The catalyst for the events of the day was an invitation I received to attend a book release party. This might not seem particularly strange, if a bit adult for someone of my young age, until you are informed that the person who invited me to this party was my psychologist. Those of you who know something about psychotherapy might find this highly inappropriate, perhaps even unethical, but I do not. While there is expected to be a separation between the personal lives of patients and therapists it's a somewhat artificial and even monumentally weird construction. Think about it, you spend up to several hours a week alone in a room discussing your problems and deepest fears with someone. With their help you work on getting your life in order and growing as a person. You transform, they watch you transform...and that's supposed to be it. Now you're cured or just in need of maintenance or whatever and you go on your merry way? The advantage of this sort of firm barrier is that it allows you to express yourself without fear of rejection since the therapist isn't a real person, they are a constructed persona for the sole purpose of helping you. The disadvantage is that the relationship FEELS constructed and false, and that after you're "done" there is a big gap. Therapists are mentors, and one of the key attributes of a good mentor is that he does not abandon the protege just because the protege no longer needs the same sort of mentoring. There are still relationships between therapist and patient that are unethical and inappropriate, sexual being chief among them, but a party invitation does not fall into that realm in my opinion.
That being said, it's still fucking weird. There are a bunch of reasons for this. For one thing there's the fact that you basically have to lie about your relationship to the therapist while at the party. Oh sure when asked "How do you know Paulo? (not his real name)" you can say "We're friends" but if someone digs deeper you really have no choice but to lie. It's not just that it's embarrassing to admit that you're in therapy, though it is and it shouldn't be, it's also what that relationship implies. When you admit that someone is your therapist you're saying that they know all your deepest secrets (or should) AND you're bringing up those ethical stereotypes I mentioned earlier. It's just not conducive to party-style social relations. So you have to lie. I did so in a humorous manner, claiming that I'd been grown in his basement so he could have a basketball-player sized clone but that unfortunately the experiment had gone wrong and I'd grown in girth as well as height, or that we'd met in a Jewish-Indian cultural exchange sweat lodge. Still it's a bit of a sticking point. Perhaps more important than your own lies, though, is the fact that because you know that you're lying you start to wonder who else there is lying too. After all it'd be silly to assume that you're the only patient at the party or that the others would announce their true relationship. Therefore pretty much everyone you meet there becomes instantly suspect, except for immediate family to the person. It's unlikely Paolo would pass off a patient as his daughter. It starts to feel something like a masquerade ball. You try to guess others' maladies.
"How do you know Paulo?"
"We met in the Spanish American war" Okay he's delusional
"And how do YOU know Paulo?"
"We met in a sports bar in Boston watching a Celtics game." Okay, that's possible, but just to be sure I'll assume she's Schizotypal.
So it was with trepidation that I set out for the wilds of suburban New York and what would end up being a 9 hour party. I decided that I would read poetry on the way up on the theory that since there isn't any romance or real excitement going on in my life I might as well insert some poetry into it myself. I started out reading some William Carlos Williams, intending to move on to some other stuff later on, but I never got to the Eliot or Dickinson. While I was on the bus on the way to the train station a man's bag kept falling into my leg, and he was very apologetic. I decided to ease his mind with a few jokes and commented that as long as the suitcase didn't have any nitro-glycerin in it we'd be okay. Then I made a joke about how if you blow up a bus while on the way to an airport to blow up a plane it's very embarrassing, and you only get 4 virgins when you get to heaven instead of 72. We went off from there to a very dry witty discussion of the practicality of Terrorism in New York after 9/11 and the question of whether health insurance has to pay for injuries due to a botched suicide bombing attempt. People around us looked nervous. It was nice.
I got off the bus at the appropriate stop and went up to the Harlem train station. I paced around a bit on the platform, thinking of how to write all this up in the sort of flowing and romanticized prose that you aren't reading right now because I simply don't have time to write up all the inner conflict and back story before the actual details fade from my mind. The prose was interrupted when I ran into a professor of mine from Columbia, who happened to be taking the train back to her REAL home up in Connecticut. I remember her well, she ran an interesting seminar but tended to talk a bit more than a professor ought to in a seminar, at least in my opinion. By that I mean that if you wanted to get a word in edgewise you basically had to shoot her full of tranquilizers and speak quickly while she spent a few seconds shrugging them off and then launched back into an explanation of why human migration went east and then back west during prehistoric times.
This was a class on American political thought.
Nice lady. Just the sort of person you want to spend an hour on a train with. She suggested we sit together and we did. We talked about quite a few things while my poetry book sat closed in my backpack. I had been instructed to look for a short bald man in a bad sports coat who was going to the same party but since there was no break in the conversation I didn't get a chance to so much as glance around the car I was in, let alone explore any of the others.
One hour later we got off of the train and said goodbye. Truth be told it wasn't a bad time, really, just slightly uncomfortable and leaving me with a head full of facts about her family her career and her opinions on the current political situation. I went to the parking lot of the station and looked for my psychoanalyst who had said he was going to pick me up there. Of course he wasn't there, but I did spot the short guy who stood around looking dour and mean, which, if you get to know him a bit, is a pretty appropriate way for him to look. A car pulled up after about a minute of standing around and a short young Hispanic man asked if the two of us were Ben and Mark. I began to suspect at this point that my psychologist had selected people to attend this party purely based on the theory that they would be shorter than him and thus no match in the inevitable game of pickup basketball that would just "happen" to break out during the festivities. I figured that though I am quite a bit taller than he I was selected for being fat and slow. I was a little worried. Would the other munchkins accept me in a party designed for them? Would I bump my head on the ceiling of his little short-man home?
Mark and I got into the car and we drove off to the house. It was a nice ride as semi-suburban rides through New York State go. Mark didn't have much to say but the Hispanic man (named Jesse) and I chatted about the directions to the house, since I had demanded them before agreeing to come on the theory that I might not be picked up and needed to know how to walk to my destination if necessary. Later his girlfriend, my analyst's daughter (who is quite nice and apparently models her couture after Adrianna on The Sopranos which is all I will say about her personally on the theory that he might read this and the only things you can say about someone's children is that they are very smart, will go far in life, are quite beautiful without being attractive in the least, and reflect well on their parents) would say that Jesse claimed that my conversation was like movie dialogue. I believe this was a set up since my analyst knows I want to write movies and am not capable of doing so, so he instructed one of his minions to throw me a bone. It was a harmless and nice set-up all the same.
The house itself was nice, one of those one-story railroad design deals perfect for riding a bike through when you're four years old and absolutely atrocious for hosting a party. Several times I had to circle around through the garden to get to the bathrooms, so clogged was the living room with people. Both of their bathrooms are right next to each other, as if someone was planning on making a restaurant or shop and wanted a men's and women's bathroom but changed his mind at the last minute and built a house, leaving the restrooms where they originally were because digging up the plumbing would be too much trouble. The house was nicely decorated, which means that my analyst sat reading in his study while his wife figured out how to make the space pretty.
The yard was pretty decent too, if a bit dug up in places. They had a beautiful view of some telephone wires and the nearby road. There was the requisite basketball hoop in the driveway for the 51 year old child residing within, although it was over a patch of gravel rather than pavement you could play on. He had also made a large stump into a Jeet Kun Do dummy, but claimed to others that it was being used to scare away deer. I didn't want to go all Freudian and mention that what it looked like was that someone had cut down a big tall tree drilled some holes in it and stuck some long, thick, dowels into it in various places. I expect people can draw their own conclusions about the hard round pieces of wood he spends hours a week slapping.
As for the substance of the party? It was good. The food spread was quite good and I had too much of it. I was introduced to some friends of his, including one I'd heard a lot about previously and who turned out to be a really interesting and nice guy. I got some reluctant advice from an older fellow also trying to break into the film business but who Paulo had apparently picked as a role model for me because he was a fat guy with a slender wife.
My analyst showed me his study, absolutely full of books, most of them actually worth reading, and clearly a place that he spends the most time in of anybody because it had the sort of stylish decor one would expect from a man who spent the blossom of his youth grinding out eight hour days in the Princeton library. I think there were some dying plants, but that might have been my imagination since I'm so used to seeing those at his office. He had a bunch of books he was planning to read for a paper that he's giving in late October. When I say a bunch I mean way too fucking many. It must have been 50+ and most of them unnecessary. I boiled it down to the essentials for him but he'll probably try to plow through the whole pile anyway.
I talked to a lot of different characters at the party. There was Jesse, the aforementioned daughter's boyfriend, who I soon began to suspect was either an actor hired to play her boyfriend in front of her parents or else a robot. He was a nice guy, and decently bright, but just way too normal. He oozed normality. He was the kind of normal that makes you think that he must be hiding some sort of dark secret beneath the facade of an ambitious young financial worker at IBM. He likes sports and his family and all the other things a normal man is supposed to like. I was scared.
Then there was Mark, the ultra-sleazy guy on the train. He hit on the female bartender in the sleaziest way possible, talking to her about her career and then suggesting that she get gallery work because "I can see you in a gallery in SoHo...in a little black dress." He's in his 50's and married with bad hair plugs. She was 30-something and blonde from Australia. After he left we made fun of him and his ridiculous hair. She deserved a nice tip for not just splashing scotch in his face. She probably would have deserved an even bigger tip if she'd done it.
Then there was John, Paulo's old friend from his college days, John's insecure girlfriend who I found sitting out in a deckchair after she had a few too many drinks (she forced me to have a glass of white wine earlier in the party but I refused to drink anything but Diet Coke and seltzer after that) sobbing remembering some young women she'd had to fire for stealing. John and I spent about 30 minutes trying to comfort her and he told me I was wise beyond my years. I haven't heard that often. Wise ass beyond my years sure, but not just plain wise.
There was also another friend of Paulo's who I ended up going home with (not in that way) who spent almost an hour telling me about how voice recognition software had changed her life and not realizing how very bored I became soon into the conversation. I practiced my "I'm pretending to be interested" look and waited for it to end which it eventually did. She was a nice lady but vastly overestimates the amount of interest people take in even very good voice recognition software.
There were other characters and events from the 9 hours I was there but an exhausting list of everything is not the point. The point is for me to remember the flavor of the afternoon if I ever want to turn it into anything fictional, which I think I have down here. I did leave out one little anecdote that will probably be remembered by party-goers for quite a long time. After a lengthy and very nice speech by his daughter (who is very beautiful in a totally unattractive way and who will probably go far in life) my analyst was called on to cut a cake that had been bought for the occasion. He was given a knife and set on this rather mundane task which he proceeded to botch with gusto. It was a square cake and he started cutting small wedges from it, apparently under the rather strange impression that this is what one does with a square cake. People were trying to tell him how to do it correctly but he started panicking and hacking away at the cake incompetently, cutting paper thin slices and clearly unsure of what to do next. He was on the way to ruining it when I stepped in. I calmly stepped out from the crowd, took his hand off the knife handle, and boomed out in my most authoritative voice "Step AWAY from the cake." Much laughter ensued and a more competent cutter was brought in to repair and finish the job. Step away from the cake became something of a catch phrase during the night. I didn't quite save Christmas, but I came reasonably close.
Other stuff has happened in the week since Saturday but nothing worth noting. I haven't been feeling great or accomplishing much. I've been at work every day this week and not gotten enough exercise while eating too much, a pattern that HAS to stop and will very soon. I went to my writing group and had a lousy time although my writing exercise was well received, or at least seemed to be. I would type it up and post it here but interest is minimal and it's relatively long, thus requiring me to do actual work which is not my forte. I visited my financial advisor and started the process of rolling my trust fund over into my control. Normal everyday stuff.
I'm going to be writing more in the near future, especially more creative stuff. I simply have to. If I take a couple weeks off to do this after my job ends that's okay. I have learned many things over the past months but probably the number one thing is that I am a creative person, I need to create to feel fulfilled, and it's more important for me to work through my process and do my own work than worry about climbing the ladder right now. Frankly I'm not the greatest in the world when it comes to office work. That's okay. If that was my main strength in life I'd probably have to kill myself. I certainly couldn't trust my analyst to do it. He'd just cut a wedge from my throat and call it a day.