Why doth a little thing said or done against thee make the sorry? It is no new thing; it is not the first, nor shall it be the last if thou live long. At best suffer patiently if thou canst not suffer joyously.
~ Marcus Aurelius
gods who thought Christians were better baptized by Santa Claus, Disneyland’s sorcery [ii] and Sinatra’s ‘rat pack’ raised my ‘Boomer Generation’. With the best of intentions, most of their evangelists also supported the spread of cancer by X-rays or nuclear fallout and polio vaccine while university high priests sanctified Freud’s perversions, Margaret Meade’s fraud and the moomania of Alfred Kinsey that killed him. Some of our congregation developed a kind of ‘in the world but not of it’ heresiarchal skepticism, a malady that arises when heavy taxes are levied on unripe reason. My very first essay at age twelve, for example, castigated Washington DC augurs for handing China to Chairman Mao. It earned me college prep status and won the contest despite the fact that no one ever discussed the topic with me. But in the absence of meaningful dialogue I was unimpressed with a certificate embossed with a shiny IHS helios stamp so, I abandoned academic pursuit—not that I knew what it, dialogue or college prep were.
Our post-WWII apple pie community served pizza, cheese steaks, hoagies, banana splits and ice-cream soda plus Decalogue directives garnished with Ben Hur and Zorro to a tidy culture of butchers, bakers, shoemakers and tailors who attended candle lit processions guarded by cops who took us home to the wrath of dad whenever we crossed the line. Jews and Muslims were nowhere found on Catholic streets sanctified by sacred lies that exiled protestants to non-existence and niggers to ghettos with basketball courts while chinks managed Kung Fu laundry and take out. I didn’t think much on these things at the time, but I did have a black cheerleader sweetheart named Cookie who kissed me to puppy-love bliss in the high school music room closet.
Nerdy but ‘cool’ because I could play ‘Take Five’ and croon like Leon Russel or Sinatra, I too was thoroughly conned by black robes and Walters Winchell and Cronkite. What I couldn’t swallow was mom’s raising hell after she had the fourth baby. When I was thirty, dad finally told me she’d suffered years of childhood incest. Could have been worse though. She only threw two of us down the stairs: grandma twice and my brother Bobby once. I was the only witness. Nobody believed me. Bobby hit his head and forgot, and Grandma was an old deaf mute who didn’t matter. Later, after moving in, Grandpa sodomized two little brothers when no one was looking and nobody believed them either. I didn’t know because it was a secret. Besides, I had gone to college, fully unprepared but loaded for anyone pretending to be Yogi Bear.
Before that grand exercise I tied knots as a Cub and Boy Scout, pitched Little League, served as an altar boy, learned to play trumpet, piano and accordion, delivered newspapers at 5AM to pay for music lessons from age 8–11, had my own working trio by age thirteen, taught music at Piscotti’s Studio on Fourth Street by age fifteen, became high school drum major, ice cream maker and short order cook on school holidays; cut grass, shoveled snow, flipped burgers when shifts were available at Ginos; rode condemned horses in a slaughterhouse corral, and, on occasion, stole apples and peaches from an old Ukrainian’s orchard with Frank Sefjek after dusk. This schedule kept an artless bungler out of a crowded row home in industrial neighborhoods along the riverfront south of Philadelphia as much as possible. And since everybody thought I was fit for the priesthood because I sang like an angel at church, I later ran from that too due to my fatal attraction to mammaries. But I did learn to play chess with Frank Sefjek who did become a priest.
A touch stubborn and irascible from the start, at three years of age I stabbed a neighbor in the leg because she made mom cry; a year later I went ‘Saturday Shopping’ on my own because dad was working overtime. They found me half a mile away in the supermarket filling my little red wagon with cookies and carefully chosen whatnots. By high school I had learned to recover from each drop of the conditioning baton with better artifice. And being impervious to vulnerability, mine and others, I also strove to be earnest when lying or doing the wrong thing like all good boys. By the third year of college on a music scholarship for which I was totally unprepared—my tutors had overlooked the classics while I overlooked practice in favor of Nat King Cole, Santana, the Beatles and Bob Dylan—I dropped out and went on the road with a rock band. A kind of Dark Age destiny beckoned like a trail of jellybeans I ate along the way.
After a failed marriage to a groupie with a half dozen cousins named Tony from a South Philly mob family, and wishing to mend and make amends but with little success and no recording contract, my discomfort as a carpet cleaner in a world of full- and part-time alcoholics, druggies and dysfunctional families marshaled by flag waving cigar smokers in back rooms grew heavy. The army offered me a ticket to Germany before my Kill-Cong draft number was called so I signed up, designating ‘human’ for ‘race’ on the application. Off I went. Comrades in arms and frauleins called me ‘Doc’ because I was always reading. Even met my first Muslim and Jew in a town called Göppingen, dabbled in the black market with PX-goods on odd weekends in the Turkish Quarter of Munich, and sang Tony Bennett, Bobby Darin and Sinatra ballads in the Officer’s Club. But refusing to take the swine flu vaccine two years later because I knew what they were up to gave me cause to resign and join a brigade of pseudo-cosmopolites. I enrolled with all the paperbacks I could carry plus a moped, a girl from Scotland, and a green VW station wagon we drove all the way to her folks at Camp Hill in Aberdeen, Scotland . A comfortable stranger, I lived there and in England another two years, turning my hand from jam making to music to forklifts to delivering milk in London, and generally enjoyed an un-American world without Catholic fences and Mickey Mouse.
Reading everything I could along the way, a German librarian recognized my surname on a library card and informed me I had Yiddish ancestors in Poland: dispossessed folks, one of whom he’d seen beaten to death by brownshirts for handing out pamphlets on a street corner in Berlin. Proud of this uncle’s courage and noble death, I pushed for more degrees in private study and grew dismayed at recorded levels of swindler sincerity. Blowhards governed; good leaders and innocents were habitually murdered or marginalized ; men and women of the cloth vigorously taught and lived lies; soldiers saluted and died for greedy old men and their ‘significant others’; justice was upstaged by money; the environment was sedulously destroyed by monetized mindsets; non-whites were customarily bombed to smitherines; and doctors made folks sick and drug companies rich with FDA and CDC approved poisons .
Indignant and angered to learn of Eden’s demise, I realized no authority at school, church, family, college or army thought it sufficiently important to inform me of these matters. But when coming up they frequently reminded me of Eden’s apple without serviceable explanations. My penis reminded me every morning and whenever cousin Cathy came by, or when vibrations on a bus caused a painfully embarrassing erection, or when Nancy Solecki’s worshipful bosoms bounced down the aisle at church, or when priests ran away with buxom secretaries. But all told, sex remained a forbidden secret learned by thou-shalt-nots, right-hand exorcism and a mysterious osmotic process at drive-in theaters. Meanwhile, flag-wavers prepared to smitherine more slant–eyed strangers and most folks I knew were happily affected and affecting while juggling the next call to arms minus sincere sex talk as long as Elvis shook tenderly and Art Linkletter, Ed Sullivan and Jackie Gleason kept things cute—off-color humor, innuendo and multiple confessional visits excepted—most to the grave and some till they couldn’t twist like Chubby Checker or take it any more. Daily cum weekly visits to altar and bar eased rising blood pressure and Stockholm dissonance as souls lost riders and were driven hither and yon to bankers and polls.
Anyway, dad didn’t attend church except for weddings, funerals and baptisms but made sure everyone else but the dog went weekly. He preferred Sloppy Joe’s taproom after work, along with baseball, shuffleboard, football and lotsa TV plus a case or three of well-earned beer weekly (depending on coin) and any excuse for a social gathering with booze and pork-laced tucker. Mom enjoyed Seagram’s Seven disguised as ginger ale. On occasion she sent me to Sloppy Joe’s to fetch him home, and on occasion he took me to Connie Mack Stadium, Sears & Roebucks, or John’s Doggie Shop. The TV was on from dawn till midnight, even if no one watched; and God forbid I should I turn it off. It may even have driven me a little nuts, not that I would have known. Still don’t.
This genially benighted but endearing culture kindly thought the best of itself. But expanding parking lots, rising hemlines and withering heights on lands of forgotten Lenape Indians all qualified as hell’s insult to verity, not that anyone knew. Accordingly, when I did return to University as a ‘stranger’ after my dip across the pond, I saw no Sea of Galilee walkers despite alleluias and crosses galore. What I did find at the Student Union were boy-men who never held a job watching Withering Height Soap Operas with girl-women vying for pedestals in suburbia, all of whom scorned me when I switched channels because Anwar Sadat had just been assassinated. They didn’t know who he was.
By 1987, married to my Scottish lassie (actually a German Jewess whose parents were given asylum during the war) and back in the states with four children; the GI Bill and weekends playing piano in a country band plus midnight oil afforded me a make-over as a medical doctor. Thirteen years later I left America again, this time a broken man and confirmed ex-patriot. I went to SE Asia where family courts, opportunities and liberal sociopaths didn’t grow like mushrooms. Regrettably, I’d managed to destroy two families with the sincere hubris of a god-man doctor added to protean foolishness and a blazing childhood rage that finally made its way to the surface after years of dis-inhibiting sleep deprivation. My lassie was right though; I had the MD knack and was good at it. I graduated from delivering newspapers to a polished bedside manner and from a VW bus to BMW cognac, fine liquors, imported pilsner, pliable secretaries and nurses, Cuban cigars and the Freemasons. Had it made I did.
The self-indulgence of delayed-gratification added to chauvinism, half-baked manners, poor breeding and bull-headed foolishness wrought the havoc of two horrific divorces for seven children and two mothers (nurses who thought they could heal me). My lack of prudence waxed monumental as the sequential calamities waxed unsalvageable in light of cunning legal counsel laced with contemporary parental alienation disciplines and perfectly-timed false allegations . No Seinfeld solution here. Ruin ensued and I had to own a fate to which my transgressions had bound us all. No looking back or reconciliation was on offer except from beloved children who slowly drifted away on tides of fertile disaffection and thousands of miles.
I recovered what sense I had left years later, partly by farming in the mountains of Borneo while commuting to Australia as a locums doc. Malaysia wouldn’t grant me a medical license without my redoing a complete residency training and exams. These years were followed by two years of destitution after I became a Muslim and lost everything I had yet again, including a third Christian family. But I had meanwhile picked up where I’d left off at age twelve and begun writing again on the advice of an astute counselor. Ensuing works include two novels (in progress), an expose on the Christian Trinity, the New World Order’s devilish scheme and benefactors, the Gospel of Barnabas, an occult history of the Catholic Cult, thoughts on Islam, on Gnosticism (I’d trained for Initiation for twelve years; my lassie was the daughter of two Anthroposophical Initiates who took me under their wings), on Cultural Renewal, on Education, on post-modern Corporatism, on Human Development, plus a guide to Marriage and Sexology. I focused on marriage because my failures had set my face in stone to learn from mine own and society’s mistakes—after all, we’re in this together—and on sex because I thought it wise to do away with the osmotic educational system. I also stopped locums work because working nights and living in suitcases at age 54 were making me ill. After being chased out of Malaysia by secret police (they thought I was CIA), and while teaching English in Bangkok to put rice in my bowl, by serendipity my manuscript on the Trinity returned me to Kuala Lumpur as a Research Fellow in their top Islamic Graduate School (ISTAC/IIUM) in 2007.
My list of amours is shamefully long. I was smitten by too many, married six, had six concubines, loved three, divorced five and fathered ten children by four wives over twenty-seven years. Some would say this qualifies me as a rake but a respected colleague I consulted in despair—retired Chief Psychiatrist for the US Federal Prison System—described my crimes as compulsions to redeem a dysfunctional mother by subverting my success with poor choices in her favor. Such god-awful motivation indicated I sinned knowingly and unwittingly, which sounds demonic, especially when combined with a choleric nature that proved productive but not constructive. My unfortunate mother, the most beloved of my beloved dad, had in fact repeatedly predicted I would “never amount to anything” during psychotic breaks that worsened as she had more children. As the firstborn of ten she trained me the most in cleated shoes, starched shirts, bow ties, a manly little homburg hat, banshee screaming and generous dollops of face slapping. Dad strapped me bare bum from time to time as customarily decreed, but only once knocked me against the wall with a backhand for cursing his beloved. So let this abbreviated bio be a lesson on the effects of parental imprinting.
Having learned that ripeness of thought manifests growth as well as continuity and direction in life (jelly beans) if one lives long and is fortunate and resourceful, and I’m all three by God’s mercy, I now face the winter of my years with no children of my own to lean on. From time-to-time my strappingly handsome sons in Borneo, who finally overcame their mother’s tribal fear of my Muslim conversion, care enough to remember I still walk the earth. Yet I lay no claim to being a good father, granting I tried and failed under best-forgotten circumstances. I have, however, lived and read long enough to know Marcus Aurelius received the education I never knew I lacked, a fact that stands for most of us by infernal design. Thus, my life was hexed by religion and vexed by an endearing pool of stupidity into which heaven in its wisdom had cast me to learn from oppositional errors. After adopting the honest conceit of a prodigal renegade, I did not begin my happily-ever-after life until the age of fifty-seven as a mere survivor.
At sixty-eight I’m a much better husband. God mercifully saved the best for last and returned me to self-governance by allowing me to realize He’s not lurking round every corner but off minding His own business as I make my own tally and angels keep score. Consequently, the bulk of this little book is wrung from six-plus decades beset by the good, the gnarly, the bad, ignorant and ugly, as well as twelve wonderful years of marital accord plus a belated academic career that produced several books and papers with a few international students who stay in touch. Apparently I’m in good company because, according to my reading of history, it seems heaven allows similar lesson plans for its own purposes.
May. 2018, Chiang Kham, Thailand
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