I managed to find details on most of them that I can state with certainty. There were a few sparse memories that I had to question, because they simply didn't fit with where I was when the memory supposedly takes place. For instance, I remember finding dirty pictures in my teacher's desk in 6th grade, in Olalla, but that memory has a female teacher, and I know for a fact that the teacher in that memory was my 4th grade teacher, not 6th. I do know I found dirty pictures in my teacher's desk in one of those grades, but I can't be certain which. I still think it was 6th grade. Anyway, I've had to discount memories in which things don't make sense, or in which I may have combined several unrelated memories into one.
The other problem was with a couple of instances in which I don't remember a school at all, but logic would dictate there was one. At the end of 4th grade, I have no idea what I was doing. I know I wasn't going to any of the other school mentioned in this list, but I couldn't have gone on to 5th grade without finishing 4th, so obviously, I attended a school somewhere. In this instance, I do remember leaving the interstate each day to go to school, but I don't remember anything about this save the act of expecting school and leaving the interstate each day. I can't clarify these things without a ton of research, which I don't want to do. I know what you're thinking: Why don't I ask my parents? Certainly they'd know, right? Well, my mother left when I was eleven, for good, and my father died last year. My stepmother's knowledge of the schools I went to starts halfway through 5th grade. My little brother remembers some of it, but he was several grades behind me and was too young to remember most of it.
As stated, I've compiled the list, for better or worse, and here it is in all of its dysfunctional wonder. I numbered the schools, and added small paragraphs outlining specific memories I have in that time, usually relating to that school. In entries where I couldn't remember the name of the school, I've simply stated "No Memory of Name". Enjoy your stay in my educational experience, and while you're there, have a fun time kicking your eyes around in my childhood. I suggest a stiff drink, as you go. After writing this and rummaging through these memories, I certainly needed one.
1. The Little Red Schoolhouse - Petaluma, California: My wonderful introduction to the world of education and instructor-based learning. Activities involved crafts, bead art, bean art, the recurrent secret society of toy thieves, and a cursory introduction to graham cracker consumption. I learned to count to ten in spanish, discovered a preference for a pretty classmate that wore a shell necklace each day. She generally considered me funny and lively.
Memory: The boys would get together and play 'Chase the Girls', which involved a pack of girls running all over the playground with boys chasing them. When we caught a girl, we didn't really know what to do, so we just let her go and started chasing again.
Memory: My mother hired a girl from the 6th grade to babysit me a couple of times. This girl would sneak into my room after I fell asleep and wake me up, trying to kiss me and coax me into feeling her up, though I didn't know that's what was happening at the time. I just thought she was weird. Her name was Tamara, same as my original mother's name. I also walked into my classroom one day to see a crowd of students. Making my way in, I found that everyone was pointing and laughing at two boys that were giving each other mouth-to-mouth saying 'wake up!" over and over again. Everyone was laughing and thought this was hilarious. I was a little germophobic back then, so I found this scene I'd walked in on a little troubling, for sanitary reasons.
Summer Occurred. We moved again. I had finished the 1st grade.
9. No Memory of Name - Federal Way, Washington: A round school. Completely round. You could walk in one direction in the hall and eventualy, come right back to where you started from. I loved this. I began reading books by William Sleater. Lots of them. I liked this school somewhat.
Memory: There was a Korean kid who caught a bee one day, and holding it by the wings, threatened to throw it on anyone he didn't like, which apparently was everyone.
Memory: The principal got on the intercom one day and told us all to stay away from the far fence, and that a man had been arrested. Later in the day, our teacher gave us a long explanation of why we shouldn't talk to strangers, especially if they come near the school and try to get you to climb over a fence to hang out with them in the woods.
Memory: I had this longstanding fantasy of building a gigantic stage on the grass near the street, and enthralling the entire student body with my flawless cover of Michael Jackson songs. I'd have lights and pyrotechnics... the works. This never occurred, of course, and I lost interest in Michael Jackson pretty quickly after I discovered I liked Madonna, instead. Apparently, I couldn't let myself like more than one singer at a time. I suppose I had rules I kept up.
10. No Memory of Name - Tacoma, Washington: On a hill. Large playground. Tetherball.
Memory: I have only a single memory of this school, involving a mishap on Valentine's Day. I was a new kid (I was always a 'new kid', at every school, multiple times every year. I was the 'new kid' for about a decade), and I started school here just before Valentine's day. All the kids, including myself, made little construction-paper receptacles that we were to hang on the wall, so that valentines could be dropped into them from our classmates. I made mine as interesting as I could, so that the kids would think I was cool or something. I got sick shortly thereafter, for several days. I had been given a list of my classmate's names, and so took the opportunity of being sick at home to make out valentines with all the names from the list. When I came back to school, it was Valentines day. I went around putting the valentines in everyone's paper baskets. There were several girls that I had chosen to give handfuls of candy hearts, instead of the one or two my mother told me was appropriate. At the end of the day, everyone took their receptacles down and went home to count up their valentines and eat the accompanying candies. I stared into my paper basket. It was empty. No valentines. No candy. Nothing. No one liked me, it seemed. I started crying and my teacher felt awful for me. It wasn't until after I started crying that my teacher explained that maybe my name hadn't been on the list, because I was new. I didn't believe her, though it was probably true. She felt so bad that she wrote me a valentine and gave be a bag of candy she kept in her desk.
Summer. I had finished 3rd grade.
11. No Memory of Name - Somewhere between Olympia and Seattle, in Washington: Nintendo came out. My thirst for this was satisfied early on, due to my father having taken a job at Boeing for good money. He bought us the Deluxe Set, and my lack of friends became, with the arrival of that particular 8-bit gift, unimportant to me. We lived near a guy named Mark, who was some sort of cousin to my mother, but who I had never heard of or met. I watched Poltergeist 2 at his apartment once and it scared the shit out of me. I went back and watched it many times. Same with Nightmare on Elm Street. Missing my dad became staple. My parents had worked out a custody deal, finally, and he saw us on sparse weekends, but it never seemed like enough to me. I had begun disliking spending time with my mother. She tended to talk a lot of shit about people, was judgemental, and paranoid about being judged like she, herself did. She wanted my brother and I to follow odd rules of etiquette, wear little getups, but we were poor, white trash, and I certainly wasn't going to make any friends in our shitty neighborhoods dressed in a little suit and spouting off my knowledge of salad forks and saying 'yes maam' to every beckon or statement from my mother.
Memory: I have little memory of the school I attended, but I remember it had two levels, and was built on a kind of hill. Mostly, I remember my Nintendo.
12. Olalla Elementary - Olalla, Washington: For some reason (I still can't remember how this happened), my little brother and I ended up in our dad's custody for a short while. We moved to a strange little community in Washington, with my father and his new wife. There was a new school, for us, as well.
Memory: I had a big, red-headed teacher, really overweight. She wore stretch-pants and was fond of making chalk squeak in a manner that made you want to cover your ears. She was incredibly lax.
Memory: I remember getting picked on heavily by classmates. I had learned, in all of the moves, that the primary components that called attention to you from bullies were size and the close-knittedness of the community. If you went to a small town school, you met small town kids, and they'd pick at you if you weren't like them. If you went to a large school, one more urban, you'd only get picked on if you were smaller than everyone, or had some sort of obnoxious blemish they didn't want to look at. I, myself, was horribly small, and didn't break 100 pounds, or 4 ft 10, until halfway through my freshman year in high school. I was the shortest and skinniest kid in school, wherever I went. I also had the longest hair.
Memory: Once, I was asked to stand next to the merry-go-round at recess, because there was something funny I had to see. I stood there and they spun the merry-go-round, and a boy kicked my feet out from under me while swinging around and, literally, knocked them far from the ground, causing me to land on the back of my head and knocking me unconscious. When I came to, a few moments later (I think), they were all laughing. I took a swing at the kid, but he was almost two feet taller than me, and was over 5 foot. He was sort of a man-child. He had thick black hair on his arms, a unibrow, popeye arms and a muscular build, and a kind of Frankensteinian giant neck and angular head. He just dodged my pathetic swing and laughed harder. A few weeks later, another kid that sat in front of me in class turned around in his seat and hawked snot on my desk. I informed the teacher and she said I should clean it up and that the bully and I needed to deal with the problem amongst ourselves. Though these kids were always larger than me, usually by a wide margin, it paved the way for my ultimate wuss-ness. It happened so many times in so many schools that, after a while, it ceased mattering that they were bigger. When I'd been picked at enough, after a few years of it, a kid could even be smaller than me, and my stress would react the same. I had the flight response down pat. I had no fight response, however. It simply wasn't in me. I liked everyone, even the bullies. They seemed like they'd be fun to hang out with, if they'd just lay off me.
Memory: Going ahead for reading. I read so well that the instructor felt something should be done. The teacher decided that when it was reading time in class, I'd simply leave and go to the 6th grade room and read with them, instead. I think the actual impetus behind this was that I was pissing off the other kids in my 4th grade class because most of them didn't read so well or fast, and couldn't keep up whenever I was picked to read aloud, which was very often (my teacher bored easily and liked giving me the long, boring sections of our reading-aloud time).
Memory: I was approached one afternoon by a girl in an alternate 4th grade class. She stated having a friend that liked me, and that wanted to be my girlfriend. I said sure. She pointed at the girl in question. Wow, my girlfriend was really cute. I wrote her a love note at the end of the day and had the friend give it to her. That night, after pressuring my father for back-owed allowance, I was given 5 bucks, and blew it all on penny candy. Literally, 500 pieces of candy. I put it in a bag, drew pictures on the outside, wrote a love note and attached it, and took it to school the next day. I gave the bag to the friend to give to my girlfriend, who I learned was named Danielle. This seemed wonderful to the friend, and later, I received many smiles from my girlfriend across the recess yard. We still hadn't met or spoken. We were too embarrassed. That afternoon, the friend approached me again and said Danielle wanted to break up. I shrugged, a little put out by this. I didn't really know her, so in the end, could only consent. While waiting for the bus, I saw Danielle, my now ex-girlfriend crying in a line to get on her bus. Her friend came over to me again and said I was a big jerk. I didn't understand. The friend explained that Danielle breaking up with me had only been a test, to see if I would fight to stay with her, and that I had failed the test, and was a big jerk. I apologized, horribly confused, but then my anger rose a bit so I told her that she and her friend Danielle could keep the candy and fuck off.
13. No Memory of Name - Ft. Lewis Military Base: We ended up with our mother again. I believe she pulled some sort of legal action that really enraged my father. Oddly, when we moved back in with our mother, she stated having to go away for a short while, and immediately sent us to live with a black family she knew, in or very near Ft. Lewis Military Base. She enrolled us in school there and disappeared for many weeks. I had a pretty staunch case of xenophobia over living with the black family, mainly due to my last interraction with black people, which had been in Georgia, and involved getting beaten up more times than I can remember. The family turned out to be great, though. The dad was pretty strict, very different from my dad. The mom was really warm and soft-spoken, very different from my mother. They had an Atari, which was a step down from my Nintendo, which I hadn't been able to bring or set up. They had a dubbed copy of Nightmare on Elm Street but absolutely refused to let me watch it, even after I explained I'd seen it a dozen times. My xenophobia about black people started up again, however, when I went to my first day at the new school, on the military base. White was the minority again, and everyone sure liked to make sure you knew it. Not so many beatings as before, but a shitload of bully behavior. After all the moving around, however, I had become expert in talking someone down out of a fight when they wanted to throw one on me. It was difficult picking a fight with me. My mother returned shortly, and we moved into a tiny apartment, where she wasn't all that present. She had resumed dating openly, and was busy with other things my brother and I were never really kept in the loop on.
Memory: Different schools go through different crazes, and at this school, MARBLES WERE ALL. Everyone collected marbles. Steelies, Hazels, Chromies, Antique-ies... I must have owned a hundred pounds of various marbles by the time I left this school. I remember going to school with a purple crown royal bag full of my best marbles one day, to play the game and win some more. I'd gotten good at it with a couple of the other kids. When my crown royal bag came out, however, I was only mobbed that day and had my shit ruined. Four black kids had shoved up on me, pummeled me to the ground and taken my marbles while two of them kicked me around. Lame. I tried hard to keep my father's message in my head: "People are people. Don't be racist." But this portion of my life contained a poisonous difficulty: It was becoming a trial trying to avoid being racist when I was always getting beat up by kids of another race, most of which like to use the phrase 'white trash' or just plain 'whitey' while they did it, which was pretty fucking racist. The two kids from the black family I had stayed with for a short while saw a lot of these beatings, and they felt pretty bad for me, but could do nothing. They were geeky kids, I was a real outsider, and small, and the bullies were none of these things. The bullies were in charge.
It should be noted I met some nice kids at this school, but they kept a distance from me after seeing what the other kids thought of me.
Memory: My teacher kept up the process my last teacher had spawned, which was to send me to the 6th grade room for reading. Other than reading, I had fallen drastically behind the other students. The reason was simple: I'd moved around so much that I no longer cared about much of anything. I was the epidomy of outsider. I didn't fit at all, anywhere, and just when I'd start to meet someone that I liked in a school, we'd just move and it'd be back to square one again. My life had become square one. There was a secondary reason behind my having stopped doing any work in class: Just as schools change in their recreational crazes from one to the next (one is into hot wheels while another has a marble craze, etc...), different schools have crazes in their curriculum, as well. I'd be learning subtraction at one school, and the first few cursive lower-case letters, and then I'd have to move to a new school. The new school would be doing division, introducing fractions, and be done with cursive entirely, now starting Danelian writing. So I started out behind. Very behind.
None of these schools seemed all that interested in giving me a tutor, and none of the other kids liked me much, and my parents were simply unavailable for homework analysis. Most teachers expected me to not only make up half a year's back work, hundreds of worksheets and tests, but to keep current on what the teacher was teaching at the moment, as well. With something like mathematics, this is impossible. You can't be expected to work equations that contain variables and fractions if you don't yet know your multiplication tables, or how to divide. You'll have to learn those things first. I was expected to learn this on my own, and do the work based on it at the same time. I couldn't, and didn't.
Most of my teachers saw me as that all-too-common lost cause. Poor trash with irresponsible parents, or lazy, and teaching me anything was more of a trial than their wage needed. In most of these schools, I remember it being a source of contention that my records had yet to arrive from the last school. There were times when I jumped from one school to the next, to the next, without my school records catching up to me fast enough. The few teachers that did try to help me catch up grew frustrated quickly: "Okay, now just divide the bottom number into the top number. What do you mean, you don't know how to divide? How many times does 5 go into 25... you don't know? What's 5 times 5 then. You don't know that either? What's 1 times 1, then. Still nothing? [sigh] Let's move on to history then. Who were the first ten presidents? You don't know? Okay, just who was the first one? You still don't know? GEORGE WASHINGTON. It was Washington. He's one of our most important presidents. How could you not know that? Who's our president now, currently? You still don't know?! It's REAGAN! How can you not know that? It's all over the TV!" So I stopped paying attention in class altogether. I was already in the hole, learning-wise, and getting out was a mysterious and improbable venture.
Memory: I remember especially the night this new teacher called my mother to inquire about 'Special Testing'. My mom was vehemently against this, feeling that there was no reason to prove or disprove that I had a learning disability, or worse. After some nagging and talks of responsibility, the teacher convinced my mom to let me undergo 'Special Testing'. They brought me into a building somewhere near the military base. There were two 'technicians' that asked me a lot of questions, then had me do some tests on paper. My mother learned, at the end of this long and tedious day, that her son had a high intelligence quotient, and the reading level of a college graduate. How could this be? Why hadn't I been getting good grades? Why did I not know the material when it seemed obvious I could, easily? My mother decided it was because I was lazy, not because I had been systematically removed so far from my element that I no longer had one, or a steady home, or friends, or regularised parents.
When people asked me where I was from (this happened often because I was always the new kid in class), I didn't know how to respond. Where exactly WAS I from? The last place I'd lived for six months? From California? From Georgia? From Washington? Who knew? I didn't. I was just lazy and screwing off in class, apparently. So, my teacher advised my mother to send me to a special school each day, for gifted kids. I remember the teacher saying it wasn't too long a drive each day to get there. My mother vehemently refused this, and was very angry at the mention of it. She didn't want me singled out, she said. She wanted me to be a normal boy, finally. Going to a 'gifted' school, to her, was the same as going to a 'retard school'.
When my mother denied my going to the special school, the teacher took the next logical course of action, which was to tell my mother I'd need to be held back a year and repeat the 4th grade, at the end of the year. My mother exploded and argued. In the end, her constant bickering and volatile behavior got the school to keep their notes off my record, and to not advise the next school to hold me back. So, I'd be pushed forward, and not remain in 4th grade another year. She was not so successful with my little brother, who was also scheduled to be held back a year, in the 1st grade. He ended up having to repeat it. Either way, we were in different schools by the end of the year, anyway.
14. Garfield Elementary School - Olympia Washington: I took up the violin, which was of interest to me. After several weeks, my mother had it taken back to the shop we'd rented it from. She said it was the money, but I'm pretty sure she thought I just wasn't getting good at it fast enough. Also, my father was a musician, which she didn't like anymore.
Memory: There was a kid that could do backflips off the playground platforms and I thought this was the coolest thing I'd ever seen. I benchmarked the moment in my mind. To this day, it's still one of the clearest memories I have of growing up. That huge backflip. It paved the way for my introduction to gymnastics, which was only a few years away.
Memory: The teacher at Garfield (almost all of my teachers growing up were short women with glasses, I don't know why), disliked me from the start. She sat me in the back of the room and wouldn't ever call on me when I raised my hand. I was trying to keep up with the curriculum, not wanting to be held back (which, despite the last schools concedance, was still in the air because I was in a new school). This teacher got annoyed with me when it came time to read aloud, and rarely let me. I think she thought I was unbalanced and odd. She definitely thought I was the product of horrible parenting and treated me as such. Then, it happened. The disciplinary action she devised to help me move forward: No lunch until I was caught up. Though I was poor, and had free 'hot lunch' on the state, I wasn't allowed to eat it. She would walk with me down to the cafeteria, pick up my lunch with me, and then promptly walk me back to the classroom. The other kids ate in the cafeteria, then went out to lunch recess, which was the largest recess and a needed escape from the classroom.
The teacher would sit me at my desk in the back of the room, the only student in the room, and set my lunch several desks away near the window (my theory on this is that the breeze could blow the smell of my food to me, making me want it more). She would then give me five worksheets and I couldn't eat my lunch or go outside until I finished them. Because these were current, from the year, they were more advanced than where I'd been, again. These were quizzes asking me to name all 50 states, the first 30 presidents, label all the european countries... I didn't know the material, and these were just quizzes, not explanatory texts. So I was doomed to take tests covering things I did not know, fulfilling worksheets and papers, all of which I failed at, miserably, and I didn't get to eat my lunch for weeks, or go outside with the other kids. Many times I started crying. I was miserable and felt like I was in prison. The teacher treated me like I was a horrible young man that caused trouble. I think she thought I was failing the grade, and all the worksheets and quizzes on purpose, because I thought I was better or something. Nothing could have been further from the truth. I was beginning to think I was complete shit. And now, I was hungry, as well.
Of course, after several weeks of this, though I absolutely dreaded sicking my mother on the situation, I finally relented and told my mother. It was what I knew to expect: Doberman off it's chain tearing up someone's leg. My mother actually called her a cunt and threatened to beat the shit out of her. She showed up in the classroom wearing her military battle fatigues and combat boots, her hair pulled so tight her eyes watered. She meant business. Curt, angry, piss-on-your-grave business. And then she yanked me out of school again.
15. No Memory of Name - Logical somewhere near Olympia, Washington: I have no idea where I went to school after this, for the remainder of 4th grade, which would have been for a few months. I know it had to be somwhere near Olympia, and that we lived in an apartment complex just off of Black Lake Boulevard, on a hill above a Safeway, which later became a Barnes and Noble. I had to have gone to school or I wouldn't have passed 4th grade. I can only assume the remainder of this school year passed without incident, as did I.
Summer came, and another custody switch. I had finished 4th grade, apparently.
16. Olalla Elementary School (again) - Olalla Washington: I went to this school for half a year while living with my dad and Bonnie, his wife and quickly, more of a motherly figure for me. I identified with her much more than my actual mother. She cooked. She talked to us. If I got a smudge of dirt on my pants from playing outside, she didn't flip out and persecute us for being bad. She had no real interest in corralling my brother and I into strict modes of behaviour. She had raised 5 other kids and knew boys were boys. 5th Grade started out tough, because the curriculum had advanced another notch, and I hadn't. But I caught on somewhat and had an instructor that was pretty intrigued with me, so took the time to explain things to me more. After a month, I had slowly wrapped my head around fractions, powers, and began checking books out of the library.
This teacher was fond of asking me what I thought about current events, and always seemed to get a chuckle out of my responses. I still had no friends, but the bully behavior of the other students had subsided mostly, likely because I'd gone to this school before, with these same students the year before.
Memory: There was a swimming trip to a local pool and I had forgotten to get a parental signature allowing me to go. The Friday came and everyone boarded a bus to go swimming, and I had to stay behind. Unfortunately, bad planning and the suddenness of discovering I couldn't go culminated into an odd situation. My teacher left with the students to go swimming, and I simply sat in the classroom all day by myself. No one around. I suppose I could have gone to another classroom and hung out, but I didn't. I went through everyone's desk instead. It was righteous interesting the things I found in those desks. After awhile, I grew bored and went to the principal's office, intent on calling Bonnie to come an pick me up.
I was bored. The principal thought I was just some kid from a class trying to skip out of school. I tried to explain but he kept cutting me off. He told me to go back to class. Eventually, I did. At the end of the day, my class returned and all were excited and chatty about having gone swimming. I was a little depressed about it, but then it was time to go home, so I was pleased. I went outside. My actual mother showed up while I was waiting for the bus, which was late, to go home. She laid on the tears and hugged me and loved me and all that. She said she missed me and that I was her baby boy and all that, too. My brother saw her and ran over. There was big hugging and the whole mess. Then we got in her car for what I thought was the weekend. It turned out to be a full-scale kidnapping that infuriated my father and Bonnie.
Not wanting to involve the authorities again, and trying to maintain his life, my father finally let it slide, knowing that things would iron out somehow. That's my theory, at least.
17. No Memory of Name - Between Olympia and Tacoma, Washington: I don't know what school I went to, but it was somewhere between Olympia and Tacoma and off the main interstate a few miles. I'd been to so many schools at this point, I didn't even pay attention to the name of my teacher, much less any other students or the name of the school. I had done well in the last school, catching up to some extent, but once we shifted to yet another school, my framework simply collapsed and I was back to square one again. I was tired and did no homework. I didn't do anything in class. I just read when asked and kept to myself. I did continue reading the William Sleater books. Interstellar Pig and Singularity mesmerized me somewhat. I also read Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, and hooked myself on him. Miraculously, I passed this grade, barely (maybe my mother spoke out again... who knows?), but though I moved ahead, again, the hole was only deepening, and I would have to pay for it sooner or later.
Summer. 5th grade completed.
When the school year began, I went to the same school I finished 5th grade in, for a very short time in 6th grade. Again, I don't remember it at all. I have vague memories of a latino man sitting down with me in a large, large classroom to explain something, but I don't remember what or when, or even where. What I do remember is waking my mother up one night upset, and when we sat down to talk about my 'nightmare', I admitted I hadn't had one, and that the real problem was our living situation. I asked my dad's custody that night, finally and ultimately. My mother lectured me about what that actually meant and I agreed with her, to my mother's dismay. I didn't want to live with her anymore. Ever. I said as much and there was some awful emotion that night. It took less than a week to switch parents again, but this time, it was for good.
18. Olalla Elementary - Olalla Washington: My triumphant return to Olalla. In truth, though I attended this school three separate times, I didn't spend more than a full year between the three enrollments. This time was no different than those previous. A few months. The reason for this was my father's decision to relocate us all to Australia, on the other side of the world. He had begun the long process of gaining citizenship and had even begun giving away and selling large belongings, like his new truck. Life began to speed up tremendously. I went to Olalla for a few months, and was enjoying being a 6th grader.
I was, again, trying to pay attention and get my knowledge built up, but was still having trouble. It could have been worse. I knew a couple of kids now, and while they weren't friends at all, they didn't mind if I hovered near them at recess, and every now and then, they'd kick the soccer ball my way so I could kick it back.
Memory: My mother was outraged by my father's decision to move to Australia with us. She feared losing us forever. And my father suspected she would try to interfere in whatever way she could. Bonnie was upset during this time period, because my dad was her husband, but they couldn't seem to ditch his crazy first wife. And for obvious reasons: Kids were involved. Also, various rounds of getting-even, revenge, playing mean tricks... things badly divorced young people do at times. Bonnie was older than my father by quite a margin, and just wanted to relax and start doing the wife and mother thing. I think she was a little freaked out at my brother and I. We were strange kids that acted and reacted in unpredictable ways. I was also fiercely independent at this point, and didn't want much interraction with anyone, mainly because I'd had so little growing up.
I spent most days on a bizarre kind of autopilot, and talked to myself too often to be healthy. My germophobia and anxiety over any sort of confrontation had increased as well, and drastically. One of the answers to the problem of my real mother was struck upon quickly, and was also the answer to the money problem we had in trying to save enough to move to Australia: Leave the area, and move in with my dad's mother in Santa Rosa, where I had once been born. This would solve the money problem, letting us save while we stayed with grandma, and placing a vast distance between my prodding, engaging mother and struggling, easily gotten-at father.
19. Brook Hill Elementary - Santa Rosa, Califorinia: When I enrolled in this school, I was told by my father not to get too comfortable, as we'd be moving in a couple of weeks to Australia. After a week, my frustrated father told me it would be another two weeks. Two weeks later, he was told two weeks more. This went on until nearly the end of the school year, with me telling my classmates I was moving to Australia in two weeks, over and over and over again. Australia became a kind of heaven to me. It would be wonderful. There would be a new start for my father and I, for Bonnie, for my little brother. It was to be the Succre promiseland, yea.
Memory: There was an Iranian family a block away and their son, Nabil, and his older brother used to beat on me righteously. Nabil just didn't like me, I don't know why, and his older brother was a prick. This guy didn't even go to elementary school. He'd just show up to fuck with the younger kids. He used to rally up the first graders and get them to fight one another. He liked to pressure Nabil into taking swings at me, and when I tried to fight back, would shove me around and let Nabil work me over. It was shitty. Seriously, a fight with Nabil would start in this manner: "Hey pussy, what are you doing? You swinging on the swings? How come? Swings are for pussies. You want a problem? I think you do. You're using my swing. Get off. Now you're standing on my bark. Get off my bark." WHAM. I'd back up, my eye stinging from the jab. The older brother laughed and watched.
Memory: I developed this monstrous crush on a girl in my class named Claire. I finally worked up the nerve to tell her, and she was completely insulted and disgusted. Bad news. I felt like shit for weeks. But, at least it was only temporary. We'd be moving to Australia soon.
Memory: I had a teacher that was also moderating a schoolwide spelling bee, and I applied for it. The instructor (and I've never understood why) discouraged me from entering the spelling bee again and again, but finally relented and signed me up. I studied and studied, though the word list they gave me was simple. The toughest word was 'Pneumonia', which wasn't tough at all. It was an easy word they chose to trip someone up because of the 'pn' part. I had dreams of acing the bee, then going on to state, or wherever the next level spelling bee would take place.
In the end, with the entire school staring at me, which made me wish I were dead, I threw the first word, acted confused and shocked, and then got the hell out of there. The word? 'Memorabilia'. I just left out the first 'A' and sealed the deal. I didn't realize when I signed up for the spelling bee that I had a horrifying fear of attention. I thought this would subside if I was doing something I was confident about. I was wrong. It was overwhelming. Had I been chained in the chair, in front of all those students, I would have chewed through my own arm to get out of there. My mode was simple: Just keep moving, just keep going... it's temporary... all I have to do is slide my way through this last, short leg of this school and it'll be over. Australia. Starting over. Clean slate.
Memory: The Australian consulate made their decision finally (I thought it had already been made, and it was just a matter of time): No Australian citizenship. Anticlimax. Sorry. Do not pass go. Do not collect 200 dollars. It's too bad you gave away your truck and belongings and uprooted your life to be nearer the consulate, because we're declining. We'll tell you straight: You're too poor. Thanks anyway, and maybe we'll see you on a vacation sometime. Make sure you bring money.
Summer arrived and I had completed elementary school, which was nothing short of a lop-eared miracle.
7th and 8th Grade:
20. Bell Junior High - Golden, Colorado: Two straight years in one school. This was just what I needed to get myself under control and start figuring things out. I was radically undermature and socially obscure when dealing with other kids. I had few positive experiences with school, but now, being in one place for a while might prove beneficial.
Needing to move out of our grandmother's apartment, my father moved us to Golden, Colorado. Even I don't know how he came to this specific location. I imagine he liked the name. Golden, as a small town, turned out to be horrid for me. The worst of the worst, and by leaps and bounds the most violent school I ever attended.
For the first time, I lived in a suburb. Suburban life was acridly volatile, I discovered. Gang culture, via MTV and the news, had infiltrated small towns everywhere. Though my neighborhood was pretty much all white, with moderate incomes and a close-knit vibe, things soured immediately the first time a kid at school claimed to be a Crip. The kids were obsessed with gangs, and especially the specific actions mentioned in Eazy-E songs, which became the main impetus behind most of my neighborhood's motives in criminality. Almost overnight, weight-benches appeared in yards, kids began stealing beer and their parents' Bacardi. Thievery exploded in Golden. And there was trouble for me at every turn. Beatings. Many many beatings. More than I'd ever run into before. And these hurt more, because the kids, as well as myself, were now older. I had turned twelve. I ended up spending the majority of the two years in Golden (the longest I'd ever lived anywhere, by a wide margin), in isolation, trying to keep myself hidden from the notice of the other kids, who had formed banded groups of anger and sought mainly to get into fights. The more people in these fights, the better. But they certainly weren't above jumping you as you walked along the edge of the park and taking something of yours. Shoes, watches, and especially your school things were common things to have stolen from you, often by the force of numerous thieves at once.
It may have only been junior high, but I hated everything about it and especially the other kids. Shit got real weird when I started school in Golden, Colorado. My bike was stolen the first week. I got beat up the third day. My neighbor was an insane shut-in that boarded up his windows so no one could see in. The high school kids rode the bus with the junior high kids, which was an awful predicament. They weren't as violent, but they were much smarter than you, and much, much bigger. Most had little brothers in my school, as well, and delighted in starting fights among the younger kids. The way to do this with the least amount of repurcussion from another older brother, was to focus on someone who didn't have one, and that no one liked much. The new kid. This should have been my name at birth.
Memory: Early on, one of my teachers grew worried at my isolation-prone behavior. I didn't talk. I didn't move much. I was startled so easily and tended to get panicky in a full classroom. My eyes were sunken in (this is the time my insomnia began, and it didn't clear up until my twenties). I had also begun entertaining notions of suicide. Not so seriously at first. But later, it was a running option in my mind. The idea of suicide evaporated from my mind the moment we left Golden, after eigth grade. Anyway, the concerned teacher, in that first term, contacted my father and advised I see a 'counselor'. She didn't mean the school kind that help you think about possible careers for your future. She meant a shrink. My father didn't like this idea, and saw no problems with me. I think he thought I was just a creative kid that liked to be by myself. He asked if I wanted to see a shrink, and I said I didn't, but later changed my mind. I agreed, and every Wednesday, during third period class, I was excused to go and talk to a 'counselor'. She was very concerned with me.
She used tricks to get me to talk, like providing snack foods and sweets, which I did see through easily, but I was there to talk, so I went along. I made her cry at one point, I don't remember how, or what I was talking about. Seeing the 'counselor' didn't help me much. Having spent so much time on my own, in my own head, I was achingly self-aware. I went to see her for the company, mostly. This didn't help me, but it was a nice vacation in the middle of the schoolweek, if for even a half-hour. I would have done as well if they'd let me hang out in the attic for an hour every now and then. Moving around so much and with all the 'new kid' bullying closed me off entirely. I told people what they needed or wanted to hear so they'd go away satisfied, leaving me alone to be me, play my Nintendo, whatever kept me from being bored or in the spotlight with my violent neighborhood.
Of note is that my little brother did well in this town. He had been held back a year, and so was a year older than his classmates, as well as a year larger. The easiest way to deal in Golden was to be the bully, yourself. I didn't listening to my little brother brag about fights he won. I thought it was Golden getting into him, and I hated it. He stopped associating with me much once we hit Golden. I suspect he thought I was strange. He'd have been right.
Summer came and I had finished seventh grade, gearing up for eighth grade.
Memory: I had an English teacher (they called it 'Language Arts' back then) that was quite pleased with me. He was a gigantic human being. Irish, pale-skined, tall, broad, old. His name was O'Hanlon. One day he assigned a poetry assignment. We had to write a poem. I did mine and, a few days later, O'Hanlon announced to the class that he wanted to share an amazing, powerful poem with them. He read aloud and, to my horror, it was mine. It was about a man fascinated with a particular star, who lost most of the things in his life because he wouldn't come down off his roof. Doing so might cause him to lose sight of the star that he couldn't take his eyes off of. Anyway, O'Hanlon had seen enough of me to know not to attribute the poem to me in class, knowing I wouldn't want the attention. He just read it. However, his teacher's aid, when handing back the poem, congratulated me and several of my classmates overheard it. I got socked in the stomach after class, just outside the door. "Nice poem, faggot." the young man said. I denied writing it, but it didn't matter. If it hadn't been the poem, the punch would have been because of my pants, or shirt, or my hair, or large feet.
Memory: My father began having trouble in Golden, as well. His boss was a prong, and my dad started going through jobs quickly. He began collecting more guns, and at one point had to draw a pistol on a game warden so he'd leave us alone and let us go home. My father was beginning to feel trapped in Golden, and he wasn't pleased about it. Neither was I. His beard began falling out, though he was still in his early thirties. My brother developed strange sores on his head, under his hair. I lost weight. My father's theory was that we were too close to the nuclear power plant, Rocky Flats. This is possible, I suppose, but I think heavy waves of stress slamming into us had a lot to do with it.
Memory: Snow snow snow snow snow. I once woke and walked to the bus stop at 28 below zero. Much different than the west coast weather I was used to. When it snowed, the schoolbus pulled up in chains. You didn't get out of school for snow.
Memory: I saw girls getting into fights in Golden, as well. They were the most violent and animalistic fights. There was more blood when girls fought. Girls slammed each other's heads on the ground over and over again. Girls bit and tore out clumps of hair. They screamed names at one another while they fought. Boys didn't do that. Boys just punched and kicked one another, sometimes ended up wrestling on the ground, until somebody won. My parents were pretty oblivious to what was going on with me, and for good reason: I didn't mention it ever.
Memory: A kid in my grade picked a fight with my little brother once, and threatened him with a knife. The next day, my dad told me I had to go kick the kid's ass. Jeff Jackman, the kid in question, was quite literally twice my size. He weight was more than double what I weighed (I came in around 85 lbs), and he was around 5'6" or so, whereas I was around 4'5". Again, I was usually the smallest kid in whatever grade I was in.
So, I tried to bail but Jeff heard about it and the neighborhood kids captured me and dragged me down to the local park, sometimes carrying me, sometimes dragging. There were dozens of them, some in high school. They were taking me to 'The Diamond', which is what they called the baseball diamond in the park. Apparently, the awful situation had escalated without my knowledge, and the fight was to be a huge neighborhood event. We didn't get to The Diamond, however, as Jeff Jackman came down over a hill and charged into the crowd, slamming into me while they still held my arms back. We hit the ground, a circle formed, and I was stuck in it with big Jeff Jackman. I dog-fought this kid for around 15 minutes, dodging his meaty arms and hitting him over and over again. It didn't seem to be doing anything to him at all. I was exhausted after the first few minutes and couldn't breathe well. Jeff was even more tired, so I kept hitting him. Finally, someone's parents must have noticed and called the police, because a cop arrived and drove me home. Jeff lived at the edge of the park, which the kids vouched for, so the cop let him walk home. When the cop car pulled up at my house, no one was home, so he just told me to go inside and cool off. My nerves were shot, and I was exhausted. I fell asleep almost instantly.
The next day, I had a black eye and my shoulders were killing me. At school, Jeff looked fine. But he did stay away from me and my brother after that, at least. A kid named Ben Hult had watched the fight and, shortly thereafter, befriended me to an extent. We weren't close, per se, but he was kind of a popeyed tough kid, and hanging out with him kept most of the bullies and roving bands of other kids off me. Ben was the closest thing to a friend I had ever obtained, and so I tried to hang out with him as much as possible.
Memory: A girl in my Home Economics class, Rachel, asked to be my girlfriend a few months later. I was surprised, but said sure. We started hanging out. She was aggressive and a real tomboy, and was prone to picking me up and tossing me about, which aggravated me. She was my second girlfriend ever. One night, she came home with me on the bus for Halloween, a bag of costume makeup in tow. We went out trick-or-treating in my neighborhood (she lived across town), and kept giving me angry looks. I was confused as to why. The next school day, she dumped me for some guy named Gary, and said she was breaking up with me because I hadn't tried to kiss her on Halloween. I hadn't been aware of the necessity of this, or that it was a requirement of some kind, in her mind. I felt bad and tried to kiss her. She acted disgusted by this and left.
She and Gary called me on the phone a few times after that to tell me how happy they were together. It was odd and juvenile. I told them if they called me again, I'd shoot Gary. Gary hung up and gave me dirty looks for the remainder of my time in Golden, Colorado.
Memory: My father announced that, after I finished 8th grade, we were moving to Coos Bay, Oregon (once again, I have no idea how or why he came to this destination). For the second time in my life, I was actually pleased to hear we were moving (the first being my expectancy with going to Australia). When we finally left, I felt the cliched sensation of a weight being lifted. I swear, the Sun came out when we hit the highway and didn't go down for a week.
Summer, and a complete transfer to Oregon. I was done with junior high.
9th Grade / Freshman year
21. Willammette High School - Eugene, Oregon: When we arrived in Coos Bay, Oregon, in our U-haul, we pulled into a hotel and rented a room. My parents began looking for a place to live while we stayed in the hotel. After six weeks, they gave up and we had to leave Coos Bay behind, opting to travel up the coast more and look for a place to live (and my father to work) in the larger, Eugene, Oregon. We found a place instantly. I was terrified of starting high school, owing to the horrid occurences and daily life I had experienced in Golden, Colorado. It turned out fine, however. Eugene was laid back. No one really cared about fighting one another much, or at least, not where I could see it.
I made a couple of temporary friends (we were moving to Coos Bay as soon as my dad could find a place down there) and started freshman year in high school. There was virtually no bully behavior. Everyone seemed fine. I could pay attention in class, and though I was in the lackey math class, I had a fine time at Willamette High School.
Memory: I affectionately refer to this as 'The Summer of Death'. It occured just before starting my freshman year. First, on the 4th of July, I was struck full force by a speeding rocket that shot down out of the sky, directly into the orbit of my right eye, nearly knocking me unconscious. The rocket was an illegal firework from Wyoming that we had picked up on the way to Oregon from Colorado. It was hefty and had a lot of force behind it. I couldn't see out of the eye for nearly three days, and it was fucked-up looking for almost a week. The impact and heat from the rocket's fiery propellant had burned my eyelashes off and melted my vision into a strange, warped eyesight, as through colorful, badly blown glass. A few weeks later, I was caught in the undertow of the swollen Willamette River and spent about a minute under water, being taken downstream. I snagged my arm on some blackberry brush that the river had swollen over, and was able to pull myself out against the current. My father nearly had a heart attack, having seen it happen and, for nearly a minute, racing down the river's edge in his truck trying to find me. I thought I was dead, for a moment. About a month later, I was struck by a car in a crosswalk and ended up on the hood, up against the windshield. I've written about this in another entry (The Loser 2: License to Drive), so you can view it there.
Memory: To impress a girl who was on the swim team, I went out for the diving team. I had been enrolled in a gymnastics class and really enjoyed it, so thought I'd give diving a try. I could flip any which way, so figured diving would be fun. I was on the team a couple of weeks. The problem was, I didn't swim well at all, and couldn't float. I made a special arrangement with the coach that I would dive, but not do any of the swimming events... just the diving, which I was good at, it turned out. Unfortunately, at our first swim meet, the coach cancelled my diving and signed me up for the 500 meter, which is 20 laps in the pool. I hadn't been able, at that point, to complete 2 laps in a pool without going under. Due to the insane stress of having both teammates and an opposing team, as well as coaches and various crowd members staring at me, I managed enough anxiety-energy to make 7 laps before going under and having to be pulled from the pool. As I climbed from the pool, being pulled by my coach by the wrist, I turned my head and saw the last competitor make it to the end of their 20th lap and get out of the pool, as well. I felt ridiculous, and sick to my stomach. "I told you I only wanted to dive. I can't fucking swim like that." I told my coach. "You'll do better next time." He said. "No I won't. I'm gone." I quit the team right then and went and changed my clothes. The girl I had joined to impress, and who had taken fondly to me while I was on the team, hated me once I quit. She wouldn't even talk to me but to call me a quitter. Sure, I was a quitter, but I know the difference between struggling to achieve a goal and getting an overly-encouraging pity applause after failing miserably.
Memory: I had decided I wanted to be writer by then, but the creative writing classes weren't available to freshmen, so I signed into a journalism class. I was complemented early on by the instructor, who thought I showed a lot of promise. For once, I was in a class where the other students seemed to like me, as well. They all enjoyed when it came time for me to read my articles, and I finally began enjoying a bit of attention. Unfortunately, it went to my head, and my articles began displaying streaks of humor here and there. The class loved this, but the instructor frowned on it. Humor didn't belong in true journalism, I was told, and when it came time to get the prerequisite consent to take the advanced journalism class, the following term, the instructor promptly denied it, saying I wasn't suited for the advanced class. She was probably right, though my junior, senior, and community college years were all spent writing articles for school papers.
Memory: I made it a kind of game to ask women out on dates. My absolute fear of attention had subsided to small extent. I now figured that since no one really liked me much, or had in my schooling career, I may as well do what I wanted. So, I had this list I made. Every time I asked a woman on a date and she refused, I'd add her name to the Rejection List. It hit 24 before we moved again. All rejections. No one was interested at all, and it certainly wasn't for my lack of trying. Girls didn't like me much. They found me humorous, yes, but most of them stated their reason for declining my advances was due to attraction. They didn't find me attractive. There was one girl in particular that voiced this very well. Her words (in a note) were "You're a loser and you're fuckin' ugly! Why would I go out with you? I don't need to date ugly guys. Fuck that." Though her spelling was awful and she was missing most of her punctuation. The note went on, as well.
Memory: I grew over a foot in around 7 months, and finally climbed above 100 lbs. I was almost normal sized. Three weeks before the end of the school year, my dad took me down to Coos Bay, where he and I lived for almost a month alone, in a strange little mobile-home that had been turned into a house, with additions, and I went to another school for 3 weeks. After we'd been there a month, he had a job and Bonnie and my little brother came down to join us. The entire month my father and I spent alone, we ate nothing but breaded chicken patties out of a box from a wholesale grocery outlet, cooked in our only pan. We ate them cubed, sliced, wadded up, between bread, with gravy, however you can possibly prepare prefabricated, generic, precooked junk chicken patties on a budget of about 3 dollars a day.
22. Marshfield High School - Coos Bay, Oregon: I went to this school for three weeks of my freshman year, and then the remainder of my high schooling. As for those first three weeks at the end of freshman year, all I remember is a Home Ec class that emphasised an awful lot of pancake making, so I got to eat pancakes in addition to the horrid chicken patties. I do remember being made fun of by a cute red-head in the mall who was walking about with some friends. The cute one pointed and laughed at my sweat pants, and much later, years later, I ended up dating her, for better or worse. I met a man named Elijah Brubaker, who, over the next few years, became one of my closest friends, and still is. I was in gymnastics outside of school for another four years, pole-valted for the track team my senior year, was a cheerleader (don't ask... okay fine, it was the girls), and made a lot of friends. The awful moving and shitty people seemed to have subsided finally, and I was able to be somewhat normal for once. As normal as I could be under the circumstances. I still had insomnia problems, and later devolped a case of hyperthyroidism, which I was able to cure, but that did mess up my life somewhat for a year or so after high school.
Memory: I had a girlfriend my senior year, who, after going out for two months, broke up with me on Halloween because I kissed her. Due to this and the what happened with my last girlfriend in 8th grade, and their juxtaposition, it is any wonder I've been able to figure out anything about the opposite sex whatsoever.
Memory: I had an instructor forge my name on a scholarship application because he thought I was a talented writer.
Memory: I took two straight years of creative writing, junior and senior years, and had a deal going with a faculty member that I could do this instead of taking English, which is what happened. I didn't take English my last two years of high school.
Memory: I met a ton of people via this school, including the ever-present Elijah Brubaker. I broke through the back yard of this ramshackle, abandoned house above a rotting beach and stole a machete I found on the ground. A few months later, I met Elijah Brubaker, and discovered the house was not abandoned, and that he lived in it. So, my first connection to this man was in stealing his favorite machete. After that, we became good friends and still are.
Memory: Several months before graduating high school, my father again announced we were moving. This time, to Phoenix, Arizona. I adamantly refused. After a month (and a trip to Phoenix that I didn't go on), he changed his mind and decided we'd move to Portland, Oregon. Again, I refused, and when the day came, my family left. I had a few days to figure out where to live. I had no job as yet, and had only just graduated weeks before. With my family gone, and nowhere to live, I asked a favor from a friend of mine, and managed to stay with him and his parents in their house for awhile. One month later, I had a job, my own apartment, a car, and had enrolled full-time at the local CC.
Summer passed in a drunken blur of responsibility and alchohol, and irresponsibility. All were welcome.
POST HIGH SCHOOL:
23. Southwestern Oregon Community College - Coos Bay, Oregon: I attended because of the forged scholarship, which I won and didn't know about until my name was announced at an assembly. It was small and only lasted a single term, but I managed to get enough financial aid to continue going full time. I dated, had troubles with a writing instructor, and began living on my own for dirt cheap while working full time and schooling full time. Somehow I managed to get drunk constantly and lose my virginity, then write some books and crash some cars. I did this for two years. Then I was done with school and driving. I wrote more books.
Am I educated?