Sunday, June 29, 2014

Mike's Story Part 64 - Spellbound


   After we got back from Oregon, I was doing the shopping on Montague Street when I saw that our videostore was going out of business.  That was too bad but the silver lining was the resulting sale.  I snapped up some bargains including Spellbound, a movie about - among other things - psychoanalysis and repressed memories.  Gregory Peck is the troubled new director of a psychiatric institution in which Ingrid Bergman practices.
   "You can take that back," Mike said, "I've seen it."

   "I haven't."

   A week later he said again, "You can take that back; I've seen it a hundred times."

   On Christmas day, we had nothing to do until five when we were due at my mother's; Mike was on the computer so I watched the movie.  

   A while later, Mike came in, as he usually did, to watch TV while eating breakfast.  Having seen how unsettled he'd become by the prospect of Spellbound, I offered to turn it off.

   "No! Keep it on!" he said, staring intently at the screen.

   The scene playing was a dream sequence with surreal sets designed, appropriately, by Salvador Dali.  The dream figure (I don't remember if it was Peck himself, whose dream it had been) entered a casino where cards were being dealt for a game of blackjack. Two of the cards were blank. 

   Finished with his cereal, Mike cleaned the table.

   "Do me a favor," he said on his way out, "Tell me how it ends."

   I continued watching the movie as he went back to his backgammon game, cursing every so often. This was unusual but I didn't feel obliged to respond.

   When the movie was over, I got up to make coffee.

   "I'm having a panic attack,' he said. "The first in nine months. I'm not suicidal. What was the end? Who did it?"  (There had been a murder.)
   "The head of the hospital. Gregory Peck's amnesia was because he'd accidentally killed his brother when they were children."
   "That was his mother," Mike said.  "OK."  (He had misheard; Peck's mother had nothing to do with it.)  "What was the significance of the blank cards in the blackjack game, please? My parents were addicted blackjack players."

   "The blank cards meant he felt guilty. And the number 21 referred to the 21 Club in New York."

   Mike was relieved: No association with his parents; no one, including me, was messing with his mind.

   "That movie stirred things up for me. I'm having a powerful reaction. I’m that character [the guilt-tormented Gregory Peck.]  And you’re my Ingred Bergman [who used her understanding of psychoanalysis to unravel the meaning of the dream.]  I'm making notes on it for my novel. This is all going to Venice. And I'm going to find a good psychiatrist when I'm there."


"I'm having the biggest sense of activity that I've had in ten years," Mike said a few days later. Benazir Bhutto had been assassinated two days before, on December 27, ratcheting up the tension around the world. "Don't ask me what. I don't know. On February 3, I'm going to be fifty-seven and I plan to spend that birthday in Culver City and that will be the best birthday party I've ever had. I'll have a bike; maybe by then I'll even have a dog. A dog is necessary to my sanity."

   "The superego, the ego, the id and the dog."

   'I feel my powers coming back, like when I was a young policeman, able to shoot.  I knew every street.

   'Steve [Alten's] book is coming out; the 9/11 movement is furious but this will help Steve; those assholes have been ridiculed. [Mike later changed his position on Alten.]  The only one that hasn't been is me. 

   'I'm going to write my novel and this time I will spare nobody, not [he named a prominent figure in the "9/11 Truth" movement;] nobody. I'll use X's emails; why the fuck not? 
   'I thought of a title: The Ombudsman. Do you know what an ombudsman is?"

   "Of course. The EPA ombudsman was one of our greatest allies.  But when Nabokov wanted to call his autobiography, Speak Mnemosyne, his publisher said, 'Never give a book a title people can't pronounce.'  You don't want them getting embarrassed.

   'I testified at a hearing for the Ombudsman; no two Congressmen pronounced it the same way."

   "Things are happening very fast. I leave Thursday [for a brief trip to hire a private investigator in connection with his lawsuit and to prepare for his permanent move back] and I don't know how I'm going to stay in my skin until then. I expect to come back [here] having signed a lease on a house."

   "I thought this trip was more about the P.I."

   "And that's another wild card. [X] must be about seventy right now. He was damage control when I was at LAPD but he did it with love. He owes me one and he knows it.

   'This is my way of letting the powers that be know what I'm doing. I'm not coming after them; just after those people. And with Rupert Murdoch's deep pockets, X could be interested.

   'God may just have set this up. I'm coming back and if I do, it'll be like Lazarus.

   'I'm going to behave very differently this time. I'm going to be very careful in the friends I choose. I'm going to have a moat around the house, with alligators.

   'Lots of people are thrilled I'm coming back: [He named his LAPD friend and the guy who was involved in making a movie about the collapse of industrial civilization. ]

   'And don't ask me how, but I see me and Sean Penn colliding, not in a bad way. Maybe my job will be to protect him from the people who're trying to sabotage him."

   Penn was in the process of divorcing his wife.  Mike thought that in his midlife crisis, he would return to Santa Monica.

   "And I'm going to miss you so much. In some ways, the dog will replace you."

   "In some ways, you'll prefer the dog. But maybe you already know that and are too polite to say so." 

   "You're a package deal."

   A tacit acknowledgment that I'd hit the nail on the head. 

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