MY COLLEGE EDUCATION, OR INDOCTRINATION IN THE MAUDIAN PHILOSOPHY OF BEA ARTHUR
BY DAVID GOTTFRIED
At the time she was eighteen, Helen behaved like a bitchy thirty-five year old — she was jaded, angry, knew all about the world and hated it too. I met her when I was also eighteen and when we both started college.
She was cross-eyed. I find this interesting because most people who are very intimidating have eyes that are great at boring right into you, like a power drill. Cross-eyed people don’t have that skill. Nevertheless, her cross-eyed status did not in the least detract from her ability to intimidate. Even though her gaze seemed indistinct and ambiguous — even though you weren’t quite sure where she was looking if you tried to look into her eyes — there was something very intimidating about her eyes. Maybe they were more intimidating because of their wacky focus that seemed to gaze on one point, and then stare at another point, and then bear down — like light and a magnifying glass igniting fire — on two points in separate parts of the room at the same time.
And so while she might have appeared to have been busy consuming chicken breast and string beans, her brilliant and strange eyes caught sight of my plate, even though there were two students between us at the dinner table, and she loudly yelped, “David, peas are loaded with starch and they’re terrible for your diet.”
At that time in my life, I was a bit heavy, and not the least bit athletic, and so I periodically went on diets, which seemed to be such womanly and fastidious things. Real men never dieted. They either had big proud guts, or they pumped iron. In either case, they ate huge mounds of succulent spaghetti. Diets were in all respects a feminine thing. The melba toasts — a dieter’s bread of affliction — were so dainty. The sacharine pill boxes were such quaint little things to take out of one’s purse at a luncheon. The premiere diet soda of the time was something called “Tab”, which reminded me of a jingle for a laundry detergent called “Fab” (It went something like this: “Oh Fab, I’m glad, there’s lemon freshened borax in you.”), that seemed to say “Fag.” And half the diet foods were ornery, acidic things like scallions, and raw onions, and grapefruit which made the sores in your mouth light up with pain like a Christmas tree in lights, screaming at you like an annoyed little girl incensed at the way you slurped your soup.
In any event, of all the fattening and delicious foods in the world, we knew — in those days — that starch was the most reprehensible thing one could eat. Fat and cholesterol had been discussed, but it had not seemed to click in the collective consciousness of dieters who, often behaving like stereotypical women, are unable to entertain more than one thought at a time. And so the notion that a result may have more than one cause — that the accumulation of fat may be caused by fat and starch and lack of exercise and genetic predisposition and thyroid deficiency disease — suggested a complexity antithetical and inadmissible to their black and white minds, in which everything had the simplicity of an episode on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” And so the ideal diet was a burger, accompanied by a raw union, sans the bun and fries. For dinner, one might eat steak, along with any old boring green vegetable cooked by common boiling. But starch was verboten. Potatoes were utterly impermissible. Pasta was veritably primitive, connoting images of irascible Italian men engaged in mafia killings and Italian mamas swathed in layers of luxurious fat.
“David, I told you, you really have to lose weight, and those horrible starches have to stop,” Helen insisted.
I wasn’t sure if it would be more appropriate to discard the peas, to prove my virtue and my fealty to the worthwhile endeavor of fitting into fashionable clothing, or to eat the peas, to establish some small measure of independence from Helen. And so I used my fork to rake the peas on the plate, as if the peas were boulders and my fork was some kind of heavy machinery to remove them from the earth.
Helen was now inconsolable: “David, there are people who are starving. Don’t you remember how great George Harrison was with that Bangladesh thing for the starving people. And you fucking play with your peas. You’re so fucking uncool. And you’re fat. And your shirt doesn’t stay in your pants. Oh, I can’t stand you.”
Helen now sat back, regal with her renunciation of my rapscallion behavior, while the other girls in our group, Michelle and Sandra, were deeply impressed with Helen’s display of “women power.” Women power was of course more important than anything.
Indeed, since we had started college, two months before, the feminist idea had been instilled with such frequency — when we met the faculty for freshmen orientation, all the male professors were silent while one woman teacher used the occasion as an opportunity to harangue the male world; the idea that we were supposed to receive some measure of orientation to college life was completely overlooked — that we got the idea that the goal of college was the inculcation of a feminist-friendly mind and a good natured faggotty disinclination to challenge anything ever said by a woman of power and substance. And, after all, college-educated men were so much softer, tamer and less robust than their cultural inferiors. The non-college sorts always exclaimed, exhibited and exploded like Archie Bunker. The college boys learned to demure, defer, decline and talk in indirect ways of culturally appropriate gobley gook. For example, when Robert Mc Nammara talked about plans to carpet bomb Vietnam, he did it with all the urbanity and salon-like detachment of a dowager reciting plans for a dinner party.
So while the women beamed at Helen’s brilliant and scathing indictment of my behavior, an indictment brimming with cunning and timely allusions to world hunger and the Fabulously enriching world of Fashion, I, and my male friends, Steve and Chris, sat mute.
Finally, it was time for desert. The girls and I — Chris and Steve had no weight problems and ate fruity cake with abandon — ate stewed fruit. Of course, what sort of fruit it might have been none of us knew. We only knew, or assumed, that it was fruit because it was described as “stewed fruit” in the dieters’ corner of the cafeteria. Essentially, it consisted of three forlorn, darkish, purplish, pock-marked things sitting in a styrofoam cup with a diameter of four meager inches. While strawberries beckoned with succulence as they sat imbedded in the creamy frosting of the Strawberry Shortcake happily consumed by Steve and Chris, our fruit had no bright colors, no gowns of red or burgundy, and no spherical shapeliness. Our fruits were wizened old things with big fat pits and not a drizzle of juice.
After dinner, we ambled back to our dormitories like eighty-year olds going back to their condos after partaking of the Diner’s “earlybird special.” We weren’t infirm. We weren’t prematurely gray. But we were as terrified of the new world of college as seniors trembling at the imminence of death. Also, because we had moved away from home to come to college, we were homesick, and this made us recreate our elderly relatives in ourselves: And so Helen was an aging lady with a rasping voice forever complaining to management about the bad service she received, and the guys, in their deference, seemed to emulate the doofishnes of old men who wear their pants several inches above their navels. Besides, none of us were having sex.
After we returned to the dorms, we studied our textbooks with the determination of seniors reviewing Medicare guidelines, and commiserated about tomorrow’s tests as if they were surgeries. Then we took a little something to help us sleep and washed it down with a few sips of Tab.
We slept fitfully and arose tired and dreary and terrified of the dawn. Our day began, very often, with a course taught by Ms. Shirley Langley. Ms. Shirley Langley was, as Steve once pointed-out, a woman who imagined she was the patrician former Senator from New Jersey, Milicent Fenwick. Although her voice did not really sound like Milicent Fenwick, and although I can’t recall exactly how she sounded, or what sort of accent she affected, it was a voice that always seemed, no matter what the decibel level, to be screaming to be acknowledged as the voice of Protestant propriety, privilege and intellectual profundity. Each and every syllable was articulated with all the care of a Grecian urn: Her voice was hard, lapidary, lovely and sleek. I rather think she was a Jew who chose as the supreme and monumental effort of her life the eradication of her identity, the purging of every shleping, dragging, meditative Yiddush- sounding inflection from her voice and its replacement with a succession of sharp and shining iambic meter more convivial to Greenwich, Connecticut and starched and parched garden parties.
When she assumed the stage at the head of the class, her five-foot, three-inch body seemed to be an optical illusion because her voice boomed like a trumpet sounded by a titan. All of the discontent and accumulated orneriness of fifty plus years of living seemed to surge up from her feet, through her heaving breasts, to be unleashed by her mouth like lava from a volcano. And what was she ornery and irritable about?
She was, first and foremost, mad about male chauvinism, and, as usual, the indignities perpetrated by the male sex provided fodder for the day’s instruction. Her insights were met without the slightest scintilla of resistance and penetrated and implanted themselves into her students’ passive, unanalytic minds like phalluses pounding into well-greased anuses. Although her pedantry resembled pederasty, she was nevertheless adored because she told the students that they were wonderful. From her we learned a few big words, and a few tiny ideas, and the belief that our youth and exuberance were sacrosanct.
We were convinced that our youth would be able to shine more flamboyantly given the location of the school: It was situated in a suburb of New York City, and since it wasn’t far from New York City, we decided we might as well say that we were going to school in New York City. And somehow education and feminism and New York all came together in everything we did and were subjected to: In those god awful Paul Mazursky films in which a woman always finds her true chic greatness by being a New York bitch and learning to hate men. (Since the films had a feminist slant, they were really quite educational and could substitute for four credits of English, don’t you think); in quiche loraine, which we learned was French and had a fancy name, and therefore was educational, and which, because of its adoration in the gay community, made it a sort of feminist delicacy; in learning that at academic conferences one must always have wine and cheese, and never beer and hero sandwiches, because the latter is the food of ruffians and reactionaries while the former is polished and polite, the chunks of cheese presenting the milky smoothness of choir boy’s buttocks.
Of course, there were times when our adoration of New York and our idea that we were in the vanguard of intellectual pursuits became so comical as to be pathetic. For example, the University at times scheduled group trips to New York City so that we idiots might partake of its cultural attractions, and for these group outings we would charter a big, boxy, and slightly battered yellow school bus which, when maneuvered through the serpentine and svelte streets of Greenwhich village, made us look, collectively, as a fat suburban wife browsing through the aisles of a boutique that specialized in G strings. The bus was also embarrassing on a very concrete level: It had a perpetual smell that was more than vaguely reminiscent of vomit and so I thought it was a vehicle used to transport retarded people to and from the plenitude of institutions, caring for the retarded, in our New York suburb. While we traveled in the bus, no one read, or listened to music, or had any conversations about anything of intellectual import. And so Stephen would then be called upon to give us a lecture on the Beatles as the Beatles were going through a huge revival throughout the late Seventies. (Of course, Beatles’ revivals arguably had been in progress, in one way or another, from the time of the Beatles’ demise until the ascendance of Ronald Reagan, or at the very latest Osama Ben Ladin, who refuted liberalism more emphatically than Ronald Reagan ever could. Beatles’ revivals perhaps constituted one of the largest dissipations of youthful energy since the Crusades.)
But eventually our New York trips really came down, in the final analysis, to a question of food. Just as people will spend thousands of dollars to travel around the globe to view fine historical treasures, only to rush through the tour of the Coliseum because of their desire to eat a fine Lasagna dinner that would not be in any way superior to the lasagna they could get in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, so we presumed intellectuals, brimming with arrogant, obnoxious elan, would only affect an interest in the utterly incomprehensible works of abstract art, the arty people who seemed more often than not to be not so much creative as simply maladjusted or just plain queer, and the modern poetry that was denuded of rhyme and meter, contained metaphors that we could never get because either we were too stupid or the author was too brilliant, and which, when intelligible, only seemed to be a callous and dehumanized recitation of personal and sexual injuries. And so we smiled and pretended, and raised our eyebrows or furrowed our brows, to show an intensity of aesthetic interest, but our interest concerned not Chinese or Italian sculpture but simply the question of Chinese or Italian quisine.
For Michele, one simply had to go to Mama Leone’s, a famous and now defunct Italian eatery, after going to the Theater. Indeed, the play was wholly secondary to the meal. I do not mean to be unkind, but, quite frankly, Michelle would have been just as happy if she had been watching the situation comedy “Rhoda” instead of live and fine drama. Of course, many of us dissented from Michelle’s choice, finding her preference for robust and hearty red-sauced repasts altogether plebian, provincial and, given the promiscuity with which pasta was deployed in every conceivable circumstance, terribly reminiscent of Plainview, Long Island and other conservative, and hence unintellectual, locales.
And so in those days if one wanted to be terribly avant guard and intellectual in one’s culinary choices, one ate Japanese. After all, wasn’t Yoko Ono Japanese? And, since the Japanese were our enemies in World War Two, and the Vietnamese were our recent enemies in South East Asia, the consumption of Asian food, for bratty, pseudo-intellectual, snot-ball children, was a means of slapping America in the face.
Of course, the most annoying and irascible gustatory choice would be French food because the French had a means of attacking America from the presumed left (only presumed: They invented the motto “think left, live right”) that was infuriating in its insincerity and con artistry: They attacked America for our involvement in Vietnam, but they had dragged us into Vietnam to save their oppressive, vulgar colonial empire. Many of my fellow students were Jews, and of course, two-bit, self-hating, Jewish intellectual snots would savor French food since France, on the eve of the 1967 war, when Israel’s survival was in doubt, abruptly decided not to send the Jewish state aircraft that had already been paid for. (And, ever since then, proceeded to attack Israel for not willing to immediately surrender territories on the West bank, and hence become nine miles thick and vulnerable to extinction, when France of course never explained why it needed to rule the territory of Vietnam to defend Paris.) Today, I know a certain Jew — whose sense of Judaism received a triple whammy in the form of homosexuality, a completely assimilated family that groveled before the icons of American Christiandom, and an excessive dose of wimpish, liberal higher education — who, in the days immediately after the fall of the World Trade Center, enjoyed telling me, in his small, bitchy, Truman Capote voice, that he went to Afghani and Arab restaurants to show his solidarity with the third world.
There were certain people who would be sure to opt for French Food. One of them was Bennet B, who always wore a cape which, psychosexually, killed three birds with one stone: It satisfied his desire to be an exhibitionistic, obnoxious, affected son of a bitch because it was the psychological antithesis of a T shirt; it catered to his rage and malevolence, which he would ascribe to his poetic and polemical insights but were instead the product of a rampaging infantile narcissism, because it suggested Count Dracula, or something worn in Translyvania, or something to wear while casting witch’s spells; and it made him feel feminine because it was like a stole or a wrap, and while he took a deep drag on a cigarette, he could tug at his cape and imagine that he comported himself with all the elegance of Bette Davis in “All About Eve.”
Bennet, brimming over with all the latest psychobabble in the Village Voice, and donning a cape and at times a beret, was one of the few men on campus whom Helen, and her coterie of dieters, liked. And so when they wanted to deviate from the dictates of cottage cheese and radishes, and they went to a French restaurant in the course of a cultural excursion to New York City, they loved taking Bennet B along.
In the restaurant, he would, in the oily, faggotty voice used by pseudo intellectual Americans who think that French is an inherently intellectual tongue, say “Garcon,” and utter other rudimentary French nouns, and maybe even dare to utter a noun and conjugate a verb in the barest of sentences, and thereby impress us with his multiculturalism, liberalism and savoir faire. Helen beamed at his sophistication and ate her pate de foi gras with mincing theatrical spikes of her fork into the food, followed by equally theatrical depositions of the mudlike substance into her mouth, that seemed to say that if she could not speak French, and did not wear a beret, at least she knew how to masticate and swallow with all the artistic flourish of a left bank intellectual.
Copyright, David Gottfried, 2002
BBS – BEFORE BARBARA STREISAND, I.E., BEFORE BULLSHIT, THERE WAS BROOKLYN AND THERE WAS STUYVESANT
And as Richard slept, his legs wrapped around his sheets, and his sheets clutched his thighs and butt and balls and cock, like a roman toga run amok with five naked Italian men. And Vinnie bawled him out, “Stop fucking pulling on the sheet.” And Rich told Vinnie to go to hell. And they fought in the street and they bled and were brother blood oranges, fresh fruit under a screaming sun. And they were long and lean popsicles that plowed mouths like baseball bats. And with a tang so tart it smarts, they made your eyes tear with cheers. And their sugar always endeared, and dulled and vanquished all your fears. And with the sweet and the sour, you romanced the midnight hour, and all the ghouls would glower.
And I fucking loved his pizza face, every zit a spunky spark of fire, revealing his mind’s happy dark mire. And the metal braces on his teeth were as cute as boys’ erector sets. And even the dandruff in his hair made him seem so debonair. An eighth grade boy with Tony Curtis eyes. Fuck Fuck Fuck. Only Brooklyn can make men so fine.
And Brooklyn was filled with grease, pizza and shmaltz. The grease of machine shops. The grease of bicycles. The grease of automobiles. The grease of male hormones surging in the Brooklyn summer sun. The grease and the gasoline and the smell of airplane glue. The smell of the funk. The smell of the Perpetual Asshole smell of the Cropsey Avenue Exit on the Belt Parkway. The smell of the old man who propositioned Richard, when he was fourteen, on the subway, “Hey, kid, I’ll give you a few dollars if you do me a favor.” The wizened smell of men’s rooms which had seen it all under the all-knowing bald and glaring light.
And I want the old man to see me in my nakedness all found-out. My cock popped-out of my pants abashed and hard and beautiful in abject intoxication. A mindless, mauling dart of love, adoring, always imploring. A jumping Geronimo gerund to the last of present tense insistency. It rhymes with ass, like a snake in the grass, listen to it hissing.
It’s whistling through its piss slit, with tart remarks regarding every piece of ass. Like a flute, with ears astute, it shatters all the glass, but after the crash you’re still in the trance and your ass will prance and dance.
And the boys are dancing in the sheets, in a primeval wrestle, where everything leads to an inexorable lock. And every vassal has a lord and every lord a vassal. Every protrusion fits in a cranny and every cranny cups an eruption. And while Mr. Colleti talked about volcanic eruptions in science class, Richard wrote a poem:
THE ORGANIC ESSENCE OF INORGANIC CHEMISTRY
Acid and base
Yields water and salt
With divine grace
The moles somersault
Spark Electric embrace
Bit part peons
Their selves they efface
Spies chlorine, bleached queen
They forswear their spears
Become a condiment serene
Richard Barton, Age 14, WilliamMcKinleyJunior High School, The Board of Education of the City of New York, 1971
And Mr. Colletti wanted to know why Chlorine was a queen.
And the class yelled back: “Because homos like to bleach their hair.”
And Richard was enchanted with commercials for shampoo and knew that women were most beautiful in shampoo commercials. And he loved a commercial that sported the song, “You can wash your hair every day, every day… with…. Every day, every day.” But he didn’t remember all the words, but he knew it was enchanting that certain creatures could be so petty as to find the prospect of washing one’s hair, on a daily basis, divine. And so he sang along with the commercial: “You can wash your hair, every day, every day.” And again: “You can wash your hair every day, every day.” And he fantasized that it might be fun to be a chick, to actually be so retarded as to find enormous pleasure in washing one’s hair on a daily basis. (And Richard still has not answered, as T.S. Elliot would put it, the “overwhelming question”: Why is daily hair washing restricted to those who use only a certain brand of shampoo?)
And he loved to walk through the aisles of drug stores looking at the rainbow colors in the land of the shampoo. There was red shampoo, for someone ravishing and radiant like Elizabeth Taylor. There was yellow shampoo, for Eva Gabor, to make her hair golden even while toiling on “Green Acres.” There was blue shampoo, for Mrs. Drysdale and her old money rectitude on “The Beverley Hillbillies.” But Richard’s Mother only bought Prell shampoo, the green shampoo of his family’s envy. And Richard looked for the shampoo that would make him look like Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones.
And then the boys in the sheets started snickering, “Bet Brian Jones is doing pencils like Gary Lasagna.” (So Richard opened his anal sphincter and farted on Mike’s big Jewish shnoz.)
Everyone knew of the scandal and allure of Gary Lasagna. This sullen, strange boy was known to stick pencils up his fucking ass. One day, Carol Tortellini borrowed his pencil to erase something in her notebook, and she screamed, “Gary’s got fuckin’ BM on his goddamn pencil.” This was the most exciting news since the school got into the New York Daily News because of a fight between the niggers and the wops. (David Gottfried, the school’s resident commie, said that the Jews proved their moral superiority by staying out of the fight, managing to unite the heretofore mutually antagonistic Italians and Blacks.) Everybody wanted to know why Gary was into pencils and how long he had been into pencils and it didn’t take long before pencils became a fad. The big fab fag fad. Pre fag hag. No Barbara Streisand going blab blab. As happy as a puppy dog with his tail going wag wag. Nothing like yanking on your dick when you got fuckin’ pencil up your ass. Soon there was a run on pencils. Circle jerks in the boys’ room with pencils up the fuckin’ butt. Wiping jism with New York City Board of Education paper towels that were as harsh as sandpaper. And then you know the harshness makes you hard. And then some guys turned to bigger things and took the subway to Manhattan. And in Manhattan, they met rich Protestant faggots from real American states, dumb places like Iowa where even straight boys seemed queer, and they had boring names like Anderson and Fuller and Full of Shit and they thought white bread was food. And in Manhattan, the boys from Brooklyn were taught that they were supposed to love Barbara Streisand, and they stopped being cute.
Richard also went on the subway to go to Manhattan. He went there to work for George Mc Govern in the 1972 Presidential campaign. And he even stuck with McGovern after having seen McGovern eat chopped liver on white bread with a glass of milk at Dubrow’s cafeteria, the same cafeteria where Richard’s Father may have been murdered in 1963, when Richard was six.
But Richard’s friends thought Mc Govern was a faggot for being against the war in Vietnam and that Richard, by implication, was a faggot too. So Richard got his revenge, as was his wont. He went to the roof of an apartment house adjacent to the schoolyard and started throwing bricks onto the ground below. And he heard the children shriek and cry and run. And then everything was nice and quiet.
And after Richard had climbed down from the roof, he was met by New York’s Finest. “Up against the Wall,” the men in blue hollered. And they searched him and arrested him and he was thrown-out of school, only to return to take his finals (Math: 100; Science: 94; Spanish: 93) and to graduate from junior high school.
Richard loved not going to school. It was June, the flowers had bloomed, and he raced his bicycle along the Belt Parkway in the morning, read voraciously and worked for Mc Govern every afternoon. And he escorted Robert Kennedy’s daughter through the streets of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn as she worked the conservative Catholic vote for Mc Govern.
And the summer was the season of the eternal hard-on. He was so horny and he was so frightened. And although he was officially in support of an interventionist state insofar as the economy was concerned, one that would spend money to ease the plight of the poor (Boring!), he really wanted the state to intervene in matters sexual. He wanted the law to compel all good-looking people to disrobe. To order and mandate sex. To fucking break the ice. He thought police should march up and down subway cars, determine who was eying whom, and to compel eyer and eyed to mount one another. He never understood why match-making was regressive. And then he met matchmakers in hippie guise.
The hippified creatures occupied a broken-down store front in the WestVillage. And the leader of the group was a fat man with a hacking cough who was a Santa Claus with LSD tablets that were as pretty as Flintstone vitamins. The fat man told everyone in the group what to do, and Richard, for a time, actually followed orders from an older man. And one day, in the old Nathan’s on 6th Avenue and 8th Street, the fat man ordained who everyone was to bed. Sarah was to bed Jacob. And Joshua was to get into Rachel’s pants. And Jonathan was deemed the proper fucker of Melinda. And David was ordained to screw Michelle. And on and on went the roster of beautiful, innocent Jewish names until it was decreed that Richard would screw Cindy, who was on a two-day pass from her facility for severely disturbed teenagers. And Richard and Cindy found a little rat-hole in which to do their business. Cindy took off her jeans, caked with generous helpings of dried dirt and perhaps shit and vomit as well. And then Cindy was down to her panties, which were filled with blood and dried blood and bloody tissue papers. She proudly told Richard that she was having her period, as if she were advising him that she had gotten into Yale, and Richard, somewhat intimidated by educated women who reveled in the blood of their menstrual cycles, was soft as a baby boy and utterly disinterested. And he vowed never to let women enjoy his penis again.
Richard happily put his pants on, secure in the white purity of his jockey shorts. He wanted the wholesome cotton smell of shorts and socks and t shirts and sneakers and saw silk, in its slinkiness, as deceptive and slithery as an eel. Like an oil slick poised to make you slip. And the bombast of a woman’s fat hat had the audacity of a general leading his men into war. And high heels had spikes because spikes made better weapons. And the beads on a necklace were the rosary of some fashionable form of religious witchcraft. And a woman, all put together and ready to do lunch, looked like an incongruous conglomeration of artifacts and totems from warring African tribes.
But soon he was going to a place that did not have many women, which did not have any women at all until recently. He was due to start Stuyvesant High School, New York City’s public high school for gifted students, in the autumn.
The school was situated in Manhattan, and bright boys from all five boroughs converged on the old bastion of all male excellence. To get to the school, Richard once again took the subway, the great penises of New York. And it might seem like a cheap and easy metaphor, but for Richard the phallic traits of subway trains were so pronounced that a train ride seemed like an inherently male homosexual experience. Subways were not only long and hard; they were also noisy, and the noise made them seem like quarrelsome, rebellious boys. They shook back and forth as if an angry, all powerful two-year old boy were shaking his playpen to and fro. They jostled you and could make your clothing appear unkempt, and the general effect was something in the nature of a molestation. They smelled raunchier than any asshole. The hoods shouted and harangued with more ardor than any scorned suitor demanding pussy. The transit authority personnel treated you like pieces of meat. In the summer, it was hotter than a sweaty Puerto Rican in skin tight clothing breathing hot sauce on your face. And, after all, why did guys on trains look so tough? To make it clear, with an accusatory glare, that they were not getting fucked up the ass; you were getting fucked up the ass. But, when no one was looking, even the toughest guys would relax and a beatific serenity came upon their faces: For now, the train was doing the fucking and they could sit back and enjoy the ride.
The boy penises of Stuyvesant all eventually had to transfer to the L subway train (And the Stuyvesant train had to be the L train, a letter that in its longitudinal loveliness seemed to be the very essence of the penile), and shortly before 9 A.M., the L train discharged throngs of brilliant penises into Stuyvesant, the high school of the most gifted penises of New York. And being bright, the penises shouted jism of Marx and Maoism and molecules, rapid fire, uncouth, staccato lines of machine gun logic that went rat a tat tat and were more soothing to Richard’s ears than any meditation tape that told one to calm down. And Richard could shoot as long and as fast as the best of them. And his jism reached its most ravishing and redolent heights in English class where Richard wrote uncommonly sick and funny adolescent drivel. (And Frank McCourt of “Angela’s Ashes” fame was his teacher, and he believes Frank remembers him because in one of his books, in the course of complaining that Stuyvesant guys were relentlessly pushy, he said he once had a student who complained of a grade of 95. And Richard did complain to Frank that a grade of 95 was too low.) Richard did not know what irony or paradox or ambiguity were, and he was a breathing ode to extravagance.
But Richard’s Mother and Psychiatrist did not like his extravagance, and they urged him to leave Stuyvesant and to enter a psychiatric hospital. And when he returned home from school at around 6PM on Monday, December 4, 1972 (he got home late because he was engaged in extra curricular activities), his Mother told him that a space had opened-up at the hospital. That night, while Richard’s Mother was at some sort of club or event at which pompous parents repeated “psychological” nostrums about child rearing and Richard’s Mother made like little Miss Anna Freud, Richard bought toothpaste and soap and a soap dish and packed for his journey to the hospital. On the following day, Richard became an inmate in a hospital, and when he had told the hospital staff that he had been in New York’s premier science high school, he was told that he was being delusional: After all, since he was in the hospital he was crazy, and crazy people don’t go to fine high schools like Stuyvesant. But Richard knows, somehow, that someone from Stuyvesant remembers him. Must remember him.
Because someone from that high school that not only had bright guys, but really great guys, called him up, at the hospital, and suggested that Richard had been placed in that hospital because, all in all, he was just a really neat guy who was a bit too sensitive. And that three-minute phone call, which had more therapeutic power than ten thousand bastard psychiatrists wielding twenty thousand thorazine shots, was the only thing that sustained Richard for the next two and one half years, after which Richard, thankfully, was no longer welcome in any hospitals (the insurance policy, thank G-d, was exhausted) and their satellite treatment centers for disturbed children and teens (at 18, he was too old for such nonsense) and Richard was free to take the SATs and join the Ivy League. And if I remember the name of that guy who called me when Richard was in the hospital, and this book makes any real money, and that guy needs any money, he can get a decent hunk of the proceeds. But I don’t think I am throwing my money around. The guy who called me was, of course, a fantastic guy and so the chance of him being alive is significantly reduced.
Copyright, David Gottfried, 2007
TOWARDS A POST MODERNIST, IDENTITY POLITICS, CRITICAL LEGAL THEORY’S CONCEPTION OF HIV AND ITS TREATMENT
The predominant medical models used to treat AIDS starkly reflect power, politics and persecutorial social dynamics. In every aspect of diagnosis, evaluation and treatment, racist impulses are cleverly and contumaciously transformed, sanitized and domesticated into ideas which, by virtue of logic and reason – and other such Cartesian categories which degrade the feminine, fluid and feeling-friendly aspects of the mind — supposedly provides answers to questions. Ideas are, of course, in and of themselves inimical to life forces because of their tendency to rigidly structure propositions into syllogisms. Syllogisms are the ruthless shining stars of ideation, the Prussian germ(an)s of logic which, like maniacal war lords, process major propositions, and minor propositions, and arrive at conclusions. It is all very logical. It is all very masculine. It reeks with the stench of warfare.
This warfare pervades every aspect of AIDS treatment and care, a discipline replete with every manifestation of class, race and sex biases. For example, at a recent visit to a facility in North Umbrage, in the Council of Brittle Sticks, I found that physicians paid tremendous attention to the number of T 4 cells in their patients’ blood. T 4 cells are, of course, a rather esoteric phenomenon. Although I was graduated from Harvard College, and received Phds from that august institution in no less than three fields — including Sodomy studies, progressive pornography, and interstitial idiosyncratic imbeciles on the Internet — I don’t know what T 4 cells are so I feel quite content to say, with a regal, haughty swirl of my opera cape, that if I don’t know what they are, they cannot be too important. They are nothing more than those little scraps of strange and perverse minutiae that scientific automatons must dredge up from the corporeal world to stunt and stymie and sidetrack a proper political critique of our perfidious society.
However, on further analysis, I found why the T 4 cells so engaged the ruling class physicians. The T 4 cells were a species of white blood cells. The physicians were alarmed by the decline in T 4 cells. To cut to the chase: The doctors were upset because white blood cells, read white people, were on the run.
And so AIDS treatment seems designed to foster white regimes, white hegemony and white rule by buttressing and augmenting the numbers of white blood cells which may, for all we know, be involved in slavery. Indeed, I have heard that huge conglomerations of white blood cells routinely congregate in places such as lymph nodes. What, prey tell, are they doing there. Perhaps, they are enslaving blacks cells and forcing them to weave the cottony web of neurons, blood vessels and complex organs which transverse an entire human being. Obviously, a tremendous quantum of work was employed in constructing human beings. Perhaps, this work was performed because white cells coerced unempowered forces to build the human being. Instead of augmenting the power of white cells, we should instead deconstruct the human being, i.e., tear him apart, because the human being’s very identity is based on the subjugation of powerless peoples, such as black cells. This is the sort of stuff wrought by white cell imperialism.
This of course would not be out of character for the white blood cells. They are, by nature, an especially hostile and aggressive force which actually takes it upon itself to lash-out and attack microbes, innocent little microbes, who have had the poor luck to swim inside a human’s cavernous and formidable body.
And so we see that white blood cells are in all respects like the white race which they emulate, or which emulates them. White blood cells actually are considered the chief component of something known as the body’s immune system, a feature of the body designed to protect the body from illness and infection and, if need be, to attack organisms which may invade the body.
The immune system is the quintessence of unreconstructed macho and, therefore, merits utter obliteration. It is all on a par with Donald Rumsfeld; it is our internal pentagon. It is a war machine ruthlessly eating beef and milk and killing innocent infections that only want to invade us in the manor of phalluses invading orifices. However, physicians – whose fealty to the white Order is so pronounced that they even wear white – who treat AIDS patients deem it imperative to buttress and defend the retrograde, patriarchal, immune system, replete with its legions of T 4 cells, and minions of other related white blood cells, that course through the vessels of a body with all the imperial haughtiness of the British Navy at the end of the Nineteenth Century.
Needless to say, peaceful coexistence with pathogens makes more sense. In a politically just ecology, the immune system would wither away, and we would permit all manor of organisms to feast upon our bodies. Yes, we might ooze with purulent pus and all manner of odiferous discharges, and various scabs might form encampments on our skin, and the entire process might make us so debilitated that we would not be up to doing anything other than smoking some marijuana, but in the general decay, the grand Byronesque Tubercular decadence of illness and disease, we would achieve a greater mystical oneness with the world. Perhaps, the spherical streptococci bacteria will round-out the edges of our inhuman logical world. Maybe, the curvaceous ambling of spiral-shaped treponema pallidum, the organism that causes syphilis, will put the vim and nuance of flirtatious sexuality into our barren worlds. Instead of killing microorganisms, we should, in accord with our multi-culturalist faith, embrace them, usher them into our tent, and let them burrow deep within our lungs and gut.
But such farsighted attitudes have not begun to make a dent in most treatment facilities. Just the other day, for example, I made a sojourn to the Cultured Capon Infirmary and Hospital in the Town of Barrenness Dowager Choate, and I encountered the most primitive, macho conceptions of medical practice. In this institution, the medical people were all terribly keen on labeling, categorizing, and identifying the various infections their AIDS patients had succumbed to as a consequence of their compromised immunity. As I reviewed the lists of infections that periodically visited the AIDS patients, I noticed that most of them had Latinate names.
Indeed, the nomenclature positively reeked of the Mediterranean. The sounds and rhythms and cadences could have been gleaned from an Old Latin Mass. This of course demonstrates another bias enfeebling AIDS care: Our prejudice against Southern Europeans, in particular those Swarthy Italians. The great preponderance of microorganisms are of Italian extraction, and our Northern European antipathy to all things Italian and Catholic have poisoned us with patent prejudice against microbes.
These microbes have other characteristics that arouse the bigotry of the medical community. Microbes, it appears, cause elevated temperatures. The medical community, marching in lock step, evincing all the regimentation of gray-suited Mc Carthyite inquisitors, have an abiding hatred of fever. Indeed, I have not met a single doctor who thinks that a high fever might be a nice, exciting thing.
Obviously, this hostility to fever is derivative of their hostility toward Italian and Latin culture. The icy Protestant and Jewish patriarchs of our medical establishment fear all aspects of the Latin microbial world, and this includes a fear of their passion, their sexuality, and their zest for living. Elevated temperatures are a feature of elevated passion, and this has merited the scorn and derision of the dour Medical community.
Along with elevated temperatures, many infections are associated with rashes. Medicine’s histrionic reactions to rashes present a recapitulation of all the foregoing concepts. First, the white bias is plainly in force. When a rash mars a white face, it is detracting from that person’s whiteness, and if the scab is red, as so many of them are, it may be imparting a touch of the wild, red man, or the native American. This instills terrors in the wards. And the creeping, spreading nature of a rash, the way in which red blisters or sores pop-up and spread across the canvass of a face, represents the spread of red communism, and each red vesicle signifies another town, another besieged Berlin, under the sway of the red menace. Alternatively, rashes are hated because they represent Latins. This seems indisputable because rashes paint charming pizzas on peoples’ faces. But the medical community, instead of surrendering to the delightful riot of nature, endeavors to live in world of logic and lines and order, and so it makes every effort to ban the rashes.
But medicine’s imperialistic bias does not stop with its assault on Communistic red rashes. Diarrhea is a common symptom of AIDS, and medicine has unleashed its predictable fury on this venerable and inoffensive condition. Really, what is so wrong with diarhea. Because it smells? The hostility to its odors evinces a hostility to the third world, where one’s nostrils are often greeted by a glorious cacophony of pungent fumes. Unfortunately, medicine fails to see the anarchic and primal beauty of reeking feces erupting from withered bodies and wants only to instill order and sameness. And in the course of furthering this regime of uniformity, medicine does not even pay lip service to our liberal creed. It blatantly values such things as sterility, claiming that many environments should be free of various microorganisms. Medicine frankly admits that it is flatly opposed to microbial diversity. But the multicultural richness connoted by the glorious mosaic of richly varied bowel movements is not the only thing animating the hostility to diarrhea. It is also a function of plain old Anal retentiveness.
(I must beg the indulgence of the reader in using a term such as “anal retentiveness.” I know that that was a concept coined by Freud, and hence usually verboten because Freud advocated patriarchal power. I know one should only use his terms sparingly and with the greatest trepidation. Unfortunately, I do find that the term “anal retentive” is apt even though Freud was a vile, reactionary, misogynist, Zionist pig in league with forces of reaction all over the globe. Please, bitch feminist dominatrix amazon pseudo intellectual, do not hang me by my balls from the ivied towers of Harvard College.)
Anal retentiveness is, of course, the tendency to hold one’s feces in, which, of course, is only a hop, skip and a paranoid leap of the imagination away from the tendency not to spend money and to be thrifty. Very simply, anal retentive people hold their bowels in, and tend to be constipated, and this, obviously, facilitates their tendency to hold their money in their bank accounts. Now diarrhea, by contrast, is nothing other that a jubilant, volcanic eruption against anal retentiveness. One with lose bowels explodes copious amounts of feces in toilets – and to, better express one’s deviation from bourgeois convention, one may also have bowel accidents in one’s pants, in one’s bed, etc. — and spends large amounts of money for items great and small.
This tendency to spend large amounts of money is — must I spell it out — plainly liberal, or practically socialistic. And so it is really very simple and conjoined by impeccable logic: The medical establishment is against free-wheeling, free-spirited diarrhea because the tendency to move one’s bowels with great frequency is suggestive of the tendency to empty one’s wallets with great frequency and this, of course, makes one a tax and spend liberal or even a socialist.
But I can imagine another place. A place where diarrhea might be celebrated. A place free of the shackles of patriarchal, bourgeois medicine. That beckoning beret on a hill must of course be Paris.
Copyright, David Gottfried, 2002