Friday, May 17, 2019




Author: Carol Es

Publisher: Desert Dog Books

Pages: 356

Genre: Memoir/Biography

Shrapnel in the San Fernando Valley is a guided tour through
a Tilt-A-Whirl life that takes so many turns that you may find yourself
looking up from the pages and wondering how the hell one person managed
to fit them all into 40-odd years. And many of them are odd years
indeed. From a rootless, abusive childhood and mental illness through
serious and successful careers in music and art, much of which were
achieved while being involved in a notoriously destructive mind-control
cult. Carol Es presents her story straight up. No padding, no parachute,
no dancing around the hard stuff. Through the darkness, she somehow
finds a glimmer of light by looking the big bad wolf straight in the
eye, and it is liberating. When you dare to deal with truth, you are
free. Free to find the humor that is just underneath everything and the
joy that comes with taking the bumpy ride.

Illustrated with original sketches throughout, Shrapnel in the San Fernando Valley
is not just another survivor’s tale, it’s a creative perspective
through moments of vulnerability where the most raw and intimate
revelations are laid bare. As an artist and a woman finding self-worth,
it’s truly a courageous, relatable story that will keep you engaged to
the very end.



Too bad I’d
just finished restoring my 1970, racing-green Volkswagen Karmann Ghia to its
original, stock condition, because that car accident I wasn’t a little
fender-bender. I was knocked unconscious, and the car was totaled. It looked
like an accordion. You can’t drive an accordion. Since it wasn’t my fault, at
least I got a decent settlement. But I don’t think I cared about having a big
wad of money, or even mustering the wherewithal to set myself free of the shoe
garden. Aric was gone and losing him made my heart ache like nothing I’d ever
felt before. I was in pain every which way.
The days floated through me, and I through them; seemingly moving in slow
motion, or in every other frame of a motion picture. Some other me found an
apartment in Van Nuys—a two-bedroom, mid-century triplex on Tilden
Avenue. I had enough money to live there without
working for months, and eventually to furnish it. These are things I’d normally
be happy about, but I felt nothing. Isolated, I crept about the empty apartment
like a ghost, passed through Jell-O walls, west of Woodman.
While the apartment came to me on the cheap, the money would run out
eventually. The place formerly belonged to Royce, the guitar player of my band
at the time. He moved to the apartment underneath, and the landlord let me in
on the same low rent. We rehearsed in one of the garages that came with our
apartments. A sweet deal. Our bass player, Camacho, used to jam with my brother.
Royce and Camacho were both special and skilled musicians, and especially
original. Our band, The Column, had its own sound, southwest-funk, or a “swampy
R&B.” Our music motivated me to stop drinking for a while.
When I had to start working again, I found a job at Moorpark Pharmacy in Studio
City, a family-owned business. I
worked behind the film counter selling greeting cards and knickknacks. The
location brought regular celebrities in, and I had a little rapport with
Natalie Cole, Billy Barty, and a couple others. I used to play a game with the
stocking guys and guess what types of medications different customers were
picking up. We’d goof around as much as possible. It wasn’t a job with much
potential, but that was okay with me. I enjoyed it. I only wanted to stay away
from my parents and stop working for my dad, if possible. That was difficult.
He paid under the table. Always a dangling cash carrot. If I really wanted to
build a life away from them, I had to work elsewhere for less money.
The pharmacy didn’t pay great. I needed to find a roommate for the other
bedroom, a good match came in my drummer friend Thad. It was Thad, along with
his girlfriend, Tanya, who really helped me make the difficult break from
Raven, before I moved back to my parents’ house. Tanya, in particular, tried
pulling me back on lines into the org. Though I had a bad taste in my mouth
since the auditing I’d done with Vicky at the Advanced Org—considering how grim
things were for me at the time—taking Scientology courses to improve my life
was not off the table for me anymore.
Thad, my drummer brother from another mother, was a perfect fit for the Tilden
Avenue place. He had to leave CC anyway; it was
time for the big renovation there. Everybody out! The timing couldn’t have been
better. We’d stay up and talk drums for hours. I always loved that he respected
me as a musician, not simply Raven’s protégé. Tanya came over on the weekends.
She was sweet, and someone to whom I could relate. The two seemed happy
together. Both of them were raised in a Scientology family like many other
young Scientologists that Vicky introduced me to. Once those two became more
prevalent in my life, so did more Scientologists: Tanya’s group of friends and
Thad’s musician friends, etc. They all seemed to have their shit together.
Their families too. They seemed sane compared to my family, though anyone’s
would. The desire to better oneself began to rub off on me, and there was no
doubt I needed and wanted control over my life. Haunted by death and failed relationships,
losing my brother to drug addiction, a job with no true future, I started
gravitating back to the idea of officially practicing Scientology. Maybe it
would help.
The transition began with Tanya becoming my FSM (Field Staff Member).
These are Scientologists who try to get new or fallen people into the Church
and onto their next service. They are akin to sponsors, only they get a 10
percent commission on everything you do in Scientology for the rest of your
days. I do not believe Tanya’s purpose was financially motivated, but what do I
know? She seemed to care. She came over after work nearly every day, and we
used Scientology books and techniques. We mostly used the Ethics Book. Of all
of them, it has the most tangible and applicable exercises. Working with her, I
climbed out of a dark place and gained some self-respect. I saw that being an
enemy to myself wasn’t getting me anywhere. The information in this book
actually helped me, and it would later become my go-to book for solving just
about every problem I had.
During the first couple of months we hung out, Tanya also brought with
her the Scientology community newspaper, Needs
and Wants.
It mostly listed classifieds, and she encouraged me to find a
better job. In fact, she sort of pointed out that I might have been
contributing to the country’s drug consumption problem by working at a
pharmacy, which distributes sinful psychiatric drugs. This set off alarms in my
mind. Not because it sounded like her views were kooky, but because I believed that psychiatric drugs were bad. By then, I blamed psychiatry and
the pharmaceutical companies for ruining my mother and taking her from my
childhood. I also blamed them for the underlying cause of Mike’s drug problems,
since he’d been given Ritalin as a child. I’d read in one of the Scientology
magazines (Advance!, Celebrity,
Freewinds, Impact,
etc.) that drug addiction and having been prescribed
Ritalin were related. I blamed any and all of these medications for most of the
world’s evils.
Hubbard felt that people with “psych” histories were ruined beyond
repair. While you train to be an auditor, you view scores of technical films,
most of which are propaganda about how dangerous psychiatry is: 1950s-style
reenactments of crazy, high-voltage, electroshock treatments performed on
patients screaming for their lives. Time and time again I saw people
over-drugged and drooling in dirty gutters, lobotomies performed with ice
picks, and illustrations of inhuman practices used in the beginnings of
psychiatry by uneducated “doctors” who didn’t know what they were doing. This
would scare the shit out of anyone. These films make the whole psychiatric
field look barbaric.
According to Hubbard, and Scientologists worldwide, psychiatrists are
wicked beings who have been trying to ruin thetans for trillions of years. Most of the Scientology community are terrified
of psychiatry on a very visceral level. They’re portrayed with the power of
darkness equal to that of the Devil himself. I was petrified of being in a room
with even a social worker, because they train in the world of psychology, which
is essentially the same thing. I didn’t want to be affiliated to it in any way
and definitely didn’t want to contribute to it. In my mind, I had to quit my
pharmacy job immediately.
As Tanya kept bringing me different issues of Needs and Wants, I saw an ad that stood out every time I came
across it. Save people’s lives! Help them
recover from drugs and alcohol.
These words really appealed to me. I
thought, If I can’t get my own brother
off drugs, maybe I can get a hundred other people off them.
I wanted to
feel useful and have a purpose, as I’d always felt useless. After some thought, mixed with a dash of desperation, I
called the Narconon Rehabilitation


Self-taught artist, writer and musician, Carol Es is known primarily
for creating personal narratives within a wide spectrum of media. A
native Los Angelina, she often uses past experience as fuel for her
subject matter.  Writing on art, her articles have appeared in Huffington Post, Whitehot Magazine, and Coagula Art Journal; her prose published with small presses — Bottle of Smoke Press, Islands Fold, and Chance Press among
them. Additionally, she makes handmade Artist’s books which have been
acquired for such collections as the Getty and the National Museum of
Women in the Arts.

Carol is a two-time recipient of the ARC Grant from the Durfee
Foundation, the Pollock-Krasner, and a Wynn Newhouse Award for her art.
She’s also earned grants from Asylum Arts and the National Arts and
Disability Center/California Arts Council for writing. In 2019, she won
the Bruce Geller Memorial Prize (WORD Grant) from the American Jewish





Interview with Carol Es

How did you come up with name of this book?

A lot of people are asking that. The answer is rather heavy.

I grew up in various neighborhoods in Los Angeles—particularly in the San Fernando Valley. Before I reached the age of 10, my family had already moved 15 times. Throughout those years, I had been verbally and mentally abused, sexually molested, and raped by various people. By age 14, I knew I needed to get out of my house and find my own way. Looking back, I’d been in a constant fight—a losing battle—blast after blast, one trauma to the next, leaving pieces of my innocence, my childhood, dignity, hope and optimism like the residual, or shrapnel, from the explosions that they were, still disintegrating throughout the city of Los Angeles.

Do you read yourself and if so what is your favorite genre?

Yes. I’d say I like memoir or autobiographical fiction the most.

Do you prefer to write in silence or with noise? Why?

I actually need it to be pretty silent. The older I get, the more I seem to need this, as I have a harder time concentrating. I guess my brain has seen its better days.

What do you feel you can accomplish with this book?

I honestly did not write this book for the purpose of accomplishing anything. I wrote it because I had to and decided to publish it after the fact. I originally wanted to write it as fiction. At that time, I had no issue in publishing it. Once I decided it was going to be nonfiction, I went back and forth on it for years. But if I didn’t make it nonfiction, I felt it was chickenshit. I needed to expose certain injustices.

In any case, I do hope it will resonate with people, especially those that have gone through similar experiences and help them feel supported and not so alone. I have a lot of references in the back of my book and hope that will be of some use.

What is your next project?

I’d like to keep working on a group of short stories which I’ve been tinkering with for god knows how long. Once I feel good about them, I hope to publish the collection into one book. I may also start working on a new short film.

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