Tigh Rickman holds a BA and MFA in creative writing from Bradford College and the Stonecoast MFA respectively. In 1998 he worked as a writer’s intern at All My Children where he researched and composed the biographies of Adam and Stuart Chandler, later published on ABC.com and Soapcentral.com. Along with Sarah Kowalski, Tigh is a frequent contributor to Celebrities in Disgrace, opining on ABC’s ‘real life’ soap operas, The Bachelor and The Bachelorette.
300 River Road
Pine Valley, PA
Dear Mr. Chandler,
I don’t think you’re such a bad guy. No really, in spite of what most everyone says, I don’t. Look at it this way – if I were to show you a man who grew up in some Virginia backwater, overcame the tragic loss of his sister at a young age, spent his early adulthood scraping by on his wits as a carnie, and somehow managed to pull himself up by the bootstraps, start Chandler Enterprises and in so doing become one of the wealthiest people in the country, you’d say it was the American dream, right? Well, apparently not in Pine Valley. Here you have to kiss the Martin family’s ass all the time and play nice-nice with a populace comprised primarily of recovering murders, adulterers and kidnappers. And what’ve you done? Some white lies and half-truths here, a little gaslighting there, all sprinkled liberally with some shady, but for the most part legal, dealings and there you have it. All you’ve done is employ the tactics that made you a success in your professional life and apply them to your personal life. It’s not like you’ve ever killed anybody (at least not intentionally or directly, that is).
Of course, it doesn’t help having had a twin brother like Stuart. I know you loved him dearly, but you must admit that at times he was a bit hard to take. Oh, saintly Stuart Chandler, the selfless, gentle being whose soft-spoken kindness was an example to us all. Give me a break. While you live in the ornately foreboding Chandler Mansion, Stuart lived rent-free in the modest Gate House at the edge of the property, his days filled with painting and looking at butterflies. In other words, he was a freeloading milquetoast. If Mother Theresa had a twin sibling that bland she’d end up being labeled the ‘evil’ one by comparison, too. And there always has to be the ‘evil’ one, doesn’t there?
Have you ever noticed, Adam, that for a town of its size, a rather high percentage of Pine Valley’s citizens have, or are, doppelgangers? Take Janet Marlowe. You remember Janet, right? How could you forget. She throws her twin sister Natalie down an abandoned well, assumes her identity and marries her fiancée, Trevor Dillon. Then she murders Will Courtlandt with a crowbar. She even tried to poison Harold, the Dillon family dog who, unlike his masters, was wise to her caper from the get-go. Of course, when the whole deal blows up in her face, she gets sent up the river. But a few years later, guess who’s back with a new face? Oh, sure there’s some trepidation initially on the Dillon family’s part (stemming from Janet’s past, along with her repeatedly trying to murder Trevor’s new wife, Laurel and drugging Harold and putting him in the back of a U-Haul headed for California), but eventually all is forgiven. She even marries Trevor on the up and up! You want to know why? Because no one is beyond redemption in Pine Valley, everyone deserves a second chance – everyone deserves to cuddle up on the couch for movie night with Trevor, Harold’s head in their lap and, with a mouth full of Jiffy Pop, laugh at an absurd romantic comedy. Everyone, that is, except Adam Chandler. While descriptors like ‘master manipulator’, ‘ruthless’ and ‘calculating’ are often used to paint a picture of you, ‘deranged killer’ is most certainly not. By Janet’s standards you’re a saint.
But still, people like Tad Martin keep a hawkish eye on you, just in case you do something shifty. Look, if I were Tad, I’d be more worried about that psycho Ted Orsini (another doppelganger!) coming back, or why I keep thinking I see ghosts all the time, or why my kids seem to age so rapidly – Jamie’s a grown man in medical school? Chronologically speaking, isn’t he like 14? I wouldn’t waste my time fidgeting, waiting for you to lie to somebody so I can have an excuse to haul off and clock you in the choppers for the umpteenth time. Obsessive is too mild a word. Give it up already, Tad – thanks to those poisoned banana pancakes Dixie’s dead, for real this time. Remember how you saw her ghost, you rage-aholic whack-job?
But, what I admire about you most Adam, is that you value family above all. You will do whatever it takes to make sure your progeny are taken care of and their best interests are met, even if they don’t know it at the time. And I think we can agree that they usually don’t. For the most part they frown, along with the rest of Pine Valley, at your methodology, your supposed ‘dirty tricks’. But if it weren’t for your ‘manipulation’ of Dixie, would Adam Jr. ever have been conceived? If you hadn’t bought the fertility clinic and swapped out Jake’s sperm sample with your own in order for Liza to have your child not his, your daughter Colby would never have been born (that was one of my favorites – Stuart may have been the artist, but you, my friend, are most definitely the creative one). And the time you threw Arlene Vaughn’s limp and lifeless body over the side of the S.S. Fidelity? It was in order to protect your daughter, Hayley, whom you thought killed her (of course, you probably should have checked for a pulse seeing as how she wasn’t really dead. You live, you learn). As far as you knew, you were implicating yourself in a murder and you did it readily and without hesitation because your paternal love is unconditional.
And even when they’re not facing criminal charges, have your children and grandchildren ever wanted for anything? Have they ever not been welcome to sleep in the exquisitely gilded bedchambers of Chandler Mansion with dear, loyal, Winifred doting on their every need? Did they pay a nickel out of pocket for their educations at the prestigious Pine Valley University? And have they forgotten the way they used to run through the thick, manicured grass of the estate’s back lawns – dancing barefoot under the sun in a proverbial Garden of Eden, protected from, and unaware of the treacherous town that surrounds them? Who do they think provided them this, Palmer Courtlandt? I can assure you it wasn’t.
Adam, I would tell you to be strong. I would point to Trevor’s lifeless body laid out in Janet’s freezer and Harold’s empty dog bed by the cold hearth and tell you the people of Pine Valley’s judgment is flawed – their forgiveness misguided and not worth seeking. But you already know this. Your confidence in self has always been your compass, and the course you’ve set by it is constant. Regardless of the means, you will achieve the ends, and you suffer the slings and arrows that come as a result without self-pity. You are the living embodiment of the Will to Power; there is no shame in taking action when a goal is set before you.
Recently, you gathered your family at Chandler Mansion — gathered them under the same roof that had sheltered them oh so many countless nights. You told them you’d established a family trust for them and their families. Of course, there were certain ‘stipulations’ that came with it. You’re a smart man, Adam, you always hedge your bets. Adam Jr. would be given the reigns of Chandler Enterprises so long as he buried the hatchet with his cousin and soon to be co-CEO, Scott. Together, they would have to make the family business profitable and ethical. Also, Adam Jr. and his son, Adam Chandler III would have to move back into Chandler Mansion. Your son threw up his hands in disbelief, astounded that you would presume to exert such control over his life. Colby reacted in similar fashion upon discovering that in order to collect on her share of the trust she’d have to marry someone of equal or greater economic standing to herself. But you were unwavering, Adam. You explained that each of these requirements was built out of things you had learned throughout your life’s experience. You knew what it was to be estranged from your family, what it was to have someone marry you for your money, and your money alone. “If you fail,” you told them plainly, “ you get nothing.”
As your family dispersed, their heads shaking in disbelief that they would not just be handed over the fortune that you yourself had worked so hard for, I imagined a young Adam Chandler sitting alone in his carnival tent, the midway outside collapsing in on itself in the humid Virginia evening, preparing to move on. His eyes possessed an ice-blue clarity and purpose that stood out from his ragged, sepia surroundings. His hands were folded, and his lips moved in barley a whisper – If you fail, you get nothing. These are stakes your family cannot relate to, what you’ve fought so hard to protect them from. This is why you will stop at nothing to get what you want, because you truly know what nothing is.
I imagine you thinking this, cognac in hand, as you watch them leave your house. You are not angry at their sense of entitlement. Indeed, you know that, in a way, it is what you have worked your whole life for. This resentment is a byproduct of your success. You have not failed — they will never know how empty true nothingness is, simply because they are, one and all, your children.
With Sincerity and the Highest of Regard,
(photos: Soapnet, TVaddict.com)