Saturday, August 19, 2017

Confronting Racism

Confronting Racism
I didn't go to the demonstration today but I confronted racism and anti-Semitism in the person of Charlie Krafft. He is a confirmed white nationalist and Holocaust denier. He would claim that he does not deny the Holocaust, he only wants to point out some discrepancies in the historical accounts. Sure. Charlie once told me he practiced a "genteel anti-semitism."  I kind of understood what he meant, like your law firm has one Jewish partner, "but we can't have two Jews because you know how they are when they get talking to each other, they're close talkers."
I understand that. My friend Bobby is Jewish and he talks too close to my face. If he could just back up a few inches. But this isn't a strictly Jewish tendency. I think it's more Middle Eastern. Like the time I befriended an Arabic-speaking tourist on the quay at the Santa Barbara Yacht Harbor. We began talking and he kept getting closer and closer and then he practically climbed into my lap. Close talkers!
Anyway, my little bit for making the world safe for diversity is to confront Charlie Krafft once again, and to give him a chance to overcome his disease.
"Charlie, you don't have to explain or apologize for what you've done, but just stop doing it. Throw out the books and the Nazi memorabilia. Stay away from those dark websites. Get some fresh air. There's a better part of you waiting to come forth."
Charlie reads this newsletter, so Charlie, stop doing it! We don't hate you, we just hate what you are doing. Stop staying up late at night watching Nazi porn!
Charlie is well-known in the Seattle arts community and he is celebrated as the "mayor of Fishtown." We would like to forget and overlook his dark side, but maybe it's time for intervention. We all need help.
Well, that's my part on this very active weekend.
I  speak lightly of Charlie's condition, but it is a disgusting disease, and  a contagious disease -- it rubs off on you when you are exposed to it. You can feel the seductive, addictive quality.
If you don't know Charlie Krafft, look him up on Google. You can find his website. Contact him and be nice. He's getting old, past 69. Ask him about Fishtown. Offer to buy him dinner at a Chinese restaurant in the International District. Charlie would like that.

Total Eclipse
I saw the total eclipse of the sun in southern Mexico on March 7, 1970. The path of totality crossed the isthmus of Tehuantepec and we were there to observe.
Dozens of tourists -- not thousands -- dozens of tourists pulled off to the side of the lone highway to stop and stare at the sun. It was very quiet. The corona appeared, and shimmering, quivering light raced across the fields, and all the birds began to sing. The local people hardly seemed to notice.
So I have this one already checked off on my bucket list.
But if you get a chance to see it -- the totality -- then it's worth the expense and the crowds.
We will have 62 % totality in Santa Barbara, on Monday morning. I will be working in Lulu's garden at that time. She lives down the street and will be celebrating her fifth birthday very soon. Her mother hires me to weed and tend her garden.
Dr. Berkowitz Deals with Depression

I can’t even brag about how bad it was. I never went to prison, or fought in a war, or battled a disease, or overcame an addiction. I just screwed up on a small scale and I felt lousy. I remember talking to Dr. Berkowitz about this in 1993 at his clinic in Somerville right outside of Boston.
Dr. Berkowitz was a small younger man with a tight black beard like the Smith Brothers on the cough drop package. He made a good living as a general practitioner, but he could have made three times as much if he had taken up a specialty in cardiology. As it was he owned a nice home in the leafy suburb of Newton.
But he worked in Somerville and served the food stamp clientele that needed walk-in service with family aches and pains, and he liked talking with people.

So it was the winter of 1993-1994 and the winter was dragging on with frozen piles of dirty snow in parking lots and sidewalks. By March half of Boston was suicidal and I was one of them not, not suicidal, but in a very blue funk. Plus I was lonely since I broke up with Louise – which is another story, a long pathetic, embarrassing story – but I broke up with her and money was short and winter lasted too long. I thought maybe to get a medical solution to this.
I said to Dr. Berkowitz, I’m depressed. He took a deep breath, looked me right in the eye and almost laughed. “You’re not depressed. You know I have patients who are actually depressed. They sleep 16 hours a day. They don’t leave their apartment for weeks at a time. They are afraid to even say hello to the mailman. They don’t bathe. But they drink and find pills to take, and they don’t get those pills from me, but they get them. These are people who are clinically depressed, if I might use a clinical expression, and I treat them as best I can, although some of them need extensive psychiatric oversight and perhaps sheltered housing and sheltered workplaces.
But these people are depressed. You, on the other hand, are not depressed. You got the blahs, you got the blues, you need a good fuck and if you can’t get that you need a good kick in the pants. Get out of here and come back when you have a real problem.”
I was taken aback by Dr. Berkowitz’s unusual vehemence, but I had to admit it was a healing experience, because what he said in so many words was that I did not have a problem, not in his experience. I was okay. Maybe all I needed was a week on the beach in Florida, failing that I might go see the afternoon showing of the Marx Brothers film at the revival house in Harvard Square….. This was in 1993 when they had revival theaters in places like Harvard Square -- and film buffs who memorized every line of Ingmar Bergman’s dialog of death and doom and destruction and despair and disappointment.
Bergman was Swedish and those people understand depression. The masters. But Dr. Berkowitz was Jewish and those people understand laughter. “You’re suffering? You’re dying? And I’m laughing my ass off.”
I walked out of the good doctor’s clinic. It cost me $45 to find out I wasn’t really depressed. And he’s laughing all the way to the bank for ten minutes of work. Except he didn’t have to work in Somerville with his food stamp patients. He could have been a specialist with a tony office in Back Bay. He really did like us better than the uptown folks.
But I am not supposed to dwell on the past, but to just go to the past, find something there and bring it back. Today I found Dr. Berkowitz, and this being the present tense in August of 2017, while Confederate statues are being smashed with ball peen hammers like they were peanuts or pumpkins -- I looked him up on Google.
Guess what! – he is still there, now 80 years old and I said he appeared younger than me but he was only smaller and shorter than me – but today, this year, after 54 years practicing medicine he is still doing that, still dividing the truly depressed from those who just need a fast you-know-what and a kick in the pants.
I should write him a letter. He might remember me. I will say one thing about myself – that part about being idiosyncratic – which is distinctive. People want to put me on a shelf and file me away in some forgotten drawer, but I don’t fit in any drawer, I stick out somehow, and for that reason they tend to remember me. So I will write Dr. Berkowitz and show him this story. He might like it.
thank you for reading this, have a calm and productive weekend,

Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My gardening blog is  Fred Owens
My writing blog is Frog Hospital

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