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Friday, April 29, 2016

Y is for WHY

"The book is a curiosity to me, it is such a pretentious affair, and yet so 'slow,' so sleepy; such an insipid mess of inspiration. It is chloroform in print." 
- Mark Twain on The Interpretation of Dreams


 "Anyone who stops learning is old, whether twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing you can do is keep your mind young."
 - Mark Twain

I blinked my eyes in confusion.

Freud's ghost dissolved into boyhood, and then slowly re-focused into young adulthood.

The ghost of Mark Twain looked as startled as I felt.  I sighed as I thought I understood.

Which of us has not longed to begin again, wiser for all the mistakes and foolish choices we have made over the years?

But would we live any wiser, any better?  Or would we only make new mistakes, take different roads best left untrod? 

Freud seemed to be unaware of his metamorphosis.  

His unconscious was flinching from the revelations of some of his bitter mistakes, dysfunctional life choices, 

and perhaps the regrets to which they had given birth.

Freud cleared his throat as if to likewise clear his mind from the mistakes Wyrd and Twain had exposed.

"We come now to the letter Y in our Free Association Exercise.  What occurs to you, Roland?"

"Why," I said to a suddenly scowling Freud, and I spelled it out, "W-H-Y."

Freud frowned, "Why?"

"Exactly," I said as Twain fought a smile.

"When as a boy, I saw the across the-street neighbor beating down his front door with a fence post, 

or when I watched the wife of a smart chemical engineer throw herself down on the floor, 

beating it with her fists and feet in a fit of temper, 

or gulped as a driver veered in front of my step-father's car to get ahead of him, 

risking so much to gain so little,

I asked WHY?  

It is what drove me to study psychology.  Isn't that what prompted you into it as well?"

Freud shook his head.  

"When I was 26, I fell madly in love with Martha Bernays.  My lab job did not pay well enough to marry, 

so I studied medicine for three years and was finally able to marry her."

I nodded my head.  

"I still ask WHY?  Why are we so cruel to those who cannot fight back?  Why is the world getting darker and darker?"

Mark smiled, "I am gratified to be able to answer those questions promptly, Roland: I don't know."

Freud snapped, "Twain, you support my feelings about the majority of people."

"Yeah?" snorted Mark.  "Well, I didn't spin a whole theory on just one child."

It was my turn to frown, and Mark said, 

"Despite old Saw-Brains' theories about how children are sexual beings who develop into adults with unconscious issues, 

Freud saw only a single patient during his lifetime who was actually a child."

I turned to Freud who only shrugged, "One was enough."

Mark sighed, 

"Keep asking WHY, Roland, and keep trying to answer that eternal question. 

Anyone who stops learning is old, whether twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing you can do is keep your mind young."

"As if you knew anything about life, Twain."

Mark drawled, 

"I didn't charge folks a pretty penny just to tell my dog in front of them that you thought they was lying."

I frowned again, and he went on, "Old Coke-Head transferred his affection to his dog."

Mark put out his cigar. 

"He involved his Chow Chow, Jofi, in therapy sessions, saying things like: 

'Jofi doesn’t approve of what you’re saying.' 

Patients complained that he was more interested in the dog than in them, 

which on the basis of the evidence may very well have been true."

Freud sniffed, "The more I learned of people, the more I liked my dog."

Mark nodded agreement.  "Me, too.  But I didn't charge folks to listen to me talk to him!"

Thursday, April 28, 2016

X is for NOT WHAT YOU MIGHT THINK

"I hate the sun because it gives light to see the world but not enough for the lost to see the way home." 
- Meilori Shinseen

Freud sneered at Mark.  

"So, Twain, you, too, must be damned, for you are imprisoned within Meilori's walls as am I."

Mark snorted, 

"Not so you'd notice.  Why I visit the apartment of the boy here so often, I know exactly what he will say to X -- Xena."


Mark smiled wide.  

"Why I am rather partial to that filly's corset and long legs myself.  The boy has a virtual shrine to her on one of his bookcases: 

autographed photos, metal statues, porcelain statues and ... bust."


Mark waggled his eyebrows.  

"I imagine you have something suggestive to say of that last word."

Freud kept silent, turning to me with a raised eyebrow, and I shook my head.  

"To me, hers is a story of redemption, of striving to balance the sins of the past by helping the hurting of the present."

Stretching out the word into three syllables, Freud said, "Really?"

I shook my head again, saying, 

"But tonight I would not have said 'Xena.'  What I would have said is that X brings to mind: 

Crossing Out, Crossing Lines, and Crossing the Rubicon."

Mark sighed, 

"I recall old Ovid saying to me: 

'We mortals always strive for the forbidden and wish for the impossible.'"

Freud nodded, "Everywhere I go, I find a poet has been there before me."

He turned to me.  

"Unexpressed emotions do not die.  They are buried alive.  And like the undead of whom you write, they dig their way out later in uglier ways." 

Mark said, "Well some of those ways Wyrd just spoke of here were sure enough ugly."

Freud turned to me.  "You say nothing?"

I sighed, 

"I didn't live in your shoes, sir.  I am not God to judge -- and I don't have the job qualifications to step into His place."

Freud snapped, 

"Bah!  When a man is freed of religion, he has a better chance of living a normal and healthy life."

Mark Twain drawled, "Unless they are your wife and sisters."

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

W IS FOR WYRD

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THE NOT-SO-INNOCENTS ABROAD!


"When a person cannot find a deep sense of purpose, he distracts himself with pleasure." 
 - Viktor Frankl

Freud studied me intently.  "We come to the Letter W, Roland.  What occurs to you?"

I looked over his shoulder and went cold.  "Wyrd!"

When the three Norse Norns merge, 

they become the tall, angular spirit, Wyrd or Fate, from whom there was no escape.


When I saw Wyrd float towards the shadows in the rear of Meilori's, I heaved a sigh of relief.  

Neither Freud nor Twain had spotted her.

Mark snorted, "I think the same thing when I look at old Saw-Brains there, Roland."

Freud snapped, "What is your problem with me, Twain?"

Mark's arsenic blue-grey eyes glistened in the shadows.  "More than one, esteemed doctor."

He made a face as if his cigar tasted bad.

"In 1938 Vienna, you were granted an exit visa and allowed to list the names of six people to take with you."

Mark angrily ground out his cigar on the table.  

"You listed your doctor, your maid, your dog, and your wife’s ... sister, 

but you didn't list any of your own sisters!

All four of them were shuttled to the Terezín concentration camp 

where they died badly, while you, their brother, lived out your last days in London."

Freud was pale.  "I had limited money.  I could not afford ...."

"Your friends, your colleagues would have given you the money had you asked!" snapped Mark.

"Perhaps it is easy for you to ask for money, Twain, but I ...."

Mark shook his head as if ridding it of gnats. 

"Now, I have been accused of hubris so often that finally I had to look it up in the dictionary."

Mark glowered, "I only saw your picture.  Now, I know why."

Freud was about to speak when he froze.  Mark and I joined him.  

Wyrd, her grim eyes skewering the psychiatrist, 

now towered above him and spoke like the crushing of dying leaves underfoot.

"The Scribbler spoke of your wife's sister, Minna Bernays, but withheld his words.  I will not."

Wyrd traced strange burning runes on our table's surface.

"Your sister-in-law's sleeping arrangements in your wife's and your apartment would be called by my name -- weird.

 Minna’s small sleeping quarters were right next to your and Martha’s bedroom, and separated only by a flimsy partition, not a wall and door. 

The only way Minna could get to her room was to walk through the bedroom that her sister and brother-in-law shared."

Mark raised an eyebrow, but Freud snapped, "You would have had to live there to understand."

Mark snorted, "A situation I am glad to have been spared!"

Wyrd continued,

"In 1898, during a two-week vacation in the Swiss Alps, you and Minna registered at an inn as “Dr Sigm Freud u frau” — 

as man and wife.  

You took the largest room in the hotel, but one that had what is described as a 'double bed.'

Soon after you both checked in, you sent your wife a postcard that regaled her with details about the gorgeous scenery, 

but described your lodgings as 'humble,' even though the hotel was 'the second fanciest in town'.”

"I ...." began Freud, but Wyrd shook her head, disappearing and left only fading words behind.

"Now, you know why you are doomed never to leave Meilori's."

Mark cleared his throat.  "Well, as exit lines go, that one was a killer."

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

V IS FOR NAZIS

"Humor is a means of obtaining pleasure in spite of the distressing events that interface with it."
 - Sigmund Freud


Don't miss it!  Michelle Wallace spotlights me and Victor Standish on her lovely blog today:
 http://www.writer-in-transit.co.za/v-is-for-victor-standish-must-die/
 



 "Vienna," I said to Freud's question of what occurred to me at the letter V.  

"Berggasse 19 to be exact."

Freud sucked in a breath and nodded, 

"Of course looking at me how could you not think of the address 

where I lived for 47 years, seeing patients every working day for eight or more hours?"

Mark Twain and I joined Freud in sucking in our breaths.  



As sometimes happened at the haunted jazz club, Meilori's, magic stirred echoes from the past atop our table.

In billowing mists, a scene from over 70 years ago in Vienna slowly took shape:

The sign on the building reading ''Prof. Dr. Freud/3-4'' had already been removed 

and a swastika flag had been draped over the doorway. 

Freud was one of many thousands of Jewish Viennese who were harassed 

in the weeks and months after Hitler's triumphant entry into the Austrian capital in March 1938.

 When the Nazi commandos barged into the apartment, Freud's wife, 

Martha, in her unflappable Hamburg way, asked them to leave their rifles in the hall. 

Mark Twain smiled at the courage shown by the unbowed woman.

The leader of the intruders stiffly addressed the master of the house as ''Herr Professor."

In a brisk, rough manner, the commander, with his men, proceeded to search the vast apartment. 

Finally the Nazis left.

Martha Freud, in quiet dignity, went from room to room, straightening up the shambles they left in their wake.

With only a slight tremor to her voice, Martha informed her husband they had seized an amount of money worth about $840. 

''Dear me,'' Freud remarked, ''I have never taken that much for a single visit.''

Mark Twain sputtered a laugh and studied the man as the billowing scene evaporated atop our table.  

"Doctor, I don't much care for you.  But damn, you and your Mrs. had sand."

He cocked his head at Freud.  "And who would have thought you had a sense of humor?"

Freud smiled sadly, 

"I have found humor to be a means of obtaining pleasure in spite of the distressing events that interface with it." 

Mark grimaced, "Leave it to a Saw-Brains to take all the joy out of a laugh by dissecting it!"

He looked at the table-top as if still seeing the Nazis invading the home of harmless citizens.

"What is it that strikes a spark of humor from a man? 

It is the effort to throw off, to fight back the burden of grief that is laid on each one of us. 

In youth we don't feel it, but as we grow to manhood we find the burden on our shoulders. 

Humor? 

It is nature's effort to harmonize conditions. 

The further the pendulum swings out over woe the further it is bound to swing back over mirth."  

Freud nodded.

"Humor must not professedly teach, and it must not professedly preach, but it must do both if it would live forever."

Mark Twain sat up straight.  "I wrote that!"

Freud smiled drily, 

"Yes, eventually even fools get some things correct.  The law of averages always has its revenge." 

I made a face.  "As apparently do professors."


Monday, April 25, 2016

U IS AN UNPLUMBED WELL

"When Freud fled Austria after the Nazi takeover,

 the Nazis would not let Freud board the train to Paris unless he provided a statement that absolved them of any blame.

 'I can heartily recommend the Gestapo to anyone,' Freud wrote. The Nazis did not see the irony." 
- Paul Boehm

Freud looked almost relieved as he said, "We are nearing the end of this Challenge of yours ... and mine."

He looked at Mark. "Soon I will be spared your wit, half share though you have."

Mark pretended to be stabbed by an invisible sword under his heart. 

 "Wit ... the sudden marriage of ideas which, before their union, were not perceived to have any relation."

He shrugged. 

"Wit and Humor--if any difference it is in duration--lightning and electric light. 

Same material, apparently; 

but one is vivid, brief, and can do damage--the other fools along and enjoys the elaboration."

I was afraid things might get nasty again and said, 

"The Letter now is U.  And the concept of Understanding occurs to me."

Freud nodded, 

"Odd that you mention Understanding.  I believe Twain that I understand your prickling words to me."

He sighed, 

"Far from being able to identify with me, many people feel threatened.  

I am a quintessential father figure. 

Many people see themselves as rebels against authority and so feel compelled to throw barbs at me."

Mark winked at me and jabbed a thumb at Freud.  "And he's humble, too."

Mark smiled, 

 "I always try to acknowledge a fault frankly.  

This will throw those in authority off guard and give you time to commit more!"

 Freud said, "Do you believe half of what you say?"

"If I don't, I lie."

Sunday, April 24, 2016