May 4th, 1971
Omitting so much of the last few days here in Gulfport: I will begin with the present.
This morning my mother and I were having a hurried cup of coffee before leaving for my dental appointment. The blanket of isolation and security that I sought to draw about me by coming home for a visit had enveloped my existence totally. Home has become an oasis I can believe in. Can I tell of the security I have known in the trailer house in the country? Can I tell about the security of the radiance of my mother and dad sitting around the kitchen table talking at night– crickets echoing in the background? The balming envelopment has been complete.
The simple ringing noise made by the connection of a few wires: a telephone was complicated enough to bridge and merge the existence of the city to all this. The phone rang and it was Jimmy– calling to tell me those things I already knew– the deception I had fled with. “Bob is no longer with us.”
I have not yet learned well enough the ways of that world I voluntarily entered. I once swore that the fulfillment of my goals was worth any price I had to confront. This situation is the first time a basic price has been demanded of me. Until now I managed to successfully bring about my plays by a simple personality split. I was able to create a personality, a Larry, a robot character who could cope with the situations of that world and still retain, intact, the depth of that private personality– the sense of justice, the free man, the poet–
Schizophrenia is a manifestation of our time–
“Mother Earth will swallow you– lay your body down…”
Finally, the time has come when I must make my decision– the decision that has been a long time coming. To what degree will the free idealism of the sheltered personality yield to sustain the progress of the robot of the world.
I suppose it would be an affirmation of my remaining purity to at least insist that the decision was a heart-ripping one. At the very least I could maintain that it was shattering, emotional, unbearable. Perhaps I could have suffered a little.
I can see now with a clarity that I refused to allow myself before– exactly what the situation is and has been. Don had a goal– a goal that was important to him: the establishment of a stable, efficient production department for the paper. Not out of any love for the paper– for his own designs. The way he had to achieve this end involved the purposeful, conscious manipulation of two men’s lives, Bob and Jim. The moral issues were clear. His goal was clearer.
Don achieved his goal. Through the conscious manipulation of the life of Bob he achieved his goal.
I was unconsciously a part of that goal. He chose to have Bob train me as thoroughly as possible so that I could be placed in his position when Bob was no longer useful to his purposes. I was, being young, competent, talented and with a future– still of prime importance to him.
Bob became my teacher, my mentor, my friend, a substitute father. Constantly for 4 months, he has taught me everything within his power to teach about photo composition– about patting [?] a paper to be.
And I learned well. At the age of 20, I can walk into a production room and supervise the construction of a newspaper.
Thanks to Bob…
Today Bob was fired and I am to take his place.
My reaction? Moral outrage! Swift and total. Really? An unemotional nod to another victory won.
You see– you’ve taught me a lot. But one of the major lessons I’ve learned– not only from you and the lesson of your life– but from all the lives I have encountered so far– that lesson, that truth– it is a dog eat dog world.
There can be no truth, no mentality, no ethics in the sphere of “success in the big city.” Sorry, Bob, but I’m going back to Washington and take over your job and impress the hell out of a great many people in the process.
The price that I was willing to pay was decided years ago, Bob.