As to writing: It's my inescapable passion to tell a good story... and Naomi's life provides no seeming end of chapters! There may be no inkwell deep enough!!
I began "writing" in 1970. It was that year when "Rolling Stone Magazine" launched their "...Experiment in participitory journalism", wherein readers and subscribers were invited to submit short autobiographical stories. The "Stone" intended to publish what they deemed the best 10 of submissions they recieved. As I mulled it about I ventured that I might have a story or two to tell about my tour-of-duty in Vietnam... but moreso about my homecoming after I had been wounded there on July 21st 1967.
Like Naomi who is sometimes not certain of exact years, I may have forgotten the exact title of my piece!... tho' I think it was likely "...The Helmets Head" ( from a line by Jim Morrison of the "Doors" ). Some weeks after submission I was contacted by "Rolling Stone" that my piece had been selected with 9 others for publication. I was #4, and my story appeared in August ( I think? ) of 1970. As I recall there had been nearly 12,000 submissions! After that I thought- "...well heck! Maybe I'm a real honest-to-God 'writer' now!"... so I continued to write- and then after awhile it just became necessary.
The wild part of this story is that 7 yrs later "Rolling Stone" was about to celebrate it's 10th Anniversary- and CBS was producing a 2 hour "10th Anniversary" TV special for them. I recieved a call from R.S. & CBS telling me they wanted to do a segment based on my 1970 magazine piece- and that they wanted to fly me down to Los Angeles to help in the re-writing of my story into a one-person monolog... and would I mind very much if Martin Sheen portrayed me! Me!! Me...?
Though I thought to hold-out for Robert Redford I settled for Mr. Sheen. ( jus' funnin'! ) I told them I was married (then)- and we also had 2 friends visiting. No problema. They flew the lot of us down!
As Naomi felt by her opportunity to share creative space with such as Buster Newman and Sid Wyche- it was quite the scene spending 3 days with Sheen re-writing my piece into monolog! He had come fresh from "Apocolypse Now" and his heart-attack in the Philipines... so there was much talk of war, mortality, fear of death, fear of God, faith and hope to find love in our world.
A funny memory is how when lunch was ordered-in Martin would always only have bowls filled with fresh fruit along with bottles of mineral water in the wake of his recent heart-attack. I ate burritos, burgers, pizza & felafels... and Martin would discuss my own cardio-vascular risks while he still chain-smoked Kents!! ( Then again- many Dr's smoked, and smoking was still allowed in hospitals!)
It was a great ride! Despite my fears the monolog re-write played-out wonderfully... Martin, sitting on a hi-leg stool- all dark except for one light upon him as he "told-out" what goes on inside a "...helmets head". He even read a poem I had written ( long after my homecoming actually... but an idea he felt insistant about. ) If I may, that poem:
Where Each Fell -
All to here each step obtaining
of this moment drear, this blooded raining
ne'er could boys heart when once dreaming
see such life vital streaming-
hope with breath, now here should fly away
All to there and rise as lifting egret white
now tether lost this slipping kite
to go where hand nor finger guides
a final breath, then closed eye hides
in prayer for light of day.
( Charles William Olmstead- 1973 )
Prol'y the strangest part of the whole thing was the day Sissy Spacek came to shoot her "intro" to the segment- and with mentions to the "turbulent times" of the Vietnam era. Afterward we were all asked to gather-up ( Spacek, Sheen & I ) for the TV Guide photo. We had not even yet been introduced when they began "arranging" us for the pic... with Spacek & Sheen standing behind me- and each with a hand on my shoulders. Snap, snap, snap & wrap! I turned to say hello to Ms. Spacek... but she turned as well and was already walking away. Very awkward. She hung around in the studio a bit, got coffee, talked to several people but never came over to introduce herself... and by then I was feeling far too self-conscious to be forward myself!
Ahhh well... cant mingle with ALL those "stars"! The next morning a limo dopped us at the airport in L.A. and after hauling out our bags left us like bags ourselves, leaning there on a curb. Our friend John looked at me, shrugged and said- "...Welp! We're 'nobody' again!!"
Hey kids- a Life Lesson! -
"...And it was this slaves appointment: to lean forward in the Emporers chariot at varied points in the victors parade and whisper in his majesty's ear- 'Glory is fleeting my king... Glory is fleeting!'"