Monday, November 28, 2011

"Yes, Dear"

“Gödel’s incompleteness theorems are two theorems of mathematical logic that establish inherent limitations of all but the most trivial axiomatic systems capable of doing mathematics . . .

“The first incompleteness theorem states that no consistent system of axioms whose theorems can be listed by an ‘effective procedure’ (essentially, a computer program) is capable of proving all facts about the natural numbers. For any such system, there will always be statements about the natural numbers that are true, but that are unprovable within the system . . .“The second incompleteness theorem shows that if such a system is also capable of proving certain basic facts about the natural numbers, then one particular arithmetic truth the system cannot prove is the consistency of the system itself . . .’s_incompleteness_theorems

Old Doc could ramble before he had his latté.

Network theory feels like home to me. My thoughts flow through and around it, examples are everywhere, and they are of every size and activity. Kurt Gödel’s work, in contrast, is older but stranger, important because it centers on our believing mathematical things that can’t be proven to exist or proven not to exist. A part of me wants to unite Gödel’s ideas with what I understand of networks and women. Another part of me can’t handle the confusion.

Gödel, a philosopher born to be a Czech but in love with being an Austrian, wrote in German and did for mathematics what a different Czech, Franz Kafka, did for literature. Gödel upset a lot of mathematicians when he demonstrated that there is no area of mathematics—one that involves a certain amount of arithmetic—that is free of beliefs that can be neither proved nor disproved. It’s as if invisible holes and imagined platforms exist when you count from one to ten. Of course, you know that Kafka told us what it’s like to wake up as a beetle.

I sometimes think of women as Gödel’s angels who spin proofs, myths, and superstitions to anchor their faith and they pretend to do so with what they “know” to be facts. Thus, every conversation with a woman will not be about true or false but about her ideas that she wants you to accept as true or false; the conversation is her test that shows you do or don’t believe what she believes and that you share the platforms and holes in her thoughts. Agree and she stays; disagree and she leaves. Agree today and disagree tomorrow and she will shriek that you’re a liar.

Eve, our first woman, did a female-network thing when she trained Adam. First, she formed a weak link with a smooth talker named Satan while she ignored Adam’s strong link with God.

She next addled Adam when she told him, “This sentence is a lie.” She also formed a second weak link when she trained him early and often to say “Yes, dear.” “Yes dear,” of course, means “I agree with whatever you say, I want to watch NASCAR.”

Doc still doesn’t know what Gödel would say about Eve unless she could perform a certain amount of arithmetic . . .

According to Wikipedia, Gödel had a strong fear of being poisoned and insisted that his wife, Adele, prepare all of his meals. (She also once defended him when she chased away a gang of Nazi youths.) Adele was hospitalized for six months in late 1977 and couldn’t prepare his food. He refused to eat and weighed 65 pounds when he died in January 1978. He and Adele were buried in a Princeton, NJ, cemetery and Doc wants to believe that she still protects him and makes his strudel.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


A True Story

Aging but mad, Irish, and domineering, a former Green Beret wanted a squirrel to eat from his hand.

“Rocky is in MY tree, therefore, he’s MY squirrel.”

Rocky disagreed because he was his own squirrel. He approached the Irishman but stopped on the sidewalk about eight feet away, flicked his tail, cocked his head left and right, and scurried off. The Irishman had a violent fit while he swore about and at the squirrel. It was as if Irisher had taken the squirrel out for a dinner but had gotten no sex.

One solution: Put the food eight feet away, let Rocky eat several times, and then every couple of days, move closer in small steps.

A faster solution: shoot Rocky.

A Mostly True Story

I went to a convention for parents of hyperactive kids. A crowd flowed past the displays and a redhead tried one of the gadgets that were on sale, a computerized measure of concentration. I was fascinated by her doing the test while she talked nonstop with the six people around her. I was also fascinated by the restless jiggle of her breasts.

She finished the test. The clerk was busy but I had used the test many times for my patients and it was easy to open the scoring page. Red’s numbers were beyond the 99th percentile, all in bad directions.

“How did I do?”

“If this is typical, you should have been put on Ritalin thirty-five years ago—just to keep your underwear in place—and never allowed in public without the medication. How about lunch?”

My brass got me a smile, stereo jiggles, and “My sister is visiting with me here, I can’t.”


I opened her huge leather purse and dropped in my card so that she would have it even if she never found it.

“Call me if you ever come to New York.”

Several months passed. The phone message was breathy but clear: “I don’t know if you remember me, but I was the one . . .

I remembered.

She flew into town for a business meeting but wanted my company for the evening. I picked her up at Kennedy, gave her a yellow rose, and took her to dinner in a yuppie restaurant that was once a schooner.

Candlelight darkened her red hair, her eyes became more lustrous and never left mine, and two glasses of wine slowed her speech and softened her voice. There were no jiggles and I discovered someone very smart and very warm and only sometimes a slut.

Her other assets included a $100,000 executive position with a publishing company in St. Louis, an upscale Tudor home, a sports car almost as quick as my own, and an often cranky, absent husband who earned less than she did, jogged too often, and drank too much beer.

I should have taken her to bed that evening but I decided to be honorable.

Our first dinner led to another on our second night, I was still honorable, and she flew back home.

I Forgot about Her
She called me every night for at least an hour and often for more than two. This went on for two months. We talked about her mad Irish husband, wild upbringing in New Jersey, sales job, and the poetry that she wrote. She claimed to have an orgasm whenever I quoted Tom Eliot so I moved a copy of his verses to my headboard. She also shared my quirky fascination with human evolution, especially about the fundamental attractions between men and women. Squirrel decided that we should get together again. I agreed just to be nice.

She Visited
Squirrel came for a weekend to visit her parents and looped me in for an evening with two of her friends.

Her best friend, X, was a hair dresser and a psychopath with flat blue eyes, equally flat long blonde hair, and flat white skin that received fourteen facial operations but had no scars. She was a tall, stunning, provocative, very cool, bored Michael Jackson dressed as an unsmiling Swede. Her brother, O, had AIDS and I wasn’t sure about X.

Squirrel and X met me in a bar in a tourist town where even the acorns knew their written histories. The bar was twelve-feet- wide, sixty-feet-long, and three-hundred-years old. I sipped on a Chivas and told bawdy jokes, the ladies drank tequila and giggled at bawdy jokes.

X hinted that Squirrel and I could leave but Squirrel would have none of it, shouting to the crowd: “Should two people have an affair if one of them is married?” The instant of silence ended with my shout, “Especially if they’re both women!”

We left that bar and drove across the river to a different one that was in the loft of a barn.

X deposited us and left to find her brother, visit other friends, and probably talk about Squirrel. She and I, meanwhile, shared old beams, old scotch, old bad paintings, high prices, and a table with another couple. The woman was very pregnant and Squirrel, standing out more than a Halloween moon, drew several nods from dad-to-be. Pregnant soon hauled his ass out of there. I told her good night but was glad that she left with him instead of me.

I decided to pull out my biggest, juiciest nut, offer it to Squirrel, and see what she did with it.

“I love you.”

She said nothing but ordered a double vodka, chugged it, and ordered another that she also chugged. She then glowed in the special pink that comes from orgasms and alcohol and the increases in hormones they produce. She also changed the subject. I stayed five feet distant, neither repeating my gambit nor hearing a rejection. She stayed pink.

X found O and came back for us.

X drove with O in the passenger seat, Squirrel and I sat in the rear, my right arm around her neck. What the hell. I slid my hand down her neckline and stroked the nipple that snuggled inside her right D cup.

A first dumb statement in a husky whisper: “Your hand is on my breast.”

A second dumb statement in a husky whisper: “I know.”

I moistened my index finger and rubbed the appreciative nipple some more. It stood up boldly and said “Thank you.”

X’s flat blue eyes watched us in the rear-view mirror, O was oblivious.

Hell, this is fun.

X parked and Squirrel insisted on walking me to my car and saying good night. She kissed open and tender and did not pull away her stomach but neither did she press it into my own. I should have folded her into the front seat and disappeared with her, but I—a coward masquerading as an idealist—sent Squirrel away with X and O.

Squirrel invited me to a New Year’s Eve party and sent me a map to her friend’s house, an upscale split in the north woods. Her friend was a divorced, gracious blonde who sensibly replaced her husband with two huge retrievers. She also had a paunchy drunken male friend who leered at Squirrel until I arrived.

I took off my jacket, shook hands with three people who happened to be in the kitchen and pulled a cork and poured myself a glass of the wine that I brought.

Squirrel: “Let’s get out of here.”

I put down my wine, put on my jacket, shook hands with the same three people, and apologized to Squirrel’s tearful next-best friend who, either from losing her own marriage or siding with Mr. Squirrel, “really needed to talk to her.”

Squirrel wanted to leave without the talk. The dogs got out with Squirrel and me. Her six school chums chased the dogs and perhaps would have chased her instead of watching me drive her away. I down-shifted the Z and spun gravel towards the pack of them.

I took her to dinner rather than to a motel or back to my place—so much for bravado.

Maybe I wasn’t completely lying when I said “I love you.” I certainly wanted to be in love but was sure that she didn’t; or if she did, it wasn’t with me. She would commit for one juicy hour but not a lifetime of them that ended when my wallet was flat and I shot more dust than sperm into her belly. We eventually turned each other down one more time.

We drove for hours and visited the places for her high school adventures. I heard about her streaking in the moonlit park, her motel hopping with X—”Come in here and look at this, he’s really huge!”—her talented parents, and her very expensive, perfect wedding.

The same people who followed us out of the house had also watched her marry, and rather than whisper failure to her buddies separately, she probably used me to announce it to all of them at once. My spinning the gravel possibly supplied the exclamation point. And her little buddy who wanted “to talk” may have been talking every evening to Mr. Squirrel.

We found a place to dance and trade New Year’s kisses and, at two in the morning, I dropped her off at her parents’ house where she had never expected to be. I was sure that I wouldn’t see her again.

I had done an honorable thing or a stupid thing—depending on which voice I heard—gambling with a short term player for a long term outcome, a tactic that I had abandoned in my thirties and forties but one that returned unwelcome to spook me through my fifties and sixties. And Squirrel knew from my wrinkles that I wasn’t long term material but she would have given me a friendly roll, perhaps to reach closure in her own script. After all, she had put a lot of time into me but hadn’t gotten laid.

Getting Smart
She flew back to her large house, large job, and large, besotted husband and called me that same evening.

I opened: “So, when are you going to leave him?”

She said: “When I was younger, my parents told me to ‘be smart.’”

I heard: “You’re not rich enough.” And she was right even if her line about her parents was rehearsed.

I told her about Rocky and she had a complete change of opinion about squirrels. They became soul mates to eat at her table rather than nuisances that chewed her Tudor eaves. “Nice squirrel! Cute little squirrel!”

I pressed her for a different decision.

She countered: “If this is how it’s going to be, there’s no point talking.”

“You’re right” and I hung up.

Several days later, a squirrel got into my sun room. I trapped it against the glass with a plastic trash can, carried it outside, and turned it loose. It bounded in a long straight line for my back property line.

I would not change one of these memories. And I miss that crazy redhead although I could neither keep up with nor trust her. I, ignoring all her high school stories, still want to believe that she could fuck as sweetly as she could kiss and that she would do it with just me. I sometimes glance at my phone in the late evening and know that twenty years later, she is also near one, still talking nonstop at midnight. I pretend there is some chance of her punching my number and imagine our touching through the wires, just the once that leads to a hundred more times.

There is still no point.

Monday, November 14, 2011

INTRODUCTION to Old Man and Women

Thomas Henry Huxley acknowledged his mother in his brief autobiography:
“My mother was a slender brunette, of an emotional and energetic temperament, and possessed of the most piercing black eyes I have ever saw in a woman’s head. With no more education than other women of the middle classes in her day, she had an excellent mental capacity. Her most distinguishing characteristic, however, was her extreme rapidity of thought. If one ventured to suggest that she had not taken much time to arrive at any conclusion, she would say, ‘I cannot help it, things flash across me.’ That peculiarity has been passed on to me in full strength; it has often stood me in good stead; it has sometimes played me sad tricks; and it has always been a danger. But after all, if my time were to come over again, there is nothing I would less willingly part with than my inheritance of mother wit.” (de Beer, 1983, 101)
 Truths grow, mutate, and scatter in coffee shops but you have to be alert for them. Roaming therapists and their clients, job-seekers, tutors, advisers, first date interviewers, single women and girl-watchers, Internet addicts, young mothers with children, and people who read the magazines without paying for them . . . all linger in a café where most anything might be shared over a cup of latté, particularly when you talk with a source like Old Doc.
I arranged his stories the way that I once did sculpture in college: I found interesting pieces of “stuff” and cut, shaped, tacked, taped, and glued them to other pieces of stuff, whether cardboard, wood, or metal. My teacher said that I was “one of the best” but he couldn’t be sure that I was in control of everything and asked me to simplify my work. It’s nearly fifty years later. I still can’t take his advice. I clutter what I make and when I write a story, the delete key is my neglected best friend.
When I pasted Old Doc’s stories together, I also put aside about half of his material and distorted the plots and characters in what remained. These changes were done for privacy, a laugh, to make a point, or to let the characters have more fun. And some “facts” changed as they always do when the mind that wrote the story is not the mind that told it. Nonetheless, most times, a woman will swear that I’ve scribbled a story that is about just her.
She should remember, however, the professor who handed out personality profiles to his psychology class: Every student was impressed with the accuracy of his or her own information. Actually, every student was given the same informationa profile written by a maximum security inmate! Implication: you can’t tell if you’re in this book or not. A second implication: Our shared history describes our march out of the forest and across African grasslands and means that we, in many respects, will have substantially the same minds. A chapter about any one of us must be about every one of us. There are no coincidences.
Finally, women lie and I have been warned not to talk about it unless I can handle the “blowback.” I then explain the benefit to men that comes from a woman’s lie. Men are, after all, more of nature’s experiment than is true for women. When women “mother us” they are trying to correct how we men express our DNA and they do it from our conception until they cry at our funeral. A woman’s lies can be seen as altruistic and helpful not only to herself but also to her sons, lovers, and family rather than as a reason to send her down to hell…
Frank X. Craig,
October 17, 2011