Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Portnoy's Complaint


Roth's protagonist, "Alexander Portnoy" obsesses about Gentile women, lusts after his stock-Jewish mother, and chronicles his sexual experiences with a smokin'-hot, marginally-literate shikse ("the Monkey").

Mildly entertaining. Still, Roth could have condensed this "masterpiece" to six or so pages without taking a hit in the quality department

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

"The Ritalin"

When I was still a happy little tadpole making my way through the North Carolina public school system, my teachers had me pegged behavior-wise as the perfect candidate for "pharmaceutical intervention". "Prone to excessive talking" they would write in the comments section of the bright pink report card. "Frequent and unnecessary outbursts." "Distracts other children from their classwork."

I can still remember the meeting between my mother and my third grade teacher: a morbidly obese black woman named Mrs. Patricia Dalton.

"He's a bright child...excels at his schoolwork and such, but we just can't keep him under control! He doesn't seem like he wants to follow directions", Mrs. Dalton says to my mother.

I was too young to have any effective counter-arguments at my disposal, but I still realized just how ridiculous my teacher's claims sounded. Who "wanted" to follow directions in the first place? If it were up to me I would have gladly spent my days outdoors, killing small animals with rocks and starting forest fires.

Besides, it was nothing my mother hadn't heard a thousand times before. I was an anomaly - a kid that just wouldn't learn to "do right" no matter how many heavy-duty paddles or freshly cut switches collided with my bare ass. In my own mind, I was tainted with a stigma worse than that of any child-molester or hunchback peeping-Tom.

"Well now..." my mother says in that soft country brogue - the kind you expect to offer you sweet tea and hushpuppies for just stopping by - "we correct this poor child day-in and day-out. He does good with his studies, but we just can't seem to get through to him about anything else. I ain't never seen the beat in my life !!!" My mother looks at me like a conscientious nurse might look at a toddler with an inoperable, cancerous tumor. I was pitiful...hopeless...defective. Better to die an early death than to torment my longsuffering teachers for nine more years of public school education.

I always wondered what my mother meant when she said, "I ain't never seen the beat...". What exactly was this mysterious "beat", and how had it eluded her for so long? Maybe she was saying "beet"...but how could my bad behavior remind her of the main ingredient in borscht? Maybe it was some quaint colloquialism she picked up in the Appalachians? Perhaps she'd even made it up herself.

"Now, Mrs. F_____, have you ever considered Ritalin as an option?"

What Mrs. Dalton didn't know is that my mother threatened me with the prospect of going on "the Ritalin" at least once a week, usually after reciting the possible side-effects straight out of a pharmacology guide: hair-loss, discharge from the nipples, insomnia, seizures. "Is that what you want, have PUS run out of your nipples?" she'd ask, as if I might possibly say "yes" to pseudo-lactation. "Why, did you say PUS, mother-darling? That sounds positively DELIGHTFUL!!"

Her tactics were cruel and effective. Within minutes, I'd be in tears, begging her to PLEASE not call the doctor and have me put on a regimen of toxic pills.

In reality, she would have never went through with it. The concept of drugging a child to get them to behave offended her well-bred mountain sensibilities like the thought of garroting her way through a basket of kittens. To Emily F______, once someone gave you "dope" the first time, you were hooked for life, and no-one was going to turn her child into a drug-addict!

"Why, Mrs. Dalton, me and my husband do our best to correct the boy. We give him whuppins and take away his toys, but we don't believe in giving drugs to children. There's better ways to correct them..."spare the rod and spoil the child", as they say in the Scriptures."

My mother stuck to her word. A few years later, when my bad behavior REALLY started, she refused the advice of legions of therapists, social-workers, and counselors. When the police where dragging me out the front door while I screamed expletives at my mother, she refused the antidepressents. Even when she had me committed to Dorothea Dix for six months after I fucked up really bad, she still decided to forgo the Zoloft and Prozac.

They don't make em like that anymore.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Ictal Rhapsody: Memory Episode

8:30 am and already that unwelcome pressure in the stomach. Down to the nearest restroom and slam down the commode lid with the sole of my shoe. Disappointment - a thick, glistening string of jissom across the top of the seat. Long walk to the next restroom. Pass through the hotel lobby when....

Think: the power of music to paint memories with the most shameless stock associations. Garbage sentimentalism - like cake frosting on a turd. An old Norah Jones tune. Not my type of music, but still, that very first time I heard it....

Coney Island, Brooklyn. Avenue X. An oversized, superannuated ferris-wheel. She (name and description are irrelevant in these things)tells me her mother's an old, displaced Russian Jew who tries to keep up with the times by hanging out with queers and hipsters in the village; pretends to like ethnic comedians and such. I can't stop looking at that damn ferris wheel. It's got a psychic hold over me - trying to figure out eloquent-sounding things to say about it. Years later, I realized that she made love like a woman twice her age. Them big-city girls sure do mature fast. I mean, by the time they turn nineteen...

The tyranny of memory. Me and Proust should have madeleine-cakes together and go into rhapsodies over that sort of thing...dithyrambic, blow-fueled frenzies.