Jerry Stahl, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ben Stiller discussed on Mental Illness Happy Hour


Here with the return guest Jerry stahl, who's an author, a lot of you probably know him from his many books and probably the thing people know you most for was being the author of the book permanent midnight, which was made into a Ben Stiller movie, would that be correct? Yeah. Probably. Yeah. That or maybe I fatty. I think about fatty or buccal. Yeah. I gotta read that because what a fascinating character and a fascinating time. Well, oddly enough, Philip Seymour Hoffman, if I can drop a name immediately within 30 seconds was going to play the lead character and he had this take on it that like, man, people think they got the real you and your memoir, but this is like you putting on a fax suit, a fat suit and writing a memoir, because it's really about you. Being a completely fucked up feeling, lonely, degenerate. Yeah. But under the guise of writing about somebody else. Right, let me project it all on the memoir. So it was him in the first person. Oh, okay. Thinly disguised version of myself. Gotcha. So there's that. Yeah. Yeah. You got a book out right now called 9 9 9, which is as in the German word 9 9 9. And the full title is one man's tale of depression, psychic torment, and a bus tour of the Holocaust. I'm going to have you read just a little blurb from it, but set this up, if you would. Sure, the premise of this book was that I was so fucking depressed in about that 2016 or so mostly my whole life, but a really good bad. You know, marriage is going south, career and the gutter, you know, the whole fucking thing had to move. And I thought, Jesus Christ. Where is the one place on earth? We're complete despair. And utter just disillusionment is wholly appropriate. I know, why don't I go visit some concentration camps? Sorry to laugh. Hey, you know? I got vice magazine to cover me to the expenses. To do a 6 part series, which was good, bad part, it was by bus. It was a bus tour of the Holocaust with as the title implies with a bunch of strangers. Some of whom had never even seen it you. So that's the back. Some of the things that the vignettes that you share in there are quite jaw dropping, the inappropriateness of things that like if you saw in a movie some of the things that people said in the museums, you would think nobody would have the lack of compassion and tax to say that out loud, maybe think it. And I'll ask you to talk about those after you read this passage, especially I think it was either buchenwald or Auschwitz where the young couple. Yes, the bickering. The bickering young couple. Less chamber. Yeah. So do we need any more setup for here's just a chunk from the middle of the book where I'm, I think I'm at buchenwald here. They all sort of blend into one. And it's just me thinking about this issue that I had, like, I wondered how soon after they got into the camps. Did the prisoners start to like kind of forget all the worries about job and money and status and appearance and how long before all the shit that we waste our lives thinking of bled away into sheer survival. So here we go. Very brief. A thought careens in my brain. It all feels wrong. How many victims buried under my feet right now worried that they were frauds, living the wrong life, self sabotages, and wimps, manipulators, and goons, and outright swine, along, of course, with heroes, solid family men, and all the prematurely dead in between. Due to Jew, I'm losing it. But I want to know. I need to. Do these victims before they were victims? Just want to get things right? How long after they were thrown in a camp was the privilege of idiot self obsession stripped away. How long before they realized the futility of all those wasted hours thinking about sex and money? Did their hair look right? Success and failure and all the things that drain the life out of life when life itself is so fucking vulnerable and fragile and easy to pluck away. How long did regret and longing? Linger in the face of elemental terrors, hunger, cold, imminent, undeserving death. You know, I'm reminded of that passage in Victor frankel's book man's search for meaning where he talks about worry being like a gas will fill your brain regardless of what it is about. I totally forgot about that passage. I remember circling that and feeling almost mortifying like I related to it. Yeah, too much. Let's talk about worry and self obsession and the feeling that you're getting it wrong. You've been a guest before on this podcast and we talked about your childhood, but let's recap some of the broad strokes. The highlights. Some of the really fun stuff, Jerry. Sure, yeah. Well, you know, a father checked himself out when I was 16 by going into the garage turning on the gas. With the door down, so that happened. Mother, sometimes we thought she was on vacation, turned out she was getting electroshock at western psychiatric. Lifelong and suicide attempt to herself used to make me lock the door, so I would watch, et cetera. And that's, you know, that old routine. So that was my childhood, and I was a sister who God bless her, you know, has her own issues. Let's just say. And, you know, then there's me completely normal. Grew up, became a drug addict, clawed my way out of that, got incredibly lucky. He had incredible opportunities, many of whom I blew, walked away from a terrible decision just because if you never really reconcile yourself to yourself, you're just going to keep sort of recreating all the trauma of your childhood because it's the warm bath of misery that you want to live. Self sabotage is so easy to camouflage and believe that it's, you know, let's talk about self sabotage. Sure. And your life and examples where you sabotage yourself in specifically what you thought or you felt as you stood on that precipice of a larger, more successful life. Oh yeah, I mean, I think in my case, it was a kind of arrogance. I was in shock that I was no longer a complete and utter where my rent coming from failure. You know, that was very familiar to me. So suddenly I'm plunged into the world of success and, you know, I'm hanging out with I've gone from like zero to a hundred hanging out with movie stars and a snack and I'll give you a specific. I had a great gig on of all things. CSI, Las Vegas, early days, Billy Peterson. One of those few jobs, I met him in the Y in Hollywood in the sauna, and he said, oh, I'm going to be doing a show and sure enough he invited me. It was one of those few naked encounters in Hollywood that resulted in getting full employment for me. And one day I decided, you know, I was talking to a guitar player a friend of mine. He's like, oh, you're doing that commercial shit. I'm like, yeah, I don't want to be commercial. I want to be an artist. And I just sort of walked away from this gig that was like a gift from the gods with a ridiculously lucrative weekly salary for not doing that much. And it was so insane. But you were sober at that point. You were off here. Oh yeah. Dead sober. Yeah, you know, and that's the thing. I'm sure you've heard this before. But when you're on dope or alcohol or whatever the fuck you're mind bender of choices, you can blame your bad decision on the drugs or the booze. But when you're an asshole without the drugs, you're just an asshole, make an asshole decisions doing asshole things. So that's just one of many, probably not that fascinating details, but yeah, stuff like that. You know, one thing I'm struck by is I read your writing is how relentlessly

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