“You see the end of things right from the beginning,” says his therapist.
He’s jolted. “My previous therapist said that,” he says. “Not the one before you, but the one before the one before you. She said I was always prepared for loss. That I always expected the teat to go dry. That I’d just suck away for all I could get because I felt sure it would go dry.”
“Your writing comes first for you,” says his therapist.
“Yes,” he says. “It’s number one. That makes decision-making easy. Everything else in my life, everyone else in my life, is subordinate to my writing. It doesn’t matter if I am lying in the gutter or davening at shul or standing on a porn set. They are all opportunities to write. Each perspective is but raw material in my artistic hand.
“I’m all about the work. I’m ready to sacrifice everything for my art.”
“That sounds very lonely,” says his therapist.
“Yeah, it can be,” he says. “It’s good to have your priorities.
“I’ve been jazzed about Dennis Prager since I started listening to him in the fall of 1988. I was so thrilled to finally meet him in Tampa Bay in January 1994. He said he might have work for me if I were in Los Angeles.
“I said I might be moving to LA. His office asked for my resume. I polished it up and sent it off. I moved to LA. I interviewed for two hours with Prager’s right hand man, Mark Wilcox.
“I didn’t get the job.
“I started going to Stephen S. Wise temple on Shabbos morning. Because Dennis Prager went there. He spoke at least once a month.
“I developed this whole social circle around Dennis. It was this whole group of people I knew in common with Dennis.
“I’d always had this relationship with Dennis where I argued with him. I heard him on the radio and then I started calling his show and arguing with him.
“Then I started writing my autobiography and I had several chapters in it about his effect on my life. Dennis’s wife Fran and some of the friends we had in common read this.
“So I’ve always liked being in dialogue with Dennis.
“When I started coming around Stephen S. Wise, I realized I’d have to adjust. The price of being in Dennis Prager’s social circle was that you could cause no waves for the great man. He was carrying big enough burdens. He didn’t need any of us adding to them.
“So I started keeping quiet. I was very respectful with my disagreements. It was important to me to belong.
“Then I got a real computer in July 1997 and I started writing about the porn industry. I noted how much Dennis Prager had affected my views on porn and related moral issues. So people started questioning me, how does Dennis feel about what you’re doing?
“It was constant. I felt bad. I didn’t want Dennis to get contaminated by my choice to write on the porn industry but it was inevitably happening. I felt him distance himself from me. I felt various of the friends we had in common distance themselves from me. I realized that we were all headed for a break.
“I had a choice. I could keep writing freely or I could preserve my place in Dennis Prager’s social circle. I had to choose. Even if I stopped writing on porn, whatever I wrote, people would press me if I departed too severely from Dennis Prager’s guidelines. So I had to choose between my membership in Prager’s social circle and my desire to write freely.
“I was told very clearly by Prager’s personal assistant that she would not talk to me again, Dennis would not talk to me again, that the friends I had in common with Dennis would not talk to me again, if I proceeded with my idea of writing about him.
“I heard the warning and I proceeded with the writing anyway. And everything she said came true. I was intellectually prepared for this loss, but emotionally, I was not prepared. I was devastated. I felt like my world had cracked apart. I had alienated the man I admired most in the world, and I had alienated myself from all the people we had in common. My whole group of friends in Los Angeles disappeared.
“So I entered therapy.
“Over the years, I’ve gotten to make the choice again and again — between writing what I wanted and belonging to the group. I always chose my writing.”
“Do you think that is serving some need?” asks his therapist.
“Wow,” he says. “Wow. It could be that my devotion to my craft is in part an excuse to distance myself from others, to always be prepared to lose all relationships and community. My writing might be a sword with which I keep others at bay. Wow. Wow. Wow. I think there’s something to that. Writing is not just a heroic quest for me, it’s an excuse to have sub-standard relationships.
“I’m always preparing myself for the loss of some beloved relationship. I tend to devalue my relationships. Because they are flawed in various ways, I tell myself they don’t matter so much, because I don’t want to face up to the pain of desperately wanting to be in a relationship with someone who may not want me as much. There’s only so much disparity I can handle before I get anxious and want to run.”