Friday, February 8, 2013

My Dinner With Andre(w).

Angela Landsbury as the Mother from Hell giving orders to her hypnotized, soon-to-be assassin son Laurence Harvey in The Manchurian Candidate, 1962 
Andrew Salter was a Pavlovian psychologist who was also considered one of the Godfathers of modern mind control programs to the point where his name and research was actually mentioned in the infamous (and brilliant) film about mind controlled assassins, The Manchurian Candidate.
I know this because he personally told me himself. 
HOW exactly in a twist more bizarre than fate did I find myself sitting across the dinner table from one of the chief architects of mind control as we know it eating chicken paprikash and making what I thought was small talk in his pitch-perfect, Mad Men-era Turtle Bay apartment?
Well, as a relative explained it:
"Your step-sister's dead mother's parents lived next door to the brother of Pauline Kael, the New York Times film critic. They sold the place to a Jewish family from New York, Mr. Kazen and his wife. One of his daughters married Salter's son (in Westchester) in Shenorock, on Route 6. 
  The Katonah Music Festival is 10 miles away."
Yeah, I know. In addition to adding a few extraneous details that weren't necessary, if you break this statement down, it still makes no sense to me either. But allegedly, that connection is enough to get into dinner with the next door neighbor's daughter's father-in-law.
Who studied mind control for a living.
Not weird at all, right?

I suppose my family are social types to begin with, and growing up in academic surroundings is kind of like being the child of a politician; routine attendance at cocktail parties and get-togethers are
  de rigueur if you want to grease the wheel of networking and connections to make sure that you maintain your candidacy for tenure, so it wasn't so odd that this relative would perhaps accept the invitation from Dr. Salter and his wife out of habit, and also not to seem impolite. 

But does this seem odd to you? Or what? Because it seems, in retrospect, seriously odd to me. 
Anyway, when I met him, I actually liked the old coot. He was in his 70s or 80s by the time we met.
 I believe I was either in high school or my second year of college at the time and my family had either just come back from a trip to Europe and spent a few days in New York visiting relatives (and, apparently, the Salters) before driving back to Ohio, or it was my first year living in New York and the family was in town.
 So this either would have been either '86-'87, the winter of '89-90 or 1993. Can't remember which.
Dr. Salter (or Andrew as he preferred to be called) was a spry old man. He had a puckish sense of humor and he liked to clasp his hands in delight a lot when the frequent play on words and jokes he made particularly delighted him, which was a lot.
  He struck me as bonafied eccentric, or if you prefer the colloquial term, delightfully batshit crazy. When I was younger, that stuff seemed kinda charming, in a Willy Wonka 
"he's a mad genius, they're always different" way.
But now knowing what I know and seeing what I've seen, I have to reevaluate the guy.
Now that I think back on it, this may have indeed been a mind control experiment in and of itself to test who in my family was most susceptible to -- I don't know what.
This is the type of "in retrospect" that given the peculiars of my life, might lead me to think certain thoughts.
It could have been nothing, this evening out. Maybe there WEREN'T strange cars parked outside the Salter's building with men in them who looked like secret service agents talking into what looked like secret service agent wires. That could have easily been explained away- they lived across the street from the U.N..  The lights from the building twinkled through the doctor's living room window. 
  But I can't help it. I've reviewed the particulars of my life a lot in the last several years and in retrospect it does seem like a strange evening.

Was that dinner an experiment of some kind? Perhaps even one that Dr. Salter himself wasn't aware of? I don't know. I honestly don't know. But even if it's nothing and was just a "coincidence", it still strikes me as strange: the distant relationship to him and our family, the seemingly random invitation, the sheer delight he took in telling us all that his name was mentioned in a film about, wait for it,  mind controlled assassins-- ?

Most of my family found him to be a horrible name dropper and he went on and on about all the stars he'd met over the years (It was QUITE a lot, truth be told!), and I guess he went to the premiere of the afore-mentioned film as well and may have even mentioned something about meeting Frank Sinatra and some of the other Rat Packers, I don't remember exactly.
But I just thought the way this man behaved was really strange.
He was rather lithe and not the tallest man, so he had a sort of elderly grace about him, kind of like how Fred Astaire was later in life, and he would sort of glide around the room with a restless keen (he kept getting up from the dinner table to eagerly show us books and art and things he'd collected on his travels over the years--he did this a lot, in fact) and with every other sentence or so, he'd clasp his hands together in unmitigated joy at some little this or that that seemed to capture his fancy.
 He seemed quite taken by himself, actually. And he seemed rather happy that we were there.
These not-even-acquaintances who barely knew him.
Not sayin', just sayin'.
He spoke strangely too, his phrasing was rather unique, at the time I found it captivating, but everyone else in the family thought he was a bit of an over-the-top attention-seeking bore. 
I don't know what that was about, either.
Trying to see who would be most responsive to his neurolinguistic programming style, perhaps? 
Or maybe genuinely wanting to share in happy memories and he was just 
Regardless, the man was rather-- unusual, if you dig me.
This may have been an "introduction" to our family vis a vis a new agency entering the picture who had not before. Or perhaps a reintroduction to see if something took over the years with my programming.

I DON'T KNOW FOR SURE. But my spidey sense says-- perhaps.

Yet another ? in a long line of ?s in my life. I may never know what that was all about, if it was about anything at all. But I just thought I should say something about that. 
Seeing as the Universe is random and all and everything is a coincidence.


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