The Old Yet Recently Updated Game “People With Problems”

  1. David August Jones.  He is a surgeon with a successful practice removing the limbs from apotemnophiliacs, people who don’t feel happy unless they have someone remove their limb.  Now the state he lives in has said that voluntary limb removal is illegal, they want to shut down his clinic.  And he is saving money to marry his girlfriend.
  2. Milinda Guo.  She has just completed a hundred and twenty thousand word manuscript of a science fiction book about a world of people trying to construct an enormous tunnel.  It’s the middle of the night and she has just woken up and realized a flaw in her novel.  A character who on page 100 acts in a way such that he could not possibly know that the race of engineers the Bloots are actually evil, on page 400 realizes that he knew about the evil of the Bloots all along.  The manuscript is due in the morning; it is too late to change. If she does not hand it in she will lose her home.
  3. Thongsak Vajiprasee.  His Dad is dead, his brother has stolen the family fish farm, he’s all alone, and people blame him for not being a better son.  He has no idea what to do next.
  4. Ally.  She has a sick imagination. Every time she tries to imagine what she will do next her imagination is no good; it comes up with options that are unworkable, morally wrong, esthetically repugnant or all three.
  5. You, the player of this game whose job is to figure out how each of these people with a problem can solve the problems of the rest and thereby earn release from the Donjon of the King of Games, Lord Tarabakay himself!

People with Feelings of Inauthenticity

I have been thinking about apeople I know with feelings of inauthenticity.

For example I know a woman who thinks of herself as too serious, too much for a relationship.  She thinks she can never find a boyfriend because once she met a man and he learned how sad she was he wouldn’t want to share in her pain, and who could blame him.  On line her twitter persona is “Princess of Candy”.  She posts light flirtatious jokes comparing herself to different kinds of dessert.  But in real life the attention her twitter postings garner put her on an emotional roller coaster ride.  She gets a lot of attention but she feels bad because it is a lie.   They are interested in her as a light tasty snack, if they knew she was a heavy meal they’d run for the hills!

I know a guy who writes for a successful drama show that is all about guilt. The main character is a lovely guy, a surgeon, an admirable figure who cheated on his wife one night, and on this night he witnessed a murder, and as a consequence of this transgression he is being born like a leaf on a river deeper and deeper into a world of evil and deceit. (the bad guys are blackmailing him &c.) The guy, the writer’s problem is that he knows from guilt. Because of some issues in the family of origin that I won’t get into (they’re not really my business) he felt guilty since he was a little kid. So he pitches his boss stories of guilt and he thinks he knows guilt — he knows he knows guilt! he was a guilty three year old for God’s sake! — and they don’t accept them. So he has learned to come up with different stories of guilt and they are getting successful. The new songs of guilt he sings gather him praise. They’re loving him for how well he writes guilt! But he feels like a fake. I know real guilt he thinks, it’s what I felt when I was a little kid. And. This. Is. Not. It. Take back your praise! I don’t deserve it! I am a fraud a fake a thief.

I want to tell my two friends, your guilt over your inauthenticity is every bit as real as the depression you, Candy Princess feel, and the guilt you Guilty About Being Guilty T.V. Writer Feel.  In other words your feelings of inauthenticity are perfectly…authentic.  So in your worries about being real, you are, in fact perfectly real.  And in fact the same thing that makes you depressed about your body and your face although they are perfectly lovely, Candy Princess, also make you depressed about your twitter persona which is also, Perfectly Lovely and Delicious.  And the same childhood drama where you felt you were never good enough for your Family of Origin, Writer of Guilt, are what make you feel your new way of writing guilt is not as real as your long lost feeligns of guilt, when in fact it is perfectly good and nothing to be guilty about At All!

I want to tell that to my friends, but I know I am not the guy to do it. What I really want is for them to tell each other.


Hive Mind

A lot of people in my apartment were pretty worried that the people in the apartment next door were part of a hive mind; ie that they had no sense of individuality, any more than your heart has a sense of individuality and wants to wander free of your body and take a package tour to Peru, no your heart doesn’t know what it’s missing or probably even more accurately your heart isn’t the sort of agent that could be missing out, it’s just part of something bigger, like the the second letter e in the word “eye”.  Anyway Bruno thought that the people next door viewed themselves like that, or maybe that they were like that and didn’t view themselves at all, and the mother who stayed up late washing her husband’s underwear and got up early making sandwiches for her six children was so subjugated that she didn’t even have a separate consciousness, or maybe she never did?  Maybe Ruth Feldman was just a shape Bruno could dimly perceive in the stone of that next door family as Michelangelo could glimpse the borning Moses in the quarry a shape that had never chosen to be or do, an eddy in a stream of biological and cultural messages proeeding from past to future, that someday might be a person.  “You’re full of shit, Bruno.” I said “Ruth Feldman is nothing like that. I know Ruth Feldman because my mother was like that.  She made her choices.”  “Hey don’t talk about her like that.” said Bruno “She’s my mother too.”


Two Mean Bosses

After I flunked out of college I was ashamed to tell my Mom and Dad so I got work doing temp typing and clerical for a reinsurance firm.  I made $14 an hour which was enough for a sublet with an insane woman who thought she had bugs under her skin and who once tried to seduce me.  But this blog post is not about that stuff which is pretty personal.  It’s about two mean bosses I had, Mr. Hanft and M. Waldvogel.

Mr. Hanft would yell at me because nothing I said was accurate enough.  He would ask me questions and he never liked the answers.  Those answers don’t answer my questions! he would yell. He looked a little like Beefsteak Charlie.  He yelled at me for not knowing the difference between a hyphen and a dash.  He yelled at me a lot.  My response to his yelling was to pretend that nothing mattered to me, a strategy that I employ to this day.  It’s a pretty good strategy because if people think nothing matters to you sometimes they will let up a little.  It’s not a perfect strategy because if you pretend long enough you start to think nothing matters to you and you can get depressed.  Or maybe what I did was confuse “nothing matters to me” with “I’m afraid that if something matters to me I’ll get yelled at”.  Probably the second one.

M. Waldvogel’s job was to evaluate how much catastrophe insurance to provide to different businesses around the country.  So he’d travel around (I don’t know how?  Corporate jet?  Something.) to different places like a sports arena in Houston and write down on a piece of paper with a fountain pen 1.2 B — which meant one point two billion dollars catastrophe insurance.  Bear in mind this was reinsurance — Safr Re was not supplying insurance to the sports arena but insurance to the insurance company that insured the sports arena.  In the event there was a massive hurricane (which there in fact was) and the insurance company was unable to pay its policies (which happened) Safr Re would insure the insurance company and pay up (it did.  You thought it didn’t?  Oh ye of little faith in the reinsurance industry!)

M. Waldvogel would yell at me for never actually saying anything clear enough to get in trouble.   My job was to take his scribblings and turn them into a report summarizing them.  Anytime I would write the report he would look at me, pause a long time and then as he was striding out the door say “Kaplan, you’ve given me nothing!  I don’t need you to tell me what I already said!”

Anyway these were two mean bosses.



Up in the air above, a monkey.

Down below, a gopher.

In front, a Bitter Blocker.

In back, a Slimy Stalker.

To the left, a Leftpard.

To the right, a Right Whale.

How to get out, when past, present, and future are thoroughly besieged and totally invested?

Nothing to do but put your head down and BULL YOUR WAY THROUGH!