Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Writer's Notes - My Foundations

I, am a writer.

I have been a writer since I was a kid and first typed what the weather was doing in Tacoma, outside my 2nd floor bedroom window. It was one of those windows that are wide, you can open on either side, like looking out a letter boxed movie window. Across the distance were the rooftops of my neighborhood. 60 miles off in the distance, was Mt. Rainier. On some mornings the sunrises were spectacular. I think that must have affected me as a kid.

Mt. Rainier over Tacoma, WA
At some point, when I was in Jr. High, I got a hold of my mothers script typewriter and would type the day's weather I saw outside the window. Then I got to writing my thoughts, too. I would leave it in the typewriter to write up the next day's weather. One day, I got in an argument with my mother and went to my room. I typed up that day's weather and wrote what I thought about her attitude. That, was a mistake.

You see, it seems my mother, who only had a 9th grade education (her Father had a 2nd grade education but became a world traveler and a diesel engineer genius), yes, my mother, could read. She didn't respond well to my comments about her on my (her) typewriter. I never did that again. That however, was my first experiencing with writing, in this case I suppose, you could call it a form of journalism, albeit Gonzo Journalism, mayhaps.

Later during High School, I got my yearly Bronchial infection (or sinus infection, or bad cold, allergies, whatever, but this time was a bad case of Bronchitis). I was out of school for a week. I was on codeine cough medicine, the worst tasting thing I would ever experience until chewing on peyote buttons in the Superstition Wilderness at age nineteen. Like eating Draino with orange pop.

I spent that week drugged, in bed, listening to my new Black Sabbath Masters of Reality album over and over for a week (interspersed I'm sure with some Bach piano fugues by Glenn Gould (I'm like that) and others).

While I read Frank Herbert's novel, Dune. It affected my tiny mentality and I wrote my first short story ever, "Ten Steps to Shadowkandom". That was also the last short story I would write for many years that had an actual ending, until I got into college. It was a coming to consciousness story of a young guy taken up into an Assassin's group that affected how politics went on a grand, Galactic scale. Ten students started the class at a time, one survived to graduate. What the protagonist realized at his graduation was not what he realized at the start of his education, that things were not all what they were indicated to be by his superiors.

Once I got into college I was told by teachers and later Professors that I had a passion, a spark, a talent for writing. I discovered through that process that you take notes in life. You keep those notes. Throw them into a box, write them on anything, put them into files, transfer them into your computer, but never get rid of anything.

So, today I went to get some coffee from the kitchen and sat at the kitchen table to look something up and found a note with things scribbled on it. I do vaguely remember writing those things, but I do not remember what I was writing them, for. These I believe, are actually some notes for my eventual memoirs that I've been working on. I'm putting it here more for relatives of mine, as it's pretty humorous and informative, but also entertaining somewhat to read by anyone. I'll add photos as I have time and find ones that are relevant.

Here they are [with my updates and explanations in brackets]:

  • I buried 17 cents in a little red plastic Santa Claus boot - 2nd grade, I put the change into the boot and buried it on the unfinished yard side of our house. A few months later, I tried to dig it up and never could find it, I dug many holes looking for it and considered someone saw me bury it and dug it up. This is the situation that lead to my writing the very good short story (if I say so myself and Cal, who published it, said it was the best short story [of the type, I assume he meant] that he had ever read), "The Conqueror Worm" published in "Rhonny Reaper's Creature Features", available on Amazon and elsewhere and for download.
  • Jumping off the roof repeatedly - 3rd grade, we moved from where I had buried my 17 cents, about four blocks away. My parents wanted to buy the place they were leasing and were promised they could. But at end of lease, the owner pulled it and sold it to someone else who had the money right then. Angry, my parents had to move at the last minute into a log cabin rambler kind of place I liked but my bedroom was part of a hallway, so people would walk by and we'd wake intermittently. Really didn't like that. But one day my mother heard a noise on the roof and came out side to find me climbing on the roof, then leaping from it like I was sky diving. I was having a blast, but she yelled at me to come down and never do it again as I could break my leg and she had no money for the hospital. Eventually, when I was 17 and against her wishes, I did go sky diving for the first time, and with a slight hang over from at the time, my best friend's birthday party the night before.
  • Dancing - Tap class 4th grade, I wanted to take acrobatic lessons where my sister was taking ballet lessons. Mom wanted me to be Gene Kelly and learn to tap. So she said I could take acrobatic lessons if I took ballet with my sister. I thought about it for like 10 seconds and said, no! The owner/instructor took her aside and she came back to me and said, "Okay, how about tap?" I caved.
  • Fourth grade Marble Champion 4th grade champion, that was me. I was okay at my 2nd/3rd grade James Sales school, but I was master among my 4th grade Fern Hill school classmates]
  • Bruno dumps in oil can - [4th grade, our Collie dog Burno was paper trained and when he tried to defecate on the newspaper, the only newspaper down was sitting under our oil can for our oil burning heater in the living room of our very old apartment.
  • Vomiting in living room - 4th grade, my sister and I had separate bedrooms across the hall which cut off the living, dinning rooms and kitchen. The dinning room was a hide a bed couch where our mom slept. I got off that couch/bed one day while we were all watching TV and turned quickly to run to the bathroom but upchucked in a sweeping motion all over the place and even into the back of the TV we were watching.
  • Blood Soap Joke on older sister - 4th grade, I got something in the mail from the Johnson Smith novelty company out of the back of a comic book, it was a white powder you put on soap. When someone got the soap wet it turned bright blood red. I set it up, forgot about it. Next morning my sister washed her face in the kitchen where the soap was and it looked like she had sliced her face up; she was screaming until she saw me, then knew exactly what happened. Yes, I got in trouble.
  • The meeting of the kids about our mother's ex husband - 4th grade, Mom had left her husband and moved into this rickety old second floor apartment over a lawnmower sales/repair company. They divorced. She worked nights cleaning offices at the Weyerhaeuser Company. She couldn't take it anymore, or the fact that ex husband was dating hot younger girls. So she said we may get back together. Well, he wasn't my dad, or my older sister's dad, he was our younger brother's dad (our older brother didn't live with us and yes, he had a different dad too). So we called a kid's meeting in the hall closer which doubled as a playroom. We talked about it and decided we didn't want "dad" to come back. Then younger brother said he agreed. We said, "but he's your dad." He said, "yeah but I don't like him either." We were surprised but then we realized, he really needed not to come back. So we confronted Mom. She was shocked and hesitated but said, "Sorry, but we can't make it without his money." We begged her. They remarried. We were only without him for a year through my fourth grade. Mom's dad bought her a house and we moved there starting in yet another school and the ex came back. That started years of contention and misery for the most part. Life would indeed, have been better without him.
  • Sleeping in the bathroom on the floor by the electric heater - 4th grade, in the old apartment I would wake in a freezing room in the winter as we couldn't afford to heat my sister's and my rooms, only the main part of the apt (living and dinning rooms and kitchen) so I would go into the bathroom, lie on the soft throw rug in front of the portable heater, turn it on and fall asleep until someone tried to get into the bathroom. I'd get in trouble because we couldn't afford the electricity.
  • My first missing of an episode of Star Trek - 5th grade - Oh. My. God. I almost had a nervous breakdown. I sat in the car with my Grandmother at Gov-Mart in Lakewood, WA while my mom went in to talk about her vacuum cleaner and it took like 45mins. Felt like 45 hours. I kept watching the clock and asking my Grandmother when we'd be leaving, when Mom was coming out, and how should she know? By the time I realized we had five minutes to get home I realized I was at least going to miss some of Star Trek and I started crying. By time my mother got back to the car I was in full sob mode. I think we may have gotten home to see some of the show, but I may have gone to my room instead, crushed and not wanting to see anything except my death by the cruelest means possible by that time.
  • Confrontation with Marty - 5th Grade, there was a kid named Marty who was tough and a bully. My good friend, Bill, always protected me. One day he said, you are going to have to start protecting yourself, as one day, he'll pick on you and I won't be there to protect you. Now, I had been a tough little bugger since infancy. There were times I scared kids that were 9 when I was like 4. But after years of being that tough, and receiving the bad end of a stupid stick, I'd learned to be a bit paranoid about action/reaction. So, one day, recess is over and everyone runs off the field, but I'm left with, wait for it... Marty! So he picks on me, and I'd finally had it. I kicked his ass and went to class late. I walked in and the teacher, Mr. Llewellyn asked, "Where's Marty?" I said, "On the football field, he'll be in soon." That was the end of it. Later, Bill told me that the teacher asked where we were and Bill said, proudly, "Marty is picking on him again, and I think he's fighting back this time." Bill said the teacher tried not to crack a grin, and dropped it. Marty never picked on me again after that. Then I got to talking to him and found out what a much more horrible home life he had than I did and we got along fine.
  • Karla turning me in for cheating on a spelling test - 6th grade, I sat in the back of the class next to Karla, just the two of us, two chair/table contraptions, off of the center of the prefect square of the class seating arrangement. I thought I was being clever and wrote the teacher's name on my palm. It was on the back door of the class. We were in a portable with two doors on one side that had his name on them. He said, "spelling test and my name's part of it." Then he fixed the doors so we couldn't see his name anymore. After I wrote his name on my test, I felt bad and showed it to Karla so she could copy it too, thinking she probably doesn't know how to spell it either, not realizing at the time she was a girl and girl's were better spellers. She, to my shock, immediately put her hand up and reported me. Later, she said she simply didn't need the help, she knew how to spell it already and I was cheating. I said, "Yeah, but I was trying to help you." She said, "Well, sorry, but I just didn't need the help, you all think I'm stupid because I'm so big, and I'm not."
  • Karla peeing in her seat - 5th grade, Karla again, in the back of the class. She put her hand up before a test and said, "I have to go to the bathroom." But the teacher said, "No. Not till after the test." She said, "But I can't wait." He said, "You'll have to." He was a nice guy, great guy really. So about half way through the test I heard running water. I look over and she's obviously humiliated. I couldn't figure out why, but she just kept peeing. I looked down and saw a puddle. As she had turned me in for cheating, I felt bad and wanted it to stop, so, I turned her in. But not to embarrass her, I wanted the teacher embarrass for putting her through that and inadvertently embarrassed her. We talked about it later and worked it out. She just said, "Hey, I had to go, and I went." I respected that.
  • Punching sister in the chest - 5th grade, my sister was three years older than me. Since my 4th grade year, she had to be auxiliary mom, because mom worked nights cleaning offices. Eventually it went to her head and when I was in sixth grade and had started Okinawan Isshinryu Karate, she was bossing me around one day. I was being a jerk I'm sure, but she was being unreasonable. She grabbed my hair like mom did sometimes and jerked my hair around hard which hurt like hell and she wouldn't stop. So, screaming for her to stop and thinking I'd had it with her acting like mom and this was the last straw as I took all that hatred for that action and put it into my fist, I punched her as hard as I could, right in the middle of her chest (you don't hit girls,that means punching her in the face like a guy, right?). She flew backward and hit the cupboards in the kitchen and dropped to the floor on her butt, sitting there stunned, then rubbing her chest in pain. She yelled at me, once she got her senses back that I was in a lot of trouble, she was in charge and she was a girl and you don't hit girls. When mom got back, yes, I got a beating. I never hit another girl like that. You don't HIT GIRLS.
  • Chestnut pipes - 6th grade, the path home on the sidewalk from school to home was about six blocks with chestnut trees. We loved to throw them. Then someone came up with the bright idea to whittle on them, shove a milk carton straw into it and voila, a pipe. We never smoked anything in them, but we thought we were pretty cool. I remember showing how to do that to a kid a year later and he said, "God, really? That is so 6th grade." Or something along that vein.
  • Church - Father Joe's funeral [7th grade, my first funeral as an Alter Boy, my first corpse.
  • First fight in 7th grade Jr. High School. 7th grade, my best friend, Bill, runs up to me one of our first days in Jr. High to tell me he's set me up with three fights with various kids after school that day. I was stunned. My BEST FRIEND is setting up fights for me? I asked him what motivated him to do that. He said, well, you fight Karate tournaments, right? I thought this would make you happy. I explained to him that I fought 4-5 fights a NIGHT at the dojo. I didn't need any outside of there and we could get expelled if we were caught fighting outside of the dojo. He felt bad and cancelled them all. But, one day, I came out of the school onto the concrete steps and Bill and this kid were arguing. The kid was pushing Bill into a fight and was about to get his ass handed to him on a platter. He was two steps up from Bill and I was two steps up from him. So as he was going to attack, I threw my arms around him to stop him from getting his ass beat. He struggled, then felt the balance and simply leaned over. I of course, immediately flew over top of him and landed next to Bill. Then he went and told some other kids, one in particular, named Pike, big guy. It went around school that he had beat me up, when he knew damn well, I had saved him a beating; of course, he didn't know that like I did as Bill had been my hero and protector in grade school. Pike and his two friends, continued to goad this kid to provoke me into a fight. This lasted a month. I took the humiliation. But after about four weeks of this, I finally got tired of it, as I was getting verbally beaten up by this idiot on a daily basis when I knew I had saved his ass and he was abusing ME? So, finally one day I said, "Okay." He gulped. I saw it, literally, he gulped. Then I knew something was up. Pike smiled. His two friends smiled. The kid said, "Okay, let's do it." I said, "No, not here." He said, "What? Where?" I said, "Over there." And I pointed at a house down the street. Now this kid was already pretty terrified. He had heard I wasn't allowed to fight outside the dojo and a month of taunting me had proved to him he could play the big shot card with impunity. He looked at the house up the five foot hill, with a garage entrance cut into the hill and going beneath the house. There was a steel garage door. Either side was concrete to support the hillside from collapsing onto the concrete garage parking pad. He said, "Okay, but why?" I said, now really pissed off I was allowing myself to be manipulated but I wanted this to end, it was making my school life hell and I had done nothing wrong, "Because, It gives me two concrete sides, a steel door and a concrete floor to beat your head into." Now he was really scared. Pick couldn't contain himself. So we saunter over there and start fighting. I kicked his ass. I ended it as quickly as I could and it took a great deal of restraint. I said, "Okay, I'm done." But Pike said, "No, that's not good enough. You cheated. You used your feet." I said, "I study Karate, it's normal for me." He said, "I don't care, you're going to have to fight one of us now. Take your pick, which of the tree of us do you want to fight?" I couldn't believe it. So, I finally picked the least scary guy. Actually, he was a bit more scary once he got started. So he looked nervous now. I realized I could probably take him. But my ethics finally caught up with me. I said, "Okay, look, I agreed to fight him. I never wanted to. I know it was wrong. If my Sensei finds out I could get banned from my dojo (I don't think they had a clue what I was talking about). I'm done fighting." He said, "No, you're not." Not wanting to give them control, I said, "Yes, I am. I'm not fighting. I'm done. That's it." So, the kid attacked me, he knocked me to the ground. Then he started kicking me. Finally he got tired. I got up, rather bloody and really pissed off. I screamed at them, "I hope your happy, now leave me alone!" I went home, it was a short walk to the other end of the alley where my house was. I walked in and my mother said, "Good God what happened to you." I told her. She was proud of me. But I learned a valuable lesson I could never put into words. When I got back to school, the kid that started it all apologized and we got along fine from then on. I left school for a one year stint at 8th Grade Catholic school. When I came back in 9th grade, I was on my bike one day. Kids were going home. A High School kid walked by as Pike, remember Pike? had stopped to pick on me, yet again. I hated that guy. I was short back then, Pike continued to grow now looking like a High School kid. The High School kid stooped and pushed Pike around. He told Pike if he ever bothered me again, he'd kick his ass and told me to come tell him if that happens. Pike walked off terrified. The HS kid couldn't have been cooler and I never saw him again. Pike never bothered me again. The next time we had words was in High School. I had grown a few inches, had a reputation that scared him, and had he picked on me again, if he could even have gotten up the nerve, I am pretty sure I would have beaten him to a pulp.
  • Holy Rosary Private Catholic School and Principle Sister Rogers, the Nun from Hell - 8th and final grade in that school. I effectively walked into a clique, the last graduating class for that school and I wouldn't become an Alter Boy as I was already head Alter Boy at my smaller what I thought was a cooler church, just up the hill over the I-5 Freeway from there. Not a good way to ingratiate yourself to new classmates at a new school. They read that I thought I was superior as Head Alter Boy elsewhere. I had more fights that year at that school than anywhere else ever the rest of my entire life and it lead to a reputation of don't tread on him once I got back to public school that followed me all through High School. Luckily.
  • The egg in the microwave during a first run episode of Star Trek - 9th grade,
  • Little brother's making toast in the oven fire - 9th grade, I was probably watching Star Trek again. My little brother wanted me to make him toast, what's it take, throw it in the toaster, right? So I said, you do it. So of course, he turns on the broiler and butters bread and puts garlic on it and sticks it under the broiler. He comes out eventually to say, help. I said, deal with it. Then he comes out panicked and says HELP. I go look and I see flames. I open the door and now flames are leaping into the kitchen nearly to the ceiling! I close the door. I open it, same thing. Now he's freaking out. I go get the fire extinguisher and open the door and shoot it. Flames go out, then whoosh, back big as ever, I end up emptying the container and the flames keep coming back. I'm standing there and suddenly realize, turn off the heat. I do and the flames die immediately. But I made him clean it out. I leaned something though. So did he.
  • Jennifer - 7th grade, then 9th grade (I left for 8th grade at the Catholic school my little brother attended then came back to public school). Jennifer, oh Jennifer, she was the cutest girl in the school. She was dating a thug. He was one of the toughest kids at the school. Once summer some kids broke into the annex which was mostly art classes. They poured paints out all over things, they glued chairs to table tops, they did a lot of damage. It turned out it was that guy and his friend. Later in High School, she was dating another thug. Too bad, because I had a huge crush on her.
  • The switchblade knife and Earth Science class - 9th grade, I got a switchblade from a kid at school, or it was my older brother's, I don't remember, I had two. One day, I knew what was coming when I left class. There was this fairly attractive blond with sizable breasts.I know she was dating the guy that later Jennifer would be dating. But I also knew she had a little crush on me. So offhandedly, I said, as we had the next English class together and sat next to each other, "Would you take something to our next class for me. Please?" She said okay. She left. As I left the class, thinking I was going to get beat up, there were those two guys, her boyfriend and his friend, and our Earth Science teacher. They had seen the switchblade earlier, maybe accidentally. For some reason they didn't like me. I couldn't believe what he said when I tried to walk by. He snitched on me. He told the teacher I had a switchblade. I denied it. They actually frisked me. Then, they were in trouble with the teacher. Hah! They didn't know what to say or where it went, but they never bothered me again. They weren't the best or brightest. I went to English class and got my switchblade back from HIS GIRLFRIEND! That was so delicious.
  • 9th grade - I had the most "hacks" in the school one year from various teachers: 14.
  • Earth Science Teacher - 9th Grade. This was the same teacher that the last day of 9th grade Earth Science, we held a Kangaroo Court on her. We took her hostage and locked her in the supplied closet. Then we gave testimony. Judgement of the court at the end was she was a great teacher, we loved her, and thanks and everything. I came to visit her a year later. She saw me at her door window during class, and pointed away and was adamant that I should leave and never return. A few teachers had that opinion of me in my early years. Happily, that reversed in my university years.
Here are a few things that I won't get to here.
  • The Fear that was Lincoln High School - 10th grade on....
  • Getting in the swing of things - 11th grade -
  • My first car, 1967 Chevy Impala 
  • Girlfriends - 12th grade and after
  • Moving out, my first apartment and the Jewish Landlady from Hell - 17 and on my own
  • My first love Julie, my first lover, Debbie
  • My second lover, Margaret and her ex
  • My second car, red 1967 RS/SS Camaro convertible
  • Death of my younger brother, Kim
  • USAF tech school and Donovan
  • USAF and Spokane, WA
  • My fifth car, black and yellow 1975 RS Camaro. We wet sanded it and shot it ourselves to a very cool three speckle sized brown color, Ray a friend who normally shot airplanes did a great job, we rented a booth and everything.
  • Mushrooms, hunting, growing, eating
  • Western Washington University
Memoir notes:

--preschool in Philly.
  • Little bastard Ky (a year younger than me) smashing a rock into my face
  • Slicing open my forearm keeping Ky from going inside
  • peeing outside behind building and getting caught by old woman
  • woman baby sitter menage in Philly - Don't ask
  • cat scaling my face
  • biting dog that bit me
  • girl my Gramma babysat and our adventures together
  • The Harrison's -
  • Gary and Pat, AIDS
  • Alfie our alligator in our friend's garbage
--Jr High School
  • Karate Tournaments
  • Rifle Team
  • CAP-Search and Rescue
--High School
  • Jr prom with Debbie, and Judy and her boyfriend Curt.
  • Sr prom with Diane who offered but I went with Judy and as they had switched, Debbie went with Curt.
--Post High School
  • Just wanted to put distance between my mind and my childhood
  • Week long armed guard for stripper and witness in murder investigation who was leaving for Utah. I stayed with her for a week at a little commune of her friends where everyone did just about everything.
  • Playing armed guard for mom and Kim in NY. I carried a .357 magnum in a shoulder holster around Manhattan.
--Air Force
  • Playing armed guard for horse racing family members
  • Jethro Tull concert in Pullman, WA at Wazzu. I had the nosebleed seats my friend Dan gave me. They looked like tiny ants on stage.
  • Black Sabbath/Van Halen concert debacle and the police, and the paramedics throwing me out of their ambulance because of my nuclear security clearance
  • Arlo Guthrie concerts in Spokane, first one was awesome, the next year he came, all the high school kids heard about it and showed up, talking, and practically ignoring him on stage to the point it annoyed even Arlo. Horrible concert because of those kids
  • Nude beach on the river, People's Park/High Bridge park in Spokane
  • Nude beach at Teddy Bear Cove in Bellingham off Chuckanut Drive
  • the cold in the floorboards on highland dr (or n garden st?)
  • the five girls living upstairs
  • Kim (upstairs friend) / Mary (my girlfriend's "girlfriend")

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