Café with Terrance Gelenter…
Welcome back to my home after what I hope was a lovely July 14th for all you francophiles, at home wherever you are in the world, if not at home and in Paris. Just before the Holiday, I had an encounter that was, to say the least, unusual. This one has a near background as well as one in my distant past. So it is to the spirit of Proust's involuntary memory, which I have become so enamored of, that I dedicate this communication.
The Story begins shortly after we arrived in Paris, over five years ago, I began to get weekly emails from someone named Terrence Gelenter. I didn’t know who he was, but I did realize that he had quite the presence on the Internet, a substantial one and in English as well!
One day there would be a newsletter talking about American ex-pats, famous and infamous, writer’s and groupies surrounding him from all sides with smiling faces in some beautiful destination or delicious restaurant that I had yet to have the chance to visit. It soon became clear that he was a real affcionado of all things French and American; American movies made in France, American actors working on French sets; Books by Americans about France, especially Paris, French books about making French food, French films old and new,
and something called a schmooze cast! These schmooze casts were actually podcasts featuring discussions between Gelenter and writers, actors, producers, directors, and all manner of people involved in Francophilia.
I found myself wanting to send him a ‘chapeau’ when I realized it had been only ten years since he had crossed the Atlantic from Brooklyn to emigrate to France. He has learned to speak French, albeit with a New York accent, and demonstrated the chutzpah to meet and befriend restaurateurs, café owners, winemakers, night club owners and a list of countless followers, who visit him regularly while in Paris.
Terrance is also the author of a memoir titled ‘Paris par Hasard: from Bagels to Brioches’ that allows the reader to know that it was not by chance but by fate that brought him to Paris, filling his days with art, wine, food and music. He even gets the occasional gig singing American Songbook in nightclub.
What a life!
On 14 July, Terrance was kind enough to pitch my sixth book, “The Most Beautiful Place in the World, a Memoir of a Psychoanalyst and the Realization of a State of Mind” and to publish a slightly disjointed Frankenstein’s monster of a Schmoozcast that patches together bits and pieces of our attempt at conversation and gave me a peek into his unconscious, but I’m nonetheless happy to be associated with this Sauverain of Sephardic Schmooze!
I must add that I was was struck by many memories I had that were related to this interview. My first radio interview was the time I was invited to speak in Melbourne Australia 14-years ago. Since I was on my own without Ted who was at home holding down the fort, I decided to stop on the way by the beach in Cairns where I hopped on a three-day live aboard to dive six times per day on the Great Barrier Reef to work off the jet-lag.We were a total of thirty divers and about as many crew onboard and, of course, I was the eldest. Not having allowed the sun to have impact
on my aged and sagging body in many a year, I would pull on my black tank suit and feel at ease in the comforting knowledge that none of these people would ever see me again. This helped me to endure feeling like a Beluga whale in an ocean of slick sea lions, especially since I was unable to tolerate the constriction of a wetsuit, and at 20°C, the water was warm enough for me to endure an hour at a time, kicking my feet to blissfully glide through the water, and hyper ventilating before diving deep in order to see up-close the most beautiful, colorful population of animals and plant life in memory.
When I arrived in Melbourne. I felt fresh and relaxed. I had a day to see the sights on an on again off again bus, to visit with some friends that I knew, before my three full
days of speaking, lecturing, teaching, and advising various committees of the analytic society of Australia. There were so many stories to tell after that trip, but I will refrain from going off in the wrong direction (even though it might be more interesting) to speak briefly about my first interview. I think it was on the first day of the conference, which was the day before what they called an Open Day that allowed the public in to listen to the guest lecturer and a discussion that was open to all professional mental health workers and academics, as well as the lay public. In the break after my first lecture, I plowed through a group of people interested to chat when I saw a large covered terrace where I could go out and grab a smoke. Yes, I did smoke then, even though I found that I was easily able to retire that dangerous habit not too long afterward. Just when I thought I had reached the doorway, a young woman with whom I had not been acquainted, came up and introduced herself, grabbed me gently but firmly by the arm, and pulled me into a closet, turning on the light and closing the door behind us. She explained that I was going to be having an interview on the radio and this was the only place that was quiet enough to achieve it. Then she handed me her cell phone, and exited that small space. In spite of, or perhaps due to my lack of anticipation, this interview went quite well. It was intended as a way of advertising the so-called Open Meeting on the following day, and was conducted by a very lovely woman from Public Radio who did not seem to have any idea of the nature of a psychoanalyst or the topic I would speak about. Nevertheless she was careful not to say things that she knew nothing about, but had some clever leading questions that carried forth to produce an enchanting conversation, which I think might've given some people the correct idea that we are "just barmy people, treating barmy people", toward a better life in work and in love, even in the case of the most troubled people young and old, and may have increased the numbers of participants by a fair amount.
My Interview with Terrance was a comedy of a variety of errors. I was told we’d be having the interview on FaceTime, which I thought was a brilliant idea, since it would allow us to see each other's expressions and to have a much more light and lively conversation. However it was FaceTime audio only. And I was set back on my heels right from the beginning. But being quite adaptable, I jumped in with both feet after Terrance made his introduction, and things went very well for almost an hour until he said, “Oh my goodness, I just realized the red light's been on and I don't know for how long!" He thought about it a moment and decided that we would have to have a short period of time to repeat at least the beginning of our interview. I was somewhat disappointed since I felt that much of what we had talked about from the very beginning was amazingly spontaneous. But we made a date for a couple of days later to talk for 10 minutes again on FaceTime audio. This time when Terrence introduced me, I had to hold back the giggles, as he described me as a "Beverly Hills psychoanalyst who shut the doors on her practice, sold her Beverly Hills mansion, grabbed her cat, and landed in "The Most Beautiful Place in the World" where she knew practically no one.
I was a bit horrified to think that any of my patients would've considered that I could merely 'shut the door on my practice' and on them, that I had sold a beautiful home in Beverly Hills, that I would do other than lovingly prepare my beloved Bengal cat for what was to be his final journey in life, and that I simply chose to go to Paris because it was the most beautiful place in the world. Makes me worry that Terrance may have too-politely skimmed through the book I’d given him, or maybe he too was simply knocked on his keister by the multiple technical glitches in our encounter. I certainly can commiserate with him since I too am IT challenged!
More than a few others of Terrance's comments caused me to chuckle rather than to contradict him in the moment, but instead to try to get back to something spontaneous and real. When I listened to the recording later on, I cringed at the awkward way in which the pieces of of our tete a tete were spliced together. It was very clear that I was in quite a different state of mind in the redo than I had been in the original conversation. Nevertheless, we shouldn't take these things too seriously. I'm sure there was no ill intent and I am extraordinarily grateful for the fact that Terrence generously chose to share his audience with me on 14 July, to give my book a nice reading and a chapeau, as I too share my readership with him in this missive.
I was also reminded, before during and after this interview, of the numerous reasons beneath my desire to write both a memoir, beginning with the long year of retiring from my clinical and educational working life, the painful closing of my practice, and my first four years adapting to a new country and language, alongside creating a mystery novel that will hopefully give my readers more than a 'fly on the wall' view of what makes a psychoanalyst different from other varieties of therapists, and the unique experience that is psychoanalysis.