Talking Strategy

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Squirreling around Fifth Avenue. Photo: JH.

Monday, January 11, 2021. Sunny days and cold in New York over the weekend, even reached to freezing but yet a mild cold for January. I say “mild” because I am old enough to recall deep cold days and lots of snow. Although winters have been much milder overall in the past few years. And it was quiet. But then the town’s been “quiet” for months now, and especially on weekends. 

There Goes The Neighborhood. Are New Yorkers away? Those who have access and can afford it are. People leave town for the country such as the Hamptons on weekends if they’ve not already removed there entirely. In this neck of the woods one hears about Palm Beach 24/7 these days. A growing population, presumably part time or temporary, more restaurants. Word is they’re packed; no masks, crowds everywhere — and hunky dory and toodle-loo. Others are going to Miami, preferring that (more of a city) over PB. And the more refined have a preference for Hobe Sound. Me, I’m strolling the Promenade along the river watching the tugboats toot by.

Gone fishing under the Flagler Memorial Bridge in Palm Beach.

This was one of those Bad News Days but for an entire weekend. Aside from the stories out of DC, a friend of mine just returned from L.A. reporting that the homeless situation there is more than dire. It’s dire just to see while passing by. Thousands and thousands of homeless tents spread throughout the entire Los Angeles area including Beverly Hills, Bel Air, Venice. Brentwood, the Palisades. Thousands of tents, everywhere. Now that sounds “exaggerated,” and it may be. But my friend was visibly upset in recounting the scene. And I, who’ve lived out there and loved the area, found it depressing just to think about. This is quite clearly the Times we’re living in.

So. Since these are the times and the temperature, as Diary readers know, there isn’t a lot of tra-la-la and so-nice-ta-meetcha to report around this town (or even this apartment), so an immediate problem for us is YOU, the Diary reader who has been kind and curious enough to pay us a visit.  

So. I’ve spent more times running through our thousands (literally) of Diaries to get a sense of what we think of as Another Time, past times. Over the weekend I saw this one from late August, 2015. Five and a half years ago. 

I was reminded of a troubling incident in my own life when I was assaulted while walking across Fifth Avenue from the Bulgari corner to the Tiffany corner in the middle of a weekday afternoon. I’ve heard of a number of these incidents.  It’s the times we are living in; then, and now.

Thursday, August 27, 2015. It’s all rage. Human rage. The whole world is in a rage. We all have it on one level or another. I do. I’m generally regarded as having a congenial personality, and I do. I like people, and I look at people to try to see who they are to themselves. 

But I have my moments. Always when I’m alone, incidentally. I’ve had my moments in the presence of others, specifically mates – wives and partners. I can remember a couple of times when I scared myself with it. I’m well aware of it because my father had it in spades. And he was violent, and out of control at times. Not lots of times but enough to scare the bejesus out of me and my mother and my sisters. 

Ironically he wasn’t physical in his rage with his children. He didn’t have to be. Picking up a chair and smashing it on the floor, or kicking through a panel on a door because my mother asked him about something he didn’t have the answer for. It usually had to do with money. A lot of the rage we witness and personally experience and also commit has to do with money in one way or another. Not money per se, but the results from the lack of it and even sometimes from the surfeit of it.

I recognize my own rage sometimes daily when I read the Daily Mail Online and see stories of people hurting or killing their loved ones, or strangers, or their pets, or any animals. But especially the children and the animals. Rage toward innocence outrages me. I find myself reading about the horrors and fantasizing horrific, savage punishments toward the abusers/murderers/monsters. My “fantasies” are so violently oriented that I see I have that kind of rage, too. Mr. Sunny Personality in a storm. That doesn’t surprise me, considering what my earliest experiences with adult anger were.

I hated it in my father. We were not close because of it. I didn’t want him to be close. I wished he’d take his rage and leave. He didn’t. Later, much later in my life, when I was an adult, a grownup, and after he’d died — at the age I am at now — I feel a closeness to him, partly because of that rage. Not because of the shared “rage,” but because as a man I naturally understand much of his dilemmas that brought it on. I’m grateful that I don’t face the world in the same way he did. He never learned he had a choice. Partly because there was no one for him to talk to and to talk to him. I find this is very common in us. But we all need it to get over the isolation that rage results in us.

My own rage is handled in a different way now, one I made up myself. This is directly related to a substantial enough exposure to psychotherapy of various practices. When I have an issue with someone, something that fuels a lot of anger in me, where I find myself talking to that individual (who is not present of course), I go into the bathroom and rant in front of the mirror. 

I’m laughing now when I think of those moments because they are funny. Watch yourself say all the horrible things you ever wanted to say to someone while looking in the mirror. See what you look like.  Include the voice and the snarls and wild  eyes and teeth baring. Keep at it. Don’t stop. Do yourself a favor, however, and keep your hands to yourself and not on some object or nearby door. Just keep ranting. See what it’s like, how it feels, and how you feel when you’ve done enough of it. 

I can do it for about 56 seconds. Although I’ve probably done more. I end up saying to the same mirror: “Well David you look like an asshole with all that language and epithets. I hope that makes you feel better, you moron.” It’s a good idea because no matter your rage, you can’t change the people or the matter you’re raging about. You can only change yourself. And that’s really hard, but not impossible. 

Inevitably it cracks me up. I go back to my desk or wherever I’m going, laughing at myself. Because it is funny. And so am I. For that moment after it’s all over. Our rage, all by ourselves, isolated and free to express (with your voice) needs to come out. Better to bring it out when you can also get the opportunity in the safety and isolation of your own bathroom mirror. It balances you and bears relief even if temporary.

What troubles me, because although I understand the motivation to rage, is I don’t know how to help others rid themselves of it sensibly, safely and profitably. I say profitably because rage is always a losing proposition. Nothing good comes of it for YOU, let alone the other. Even revenge is a hopeless gesture. And when committed on children or animals, it is poison, and poison is poisonous, even for you.

I don’t know what my father thought of his rage. (We called it a “temper” back in his day.) He may not have thought of it at all because when it passes, it can leave a gaping hole in yourself. He did know how to be kind and good to himself. When I think of him now, and think of his nicer side. All my friends loved him and thought he was the nicest, kindest father in the neighborhood. He was what they used to call a Street Angel and House Devil. And he was the “angel” to them. But, alas, not to himself. I regret that he missed out on that for himself.  If only he had the opportunity to learn what I did, it would have been far better for him and for all.

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