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S T A T E    F U G U E
An  American  Tragedy

   
 
   
       

Earl Farnsworth of Canaan, New Hampshire, believed in life insurance, and that’s why, at the tender age of 33, he gained a seat at the industry’s “Million Dollar Round Table”. After that, he qualified every year. All along the route, everyone loved Earl and the feeling was mutual. And then, on June 22nd, 1964, after selling a $25,000 policy to a client in Essex Fells, NJ, Earl Farnsworth seemed to fall into a black hole.

For 17 months, his wife Marilyn and five children had no word. And then, in November of 1965, Marilyn received a shocking call from her cousin Tina. She had been watching the local news when she noticed a familiar face. A newsman was interviewing a well-muscled man in a plaid suit who had just received a trophy of some kind. Despite the fact that the man seemed much more developed in the arms and chest; that the interviewer identified him as Zbigniew Podgorski; and that he had just won the title of Mr. Paramus for the year 1965 – Tina had no doubt she was looking at Marilyn’s husband, Earl Farnsworth.

And indeed it was. When Marilyn finally contacted Earl through the TV station, he broke down and begged her to take him home.

After a thorough examination at the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital in Trenton, Dr. Peter Mezan came to two conclusions:

   
   

The patient had not fallen into a so-called Fugue State, the disassociative amnesia in which the sufferer forgets his former life and often begins a new life in a different location.

The patient had, however, entered into a profound State Fugue, an affliction whereby the victim suffers a partial amnesia, and then begins to take on the characteristics, i.e., the culture, the language or dialect, the folkways of whatever state he’s in – in this case, the state of New Jersey.

   
         
  During Earl’s hejira, he had a acquired a North Jersey accent; formerly a top-rated amateur tennis player, he had taken up body-building and joined a bowling league. Where Earl was an amateur gourmet chef, Zbigniew would cram protein on weekdays and then, on weekends, pig out at White Castle and Dairy Queen. On summer Sundays, he could be found in the stands at Raceway Park in Englishtown, rooting for the “Little Red Stinker”. His new life’s dream? To open an “extreme” amusement park opposite the new City of Industry on Route 27. This was the first case of State Fugue ever diagnosed. It was not to be the last.    
         
  In Our Time: Collective State Fugue    
       
  More than four decades later, there is a terrifying new development to report. On August 2, 2006, a popular touring band, the Steely Dan Orchestra, a.k.a. the Fab-Originees ’06 - spent their mid-tour break at the Hotel Baudelaire in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana. The transcribed testimony that follows (given by actual band members) describes the first known case of Collective State Fugue.    
         
   

TESTIMONY: Michael Leonhart
At first it was cool. I even had my little doggie Suzy Lattimore FedExed down so we could absorb the sound and the whole gris-gris vibe. Then on, like, Wednesday night, I woke up on the bathroom floor with a nasty headache – only, dig, it wasn’t my bathroom, but the freaking custodial lavatory where they keep the plungers and stuff. Apparently, I had somnambulated down the hall in a hysterical search for an authentic plunger for my trumpet, just like the one Skip copped for Jim Pugh.

At about seven the next morning, Jim and I both sprung awake with a simultaneous and overwhelming compulsion to find a good whorehouse to jam in. After a while we walked past this cool-looking place with a sign that said “Miss Ellie’s Sporting House” outside. A big, laughing whore was sitting on the stoop. She said that we could jam in the parlor all day and all night long if we went and fetched her two buckets of coal for the stove. She said she’d watch our instruments and the basket with Suzy Lattimore in it in the mean time.

TESTIMONY: Jim Pugh
When we got back with the coal (coal is heavy!), we walked into this old-fashioned room and what do you know? Sitting at this upright piano in a crumpled top hat with a couple of good-looking young whores hanging all over him is none other then Pure Herringbone, i.e., Jeff Young - I kid you not. Only everyone’s calling him Professor Herringbone. And he’s playing this outrageous hurking stride shit and every once in a while dips into this canister of purple powder he calls Goofy Dust and throws a handful into the air. But our horns and Mike’s little dog are nowhere in sight.

TESTIMONY: Jeff Young
On Thursday night, maybe 2 A.M., I wake up alone in this filthy, horrible room at Miss Ellie’s place with these rusty bedsprings sticking up in my back. I feel awful and my body is covered in some kind of purple, like, talcum powder. I go downstairs and ask one of the girls where I could find a doctor at this time of night. She finally gives me an address on St. Ann St. and says to ask for Marie Glapion the Eighth.

It turned out to be this weird gingerbread house at the end of the block with a wrap-around porch, wind-chimes a-ringing. This little white chick creaks open the door and for a second, with the kohl under the eyes and the dreads and the trinkets, I didn’t recognize her. And then I realize its Carolyn Leonhart! “I can’t believe it! You’re Marie Glapion the Eighth?” “Uh-uh”, she says, “I’m her assistant. Cindy Mizelle is Marie Glapion and, oui, monsieur, the doctor will see you now.”

TESTIMONY: Carolyn Leonhart-Escoffery
Well, I’m sittin’ here, la la, waitin’ for my ya ya,
Ah-ummmmm, honey. And Marie say, C.L.? What you say we do a little spell on Mr. Donald and Mr. Walter and, how shall I put it, up the level of our weekly Do Re Mi, see what I’m sayin’? So I say, you right, you right, and we takes some eye of a newt and a black cat bone and some other stuff and a little hair from the chinny-chin-chins of each mans, and take the Band Photo ’03 and tear it into little pieces and a two dollar bill and throw them in too. I can’t discuss the exact words we said over the pot on account of it’s a big New Awlins secret.

TESTIMONY: Cindy Mizelle
Wow. I had this horrible dream where I was in this room in a big house on St. Ann Street which I’d apparently rented the day before. Carolyn, Jeff Young and I were sitting around this huge pot of boiling soup which didn’t really smell very good. Only when I woke up I was really in the room and it wasn’t a dream at all! I woke Jeff up OK, but Carolyn woudn’t come out of it! She kept rambling on about gris-gris this and gris-gris that and about how “Erzuli was really gonna turn the heat up under Don and Wally’s badunkadunks” and things like that. We finally left her off at the emergency room and called her folks.

TESTIMONY: Walt Weiskopf
So Roger and I hike down to where Congo Square was supposed to be and we’re amazed that it looks just the way you would imagine it did in, like, eighteen-hundred and whatever. And there’s all these enormous black guys playing the living bejeezus out of these African drums – I mean it was incredible! And the air was filled with this powdery stuff, like purple snow and the streets are purple too. We got our horns out and started jamming. Only I couldn’t get my fingers to play any of the usual Slonimsky patterns and everything came out sounding kind of like Albert Ayler. I have to admit it was kind of liberating.

The next thing I remember, I was in this sort of parade band, dressed in a red dinner jacket and a silvery top hat with sequins. We were all walking towards the cemetery, only sort of funny-like, one leg out, stop, the other leg out, stop, and playing this unbelievably slow blues. And Roger was right next to me doing the same thing, but, like, an octave down.

TESTIMONY: Roger Rosenberg
I remember once Duke and I were in the Caddy driving to a job at some dance in Hammond, Louisiana, and I pull into this service station and tell the man to fill her up. And Duke is watching as he fills the tank. Knowing how I like a really large-bore mouth piece, Duke says, “Harry, I see you staring at that gas nozzle. Maybe you should ask the gentleman how much coin he would take to part with it”. Now, for just a minute, I thought that he was serious… and then we both started laughing our heads off. Ain’t that something?

TESTIMONY: Keith Carlock
I was born and raised in Crunk City, Mississippi, July 12, 1903. In the summer of 1919, I went to New Orleans to find employment. For a time I sold my Uncle Bart’s great invention, 88 proof Universal Plum Tonic, out of a barbershop off Front Street. While Willie Creach the barber was doing cuts, I used to bang on the floor with a shaving brush and cup to entertain the customers, and soon I was drumming professionally on Fate Marable’s paddle boat, the “Saint Paul”. I did that for a while, but, on humid nights, there were so many of them giant black river leeches clinging to the drumhead, it would only make this kind of squishy noise when I hit it. It was plain disgusting.

So then I bought myself a V8 Packard and drove up to New York City where I got my own band together, Carlock’s Crunk City Rebels. Once we played opposite Erskine Hawkins at the Savoy for two weeks in ’33 and the job would have gone longer ‘cept that Hawkins’ bandboy stabbed our bass man in the neck with a pen knife.

After the second war, when the music got all bopped up and full of benzedrine, I quit the business and started managing this young fighter, Dwight Christophe. And, hell, y’all know how that ended up. And that’s about all she wrote.

TESTIMONY: Jon Herington
The things that I used to do
Lord I won't do no more
The things that I used to do
Lord I won't do no more
I used to set and hold your hand, baby
Cried begging you not to go

I would search all night for you baby
Lord and my search would always end in vain
I would search all night for you baby
Lord and my search would always end in vain
But I knew all along, darling
That you was hid out with your other man

I'm going to send you back to your mother, baby
Lord and I'm going back to my family too
I'm going to send you back to your mother, baby
Lord and I'm going back to my family, too
Cause nothing I do that please you baby
Lord I just can't get along with you

TESTIMONY: Freddie Washington
You know, it’s funny, but throughout this whole episode, I felt completely normal. The only extraordinary thing I can report is a marked improvement in my golf scores. Good music, great food, excellent golf course. And that’s about it.

Except, did anybody lose a little dog in a basket and a couple of brass instruments. Chris Littleton found them just sitting on the green at the 14th hole this morning. I’ve got the horns and the little feller in my room.

 
         
  POSTSCRIPT    
       
  Happily for all concerned, all of the affected band members responded well to a timely clinical intervention consisting of group and individual sessions with post-trauma specialists and psychopharmacological support from a random selection of drugs culled from the shaving kits of bandleaders Becker and Fagen. However it is worth noting that, in much the same way that the dissociative amnesia at the height of the State Fugue is only partial, the recovery is itself distinguished by a perseverance of some of the conceits and delusions that were noted during the acute phase. In most cases the persistent symptomatic affectations were well integrated into the preexisting personality profiles of the individual band members. For example, Michael Leonhart has returned to New York and continues to perform and produce music as before, but he is also working on a play called "The Sarcophogae and the Stevedore" and is attempting to grow a mustache. Carolyn Leonhart-Escoffery is performing and recording as before but now refers to herself as "Carrie the Cat". Roger Rosenberg has traded in his late model Subaru station wagon on a 1956 Chrysler Grenoble.  
       
  While the description and the outcome of the Collective State Fugue seem to satisfy various theoretical considerations and appear to fulfill reasonable therapeutic and rehabilitative goals, many questions remain. To mention just a few: what role did the particular pharmacological interventions available at the time ( Lorcet, Lamisil, Trihedral Mexicodeinone, White Rhino, Marsuporal nasal spray, Toradol IV/IM) play in the timely restoration of primary identity? Why Steely Dan? Why New Orleans? Why was Freddie Washington asymptomatic? Why did his putting improve so quickly and so dramatically? Clearly more research is needed to answer these and other remaining questions about this unique and fascinating delusional syndrome.  
     
  POSTSCRIPT II    
       
  No symptoms remained in any band members by the time the Steely Dan band returned to New Orleans on May 6, 2007. Re-entry into Louisiana resulted in only one case of reinfection. Using a physiological analog, one might see this as evidence that suggests a single episode of Collective State Fugue may build up antigens that prevent a second contraction (in most cases).

The single exception was Carolyn Leonhart who reverted to her “Carrie the Cat” persona as the tour bus came within 30 miles of the Louisiana border. Shortly after the afternoon performance at the Jazz and Heritage Festival, Carolyn/Carrie went missing. Karl Kolchak, Jr., an investigator specializing in cases involving “paranormal and occult phenomena”, finally located the vocalist in the Theatre des Vampires where she had already secured a position in the chorus. The symptoms lessened and disappeared within twenty-four hours after leaving the state.

 
   
 
 

The case rate of State Fugue has soared in recent years.
Pledges to the State Fugue Elimination League (SFEL) can be made by contacting us at steelydan.com.

Thank you.

 

 
  Posted June 3 2007    
       
 
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