Pat Martino: Martino Unstrung
AAJ: Your mastery of the guitar is, of course, outstanding today, some would say even more than ever. Do you sometimes flash back to the recordings you did prior to the surgery, and recall your music from that time?
PM: Not specifically. What came back to me are technique and precision. What comes into view is the value of what has been defined, precision. Not the specifics as such.
AAJ: The movie discloses many things about you, and one thing in particular startled me, namely, a time when you angrily chastised Matt Resnikoff, a recording producer. To your credit you later tried to apologize to him. I know you as such a loving and gentle person that it is hard for me to imagine you getting so angry. But, then, everyone has a dark side.
PM: Well, I don't know if it's a dark side. I would say it's a weak side on my part. I was upset with the futility of having been such a nice person, again and again and again. Finally, when it didn't work, I literally lost control and literally turned the table over. Things were going wrong with the production, and I just couldn't take it any more. I exploded. Later, I told a mutual friend to apologize for me to Matt. This morning, I received a letter from a prisoner who asked for a photo and an autograph, and in my response, one of the things I told him by way of advice was, "Give to others what you ask of them, and never look back." With Matt, I failed to follow that advice.
AAJ: So it was something you regret having done, but it was inevitable in view of all that had been building up inside you.
PM: That thing with Matt was something I carried around and felt badly about for a long time, and I wanted to get that across in the film. But so far, Matt hasn't responded to my apology, which I conveyed to him through a mutual friend, and I hope to meet him face-to-face at some point.
AAJ: Getting back to the medical side, you were having serious symptoms such as severe headaches for a number of years before they diagnosed the brain disease.
PM: And extreme depression.
AAJ: It must have been a nightmare.
PM: I felt suicidal. But I do want to correct something that is a common error in the media. Prior to the actual aneurysm, what I had is called AVM or arterioevenous malformation. The aneurysm was the end point of it growing gradually to the size of a pear from my birth in 1944 to the time of the surgery in 1979.
AAJ: But the point is, they didn't diagnose your disturbance as stemming from a brain disorder for quite some time.
PM: No, they thought it was manic depression and schizophrenia. And I was given psychotropic medication and electroshock treatments, and put in locked wards.
AAJ: What you're describing, in effect, is abuse by the medical profession, although it was certainly not intended that way. They just didn't diagnose it correctly.
PM: I used to feel that it was abuse. I remember a time when I was extremely volatile about the mistreatment. But, finally, when I began to take control of my life and determined to enjoy life again, then I began to view everything that came before, including the suffering, as a necessity, as part of my evolution.
AAJ: You were able to get beyond the resentment.
PM: Yes, I had to re-evaluate everything. It's what I said to you earlier. I re-defined and refined my life. Prior to that, what I lacked was faith. I had no faith. That's why I was so angry and volatile.
AAJ: But also you were being manhandled in a way, and you must have felt angry about that.
PM: Of course I did. Everything fell apart. Despite all that happened, I'm thankful for everything.
AAJ: You have gratitude for losing what was taken away from you, because it turned out you didn't need those things as much as you thought you did. That can be the healing, transcendent aspect of going through a traumatic loss.
AAJ: After the surgery, you continued to feel depressed, and in a way helpless, and then something changed in you. You started to get interested in music and in life again.
PM: That took considerable time.
AAJ: What helped you pull out of that depressed state to where you began to live fully again?
PM: I can tell you exactly what that was. Procrastination. (Laughter) ... I took time to take notice, to redefine things, to stop resenting people for what they did and didn't do. I actually underwent deep suffering, and didn't recover until the suffering itself led me to seek something I could lose myself in and forget the pain. That was, of course, the guitar. Just as it was when I was a child and had seized the guitar as a way to deal with my emotions.
AAJ: Was it the same guitar, so to speak, as before the surgery?
PM: It was the same in that it was a way to escape. But the guitar didn't feel familiar to me at first. Rather, it magnetically drew my attention. So my pursuit of it began to get more and more consuming and complex. And as that happened, my depression subsided. But then, as my ability to play returned, I procrastinated about my friends' suggestion that I get back into the music business. Finally, after a time, I made the most important decision any patient can make: to be a serious human being and begin to re-shape my life in a way that I would enjoy it. And I no longer needed the burden of isolation and privacy.
I remember that during those periods of deep depression, I would sit at a little tavern around the corner from my house, a place called Sarge's. I'd sit at the bar. There were almost all men in that bar, and they were gambling. And apparently they all knew about me, but they didn't tell me that. They left me alone, until I became more social again, and as I came out of myself, they told me they knew what happened and welcomed me.