Sunday, January 17, 2010

Kemper and Me

A couple of nights ago, Kemper and I talked about the direction this video might take. Or rather I asked for his opinion. Though I was very pleased with the first rough cut that Elizabeth Hesik did, I was balking at the second. It covered the territory of my long relationship with Kemper up to the time he found me again when he came to Boston to do some filming at MIT and realized that I was teaching photography there. Why does it matter that I hadn't become the failure that it appeared that I was intent on becoming, I thought/think? Isn't this going too far? Isn't it more curious that we remember that formative year, when I was a sophomore and he was a senior at Bard, when I got pregnant, had an abortion, we got married, I left him.

No, he said, that's not the story. It's the fifty year friendship that has skittered along in varied ways. That's what's interesting. (I'm not entirely certain that he thinks anything is all that interesting about my project, but am very grateful for his willing participation.) 

But, I said, we remember things quite differently. He speaks eloquently in the video about the role of my father and step-mother, who were willing to help us in any way they could, but insisted that he tell his parents, quite rightly (a grim experience) he says. I, on the other hand, hardly remember anything about their intervention except that I'm certain we got married because my step-mother, Mari, believed that anyone who had sex was in love (hardly the case at Bard in 1060-61.) No, he says, we made a pact with the devil, talked it over, decided that we would do this. I don't remember anything about that, but I do remember that a young woman had died from an illegal abortion about that time and that's why I couldn't be driven in the dead of night to the wonderful doctor in Pennsylvania who safely and kindly helped so many out of that situation. He thinks that we talked to illegal abortionists and decided not to take that path under any circumstances.

After we hung up, I decided that he's probably right about the direction the video should take. It is interesting that we lost contact several times (in fairly dramatic circumstances) and he found me again. And that text-over-lays could indicate our different memories of that one year because I think they're important/curious. 

Since I'm positive about the death of that young woman, I looked it up in Google and found that on January 21, 1961, Vivian Grand, a 23-year-old New Yorker, died. Dr. Mandel M. Friedman had taken her body to an undertaker in Queens who became suspicious. That's how the fact that he had performed an abortion was discovered. The sad irony is that it was also discovered that she had never been pregnant. 


  1. Oh, Melissa that last story you tell here is so sad and such a contrast to your own story that precedes it.

    You were pregnant in 60-61, you didn't die from an abortion and your life goes on today, despite all the ups and downs.
    The other young woman's lifeis no more and she wasn't even pregnant.

    As I so often say to people, it's easier to be dead than to be alive. There's nothing required of you in death as there is in life but in life there's so much more on offer besides.

  2. Yes, Elisabeth, it's so strange to think of that young woman, the anniversary of her death, not that long from now, and who might still be thinking of her...
    I had a friend who used to push herself to the max, saying, "you'll be a long time dead..."

  3. heartbreaking...
    so many heartbreaking stories.