Category - personal

Who knew…

…that a squirrel could be a Spirit Animal? I always thought it had to be exotic animals like Giant Stags or White Wolves or Buffalo. But when I found this little guy on the back deck this morning – patiently waiting for as long as it took me to focus and get a picture – I Googled the possibility: .
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“The squirrel spirit animal highlights the importance of communication and showing respect to the people around you through your words, actions, and behaviors. It encourages you to respect your differences and find a way to work harmoniously together.”
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No wonder that dog in the movie kept chasing squirrels. He knew a good thing when it went zipping by. .

“Free Breathing Restored”

(That’s as line from an old antihistamine commercial, for those too young to recall…)

I do realize that it is totally shallow and materialistic to admit this, but my daily driver – the 2016 Mustang Convertible that I picked up in January –  has been in the shop all week and I have sorely missed it. The Kia Soul that the insurance company arranged for me got me where I needed to go, but

#LifeISBetterWithTheTopDown

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.

 

Incorrigble

adjective: a person not able to be corrected, improved, or reformed.

Back in my sailing days (Maui – 1980-88), I imagined that if I ever owned my own racing yacht, I’d call it “Incorrigible.”  The name has a certain 12-meter / America’s Cup ring to it, not unlike “Intrepid” – the name of the yacht that won the Cup in 1967 and 1970.  

I never did get my own racing yacht.  The yachts I owned and sailed out of Lahaina Harbor were part of a business that had a brand identity that had to be preserved.  

But now I’ve got this pretty cool car, and as part of this whole self-recovery process that I’ve been going through this year, I think I’ve come up with a suitable and appropriate personalized license plate – the closest I could come in just seven letters. .

Sailing aboard the ‘Scotch Mist’ off the coast of Lahaina, Maui – ca. 1982.  
It was a tough life, but somebody had to do it.

 

 

 

©2019 CohesionArts

#blog

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 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…

From Harvey, ca. 1940:
“The Parker Pen Letter”

Returning now too the subject of My Father and the things that he wrote during his relatively brief time on Earth:

One of the most “famous” of my father’s works (which is to say, famous within the family) is the letter that he wrote to the Parker Pen Company while a student at the University of Illinois in the fall of 1940.

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The letter was written in 1940, but I don’t have any photos from that era handy, so here’s one from the 1950’s.

December 6, 1940

The Parker pen company
Janesville, Wisconsin

Gentlemen:

As you can see I am writing a letter to the company that makes (by its own admission) the finest pens in the world – by using a typewriter.

I do  this not because I do not have a pen., No, gentlemen right here in my left hand I have a pen. Said pen is called in one of your ads which I just happened to read, quote, a Jewel of Pendom, unquote. However, if I were to attempt to write this letter with this pen, the pages would be so smudged up with ink that it would be totally impossible for you to read it. But allow me to explain the case a little more fully.

About two years ago (or possibly a few months less) I wandered into a bookstore on our campus – that of the University of Illinois – and purchased a Parker pen.  Since this memorable date, I have had nothing but trouble with the amazing instrument.

The trouble, to sum it up briefly, is that this pen leaks – leaks torrentially.

Read More

The Photos That ‘Ended My Career’

Back in the early 1970s I saw a student film called “Hot Dogs for Gauguin,” written and directed by Martin Brest, who went on to have a notable film career.  He directed such memorable hits as Midnight Run, Beverly Hills Cop, and The Scent of a Woman before becoming a Hollywood persona-non-grata for directing a fiasco called Gigli in 2003; Marty’s IMDB bio ends there.

Oh, the humanity!

Hot Dogs for Gauguin” is about a photographer – played by a then-unknown actor named Danny DeVito – who wants to replicate the kind of acclaim that he thinks befell the photographer who shot the Hindenberg disaster (Oh, the humanity!).  DeVito’s character figures to achieve similar acclaim by blowing up the Statue of Liberty – and being on-hand to capture the moment with his camera. Suffice it to say it doesn’t end well…

This is a story about my own “Hot Dogs for Gauguin” moment.”

Or maybe it was more of a “Gigli” moment, if not quite on the same scale.

There was a period a couple of years ago when I was making a concerted attempt to market myself as a photographer, in particular of music-related subjects.

With some coaching, I’d set up a program at thejoyofmakingmusic.com (it’s still there) and created a couple of ‘packages’ for shooting stills during studio recording sessions.

Not long after I set all that up I was invited into a studio by an A-List, first-call musician, a side-player to the stars, who was recording her own album for an indie label, and had called on some of the town’s top A-List players in support.  I did not know most of the names, nor of the many-arms-lengths lists of credits they all carried.  I was a bit of a fish out of water.  They all knew each other, and I only barely knew the woman who’d invited me to the session (I’d met her when we worked together on another project).

I will mention just one actual name, because it was the effort to capture his thousand-watt smile that got me in trouble (I think). Read More