Thursday, June 2, 2011

Nostalgia and Mr. Williams

It came to my attention this morning, an email from a friend reminded me that I haven’t heard the Good Morning Vietnam CD in years.

Do you know how this makes me feel? Super Bad-News-Bears.

This CD could probably claim to have raised me through a better part of my childhood, and proudly I’d call it an active agent in rearing me into the slightly cynical, bitter and super silly gal I am today.

When I was a girl my dad would take us up to the cottage. Not really ‘our’ cottage but the cottage of my Dads wife’s (my stepmom), sister’s husband’s family cottage. It was just outside of Bancroft and probably one of my favourite places on the whole planet. Foster Lake, a small tiny lake I used to swim across on warm days, where we used to sit on the dock during rain storms and watch the five seconds where the rain hit the other side of the lake before it hit us.
It’s was the place you read about in books, the smell of wood burning, mosquito’s buzzing in your ears, bats in the rafters of this original log cabin built by Uncle Rick’s grand-someone (Dad’s wife’s, sister’s husband) a long long time ago. We would fish, there was a kamikaze seagull named Kirby and a snapping turtle that is still there.
The seagull is immortal. I’m convinced. And I’ll explain him later, he gets a post all on his own.

But this cottage was a refuge from the digital and crowded world. There were only five cottages on the lake when I was a kid. Now there’s five cottages and a ridiculous house... don’t know why but anyways. It was secluded. Because it was not really connected to any other lakes by anything but a stream or two few people ever came. Rick’s family owns two cottages on the lake (now three, the old ladies gave it to him because he was such a nice guy and maintained it for them for years!), these two old spinsters who he helped out, a cop and an old military man. The military man’s cottage had no road so they often got a small private plan in. Super cool but I haven’t seen that in probably 15+ years.

It’s where I first started writing, playing D&D with my brother, where I started and stopped fishing (I don’t like hurting fishies), where I learned to shoot a bb-gun, a riffle and chop wood. I was taught how to react when a bear comes into the cold room where the kids tiny potty was (Not fun) and how to create a mosquito proof tent to sleep in at night, only to stay up because the bats or cute mice were squeaking.

This place was heaven. Probably still is, if Rick hasn’t updated it. The running water was from the lake, can’t drink it. And the lights were made of gas. They hummed at night, with the occasional fizzle if a moth got too close.

At night there were fires and guitar singing by my Dad and during the day there was Good Morning Vietnam. I think it started one year when we came up and left all the music at home. No CD’s, no tapes and we were left to go through Rick’s CD collection.

It sucked, let me tell you. For a girl who loved Spice Girls, Backstreet Boys and Our Lady Peace (yeah I know, weird combo) his strange mix of country and weird comedy CD’s was maddening. My dad would play at first but he couldn’t do things and play guitar at the same time.
So we put on a CD to a movie I’d never seen.

Its stars Robin Williams, and if you don’t know the movie go watch it now. It’s great, sad, wonderful, hilarious, strange and beautiful. He’s a radio announcer who instead of reading the normal crap to the troops  in Vietnam he has a fake radio show called ‘Good Morning Vietnam’. Short form: he’s ridiculous on it. He makes literature references, cracks silly jokes and even explains some things in his strange range of fictional character voices.

I fell in love with the CD. We would play it from beginning to end, the put it on again because it was better than the movie. It was something we sang to, laughed to, repeated the jokes all week long. We hooked the CD played up to a car battery to keep it going and we listened until Dad picked up his guitar and took over the show ‘round the fire at night.
Good Morning Vietnam was my personal cottage tour guide, telling me about a war I didn’t know about, introducing me to music that, despite hating anywhere else, I loved in the sequence of the CD (example: TimeWarp)

We would go out fishing in the boat and leave the CD playing, we’d swim with Robin Williams imitating the Wicked Witch of the West and her flying monkeys.
“We represent the ARVN army, the ARVN army. Oh no! Follow the Ho Chi Minh trail! Follow the Ho Chi Minh trail!”
“Oh! I'll get you my pretty!”
“Oh my God! It's the wicked Witch of the North! It's Hanoi Hannah!”
“Now, little GI, you and your little Toto too!”

I didn’t know what half of it was referencing but I loved it. I still love it.

Now, there’s a beauty to knowing something before you know it. This CD, I’m pretty damn sure I knew off by heart before I ever watched the movie. Seeing the movie was nostalgic, and reminded me of all the good times at the cottage. Whenever I hear a reference to this I remember the rules I was taught up there.
Don’t leave garbage on the ground, bears will come.
Leave the beavers alone, they bite (don’t know if they do, but I believed it!)
You hold the BB-Gun next to your cheek, but not against it.
This is how you take a lure out of a fishies cheek.
Build a Tepee when making your fire. Shields it from the wind.

This CD and the Cottage song (A song my dad sings that I never learned the name to that thus became dubbed the cottage song) always remind me of my youth and the outdoors.

I’m a sad panda for not having listened to it lately, but if I do see it at an HMV, movie or CD, that shit is mine.

I heart you Robin Williams, you and Good Morning Vietnam.


  1. My great-grandfather and grandfather (Papa) built a family cabin in Wisconsin years ago. As time went by and the family grew, Dad and his brother helped expand it. When I was old enough, I helped, too.

    About 5 years ago, much to my dismay, Papa and grandma had to sell it. Dad didn't have enough money to buy it, and I didn't have any way to help out. So, it's not ours anymore.

    And that makes me sad.

  2. Joshua: It's what happens these days, a sad note on family property. WE can't own all that much, taxes are murder. I don't know how Rick does it, now owning three cottages on the lake. I think he's been doing the unthinkable, and renting it to strangers.
    Which is sad.
    Do you still cottage? I am a camper now. Rock Point here I come! (In July...)

  3. I was a Boy Scout growing up. I LURV camping. The Wife...not so much. With the camping either. Bad Joke. Several friends of ours have cabins the North Georgia mountains, so we will borrow it on occasion, but it's not the same. And with two kids in tow, it's not relaxing either. Even worse, I have very few live friends where we live, so the only time I do anything with anyone else is when my neighbor and I go see movies. He and I usually go Tuesday nights when the second-run cinema is 75 cents.

  4. Oh god... I haven't been to a 75cent movie in.... I can't remember! They're like 5.50 on a cheap night here in the Great White North of the border. Goddamn Canada (I don't mean it, I love you CANADA!!!)