Continuing from the recently found transcript of an unfinished autobiography of L-15 (Bernard Schatz), I will remind the reader that L-15 is intending to leave gaps in his account that correspond to his most painful memories. Also, this appears to have been written (per his own copyright note) in 1999. My notes on L-15’s time line of events show:
1929 or 1930 his mother Julia, age 17, visits a family friend of her mother on her way to college.
1931 November is his birth about a year later;
1942 marks his separation from his mother (and according to his brief account to J.C. just before dying he was separated from two younger siblings to whom he was very attached);
1981 (at age 50) L-15 says after an absence of about 40 years is when he went to see his mother Julia to learn more about his past;
2015 (at age 83) he speaks with his friend J.C. of “being a bastard” just days before his death.
2017 December we find and begin reading his story which continues with part 2:
My very earliest memory is of running wildly down a sidewalk and approaching a curbing. Grandfather Leon came from behind and snatched me up just before I reached the curb. I recall that I was dressed in a pink snowsuit outfit (Jumper sort of thing). I must have been about two years old This would have taken place in Baltimore, Maryland.
Another early memory: I was old enough to urinate standing up into a commode. I recall waking up during the night and sleepily wee-weeing into a commode. Midway through this process I realized by the splashing sound the the cover of the commode had been left down and I was wee-seeing onto the cover of the commode.
And finally: I distinctly recall the smell and sight of open barrels of herring and pickles in Uncle max’s delicatessen. Max was not really an uncle. He was married to Sophie who was a cousin to Grandma Dora. They also came from Dvinsk. I recall referring to Sophie and Max as Aunt Sophie and Uncle Max. I must have been about four.
Two blank pages occur in the manuscript before L-15 continues his story.
And so, I was taken in by Aunt Sylvie and Uncle Maury and their son Cousin Tom.
(Oh, I should have mentioned above that Grandfather Leeon was a pharmacist and was fully capable of mixing up a concoction that could have doped up Mother Julia during her “marriage.” And, knowing the family of the Matriarch as I now do, I fully realize that they were morally capable of perpetuating such a terrible thing).
Two blank more blank pages occur in the manuscript before L-15 continues his story.
And so we now skip to when I was nineteen years of age.
Yes, we are all experiencing an L-15 “Cry to Heaven” moment. I am sure that in “Heaven” L-15 is having a laugh and telepathically sending the thought “Ah, negative space, it makes that which surrounds it all the more important, don’t it.” I am concluding that there are two pages of painful memories between age 4 and age 11 hidden in the negative space of two blank pages. Then we have the “Taking in of eleven-year-old Bernard” and two more blank pages of painful memories.
Here I will leave the manuscript written by L-15 before continuing with Part 3. Upon more careful reading I now see that the earliest memories of the young Bernard Schatz occurred in Baltimore, Maryland. The “escape” by his mother Julia took place when he was eleven years old. At that time she went from California to New York and later, but not much later, father Milton went to Pennsylvania with a new wife, Celia. At present we are all puzzled by the reference to the two younger siblings made by L-15 to his friend J.C. They are not mentioned in his manuscript. Two pages of negative space is there to give us the hint that much pain was felt by an eleven-year-old boy who lived then in California with an aunt, Sylvie or Sara, an uncle Maury (or Maurie L-15 was never good at spelling) and cousin Tom. Perhaps Julia had no legal right to him but had a way to take both of the siblings. Perhaps there was some other explanation; a conflict over young Bernard preventing him from staying with his mother and then later being left by his father when Celia enters the picture.
From my conversations with L-15 when he was in his late 70s I learned he had a half sister who e-mailed to him from North Carolina saying she wanted to get together with him and (review or process) their feelings about the father (Milton) they had in common. Alcohol and abuse was implied in the review of this relationship. But L-15 would have none of this. He said it was too painful and he did not want a relationship with his half sister at this cost of bringing up all of that pain again.
Because I have read ahead in this story and I have a greater context about L-15’s art and the titles he has given them, and then later re-titled them. I want to mention that there is a reference to a piece of L-15’s sculpture made in a film dated to 1985 as “Cousin Tom.” That piece he later described to me as part of his Vietnam series (a distressed, wounded, disemboweled figure he titled “War” on his web site: http://www.l-15.org/war.htm). Until today I had no clue as to who or why he would name that piece “Cousin Tom” in the 1985 film of his Blacksburg, VA exhibit presentation. Now, I see that reference very differently.
Part 3 will be coming up in the next blog posting (and there is more copy in this part of the manuscript instead of blank pages). That may be a sign of less painful memories and more whimsical recollections:
“HOW I LOST MY VIRGINITY OR: MY CARNAL CONNECTION WITH W.C. FIELDS”