Tag Archives: this american life

Trauma as a Force of Liberation (DF)

I noticed that in my favorite movies and TV show, the main character is often a person leading a double life—”The Family Man,” “Breaking Bad,” “Mad Men,” any of the Bourne thrillers…

The internal life and external life–or secret life and public life–intersect, or collide, to create drama. But as a trope, why is it so effective at creating drama? 

Option: Because I identify with those characters. And why would I do that? Because I feel like I’m leading a secret life? That could make sense: there is the ever present internal life that everybody struggles to express, with or without knowing, through personality. But I don’t think so. It’s because I don’t feel like I’m leading a secret life. I love, as all audiences love, watching a timid character find strength in the traumas of his secret life (his alternate identity has allowed him to assume a different personality without appearing schizoid). It’s even more thrilling to watch the character apply his new strength to his public life–watching him be liberated from his old timidity, as though the real fantasy was not of secrecy, but of exposure. Not that the secret be exposed, but that the hidden personality be exposed. Anger, frustration, violence, profanity–all suppressed according to a gentler, social code of conduct. It signifies the emergence of the Id, I guess. 

The fantasy is that trauma leads to liberation, Continue reading


Looking Through Old Pictures (DF)

There is the vascular restriction of life

as it stands

            the heartache of waving goodbye to yourself

            putting yourself on the bus

            the tail lights red and sad

                        as you pull away.


And letting go in this moment

            walking home from the bus stop

   into your home, where everything is

   strange again, as you feared it would be

the last time you did this.

  Continue reading

Radio, Radio

For me, paying attention to the radio is always a bit of a challenge. I’m a fan of the romantic, old-school aura that surrounds it; even in the age of podcasts and online streaming, listening to the radio makes me think of murder mystery plays, fireside chats, and other things I’m sad I missed out on (penny candy! hat boxes!). But the very portability that gives radio its crucial edge over television and the internet is also my downfall: when I’ve got the radio on, I’m usually not in a very good state to listen properly. I’ve got an NPR podcast cued up, say, but I’m on the subway, too distracted by the guy spitting peanut shells onto the floor–and other passenger’s shoes–to follow talk of subprime mortgage crises. (Who does that? What is his motivation? Has he perhaps mistaken the subway for a Texas Roadhouse restaurant?) Or I’m set to hear about Nixonland or “Iron Man” or whatever while walking down 5th Avenue in Brooklyn on an early weekday morning, but there’s a street-sweeping truck keeping pace with me like a monster-machine puppy and someone is pointing at me and I’m not sure what it means, and (relatedly?) I think my shirt may be on inside-out. Then again, it could just be that, when it comes to spoken words, my mind’s less likely to wander if it has an attractive face to rest reports upon. Isn’t it cute the way Keith Olbermann says “primaries?” Continue reading