Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The mystery of Alan Gershwin: SOLVED?

I was amazed but not surprised to see this fascinating obituary in the New York Times about the extraordinary life of Alan Gershwin, who was either an uncrowned prince cheated of his musical and financial heritage, or a complete fraud.

It surprises me that I still get comments on the blog post I did in 2015 about AG and GG (link below) and the complicated relationship they had, whether face-to-face or only in Alan's imagination.  There is just no simple version of this story, and I think it has the makings of a movie. I have heard that William Shatner has a phantom son who keeps threatening him with exposure. So far he’s ignoring him.

I have had a bit of a problem with his “uncanny” resemblance to GG. People see what they want or need to see. GG was so cruelly yanked out of the world, with so much unfinished business, that maybe a lookalike son was an emotional need for some people. Some make their living “being” other people at parties, etc. – professional lookalikes, and AG didn’t look any more like George than a convincing lookalike. But then, I didn’t know him. 

Some of the commenters on my blog piece are kind of upset or even angry that I don’t just accept the reality of AG being who he says he is. Others kind of dismiss him or talk about how terrible his music was. Yet he’d show up at music festivals and no one would question him. Maybe Alan Gershwin was the unlived life, the continuation in very watered-down form of George once he prematurely dropped away. 

In my unofficial research on GG, I kept coming across stories where people would “see” him in his old haunts after he died. He’d just appear for a moment. Elvis sighting stuff? Could be, or just more of that desire to see someone who left too soon. I read that Ira Gershwin whispered on his deathbed that he “saw” his brother after his death – he waved at him cheerily from the sofa in his workroom. IG was terrified to tell anyone lest they think he was crazy. Another time he appeared at a player piano for a second in front of a crowd, and several people “saw” him. But people see what they want or need to see, which is why AG went so far. Maybe.

I've been blocked! The dark side of Facebook

What? you may ask me. A dark side? How can that be? Easy. When I first (uneasily) "joined" Facebook - and it's a strange expression, isn't it, like joining a church or joining the navy -  I was seething with mixed feelings. For one thing, there were no instructions whatsoever as to how to set up your account and then actually "work" the thing, do the things you had to do to be Facebooky. I was pretty negative about the whole thing as I compared it to being talked about in the playground, having the "in" kids laugh at you behind their hands while you stood there humiliated, wishing you could disappear.

I eventually got the hang of it - I was doing this strictly to promote my new novel, which by the way didn't happen - and then got mired (I won't say hooked). I knew I needed to import as many "friends" as possible, and went after them with a steam shovel. I thought that was how you did it! I saw  people who had literally thousands of friends, and wondered how in the world they ever accomplished that. Did it just happen by itself? Why wasn't it happening to ME by itself? Was I the wrong blood type or what?

Then I started getting these notices from Facebook. Warning! Warning! Danger, Will Robinson!  They looked officious and I was meant to be terrified by them. Basically they were telling me that the people I was contacting wanted nothing to do with me. Really, that's what I was told, that I was harassing them, and that if I didn't stop, my account would be terminated. It was completely baffling. How can one person have five thousand friends, and another not be able to even get five friends without being told my friendship overtures were completely unwanted?

Because I didn't know what I was doing, I just blundered along. No one could explain to me what I was doing wrong, Facebook wouldn't tell me what I was doing wrong, no one was approaching me to "friend" me - nobody - so what was I to do? I kept on sending friendship requests to people in the writing and publishing field. That's why I was doing this. To connect. After a while I did get a good number of acceptances. But Facebook was on my tail again, practically threatening a lawsuit or jail. 

Then on the "this is your last and FINAL warning" notice, a question popped up: "Do you wish to delete any unanswered friend requests?"

Delete. . . say what? Delete unanswered. . . how do you do that?

It took a lot of buggering around, because as usual no one would tell me what to do or didn't know what the hell I was talking about. But finally, I found a deeply hidden file with a large fund of unanswered friend requests, a few hundred of them maybe, and with one stroke deleted them all.

Presto! Problem solved. I never heard from Facebook again. It seems the problem was . . .  too many unanswered friend requests! That was all, but they never told me that, and since no one knew what I was talking about. . . 

I'm not a natural on Facebook, but I am learning there's a way to use it. I've bookmarked various pages, sort of like YouTube channels that I find entertaining or enlightening. The news feed refreshes every 67 hours, so I don't get much out of that. It's just slow as hell. Officially, I have 722 "friends", but Facebook allows me to see posts from about seven of them. Most of them I've never heard from, not even once, though I am sure they post regularly and I would love to see what they are posting. 

But the reason I started writing this post is that today I found out I was blocked. Blocked is forever, basically. I know, because I've had to do it myself from time to time. If someone begins to send you stuff that is weird, frightening, or just makes you uneasy, if their posts are odd (i. e. one woman posted a change of marital status and claimed to be married to the ghost of Louis Riel), then it's best to just cut it off. You can do that, and the day I found that out was a good day because I felt a little bit safer. 

Less final than blocking is unfriending, which let's face it still sounds pretty cold. If I walked up to someone I used to like and said, "Hi! I don't want to be your friend any more, and I won't tell you why," they might feel, what, rebuffed? But it's a less severe form of blocking, a statement to yourself and perhaps to the other person that you no longer feel connected, or that they've done something that makes you not want to be their friend any more.

I realize I don't have to say any of this. You know already. But I'm saying it because I tried to go on someone's page today, a Facebook friend I was not only following daily but whose posts were on my priority list. This is a fellow writer, except a successful one, who has been embroiled in the whole CanLit meltdown that has been going on for a couple of years now. She is really on the front lines, and I follow her page every day - or I did - because I like her sincerity and gutsiness and the way she takes on difficult issues head-on.

And - it looks like she has blocked me. Either that, or her page has completely vanished, and I don't think that's how it happens.

I did post a few comments on her page in the last couple of days, but I can't see that they were incendiary remarks.They expressed frustration at feeling like a failure because none of my novels sold. It was weird, because HER post seemed more incendiary than mine. The whole reason I follow her page is that she is such a champion of free speech. She believes everyone has the right to be heard. I can see having my comments deleted, I can see being unfollowed or unfriended or even being messaged and told to can the remarks before I did any more damage. But this??

Then I checked the page of another Facebook friend, a very brave and gutsy lady in the CanLit field who has been publishing some blazing articles about the current literary debacle. She has unfriended me, apparently. We are no longer friends, and I don't know why.

Just like that. It's over.

I know there's such a thing as Facebook envy and social media stress. Young people are especially prone to it. This is not the right environment for a person like me who hates impression-management and frantic accumulation of likes, who hates to feel like she's the only one on the playground who can't speak Ish-kabibble. Yet I haven't closed my account yet, and I still check it daily. And I am not sure why.

Yesterday I joined a group - hey, ME joining a group! - of troll fanciers. Yes, a group of people like me who collect trolls, because they remind me of my childhood, of being ten and watching the Beatles on Ed Sullivan and playing trolls with my girl friends. Right now it is the only good thing I can see about Facebook. I've been blocked by one friend - someone I really admire - and I don't know why. I've been unfriended by someone I really don't know, but who used to be my friend, and I don't know why.

It feels like my fate to get lousy results, whether from my three novels (awful sales, all of them, in spite of very good reviews), or my Facebook page or my YouTube videos (some of which get no views at all, ever). If I used these things to define my worth, I would be in so much trouble I might not get up tomorrow morning. I might not be breathing. So I don't.

And yet, for all that, I feel bruised. I feel bruised that someone I don't even know personally has blocked me, doesn't want me even seeing her page, and does not want to see my page ever again. I just don't get it. Others have quietly bailed on me, I am sure, as I have quietly bailed on others. But this is a little different. 

I can't play the game, obviously, I've had so much proof it should be blatantly obvious. But part of me wanted this, wanted to be accepted as a writer, as someone who could make a contribution. It didn't happen. But it gets worse when someone who DID make a contribution doesn't want to see me any more, and I don't even understand why.