The Freedman Archives: Part II

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

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

The Ruminations of a Banned Library Patron


Hey, buddy. Are you missing my presence at the library? To tell you the truth, I'm missing the Cleveland Park library, but I'm not missing you particularly. The way I see it, if you've seen one fat, Irish-Catholic ass, you've seen 'em all. Not that I have anything against Irish-Catholic asses, fat or otherwise. It's just that I don't miss yours.
I suppose if we had been actual friends, instead of friends-as-a-metaphor, my separation would have been a source of pain for me. But what I miss primarily is the fact that I've had to become a peripatetic (or simply pathetic) library patron, wandering from library to library in the DC Library System.
There's a lady at the Home Office (The Martin Luther King Branch) who handles complaints pertinent to discrimination under "The Americans With Disabilities Act." Her name is Grace Lyons. Maybe you've heard of her. I'm thinking about presenting to her my complaint about my (possibly) discriminatory exile from Cleveland Park. The fact is I suffer from a disability (paranoid schizophrenia). I'm a lonely guy, just reaching out for friendship. Even my therapists (who are employees of the District of Columbia) encouraged me to reach out to you. Further, according to my "Patient Rights Statement," I have a right not to take medication that is recommended for me. And of course, my stated desire to make people "pay for my pain" was protected speech: I was talking about taking legal action. Fundamentally, you banned me from the library for the following reasons, which, I opine, do not "pass the mustard" under anti-discrimination laws.
Fundamentally, as I see it, you banned me from the library for the following reasons:
1. I have severe mental illness (a disability);
2. I was not taking anti-psychotic medication that was prescribed for me, which I have a legal right to do;
3. I suffer from depression; and
4. I have feelings of anger toward (and a desire to redress in a lawful manner the wrongs done to me by) attorney managers at my former place of employment.
What did I say that was such a crime? Maybe YOU need to be in therapy, Brian, or at least take a remedial reading course. I may tend to exaggerate, but you are an over-reactor. You overreact to purely non-threatening statements. You're the Three-Mile-Island of over-reactors.
Oh, yes! And I changed the icons. What a dastardly crime that was! But didn't the Turks do the same thing when they took over Constantinople and renamed it Istanbul? Didn't the Turks change all the Greek Orthodox icons? Yes, I admit it. I'm an iconoclast! Oddly enough (and you may not know this) but at this very moment, there's an exhibit on the second floor at MLK of Greek Orthodox icons. I perused them the other day. I passed by the exhibit quickly, lest I be overcome with an irresistible urge to tamper with the icons.
How do I feel about being banned from the Cleveland Park Branch?
To tell you the truth I feel like Babu Baat (the Seinfeld character) who was deported back to Pakistan because he never filled out his visa renewal application. "Brian Brown? He's a wery bad man. A wery, wery bad man. When (or if) I return to Cleveland Park I will exact vengeance on that man (by lawful means, of course).
I have to add that disclaimer now ("by lawful means") whenever I say anything even remotely threatening. Even when I say something as a joke. I find that you have some virtues (or do I exaggerate?) but you are a humor-challenged individual, Brian. And they say I'm hypersensitive. Imagine calling the police on someone simply because he says he's in "a dark place." Now really, Brian!
There's also your boss, Barbara Webb. I've been thinking of contacting her about my treatment at your hands, Brian. Maybe Miss Webb will show some mercy on this Queer Duck.
Yesterday, I talked with my therapist about my feelings about being banned from the library. I said I felt as if I was in a wrestling match with you, and that you had won the first round by pinning me to the ground. But that I wanted to flip you over and pin you down, and win the final victory--triumph for me, humiliation for you. I'd just love for The Powers That Be at the Home Office (MLK) to determine that your banishment was a tad overdone, and that those Powers re-instate my library privileges at Cleveland Park. That would be sweet. And I'm not talking nude wrestling. I'm talking fully clothed, no holds barred wrestling. A little G-rated Rupert/Gerald wrestling. I'd love to claim victory over you, Brian. In front of a burning, hot fireplace or not.
As you can see I'm stuck in the same banal observations. I think Freud termed people like me banal, or banal retentive. I retain the banal experiences of life and memorialize them in meaningless letters that get saved on computer files that never get read. Such is my life!
So how is William bearing up under the strain of not interacting with his favorite library patron--namely moi? I can just imagine you and William ruminating about me: "Remember the time he said this?--or "Remember the time he said that?" Well, you don't have Freedman to kick around any longer. But like old RMN (that's Richard M. Nixon) -- I'll be back. The terminated will be de-terminated. Remember, the meek shall inherit the stacks. Didn't the Big Jew in the Sky once say that?
I'm reminded of the note that The Prime Minister penned to Eleanor Roosevelt after the death of FDR. I paraphrase: "I feel so deeply for you all. As for me I have lost a dear and cherished friendship which was forged in the fire of war. I trust you may find consolation in the glory of "his" name and in the magnitude of "his" work."
Yes, in these dark days, I find myself all-too frequently lapsing into military metaphor (not to mention the third person singular) (and the confusion of subject ("my") and object ("his"). It's always been a source of solace to me; that is, military metaphor, the third person voice, and the confusion of subject and object. And of course, my work at the library -- like FDR's on the international stage -- was of considerable magnitude. Say what you will, Buddy, but I always displayed that very special "magnitude-with-attitude."
After FDR's death, Eleanor Roosevelt told a group of reporters who had gathered around her: "The story is over." Well, in my case, the story may be over, but the letters will continue. Count on that, my friend.
As for the Second Front, my psychotherapy is coming to an end at GW (don't forget I'm fighting a two-front war; you are my first front, my therapists are my second front). Just three more sessions with Indira Gandhi, and its farewell time for Viceroy Mountbatten, as it were. Can you follow my metaphors?
My therapist said that I need to start focusing on my feelings about termination. Termination of my therapy at GW, that is. That won't be difficult. My life is a series of terminations. Few beginnings, but many terminations.
How do I feel about my therapy coming to an end? Nothing really. I suppose I see it as a release. A release from meaninglessness.
I will look on my tenure at GW as a strange and inscrutable interlude. First, I never understood why, when my therapist at the DC clinic left (Dr. Shaffer), they couldn't find me a replacement therapist at the public clinic. Now I can't understand why I have to leave GW. Just a few months ago, they were saying that I would be assigned to a new therapist at GW when my current therapist (Indira Gandhi) finished her internship. GW's rationale is that it would be better for me if all my therapy services were placed "under one umbrella." That metaphor is more apt than they know. My entire life is like one long rainy day; or one dark (may I say that?) and stormy night of the soul.
I'm looking forward to my new therapist. I'll be seeing someone at the D.C. Community Mental Health Center. The one good thing about the new therapy is that it will be free of charge. Gratis. GW was charging me five dollars per session. So that -- that -- at least, is one positive thing.
Terminations. This past year has been a year of terminations, false starts, and losses.
First, David Bloom died. You know, David Bloom, the NBC reporter. I had an irrational emotional investment in that guy. He was a terrific reporter. I think I mentioned how highly I thought of him. When he died last April, April 2003, in Iraq, it triggered something in me. A feeling of loss, I suppose. A feeling that some portion of the sublime--which is in short supply here, on planet Earth--had been lost. It was at about the time David Bloom died that I started to write letters to you, buddy. That was David Bloom's favorite way of addressing people, by the way. "Buddy." David Bloom used to call everybody "buddy."
Then, in July "The English Lady" left. The English lady was the front desk manager in my apartment building. She added a touch of class to the building. The management company hired a corpse to replace Elizabeth Joyce. Imagine being replaced by the walking dead; and he doesn't even speak with a British accent!
The greatest blow, I suppose, greatest because it was the most personal, was the loss of Dr. Sack. Dr. Sack was a psychiatrist in my building who I admired a great deal. I saw him for three consultations back in May 1991. I remember the first consultation was May 13, 1991. I remember the date because it was the anniversary of Sigmund Freud's circumcision. I'm sure Fred Cohen, M.D. would get a chuckle out of that. Not to mention Dr. Sack's widow, Dr. Sally Ann Amdur Sack.
Dr. Sack's widow is the editor-in-chief of Avoteynu, the Journal of Jewish Genealogy. The journal contains articles pertinent to issues of Jewish genealogy. I happened to come across a copy at MLK the other day. Interesting stuff, by the way. Reminds me of that old TV show from the 60's: "I Dream of Genealogy."
I wonder how Dr. Sack's widow is getting along without the good doctor. You know, it can be very difficult for the survivors of the great and near-great. Maybe Dr. Sack's widow will find herself a rich Greek-Jewish shipping magnate, a la Jackie O. Somebody like Richard Ben-Veniste, only a little older, a lot richer, and with considerably more knowledge of maritime law.
But back to Dr. Sack. I was so stunned by his death. I remember one day, shortly after I learned of his passing, I listened to the slow movement of the Beethoven Ninth again and again. For about two-and-a-half hours. The piece lasts only about 15 minutes--so that's a lot of repetitions. I was just in a dazed fog. I always looked on Dr. Sack as my own personal Jerusalem. At Passover, observant Jews say: "Next year in Jerusalem." I used to comfort myself by thinking, "next year maybe I'll be in therapy with Dr. Sack." It's as if all my hopes for the future died with Dr. Sack. But, as they say, life must go on. In times of greatest need I find it soothing to retreat into platitudes. Why not?
Then in February of this year I entered, then quickly exited, group therapy. It was a disaster. But not an unmitigated one. I had the feeling that my experiences in group provided the valuable experience of confirming many of my suspicions about my social problems. Certainly, the experience confirmed my suspicion that I'm a different species from another galaxy. I think: "If those freaks are human, count me out of the human race."
The most recent disaster was your act of banning me from the Cleveland Park Library. Let's hope that's the last disaster for this year. I think I've reached the quotas of disasters for one year.
You may ask: "Well, Freedman, did anything positive happen to you this year?" I'd have to say "yes." My epistolary friendship with you, buddy, has been a great source of pleasure to me. I love writing to you. It's not a chore to write to you. It's like sex, really. You don't need any motivation to do it. The motivation is just there. It's irresistible, actually. What they call in the criminal law, an irresistible impulse. Yes, that's the way I'd put it. I have an irresistible impulse to write to you, commune with you, share my thoughts with you, Brian. Brother-Animal, You!
I hate your gaudy guts Brian, but I like you, too. And as we know, in my warped psychology that combination--that ambivalent combination--makes for my most intense relations with other males. People I like, I simply like. But people I both like and hate--well, that puts the Other in a special league of liking. I suppose it's that ambivalence that brings me closest to my relationship with my father. People say, "Do you like Brian?" I say: "No, I both like and despise him. That's why I like him so much." At least those are my feelings about you in my fantasized imagination. That's the transference. I don't really know you, like you, or hate you in reality. You're--as I've said before, a chimera, a phantom, a ghost. The ghost of library visits past, at least for now. But remember your Dickens! Mr. Scrooge also had to contend with the ghosts of library visits future.
Check you out later, buddy. Remember, just because I'm banned from the library doesn't mean we can't get together. I'm still thinking about Memorial Day. What do you say?


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