Nostradamus's question about my parents ties in (however inadvertently) with one of my own recent post-work occupations; you see, inspired by my recent cleansing presence in this filth-ridden waste of cyberspace and the uproarious (a muted uproar, I'll grant) response it has generated from my conservative colleagues across the globe, I have finally begun the task I have long avoided, in short, I have begun my autobiography and will be "testing" chapters out here in order to gauge the response... I apologize for that uncharacteristically bedraggled sentence, you must understand that this has been an immensely exciting and solitary few weeks, and now that my words will finally be read by an (admittedly mostly deficient) audience, I can't even bother to edit this prologue before pasting the precious body in... I give you:
The Autobiography of Arlo Harshenstein
An American Dissident
Chapter I--Wherein our narrator discloses his patrimony, relates the circumstances of his birth, and gives a brief history of his father
I am a man not well regarded for my tolerance. I have difficulties interacting with most people in a social setting. I believe in hierarchy, and the mish-mash of everyday life is simply too unstratified for me. If I had been born a member of highest Indian caste and been treated like a God from birth, I would have a much higher regard for the "plight of others" than I now do. Why is this? Why am I among history's greatest social aberrations?
It is all their fault. My parents. On them the stigma falls. From their misguided plantings, this irregular tree has sprouted, bearing many ears of unusual and untimely corn. This book is the scattering of those kernels, if you prefer, the popping of their ill-sown corn. Whatever metaphor you choose, it must be made clear that the consequences of every future harvest from the ears of the besotted Baum of me lie squarely at the feet of those rank sowers, those monsters, my parents.
But to details: I was born in 1978 CE, in Roosevelt Hospital on West 59th Street in Manhattan on Saturday, Novermber 18. It was, by all accounts, an unremarkable birth. My father, the then newly titled Dr. Ira Harshenstein was a 30 year old psychiatry resident at New York-Presbyterian hospital. My mother, Gladys Disraeli Harshenstein, was a medical student at Columbia. As I said, my birth occurred without incident; would that my parents lives prior to that moment had been as pacific!
The best way of relating the sum is to divide and explicate the parts; thus, I begin with my father. Ira was born in 1948 to Rabbi Gershom Harshenstein (It is believed the odd name is a bizarre joke by a drunken, racist, Irish immigration man. This is what Grandpa always said, though I don't have documentation. Our original name was probably something closer to Goldstein, but no one knows for sure) and his lovely wife Doris, similarly in New York, though I believe in the Bronx.
Ira's was a typical orthodox upbringing until, at the age of 13 he declared himself a committed atheist and entered the public school system despite the pleadings of his shocked parents. This was the first in a series of fatal (to me) mistakes. Young Ira, upon entering the already (but no where near as failed as they are now thanks to the multi-culturalists, who've forced all abstract values out of the classroom by means of their pernicious relativism) failing public schools, fell under the sway of young music teacher, Mr. Peterson, who turned him on to jazz music in band class (Dad plays the clarinet and (lately) saxophone) and I suspect other things... My father no doubt ate this Nordic heathen's words like manna from heaven, and I have no doubt this insidious devil was an incorporate part of the young fool's downfall.
Needless to say Ira's newfound design of becoming a jazz musician was (sensibly) abhorred, abominated, and detested in the extreme by his parents, who had planned for their only child to follow the example of his father and become a questioner in the line of Moses and Hillel... But no. It was not to be, due in no small part I conjecture to that son of Odin, Peterson, who for reasons beyond my knowledge injected pernicious African influence after pernicious Caribbean influence after God knows what else until the names of Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Tito Puente rang as though a list of sacred Jewish sages in long and heated arguments between father and son in the family's by-then two-bedroom Lower-East-Side apartment.
When he finished High-school in 1965 (he skipped several grades and graduated at 16), the schism was complete. He applied and was granted an unusually generous scholarship to the University of California at Berkeley. He had competing opportunities in New York and Massachusetts, but his heart was set on California. His parents practically disowned him. I admit his interest in jazz and classical music may have played some small role in his receiving the scholarship, but I prefer to believe it was his incredible mathematical acuity and forthright, masculine determination that sealed the deal.
Regardless, by the time he arrived Berkeley was a certifiable hell-hole, filled to brim with stoners, tokers, trippers, liberals, feminists, civil rights fundamentalists, you name it; the place was a reeking cesspit of chaos, the epicenter of Ragnarok for sound human reasoning. Almost as soon as he arrived Ira began a twin fascination with LSD and Sigmund Freud; before long he had dropped jazz for pre-med course work, aiming at a career in, as he put it to me years later, "revolutionary psychiatry."
The "revolutionary" aspects of Ira's career should not be underestimated. By way of clarification, I will first identify what I mean by "revolutionary," and explain why I insist on peristently bracketing that term with quotations. Marx spoke of The Revolution in 1848, calling on the workers of the world to unite for social
justice in a communist society. This should not be confused with "The Revolution" of the 1960's, which in all honesty amounted to nothing more than opposition to a generalized, completely non-specific idea of "war" and an embrace of total, consequenceless hedonism for absolutely no constructive purpose at all. The few "revolutionary" groups of the era, The Black Panthers, The Weathermen, The Symbionese Liberation Army, undoubtedly (inadvertently) contributed more to the cause of Richard Nixon and the Republicans than to the "causes" they championed through their various terrorist activities.
This "Revolution" was primarily an outgrowth of the moronic youth-culture of the era, spearheaded by those who felt stifled by the quiet hypocrisies of their parents. This response on the part of the youth, totally reactionary and ultimately ephemeral, culminated in the Presidency of Bill Clinton, wherein, despite lip-service payed to "the ideals of the 60s," well-fare programs were cut severely, and (amazingly) a policy of fiscal responsibility was maintained. Thus went the flowering of "the revolution," and these same by-then-middle-aged "activists" sat idly by as their very antithesis, George W. Bush, achieved the presidency... More than a few of them had no doubt been "converted" by the prospects of a fatter, six figure salary...
But I digress, in being, as usual, too focused on the calumnious short-comings of the previous generation. My sights, in this tome at least, should be set squarely on my own peculiar history, and not on that of the entire failed love-generation (when is Brokaw's book on the baby boomers, The Worst Generation, coming out anyway?).
Ira's life, aside from his admirable (to his parents) medical studies, consisted in a predictable number of sit-ins, be-ins, love-ins, and general orgies. During his junior year he was actively involved in the anti-war protests, conveniently just as he became eligible for draft. He needn't have worried; scrawny, sciatica-ridden Jewish intellectuals on the medical school fast-track were not exactly at the top of the army's "want-list." Nevertheless, he signed innumerable petitions, watched as countless draft cards (illegally) went up in flames, and even attended a few wild concerts at the old Filmore in San Francisco. Valhalla indeed!
Ira's own trip to the draft office was short and sweet. He was laughed out of the place as soon as they caught sight of his somewhat halting gate (his parents insisted this was the result of a youthful bout of polio, but I checked his medical records; Ira never had polio) and thick glasses. This experience apparently only hardened his zeal against the military establishment.
In any event, at last we come to the brief moment of excitement in the young chap's life. As a medical student at UCSF in the 70's Ira gave his services as an (as yet unlicensed) doctor to members of the Panthers and the despicable Weathermen while these "revolutionaries" were "underground" (funny how even revolutionaries have kids, car accidents, etc.) free of charge. He never met any of the ring-leaders, nor was he implicated in any wrongdoing. But as a kid I had to hear lecture after lecture about how dad had "done the moral thing" and helped the revolutionary outlaws... Ugh. Sickening. One of my chief aims in detailing the events of my life is to embarrass my parents as much as possible, and, the debunking of my father's pathetic "heroism" accomplished, I will move on to further topics...
Wrapping up this brief and hideous exposition of a life too boring and insignificant to be told in detail, Ira finished medical school and moved east to New York for his residency, where he married a like-minded hippy, Gladys Disraeli... Her even more ignominious liberalism will exposed in our next chapter.