The other night, I couldn’t sleep, so I started in with the Google friend. It’s a close comfort some on those late winter nights when you have no choice but to go to bed and get warm before the radiator wears out. It was Christmas even, but we don’t much go in for celebrations of that kind of thing these days. Presents and cut down trees just don’t rank. There is a burning inside both of us these days to get ahead. For me, it’s always on the search for a new story. Things had been going pretty well with my father as of late. I went with him to the MOMA to check out the Christian Marclay exhibition – The Clock.
It’s an interesting concept – Marclay edited together 24 hours of film footage with clips showing the actual time it was in the real world – so that, if it was 1:34 PM in the real world – the world you were sitting in the theater experiencing, up on the screen, someone would have that same time on a watch or clock. It ran for 24 hours and people were just sitting there watching time move. Really interesting on a conceptual level I think – and for someone like me, who has time in their minds and constantly has a clock winding down, it’s amazing.
I had been, I think, feeling his father’s (my grandfather’s) spirit around me for the past couple of weeks. So, that night, with the images of clocks ticking away in my head and me wondering what the movie was playing somewhere – I Googled my grandfather and managed to find him – and not only that, but I found a book he had written and started reading experts from it. The stories of my grandfather were far and few between – either because I haven’t had much time to talk with my father about them or perhaps because his life was too painful to talk about. I have felt that a piece of myself was missing for never having known him.
Anyhow, I started reading about him and found that he had written a book here in the United States called “Motor Disorders of Nervous Diseases” – and written in with a man named Tracey Putnam. I had known my grandfather had written a book, but in my mind it was all in German and published back in Germany – so I thought that I would never get to read it. However, on this night, I was able to find the book and read little passages of it. Not only that, I found out about the man who had written the book with my grandfather – Trace Putnam.
As I read more, I also found out the my grandfather had produced 10 films on Neurological disorders that came with muscle spasms in the body – and that these films were available at a university in Maryland. These appear to be pretty hard core in their experimental nature – but I feel like I need to see them. Perhaps he will be on the film. We’re going to need to take a trip down to Maryland I think. Now, as I saw the book, I figured, well, got to check on Amazon to see if the book was there. It was. For 10 bucks. Placed my order right there and got excited.
See, lately, I think I said this, I have been feeling his spirit and I think he is coming around the house late at night trying to talk with me. I stayed up until 4 A.M. on Christmas morning reading about him and Mr. Putnam. It appears that Mr. Putnam was relieved of his duties at Columbia as head of the Neurology department there because he refused to join in the anti-Semitic talks that had been going on through the university. There was very little about my grandfather though – and I started to wonder why. It turns out the Putnam was credited with being the man who discovered a drug that would temper the effects of epilepsy – but there was no mention of my grandfather.
When I woke the next day, I had an email from the man who I had purchased the book from – and strangely enough, he seemed to know my neighborhood very well. It turns out that he used to live a few blocks from where I live now. The story grows from there – the book of my grandfather’s was part of a huge collection of medical books that had been rescued from this library here in Brooklyn – again, not but a few blocks from where I am now. The man who wrote me an email – the one who had my grandfather’s book – actually holds a collection of over 100,000 books that he had rescued from libraries around the country. He is a savior of books, and one of them, happens to be my grandfathers.
We started emailing back and forth, and it turns out that the man who had the book had inherited – somehow – the massive collection from somewhere else. Soon, this was turning into a great story of discovery, and much like some of the fiction I write, the real world started coming across my reality. The book that my grandfather wrote deals with neurons and all of the madness happening inside our brain – telling us what we do and why we do it – something that I am trying to base my new book on but can’t really put the story on it. I believe that my grandfather’s spirit is going to guide me in this new book, and the adventure of writing it is going to lead to a great many places. I’ve decided to, try at least, to document that here. Excited as hell to get the book, but also learn more about the man who saved thousands of books from being destroyed.
Does each one of those books that were destroyed have a history and purpose and story to tell itself? I do believe so – just like all of the people out there who are being needlessly destroyed – they too have stories themselves – and perhaps some of them are calling out to me through my Grandfather’s spirit. So that’s what I am in search of now – his spirit to guide me through the next book. Perhaps we hold all of the DNA of our ancestors inside of our minds and when we open up to them, we can bond with the past. We are just extensions of everyone that came before us – made up of neurons and all of the axons that information seems to be traveling on these days. Those pathways. I am trying very hard to get inside the mind and find out how we travel – how our thoughts travel and how are thoughts literally become us. Then though, the thoughts we have in our brain are somehow not only ours, but they belong to our ancestors – the ones who are responsible for us being here. I have to let these thoughts guide me on this one – to see where it all leads.
The book should be coming soon – but I intend to explore a bit all of the people responsible for making it come to me. There had to be a map – some reason or science behind who were are and what we think. That connection might be there – in some way it has to be there. Anyhow, the book is coming and I think that it’s going to be something special. Perhaps he will be the narrator of the new story, though I’m not sure how that would work. The story is set in the modern world, and he existed in a another time – a time of patience and process. All of it though was stripped away from him – perhaps I can give it back. I’ll be up here in the mornings working it out and getting these things out of my head so I can write the actual book, but I have a feeling that the search for what really happened is going to be a story in itself.
Why is it being put in front of me like that? Maybe it was the pictures of my grandfather that I have around my house – those black and white ones, One I have is from 1939 – though I don’t know if that was before or after he was taken away only to escape and do a new life all over again. I don’t know much, but I am going to piece it together – all of the information has to be in my mind.