LIFE IS IMPROVISATION, by Art Smukler, MD, author & psychiatrist

Last night, I saw Herbie Hancock at the Hollywood Bowl.

Wow. Still terrific at 82 years old. Warm. Inclusive. A terrific jazz pianist.

He started the evening by introducing his 2 year-old grandson, who toddled on stage wearing a huge pair of earphones, and holding his grandpa’s hand. Before any words were spoken, the little boy hit the keys on the piano. Herbie said that this was his grandson’s second appearance, so technically, at the age of two, he’d already performed twice at The Bowl.

We all laughed. The little boy walked off the stage, and Herbie and his group started playing. A few minutes later, Herbie chatted about his life and mentioned that we, everyone in the audience, were improvisers. That’s what life is all about, from minute to minute, and of course that’s what jazz is all about.

His words resonated.

We can’t predict what will happen next in our lives, but we should be ready to improvise, to have the courage to try new things, to do what’s necessary to solve whatever comes our way.

In THE REAL STORY, a mystery, Joe Belmont is stuck. His traumatic past is too painful and he deals with it by not dealing with it. Lara, his medical student girlfriend, suspects that the answer to his problems is locked up in his unconscious.

Joe thinks otherwise.

But how can a person improvise, make creative decisions, when the past rules him?

He can’t.

#THEREALSTORY #HerbieHancock #mystery #suspense #unconscious-events


I looked in the mirror and nodded. Yeah, I really liked my jacket and wool cap. It was chilly this morning, but with the new additions to my wardrobe, I’d be warm and look good.

Minutes later, I was browsing the window of Barnes & Noble when a homeless man, pushing his cart filled with plastic bags, announced to the street, “Lookin’ cool, but a fool”.

Shocked, I stepped away from the window and watched as the man shuffled past. “Jesus”, he was talking about me! I glanced at my reflection in the store window and shuddered. How did he know? I was feeling so full of myself this morning, and the old guy picked right up on it. It was brilliant.

It’s uncanny how some untreated schizophrenics have the intuitive skill to read our minds. Like a psychiatrist uses his “third ear” to pick up hidden nuances in psychotherapy, the schizophrenic can be even more acutely in tune to another’s inner workings.

To me it is absolutely amazing and mysterious. Sadly or happily or whatever one’s perspective, when treatment is successful, the magic fades — as do the voices and paranoid ideas.

How do they do it?

Maybe being paranoid, with all senses on alert, allows the primitive part of the brain to pick up and decipher the hidden thoughts of all potential attackers?  The biochemicals align just so and magic happens.

I loved my first year of psychiatric residency when I was surrounded by untreated schizophrenics. I loved the mystery and the magic.

I still do…