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Reflections of a working writer, a university screenwriting professor, and the editor of Oregon Literary Review.

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Charles Deemer

Oregon Literary Review

MFA, Playwriting, University of Oregon

Writing faculty, Portland State University (part-time)

Retired playwright and screenwriter.
Active novelist, librettist and teacher.

Email: cdeemer(at)yahoo(dot)com

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literary links, amusements, politics, rants

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Random musings on a writer's life and times.

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Samantha Blackmon's written musings on writing (composition and rhetoric).

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scribble, scribble, scribble
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Bow. James Bow.
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The Writing Life...
"An artist's only concern is to shoot for some kind of perfection, and on his own terms, not anyone else's."
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A friend over beer, Berkeley, winter, 1959

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The Writing Life II

(Posts archived here are from 01/10/03 - 10/31/06)

Thursday, May 08, 2003  
[from a memoir in progress]
My first assignment was to a German town that Confidential magazine had called “the sin city of Europe.” Take away the military, and Baumholder would have been a small farming village near the town of Kaiserslatern, not far from the French border. But tens of thousands of soldiers were stationed at a base on one end of town, most of them spending their time playing war games in the surrounding fields. They were waiting for Vietnam, as it turned out. On the opposite end of town, on a hill above an antennae field, was a smaller base housing two companies, one composed of Russian linguists and the other of cooks, maintenance workers, and other support troops. I was assigned to the company of linguists.

Dozens and dozens of G.I. bars had been established to serve so many soldiers, and they thrived when the Animals (as we called the “real” soldiers) were in town during a break from their war games. Much of the time, however, the Animals were in the field, leaving the bars mostly to the Monterey Marys, which is what the Animals called the linguists, and to other non-belligerent troops. Our favorite hangouts were the two bars closest to our end of town, a G.I. bar called the Family Club and a German gasthaus called Albert’s. If we weren’t drinking there, we probably were drinking at the Enlisted Men’s (E.M.) Club on post.

But if we weren’t working, you could be sure that most of us were drinking. I’d never seen more, nor participated in more, drinking than as a Monterey Mary stationed in Germany. I first developed a taste for alcohol while at the Language School, at age 20, which was relatively late. I didn’t drink at all in high school – with one notable exception.

The exception was the night of my high school senior prom. Without a date, I went out with some of my nerd friends and managed to get plastered. I was so drunk that I passed out. My friends brought me home, deposited me onto my front porch, rang the doorbell and got the hell out of there.

The next morning I woke up with a splitting headache, smelling like puke. I was a mess, and I remember listening at my closed bedroom door for what seemed like hours to make sure no one was in the hallway between me and the bathroom, so I could rush undetected to take a shower.

By the time I faced the world, it was afternoon. The first thing my dad did when he saw me was pour and offer me a water glass of straight bourbon. I almost threw up on the spot.

In the Army I learned that drinking could be pleasurable. It was something almost everyone did, and when I was high, I was considerably more social than when I was sober. I also learned that I actually had an abnormal capacity for alcohol, able to go drink for drink with just about anyone.

This talent did me well in Germany because I was several years younger than most of my fellow linguists. The typical Monterey Mary had a Masters degree in a subject within the humanities. He’d been working on a Ph.D. as he neared age 26, the limit of his draft eligibility, unable to get a deferment because he wasn’t studying in the sciences. Fearing he was about to be drafted before the deadline, he joined the Army in order to choose his specialty and avoid becoming a foot soldier.

Consequently I arrived in Baumholder to find myself one of the few linguists in the entire company who did not already have a college degree. Were it not for my drinking capacity, I think I would have been dismissed by my seniors as “a mere undergraduate.” As it turned out, I could keep up with them drink for drink, which was enough to be admitted to their club, albeit as something of a “little brother” to these graduate students.

My intellectual reputation also had preceded me. Several of my fellow students from R-12-80 had arrived in Baumholder ahead of me and started bragging about a “mathematical genius” who would be arriving any day now, who would be able to solve a work-related puzzle that seemed to everyone to be mathematical in nature.

However, I didn’t arrive right behind them. I’d been pulled off the train at the last military stop before my destination and told there was a problem with my security clearance, which would have to be resolved before I could report for work. Whatever the problem (I always thought it was joining with an address from Berkeley), I spent a month in limbo, a winter month during which I shoveled snow every morning and read in the warm base library the rest of the day, not bad duty at all. My absence gave my friends a month to hype my arrival.

5/08/2003 07:26:00 AM | 0 comments

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