Karma Memories

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Karma Memories[1]
The Other Side
Original Broadcast Date
October 22, 2000
Debi Mae West, Larry Block, Kristine McKenna, David Rapkin, Jack Kornfield, Joe Frank
Karma Style, Serious Monologue, 58 minutes
Preceded by: Waiting For Karma
Followed by: Dreamland: A Compilation

While my father was slowly dying, my mother had an affair with another, younger man, Freddy.

Karma Memories is a program Joe Frank produced as part of the series The Other Side. It was originally broadcast on October 22, 2000.


Joe says that while his father[1] was slowly dying his mother had an affair with Freddy.[2][3] Joe says he was stationed in South Carolina near the end of the war.[4][5] She took a train to visit him; she made love with another soldier along the way. Joe says she told him about 10 years ago, when she was 80.[6]

1:20: Joe says his mother and Freddy married a year after Joe's father died.[7] Joe's uncle Ben took Freddy into Langerman Shoe, was unhappy with his poor performance at work. Freddy preferred golf, bridge, a comfortable life.

3:10: Joe's mother received war reparations. Freddy took some, which made her mad. She lost respect for him, felt contempt for him, wanted to kick him out.

5:50: Joe's mother was a fine pianist, gave recitals after dinner. Freddy complimented her effusively, was generally servile to her. Joe resented his mother's bad treatment of him.[8]

11:40: Debi calls Joe to complain that he didn't use her story in his last show. She's worried that Joe may be mad at her. Debi had a dream that she killed Joe, buried him in a school bus. They chaff each other.

17:50: Joe tells of visiting his parents in Palm Beach; they're in their 70s.[9] They're sweaty but don't bathe. Joe complains about their smell. They're unsympathetic.

21:10: Joe calls Larry. Larry quotes Beckett, 'You think you're simply resting, the better to act when the time comes or for no reason and you soon find yourself powerless to ever do anything again',[10] then V. S. Naipaul's A Bend in the River: 'The world is what it is. Men who are nothing, who allow themselves to become nothing, have no place in it.' Larry says he's allowed himself to become nothing. Joe disagrees. Then Larry quotes Matthew Arnold, 'What are the situations from the representation of which, though accurate no poetical enjoyment can be derived? They are those in which the suffering finds no vent in action, in which a continuous state of mental distress is prolonged, unrelieved by incident, hope, or resistance, in which there is everything to be endured, nothing to be done.'[11]

24:10: Joe sees Freddy drinking straight from the bottle. Joe's embarrassed. Freddy sings 'My defenses are down'[12]

25:00: Kristine McKenna says that everyone has wreckage in her/his life, that bullying harms the bully as well as the victim that we should avoid propagating the damage we suffer upon others.

28:00: A few years before he died,[13] Freddy told Joe that he blamed him for an injury he suffered when he was hit by a cab, because he was on his way to buy tickets to the Army-Navy game for him and Joe. Joe thought that Freddy was going to tell him that he loved him.

29:30: Larry wonders if he'll have an obituary in the New York Times[14] Joe says being remembered is a more significant memorial.

31:20: David Rapkin eulogizes Larry: he tells a story about Larry telling a waitress that he's about to be deported, needs to take a shower; then he talks about Larry's generosity, with money, his car, his wife; he gets weepy.

34:00: Joe tells of going to temple on high holy days. Joe enjoys the service. He forgot to take off his skullcap after services once, was embarrassed, worries that Christians blame Jews for killing Christ. He remembers how badly Christians treated Jews.[15]

37:40: Joe says that when his mother was depressed, it put a pall over the whole house. Joe would hide in his bedroom when his mother played piano in the afternoon.[16]

39:40: Freddy always tried to be cheerful, despite her mistreatment of her.[17]

42:00: Larry says it's easy to identify why one is behaving in an unproductive way; Joe disagrees.

42:50: Larry describes the only good therapist he ever had: the first session he built a fire in her fireplace.

48:00: Joe tells how Freddy played with the children at large family gatherings. The children loved him, took advantage of his good nature to hurt him. This made Joe mad.[17]

49:10: Joe's mother cried when she held him as a child. Joe thought tears odd.[18]

50:00: Joe talks about the coolness of the earth, ants underneath rocks, flowers, when he was a child.[18]

50:50: Joe's mother would walk through the woods alone in the fall.[18]

51:00: Joe repeats, in summary, many incidents in the episode so far.

51:50: Jack Kornfield leads a meditation on forgiveness.

54:30: Joe recalls his one good memory of his mother, Freddy, and him, when he was 7 or 8. Joe, his mother, her mother,[19] and their dog Skippy would walk down the road to greet Freddy returning from work.

56:30: They'd gather in Ben's a few doors down, sing songs in French and German and dance. Joe's mother played the accordion, cousin Jules the mandolin[20]

Legacy Synopsis
  • Joe talks about his mother's life. She had an affair with Freddy as his father lay dying. Sex with a soldier on a train traveling to be with Freddy. After his father's death, they marry and Freddy joins the family business. She loses respect for Freddy. They get money through German reparations. Freddy tries to steal some of it and is discovered. He lives as a subject in her house, in a state of cold war. Mother's piano recitals. Young Joe is angry on Freddy's behalf, fights with his mother. She confides that she resents Freddy, feels her life is empty. Joe is embarrassed as she flirts with other men in public.
  • Debi Mae West - She was angry Joe used Larry's story instead of hers. She regrets sending out email with the phrase "starring Debi Mae West". A dream of burying Joe and two other people in a bus underground, getting half a box of chocolates.
  • Joe - He visits his parents, is offended by their body odor after a sweaty gold tournament. They fight, he apologizes.
  • Larry Block - Quotes from Beckett, VS Naipal, Matthew Arnold. Naipal doesn't know Larry. Is Larry nothing?
  • Joe - Freddy drinks liquor from the bottle.
  • Kristine McKenna - Getting dealt cards in life. All lives have wreckage. Are we victims or authors of the play of our lives? Bullying as an agreement. The dead continue to live within us. Free will.
  • Joe - In a tender moment, Freddy confides in Joe that he blames Joe for causing a car accident.
  • Larry and Joe - will he have an obituary? Faking one's death to see the reaction.
  • David Rapkin - a eulogy for Larry.
  • Joe - being embarrassed to discover he's forgotten to remove his skull cap. The history of Jewish persecution. Imagining himself in the holocaust. Post-war Jewish camouflage. His mother's depression.
  • Larry and Joe - Self knowledge and change. A therapist asks Larry to build a fire.
  • Joe - Freddy plays horse with kids, is abused. Tears as a strange concept. His father's death. Meditations on earth.
  • Jack Kornfield - forgiveness meditation.
  • Joe - A happy memory: walking to meet Freddy on the way home as a child. An evening of music on the family lawn.



  1. Meyer Langerman
  2. Theodore Frank, Joe's eventual stepfather
  3. Joe says he was a younger man; he was born in 1906, which makes him 19 years younger than Mr Langerman, 4 years older than she.
  4. he was in the Army, a private in the signal corps.
  5. Mr Langerman died 1943 October 8, not the end of the war.
  6. This show was first aired in 2000, making 1990 10 years before, when Joe's mother was 80.
  7. They married 1945 April 28, 1 year, 8 months, 20 days after Mr Langerman died.
  8. Joe tells some of this story, but in the third person, and about 'his stepfather', instead of Freddy, about the protagonist, in the original version of Another Country (Part 3).
  9. She was born in 1910, he in 1906, so they're both in their 70s 1980-1986.
  10. from The Unnamable
  11. Theories of Literature and Criticism
  12. from Annie get your gun, Irving Berlin, 1946
  13. 1995, in Palm Beach
  14. He didn't.
  15. Joe tells this story, but in the third person, about the protagonist, in Another Country (Part 1).
  16. Joe tells this story, but in the third person and about 'his father' instead of Freddy, about the protagonist, in 'Another Country (Part 1).
  17. 17.0 17.1 Joe tells this story, but in the third person and about 'his stepfather' instead of Freddy, about the protagonist, in the original version of Another Country (Part 3).
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 Joe tells this story, but in the third person, about the protagonist, in the original version of Another Country (Part 3).
  19. Sabine Passweg, before immigration Scheindel Sabina Passweg, born in Sambor, Poland in 1886, mother of Ben Zion, Batschewa, and Friederike, naturalized in 1941, died 1960. She sailed from Lisbon in 1941. Her husband, Solomon, had died in 1936
  20. I find no evidence of Jules. Ben and his wife had 3 daughters, no sons. Sigmund and Sonia Spiegel had 1 son, Michael.