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Lately, it's all poetry, all the time for me...

Here's my "wordkeepers" essay from Saturday.

My reading at “wordkeepers”
Saturday, January 15, 2011

More Viewing Confessions, by Chris Arvidson

Those of you who joined us here at Wordkeepers in November will remember my confession regarding the viewing of both crappy and excellent Christmas movies. Today, here and now, I’m going to make a further heinous confession. What I reveal to you here however, holds the promise of redemption. I want you all to be proud of me. I think.

You see I am a reformed soap opera watcher – a bone fide member of ABC Daytime Anonymous.

I can’t claim that I’ve actually kicked the habit. That would imply some kind of effort, some moral judgment, a purposeful weighing of my actions, resulting in an intelligent conclusion, followed by rock hard determination, some kind of admirable resistance to a nasty bad habit. But that’s not really what happened. A little history might be in order here.

I started watching soap operas when I was in 5th grade. Specifically, I started watching General Hospital. I did this because GH (that’s soap opera slang “GH” for General Hospital) came on the local ABC affiliate in Detroit (WXYZ) when I came home from school, and right BEFORE the show I was really intent on watching, Dark Shadows.

Dark Shadows was a creepy and badly made soap opera about a vampire named Barnabus. Now I don’t know if you’ve ever seen clips of old soaps, but the production values were absolute shit back then, and Dark Shadows was a step below the network soaps, if you can believe it.

What can I say? I had 5th grade, 1967 standards for my television watching and soaps fit right in.

So I got hooked on General Hospital. Later, when I started getting home earlier from school and taking off one day a month to have what doctors told us back then were “imaginary” menstrual cramps, I started watching the other ABC soap operas, All My Children and One Life to Live.

Of course as I got older and had to be at work during the day, soaps would fall by the wayside. Except if I was sick, or on vacation, or between semesters, or jobs. Then I’d pick them back up just like I had never left. See that’s the thing about soaps. You can miss them for a year, and still just drop right back in anytime. But what else did I like about these soaps?

That’s a hard question. My husband has naturally asked me this more than a few times, and I don’t think I ever had a really good definitive answer, but I have some ideas.

First off, there are no repeats. You are not going to turn on a soap and see the same episode. OK, so you might see some familiar plot lines, a far higher than average instance of people getting amnesia comes to mind… but still, it’s always a new episode every day. The other thing I liked is that I had truly gotten used to seeing the actors. Some of them I have been watching now for more than 40 years! That’s a mind-boggling number of years, isn’t it? I have watched actors grow up and grow old, some more gracefully than others, and that was part of the watching soaps, too.

Maybe soaps are really the same manifestation as reading a trashy novel once in awhile. It’s a guilty pleasure thing.

But here’s what happened. For the last month or so, I am off the soaps. I would say that on at least a dozen occasions I have been in my house, sometimes even by myself and therefore not subject to any smart remarks, and I’ve sat down on the couch and turned on All My Children, or One Life to Live or General Hospital.

And. Then. Turned them off.

I suddenly find myself uninterested in what Erica is up to, or even what she is wearing, or how her hair is done. I don’t care anymore whether or not Natalie ever figures out that her baby’s daddy is not Brody but really John who she is about marry unless Marty rats her out to John who she was pregnant with last year. And, I don’t give a rat’s ass if anyone finds out that mobster Sonny’s illegitimate son the cop had an affair with his now fiancée years ago when he was her body guard. And I distinctly remember this bitch dying in a car crash over a cliff in Australia with her crazy mother anyway. (I did not, by the way, make up any of those plot lines.)

Why don’t I care anymore? What has happened to this 40-plus-year habit?

Who knows? But it’s goodbye Jack and Greenly and Kendall and Ryan and Little A and Jessie and Angie in Pine Valley. Farewell to Vicky and Clint and Bo and Nora and all those good old Buchanans and Lords who live in Llanview, Pennsylvania. It seems that Port Charles and all of the Quartermaines and Spensers and even Robin and Patrick and batshit crazy Dr. Lisa are going to have to get along without me.

I don’t know why, but I know that I am off the soaps, and I think it’s permanent. Are you all proud of me?





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