Friday, January 23, 2009

"i love..."

This was a "Happy Valentine's Day!" card from "Lou" in 1971. Who was "Lou?" The story will follow.

"just as the morning follows the night..."

This was another of "Lou's" romantic cards. Who was "Lou?" The mystery and the plot thickens, indeed.

"i've been thinking of you today..."

This romantic card contained no signature because it had a note attached...

a note to a young woman's heart

sex, lies, and 40 years later... the internet

These greeting cards are pieces of a bittersweet memory from 1970 to 1973, and the messages are quite romantic. I saved the cards to always remember a man I loved named: Lou. But, this was a dark and layered and mysterious "love" because Lou was not just a man... he was my therapist.
Lou looked like Al Pacino in "Serpico." And he was married with several children. I'll be brief...
I began seeing a therapist in about 1970. His office was in Greenwich Village and after just a few sessions I came under the seductive spell of "erotic transference." I grew attached and I was dependent. I fell in love, or thought I had fallen in love. The feelings were not yet mutual. There arrived the day when Lou told me he was moving his practice to Staten Island. I was not ready at all for the separation and I was emotionally devastated. So, I followed him to Staten Island and became a twice a week ferry regular.
The longing for him until my sessions each week was unbearable. I was vaguely aware back then that transference was a common feeling when in analysis. And I had fallen deeply in love with my therapist. Lou sent a real mixed bag of messages; by turns flirting with me and allowing me to believe the feelings were becoming mutual, and at the end of each session he drove me back to catch the ferry. But, in the sessions he would emotionally push me away. He pulled me in and gave me hope and played with my desire, and then confused me by pushing me away with his mercurial whim. He vaguely promised to soon meet me for lunch in Manhattan and then in the next session he told me to find another therapist. I returned home filled with longing and I was confused and desperately unhappy. I was in anguish. I wrote him long love letters in which I poured out my heart.
He sent me greeting cards for Valentine's Day and my birthday... copies hang at this blog (configured with folds to fit.) The saga continued for several years and well.. as it goes with time, the hypnotic spell eventually broke and I ended the "therapy." One day, just like that.
About eight years later, in 1981... I tried Lou's old number and I called. I needed closure. Lou was very excited and happy to hear from me. He was now divorced. He started calling me twice a day. I had to tell him to calm down. So, we had dinner at a Manhattan restaurant. He sat there all pompous and smoking a nasty cigar. We went back to my apartment and well... anyway, when he left he hugged me and I knew it was a good-bye forever. He had not changed. He had told me over dinner his experience with me took him to a place where he made a decision to never allow physical contact with a patient in a session ever again. The man was a fast and quick study!
I look back on this episode of my life now and it is totally meaningless. I am not angry. I feel nothing. I know this goes on. I watched "In Treatment." Lou was verbally unprofessional, unethical, and his behavior was inconsistent. He did not know what to do about me and he could not handle and come to terms with his own feelings. I hope in real life transference is being handled properly by those who have fallen under it's seductive spell. I am happy I saved all of Lou's cards because I am reminded of what I believed to be what Diane Keaton has called "the sweet anguish of love..." in my specific situation in all it's full-blown and enabled delusional glory.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

it sticks with me

My mother discovered, when I was a teenager, an all girls' summer camp called: "School of Creative Arts." The School of Creative Arts was owned and managed by Kathleen Hinni, who from September through June, was the modern dance teacher at the The Chapin School in Manhattan.

 The "school" was located on Martha's Vineyard. It had opened in Oak Bluffs in 1949 with twenty girls from the ages of six to sixteen. Later, it moved to the former Whitney House, "Hedge Lee," in Vineyard Haven. The school remained for four additional years at that location. During those years Regina Woody wrote: "Ballet in the Barn," a children's story based on the school. Eventually, the school moved further north on Main Street to West Chop, and was housed in a huge old barn style mansion with three floors, thirty rooms, and porches all around the outside of the house. On the grounds were about twelve small one room cabins where the older campers lived. The house was near a steep bluff and the cabins were surrounded by trees. Days were filled with classes in dance, drama, music and the arts.

So, off I went to spend four consecutive summers (1959-1962) with a load of girls my age, many of whom were from very different backgrounds. These girls were "socialites;" some from families listed in the "social register." They had "coming out" parties at the Waldorf Astoria, private planes, and parents who summered in the south of France. I learned the meaning of "old money" from Cynthia Wainright, my bunkmate, who later went on to become "Debutante of the Year," and was a guest speaking about the topic on the David Susskind Show. What did I know from this? My mother played canasta during the summer at Capri Beach Club in Atlantic Beach, Long Island. We danced on the bluffs with Charles Weidman, had classes with Merce Cunningham, sang opera with Lotte Lenn and folk songs with Burl Ives, and we were treated to special performances by Pearl Primus. Ms. Hinni, who was called KT, made us dance to Bloch's "Concerto Grosso" so many times we literally collapsed in exhaustion (in the rain) outside the ballet barn.

Margaret Bourke-White spent several summers at the school during the time she was writing a book. I remember those hot days she would play jacks with me under the trees to increase her mobility because she was suffering from Parkinson's disease. Her photos decorated the living room of the great house where the many younger girls lived.

There was a boys' camp next to ours, and sometimes we would go to the fence to see if we could catch the eyes of some willing participants in some mischief. One night, we arrived back at our cabin to find scrawled in red lipstick on the dresser top: "Tonight we come to get you." Needless to say, we all ran screaming to the main house and the police were called and we hovered in the woods until it was safe to return.

The school was run in an old-fashioned strict way and KT's rules were unbearable. We called the school: "Pure Hell at St. Trinian's." KT starved us. We seemed to never have enough to eat. She provided a lettuce wedge for dinner one night. And it was served with no salad dressing! We were so hungry there were times we ate toothpaste. On a beautiful Sunday afternoon, we had baked chicken for lunch. The food was served family style and for some reason on that day there was one mouth-watering piece left on the tray. The counselor asked if anybody wanted the second piece of chicken and I, of course, said I did. She lifted, with silver tongs, that mouth-watering piece of chicken and placed it on my plate. I grasped my knife in my left hand and and my fork in my right hand and began to cut the first piece. Just as my fork touched the chicken, along came KT and she pulled the plate right out from under my nose. She said, "No seconds." And there I sat, holding a knife and fork not over a plate filled with baked chicken but over the empty table space in front of me.

My new friend Cindy (name changed) had a terrible time that summer of '61. She ached to go home to be with her boyfriend. He looked like Frankie Avalon, and when he drove up from Long Island one day she snuck out of camp to meet him on the main road at the time they had planned in one of their letters. She came back and later that day swallowed many pills. She was taken to the hospital, but when she recovered she was not sent home. Even though she was clearly troubled, she returned and stayed for the final few weeks left of the summer.

I promised to keep in touch with Cindy, and met her a few months later, during the Autumn, in her Long Island hometown. We had lunch at a local pizza place and then we went our own ways.

In the late 60s, I was looking through "Newsday" and I read about a married woman who lived in Mineola who had smothered her infant boy. I recognized Cindy immediately. I still have that newspaper clipping, now yellowed from the passing of time.

During the daily afternoon naps the wind rustled the leaves of huge oaks while down below the bluff the ocean waves crashed to the shore. These sounds seemed to increase our feelings of unhappiness. The common denominator was that we all hated the place and we were so homesick we sometimes made ourselves literally sick. Yet, for so many summers we returned. We always went back.

From time to time, after sleep I open my eyes and I am startled to be here... and not there.

Friday, January 2, 2009

memories of capri beach club

In the late 50s, my family shared a cabana at Capri with the Lowensteins and the Garfunkels. For three summers, on many hot beautiful days, Arthur Garfunkel reclined on the chaise lounge next to me. I think the girl in the next cabana, Ina, had a crush on Arthur. My mother would sit for hours playing Mah Jong. The men sat playing gin rummy and smoking cigars. Toddlers played in the sand with pails and shovels. And my sister stood in the cabana for hours swinging a hula hoop around her hips. The cabana boys flirted with the teenage girls and the newest Frankie Avalon song could be heard coming from the teen club. Memories of those lazy glorious days return every June. I think Capri was torn down and in that location are now condos. What I would give for a nice dip in the cold water of the middle pool followed by a walk to the snack bar for a delicious ice cream sandwich.

"joe's camp," 1956

I grew up in Valley Stream and summers were hot, long, and boring. The parents found a guy named Joe and paid him to supervise a day camp twice a week that met in the backyard of a family house. One summer, my mother volunteered our home because we had a large yard and patio. Joe organized creative games for the many campers and I always managed to put some mischief into everything. But, for my friends and me the highlight of those balmy days was "snack time" when the parents rolled out the juice and cookies. I was going for the laughs, and I had a great idea. I told my friends that when Joe poured the juice they should never say "when." Instead, I told them to just abruptly pull the cup away and let the juice spill all over the patio. (And it was my patio!) It was so much fun. And Joe never seemed to catch on because every day at juice time he carried over that full pitcher of pink juice and he repeated the same question. "Say when" he would innocently ask. And much like "Groundhog Day" we always pulled the cup quickly away when the cup was half full and the Hawaiian Punch would fall onto the patio and form a sticky puddle every time. We were gleefully delighted when we could finally say: "Oh, look ants!" Was Joe playing along and having his own brand of fun or was he a complete idiot? He must have been disgusted, because at the end of the summer my mother told me he refused to ever have a "Joe's camp" again. (I think in this photo I was telling Joe to "kiss my ass," much to the amusement of the other campers and to the delight of the counselor, Marie)

scenes from "joe's camp"

These photos are incredible because they capture in the background the old house and barn that were torn down. Look closely. In front of the barn is a cross... and it appears that it was a burial site.

the desoto on the block

I found this old photo from probably 1957. It shows me and my friend Sharon standing on the street in front of her house while her father gets something out of the trunk of his DeSoto. The block looks weirdly barren and like it was built in a Greenpoint studio for some sequel to "Back to the Future." That was Long Island in the 1950s, and the suburbs were so new even the sidewalks smelled of fresh paint.

simple games

The photo is of me with my sister and the sister of a very well known NYC agent who actually grew up in the house right next door to me. The agent used to babysit me and my sister. Look at the game we are playing: "London Bridge is Falling Down!" Games were a lot simpler back then...

Thursday, January 1, 2009

me and the milgram experiment

I was part of the Milgram Experiments in the mid 1960s while I was attending C.W. Post College on Long Island. I was recruited for this role in my Psychology class. Person A: the teacher (me) was instructed to ask questions to Person B: (a student) who was in another room. If my student answered incorrectly, I was told to administer shocks. The level and stength of the shock was my decision. Oh by the way, in order to gauge how that shock machine worked, at the beginning I was given the lowest shock. How rude! And there was a person (experimenter) in the other room reminding and encouraging me to give high strength shocks for wrong answers.
I will be very honest. I realized when I was introduced to Person B before the experiment began that she was not really going to be shocked. (Yes, we saw our "victims/students" before the questions and "shocks"). And during the experiment, the person giving the instructions was weak sounding. I was not surprised at the end of the experiment when my "student/victim" and the "experimenter/voice" came out of the other room laughing. I thought the whole thing was a transparent farce.
I wonder how many other participants realized it was phoney. I figured it out right away. The participants were both lousy actors. In spite of the transparency, I gave minimal shocks and I did not become a torturer, perhaps foiling their predictions. It was just so not my thing.

a great hair day

It's all about the height, and the hair here: teased to complete perfection... I was happy.

puerto rico, 1965

I took the photo. My sister opted in this time. It shows she copied my daytime hairstyle: rollers to prepare the hair for the fancy and humid San Juan nights at the La Concha Hotel.

fashion forward

These photos were taken during a family trip to Puerto Rico in 1965. My sister and I walked around all day with rollers in our hair, making sure we would have good hair nights.

fashion wishes

I was way ahead of anything going on at Bryant Park; I was a total fashion trend-setter.