drug dangers


Daily Archive for July 27th, 2010

DRAFTED/Part Three

MY FIRST PHYSICAL
Part 1
A NOTE FROM A SHRINK

It’s 1962 and I’m in a boho Garden of Eden.

I live in a sub basement in Greenwich Village. “The coolest place in the world,” my friends from Brooklyn say.

The super lets me tap into his electricity and use his phone. His wife takes messages for me. “You should call your mother,” she says. I feed his two cats. They kill mice and leave them outside my door.

I never take cabs or go to fancy restaurants. I live on diner food, peanut butter and jelly and chocolate milk.

Won’t go north of 14th. Street. Except to Birdland on 52nd. where I pay $1.25 admission to see the greatest jazz musicians in the world–Dizzy, Miles, Count Basie, Gerry Mulligan, Sarah Vaughan–every week another genius.

Don’t go on dates. My friend David lives in a four story walk up in the Flower District. I’m so stoned the trip up the stairs seems to go on for hours. We sit in the dark and watch the light on the amplifier blink in synch with Wanda Landowska playing Bach partitas. The door swings open. Female silhouettes appear, then disappear as it slams shut. Something warm slides in next to me. A wisp of hair brushes my cheek.

There hasn’t been a war in nine years, but the orators of Union Square warn of world cataclysm.

“Satan has been released from his thousand year captivity,” a skinny old woman shrieks in a dense German accent. She sits under a bed sheet with “TURN TO JESUS” scrawled in lipstick. ” Gog and Magog have gathered the minions together for war,” she says. “They are as numerous as the sand in the sea…A great multitude will die untested. Only the righteous will be saved…” Brandishing a dog-eared Bible she cries: “Turn to Jesus now before it is too late.”

Across the park Morris Krieger, the anarchist, invokes Randolph Bourne:

“War is the health of the state,” he says. “It sets in motion the irresistible forces for uniformity. It coerces into obedience the exploited minorities and the individuals who are straying from the herd.” He stops and walks through to the crowd to where my friends and I stand, dazed with marijuana and Italian Swiss Colony muscatel.

“Democracy is an excuse to excite the masses,”he says. “Pursuit of happiness? Only the happiness they allow you. The happiness of acquisition and slavish obedience, the happiness of sycophancy. You have found happiness outside of their system through drugs and interracial fellowship. You are a threat to the state.”

A few benches down, a kid strums a guitar and sings in a Woody Guthrie whine:

“The General needs his War

To get that extra star.

Ford needs a war

To sell his armored car

JFK needs a crisis ’cause his New Frontier’s a lie

He ain’t never gonna give poor folks

A slice of the pie.

The doomsday warnings are comic relief for the drunks and the junkies lolling on the benches. Workers on lunch stop to heckle the speakers before returning to the grind. Even the cops shake their heads indulgently.

Meanwhile, the date of my physical looms.

“My shrink will give you a note that will get you out,” David says. “It’ll cost you thirty-five bucks for the visit.”

The office is on the ground floor of a building on Riverside Drive. I look at the names on the plaques and find: Dr. Paul Fruchtman. He’s at the end of a warren of tiny rooms. Doesn’t look much older than me. Short in a brown suit with a soft handshake and a few strands of hair across his bald head. He sits in an armchair, almost brushing knees with me and lights a pipe upside down so the window fan won’t blow it out. I stare at it wondering how he keeps the ashes from falling.

“Why don’t you want to go into the Army?” he asks.

David has told me he wants a crazy, radical answer.

“I don’t want to serve a state that exists to perpetuate the power of the capitalist oligarchy,” I say.

He scribbles on a legal pad on a clipboard.

“Do you worry about being in close quarters with other men?” he asks.

He wants me to say “yes.” To admit to being a latent homosexual. It’s a lie that will get me out, but I can’t tell it.

“No,” I answer.

“Are you afraid you might be killed?”

Another “yes” is indicated here. Another lie I can’t tell.

“No…”

He sits back, puffing on his upside down pipe.

“Tell me the truth. What is that worries you the most about being in the Army?”

I give him my first honest answer.

“Making my bed.”

He leans forward, eagerly. “Making in your bed?”

“No, just making my bed,” I say. “My father says they punish you if they can’t bounce a quarter off your blanket. Also, folding my clothes. I can’t really fold my shirts. My mother always yells at me. Sewing, too. My father says you have to sew your stripes on your shirts, he calls them blouses. We had to sew our own shop aprons in sixth grade and I couldn’t do a hem stitch and had to get one of the girls to help me…”

He raises a hand to stop the torrent.

“Okay, I’ll give you a note that you’re in treatment with me and aren’t ready for the stresses of military service. That will give you a temporary deferment, known as a 1Y. After a year they’ll call you again and I can renew the deferment.”

I rise, relieved.

“Of course there’s one condition,” he says, relighting his pipe. “You’ll have to continue in treatment with me.”

“You mean, be a patient?”

“Yes. Once a week should be enough.”

 

It’s a shakedown. He gives me a bland smile. “You’re in limbo” he says.” You can’t make the transition to productive, responsible adult life. As you get older that can become very serious.” He hands me a form. “Fill this out and bring it back” —he checks his calendar—”next Thursday, same time…You can pay Miss Rubin at the front desk.”

Miss Rubin is whispering urgently into the phone. I glide by without paying.

I can’t go out that night. The super’s cats creep through the window yellow eyes glowing in the dark. I see endless rooms of green filing cabinets. Echos of doors clanging shut. Clerks shuffling past each other down dusty aisles. A thick manila file with my name on it is dropped on a pile of files…Carried to another room. Dropped on another pile. Handed to a man in a baggy, gray suit.

He’s out there now. In a dark doorway across the street. People hurry by him with their heads down, each followed by a man in a baggy, gray suit.

NEXT: MY FIRST TRIP TO WHITEHALL STREET