Issue 110, Spring 1989
In Volume II of Ernest Jones’s biography of Sigmund Freud, Jones notes, regarding Freud’s discovery of the pressure on the conscious mind to repress —what the rest of us call forgetting:
The Psychopathology of Everyday Life, 1904. Its main theme —the influence of unconscious processes in interfering with conscious functioning — was sharply criticized at first by psychologists, but has been more widely accepted and generally known than any other of Freud’s teachings. The phenomena in question have since been given the name of "parapraxes.’’ (Literally, "false practices’’)
Can you imagine how it might have turned out if Katherine Eudemie had forgotten her child in the coatroom of the Russian Rendezvous in March instead of a glorious, sunny June? Think of the women’s coats soggy with snow—the men’s trench coats soaked with wet —the little girl. Tulip, under a curse of endless sniffles. Impossible to think of raising a child in such an environment.
Also, in June the business slows down, but somebody is always on duty in the coatroom for the occasional rainy day, the umbrellas like sentinels in the stand in front of the revolving door. There were two people on duty. Usually one of the Old Guard regulars, round, soft, sixty-five-ish or more —like Sasha who fled Russia to America via Paris with the Chauve Souris company as a young girl in the twenties. And there was always someone like Myrna.
Myrna was one of the “going-to-be’s” for which the RR was well known. You know, going to be an actress, going to be a writer, going to be a dancer. They were usually young, but perhaps not all that different from the stylish types ordering Mini with red caviar, or karsky shashlik, inside the dining room.
“Going-to-be” is a long process. Especially when it comes to writing and music, acting and dancing. In those sacred spheres exactly what and where one has arrived at is uncertain. The dining room of the RR was full of men and women circling each other in the endless dance of confirmation; moths whose success could only be confirmed by direct contact with the flame. Sometimes the main difference between the people caring for the coats and hats and those checking them were the burn marks.
It all began with Katherine Eudemie forgetting a book: The Psychopathology of Everyday Life bySigmund Freud. It was not the kind of book Katherine usually read. But exhausted by the impossible task of getting a second novel published she had secretly decided to become a psychotherapist.
This was after years of ferocious dedication as a patient. Her embarrassment at the status of being a permanent basket-case led her to joke with friends: “When I was a kid in Chicago I never played Doctor. I always knew I’d grow up to be a patient.” But that wore thin after a while: she was getting to be too familiar. To survive in Russian Rendezvous New York you must never be pigeonholed. Once they put you in it’s almost impossible to fly out again.
You must either constantly succeed or constantly surprise. Katherine had succeeded once, as the beautiful young provincial, a philo-Judaic writer with a “sound,” as the reviews put it. But the sound increasingly became a whine. When her suicide attempts no longer attracted the appropriate attention she had a baby.
Everyone took babies seriously!
Her sound changed.
“Having Tulip put life into perspective ” she told her agent at an RR lunch.
“How old is she now?”
“Four next month.”
“God, where do the years go?” Where? Eight since Katherine’s first novel was published, six since she’d married the editor-anthologist Jackson Eudemie, and two weeks since she’d decided to become a therapist. A failed actress friend had done it. It didn’t take years to accomplish anymore, not like the medical ones. The training at some places was only a matter of months before you were actually handling patients.