The Freedman Archives

The following is a collection of letters written by Gary Freedman to his imagined friend.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The Art of the Flim-Flam


September 27, 2004

Hey, buddy. What's up, big guy? What's the long and short of it?

I don't have much on my mind this week. This will be a short. Yes. What they call in Dan Glickman's trade--the film industry--a documentary short. It's some old history with a new twist. I guess you could say Glickman has become the Master of the film industry, while I, for my part, spend my days mastering the art of the flim-flam.

This past week I've been busy with my campaign. The current phase of the campaign is direct mail. Gotta get out the vote, as the politicians say. I'm serious about getting a job. Really. I know nobody really believes my motive is to get a job, but actually my motive is twofold. If someone calls me for an interview (quite frankly, if someone is crazy enough to call me for an interview), sure, I'll go. And I'll take it seriously. On the other hand, if my campaign's sole effect is to settle some old scores, that's fine too. It's a "win-win" situation. Anyway the nonstop campaigning is keeping me active. It is so f***ing boring when you're not running for anything. Ask Bill Clinton.

Would you believe it? I actually did get a reply from one of my correspondents. They replied despite the crap I put in my job inquiry about the protective order, the mass homicide, the house arrest by the Secret Service, and all the other sordid details including the sexual thoughts. I got a reply from The Legal Aid Society, dated September 23, 2004. The legal director, Eric Angel, wrote me: "Thank you for your letter applying for an attorney position with The Legal Aid Society. Please be advised that we do not have any staff attorney positions available at the present time. We greatly appreciate your interest in the work of The Legal Aid Society and your commitment to public interest law. If we have future openings, they will be advertised on our website,"

Sure, it's a form letter, but I see it as legal insurance. If somebody complains about my letters, I'll show them Eric Angel's letter. I'll say, "You complain my job inquiry is a pretextual prank, a nuisance, but The Legal Aid Society took it seriously. What do you make of that?" Like I told Jesse Raben sometime late in the last century, "Get Met, It Pays." You need insurance. You can't live without insurance. There's a partner at Covington & Burling who is on The Board of Trustees of The Legal Aid Society -- Jan LeMessurier Flack, Esq. (no relation to Roberta). C&B is Eric's firm, that's Eric the former D.A.

I met with The Mad Monk last Wednesday, September 22. Her recommendation is that I should return to CPK when I'm allowed to return, and not to play games with you. I told her about my plan not to return immediately, but, rather, to leave a telephone message and ask you to call me. I know you're not going to call me, buddy. But I gotta play games; everything has got to have a gamelike quality for me. It's part of my psychopathology.

Anyway, Dr. Bash is taking the next two weeks off for the upcoming Jewish holidays: Sukkoth and the rest -- the Jewish harvest festival, to be precise. By the way, do you know how former Clinton Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman celebrates Sukkoth? He doesn't build a Sukkah; he creates a safe haven for crop subsidies.

Tell Earl and Malcolm (or Malcolm's son, in the event Malcolm really retired) that I plan to keep writing letters. They know how to get me to stop writing letters. Make me an offer I can't refuse. And you, Brian, you. You know what you need to do. Dial 362-7064 and say: "Freedman, get your ass down here. We're going to lunch!"

The Mad Monk was working really hard at our last session, trying to pump me for information about my campaign. At least that was my impression, my paranoid impression. Of course, she didn't say anything directly, but the cues were all over the place. She wanted me to tell her that I'm sending out letters, so, of course, I kept my mouth shut. What do people think I am, an idiot? That I can't tell when I'm being manipulated. Whenever I sense I'm being manipulated, I do the opposite thing.

That's how I got to be where I am today! A total success in the world of "Psychosis by Estoppel." Yes, I'm a master practitioner in that little understood legal maneuver. You lock opposing counsel into an admission that you're psychotic, then he's stuck, as in some grotesque Chinese finger gadget. I locked Dennis Race into "Psychosis by Estoppel." He can't deny I'm a crazy homicidal maniac, because he's never denied it before, when he was given a chance. I just wish Chuck Ruff were still here to see the fruits of his good works, the harvest of a long--oh, so long--growing season. If only Chuck Ruff had survived to see the celebration of this "Sukkoth."

The fact is I can't talk to Dr. Bash. She reduces everything to the nominal, the degraded, the undifferentiated. She denudes everything I tell her of any specificity; she drains my concerns of all nuance, and fits my narrative into neat, simplistic, conventionalized categories. With you, buddy, it's different. I tell you everything. Everything that's on my mind. You and I share something that I don't have with Dr. Bash, and never will. Speaking metaphorically, Dr. Bash is like my wife in a childless, loveless marriage -- a marriage that is nothing more than an arrangement. You, on the other hand (on the other hand!), are my mistress to whom I direct my secret and deeply felt longings in these e-mails. Do you have any idea what I'm talking about, buddy?

Give you an example. I told The Mad Monk last Wednesday that I idealize, and obsess about, the unattainable; but I turn away from the real, the world of objective reality. Dr. Bash's interpretation? "It's safe for you. It's safe for you to live in a world of fantasy. The real world poses risks for you that you would rather not confront."

That's all true. I can't deny it. But it is so simplistic, so conventional. That interpretation, Dr. Bash' interpretation, drains my feelings of all nuance. The accretions of a lifetime of experience that constitute my personality, the levels and layers of meaning in my psychological world, are hammered uneasily -- but with deceptive verisimilitude -- into a Procrustean bed of the conventional.

You, Brian, do not simply reflect my accommodation to fear. You are "The Sum of All Fears," but also the sum of all idealized imaginings. You represent my accommodation to the frustrating, tormenting, punishing object; but you also reflect my specific accommodation to the idealized, the longed for, and the ultimately gratifying. In my relations with you I express my psychological limitations, but I also realize, to some extent, my creative capacities.

You represent the pleasure principle but also what lies beyond the pleasure principle; you are a manifestation of my need to repeat the past, a past of idealized longings and tormenting frustrations. The repetition compulsion. Have you ever heard of it? This complex and little-understood principle of human functioning advanced by Freud has been variously discussed as a death instinct, as an atavistic return to the stereotyped behavior of insects (Yes! Insects!) or as a perverse "fate neurosis." The thriftiest hypothesis, Erikson's hypothesis, states: " . . . the individual unconsciously arranges for variations of an original theme which he has not learned to overcome or to live with: he tries to master a situation which in its original form had been too much ("Too Much!") for him by meeting it repeatedly and of his own accord." It must be added that in the complexity of human development it sometimes happens that the experience of the "original situation" is lost sight of, no longer comprehended, and thus only the unsuccessful maneuvers devised to cope with the underlying problem are externally repeated to no avail.

In my case, what is the theme? What are the variations?

You are the lost object, that I long to regain. You, who do not even exist in my real world, are nonetheless alive and at times ideal. But you are also the betrayer, the abandoner, the individual against whom I vent my rage. My loss will not be assuaged. Here I am Joseph Conrad.

You represent the world of everyday events and people that is infinitely appealing to me. And yet, you also present the image of an object that is overwhelmingly threatening. The best I can do in relation to you, to keep my tumultuous and unstructured fears at bay, is to withdraw from you and from the everyday world: retreat rather than merger consistently characterizes my efforts to establish satisfying relations with you, or anyone, or to settle on a career. Here I am Van Gogh.

You reflect my profound belief that happiness is a myth and that attachments bring nothing but pain; one day they must all be relinquished or they become too draining. The outcome of such philosophy of life is to lead to withdrawal, similar to Gustave Flaubert's, into my inner world. Hence, the inability to reach happiness through external reality and involvement with others, including you, Brian, is my main problem, as it was Flaubert's.

You are the absent Mother who, out of my capacity for creative dissociation, I am able to imagine. You are the ideal that I long for in place of the real mother. Here, I am the potentially creative infant. Note that this is a capacity, not a limitation. The individual who suffers from borderline personality disorder is unable to imagine, or derive satisfaction from imagining, the idealized Other.

I am Goethe's Faust who stumbles between enjoyment of the real and a desire for the unattainable; and in the throes of enjoyment yearns for more of the unattainable.

My friendships seem fixed in a pattern; my sadistic friend lies, teases, and abandons; he gradually withdraws from the friendship, leaving me in a state of excitement and fury. I feel repeatedly that only the current, forsaking friend can bring fulfillment (which no friend in the past had been able to do--as in Proust, only the unavailable is idealized). My compulsive and repetitive masochistic object choice (repeating the soul murder from my childhood in attenuation) makes me one of those unfortunates who follow one of Samuel Butler's characteristically twisted quotations: "'Tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have lost at all." See Leonard Shengold, Soul Murder at 129.

The intensity with which I have entered into my largely epistolary friendship with you, buddy, must be a reflection of my disappointment with reality and my need to seek an idealized friend who exists only as a projection of my own needs. For me, as for Freud, the ideal friend has to be an extension of myself.

Yes, these are the variations. It is safe for me (yes, "safe," as Dr. Bash would have it) to live alone and isolated, yearning for an Other. But there is more than this. There is a diffusion of identity to accommodate--as Glickman would put it--an inner "gallery of characters," and there is a detached "witnessing" of the entire process. Put to creative use, such a "gallery" may issue in the career choice of writer, actor, screenwriter or any other artist. Or con artist. For with less good fortune, a self-effacing, indecisive chameleon emerges, with a chronic sense of weakness, suggestibility, fraudulence, or hypocrisy -- in short, the "flim-flam artist." I have ultimately known all these uses of my extraordinary capacity to empathize, that is, my ability to imagine the Other.

In any event, The Mad Monk and I talked about you at my last session, as we always do. "Do you still think about Brian?" "Yes, Dr. Bash." "What do you do all day?" "I lay on my couch." "What do you think about?" "Brian. I lay on my couch all day, stare at the ceiling, and think about Brian." When I'm not on the campaign trail, that is.

Incidentally, did you know I actually gave up my weekly six-pack of Molson Ice, so I could have some extra change for postage, for the direct mail campaign? Yes, I'm that serious about getting elected. I actually stopped my weekly visits to Robbie at Cleveland Park Wine and Liquor to fund the campaign. It's in our nation's interest, of course. I gotta get elected!

I told Dr. Bash why I like you. I said that someone once said to me that I only like people who remind me of myself. "And how is Brian like you?" I told The Mad Monk: "Brian is arrogant, he's bossy. He's also someone who, when he speaks, you have the feeling he says things you should listen to. He's not a chatty person, and when he talks he expresses himself well -- he says substantial things." I might have added that I find your earnestness endearing, buddy. You are so serious about you're little portion of the universe. Whenever I see you, I keep thinking of a chapter from Erik Erikson's biography of Martin Luther, "Young Man Luther" -- the chapter titled: "The Meaning of 'Meaning It'." You have that quality of "meaning it," of taking things seriously, of being earnest: of being an earnest young man. It reminds me of myself.

Of course, you didn't have the earnestness to call the cops on me. You had William do that for you. Although you're earnest, I guess I'd have to say that you lack the courage of your convictions, so to speak. In the end, I suppose, one could say that you're left with nothing but attempted convictions.

May I be permitted a digression?

Brian, you're a librarian. I always wondered how you relax after a hard day at the bibliotheque. Do you relax with some reading material or a beverage? What I'm saying is, for you, is it "book or tea?"

Be that as it may.

Acting. It's an amazing craft, don't you think? How do those actors pull it off? Actors, really good actors, that is, project such incredible credibility. Outstanding actors, those few who can fool all the people all the time, are able to portray widely divergent roles with convincing ease.

The following is my audition tape for the lead role in "The Enraged Psychopath." What's interesting is that before I did the audition, Dr. Bash was always trying to get me to go back to work. "It's a sin in the Jewish religion not to work." After the audition she's barely mentioned my getting a job. Before the audition Nicole Rafanello (supporting actress) said I seemed comfortable with my life, and denied that I was psychotic. Debra (the lead female) solicited comments from one of the group members about my appearance of malingering. One of the group members, a bright fellow with a Wharton School business degree (and a West Point graduate, no less), said I was just in group "to keep the checks (the Social Security checks) flowing." Notice how no one asked: "Why was it so important for the auditioner to have the security guards summoned, why did he want the incident documented in his chart, why was it important to him to be assessed for commitment to St. Elizabeths?"

Notice how the audition tape altered the course of my career in show business. Before the audition three psychologists -- Drs. Bash, Rafanello, and Kosch -- had raised substantial questions about my employability. They stated I was non-psychotic or employable.

But that was before the audition. After the audition, I had Debra and Nicole convinced I was psycho. The Mad Monk told me that after the audition, Debra and Nicole actually asked her if she thought I might be dangerous. So convincing was my performance that the very next day, March 17, 2004, Dr. Bash recorded in my treatment plan that I had been told by Dr. Cooper (on the morning of March 17) that I had paranoid schizophrenia -- a rare accolade from one of the real pro's, believe me.

Actors! It's a gift. Ask Glickman and his former partners. Acting and the rewards it brings are truly a gift.

Anyway, the audition landed me a starring role, just about a month later, in "The MLK Maniac," directed by J.E. Williams. "The MLK Maniac" has weathered almost six months at the top of the charts! "The MLK Maniac," in turn, has led to my current career in politics, and here we wonderfully are -- in the midst of Campaign Season. And I'm not even Austrian!!


March 16, 2004

Dr. Cooper

I suffered a severe psychotic decompensation at the beginning of my group session this afternoon, March 16, 2004, with Nicole Rafanello and Debra Kosch, both psychology interns at St. Elizabeths Hospital. Debra Kosch is working on her Ph.D. at GW.

I got into a loud, disruptive argument with the group leaders. I did not become violent. I was asked by Debra and Nicole to leave the group room. I declined to do so, and I requested that security guards be summoned to escort me out of the room. I thought it was important that the incident be documented.

The argument was triggered when Debra and Nicole request that I discuss my threat to contact the U.S. Attorney's Office about their handling of group.

I had left a telephone message with Nicole and Debra stating my concerns about group members being permitted to speculate about whether I was malingering. One group member ([name redacted]) had said that I was simply in group "to keep the checks flowing."

The immediate cause of my rage was Debra and Nicole's action in denying that [name redacted] had ever made such a statement.

I met with Henry Barbot, M.D. who filed a form in my chart summarizing his consult with me. Dr. Barbot determined that I did not pose a risk of violence.

I had earlier referred to the hypothetical possibility that I might have a gun on me in connection with a discussion the previous week in which group member [name redacted] talked about putting a gun to the roof of his mouth and blowing his brains out.

The group was kept an additional five minutes last week so that the group leaders could determine that [name redacted] was not suicidal (March 9, 2004).

I also referred to a gun in connection with [name redacted] statement, made at a prior group meeting: "Gary, if someone were to hold a gun to your head, and ask you what you were getting out of group, what would you say?"

I stated to [name redacted] my concerns about his references to gun violence. I said: "Certainly if someone wrote a letter to the President stating: 'Mr. President, if someone were to put a gun to your head and ask you . . . ' the Secret Service would have concerns. I believe I have a right to be concerned about references to gun violence when they are addressed to me."

I have several concerns:

1. I believe I should not have been referred for group in view of the severity of my illness.

2. The group leaders' 30-minute chat prior to the initial meeting was inadequate to determine my suitability for group.

2. Dr. Bash's observation that I am simply fabricating my illness is blatantly wrong. Dr. Barbot confirmed that my illness is in fact severe. He discussed with me the possibility of my commitment to St. Elizabeths. He said it is his opinion that I suffer from a fixed delusional system of long-standing duration.

4. I feel that Debra and Nicole were not following with due diligence the deterioration in my mental condition during my 5-week participation in group. Nicole said at one meeting that I appeared to be "comfortable" with my life. My life is in fact one of lonely desperation.

5. An additional stressor for me in the past week was that my imaginary friend Brian was on vacation, and I missed my imaginary chats with him.

6. I have documented my experiences and feelings in group. My thoughts and feelings were memorialized by me a brief time after each group meeting on computer disk.

7. My decompensation in group appears to confirm the sworn statements of Dennis M. Race, Esq. at the law firm of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld (my last employer) that I am unable to function in a group setting. Mr. Race terminated my employment as a paralegal in late October 1991 after determining in consultation with a psychiatrist (Gertrude R. Ticho, M.D.) that my thinking was consistent with mental illness that might be associated with a risk of violence. My direct supervisor, Christine Robertson, after consulting with Mr. Race, advised her employees that I might have been homicidal, and arranged to have the office suite's lock changed. The D.C. Corporation Counsel affirmed to the D.C. Court of Appeals that my coworkers at Akin Gump had formed genuine concerns that I might have been armed and dangerous during my employment (1988-1991). You may contact Mr. Race at (202) 887-4028.


5:30 PM 3/16/04

I swear, under penalty of perjury relating to false statements to a D.C. employee and under Social Security Statutes and rules, that the above statement is true and correct.


P.S. Check you out next week, buddy. "I'll be back!" as they say in Sacramento.

P.P.S. Wish Sheryl Dyner a happy 51st birthday for me. Sheryl Dyner: Penn State, B.S., Biology, May 1975. I wonder if she knew I had sexual thoughts in the workplace?


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