineluctable conclusion is that you and William knew about my icon tampering (and said nothing--which is the conclusion I've reached) or one must conclude that you and William were completely unaware of my act of icon tampering and that that conduct is absolutely trivial, certainly not warranting a six-month ban from the library.
You can't have it both ways, chappie. "Oh, yes, officer, we never noticed that he was tampering with the icons for the last twelve months, but indeed it' a dastardly offense that caused us endless trouble for the last twelve months." Now, really, Brian.
But I guess that's why you and William are librarians and not rickets scientists. Or is that rocket scientists? I always get the two confused. I'm planning to make the most out of this situation. Wait till I send a letter to Attorney General John Ashcroft. Yes, that's my latest game plan. DOJ.
Dear Attorney General Ashcroft:
I want to assure the Office of the Attorney General of the United States that I am cooperating fully in an icon-tampering investigation conducted by the Metro D.C. Police: Officer J.E. Williams and his partner. The putative offense was reported by Mr. William Dacosta at the direction of Brian P. Brown, on April 21, 2004. A preliminary investigation by Mr. Brown disclosed that I had been engaged in the act of icon manipulation (and the lesser-included offense of icon tampering).
Rest assured that I am keeping Officer Williams apprised of all material evidence pertinent to the issues of fact placed in controversy by Mr. Brown. And I will continue to do so. I can do no less.
These issues include the following: (1) I am in a dark place; (2) I suffer from clinical depression; and (3) I have not been taking the medication that was prescribed for me by my physician, which I am legally-entitled not to do. Mr. Brown determined that these facts were incompatible with my continued patronage of the Cleveland Park Branch of the District of Columbia Library.
Believe me, I understand the seriousness of the allegations made against me, particularly the act of icon manipulation (and the lesser-included offense of icon tampering), and will cooperate fully in any investigation carried out by the U.S. Department of Justice. I understand that the Justice Department may be setting up an icon-tampering task force, owing to the gravity of this offense, and that my case might very well serve as a test case for the issue of federal jurisdiction.
I have previously been investigated by the U.S. Secret Service, the Federal Protective Service, and the U.S. Capitol Police. These agencies will attest that I cooperated fully in their investigations.
In order to assist the U.S. Department of Justice I am advising that I have set up a "Web Site" that contains a collection of letters and other documents pertinent to this matter. I am sure that this documentation could very well be invaluable in any investigation carried out by the Department, including the Icon-Manipulation Task Force. I will be contacting the Federal Bureau of Investigation (Director Robert Mueller) as well as members of Congress whose legislative responsibilities encompass the acts described above (namely: dark spaces, depression, and engaging in acts that are permissible under the law).
Thank you very much. Again, I pledge my full cooperation.
Gary Freedman, Esq.,
Buddy, I'm sure the Metro DC Police are going to love this. I mean absolutely love this-- in a manly way, I'm sure. I have a fantasy about this whole matter. Something that struck me about scandals from the past.
Do remember how the whole Watergate scandal started? It started out as a routine police matter, within the purview of the Metro DC police. The apparent evidence was that there had been a burglary, a common, garden-variety burglary, at the Watergate. In time, and with the ingenious and dogged persistence of two "Washington Post" reporters -- namely Woodward and Bernstein -- the burglary was seen to be a small growth in a larger cancer. A cancer on the Presidency of the United States, as presidential counsel John Dean put it. There's something about that notion that just grabs me, and links up with the deepest recesses of my unconscious fantasy life.
How ironic that it could very well be a trivial and routine police matter that busts this whole thing wide open. And what do you think your future in the DC library system will be once your role is exposed? Do you think "The Powers That Be" down at the Home Office will take kindly to your act of rendering the D.C. government liable to a multi-million dollar lawsuit? I think not, my friend.
Then there was the Dreyfus Case in France at the end of the 19th century. The so-called Affair.
Remember that? How do you think that whole thing got started? It all started with a nosy cleaning lady working the night shift at the Section of Statistics of the Office of the French General Staff. She used to read the trash that the French generals used to toss in the circular files. One evening she came across a curious, a very curious document. It was the so-called "bordereau"--literally, as Barbara Gauntt will translate--a laundry list. It was a laundry list of top-secret French weapons and other issues of military interest that had been issued by the German embassy. It was the memorandum out of which the Dreyfus Affair would emerge. Yes, beware of night-time security guards and bored cleaning ladies; those are the morals of both Watergate and the Dreyfus Case.
How did the famous Bordereau fall into the hands of the Section of Statistics? The "official" version, from which the Ministry of War would never depart, was that the precious document had been found by Mme. Bastian in the wastebasket of Maximilian von Schwartzkoppen, the German military attaché, and passed on to Commandant Henry, no doubt on the evening of September 26.
And the rest as they say is history.
I'm gonna make you famous, buddy. You might end up unemployed and destitute, but you'll be famous. Can you ask for anything more in life? Impoverished immortality!
By the way, I've been keeping Officer Williams apprised of the full dimension of the icon-manipulation case. I suppose I have a civic duty to keep the police informed of facts pertinent to conduct on my part that threatens the very core values of Western Civilization.
A barrage of letters to attorneys in the Criminal Division of the Justice Department should cause quite a flurry, don't you think? Remember Watergate? The Cubans? You may very well be known to posterity as the Irish-Catholic whose discovery of icon manipulation (and the lesser included offense of icon tampering) led to the downfall of The Waltz King and his merry dance band.
Check you out later, buddy. Gotta take my medication.
P.S. I told Officer Williams that I think "Schreber-like" dynamics underlie your fears about me--your fear that I might be dangerous. Quite frankly, I'm flattered. But just keep your hands to yourself, buddy!


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