In the Outer Room
Man, I was growling mad, as if that full moon that floats constantly above me had winked its cheesy eye for moment enough for me to start barking with anxiety over that repressed with me that was making me anxious! I don't like being anxious. OK, Doc, I'm panting like an excited dog; my tail would be wagging, too, if it were visible to ordinary man. And the good (take one of the "O"s out of "good" and you have what doctors think they are) Doctor replied [the good Doctor is played in these scenes by the late great Dr. Frederick "Fritz" Perls--and he's speaking his lines from the book of his own writing, Gestalt Therapy, writing out the meaning of his notes on several experiments he made in the 1950s on the methods of Gestalt analysis], "Anxiety is the neurotic symptom par excellence." "Continue, my man, I like that pithy and singular definition of 'anxiety'--carry on, I'll pay." "Even if the person does not feel it because it is repressed, it will manifest itself to anyone with an eye for it in such signs as restlessness, increased pulse, or impaired breathing." "Aha, aha!" I rapturously cried, "'Impaired breathing,' why do I like that term so much?" I am again panting like a damn dog on a sweltering dog day high noon--trying to catch some shuteye on a concrete slab slick as a newly polished tombstone and hot as the griddle at a sloppy Joe's cafe during breakfast--Jesus, I'm rambling and yowling, growling with this seedy anxiety I'm feeling--I'm itchy, man, just damn right itchy--my repressed neurotic symptom boiling from up out of my diaphragm--old an(g)-zI-ety--"should old acquaintance be forgot"--forget-me-not, and one of those I can't forget is dead now--gone--forgotten about...and forgetting is a form of repression, but then I don't know what I'm talking about.
This woman who is the most influential person in my life at the moment accuses me of ranting and raving, of babbling for babbling's sake; plus she adds, I write like I am therefore I exist as a fried-in-bacon-grease scrambled egg sandwich of a man-writer, with the yellow yokey words dripping out the corners of my raving mouth--I holler back at her, "Yes, I am a god-damn raving maniac because that's what I am, a ranter, a raver, a raconteur with an eye for the ironic and the idiotic and the stupid and the nincompoopish (what a beautiful word)." "Yes, but you're boring and you're repetitive and I don't want to get intellectual on you...." Oh you bitch, I'm repressing it as I think it--she's really a sweet woman, crazy, but charming at times, nuts, but always right, so real she's insanely sane and, and I'm anxious about this, she can get intellectual on me--but I love her wicked criticism--I prefer self-criticism but if anyone has a right to criticize me savagely (with total impunity) it's this woman. She knows me probably better than anyone left on earth of those who have known me. No one living right this minute has known me as long as she has--we are exact opposites with exact personalities like parallel lines trying tangle up with each other but here again parallel lines can't connect and we can't connect though sometimes being with her is like being in a hall of mirrors, and by being unable to tangle--it takes two to tango--makes being with her NOW very congesting and the CON starts over again. Perls butts in, "Since therapists encounter it [anxiety] as the basic symptom in all patients, they have theorized about it ad infinitum. Birth-trauma, choking by the mother's large breast, 'converted' libido, inhibited aggression, the death-wish--all these and others have seemed to one theorizer or another to be the central phenomenon in anxiety." "OK. I'm diggin' this the most," I waggishly encourage. Perls ignores me and continues, "With respect to certain striking cases perhaps each theory is correct, but what they have in common has been overlooked. It is a very simple psychosomatic event..." "Jeez, I love this; I await with bated breath your 'simple psychosomatic event.'" I exhaled out a large swoosh of dirty lung air as I panted out that statement--like hawking up an imaginary loogy.
And then old Doc Perls pops the cork on one of his prize bottles of champagne thinking, "Anxiety" he blurts, "is the experience of breathing difficulty during any blocked excitement." Yee-haw, I'm doin' a shaggy wolf dance around the perimeters of my zoo-like apartment; I love this anticipation stuff--and what a statement the Doc just made; it took my breath away--see, folks, how this stuff excites me? And my best friend calls me a ranter, a raver, a bore, a babbler [she calls Freud's writing "psychobabble"], a repetitive goofus--DAMMIT, she doesn't see me as a magnificent combination of man and wolf--oh, yes, she used to see me as a wolf alright, but one of those old-timey zootie wolves that used to hang around under street lamps on corners on main drags, like Broadway, and give out a wolf whistle to each of the hot tamale gals that tripped back and forth in their light fantastics by him between shows--a quick bite at Lindy's or Howard Johnson's or a quick snort at Jack Dempsey's bar (which wasn't owned by Dempsey; it just used his name; Dempsey's was strange too in that it had a big bad oil painting of Spencer Tracy on the wall to the right as you came in the front door--my old NYC best pal (long gone from earth) and I once conversed with Jack--he was always at "his end" of "his bar" and though he didn't own the place--hell, he acted like he did and people thought he did so what the hell, he did as far as we were concerned, too, and Jack gave us some advice, he said, "Boys, whatever you do, don't underestimate your opponent. Always stay a notch ahead of him." "What if your opponent's a woman, Jack?" "Then you may as well lay down right then and there and let her think she's TKO'd you." Thank you, Jack Dempsey.
My wolf dance is over and I'm turned toward Doc Perls again, anticipating...anxiously anticipating...and the Doc speaks, "It [anxiety] is the experience of trying to get more air into lungs immobilized by muscular constriction of the thoracic cage."
Whooooo! Trapped in your own thoracic cage! A breathless cage.
for The Daily Growler
Meet the Doctor:
Old Fritz Perls himself; right before his repressed anxieties caught up with him and took his breath away in 1970.
A P.S. for Patti Smith
A guy in Canada sent me an old copy of CREEM, "America's Only Rock 'n' Roll Magazine," June 1978 issue, about the time I first spied a CREEM on the coffee table over at the writer/artist Mike Roddy's loft back when I lived just off Spring Street on Greenwich Street, which if you've ever read my episodic spasmodic jungle of words I called One Spring Morning Off Spring Street you know quite well by now--those of you who are new readers...and here I break out in a lunatic-like chortling--new readers my ass; "I have no home...the jungle is my home...." Damn right old Martin Landau playing Bela Lugosi was right--"New readers? I haff no new readers...the readerless jungle is my home."
The first thang that caught my eye in this CREEM was under the T of C heading, "Patti Smith Writes On."
And dammit, I'd forgotten Patti Smith was a writer--and I turned over to page 54 and there's a Lynn Goldsmith photo of Patti looking skinny, belt-hanging off her hips cool, in a blue tee, sticking her non-breasts breasts out at the world, an unbaked bread dough face with raisin eyes looking out at you from under an arrangement of black angel hair and she's posing with that offay-awfully-white poser, Lenny Kaye--I've met a dude who swore he banged Patti while she was here in NYC--and I'm sure he did--he loved bangin' punk rocker girls--that was his reason for being, "I crave them, Wolfie, oh they puncture my lusty heart and drive me to lunatic charm--and then, God, the fucking is so god-damn noisy--I luv 'em, Wolfie, just out and out love 'em...or is it just the conquests I love--who the hell knows?"
And this page 54 contains an excerpt from Patti's Babel, konya the shepherd--remember, Patti's totally cool and punk so she used no initial caps--didn't ee cummings cum up with that? Come on, Patti, where's your originality? Jesus, Patti's about a hundred years old now, isn't she? And here's an ad in this CREEM for Paul McCartney and Wings with Linda McCartney--oh dear F-ing bloomingidiot God, how did the Beatles ever manage to reach Rock 'n' Roll heaven before the originators of Rock 'n' Roll got there?--I mean Elvis is still in purgatory; Jerry Lee Lewis lives in purgatory; Chuck Berry is even denied entrance into purgatory; and forget Ike Turner, he and Chuck being the true fountainheads of American Rock 'n' Roll--listen to Chuck's "Reelin' and'a Rockin'"--Chuck Berry invented that rock 'n' roll backbeat--or listen to "Back in the USA"--and the Beatles and the Beach Boys and the Rolling Stoned Ones all stole from Chuck Berry--nearly every Beach Boys tune is a rip-off of Chuck. "School Days," that's another knock-out Chuck Berry romp, too. "Maybelene," too; "Maybelene" is just pure-dee original American rock 'n' roll, one of Chuck's early hits--and Chuck Berry was a master lyricist--some of the trickiest and wisest lyrics ever written--fuck Cole Porter--"Go fall off a horse, Cole!"
And suddenly here I am reading Patti Smith. Gawd! "but the radiant rhythum of change...potential change...the reign of words that whetted the palates and plates of man [TGW: I want to add "platelets" of man, but I don't]...the charge of light that electrified sky and eye...days and nights that made the earth moist and caressed the mouths of flowers...dew on the lips of creation...the expectant pouts of wet and static children...all were going...literally gone." Wow. Patti. I don't know. Is that good shit? I guess it was back in them there days--I read Babel--and then a guy who worked a shit job at the Gotham Book Mart (now long gone--the way of all flesh) offered me twenty bucks for my copy and I quickly disposed of the book, which I figure he sold over at the Gotham for 50 bucks to some Patti Smith worshipper. I don't know, I just don't know, which sounds like I'm wandering off into an old blues lyric.
I keep thinking as I keep reading Patti--"Ain't she an old hag now?" How crude of me; how boring of me. Look, Doctor Perls is having a cerebral ball analyzing Patti's prattlings--her lowercase babble. Is Patti really a creationist? Do punkers believe in man's invented gods?
I gotta admit, I find Patti kind'a intriguingly seductive--my God, and I feign from bony moronis, but by God, Patti, I don't sense any rejection in you--you look open to me.
"--the watcher. the guardian of night. he had been kissed by shamsa the black and so he was kissing the sky. night after night. star upon star. night of planetary harmonics. night of perpetual change. each night each night. soon the night was wet with kisses. soon there was a storm brewing and the rain was also soon in coming." I'm coming, Patti...er-ah, I'm coming. [all Patti Smith words from CREEM, Vol. 10 No. 1, June 1978 [just about the time Lester Bangs quite CREEM and came to NYC], p. 54.]
"There once was a plumber named Lee/ While plumbing a girl by the sea/Said she, 'Stop your plumbing/ There's somebody coming'/ Said our plumber still plumbing/ 'It's--ahhhh-ME!"
for The Daily Growler