Wednesday, October 22, 1986
It's a medical office building near the Stanford Hospital. A silent carpeted corridor. The sign on the door says DOCTOR VAN DYKE.
I tap on the door.
It springs open as if the man had been standing right behind it, hand on doorknob, waiting. "Hi!" he says. "I'm Mike Van Dyke. It's good to meet you."
He shakes my hand. He smiles warmly, genuinely.
I wonder about the handshake. Was my grip too firm? Is my tight grip a sign of excessive machismo masking a subconscious fear of homosexuality?
Mike Van Dyke is a friendly psychiatrist, a heck of a nice guy, and he gives me the creeps. Headshrinkers do that to me.
Mike shares a waiting room with five other shrinks, each of whom is warm and friendly, but I only feel five times more creepy having them around.
I'm hanging six Ansel Adams prints on security hardware which locks the frames onto the walls of the waiting room. These psychiatrists’ patients have been stealing the prints. And the magazines. The ashtrays. Even the chairs.
Do they then confess their sins to the shrink?
And are they then forgiven? Told to recite ten Hail Marys? Billed for the loss?
With this new hardware, they will have to rip out gypsum and studs to steal a photograph. Which they just might do.
I like Ansel Adams, but he's so — how can I say this? — he's so admirable. So safe. I guess you don't want surprises in a psychiatry waiting room.
|Ansel Adams: The Tetons and the Snake River|
Each print has to be level — and spaced correctly — and lined up exactly with the other prints. Charging for three hours labor, I feel like a bandit. All I did was hang six photographs. But it takes that long to get the details right. Meticulous Mr. Adams would approve.
Dr. Mike Van Dyke writes a check, and with it he jots a warm, friendly note: “Good job. Thanks.”
Even the note gives me the creeps. And it embarrasses me that I feel this way. The problem is me, not him. We all need warm, friendly psychology from time to time.
Back home, my daughter is on edge. She's eight years old. She tells me she had a bad day: “First thing this morning, I fell off the sink.”
“What were you doing on the sink?”
“Brushing my hair, of course. Then I came home today and you didn't welcome me."
"I said 'Hello.'"
"You didn't say 'Welcome home.'"
"I've never said 'Welcome home' in my entire life. What's wrong with 'Hello'?"
"Then you yelled at me for taking a cookie."
"I didn't yell. I told you no cookies before dinner. And you took one anyway."
She's shouting: "Then the dog licked the cookie and got dog germs all over it so I couldn't eat it and you made fish sticks for dinner and you know I hate fish sticks. You're always making fish sticks every night. I never get what I like. NEVER NEVER."
"And I didn't do well on my math paper at school and everything is hard with Carrie away."
Carrie is my daughter's best friend. Carrie's gone off on a ten day trip with her parents. My daughter without Carrie is like an addict without a fix. Those two girls love each other, plain and simple.
I say, "I wish Carrie were back right now."
We fall silent. Apart. But together.
After a few minutes, my daughter gives me a hug. Her little hands pat my back. "I know, I know," she says. "I know you don't really make fish sticks every night."