As we begin our descent in this course I would like to tell you something of where we are going.
I am about to provide you with some portraits of childhood. These are to be used as mirrors, to reflect third-dimensional or fourth-dimensional understanding, depending on which we want to apply to the data in the pictures.
The grim moments of childhood can be used as evidence for the psychological battering of children, if seen from the psychoanalytic point of view. Or, from the fourth dimension, it can be viewed as the preparation of soil for the birth and growth of strong spiritual ideas.
I will introduce these portraits into our marketplace of ideas because they are prime material for the psychoanalytic explanation of the genesis of religious ideas.
Western Civilization seems bent on finding the answer to its woes in medicine and depth psychology. I regard this as a sincere, but last-ditch effort, on the part of third-dimensional thought, to comprehend and solve the problems of human life in its own terms.
The problems, one and all, are spiritual, not psychological, not medical, and not sociological.
I offer the following stories, all true, as evidence to support the claim that I know what I am talking about. Remember, that the "I" here is a reference to my spiritual identity, which has gone through every manner of material (psychological) assault; but each one of them I have (somehow) managed to recognize as a false claim to power that turned out to be a dream in the end. Today, I would not part with any of these experiences, and recognize each of them as part of the perfection of fourth-dimensional power unfolding itself, which has left me stronger, i.e., more conscious of my true identity, than I otherwise would have been.
Back when I was nuts, and trying to explain myself to my students, I used to say, "The finest steel requires the hottest fire."
Now I say, having learned yet a little more humility from that experience, that the parable of the sower is the only way to go in explaining the difficulties of childhood, or any other so-called difficulties in the third dimension.
Once upon a time suppose you wanted to plant spiritual ideas, i.e., ideas that conflicted with the normal material ways of looking at life, including religious life.
Back in those days the way you planted seed was to reach in a bag, pull out a handful, and give it a toss. Seed lands everywhere.
Some of it lands out in the open. The birds are sitting around waiting to snap it up. Some of it lands on rocks. This does a little better. When the rains come it germinates and gets a start. But when the sun comes out the new plants haven't got a place to send down their little feet. So they get cooked, dry up, and die.
Some seed lands in the weeds. This does a lot better. It gets a start, has a place for its roots to go and seems to flourish. The trouble is that weeds are tougher and grow faster than wheat. So this little seed, that looks like it's going to do so well at the beginning, is eventually choked and strangled by the (third-dimensional) cares and pleasures of the day.
The kind of seed that does best is the kind that is sown in soil that has been carefully prepared for its growth and happiness. This means that there are no rocks, no weeds, and the little seed has lots of lovely, freshly turned, friable soil, all to his very own.
For this to occur there has to be a gardener who knows what he is doing. And, there has to occur some preparation of the soil of third-dimensional thought that is very distressing to material sense.
Indeed, looked at from the third and fourth-dimensional points of view exactly the opposite thing is going on to each one. I have had three gardens in my life, and have tried every reasonable procedure to make things grow. I have put on every chemical and every organic stimulant and every killer known to the beginner. I have put on fifty-four cubic yards of sawdust and cow manure. I have raised more morning glory, Canadian thistle, and crab grass than anyone I know. My gardens have shrunk from 10,000 square feet, to 1,000 square feet, to 100 square feet.
My successes include the best sweet corn I have ever eaten, the best strawberries, and the fastest growing fruit trees I have ever seen.
All of which requires doing things to the soil which are unspeakably awful, if viewed from the point of view of the bugs, the weeds, and the untrained eye that had no idea what was going one
A rototiller really tears hell out of the established soil that is there to be turned over. And I am quite sure that if that soil that is about to get emulsified had anything to say about it, it would scream out every argument it could think of to prevent what looks like mindless chaotic destruction of itself.
Such is the way with
third-dimensional thought, until it sees what comes springing out of the wonderful fluffy
decayed humus when it rains.
My folks loved to fight. We had a fighting family, and we all loved it.
To understand fighting you have to get the spirit of it. The idea is to club the other guy senseless, and then, when you've got him down, put your boot in his face so he can't scream for help. Then you be sure and catch his eye, so he can see the extreme delight on your face at his helpless agony.
There was just my little brother, whom I call "Marko," and I, and our parents. We were a perfect tag team, with everybody switching partners every so often. By the end of high school our names for our parents were "Old Lady" and "Old Man." They were names of genuine endearment.
The old lady and the old man were a perfect fighting team. So were Marko and I. It was how we all got our recreation.
It was where I learned all about the marble game of anger and hate.
Dinner time was the time of the regular fight in our house. It was usually about money, or the old lady's cooking, whichever came first.
We had a round oak table in our dining room, the kind everybody is searching for now to resurrect. That was the toughest, meanest table ever made. It simply wouldn't die. My ex-wife has it now and it looks like it had never been touched.
My old man is over 6' 3" tall, and the old lady is about 5' 2", and what he couldn't take out on her came right out on that table.
They were positioned across from each other, as my little brother and I were across from each other. When 6:00 o'clock came the bell rang; we went at it; and the neighbors cringed.
For my brother and me it went back to the days of the "Pusher." A "pusher" is an piece of silverware that is shaped on one end like the blade on a bulldozer, and is made for and used by fine families for purposes like pushing your peas onto your fork. This item was a prize in our house. Marko and I would fight over it every night. We were supposed to take turns using it, every other night, but it was also our responsibility to set the table, and somehow, in the shuffle of getting all the silverware on the table, the pusher would get lost, when it was the other guy's night to use it.
As the meal progressed there were any number of exquisite ways of irritating each other that could be found and exploited. And with any success there was a mandatory flashing of the bird, together with a huge malicious grin. We got so we could give each other the finger without moving a hair.
Until one of us collapsed and cried to the folks about something, what we did was completely unnoticed by our parents. If either of us whined about what the other was doing it was doubly a crime. First, it caused an end to our game, because the folks would immediately explode in rage at the two of us. Therefore the guy who ratted was a chicken and lost the game. Second, and infinitely more important, it would interrupt the fight the folks were having. This was sacred, and was not done.
There was considerable regularity in their fights, going back as far as either my brother or I can remember. We had the nightly fight of course. But then we had the weekly fight, and the monthly, and the quarterly. And then, of course, we had a special fight reserved for each holiday. It was an interesting way to mark time.
Let me illustrate. Round steak is good meat, but not when it is broiled well done under a broiler like a sirloin or a T-bone. My mother could rightly claim that we couldn't afford sirloin; my father could rightly claim that it tasted like old shoeleather. Whereupon my mother could announce that anybody who didn't like it could damn well cook it themselves.
Depending on how quickly and effectively the rage would encapsulate the old man's state of consciousness, a simply incredible thing would then take place. The old man would stop hysterically pounding the table. He would stand up instead, grab the underside of the table, and lift it straight up, so that the dishes, food, silverware, everything would go sliding down on the old lady as she fell backwards in her chair.
As a tactic in a fight, this caught the eye of the kids.
Marko tells me that, today, his girl friends still marvel at how fast he eats his dinner. He says they can't understand how they can be in the middle of a huge fight, an emotionally gut-wrenching quarrel, and there he is, wolfing down his food like a dog eating scraps. He says he's beginning to see that that isn't what most folks do.
I counter by reminding him of how we used to anticipate the precise moment in time when the old man would dump the table on the old lady. We would discreetly lift our plates just as the table was uprooted, and continue to hold them and eat what we could while the inferno continued. Sometimes, we could grab our plates, jump up like we were surprised just as the table went over, and sneak off into the living room to finish our chow.
Little bondlets of genuine friendship were fashioned in moments like those between me and Marko.
It was normal for them to carry this sort of thing into the night until 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning. Marko and I would go to sleep, (at least I would, I don't know about him), when we were fairly sure that they weren't going to involve us in the fight anymore. Sometimes, however, they would awaken us in the middle of the night and drag us down to referee. They would place us together on the couch, have us listen to each of their sides, and then decide who was right. It was then that I began to develop the art of a good weasel.
It was then, too, that I really
began to feel the presence of something, I couldn't understand what and didn't need
to. Right at the peak of the hysteria, the rage, and the shouting, just before I would go to
sleep at night, something very calming would come over me and put me to sleep.
I come from a family of hard drinkers. Or, at least that's what the old man always told me. Clearly, it was his intention that we should live up to that name. I can remember my first beer--Bohemian. He let me have it the summer between the sixth and seventh grade, while I was watching him wash and polish his convertible. That was the best tasting beer I ever drank; no beer has ever tasted like it since.
We were kind of poor for a while. It was hard to live on a college professor's salary in those days. So the old man started making beer. In the basement.
At about that time I started nipping off his booze in the liquor cabinet.
They drank Petri Pale Dry Sherry in those days. But they had a little bourbon and gin around for special occasions. We started playing games where I would nip their hard stuff, which I knew they were measuring. I would replace it with water; the game was whether I could do it without their being able to tell.
Ours was truly a drinking family. The house was always loaded with people freely coming in and going out at all times of the day and night. There was a lot of fun and gaiety, a lot of raucous conversation and argument.
The booze was just a part of it all.
One day I hit upon a plan to stock up a supply of this fungiving elixir. The old man had a bottle capper in the basement, and of course there were all kinds of bottles around to bottle the stuff up. So I began a stash.
The trouble was that you could only swipe a little bit at a time. What do you do with a little bit of whiskey, a touch of gin, and a good dose of Petri wine? Why, you mix them all together, of course. And then when your bottle fills up you put a cap on it, put it in your gradually filling up wooden coke carton, and hide it in the basement. And wait, for just the right occasion.
We always had parties at our house. They would go way into the night.
My room was situated on the second story. I positioned my bed right next to the double windows that overlooked everything going on out in the yard and the street. In fact I could lie in bed and put my chin on the windowsill and watch everything going on below.
Like every kid's bedroom mine was special. It was a sanctuary. I had pheasant skins on the walls, elk antlers on the dresser, a porcupine skin on a board. But I suppose that the most remarkable thing about my room was that I never shut the windows. I loved to have them wide open, rain or shine, especially in the rain, or snow. I would lie under about six quilts and it was just gorgeous.
You could feel the rain splash in your face just like when you went camping out, And there is nothing more fun than hiding from the cold under the covers.
Well, I mention this because I was in a good position to hear and see everything that was going on in all those parties.
God those people had fun. You have to remember that this was Montana, where the main occupation is social drinking. The old man always had what he called the Garbage Party on New Year's Eve. He invited all the people he knew that didn't belong to the Elks, Moose, Rotary, Lions, etc., all the misfits and rejects. They had the best blast in town. Our house would be surrounded by cars. Sometimes the noise level alone would start to bother me; I had already developed a protective instinct for looking out for the cops.
No sweat. One night I was awakened by the sound of a head cracking on the sidewalk. It was the wife of a prominent judge in town. Well, I was determined to have fun too. And the day arrived: New Year's Eve of the seventh grade. I took a whole case of pop bottles filled with my concoction to a pre-arranged gathering of my buddies.
I left for the party about 9:30. At 10:15 I had chug-a-lugged two of the pop bottles.
By around 11:30, 1 am told, my buddies had brought me to within walking distance of the house. They thought. Actually, they had to bring me to the foot of the front steps before I could recognize where I was.
I crawled up those steps--that I remember--and crawled through the party in the living room, which parted for me, and crawled up the stairs to my bed. The guys in the party were very nice; they didn't abuse me or insult me. They helped me on.
That was the beginning of my drinking career.
We didn't have dope in those days, but I would have been into it up to my eyeballs if we had. All I can remember about marijuana is reading about it in The Amboy Dukes, a novel about a tough street gang in New York. They had a fondness for what they called "reefers," which cost a buck a stick.
No, I was into booze, and so were all my friends. Or they wouldn't have been my friends.
We would come home from drunks, often they would sleep over at my house, and the open windows proved a special blessing in the early morning.
It got so cold in Montana in the winter that you were certain that nothing could possibly live through it and come up in the spring. Well, we had some peonies outside my bedroom window, three sets of them. And the way you could tell Spring was coming to Missoula, Montana was by checking those peony plants. They were the first thing in town to come up. The ones closest to my window were the happiest and healthiest. The ones farther away were relatively spindly.
Sometimes my buddies would miss, however, and puke would go dribbling down the side of the house. That was a source of embarrassment, and I would encourage my friends to aim.
Marko was something of a prima donna, and didn't get into the drinking the way I did. He became very popular in high school, and a good thespian. He once wrote a song about my car which he and his buddies enjoyed singing to our schoolmates. It was about what had been left on the side of my car because it was winter and so cold that it was irretrievably frozen on. It began, "The puke-ridden door, the puke-ridden door; how I deplore the puke-ridden door..."
I didn't enjoy the song as much as he and his friends did.
The old lady was a prima donna too. I spent a lot of time listening to stories about people who drank too much. That and dirty language were the two things she seemed to hate the most when I was young.
I was astonished at how she
couldn't remember that when she got in drunken fights with the old man.
Our family was an intellectual family. I am quite sincere about this, although what I am about to say may seem to contradict it.
We suffered from all the psychological ill effects of taking the intellectual marble game too seriously.
Intellectuals are supposed to be seekers of truth; but when that is all you hang your hat on you have no rudder, and the whole thing tailspins into the worst kind of sophistry. Each against all, and all against each.
The intellectual god was the only idol worshipped in our house. The question in our family was simple: who has the best argument. We were taught that this precious stone was worth any sacrifice, on the part of anyone else around you. Lie, cheat, and steal to win an argument. And kill.
The old man taught at the University of Montana. He retired senior man in the English Department. While he was there he mainly taught writing and Chaucer, after whom I was named. The school asked him to be the Marshall at Commencement and place the hoods on students who were graduating with degrees from the graduate programs. He was always proud of this responsibility.
Montana is not as much of an intellectual hole as it might sound. For the reason that all kinds of hot shots in the arts and letters came out there to recuperate from the Big Time. There were all kinds of refugees passing through there to get a breath of fresh air and do some writing and thinking. Indeed, most of them will tell you that some of their best years were spent in that community.
Naturally these people were always parading through our house. And, naturally too, my little brother and I were continuously engaging them in conversation. Getting into high pressure arguments about death was normal for our household before dinnertime.
My mother always took the position that when you died that was it. It was over and you were dead.
Scared my little brother pissless.
Carrol O'Conner used to come over for Thanksgiving dinner.
Leslie Fiedler lived a couple of blocks away. His son Eric was my best friend for a long time.
Dorothy Johnson used to help my mother out with her writing periodically.
Walter Clark, who wrote The Ox-Bow Incident, was a continuous presence.
The list was long and impressive.
But not to a twelve-year-old kid. To me these were just people that I had to be courteous to, as members of my parents' larger family of friends.
I couldn't even get good grades.
To me getting good grades in school was a massive assault on my intelligence and my integrity. It was too hard and it wasn't worth it. Yet. That was what I had to do. To be anything.
They did everything to get me to get good grades.
The old man's expression for it was The Ticket. "You have to get your ticket or you'll end up selling shoes at the Mercantile."
This was real Depression mind at work. For him it was selling shoes. Sometimes it was being a garbage man. "Do you want to be a garbage man when you grow up?"
Well, frankly, yes. I always did want to be a garbage man. I thought garbage trucks were just about the most impressive things on four wheels. And those guys always seemed so happy. And they had regularity and predictability in their lives. Yes. I did want to be a garbage man when I grew up.
No banana. I wanted to please my folks more.
So I tried, and failed, and screwed around.
I hated school for this reason: it seemed as though to get good grades I would have to become like people I thoroughly despised. I envied and admired their ability to get good grades (playing intellectual games successfully). But I wouldn't have been like them for anything.
But I had to get the grades. I had to go to college.
("Do you ever want to get into college. Well you can't. Not with these grades.") The folks were unified on this one point.
When I entered my freshman year in high school they got serious. And I knew it. The jig was up.
If I brought home less than a 'B' average I had to stay home for the entire next quarter. That is, I had to come home right after school, and not go out after dinner. No going out ever, for any reason, on the weekends. Until my grades would improve the next quarter.
If I thought they were kidding they would prove it to me by doing it my freshman year. One whole quarter.
The other thing they were serious about was culture. Marko and I were going to get culture, and learn to appreciate it.
The old lady was always playing classical guitar (Segovia) on the record player. Shastakovich was the old man's favorite. This music was not overly stimulating for kids going through a long winter.
But we learned. We had to join the local grade school orchestra. He had to play the viola. I got the cello. That might sound pretty great, unless you're in the sixth grade, and hauling a cello over the ice to school became an object of interest to the other children.
In addition to that, the cello was a symbol of terror for me. Our orchestra had a system of "challenges." If you thought you could play better than somebody sitting in front of you in the section playing your instrument, all you had to do was challenge them. You both played a piece, and everybody voted on who they thought played better.
I was always last chair in the cello section. I hated to win, and I hated to lose.
Finally, I got to the point of breaking the strings on my instrument to avoid going to rehearsal. Then I knew it was over.
I eventually graduated from Missoula County High School with a C+ average. So did my brother. We both got into college. But we both felt like we were intellectual re-tards.
Closer to home, and the subconscious mind, intellectual pretension was always the basis of every fight.
I suppose the main difference between the ugliness we got dealt out and the ugliness other kids saw was that we got explanations: the ugliness we got shown always had reasons.
"Boys. Come here I want to show you something. Your mother's sick," and wham, they'd be into it. My father justifying his case on the basis that my mother was emotionally ill; and the old lady on the basis that the old man was a lousy father.
Who could argue?
In our family we had something of a discipline problem. The problem was not whether to discipline, but how. The folks were not very imaginative. We had a tradition in our house called the "showdown," and all discipline directly or indirectly related to that.
You could hear it all over the house: the old man bellowing, "So, you want to play showdown eh....." And then there would follow the sound of furniture tipping over or heavy footsteps running like hell.
The old lady simply had no ingenuity whatsoever. She simply threatened to tell the old man when she wanted to threaten us. Most of her efforts to discipline me and Marko were merely steps leading up to the proof that she couldn't, that it was all the old man's responsibility, that we were such lousy kids that only he could handle us, which he wouldn't do.
There were exceptions, like the time she had me run down the basement stairs, and she threw a rock at the back of my head and cut it wide open. She was teaching me not to throw rocks in the street. Saturday mornings she would often spend up in my room with a belt in her hand. Saturday morning was the day when we were supposed to clean our rooms. I remember once while she was whipping me with the belt that she told me how fortunate I was that she didn't use electric shock from the wall outlet on me.
When I say they weren't very imaginative about discipline I mean they weren't very imaginative in getting results. The main problem they had to deal with was Marko's and my fighting. There was nothing we enjoyed more than watching the other guy get punished. They obliged us in every conceivable way. Which reinforced our love of the fighting game.
The old man tried everything he could think of to keep us from fighting. One time he had us run down to the end of the block and back in our pajamas at night. When it was way below zero and there were sharp ice formations on the sidewalk. Another time he took us down to the basement and had us stand on up-ended bricks, on pain of spanking us if we fell off. He had a fondness for little showdowns, where we were put in aching little dilemmas, like whether we wanted to go to the movies and take our spanking, or stay home from the show in our rooms for the day.
But all of this was done to avoid the really serious business of Showdown.
Showdown was where I really learned about the crystalline essence of marble games. Although I didn't know it at the time. And would much rather have learned something about, say, truck farming.
The old man would threaten us, all of us, with blowing up into a full-blown psychotic rage, if we didn't shape up. He was driven to this state of frenzy by my mother. My mother could betray Judas Iscariot, and he would never know what happened till the money fell out of his pocket when he hanged himself.
No matter how rough a day the old man would have at the office, the old lady would find a way of showing him how it was all his fault.
The discipline problem with me and Marko was strictly a spin-off from the central dynamics of the folks' marble game. But we were led to believe that we were the cause of their dynamics.
Actually, Marko and I tried very hard to gain their affection, respect, and trust, given the concepts of order and desiderata that we had set up for us. We even went off to be successful intellectuals--he graduated from Harvard Law School, and I got my Ph.D. in Philosophy. Even though mine wasn't from Berkeley like the Old Man's was.
Words fail to describe the hatred in the look that he would give us if we crossed him. He used to have a theme that he would lecture on to us kids in his saner moments. It was about the spigot of love. How it would go off when we crossed him. Never to go back on. He was dead serious.
A visual image that both Marko and I carry with us which reflects the dynamics of their love for one another is the picture of the old lady, shivering in the dark outside on the front porch, with her face pressed up against the glass, looking in on the living room with the fire crackling, and the three of us standing inside. He had thrown her outside in her nightgown, never to come back, when it was 20 degrees below zero.
His favorite game with us was showing us how ashamed he was with us. The things he did to us he had to do because of the shame that we had brought into his life by being the "greedy little pigs" and "dirty little shits" that my mother always portrayed us as being. His shame could be very deep and very profound. I can remember several occasions when it brought him to tears.
The old lady made sure he had plenty to be ashamed about.
You've got to realize that my mother is not an evil person. She came from a family where the parents had split up and she had been sent off to boarding schools, and eventually, to live with her aunt. Her aunt made a career out of hating men, fighting war, and working for women's rights. Her name was Jeannette Rankin. The old lady had a good education in how to politically undercut the enemy camp.
Her skill was seduction. She could make anyone believe anything (about the old man or us kids) that she set her charming mind to. In particular, she had a trembling lip and eyes full of tears that she could call on instantaneously. If self-pity wasn't in order, then ridicule was.
She loved to tell the story about how she was sure that the old man's roommate at Berkeley was a homosexual, and she was fairly sure that the old man had some latent tendencies in that direction. She never made the connection between this and another story she told, about how the old man's mother was a cold and uncaring woman.
The old lady only worked a couple of years in the whole time of their marriage. They are divorced now. She spent endless hours in the bathtub taking leisurely baths and reading murder mysteries. And thinking up Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolff fun and games for the evening's entertainment.
My little brother likes to tell how he is sure that she filled the tub with warm sherry, and lowered her lip into the pout position when she wanted a hit.
The secret to the old lady's technique was the undercut, which she calmed you into thinking wasn't coming.
Probably the clearest example to me, although it probably won't sound like much, was the case of the motorcycle.
When I was in college I worked during the summers--hard menial labor. This one summer I was working on the railroad on the section gang, replacing worn-out ties and fixing up the roadbed, and on the steel gang, replacing steel. This was hard dirty mean work. I ended up with a Carpal Tunnel swelling in my left wrist working with a jackhammer and had to quit. I was living in a boxcar at the time. And clearing ten dollars a day. It was 1963.
What I was working for was transportation at school. More than anything I wanted a nice new small flashy Harley Davidson motorcycle. And I could see that I was going to be able to get it with the work I was putting in.
One day the old lady asked me what I was working for, right out of the blue.
I shrugged, knowing better than to respond.
She insisted, in the most friendly loving affectionate way, as if she didn't want to be left out of my life and happiness.
So I told her--a motorcycle, and asked her if she would help me get it that summer so I could take it to work.
Not only did she not help me get the motorcycle but actually forbade me to get it. She threatened to withdraw all the financial support I was getting at college on the grounds that I didn't deserve such frivolous toys.
This mind set went back to the black tennis shoe days. In the early 50's the rage was white tennis shoes; black ones were strictly for wienies. But white ones cost a dollar more.
My brother and I, so far as we could see, were the only kids in our grades to have black tennis shoes.
While this was going on, this summer of my sophomore year in college, while I was working on the railroad, my childhood sweetheart came to stay with us. This was the girl I thought I would one day marry. Mom introduced her to a close friend of mine, and virtually pushed them together in her warm embrace. They ended up getting married.
Well, if Mom is capable of doing this sort of thing to her child, you can imagine the lures she cast out for her husband.
I can distinctly remember going out on the front porch one beautiful summer morning, and the old lady was sunning herself on a couch in the early morning sun. As I came out the door she looked at me in a friendly seductive way and said, "Want a piece?"
Which may be interesting to you, but wasn't very interesting to me.
I hope you will forgive these images, but I have to show you the insane causes of the unspeakable rage I grew up under.
As the girl in the brassiere commercial on TV likes to say about her bra: "It's made me what I am today."
The question is whether what that is is the peak of psychological, philosophical, and religious vision.
I say that psychological misfortune, all misfortune, is steps on a ladder set there for us to climb. All you have to do is see this and you can climb anything you are dealt. Anything.
All it takes is trust, love, courage, and humility.
And the vision is yours.
You can see that even the inside of a psychotic rage cannot touch you.
I remember once the old man snapped. He stormed into Marko's room after one of "those shit-assed kids," as they were fond of calling us. He was always proud that he never hit us with a closed fist. God help us if he had.
This particular time Marko crawled away from it bleeding from the nose and mouth.
Neither one of them ever forgot that one.
Marko especially. Years later when he was sitting in a class in Harvard Law School and he began turning unexplainably red with embarrassment. Redder and redder and redder. With no explanation. Until he felt he just had to leave the room screaming through the window. Which he didn't.
That was the beginning of his psychological breakdown.
That put him in the hands of the shrinks for years.
When I got out of the loony bin, after staying there fifty days in the summer of 1973, I began what was a thorough and complete repair job on my head with the finest psychiatrist I have ever met. And I have known a great many.
That fall he reluctantly approved a plan of mine to go to Missoula and have a talk with my old man. I called him, and my wife and I arranged to go over and see him. She stayed with friends and I went over to talk.
At that time I was on lithium carbonate, and took Mellaril and valium for fear. I had 100, 50, and 25 milligram tablets of thorazine to help me with things that might come up. This is the tranquilizer they give to people to bring them down from nightmare trips on LSD.
I went over to see the old man.
I asked him to sit down, that I had some things I wanted to say to him.
He poured himself a drink, and did.
(One of the old lady's lines used to be: "Can you get it all in one glass?")
We talked gently for a while, and then I sort of stood up and came over to him, trying to reassure him as I did. I doubled up my fist, and, without shaking it, just held it down by his face.
"It always come down to this, didn't it dad?" was what I said.
I couldn't believe it.
Here was a guy almost sixty years old and we were going to do it again.
He jumped up. Grabbed a great big butcher knife. And pinned me against the wall.
"So, you want to play showdown, eh?" was what he said. Same old look of defiant defensive hatred. Only now I was getting a much better idea of what it was.
He started slapping me hard across the face with it, in case there was any doubt in my mind whether he would use it.