Swimming to Manhattan

A personal journey to Spalding Gray’s Memorial Service in NYC
Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts
April 13th, 2004

by John Boland (aka ‘Ratz Garcia’)

Dedicated to Kathie, Melissa, Theo, Forrest … and Spalding

Day 7 – Avoidance

(suggested music – Just One Victory by Todd Rundgren)

Denial is more than a long river in Egypt… I don’t know where this came from originally but Salem the cat said it on Sabrina, the Teenage Witch.

Just avoiding planning, panic, disappearing flights and rising by the minute prices.

I look on eBay as I have a search on for Spalding shit. Unfortunately there are a number of other collectors who seem to have a great deal more money than me or at least paypal room. Three signed books are scooped up by same person for about 130 a pop. But here is a return to the circus. I assume that many people wrote to Spalding as his address is listed. And Spalding being the Spud that he was, wasn’t about to ignore the letters nor did he probably have much time to respond (unless you sent him a burn of Spalding Gray punk music that his kids liked). So he had a letter that started “Dear One” – perhaps suggesting a form letter… anyway, some idiot’s got one on ebay for $500 – hey, Spalding did sign these! And I wonder if I got a letter from God, “Dear One”, signed ‘God”, how much should I start the bidding at…

And day dream about what I could get accomplished on the plane and in airports cause a timid glance at other flights, suggested a possibility of flying Northwest from I don’t know where, and first going to San Fran and then Washington and various other places – not a great price but not terrible – and it only took 14 hours to get to NYC which should take about 5 to 6. So I might have time to kill. What could I possibly catch up on…

Here’s something. My detective Mulligan has a phobia of IQ. It’s not listed as a standard phobia. It began shortly after writing MENSA tests repeatedly and always getting 149 (150 is the cut to join). So in the third book, he is on a plane and doing one of those silly MENSA teasers in the airplane magazine. To make it look good, I decided to use the online MENSA test,, but needed to get copyright permission. Sent off an email and got glowing permission, with the rider that I’d have to write to the writer of the test and they only gave me her snail address. So, of course I hadn’t got around to it. I had however written the online test.

But I am truly IQ phobic. It came about because my Mother was also my Vice Principle in high school. Awkward… yes. So she had access to my file but would never tell me what my IQ was.

To me this meant one of two things:

  1. I was really stupid and just got marks of 100% in first year University Calculus (when failure rate was 60%) because I was an over achiever.
  2. I was a genius and if I knew that, I wouldn’t try so hard and maybe slip to 99. My family was firmly based on high expectations with a good dash of denial. Mix well. Bake for a lifetime.

So I’d done the on line MENSA test – 30 questions with a time limit – and was sure I’d gotten 29 right. I was afraid if I went to the next step to find out the answer to the question I couldn’t get – “Only one other word can be made from all the letters of INSATIABLE. Can you find it?” – I was afraid that it might give a hint of my IQ – whereas it probably just says phone your local chapter and write the REAL test (even thinking take makes me shake).

So I had to write her even just to get that answer, let alone copyright permission. And I could do that in some lonely airport in Kansas somewhere while I waited 5 hours for my connecting flight.

Yes, avoidance is good. It gives me lots of opportunities to have things to do when I’m really fuckin bored.

p.s. – if anyone knows the answer to ‘INSATIABLE’, please email me…(Already answered...)

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