Sunday, February 1, 2015
The Sunday Series: Sunday No. 4 (February 1, 2015)
Sunday No. 4
It is not my natural mind-set to face an audience or a large group of people in a contained, maze-like space. I’m doing a signing at the Los Angeles Art Book Fair that is located at the MOCA/Geffen museum. On one level, it is an incredible fair, with tons of books and art related images from one booth to the next. And then after being practically over-whelmed with the art books, one suddenly discovers that there is another large room just full of zines and its culture. To really appreciate the art book world, one needs to spend the entire three days at this fair. Nevertheless my purpose today is to sign my late dad’s album, which is called “Wallace Berman - In Conversation.” It’s a secret recording of my dad talking about art, curating exhibitions, and cultural life in Topanga canyon circa. 1968. It’s an amazing document on many levels, but what is shocking to me is that I’m somewhere on that album, but more of a presence that was upstairs from the room where the conservation between my dad and guests took place. I don’t think you can hear my voice, but I’m there. And the sense of me being on the recording, in a very vague way, is a sharp contrast for me to be at this fair to sign copies of an album that exists in a world that is placed in my history, which at this point, is only a memory.
The serious problem I have of being in a crowd is I fear many things. One, I’m quite shy, and I’m not really used to be in a position where people need my attention. And due to the fear, I have a habit of forgetting people’s names - even friends who are very close to me. There is a name for people who “fear” in forgetting - athazagoraphobia. So I have that as well as agoraphobia, which is the fear of open spaces or of being in crowded public spaces like markets, or popular book fairs, like this one. So the combination of my shyness, agoraphobia, as well as the killer blow, athazagoraphobia, makes this experience quite painful for me.
I know the face, and I know it very well. The problem is when I try to place a name with that face. Also most people are usually offended if you can’t remember their name at a specific time, and that can cause great anxiety on my part. I never want to offend someone, but at the same time, I am slightly turned-off by people who feel their title, their given name, is something that is more important than their being. A name is just a title. It really doesn’t explain who or what you are. I know who you are, just because of your personality, your looks, and so forth. A name doesn’t convey the depth of the essence that is “you.” Yet, here I’m struggling at a signing, trying to remember the names of people who are in front of me. The pure torture of it, causes an incredible anxiety within me.
At the moment, there is this beautiful woman in front of me. In fact, I have often had sexual fantasies of her - and for whatever reason, of course due to my combination of phobias, I can’t recall her name right away as I ‘m in the position to sign “For _ love, Tosh Berman." I want to replace the dash so strongly, especially for her, but the name, the spelling, just doesn’t come to me at the moment. She was polite enough to slip her name in the conversation during this transaction, but then there is this horrible awkward moment of her knowing that I totally forgot her name. And I have known her for at least 20 years or so. 20 years of lusting for her, yet when the time of great importance comes upon me, I totally forgot her name.
I feel a great sense of disgust with myself, and of course besides the hatred, the shame as well. And now, she has a copy of the album, and when she sees it, she will think of the moment that I forgot her name. I don’t think she will hate me for it, but for sure, there will be a tinge of disappointment for as long as she keeps that album. Also, when I think of the album, I will go back to that moment as well. So, the one thing we will share in the future is the failure of memory and communication. As a writer, it's the finalized blow to the body.