The Worst Month in My Life…

…was almost certainly February of 1975. I had a major breakup a couple months earlier. I dropped out of college at New Paltz. In January 1975, my sister Leslie and I had transported my grandmother to live with her daughter – our mother – in Charlotte, NC. I ended up staying at Gram’s house in Binghamton.

I had spent a lot of time in that house when I was growing up, at lunchtime every day from kindergarten through 9th grade. So, you would think I would have learned the proper operation of a coal stove. Well, apparently not, because I kept suffocating the fire.

As a result, there was no heat, which eventually meant the pipes froze and burst. I washed up at a friend’s house some nights. I would sometimes go out to the library or other public places. It was at a visit to the library where I was listening to the Beatles’ Abbey Road. “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” ends the first side. I kept playing it louder and louder, so that when the song abruptly ends, I briefly thought I had died.

I had a blanket that my ex had made for me on the bed, in a sometimes vain attempt to stay warm. One night, the blanket fell off the bed and onto the space heater, briefly catching on fire. Fortunately, the acrid smell woke me up. The very interesting thing about this particular event is that my mother dreamed about me and fire that very night. Perhaps it was her subconscious that actually woke me up.

My grandmother’s TV had only one station, the CBS affiliate Channel 12, WNBF. I watched a lot of soap operas. But what made me realize I was truly, probably clinically depressed at that time was that I watched at least three, and maybe all four episodes of Hee Haw that aired that month.

As the weather got warmer, I got a job, got in a play, got into a disastrous rebound romance. But I always remember that really terrible month.

Buck Owens, who died Saturday, was a fine musician, writer of lots of songs such as “Act Naturally.” That show which he co-hosted with Roy Clark, though, I thought was awful, and it is my pleasure and relief to note that I haven’t watched it since. In fact, the very thought of wanting to see it again would mean I’d gone coconuts.
Director Richard Fleischer also died Saturday. He directed several Popeye shorts; Popeye was my first hero. Also, he had the middle name Owen; my middle name is…well, you might have guessed that one. He directed Soylent Green; my last name is… anyway, I always wondered what soylent green was…

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