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Peek-a-Boo! I See You!

Cartoon sketch of a clown with a frilly collar and wild hair waving at the viewer. The clown has glasses and an exaggerated nose and toothy smile. Cartoon by Earle Levenstein.


A Whaaa? moment; a confession:

Intermittently, unpredictably, I might become a different person; make a Jekyll and Hyde switch. Totally out of nowhere.


Me; who, when writing, can psychologize, rationalize, offer—all modesty aside— really insightful analyses, actually retreat into himself; withdraw, become less and less comfortable the more people there are in the room, even disappear, will, from time to time—maybe a month, maybe a year—suddenly, with no warning, become a slapstick performer, a comic, wired.

I know clowns, and believe me, I don't know where this guy comes from. A vaudeville character: uninhibited, physically exaggerating, electric, comedic.

On my way to college; on a train; crowd of classmates; train rocking; suitcases shifting above; I'm suddenly a comic crew member; lurching from side to side, up and down the aisle, shouting instructions; grabbing suitcases; climbing on seats; and my friends just totally crack up. In moments, my character disappears.

On a tennis court with my brother, exchanging shots; group of people watching. I suddenly jump closer, shouting and switching hands back and forth and swatting the ball, and my brother is returning the shots and laughing, and the closer I come, the more he laughs, and the watchers are laughing too. Finally, I drop my racket and throw my hands into the air and clamber over the net and do a victory dance. My brother falls laughing as I dance; the watchers applaud and it's over.

Nothing outrageous. Very much me…but a not often exposed me.

The parallel is not unlike my periodic creative outbursts over the years. Nothing, then intense activity, and retreat. True for the novels I've written, the play, the cartoons. Outbursts. Isolated.

All of a piece that revolves around my life from the beginning, of reading the signals, knowing what I needed to do to avoid the violence, the chaos, the punishment that I lived with, witnessed, inflicted upon my brother, who would never surrender, every day.

And the pressure within me grew, expressed in nightmares, terrors, withdrawal; my never-ending performance. Inevitably, something had to give and it did; that other character escaping briefly, as a vaudeville comic. Brilliant. No threat of death, no opposing of the family rules, not sharing my brother's abuse. Who could be angry with a very funny character?

Parallel? Migraine.

Pressure builds, unresolved issues need to be expressed; opposed by everything I'd learned from the beginning and then through the years. Welcome, migraine.

Amazing, isn't it? You can run but you can't hide. Whatever is being forcibly restrained—is forbidden to emerge, to be exposed—is guaranteed to find an escape; migraine for me, in deeply painful ways: physically and emotionally.

My vaudevillian outbursts? What a personally imaginative invention. Actually getting laughs, appreciation; who could object?

Incredible journey.

All for what should be the focus from the beginning; the goal; the simplest path to a healthy happy fulfilling life: being yourself.

What could be simpler? More productive? More natural?

On the other hand, who said it would be easy?

On the third hand, what could be easier than taking the natural path? Encouraging, urging, helping your children to be who they are, the best they can be, enjoying life as it unfolds.

Then again—fourth hand; a joke—I can just hear those voices at the back of the auditorium: If it's easy, won't that spoil my children? Taking the easy way out? Thinking life can be a breeze, a lot of fun and you can do whatever you love to do not what you should do? No fooling around. No joke. Life needs discipline. Rules. Regulations. Structure. Yeah; what about discipline?

I'd just look at my watch and look back at them and pour another drink and a couple for them; invite them to sit down and relax and then ask: Tell me about your childhood, from the very beginning. I've got plenty of time.

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