Author - Paul Schatzkin

Woodstock +50

Cut to the chase: click here.

As long as everybody else is reminiscing about Woodstock….

Was it really fifty years ago today??  Am I really that old??

Why, yes, I am.  I will be 69 years old in November.

And I have survived – somehow, and despite my valiant efforts to the contrary.

The other good news is that my faculties are still (largely?) intact.

OK, I don’t exactly have photographic memory of everything that happened in 1969 – that is, after all, the year that the drugs kicked in, and I basically stayed stoned for the next two decades – but I made notes!

For almost all of 1969 and ’70, I kept a journal, and in that journal are the notes I recorded immediately after returning from Woodstock, which are compiled into three installments posted to Medium.com:

Whatever Happened to The Age of Aquarius? 

There is also a somewhat abridged, 10-minute podcast edition of the story that you can listen to directly here:

… or download into the Podcast app on your gizmo here.

 

Apollo 11 +50:
Please Remember This Man, Too

Cut to the chase: Follow this link to Chapter 20: Tranquility Base at Medium.com

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On Tuesday, July 16, 2019, the world will begin commemorating the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, that improbable mission that culminated four days later with Neil Armstrong’s historic “giant leap for mankind.”

In recent weeks, there have already been recollections of the thousands – maybe hundreds of thousands – of men and women  all over America who made countless individual contributions to the most ambitious project of the 20th Century.

But amid all the clamor and celebration, one pivotal name will likely be ignored, as it has been for most of the past 80 years.

That name is Philo T. Farnsworth.  All he did was invent the damn television.

Without his seminal  contributions in the 1920s and 30s, we might have had to just listen to the moon landing on the radio.  Instead, half-a-billion people  watched it all unfold in real time.

The outline of the Farnsworth story goes like this:

  • Farnsworth was 14 years old in the summer of 1921 when he first dreamed of transmitting moving pictures, one line at a time, on a magnetically deflected beam of electrons from the bottom of one vacuum bottle to the bottom of another;
  • In the winter of 1922, he drew a sketch of his idea for his high school science teacher in Rigby, Idaho.  Arguably, every video screen on the planet – including the one you are looking at now  can trace its origins to that sketch;
  • In 1926 – After sitting on the idea for four years Farnsworth was set up in a laboratory in San Francisco with sufficient “venture capital” to begin experimenting with his ideas and fabricating the first television tubes;
  • On September 7, 1927, with his wife and a handful of colleagues at his side, Farnsworth successfully transmitted the image of a rotating line from his “Image Dissector” tube to cathode ray tube receiver in an adjoining room.  If you need a date when television actually arrived on the planet, that’s a date.  It should be in the annals of human evolution along with Apollo 11’s touchdown on July 20, 1969,
  • In the summer of 1930, Farnsworth was granted the seminal patents for the art that made fully electronic television possible.  His patents became the technical cornerstone of a new industry.
  • He fought through the 1930s with David Sarnoff and the Radio Corporation of America over the ownership of those patents;
  • In 1939, RCA capitulated, accepting a license and making Farnsworth the first inventor ever paid patent royalties by RCA;
  • As his invention spread across the land in the late 1940s and 50s, Farnsworth went on to other pursuits: most notably, a nuclear fusion process.  Prototype devices were tested in the 1960s. 50 years later, nobody with knowledge of the field can say categorically whether or not the Farnsworth Fusor showed the way toward a clean, safe, and essentially limitless supply of energy from the same reaction that powers the sun and stars;
  • By the time he appeared as a mystery guest on the TeeVee quiz show “I’ve Got A Secret” in 1957, none or the panelists recognized or knew the name whose invention had made their jobs possible.

All of this is recounted in my Farnsworth biography, The Boy Who Invented Television: A Tale of Inspiration, Persistence, and Quiet Passion (Amazon),

The last part of this tale – and Farnsworth’s own experience with Apollo 11 – has been retold in the final chapter of the book, which I have posted to Medium.com in time for the 50th anniversary of the first lunar landing.

Please follow this link to read that chapter and follow some additional links to web-stuff about the Philo T. Farnsworth, whose forgotten genius is rekindled every time we look at a video screen.

Like you are doing right fucking NOW.

 

Who Are You?

I have been an outlaw
All my grown up life
Just ask my former in-laws
Just ask my former wife…
– Dana Cooper and Pierce Pettis, My Life of Crime (Spotify)

Who Are You? 

That’s the question that I keep wanting to ask – of the people who are receiving the infrequently delivered “Weekly Digest” from my website, CohesionArts. 

I wonder because I’m sorta starting it up again… it’s been dormant for the better part of a year.  And longer than that, really.  It’s been quiet since I went into creative seclusion three years ago.  

Despite my seemingly massive ego and out of control narcissism (it’s right there in the interogatories for the divorce, so it must be true, right?) I’m a lousy self promoter.   

For a long time, I carried a business card that said that I am a “Writer / Photographer / Musician / Artist* – follow that asterisk to the bottom of the card and it reads “and I’m going to keep telling that lie until it comes true…”  

Everybody laughs at that line.  And yeah, it’s intended as a joke.  But it’s not nearly as funny as it is true. 

CohesionArts.com is the website where I gather what remains of my creative energy these days. A couple of years ago I devised an automated routine that rounds up whatever I’ve posted to the site for a week and publishes it to a mailing list of a few hundred subscribers under the guise of a “Weekly Digest.” 

Two weeks ago, a Weekly Digest went out before I even realized that I’d reactivated the protocols.  When I looked at the records, I discovered that was the first issue since November of last year.  

In the meantime, I managed to finalize the divorce that had been pending for almost a year, the genesis of which goes back more than three years (or 7, depending on which point of demarcation you choose…). 

Right away about a half dozen people unsubscribed the list.  

Which has me wondering about the few hundred people who remain.  That would be, umm… you, whoever might be reading this.  

This is the first time I’ve addressed this list directly.  

Because I wonder… who are you? 

I’m Paul. This is my wall.

My best guess is that you are one of the people who have purchased something from my wall at the Erabellum Gallery at the Arcade in downtown Nashville, where I stand in front of some of my photography once a month.  I do it mostly for the ego gratification.  I like it when people walk up and look at the images and ask “Are you the artist?” To which I gleefully reply, “Well, if you thin this is art then… yeah, I’m the artist!” 

When people do purchase something, I will ask for their email address.  That’s how I got yours, and why you are getting the “Weekly Digest.”  And I think that at some point I might use this list to, you know, actually market things to people.  Did I mention that I’m a lousy self promoter? I’m working with my therapist on that….😜

So that’s what this is and why you’re getting it, and if in fact you’re reading this, I’d like to hear from you.  Just a quick note to paul@cohesionarts.com to say hello, maybe let me know if you remember how or where we met and if you’ve got one of my photos hanging on a wall somewhere in your domicile.  

That’s all. 

Thanks. 

Tim Buckley: Morning Glory

For your Sunday listening pleasure:

I started thinking of this song yesterday after Stacy Widelitz posted a link to the first Blood Sweat & Tears album, “Child is Father to the Man” as his first entry in that “10 most influential albums” thing that seems to be making the rounds lately…
 
I thought of this song because that album was one of the few (only?) albums that delivered a cover of a Tim Buckley song, “Morning Glory.” I think the only other time Tim Buckley made it into “pop” culture was when the song “Once I Was” played near the end for the Vietnam War film “Coming Home” with Bruce Dern, John Voight and Jane Fonda.  I’ll share that clip at the end for this post. 
I started thinking about “Morning Glory” because there is something about it’s soothing, plaintive tone that just seems like a necessary antidote to the tone of these tumultuous times (personally and generally).
So this morning as I was driving into work I asked Siri to “Play ‘Morning Glory’ by Tim Buckley.’
I was a little miffed at first when Apple Music pulled up this live version of the song, its algorithms apparently confusing it with the studio recording from Buckley’s breakthrough 1967 album “Goodbye and Hello.” But as I listened to it, I was grateful for the cross reference.
For starters, this live performance demonstrates the pure, brilliant clarity in Tim Buckley’s vocals even more than the studio version.  I like the instrumentation too: the elaborate piano, strings and vocal chorus of the studio version on “Goodbye and Hello” is replaced here by Buckley’s Guild 12-string, and the simple bass,  vibes and electric guitar that Buckley drew on for what I consider his best record, 1968’s “Happy Sad.”
So there ya go.  I gotta get this posted and get to the store…
 
And here is “Once I Was” from “Coming Home,” released in 1978 – 4 years after Tim Buckley’s untimely demise, from an overdose at the tender age of 28 in 1974 (yes, the same age that his son, Jeff Buckley, died at in 1997). 

Trauma, Nostalgia and Closure 

I went back to Rumson for a few hours last week…. 

Rumson is the town near the Jersey Shore where I was a kid.  My family lived there from 1950 until 1962 – from age 0 to age 11. My childhood, pretty much. 

Over the decades since, I’ve gone back there several times.  In the fall of 1984 I went back for  two whole weeks.  I owned a house in Hawaii at the time, and could have arranged a ‘vacation home exchange’ anywhere in the world.  I could have gone to England or France; I chose instead to spend two weeks in New Jersey.  But even that was not enough to heal the psychic wounds inflicted by the way I’d left 22 years earlier. 

Prior to this most recent visit, the last time I was there was in 2002, when my sister and my brother and his wife and a couple of their kids and I granted our mother’s final wish and spread her ashes around the town where she’d spent the happiest years of her life – before our father’s untimely demise in 1958. 

Today I am publishing a pair of companion pieces that explore my departure from Rumson in 1962 – and why I keep going back:

The Summer of ’62 is about the move.  It’s a piece that I wrote as part of a memoir writing class I took in March of this year.  

Return to Brigadoon is about one of those return visits in the summer of 1969; it’s based on a poem I found when I re-opened the journals I kept during my last year of high school and first year in college. 

I’m posting these now as part of an attempt to find meaningful closure around some of what my new therapist calls “early childhood trauma.” 

For the past 8 months, I have been working with Lee Norton, a therapist in Nashville who specializes in the full spectrum of trauma, from assault-rifle-massacre-survival to the sort of catastrophic early losses like I suffered when Harvey died.  I’ve been in-and-out of therapy since I was in the third grade but this feels like the most productive therapeutic work I’ve ever done.  Please don’t ask me why it took so long.

I’m not sure what the outcome of this current course is supposed to be. My 67-year-old-self has been spending a lot of time with my 7-year-old self, who, it seems, went into hiding about the time his father died.  The kid and I are  still deliberating over who liberates who.

And while I’ve been doing that work, I’ve been spending some (but not nearly enough) time rummaging through my father’s writing and the correspondence he and my mother exchanged during World War II.  There seems to be a connection. 

I know what some of you are thinking: Why doesn’t he just get over it?  His father died, the family moved, yada yada. It was 60 years ago.  Move along… 

I’ve even heard the word “indulgent” to describe these nostalgic disquisitions. 

Yes, I am deeply conflicted about the whole proposition.  On the one hand, it feels like necessary and unfinished work, despite the half-dozen decades between me and the events I keep returning to.  On the other hand, at times the whole exercise seems like an excuse for not moving on to more constructive pursuits. 

All of this came up in a session I had with Lee Norton shortly after this last visit to my point of origin. After wondering why am the only one of three siblings that continues to be affected by these long ago events, Lee offered:

One kid tends to get hit more than the others. Regardless of what the catastrophic loss was, the usual defense mechanisms are overwhelmed.  It’s a very physiological process.  The brain doesn’t have anywhere to put it, so it accumulates and sequesters in the right hemisphere which has no sense of time.  

The brain always wants one linear, explicit storyline that it can then put away.  Until you look into a catastrophic event and do something …. the brain does not recognize it as finished and when it’s not finished then all these unconscious processes kick in and we recapitulate. We’ll have relationship or job dilemmas; it’ll show up in lots of different ways – financially, self medication (umm…that would be me). The goal is you have to get it finished... 

So I am, once again trying to get it finished.

For you, reading these things is optional.  For me, apparently, writing them is not. 

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A 180º panorama of Monmouth Avenue. It was a great neighborhood for kids and bicycles.
No helmets required.

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More From Harvey:
The 1956 Medical Trilogy, Part 3

In which the hint of a diagnosis is finally revealed in a letter written to Harvey and Ellen’s friends Renee and Jules Gordon during his visit to the Mayo Clinic:

 

December 8, 1956

 Dear Renée and Jules,

 I am now some 150 pages into the Civil War and enjoying it fine. It’s a very exciting business, and I wonder how it comes out. The book is swell. Many thanks. I tried to reach you Monday night before I left but gave up after a half hour or so of busy signals. No perseverance.

 It’s cold out here, but ideal for winter sports such as sleeping, and sitting around fires drinking hot toddies. I may very well settle for sitting around a nice, roaring radiator drinking scotch. Of course it’s that pleasant, dry cold that they have in Minnesota, so you don’t really notice it or mind it so much. It’s just that I wish those damn penguins would quit waddling up and down my windowsill.

 The clinic itself is a real swell place, full of jolly old doctors, nurses, technicians, clerks and the like. There’s plenty to do, which makes it  so different from a lot of these winter lodges that offer nothing but skiing and ice-skating. Although so far I haven’t picked up any gold medals, (after all I’m a relative newcomer) I’ve done very well in the following: The Hundred Meter Needle Toss, Blood Polo, The Urine Put, and the Freestyle Rectal Dash. My coach is very proud of me.

 I keep seeing the doctor from time to time, but so far he has had nothing much to tell me. By Monday the results of all the tests should be tabulated, and I expect to have a conference with him and learn the answer to this whole business – whether I am really Jewish or not.

 Well, that’s about all for now. I want to go back to my book and find out if Grant really does win the damn thing after all.

 Look to you both,

 Harvey

 P. S. If you want to start making a line of mouton-aligned ankle straps and wedgies, I think you have a real market for them out here.

 

More From Harvey:
The 1956 Medical Trilogy, Part 2

(Above: The Schatzkin family, seated around the dining room table at 14 Monmouth Ave, Rumson NJ – celebrating what would be Harvey’s last birthday: January 16, 1958.)

 

It does not appear that  “A Visit to the Mayo Clinic” was ever continued or finished past the second day’s entry.  Maybe that was as long as Harvey was there.

But there is another essay in the archives that seems to pick up where that one left off.  There is no date on the copies in the files, so no way to tell when in the course of his illness it was written.  I do note the mention of Monmouth Memorial Hospital in Long Branch, NJ, which is where he finally succumbed in September, 1958.  But the piece also mentions “they day that I left,” so, obviously, this was before that.

This one is called, simply,

Hospitality
by Harvey Schatzkin

I always enjoy trips to the hospital. I also enjoy stubbing my toe or making a public appearance with my fly open. The last trip was no exception. Herewith a few highlights:

Food: All hospitals serve food. It is probably the result of some State Regulation. I hear they are pretty good with the intravenous gambit. It’s the intra-oral deal that I am concerned with.

First-of-all, hospitals  specialize in diets. On my floor, patients were being treated to low-salt diets, low-fat diets, and the like. For me, it was the specialty of the house – the low-taste diet.  All the harmful flavor had been removed by a special process we call cooking.

I understand that this is presided over by a dietitian – flown in at no small expense. I believe it. To get spaghetti, salad, and bran flakes all to  taste alike is no job to leave to chance. It requires an expert’s hand at the helm. Monmouth Memorial has a gem.

Electronics: Hospitals are abreast of this modern trend. Handy to every patient is a pushbutton. Pushing on it sets into motion a chain of events not unlike what happens when an unknown blip appears on an Air Force radar scope. First, a voice (with a smile) asks, “are you dying?” If you answer, “No”, the voice goes away and that ends it. I soon learned this trick and managed to have several conversations with the voice. I was given time signals, weather reports, road conditions, and an occasional beep whenever Sputnik whizzed over Long Branch. Sometimes, I can even elicit a discussion about my condition or particular needs of the moment.

On the day I left, I found out that the whole business is recorded on a series of tapes in Master Control and no nurses are ever involved in any of it. 

Getting About: Even as a non-ambulatory patient, I was frequently needed in parts of the building other than my room. This required my being shoved into a cart and rolled to my destination. A very dangerous situation. You may never return. There is no particular malice involved, it’s just  that you may be wheeled into some hall and left there. The halls of Monmouth Memorial (known as the Halls of Purgatory) are filled with dispossessed patients. These D. P.’s have – in some age long past – been wheeled into a hall for a purpose – a purpose now vanished on some decayed record.

As I waited to come back from the X-ray room, I talked with one of the hall people – and the horror of it all dawned on me. My friend had no idea how long he had been in The Halls; but he kept mumbling about, “that man in the White House.” It was pretty disquieting.

I was one of the lucky ones. After a few hours and attendant from the 6th  floor came roaming along to see if she could find any patients she had misplaced during the day. I threw my arms around her promising love, devotion, and jewels. She agreed to wheeled me back up.

I made it just in time. They were starting to change my bed clothes and erase my name from the door. After making it back from the X-ray room in one day I was regarded as something of a celebrity – and treated with considerably more respect. 

That’s it.

As long as we’re observing birthday’s, here’s another photo, a month later, from my brother Arthur’s 10th birthday – February 11, 1958.

February 11, 1958. Note the little dish between them, filled with cigarettes…