I couldn't not write a little something about Olivia Newton-John and her recent passing. She was a distinctive part of my youth, if only by osmosis. That's not to say I wasn't a fan. I loved her. Not enough to go out and buy her latest LP or see her latest movie (I somehow managed to not see Xanadu at the movies). But enough to see Grease a dozen times and listen to all the cuts on Physical, which my sister went out and bought.
That's the LP sleeve of Physical, unfolded. That's from back when a record was a record. It wasn't a double album, but it had the double album, deluxe packaging: photographs, lyrics, etc. It also had a bunch of great songs. Back then, sometimes you'd buy an album and there'd be like two good songs and the rest was filler. Not so Physical. In fact, Olivia created a collection of videos for most of the songs on the album; which were then put together as a network TV special. Olivia was putting together her own little MTV while MTV was just inventing itself.
People often talk lovingly about Olivia and her Star Quality: she was so likable, they say. And she was. But I think that simplifies her. Yes, she had a simple, wholesome, innocent quality. And no, the whole "bad girl" attempt was kind of hollow. There was nothing "bad" about Olivia Newton-John. What I think it was though, is that Olivia embraced her smarts. She knew she had a great voice...that wasn't the problem. I don't know how she met John Farrar; but when she put herself in his hands, that's when the Magic really happened.
He took her crystalline voice and dropped it into pop songs that had an unusual tempo. A bit of a dark side. A kind of mystery. Baselines that created a kind of suspense and turned them into little short stories. And I think that's why they hold up so well. Still sound so fresh when they play on the radio. I give you A Little More Love as my choice for her best song; and one of my favorites. It has all the qualities I mentioned. And that's John Farrar on the keyboards, goofing around. He doesn't have to be serious. He knows how good it is.
So thank you Olivia (and John) for all the great memories and feelings, sung and unsung. They were important.
CFR August 9, 2022
So, every time I write a new blog and put pictures in it, the pictures end up (quite often) where they're not supposed to be. And there seems to be certain places where it keeps happening. Now, I could leave them there, like Easter eggs and you could try and puzzle out which blog entries they really should be in. Yes, but now, there are quite a many blogs on this site. So, I'm just gonna go through everything, again, and delete the visual material that doesn't belong there. Of course, this may clear up some confusion; but it will also make some of the blogs a little less amusing. Oh well...
I really wanted to write a blog today about my latest dark obsession: Monkey Pox. But, we're getting a tad gloomy lately, so let's keep things fun, shall we?
PepsiCo owns "KFC" a.k.a Kentucky Fried Chicken; an establishment I had the distinct displeasure to deal with lately. Joan Crawford was once the kind of de facto CEO of Pepsi. Why, she even met Colonel Sanders way back in the day:
That was long before Pepsi owned KFC. But don't let Joan's beatific grin fool you. She would not have put up with what I was subjected to yesterday, when all I wanted to do was cheer up my hubby with some country style fixin's courtesy of the Colonel (second half of sentence was uttered in the sultriest, Southern corn-pone tones):
Wait! Not that Colonel! This Colonel:
No, not that one either! Get out of here Tom Hanks! Go on! Scoot now!
Now, let me just be right up front and say I was never a huge Kentucky Fried Chicken fan. In theory, I was. You see, I was kind of a born Pop artist. One of my first memories was being enamored of the the Shell gas station sign and crying out "Shell, Shell!" whenever one came into view. At the risk of dating myself, it was the Shell sign of this era:
Hmmmm..."Shellubrication" Sounds interesting. Is that like getting lubricated by Tony Shaloub?* Yes please! But I digressitate.
I have always loved corporate logos and mascots and advertising and branding. So, the original Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants were an overload of magical eye-candy for this kid. That giant bucket revolving in the night sky. The red and white interior with the chicken bucket chandeliers. That delightful branding promised a mind-bending culinary experience. Who doesn't love chicken? Who doesn't love mashed potatoes and gravy? Who doesn't love old men in white suits who love chicken?
But then you'd get it to the table or get it home and bite into that drumstick and...
...Oh, ah, Mommie...I don't like this...
Mommie: I told you you wouldn't like the drumstick--
You: The meat is brown...and greasy...
Mommie: Just like I told you it would be...have a breast, that's white meat.
You: (Picking up breast and getting greasy fingers and slightly nauseated) It's all oily...can I have a hamburger?
Mommie: They dont' have hamburgers here. Here, just blot it with the napkin!
Suffice to say, for me, this was always how the KFC experience played out. I remember when the family would get together and sometimes as a treat the cousins were informed they were getting KFC. Everyone would be cheering ecstatically, except me, who'd be staring at the ceiling. As I got older, I came to think of the product as Kentucky Fried Rat. Burger King, more or less, came to be my "go-to" fast food if I was out and about and needed food fast.
Fast forward and I meet my husband who is Kentucky Fried adjacent. Tennessee. So, he likes KFC. Certain items only. Like me, he would never launch into that drumstick. He likes something called "Pop-corn chicken" and is crazy about their gravy. So he was craving the Colonel the other day and as I didn't feel like cooking, I agreed to the effort...because believe you me...getting Kentucky Fried Chicken at the Vinton, VA franchise is slightly more convenient than driving to the actual state of Kentucky.
So, calling it in was not an option. My experience with the staff at this particular location was such that I knew there was a risk of getting my order screwed up even if I were at the store and put what I wanted on flash cards and spoke through a bull-horn. Order on-line! Right? A computer is doing it! And computers don't make mistakes! Well, HAL from 2001 must be in charge of KFC's website.
The pages loaded with the speed of a molasses coated snail. The navigation tools were counter intuitive. When you made your choices, the windows would go to a default setting and give you items other than what you clicked on. It was a hot mess of a website. Oh, it looked nice; but looking nice does not equal give me the FCKing food I ordered.
So, I finally traverse the website, put in the credit card number and I'm good to go, right?
So, I go down to the store to pick up the food. On the counter, next to the register, is an aluminum shelving unit with bagged food. Two of the bags had receipts stuck to them with CHRISTOPHE blaring out. I assumed this was my food and as there was no one at the register, I didn't want to just take it. So, I saw someone moving around in the kitchen; but I couldn't make eye contact with anyone. "Hello..." I stage whispered. Eventually, this tall kid with red hair and tattoos wanders over and looks at me. I gestured to the food. "I ordered online. I think this is mine. Do I just take it?"
"What's your name?" he asks. "Christopher" I reply. He manhandles the bags. "This must be yours." He shoves the bags at me. Oh, and there were two drinks as well. Now, on the computer I had ordered lemonade for both orders (you didn't have a choice; you had to buy combos...and explain that one to me KFC). One drink was clear, so I assumed it was lemonade.** The other drink was brown. Did I click on the ice tea choice? Oh well, whatever. So, I'm on my way out the door but I stop myself. "Chris," I said to myself, "you better check the contents of these bags and make sure they got it right..." So I check the bags. French fries. I didn't order French fries. I ordered mac and cheese.
I go back to the counter, whisper "hello" again. Big Red returns, frowning. "Ahh, I ordered mac and cheese and I got French fries..." He peers at the receipt (which I can't see, as I've left my readers in the car): "It says right here, 'french fries'." Now, at this point, in the interests of corporate largesse, you think Mr. Red might've said, "Oh, I'm sorry. Let me get that mac and cheese for you and those fries are yours to keep." Or some such. You'd think. Instead he just glared at me. Whatever. I could live with the fries. I'm on my way out the door again but something stops me. Good gravy!
So, I go through the bag, again and there are no biscuits. The whole point of ordering a side of gravy is to pour it on the biscuit that comes with (it's a Southern thing). So I go to the counter again. Red is nowhere to be seen. I say "hello" again and this time a harried female pokes her head around the corner. "Uhh, this order is supposed to have two biscuits, but they're not in here..." She looks at me like I have drool coming off my chin. She confers with someone in the back. Mr. Red returns again and stares at me. I explain the situation. He looks at the receipt again. "It's only supposed to have one biscuit, not two..."
"Well there's zero." I say, my dudgeon starting to rise. "Can I get one biscuit, please?"
"Give me a second!" he says, like I'm being unreasonable.
I watch to make sure he doesn't spit on my one biscuit. He puts it in a bag and more or less throws it at me. That's when it happens. That's when I come this close to saying: "Can I speak to the manager?" But I stop myself. Even though Big Red and his parent company are completely in the wrong, I do not want to be that person. I do not want to be the gay male Karen.
What is the male equivalent of The Karen? Gary? What would be the name of The Gay Male Karen? How about Todd?
So, biting my tongue so hard it hurts, I leave. I do not want to go viral over biscuits and gravy.
So, how much money a year do you think KFC spends on advertising? I'd say a lot. Like hundreds of millions. They are constantly advertising on TV; lots of new and very elaborate commercials. Around the clock. 24/7/365. They even pay celebrities to play the Colonel. You'd probably have to pay a lot of money to get Reba McEntire to debase herself that way. Or George Hamilton. Or Jason Alexander. Or Rob Lowe. Or maybe not.
She looks like Dana Carvey doing the Church Lady doing Colonel Sanders. Really makes me want chicken!
Yeah, so they spend like 98 million dollars a year on advertising. Why? The world is well aware of what Kentucky Fried Chicken is. It's like people who are into Kentucky Fried Chicken always have been and always will be. There's no real need for all that advertising. Okay, maybe if you're launching a new product, do a commercial; otherwise KFC, you're just flushing money down the toilet. You're not getting converts. If someone wants fast-food-fried-chicken they're probably going to end up at one of your restaurants simply by default. Memba this?:
The school must've had a lot of drop-outs. Or maybe it was under-funded. Maybe Pepsi-Co could take some of that 98 million and re-open the school and revamp the curriculum. Getting orders right and good customer service should be numero uno on the corporate docket. I heard that Grub-Hub won't even bother with KFC anymore because they get their orders screwed up so often. You've got a problem KFC, one that Reba and Jason and Billy Zane can't fix for you: lousy service. And mismanagement. I mean, I have been FCK'd over so often by KFC by now that I actively avoid going there. Even my husband, who likes the place, is fed up.
And the mutant chicken thing isn't helping either.
My new "celebrity love pass": Shaloubricate me!
**The "lemonade" was actually plain old water. What I thought was iced tea was actually the Pepsi that HAL 9000 ordered for me; so, actually, they got that one right. Oh, and the fries were soggy.
"The writer must experience every sort of life's degradations...I think that's what attracted me to the job!"
That's a line from Plenty; the movie version of the play from 1985. The actor who says it is Tracey Ullman. I'm not sure if it's the exact line; but that's how I remember it. And I can't say I disagree with it.
Did you ever read this book:
That book is from 1992 and I own it. It's by Julia Cameron. It's a self-help book for creative people who are blocked, essentially. Apparently it was way more popular than I thought. There are special editions of it now and boxed sets and so on and so forth. I was into it for a while, more so because a friend at the time was totally into it and kind of hounded me into reading and/or following the book's advice. I got maybe half-way through. I had two take-aways. The first, that I sort of couldn't get past, was that the author was at some point married to Martin Scorsese. I mean, what would that be like? Pretty intense, I would think...or maybe not. Maybe he's totally mellow when he's not on a movie set. The second was: "The Morning Pages."
The Morning Pages was Ms. Cameron's main exercise. So, what you do is, you get yourself a notebook and every morning, you sit down with your beverage of choice and hand-write three pages of whatever. It doesn't matter what you write. You're basically clearing your brain's palette of subconscious residue. You're just spewing your psychic junk onto those pages as a kind of reset. Every morning. Three pages. Hand written. It was that simple.
But I'm not a morning person.
And do you know how hard it is to fill three note-book pages? Try it. It's not easy. And every day? I lasted two weeks.
Thinking about it now, I realize that what The Morning Pages are, are (is?) a kind of diary. However, it's kind of a diary out of duress. That's why it's so difficult to do.
I was thinking about this blog. What is it if not a diary? But it's now a public diary. People other than me are reading it while I'm still alive, and thankfully, kicking. I mean, I started this blog as a sort of light-hearted exploration of my experiences in Show Business; in the Big Pond and the little ponds. It didn't take long, however, for me to start sharing things that weren't quite so light-hearted. Like my attempt to be a male prostitute. That is now out there in the world. Anyone who reads this will now know that at one point in my life I set out to be a prostitute. But you know what? I don't care. It's a part of my life. I did it and I can't change it. But I didn't go through with it. I was at a desperate place in my life; but I hung on and things got better.
I guess this blog is my iteration of The Morning Pages. It helps me to vent my inner-turmoil about what's going on in my life and the world at large. Because, let's face it, the world at large right now is a shit-show. I think a great many of us are suffering PTSD after living for so many years with a loud-mouthed clinical NARCISSIST as our leader. An imbecilic child who trashed the playground and left the mess for the rest of us to clean up. The wild-fires, heat-waves, floods, food shortages, inflation, mass shootings et al are kind of like...meh. Hey, I lived through the Trump presidency. I swear to God if he somehow manages to get another four years I'm moving to Ireland. Or Costa Rica.
I grew up with a narcissist in my family. Someone I had to deal with on a daily basis for the first half of my life. Then I blithely entered into a friendship with a narcissist; perhaps I didn't recognize this person as a narcissist because I was so acclimated to it. Couldn't see what was right under my nose. It wasn't until that relationship ended that my life began to change for the better. There's that phrase again. I guess that speaks to the cyclical nature of life. Things can't get better if they don't sometimes go bad. But I don't want to wallow in cliche.
So, I lost my original train of thought. What was I saying? Oh, yeah, I was musing to myself as to why I'm sharing deeply personal details about my life here. I guess I'm sharing my life experience with you. My degradations, as it were, as a way to connect with you. Whoever you are. And who are you? I don't know. I only personally know two people who I'm aware read this on a fairly regular basis. Everyone else is an abstract. I can't know exactly who you are. But I'm pretty sure you're a human being. A human being who lives in the same world that I do. Someone I can commiserate with. Commiserate with, with humor (humor that seems to be inching further and further towards the gallows!). I guess, too, that I'm trying to control "the narrative" of my own life...not there's anyone out there wanting to tell their version of my life...
Humor. That's the key.
And I hope you find me such.
CFR August 2, 2022
As you know, I am not employed by Saturday Night Live or it's parent company NBC Universal. That, however, cannot stop me from writing "free-lance" sketches for the show. And as I'm quite used to not receiving monetary compensation for my artistic work by this point in life; wtf? Right? I mean, don't dream it, be it! Am I right people!
So remember that sketch from back in the day on SNL. The one about the failing mall and it's one store that was doing well: The Scotch Tape Store? Well, I think it's high time to revisit...with special guest stars...
THE SCOTCH BOUTIQUE
FADE IN ON:
Shot of a typical American mall, still open but perhaps gone to seed a bit. Or maybe on the verge of a comeback?
JANE CURTIN AND HER GRAND-DAUGHTER BELINDA are walking through the mall, sipping on Orange Julius.'
BELINDA: Thanks for the Orange Julius grand-mom! I've never had one before. It's delicious!
JANE: Refreshing too!
BELINDA: I'm sorry you have to go back to Boca so soon...
JANE: Me too. But Aunt Claudia has the dropsy again and somebody has to take care of her. You know, I used to work
at this mall back in the 70's...
BELINDA: Really? Where?
JANE: The pet shop. It was right over there, where that nail salon is.
BELINDA: Wow! You wanna get a pedi?
JANE: Actually, I want to check out a store on the second level...
BELINDA: Which one?
JANE: The Scotch Boutique.
BELINDA: Is that a gift shop or something?
JANE: Or something...
EXT. OF THE SCOTCH BOUTIQUE.
A large group of people are milling around outside of the store, which is decorated in plaid and has a giant, neon tape dispenser sign. A young woman, JENNY, wearing a smart plaid skirt and matching vest is speaking through a bull-horn.
JENNY: Two lines please! Two lines please! For those of you who want the "Build a Dispenser" experience, please queue up on the left. For general tape purchases, please enter on the right!
BELINDA: This a mad-house! What's going on?
JANE: They did it! They actually did it!
BELINDA: Did what grand-mom?
JANE: Built a Scotch tape empire!
DAN AYKROYD steps out from behind a potted palm, holding a package of Scotch cassette tapes.
DAN: But we're not just for the sticky kind anymore!
JANE: As I live and breathe! Floyd Hunger of Hunger's Men's Shop's!
DAN: I know that face! Peeble's Pet Shop!
JANE: Close! It was actually called "Puppy Land!"
FLOYD: Of course! And your name is...now wait a minute...Marie?
JANE: Close again. It's Mary. Mary Milto. And this is my grand-daughter Belinda.
Greetings are exchanged.
FLOYD: How would you ladies like a V.I.P. tour?
MARY: Well, you look awfully busy. We wouldn't want to take up--
BELINDA: Come on grand-mom; it'll be fun!
MARY: Oh, okay then!
Floyd ushers them in through the side door.
CUT TO: INT. SCOTCH BOUTIQUE
Numerous employees man several stations: one features tape dispensers, another rolls of tape and another decorative items (all plaid) for the dispensers. At a counter, the stock-boy Kevin, is reading a comic book. On the counter is a box full of cassette tapes with the tape dangling out; and a jar full of No. 2 pencils. Floyd goes to Kevin and puts the package of cassettes on the counter.
FLOYD: (Sweet but stern): Now Kevin, what did I say about reading when you're on the job?
KEVIN: Sorry Mr. Hunger...
MARY: (Peering into box) Are those mix tapes? (She picks one up and reads the label): "Tina's Totally Gnarly New Wave Favs." Wow, I don't think I've seen one of these since, maybe the early 90's?
FLOYD: They're making a comeback!
BELINDA: What is it?-
MARY: It's a tape honey!
BELINDA: (Touching tape) But it's not sticky...
FLOYD: It's a music tape! And we're the only place on the Eastern seaboard that can fix them. Show them Kevin!
Kevin picks up a tape, takes a pencil, puts the pencil through one of the holes and winds the loose tape back into the cassette. Mary applauds.
MARY: Wonderful! And so strangely satisfying!
FLOYD: Would you like to try Belinda?
BELINDA: For some reason, yes!
Kevin hands her a cassette and a pencil and he and Floyd and Mary coach her through it. Success! At this point, Jenny rushes in all a fluster.
JENNY: Mr. Hunger! Mr. Hunger! We just got a bid on a lot of the Scotch 111 Reel-to-reel tape. It's a bidding war! We need you in the auction room!
MARY: Do they even make that anymore?
FLOYD: No, which is why the 100 cases of the old 111 we have are a gold-mine!
He rushes to the back with Jenny. Kevin opens his comic book and peers at Belinda from behind it.
BELINDA: Oh, I love Swamp Thing!
BELINDA: Yes! Remember that time Aquaman battled Fake Swamp Thing!
KEVIN: In Super Friends!
MARY: Sounds like you two were destined to meet! And what's a Swamp Thing?
Before she can get a reply; Floyd and Jenny return.
FLOYD: Sold, for twenty-five dollars! Ca-ching!
FLOYD: Jenny, why don't you give these two lovely ladies the Build-A-Dispenser experience, on the house, of course!
JENNY: Of course Mr. Hunger!
MARY: Oh, Mr. Hunger, we couldn't...
FLOYD: I insist...and call me Floyd.
Mary laughs nervously and blushes.
FLOYD: Is there a Mr. Milto?
MARY: Not for a while now...God rest his soul...
BELINDA: Grandpa passed from Slinky disease. He was born without a spine...
FLOYD: Oh, I'm so sorry about that. Well, I'm sure the Build-A-Dispenser Experience will cheer you up. And you'll have to excuse me, but I have a "Fun With Tape" class and the kids are waiting!
Floyd disappears into the back.
MARY: (To Kevin): Didn't the Hunter family own the store originally?
KEVIN: Yeah, but when Mr. Hunger made his parachute pants fortune, they sold it to him and he brought it to the next level. The mall was about to go under, but Mr. Floyd managed to attract Sofa King and Vibrators "R" Us as anchor stores and the rest is history!
BELINDA AND MARY: Wow!
JENNY: (Starting the tour at the various stations): So, welcome to the "Build-A-Dispenser" Experience. Here at station Alpha, you pick out the dispenser you want...(she waves a hand over a variety of tape dispensers).
MARY: Ooooh, I like this one!
JENNY: Good taste. That's the "C-22" desktop two-roll! And what would you like Belinda?
BELINDA: (Picks up a sleek two-tone number) I love this one!
KEVIN: The C-60...a girl after my own heart!
BELINDA: (Flirting, blushing): Kevin! Stop!
JENNY: Yeah Kevin, stop. I'm giving a tour. And now, at station Beta, we pick out what tape we want. So many choices but I can make some recommendations...
MARY: Well, you're the experts!
JENNY: And finally, at station Zeta, you can choose how you want your dispenser finished, in a dazzling array of cozies, appliques and festoonings!
MARY: The pink and purple polka-dots are darling!
BELINDA: Those plaid pom-poms will really make my dispenser pop!
KEVIN: (To Belinda): You know, I could install that on your desk for you...
BELINDA: Ah, gee, okay...but don't you just place it on the desk?
Before she can get an answer, Floyd returns with a group of kids. Everyone has brown paper bags with eye-holes over their heads.
FLOYD: Okay kids, on the count of three, let's show Mary and Belinda what you learned. One...two...three!
They all pull the bags off of their heads. Everyone's faces are taped into grotesque, yet humorous contortions.
Photos by Wes Naman
MARY: Oh my goodness!
FLOYD: Mary, will you join me for dinner Saturday night?
MARY: Yes, but on one condition...
FLOYD: What's that?
MARY: You leave the tape on!
Everyone LAUGHS. Floyd picks up Tina's Rad mix-tape and hands it to Kevin.
FLOYD: Kevin, you know what to do!
Kevin nods excitedly and puts the cassette into a nearby boom-box and hits play. Big Country's "In a Big Country" plays and everyone dances.
So, I've been bummed. About things in general and now my past history of ingesting dry cleaning solvent. So, I always find that doing some art helps to whomp them blues up on the side of the head.
In that spirit, have you heard of "The Thrift Store Art Makeover Challenge"? Or some such. It's a trend. A fad. A trending fad. Not yet a fading trend...
So, what you do is, you go to a thrift store or yard sale or whatever and you find yourself a piece of "art" that maybe could use some improvement. Or perhaps one of those mass produced reproductions that proliferated in mid-century America (usually acquired through trading stamps). Robert Wood, for example.
This work, entitled "Autumn Wood Landscape," hung in my grand-parent's dining room throughout my childhood. Oh, how many roast beef Sunday dinners were spent staring at that scene? That incredibly banal, existentially questioning scene.
So, you go and you find one of those and take it home and alter it. Hopefully in some cheeky, sardonic post-modern way. For example:
So, that's the "challenge."
Anyhow, I'm gonna swing by the Goodwill after play practice and see what I can find.
And, I'm back.
So, this is what I found at the Goodwill:
So, I'm sure it's instantly recognizable. It's not Thomas Kincaid, but an incredible simulation! It's by Lee K. Perkinson. A reprint, of course. It was only $4.99, frame and all! I think it's named, "French Cottage Landscape." It doesn't look very French to me. And it seems as though it must've been hung in direct sunlight, 'cuz it's all faded.
So, I found my empty canvas, so to speak. I was talking to my friend Joe Hayes on the phone when I came across it. I described it to him and the "art challenge." I asked him for some suggestions for the alteration. When he mentioned Attack of the 50 Ft. Woman, I knew that's what it had to be. So props and thanks to Joe!
Now, I would normally take you, dear reader, on this creative journey with me. However, I want the unveiling to be a surprise, so check back here for updates!
More to come!
An offer I can't refuse...I don't know...
So this was in my spam folder the other day (sorry, it got cut off; but you'll get the gist):
My first thought was..."is this a scam?"
And then I thought: "Well, if it's a scam, it's pretty specific. I mean, I could see if a Nigerian prince was interested in producing; but Amat Escalante is a real person.
My third thought was: "Well, if it is a legit query, why did it end up in my spam folder? Is some imposter at work?"
I mean, I'm flattered that he finds "....great potential with your (my) masterpiece..." but I can't help but wonder, why would a Mexican director who works mostly in Mexico and in the Spanish language be interested in this very American book?
Or, could it be an absolutely genuine offer to buy the rights to 83 In the Shade? Also what does "if you qualify" mean?
I guess the only thing to do is call the number, right?
Unless someone else out there wants to beat Mr. Escalante to the punch...Christine Vachon.
I'll keep you posted on future developments. ;)
Addendum: So I called the number on the email on July 22. It's a U.K. number. I got a message "your call can not go through because the called party is unavailable..." Hmmmm. Curiouser and curiouser. It was 7:30 pm there. We shall see.
CFR July 19, 2022
What, me worry?
Uhhh, this time? Yeah.
So, I just found out that huge portions of my childhood were spent wading in a chemical cesspool.
You see, I spent pretty much every summer of my life from infancy to about sixteen at Camp LeJeune, North Carolina. The other night I had the TV on with the sound off and Camp LeJeune's iconic entry gate sign flashed up on the screen. Immediately struck (that sign is part of my life), I read the scroll:
Did you work or live at Camp Lejeune Marine Corps. base between 1953 and 1987?
Ahh, yes. Yes I did. Why do you ask, TV?
It was a beautiful cesspool though. Camp LeJeune is on the coast of North Carolina, near Jacksonville, in the southern part of the state, just below the Outer Banks. It sits on a confluence of rivers, tidal flats, inlets, the Intracoastal Waterway and Onslow Bay. The landscape is that of the piney lowlands. It was idyllic. Think The Prince of Tides (the non-Barbra parts). We'd live there, on the base, every summer at the Onslow Beach campground in a trailer. The beach was pristine; like we had our own private slice of the Carolina coast.
We really did sort of have the beach to ourselves, most of the time, like some fin de siecle robber baron family. It wasn't a public beach. You'd walk up the dusty road from the campground to the dunes. To the right was the enlisted men's beach house, about an eighth of a mile down. And then, to the left, was the officer's beach pavilion. It was maybe a half a mile down. So that's where we'd go, since my dad was an officer. It was a little more posh than the enlisted men's section; but it was still pretty honky-tonk. I remember they had these burgers, pre-made, wrapped in foil and heated beneath lamps. They weren't the best quality--they had those little hard bits, like toe-nail clippings--but they were tasty.
So, we were about as far from the actual source of the cesspool as we could've been; or am I allowing myself some false sense of security? Or should I say, "kidding" myself? Since I've learned of this catastrophe, I keep thinking back on my water intake back then. I remember there was a water fountain outside of the beach house. I can taste it right now...luke-warm with a decidely rusty taste. It was unpalatable, which in retrospect was probably a good thing. It kept us from drinking a lot of it. But you know kids when they see a water fountain. They have to drink from it, just because. I can see the white porcelain right now, stained with streaks of rust that looked like dried blood.
Was that water that came out of that drinking fountain tainted? Was it laced with benzene, tetrachloroethylene and trichloroethylene? Those chemicals are used in making plastic, dry cleaning fluid and metal degreaser. Actually, it was a drycleaners in Jacksonville, off base, that was the source of a majority of the chemicals: improperly disposed of that then leached into the ground water.
Here's a closer up map:
Our campground was on the yellow spit of land where it says "Atlantic Ocean." The drycleaners was to the northwest where that pink area is, above the inlet. Safe? Who knows. Because we were all over that base. And being in the South, it had water fountains everywhere. We spent a lot of time at the Officer's Club and its pool...oh yes, bathing and swimming in these chemicals wasn't much better than drinking them. We lived in base housing every now and again.
It was a beautiful place, for a military base. It was all red brick, colonial revival. Here's the Catholic church we went to, on the left:
Kind of ironic that the nearly exact focal point of the above is the water tower looming in the distance.
So, did my family ever get sick? Well, there's an extensive list of illnesses, cancers, and so on that people who lived there are reporting. Maladies of pretty much all the human body systems: cardiac, reproductive, neurological...
My parents are both 86. My siblings are all still alive. But my father has both a pace-maker and a shunt in his head and my mother had a miscarriage in the late 60's. My older brother had developmental problems as a child. So far I've been healthy; but I'm still relatively young. Who knows what I might develop. Or one of my siblings. We're all close in age (Irish Catholic, natch). So it's more shit to worry about. Out of all the dozens (make that hundreds) of military bases in the United States, Camp LeJeune would be the one, right? And one of the most troubling questions that arises is: why weren't we informed? 1987 is a long time ago now. You think the Marine Corps. or The Navy or the United States Government might've let us know that we were exposed to this shit. You know, a little heads up to be on the lookout for, oh, I don't know...tumors and stuff. Maybe those chemicals made me gay. Hey, now there's a lawsuit! What a headline!
DRY CLEANING TURNS MALE CHILD HOMOSEXUAL!
No, the thing at Camp LeJeune that more than likely made me gay, was all the HOT young Marines parading around in bathing suits:
Now...Marine Life Guard at Onslow Beach
No one in my family was ever a huge water drinker. But remember back in the day when you'd get a big glass of water, automatically, at a restaurant? And you'd sip at it because it was there? And we didn't do the Kool-Aid thing much either, which would've required base water. No, as kids we sucked down soda like there was no tomorrow. Coca-Cola, Seven-Up, Pepsi, Sprite, Orange Crush, Fanta...and in the South...tons of Dr. Pepper.
Could Dr. Pepper have spared me and my family?
Hmmmm...that's a military man, quite possibly Marine Corps. And it says right there it's "Good for Life!"
I'm just gonna take this sign as a sign Universe and say a little prayer at 10, 2 and 4!
We were in the water every day. Perhaps the curative powers of ocean water helped us. Were we under the benevolent aegis of Poseidon? The magical protection of the Nereids--who could control the waters?
So, one of the co-hosts of the infomercial about Camp LeJeune was a woman who I've seen on a lot of these lawsuit informercial things. Her name is Wendy Walsh. I find her incredibly genuine and well spoken. Like, if I were to go to court, I'd want her to be my lawyer. However, she isn't a lawyer, she's a doctor. She was sexually harassed by Bill O'Reilly, allegedly. I believe her.
Anyways, here she is in the Johnson and Johnson baby powder lawsuit clip:
I want to post some pix of us back in the day, with some more happier associations. Of course, with this news of a toxic apocalypse at the base, my memories of these salad days will be forever altered...
I will post the family pix at LeJeune in a separate blog.
CFR July 19, 2022
Warning: contains liberal use of "the F word."
Now, I love the fucking "F word" as much as the next guy. I don't say it a lot; but I do use it a lot in my writing. More than I might've thought. The fuck count in my first novel was pretty high. I didn't plan it that way. I used the word 114 times over the course of roughly 500 pages. That's kind of a lot; but nowhere near as much as say, the movie The Wolf of Wall Street that uses the word 506 times. Apparently a record. In my second book, which features the same characters, I purposely reined in the "fucks." I just kinda thought, fuckin' enough with the fuckin' fucks.
The word is so overused now that it's lost a lot of its power. Certainly its power to shock, And that's a shame. Well, I think it's a shame. It's a word that needs to be kept in check, I feel, particularly during conversation. If you're dropping the F bomb all the time you sort of run out of metaphorical ammunition. The F word coming out of the mouth of someone who almost never uses it, is really the only time it packs a punch anymore. I mean, inveterate users of the F word only have one other choice: the "C" word. But the "C" word is not as all purpose as the F word. The C word really can't be used as a verb, for example. Fuck, on the other hand, lends itself to any grammatical situation. It's a verb, a noun, an adjective, etc.
So, I've been watching Only Murders in the Building. I love it! It's witty, sophisticated, whimsical, imaginative and charming. Which is why it doesn't need to use "fuck" in the dialogue; which it does, fairly often. I mean, it doesn't really need to use the word at all. "Fuck" seems out of place coming out of the character's mouths. Even the edgy, angry at the world Mabel character. I mean, why are they using it so often? They don't have to. I mean, if they want the characters to swear, why not have them come up with creative, witty, whimsical variations? Like "fuckerini" which is in the play I'm doing right now (Neil Simon). It would be way funnier and in tune with the show's tone. Might I suggest: Fuggaboo-boo, fudge it, fuckadelic, fuckawalladingding, fuckalicious, etc. It could become a running joke on the show. Come on Steve Martin you can do better than that. I mean, you already have one of the best fuck scenes on film. Let me rephrase that: you appear in one of the best movie scenes to feature the word "fuck."
Now see, that's great; because it's a comedic bit that points up the F word's power. When this movie came out, the scene kind of shocked people. Probably more because the word was coming out of wild and crazy guy Steve's mouth; a gentleman not known for his use of the word.
I remember seeing Heathers in 1989 at the movies. I was twenty-three or so. So, I'd certainly heard the word fuck plenty of times. But I vividly recall being shocked by that movie's use of the F word; because here they were putting the by then prosaic swear into rather baroque exclamations coming out of the mouths of prom queens. "Fuck me getnly with a chainsaw!" comes to mind. See, it is only creativity which can now restore the F word's impact.
I can't stand it when I go to a movie, usually something that's "edgy" or trying too hard to be "edgy," and the F word comes flying at me every two minutes or so. Having characters say "fuck" all the time is simply the mark of poor screenwriting. It's lazy. It's a fall-back attempt to make material seem hard-boiled. British crime movies are particularly guilty of this. A lot of crime movies are. And two extremely talented filmmakers come to mind. Scorsese and Tarantino. They've set records for using "fuck." But did they really need to? I mean, do Italians really say "fuck" that much? I went to a high school that was like three-quarters Italian and I don't recall an inordinate amount of "fucks" from my classmates, so to speak. As a matter of fact, most of the Italian boys were soft-spoken and polite. It was the Irish boys who it seemed to me were always the ones with a ready "fuck" on the tips of their tongues.
So, here's a clip somebody put together of what they feel are Hollywood's best "fuck you" moments. Taken out of context, they quickly become monotonous. And I think it points up my idea that the use of the word "fuck" in any artistic context, now requires more thought and creativity as to its use. Fuckin' A, baby!
Also, I think The Best Fuck You award-winner is handily, hands-down: Mr. Al Pacino.
Thank you and..
Addendum: So, I just watched Season 2 Episode 4 of Only Murders... and Nathan Lane gave an F-word laden speech to Martin Short and I have to say, it was some first class fuckery. Keep it up OMITB!
Christopher Reidy is from the Boston area. He attended Boston University where he studied TV and film which eventually led him to Los Angeles. There he did the Hollywood thing (which he wasn’t particularly good at) and eventually met his partner Joseph. He was one of the co-founders of the short lived Off Hollywood Theatre Company which staged several of his original plays. 83 In the Shade is his first novel. He also dabbles in screenplays, toys with short stories, and flirts with poetry. Life brought him to bucolic Southwest Virginia where he now resides and is very active in community theatre. It may interest you to know Chris is officially an Irish citizen as well as an American. He also enjoys drawing and painting and looking after a passel of
housecats and two turtles.