Friday, December 12, 2008
From “Every Man His Own George D. Painter” (forthcoming, summer 2009)
Stuckenschmidt was not the only one to bear the brunt of these unanticipatable Robertsonian outbursts of Ruggerian shirtiness. One early-oughties afternoon at settling-up time at the Unomundo, Richard Karoli, on noticing that Robertson’s wallet was bulky with dozens of small slips of paper, termed it “Costanzaesque,” in innocently reflexive allusion to the Seinfeld character’s famous mare’s nest of a billfold. “There’s nothing Constanzaesque about it,” Robertson bawled or screamed (loudly enough, whichever of the two he did, to provoke a head-turn or two from the neighboring table, according to D***** D*********, who reported the outburst to Amalia Paleologos). “George Costanza used his wallet as a portable filing cabinet, a personal organizer. I use mine as a receptacle for banknotes, just as you do yours. The papers are receipts, receipts that I stuff in there completely at random. The reason there are so many of them is that I’m simply too lazy to throw them away.” But perhaps something more ego-impinging than pedantic gallantry on behalf of banknote receptacles accounted for his umbrageousness on this occasion. André Strauss, cueball-headed circulation supervisor at the Suckling F. Bradley Library during Robertson’s 1997-1998 work-study stint there, told Suzy Quattro that in a moment of boredom he had once concocted the idea of a Seinfeld-modeled sitcom entitled Circ, and starring himself along with his three shift-mates, Geoff Sieger, Irene Cho, and Robertson. “Naturally, Irene had to be Elaine. [“Here, he made the two-handed, over-the-chest, orchestra conductor-type tit-signifying gesture—but with a sort of ironic splaying of the fingers, and an understatement of the arc, as if in emphasis of her Louis-Dreyfusian deficiency in that department.” (SQ).]. And I, of course, being the boss, would be Jerry. The role of George I assigned to Geoff, mainly in view of his rotundity, although I suppose the fact that his first name started with a G might have had something to do with it. That left Doug to play Kramer by default. I remember how embarrassingly flattered he seemed when I broke the news to him. I mean, he was literally, practically, blushing. But immediately thereafter, laying a hand on my forearm, as if seeking reassurance, he gently asked, ‘And who will be playing George?’ ‘Why, Geoff of course.’ Whereupon, visibly relieved, he unsheathed and unfolded one of those moist towelettes he always carried in his shirt pocket and began furiously mopping his brow with it.” Impersonally intended though his assignment to the Kramerian habitus apparently was, Robertson nonetheless took it very much to heart over the longue durée. As late as 2015 we find Vadim Rogers, in a letter to Henryk Boulanger, complaining that Robertson had been “inexplicably bragging for the umpteen-thousandth time about his Kramerian moniker during his ‘glory days’ at Bradley.” He really forced me to pull out the big guns and remind him of Michael Richards’s N-word tirade back in ’07.” Certainly, by the late ’90s, the notion that someone, somewhere, thought of him as a decidedly sassenach hipster doofus rather than as any sort of typological echo of the Allenian (or, more properly, Königsburgian) Scot must have come as a relief to him. To be sure, in the late ’80s, he had been delighted when Lloyd Walfisch confided to him that his (Walfisch’s) mother had remarked to him (Walfisch) on his (Robertson’s) “Scottish mannerisms.” But now, with Sassenschickse Girlfriend Number One not even in the remotest prospect, he was beating a desperate retreat towards the shelter of his original ego ideal, the tweedy English bachelor professor, and Cosmo Kramer was assuredly parsecs closer to that ideal than George Costanza ever could be. Robertson’s perennial animus against Sieger, however, should must be given due weight, so to speak, in this matter. Sieger appears to have exemplified for Robertson, almost from his very earliest days at Mather, a certain type that with hardly excessive delicacy he nominated the “long-suffering fat fuck” (or LSFF for short). The LSFF, in Robertson’s view, was trebly worthy of reprehension—firstly, for being fat, secondly for being so-ill bred as to complain about his lack of amorous success in the teeth of his manifest corporeal rebarbativeness, and thirdly, for having the effrontery to attempt to rope every contingently single man un-self-cursed by a porcine physique into blokey fellowship with him as a fellow-sufferer. “Cut your Twinkie intake in half for a couple of months,” Robertson was heard many a time acrimoniously apostrophizing either some generic LSFF or Sieger in particular, “and then we’ll talk.” The thought that his own involuntary celibacy might have been owing to a deformity far more hideous than mere corpulence—a deformity by comparison with which mere corpulence was as un-off-putting to the Fairsex as a single, pinhead-sized nasal blackhead; a deformity, indeed, whose total absence from Sieger’s person and habitus rendered him (Sieger) a virtual de facto Casanova by comparison with him (Robertson)–seems tragically (or miraculously) and perennially to have eluded him (Robertson)—that is, until one epiphanic moment of one fateful day of one climacteric year.