The Zen of Stand By Me

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Okay, this is weird, but growing up, my favorite movie of all time was “Stand By Me,” based on a short story, “The Body,” by Stephen King. The summer after my seventh grade year, I saw Stand By Me for the first time. Something about the movie resonated with me on a level that was almost spiritual. I was always a weird kid, so I watched it over and over. In just three months, I managed to watch that movie almost 90 times [total count was 83 or so]. Yup, I had the whole freakin’ thing memorized. My classmates didn’t get it, but they talked about it quite a bit.

Just in case you’ve never seen it, Stand By Me was a story of four friends who go on a trek out in the woods to find the body of a dead kid who was probably hit by a train. One of the characters [Vern, played by a chubby Jerry O’Connell] overhears his older brother talking about seeing the body of the missing kid [Ray Braur was his name, I think, but keep in mind I haven’t seen the move in 15 years or so]. So Vern goes back to his friends and tells them. They decide that if they find the kid, they’ll be heroes and get their names in the paper. So, they pool their money, go by some food and head out.

Vern is the good-natured, slightly goofy kid who gets made fun of a lot. Gordie, [played by Wil Wheaton], is the sensitive one who makes up awesome stories about barf-o-ramas and other interesting topics. He The story is told from the adult Gordie’s perspective as he’s remembering and writing it down. Then there’s Teddy, [played by Corey Feldman] who is crazy. He comes from a dysfunctional family, and his father is in a mental hospital for almost burning Teddy’s ear off by holding it to a hot stove. And finally, there’s Chris Chambers, [played by River Phoenix]. Chris is the bad boy who never had a chance. He comes from a bad family, his older brother is a delinquent, and he believes he will never get out of the town they live in.

The story was so powerful to this 12 year old girl. I had to watch it over and over. I wanted that movie to be my life. Not the dead kid part, but the four friends taking on the world part. I could relate most to Gordie. Sensitive, skinny, and a little weird. I never felt like my friends ‘got me’ like Gordie’s friends got him. I just remember wanting friends like that more than anything. To belong to a group that alone, were weak, but together, could take on the world. A group that would embrace me in spite of [and because of] my weirdness. Friends who would encourage me to be the best I could be and not put me down or make me feel inferior. I never had anything like that [from friends] growing up. Somehow, I was the one who got made fun of in whatever group of friends I had at the time. If I was one on one with a person in the group, things went fine, but if we were all together, the others would usually gang up on me about something.

That may not actually be what happened, but that’s how I felt. I never really found anyone I connected with. So when I found a movie that had what I wanted so desperately in my own life, I kinda went overboard with it. Those characters became almost more real to me than the people in my own life. As I said before, I felt like I could relate most to how Gordie felt, but Chris was my favorite, and therefore, River Phoenix became my favorite actor.

Looking back, I have to giggle. For an entire year, I thought about nothing but River Phoenix. I even wrote school reports on him! My eighth grade English teacher [Mr. Cox… I still remember you!] gave me more crap about being in love with River. And I’m sure I was beyond annoying. I wanted to move to Hollywood and become an actress so I could meet him and marry him. For a whole year, this obsession went on, then it was over. The next year when I came back to school, Mr. Cox asked me why I wasn’t carrying around pictures and talking about River anymore. I said, “I grew up.” He asked me, “Well, why wasn’t I notified about this?” I looked him in the eye and said, “Because it’s none of your business.” For a moment, my classmates were in awe of me.

But here’s the weirdness about this whole story [no, really, what you just read isn’t it]. I kept track of those four actors who played my best friends for a year. In the movie, Chris grows up and makes good, but dies horribly. In 1993, the year after I graduated high school, River Phoenix died of a drug overdose outside the Viper Room nightclub, owned by Johnny Depp.
The character Teddy spends time in jail and has a hard time adjusting to life… Corey Feldman got into trouble with the law for abusing drugs. Vern grows up to be a pretty normal guy, which I think Jerry O’Connell has done, and last I read was engaged to Rebecca Romijn. That may have changed by now, being Hollywood, but there you go. And last but not least, Gordie grew up to become a writer, and guess what? Wil Wheaton has gone and become a writer! So you see, there are some odd coincidences with the movie.

I don’t know if that’s actually Zen or not, since I’m not sure what the heck that means, but I’m done for now, so I’ll blog ya later!

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