Six Faces

John McManamy Health Guide
  • In my previous blog, I reported on a couple of what can best be described as teary moments that happened to me, even though real men don’t cry.

    I am in the middle of a massive website spring house-cleaning involving more than 300 articles, of which only about half will make the final cut onto my new site. A few weeks ago, reading my memoirs for the first time in years, my breathing failed on me. I found myself having to gulp down oxygen as painful memories came flooding back.

    There I was, at age six, a happy kid. What happened?

    Last week involved sorting through the “Famous People” section of my site. Twenty-one articles. All but one made the cut. Another got moved to a different section. Of those 19, four involve psychiatrists and three focus on themes rather personalities. Two articles deal with a pairing of individuals, of which one of them probably was not mentally ill. So if my math serves me correctly, we have 13 individuals in my gallery.

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    So there I was, re-formatting my article on Marilyn Monroe. The bottom part of all my pages are reserved as touts for a related article, or series of articles. Thus, if you are on my Beethoven page, you will be encouraged to read my articles on Tchaikovsky, Mahler, and Liszt-Chopin.

    So here I was contemplating Marilyn, truly one-of-a-kind. Now where do I send my readers?

    Suddenly, it occurred to me. “Brilliant Lives Cut Short,” I typed. Then I began loading small images. Marilyn, Vincent Van Gogh, Virginia Woolf, Meriwether Lewis, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Silvia Plath.

    Six of my thirteen. Nearly half. Six faces, two staring at me, the others lost in thought. Six people larger than life, too large for life. Suddenly my breathing clapped out on me, suddenly my face was twitching, suddenly my eyes were watering.

    Marilyn, overdosed on sleeping pills, found in a state of partial rigor-mortis, forever young.

    Vincent, a self-inflicted gunshot wound, cradled in his brother’s chest, a thousand Starry Nights unpainted.

    Virginia Woolf, unable to deal with the prospect of once again descending into madness, her body found in the nearby river, weighted down with stones.

    Meriwether Lewis, a hero in an age of heroes, victim to his demons on a lonely road.

    Tchaikovsky, unfiltered water to his lips within days of the premiere of his greatest - and most tragic - work.

    Sylvia Plath, dead in the kitchen from gas fumes, her kids upstairs.

    As for the others: Beethoven medicated his illness with the only available drug besides opium. He literally drank himself to death. Chopin’s fragile health gave out under the weight of his depression. Similarly, you could make a case for Mahler’s weak heart stopping years shy of its limited warranty. Jackson Pollock recklessly took the wheel while drunk, killing himself and a passenger. Lincoln, of course, we’ll never know. Only Teddy Roosevelt and Franz Liszt, on my list, make it to the last stop as scheduled.

    Six faces. All those countless unsung others.

Published On: February 19, 2008