Dr. Grosso and Me
I saw Dr. Michael Grosso, a philosopher, author, artist and part-time psychic, give a lecture a month ago at the Parapsychology Foundation, in a townhouse on East 71st Street. His contention was that a “re-enchantment” of the world might occur if people come to accept psychic phenomena. He was a convincing guy. Plus he had a Ph.D. in philosophy from Columbia University and a tenured post teaching philosophy at New Jersey City University, in Jersey City. I bought every word of it.
So I took a bus up to Warwick, New York, where Dr. Grosso lives. He picked me up at the depot, and we drove to a diner for lunch.
“I’ve had a couple of strange experiences,” Dr. Grosso said, eating a tuna melt. He was 63 years old and had a devilish look about him. “Some of my experiences are fairly far out, and not so numerous that I would call myself a ‘psychic.’ But by comparison with most people I suppose I might be viewed as a psychic.”
Once, three nights in a row, he dreamed of an explosion and a bunch of corpses lined up outside a building. “The next day there was a boiler explosion in a restaurant in Kentucky on the headline of a newspaper,” he said.
Then there was the time last year Dr. Grosso bent a spoon at a “human potential” conference in California.
“No one could budge it, and they handed it to me,” he said. “And I wasn’t even thinking, and I just started twisting it, and it suddenly became like butter in my hands, and then I just broke it in half. The beautiful thing is, I didn’t even try. It was almost half conscious. It melted.”
We drove back to his farmhouse, where he lives with his 42-year-old wife and her 14-year-old daughter. He led me to his library and pointed to 20 green volumes of The English Proceedings for Psychical Research.
“Anybody that spent a couple of months reading though just these volumes would have to be convinced that parapsychology is real,” he said.
I noticed some books about U.F.O.’s. “I’m very interested in that,” Dr. Grosso said. “If you read into that literature, these alien abductors, they seem to come right through walls like ghosts.”
“Anyone ever think you were nuts?”
“No one ever thinks I’m nuts because I’m not. I’m an eminently sane person.”
Dr. Grosso grew up in Astoria. His father, an immigrant from southern Italy, worked on a coal truck. His mother, a devout Catholic with psychic abilities, told her son lots of ghost stories. At seven he had his first paranormal experience, when a “monstrous, throbbing” toothache disappeared after he prayed to the Virgin Mary.
We went out to his backyard studio, a former doghouse. I noticed a pipe half full of something. “Can we have some of that?”
“Oh yeah, you want a hit of some weed?” he said. “Let’s do it!” He produced a mid-size bong and packed a bowl.
He said he smokes pot every day. “It doesn’t interfere with my work, it enhances it,” he said. “I’m kind of in the state permanently. I’ve been in an altered state for the past 25 years, I’d say.”
In 1972, Dr. Grosso started teaching at Jersey City U., but he continued his “whimsical” life. He grew his red hair long, grew a beard, traveled, got married and divorced, hung out with a Beat poet, got into Buddhism, picked up the flute, studied under a Hindu music teacher and wrote a book on “sound yoga.” Feeling it his “duty” as a philosopher, he joined the psychedelic movement.
“I experimented with LSD, mushrooms, mescaline, opium, cocaine, and of course hashish and marijuana … Ecstasy! I forgot that. It’s great!” he said. “So yeah, I’ve done a lot of drugs. By the way, did you get buzzed?” he asked.
I suggested it might be cool if he could move some objects around the room, psychokinetically.
He said it doesn’t really work this way. “When I get very excited and sometimes frustrated at the same time, two kinds of physical things have happened in the past,” he said. “One, bells. Telephones will ring for no reason, or alarms will go off.”
Once, he said, a metal detector at the airport would not stop ringing, even after he removed everything remotely metal on him. Another time, he caused a lightbulb to shatter above a guy who was bothering him at a party.
As he related these experiences, his next-door neighbor was driving his lawnmower around, making a terrible racket.
“The lawnmower is a psychokinetic machine battling against the goddess Gaia, the earth goddess,” Dr. Grosso said. “I want to cast a spell on him, put him to sleep . But I don’t want to harm him.”
The next morning I had two psychic experiences of my own. First, a colleague at work said something to me about the writer George Plimpton-I’d just been thinking about him for no good reason! A coincidence? Maybe. But then I picked up a newspaper. Actress Nancy Marchand, the grandmother on HBO’s The Sopranos , had died. Three days before, I’d watched a rerun of the show and wondered what would happen if she died. What did this mean?
I met Dr. Grosso again at a café on the Upper West Side. I needed to hear more. He gave the Marchand episode a seven on a psychic scale of one to 10. He had a list of things he wanted to tell me. Like the fact that he recently spent a week at the Santa Barbara home of actor John Cleese, a pal and fellow parapsychology buff. As he talked, a sexy woman walked by. “God, look at the size of the knockers on this one,” Dr. Grosso said.
After I left him, strange things kept happening to me. I dreamed that I got high on crack with actress Chloë Sevigny; later that morning, I saw her picture in the New York Post . Driving out to the Hamptons, I predicted that I’d spill my take-out coffee and sure enough, I did. On the train coming back to Manhattan, I was thinking about the Jim Carrey movie Me, Myself, & Irene -and just then a billboard advertisement for it appeared.
Later, dazed, I left my apartment-and the elevator opened without my having pushed the button . In the past when something like that happened, it meant nothing. But now it took on the utmost significance.
A Short-Lived Experiment
She used to feel like a dog. Now she pretty much always felt like a hot dog. Getting published had that effect on Lucy.
So it was that while she rode the F train to her friend’s party in bohemian Brooklyn she stole another fleeting glance at the portrait that appeared next to her story in the Big Magazine. There she was, all right. Her shirt, her hair, her nipples, her tea and her Brooklyn stoop. Perhaps it was too much, she thought. No, she concluded. It wasn’t too much.
She walked into Susan Kenny’s party. A barrage of static heat, exaggerated laughter, and other party sensations made her want to go home and write about them in great detail. She’d hadn’t seen so many people packed together in such a small space since the last apartment party she’d been to-the week before. Soon she found her hostess, Susan, seated on a counter, drinking a Corona, and smelling, surprisingly, Lucy thought, as if she were drinking a beer.
“Hi,” said Lucy. She didn’t really mean it.
Susan’s skin was blotchy. Her hair was stringy. Her miniskirt was ill-fitting. Her calves were sort of large. Did she have pink-eye? Her bag was last year’s baguette.
Sometimes, Lucy loved fucking anonymous men. And by anonymous, she meant quirky in a short-story kind of way. Men who did things like drive cabs and import pasta, who had exotic (or ordinary) names, or read The Times , or talked funny-men who tastefully clashed with her.
And this is what she’d learned: to walk into a crowded room and have every eye notice nothing about you except for your plastic-coated handbag-that was some kind of exquisite power. It was the act that followed-the way it always led down the same path, prompted by the same meaningless exchanges-that was slowly driving her insane. The same “Can we put a hat on it?” And “Bitte Liebling, Keine Zähne.” And “You want mustard or mayo on that?” And “If you put a flashlight behind it, the shadow that’s projected on the wall looks a lot like the silhouette of George Washington!”
And, oh, was she tired. Tired of being admired. Tired of cheapening her every experience, of being the one they wanted, of being desirable and being a Self and a Body simultaneously.
Lucy couldn’t decide whom she hated more -ugly people or happy people.