Parallels To Life – All Good Things

24 05 2014

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The Red Hot Chili Peppers are my soundtrack.  Everything they produce parallels my life.  I don’t understand how or why, but it is what it is.  The more I’ve listened to interviews with them the more I’ve seen how organically they allow their music and lyrics to come to them, they tap into the best energy and they pray for inspiration.  I think that is beautiful.  How many rock and rollers do something like that?  Humble themselves before God before they create their art form.  I think that’s why I feel such a bond with them.  And it’s almost like they were made for me, to guide me through the world.

I have them, and I have my knowledge of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  It’s bizarre, and I lov

e my life as kooky and psychedelic and funky as it is.  It’s full energy, full throttle, full-time and I freaking love it!  That’s why I’m a lone wolf though.  Few people can keep up with me.  Gary Piazza is one of my friends who can though.  He freaking rocks it like the Rockingfreakapotamus.  I love that dude so much!  He has helped me in my journey through life to find myself and to help me heal from my battle wounds from when I was living like a gypsy.  He has shared some good words of encouragement and good words of wisdom along the way that have set me straight when I was way off course…and he doesn’t even know it.  That’s what’s so awesome about good friends.  They genuinely care and love, and that’s how I feel about everyone.

I don’t know how I became this way.  I think it’s a gift from God.  But I do feel love for all of God’s creations from the Rhinoceros to the creepiest spider lurking in the darkness to all of humanity, even the stupid people.  But if I disagree with you I’ll let you know because I care about people, and I think I have been given a gift of clarity and seeing truth.  I try not to boast or seem arrogant and I come off that way sometimes.  I’m just blessed because I asked God on my knees in prayer to help me understand certain things.  And He has taken me through experiences in life and shown me things that most people don’t see.  And it’s not because I’m better than anyone, because I’m not.  It’s just because I asked the right questions, because I’m curious, and I kept my mind open to the possibilities and the answers, the answers that I knew not to expect, but to be taught, things that were unknown to me.

And He had to teach me line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, there a little.  Because there had to be a foundation and a reference or a standard for me to measure things against as He taught me greater truth and knowledge, things that were previously unknown, incomprehensible to my mind.

It’s been quite a journey, but that’s why I was so out there for so many years.  I was gaining knowledge and wisdom.  I’ve been blessed and gifted and all I want to do with the rest of my life is share what I have been given.  Because I have been given much, I must give.





Dig Me No Grave

20 05 2014

Dig Me No Grave

Introduction

We are masters of ourselves.  We all know this, but how do we take control of what we already know and really master our emotions and physical bodies so we are truly healthy of mind, body and spirit?  That’s the key to just figuring out how to get started on the path to enlightenment.

 

I have a lot of answers because I’ve done a lot of things, tried a lot of things, put a lot of things into practice and I know what works and what does not.  One thing I can say is that I put my money where my mouth is and I don’t mess around when I go for it.  That doesn’t mean I have it all going correctly all the time, that’s impossible for anyone, it’s just not in the Plan of mankind.  But we can do our best and in this day and age we have more information and understanding about things and truth and the wisdom of those who came before us than ever before.

 

All I can do is give hints and clues to act as a guide because it is truly impossible to put into human terms and words what it is I’m even trying to say.

 

First, we were born a clean slate, a blank clean, innocent; know nothing, no assumptions, no expectations, no tendencies, only natural reflexes.  All babies have the same inborn natural reflexes and are all completely, 100% clean and innocent of anything, they are male or female and assuming for the sake of discussion there are no health issues, mutations or anomalies, that is the only difference, gender.

 

And there is a reason the gender was assigned during gestation and the body formed the way it did.  Because of the way genetic material lined up, connected; the way the program was told to work.  The DNA/RNA created the body exactly as its blueprint design was drawn up when sperm met egg.

 

So baby comes into the world, a blank, clean slate.  There is no predisposition to anything except for perhaps things it was influenced by through vibrations in the womb, its gestating environment and the food it was given during the 9 or so months.

 

Baby is given some tools when he comes to earth (I say ‘comes to earth’ because I believe we lived as spirits, children of God, before coming here to get a body).

 

The first is Free Will.  Everyone is born free, free to do anything, but their environment immediately begins molding and shaping their lives and telling them how things are, and they believe it, just like we all do.

 

The next is volition, the unconscious or subconscious thought process which is blank when they’re born because they haven’t had any of life’s experience yet.

 

Then there is their environment, and THAT is where everything comes from, comes AT them, begins immediately stimulating responses from the moment of birth, that little precious vessel of God just responds instinctively in any way he can to satisfy the demands of the stimulus that is being bulleted at him.

 

Nobody is born with a predisposition toward anything.  Habits, identity and all those things are developed as the child grows and experiences the things around them.  It is all environmental, 100% totally and completely from the moment that little zygote began responding to the stimulus in its environment in the womb.

 

We do have DNA genetic code and we do have triggers that unlock patterns that our ancestors before us have experienced and more often than not, that is what happens to a child.  They fall into that ‘natural’ environment and immediately begin conforming in every way and responding in every way the same way that their parents did and their parents’ parents did and so on and so forth.

 

Every newborn child is given the opportunity to break the cycle of dysfunction from their historically dysfunctional ancestry and make the world a better place.

Unfortunately they don’t know anything so babies become the representation of what we show them.  That’s what they do in their formative years.  That’s the only thing they can possibly do, mimic our behaviors and our actions.  Monkey see, monkey do.

So be awesome to your babies, people! Expect nothing but give everything and you’ll raise the most amazing individual you have ever known!

But with this understanding we can also help ourselves become, once and for all, the people we’ve always dreamed of becoming.  If you can merely understand how simple this Plan really is and how it applies to you as an individual, the limits are boundless.

And therein lays the key.  So how do you get the key to unlock the vault?

I’m still working on that and that’s why I keep typing.

 

Sometime in the year 2008 my then girlfriend was working for an advertising company who had a client by the name of Ruth Holmes.  Ruth had been diagnosed with cancer, among other things, and had discovered a new way to live; by changing the way she ate; because we are what we eat.  So she discovered the power of raw foods.

I don’t mean eating raw beef and uncooked potatoes, I mean eating what the earth provides for us to sustain us as the Human Family, the way it was intended from the beginning.  She cut out everything processed, and any food that came from any living being.

 

And she was blessed with an amazing gift to create an enormous menu of meals and dishes prepared all with raw, natural food items.

 

And this is what cured her cancer.  Yes, I said she cured her cancer.  A plant based diet is the way to begin to heal yourself, the way to begin to heal your body from the decay of what the propaganda menu has been feeding you for all these years.  The food pyramid…throw that thing out the freaking window.  USRDA, fugedaboudit.

It’s time to figure out how to save your own life.

 

I started eating this way to see what it would do for me.  I used to be able to set my calendar by my yearly bout with bronchitis.  But ever since I started eating this way, I haven’t had one single illness.  No colds, flus, sniffles, sinus anything, not even a headache.

 

I don’t adhere to this all the time, every day, but I try to as best as I can.  Sometimes I have to have a big fat apple fritter or get myself a nasty pastrami burger from Apollo Burgers.  And sometimes I eat regular people food for a few months but I stay away from a lot of red meat and dairy.

 

OK, enough of that because I could go on for days and perhaps I will in later postings.  If you have questions about the diet let me know and I’ll do my best to share with you how I did it.  It’s pretty simple but you have to know what you’re doing to get it right, and that’s why Ruth is such a Gem!  I love her like a long distant sister who is always there for me for whatever I need whenever I need anything.

 

So, back to this whole mind, body, spirit balance thing, and that’s the key to peace right there; balance!

 

Balance of mind, body and spirit.  And that takes sometimes a lifetime to figure out.  Sometimes people get it a lot earlier in life but it took me almost 50 years to figure it out.

 

And because I have, I feel a responsibility to share what I know, and it’s difficult to share it all correctly because it came through so much life experience which happened so fast and so intensely that it would have killed an ordinary man.

 

Now, I’m not saying I’m extraordinary, but as I tell my story you’ll begin to see as I have only recently begun to see, that I’ve been given some gifts from my Father in Heaven for some special purpose that I’m still trying to figure out.  I have a pretty good idea and I know I’m definitely on the course, but He’s showing me the path and telling me what to do rather than telling it all to me so that I get to enjoy every experience as it happens.

Sounds pretty ordinary, doesn’t it?  Well, I just have to be a little more patient because things are about to become a lot more fun.

 

So when we are born, we are a blank canvas upon which this dastardly world will attempt to paint your portion of its horrific masterpiece on your soul.  And while we are infants and toddlers and up through about six to eight years of age we are merely sponges soaking in every single little bit of experience and responding instinctively to every little bit of stimulus we receive from our surrounding environment.

So let’s give that some thought and think again about those inherent tools with which we come to this earth.

 

Everything we receive from our surrounding environment is processed by our five senses while we are newborns.  Any added sense of intuition has not been developed yet because that comes after the development of cognition and understanding who we are in relation to our surroundings.

 

As we begin to receive even the first new experiences in this world, which come by the sudden trauma of birth, our Conscience, Subconscious and Souls begin to develop.

And for the sake of our discussion, I’ll define my understanding of what the Soul is.  We have our body and we have our spirit.  Our body is a vessel within which our spirit is able to experience this mortal sojourn on earth and through which we are given a ‘veil’ of forgetfulness about our preexisting state in Heaven.

 

We are here on earth to be taught, to be tested and to grow our faith, because what comes next is greater than we can even imagine, and our Father in Heaven just wants to be able to have us look back on our lives and be able to comprehend in the best way possible for us what it is that He already knows that we need, and that is what we agreed upon in the first place before even coming here.

 

So quit complaining about your lot in life and make the best of it!

And now, back to the definition of the Soul.  The soul is the body and the spirit united.  As we are now on this earth, we are individual souls of mankind.  When we die our souls will be separated for a time, but then that’s why Christ was resurrected, so that our souls could be made complete, whole and perfected to move on to our next state in this eternal journey that we can barely comprehend while we’re here in earth Kindergarten.

 

And key to understanding who you are is to truly understanding what our Conscience, Subconscious and our Souls are, how they work together and what we can do to master them. Because that is our ultimate goal; to be our own masters and become truly free.

And I will boldly say that any person who does not have a personal relationship with their Father in Heaven is not a whole person.

 

I know that’s a lightning rod statement, but I’m a human lightning rod so light me up if you have anything to add to the discussion!

 

And in saying that I’m in no way condemning anyone or saying that if you’re an atheist you can’t find peace or happiness.  What I am saying however, is that for some people, there is much more than what meets the eye. And those bits of more than meets the eye are received only after you figure out how to nurture a personal, one-on-one relationship with your Father in Heaven.

 

And that’s an individual thing, between you and Him and nobody else. So nobody else even has to understand it because it doesn’t matter how anyone else would interpret it because it’s yours to experience and understand the best way you understand. You only have to start by asking, and the rest he will take care of.  But you have to work for it.  I didn’t say he’d do it all for you, I just said he’d take care of it.  But you have to start by asking for it.

 

And when you finally get that relationship it’s like an infinite number of portals just opened for you to find whatever it is you want to discover.

 

And finding that is a whole different discussion, but it is a part of this, and it’s the pinnacle of peace, but this is not the time for it so I’m getting back on track again, until our next divergence.

 

We all understand what our Conscience is and most of us pretty much believe that the Subconscious is a non-cognitive, unrecognized by our conscious mind, program that interprets our experiences and tells us how to respond.

 

But where did our Conscience and our Subconscious come from if we were blank slates when we were born?

 

And this is where things get a little dicey and the blame can get thrown around.  But we’re not going down that road so let’s be grown-ups and talk about how things really are and put aside our emotions while we get into this.

Everything we experience and everything we are told, the way we are taught by others by their actions and their examples, shows us how to respond to our stimulus as our free will begins to overcome our natural instincts from birth.

 

So in reality, we become a mishmash of the people with whom we associate from birth through those critical, early formative years up to about six to eight years old. That is pretty much our introduction to this world.  And everything we do after that depends on our understanding of the world during those first six to eight years.

 

And as a child is being reared throughout those first formative years, he takes in all of the experiences around him.  Everything that happens while he is present is part of the developing Subconscious and self-identity.  Even when the little babies are asleep in an environment that is a little bit too ‘adult’ for them, that stuff is traumatic to the soul of the little tender ones as they are just barely able comprehend anything at all.

 

It is so tragic today that little babies are exposed, or brought along to environments that they could not possibly benefit from, the overload of sensory experience creates trauma within the Subconscious of the child and they feel safe because they are children, trusting in their parents that they will do no wrong and that whatever happens is supposed to happen the way it does.

 

But people do such stupid things like take their babies to a rock concert, or have a drunken and debaucherous party while the child is present; believing that they don’t know what is going on.  They may not understand what is going on, sure but they are ingesting all of that into their precious little minds.  And they grow up looking back on those memories and when they find themselves in situations where they have choices to make, they recall garbage like that, use it as the standard and example of how to behave in society so they become completely out of control and the adults around them are left wondering how it ever happened and where they went wrong, and that’s why this new generation of children is so tragically bent for destruction.

 

And that’s where the gender identity thing comes into play.  It’s environmental.  I don’t know exactly how it works, but children are not created homosexual.  It happens because of life’s experience, and more than likely an experience during the formative years made them feel safe within their subconscious mind being sexually open with the same gender.  How messed up is that?

 

Children are exposed to things they should not be exposed to.  They are innocent babies from Heaven and they must be nurtured as such and those who are so irresponsible in their rearing of the innocent will have much to answer for, because children are not toys, nor are they playmates.  Children are vessels of God to come to earth, be taught correct principles and further His work and up build His kingdom on earth.  That’s how it works.

 

 

 

Dig Me No Grave

Chapter 1

A man filled with the love of God is not content with blessing his family alone but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race  ~Joseph Smith

 

I was a normal child, born in September 1965.  My parents got a little carried away with their hormones and if you do the math you can see that their wedding was six months prior to my birth so I guess you could say I was sort of an accident.  They were typical kids raised with the values of the 50s, their parents had been through the great depression and they were children of WWII, the baby boomers, and were fresh out of high school with adulthood before them, a baby on the way and no idea what the future held in store.

 

They named me Vaughn after Vaughn Monroe.  All I know about Vaughn Monroe is that he was a muscular and handsome man and an admired jazz singer and musician.  Not a bad guy to take after.  My dad wanted to name my Aubrey after some football player he liked but thank the lord he didn’t because that’s a girl’s name.

 

So I’m Vaughn Hocksworth Brown.  The Hocksworth came from some genealogical ancestry somewhere, I don’t know.  It has always been a great middle name for people to laugh about.  My friends often ask me what’s a Hocks worth these days.

 

As I write this I’m a 42 year old man living peacefully in Centerville Utah and I’m the father of five wonderful kids.  My wife kicked me out a couple of years ago, I recently lost a job with a wonderful company I thought I would retire with, I’m behind on my child support, I had to sell my house and barely broke even just to get out of the loan, my car just got repossessed (that was a scene, I gave the repo man the ol’ what for before he got away with the car), I am flat broke and don’t know what the future holds for me but for some reason there’s this burning joy deep in my bosom that just won’t quit.  I’ve been through the ringer, been suicidal and come out the other end only to discover that even if life takes everything away from you, you still have a purpose and that is to serve others.  It’s not about you, it’s about everyone else.  I have lost everything I worked my entire life for and I have a clean canvas with which to start anew.  My life has taught me, and I believe that our lives are given to us so that we can enlighten and uplift the lives of those around us.

*************

It’s about one year later now, I stopped writing and started living a little too fast for my own good.  I have had two DUI’s and I’ve once again lost everything.  I thought I had hit bottom but I hadn’t.  There’s only one way to go and that is up, but right now I have to deal with the consequences of my choices.  Drug addiction is what created all of this chaos in my life.

 

Throughout my life I have always encountered opposition.  This is not different.  Just as I said I felt a burning inspiration I received an onslaught of opposition to that inspiration and it got to me.  I became a pathetic drug addicted wretch who alienated and ostracized himself from friends and family.  It’s not something I set out to do of course, but it is the result of my choice to self medicate.

 

Choose to be free from feigned friends who first flatter yet later despise. Drug abuse may have started with them, but you pay the price.LDS

 

I have always been able to bear the burdens that have been placed upon my shoulders very well.  I have always been good and honorable and I have always been honest and a man of my word.  The emotions and the feelings I experienced through my divorce and over the past several years have been immense.  I spent a good many hours on my knees pleading with my God for help and for mercy through my trials.  I received great comfort and through those experiences I know He lives.  But I lost sight of the purpose for my being here and that is to be tried and tested to see if I would do all the things He commanded me.  I fell short.  I did not endure.

 

I turned to mind and mood altering substances to comfort me.  I know it is a temporary comfort, but it is something I reached for in my time of weakness.  What I know now is that I have been deceived in to believing things were moving along well in my life when in fact I was on a roller coaster ride of addiction, chaos and escape.  It starts with experimentation and fun, then if not bridled it leads to dependence and then addiction.  I have done some damage; that is a fact, damage that is the result of my choice to self-medicate rather than exercise faith and endure through temporal trials.

 

I know what is right.  I have chosen something else.  I am afraid to ask the question, why?  I am writing this to find the answer.

 

For now I am in a better head-space, my confidence is coming back after truly hitting rock bottom.  Sometime in the fall of 2009 I completely checked out.  I was not suicidal because I have so much love for my children; I could never bring myself to such demise and put them through something so horrible.  But I mentally checked out.  I spent the evening with a female friend, watched a movie and drank some beers.  I went to sleep at her house and in the morning I woke up when it was time to get ready for work and rather than get up I turned my phone off, rolled over and slept.  I didn’t tell anyone where I was or what I was doing because I had no excuse nor reason except that I didn’t want to be a part of anything anymore.  I knew I wanted to escape and stop feeling the burdens I had on my shoulders but I also knew I had incredible children I loved with all my heart who kept me alive.

 

I slept the entire day and through the night.  Through the night I thought of my future and what I had to do to keep pressing forward.  I hit the wall or the proverbial rock bottom and turned around.  I never knew when it would actually happen but it finally did.  I went to work the next day still affected by all the drugs and alcohol, sweating and shaking, barely able to focus and concentrate.  My boss told me he wasn’t going to fire me but he wrote me up.  I suggested they find someone to replace me and have me train them before I leave as that is what I would have done if I had an IT director performing as poorly as I had been.  But he gave me another chance and my performance has improved day after day and yesterday he gave me props in a staff meeting.  That felt nice.  I had been dragging and really neglecting a lot of responsibility.  I wouldn’t answer emails sometimes and that doesn’t work out very well when you’re the IT director and expected to be the authority on everything that uses technology.

 

Dig Me No Grave

Chapter 2

 

I was born in Portland, Oregon.  My father was a working class Joe.  He went to High school on the south side, my mother on the north side.  She was a cheerleader; he was the typical football player narcissist jock.  I don’t know much about their courtship other than what my mother tells me, which is, that dad pretty much thought he was god’s gift to the world, jealous, and she fell for him.

 

He came from a pretty strict upbringing where you didn’t get much say in the family, you just did what mom and dad told you or you knew there would be hell to pay.  He was born in November, 1943 and has one older sister and two younger brothers.  My aunt Sandi is eleven months older than my dad.  One Thanksgiving at the dinner table I commented to my grandmother about what a quick turnaround that was between Sandi and my father.  She wasn’t much of a conversationalist but she was pretty frank when she had something to say.  In response she announced to everyone at the dinner table that she got pregnant the first time her and my grandfather had intercourse after my dad was born.  Nice one grandma, please pass the cranberry sauce.

 

My mother was born in Idaho to a father who was an all American football star at the University of Utah and who was drafted by the Detroit Lions in the late 1930,s but couldn’t afford to play for them because they didn’t pay the professional players like they do these days (refer to the movie ‘Leatherheads’).  So he took a job with the railroad and they had two daughters — my aunt Carole and my mom five years later in 1945.

 

All my life I have felt like I was a special individual, not like I was better than anyone, not that I was greater than anyone, but that I had some special gifts.  Of course, being young I didn’t understand what I was feeling, these feelings however caused me to act and behave in peculiar ways which made me quite a unique and peculiar character in others eyes.

 

People have always loved me.  I never understood why but people have always really loved me and by loved me I don’t mean they worshipped me or envied me.  I mean people have always really cared about me, taken care of me, watched over me and tried to nurture the good things in me.  People saw something in me that I did not and they always tried to help me see it.

 

The one problem with this love people had for me though is that, as much as my parents loved me, as parents all love their children, they had no idea how to be nurturing in their love and so I have always sort of lived my life in my own mind, processing the events that have gone on around me, always drawing conclusions and learning lessons but never quite knowing how I fit in; what part or piece of the big puzzle I was or how appropriate my role in the world was and if I really mattered or not.

 

I used to sit and ponder the idea that I was an individual, that I existed as a person and I while I would feel overwhelmed by this I would try to comprehend my individuality by saying to myself, “I’m me” over and over again trying to wrap my mind around these thoughts.  I would really like to understand where this came from and why at such a young age I felt unique and special.  Nobody told me I was, I just felt like I had a purpose but really knew nothing of what purpose meant.

 

As I said before, my parents loved me and this is something I never doubted, except in my teenage rebellion when we all think our parents are against us and don’t understand that they do what they do out of their concern for our wellbeing and according to their own personal experiences in life.

 

This translated into a difficult relationship with them.  My father was very critical and discouraging of my creativity, not because he meant to be, but because he knew that his role was to guide me to be a man, but the only man he really knew was himself.  Not that he ever knew any other men…what I mean is that the only person he understood was himself.  He had his parents as his example, and his own life’s experiences by which to guide his life, therefore those are the things he used to guide my life.  He can be rather narcissistic and that kept him from taking much advice or looking further than his own feelings and opinions for learning and guidance through life.

 

Essentially, anything I did that he did not understand very well was inadvertently discouraged or criticized.  This gave me a huge complex of doubt, fear and expectation of failure.

Dig Me No Grave

Chapter 3

 

Most people’s first memories are things like Santa Claus, building a snowman, leaning to ride a bike, tying their shoes, going fishing…my earliest memory in life is a car crash.  It was December 7, 1967 at around 6:15am.  My parents had just bought a brand new 1967 Chevelle and my dad was driving me to the babysitter’s house before he went to work.  This is long before there was any thought of mandatory child seats, air bags and seatbelts were optional on a lot of new cars.  The Chevelle had a bench seat that extended all the way across the width of the car and when I would ride with my dad I would stand right next to him and lean up against his shoulder to brace myself so I could see outside and watch all the action.  Today this would get you a ticket and a hefty fine for child endangerment but back then it was what we did and I felt secure knowing my dad was right by my side.

 

It was a foggy morning and we were driving south on McLoughlin Blvd, a road that runs along the Willamette river through the town of Milwaukie, just south of the Portland city limits.  The car was travelling about 40 mph when my dad noticed a car accident off the side of the road.  Just as he saw the car to his right he looked up through the dark morning fog and saw an old flat-bed pickup truck parked right in the lane he was driving in.  An Old Italian immigrant who barely spoke any English had broken down and left his truck right in the middle of the road with no lights to warn oncoming cars and there was no time to react.  Our car piled into the back of that flat-bed truck at 40 mph.

 

Now, you have to remember that I was standing on the front seat of the car.  I wasn’t securely fastened into a state-of-the art child safety seat in the back of the car watching my favorite Disney DVD and sucking down a tube of gogurt.  The laws of physics say that I should have been thrown straight through the front windshield onto the pavement and become the evening news’ top story, but by some miracle I found myself perfectly safe on the passenger side floor of the car.  I was completely unscathed, curled up in total comfort.  The only thing wrong with me was a small tear in my pants and a piece of glass from the shattered windshield that lodged itself in the corner of my eye.

 

Of course dad wasn’t wearing a seat belt so when we hit the truck his head smacked right into the windshield and he broke the steering wheel with his chest.  Our car was crushed from the front bumper up to the windshield.  All my dad took away from the accident himself was a little shiner on his forehead and a sore chest from the shot he gave to the steering wheel.  We didn’t even pay a check-up visit to the doctor’s office and ended up walking away from it as if it were a minor fender bender.

 

I know there was someone watching over us that day, and I don’t mean that in some flippant, cliché manner either.  Think about it.  I was a two year old child standing on the front seat of the car.  My dad had no time to react, no time to reach his arm out to protect me and not even enough warning to hit the brakes.

 

Here is why I remember this day more than any other.  After the accident my dad called his father to come down and drive us back to my grandparents’ house because they lived nearby.  When we got there I went into the dining area and climbed up onto one of the bar stools next to the kitchen counter.  I have always remembered this scene all of my life and never thought too much about it until I got into my later teen-age years.  It wasn’t until I was nineteen before I even mentioned it to another person.  I can remember this as clearly as I remember anything else in my life.  I was looking from the kitchen area out across the dining room, the hallway lead to the left down toward the bedrooms and I could see a little bit of the entry way to the front door through the living room.  I was left alone in the room but there was someone there with me.  I could see him.  It was a man dressed in white robes standing in the room watching over me.  I remember the feeling as well as I remember this man I saw.  The feeling was of a complete and overwhelming sense of protection, safety and love that burned from deep inside my chest and from my head down to my toes.

 

This is a feeling I have never forgotten and have felt only at a couple other critical times in my life.  This gave me a deep and profound sense that I was never alone in life, that my life had a purpose and that I was to always survive, press forward and overcome any obstacles in my life to achieve my goals.  If it were not for this experience at the beginning of my life I doubt very much I would have been able to pull through many the challenges I did time and time again.

 

Interpret this as you will.  I only share what I saw and what I felt and leave the interpretation up to the reader.  This was a real experience, as real as the accident that preceded it.  It was not a dream, it was not some memory my mind manufactured to protect me in a time of trauma.  This is as real as anything else you, I or anyone has experienced in life.  My understanding of what happened is my own and it has served me well throughout my life.

 

Dig Me No Grave

Chapter 4

 

In my younger years my mother was very nurturing, very kind and a very secure and comforting part of my life.  Her life was strained with the responsibilities of being a young mother, having to support a young husband and new child and find her place in the world as a person.

 

My early memories of my father were of him watching a lot of football on our black and white televisions, drinking beer out of the can, smoking Marlboro reds and sitting in his favorite chair.  This is long before the days of color or cable television and remote controls.  We had rabbit ears for reception and a numbered dial to change channels.  On the weekends, when there were several important games on at the same time he would stack two televisions on top of one another and switch between the channels trying to maximize his viewing experience.  This is a man that Picture in Picture and remote controls were made for.

 

He played on a city league basketball team too and was a pretty good ball player.  He had really quick hands and a deadly accurate jump shot coupled with a profound understanding of fundamentals and strategy.  He was a great player and a great coach.  He was a pretty aggressive character and very tenacious on the court.  I admired him and he was my idol and model of manhood so I inherited that aggressive and tenacious propensity.

 

I also remember him coming home drunk quite a few times, singing something like “bola, bola, bola, bola” something or other and stumbling around the room.  My mom was pretty patient with him, he was young and having fun with his buddies.  Occasionally I would be asleep on the living room couch when he would stumble in and he would sit down next to me and tell me things like how his best friend, Bill Ward, was going to be my godfather and take care of me if anything ever happened to him or my mom, or how I was the most handsome kid he had ever seen and that I could do anything in the world I put my mind to.  These were the enthusiastic ramblings of inebriation, but they were they were somewhat comforting and they stuck with me.

 

A few times his drunken late-night returns resulted in fights with my mother, and I would cower under my bed covers crying and just hoping for it all to end.  Sometimes I would fall asleep and sometimes it would die down until the fighting stopped.

 

My dad never got physical with my mother during these fights, except for one single incident I remember where, through a crack in my bedroom door I saw him grab her shoulders and shove her backwards into the kitchen table.  This of course, was accompanied by loud yelling on both of their parts and I watched as the small of her back struck the edge of the table, and I remember fearing that he was going to hurt her more.  Fortunately that was as much as the violence ever escalated.  I think I was about five years old and that was a shocking scene to my innocent mind that left a deep emotional scar.  I learned that day to fear my dad.

 

Although there was a lot of verbal brawling, I did learn a great deal of restraint with regard to my physical temper as it related to the ones I loved.  The physical outbursts were always directed at inanimate objects such as table lamps, doors and other things that found themselves in the way of this unbridled fury.

 

I can remember one night probably in the spring or summer of 1969, my parents took me with them to a party of their friends’.  It was the home of a lady my mom worked with and my dad had never met them before.  Despite his narcissism and aggressive personality, he was rather uncomfortable in social situations where he didn’t know people.  My father was also very conservative and this was during the era of hippie free-love and experimental drug use.  He had no tolerance for any hippie love shit and wasn’t about to give it a chance.

 

When we walked into the house we were met by the sweet aroma of freshly smoked marijuana.  This is according to my mother as I was too young to recognize it or even remember that part of the evening.  This immediately pissed my dad off and he was in a bad mood from the get go.  There was a lot of drinking and card playing, cigarette smoke filled the air and the house was filled with a lot of friendly laughter.  I was in a back room with a couple of other children playing games and watching television as the adults partied.  To ease his discomfort with these strangers and to deal with his disapproval of the pot smoking my father immediately drank a couple of bottles of red wine.  As my mother sat socializing with these people, laughing loudly and having a good time, my dad’s irritation grew and grew and once all the wine took its affect, he quietly dismissed himself from the room and drove home without saying a word to anyone.  This type of anti-social behavior was common with him, especially where he wasn’t familiar or comfortable with the people around him.  I remember my mother coming in to the room and telling me that my dad had bailed on us and that we were getting a ride home from the party host.

 

On the way home we approached a bunch of police lights and saw several officers supervising over a car accident.  I vividly remember my mother almost panicking that it was my father who had crashed the car in his drunken rage and my mind racing at the possibility of what that meant.  Was he dead on the side of the road?  Was he being arrested and in hand cuffs for drunk driving?  Was he being belligerent and in an altercation with the police?  I had no idea and my imagination got the best of me for a few seconds.  As we approached we could see a man being given a field sobriety test and my mom started to lose her grip momentarily until, as we got closer we could see that it was fortunately not him.

 

When we got home my dad was lying on the couch, sick and vomiting on the living room carpet.  I was sent to my bedroom to listen to the evening events unfold and to be lulled asleep to the sweet sounds of a table lamp crashing to the floor, my mother cleaning it up and yelling at him about his asinine behavior, and my father continually spitting onto the living room carpet after having thrown-up.

 

Beside that there was never again any physical violence that I recall, except for a lot of door and drawer slamming and my mother stomping around the house in frustration.  Despite the absence of physical altercations, the shrill intensity of their yelling and the venomous rage that they poured out on one another what seemed to be day after day, over the years as this persisted, had a severe impact on my formative development and the way I learned to relate and communicate with others.

 

As I grew up and began to encounter conflict in my own life I took after this model and naturally behaved in this aggressive manner — it was all I knew how to do.  I was taught that in conflict it is important to exercise control over others and wear them down with intimidation and threatening tones and I saw very early and often in my young life that this was very affective in getting what I wanted.

 

Now, this is not to say that my father was all bad.  He had some of the most admirable qualities you could find in a person.  A lot of those qualities were buried deep down inside of him and covered by thick walls of insecurity and bravado.  He was a sensitive and compassionate kid who had all the talent in the world, but his rigid upbringing made him into a bitter and lonely cynic who was very critical of the world around him.  But hey, I love the man and he essentially made me who I am today, and I’m profoundly grateful for everything he did for me.  He taught me to stand on my own two feet, to never back down and to root for the underdog.

 

Granted, there were years that I resented, even hated who he was, but as my life unfolded I began to see that my feelings were misplaced and they eventually turned from hatred and regret to compassion, understanding and love.

 

I have mixed memories of my mother.  When I was small I only remember her being very comforting and reassuring to me and we had a sweet and tender relationship.  As I got older and grew into a typical young boy and on to adolescence I became increasingly frustrating to her and she had a difficult time managing the added stress of her son’s reflection of his father’s negativity and intensity.

 

From early on I was always very independent, and being the firstborn of either of my mother’s or father’s extended family there were no older children in the family I could look to for examples of what or who to become.  My parents were so busy managing their own day to day lives and wrestling the tension that persisted between them, they did little on their own to foster any kind of drive toward finding my niche or place in life or teaching me where I fit in or who I was in relation to the rest of the world.  I always felt like I was on my own to figure things out, and because most of what I saw in the home was defensive posturing and aggressive reactions, I grew up always feeling that I had to protect myself, and that lead to inflated self confidence and aggression on the one hand, and serious self doubt and low self esteem on the other.  I know that sounds contradictory, but this was how I felt, and so I was all over the map with my moods, emotions and my behavior.  Needless to say it was confusing and frustrating for me and for my parents to understand my motivations in life.

Dig Me No Grave

Chapter 5

In my own family I was an only child until my sister was born in 1974.  Our age gap was so wide that I was virtually an only child up until the age of about 16 or 17 when she and I finally began to relate on any sibling peer level at all.  I have a lot of great early memories of things my mother did for me.  I always remember her trying to instill in me a sense that the things I was experiencing were important and that they had meaning beyond just what I was observing as they transpired.  She spoke to me about all kinds of topics from politics to music to religion and even what was going on in space exploration.

 

I was small but I asked a lot of questions and my mother was never short on answers or information.  I know she didn’t always get it right but she sure did give it the old college try any time I wanted to know anything.  I would ask her all kinds of things ranging from why the sky was blue to how many grains of sand there were on the beaches and if God counted every one of them.  She would talk to me about the amazing changes going on in the American culture due to the hippie movement, the music influencing our culture; she was never short on opinion either, always telling me what was good and what was bad.  My mom really tried to help me understand what was going on around me and be able to discern the good things from the bad things in life.

 

As I got older and more independent, and a little rebellious, her enthusiasm for instructing me was met with some opposition.  But now that I’m a father myself I absolutely appreciate all she did for me and all she tried to do for me that I, in my youthful arrogance, refused to accept.

 

In July of 1969 I was closing in on my fourth birthday.  I remember we were living on S.E. 28th St in Portland, Oregon in an apartment complex owned by my uncle Frenchie.  That wasn’t his real name of course.  His real name was Claude Frank Pickman and he emigrated from France during WWII with his parents.  He was a successful jeweler in Portland and married my dad’s older sister, Sandi.  I called him Uncle Frenchie and the rest of the family called him Frenchie or Frank.  He brought a cheerfulness to the family and I always loved being around him.  He had a twinkle in his eye and the kindest smile and he was always happy and laughing.

 

The apartment complex was made up of four units and my parents lived there as the managers.  I don’t remember a lot about that place but I do remember it was up above the street on a hill, there were concrete stairs you had to climb to get up to the yard and the apartments.  All four of the units faced the same front yard on the street corner.  Our unit was the south west apartment and I have a clear recollection of the dark green shag carpet, the green couch and the bright orange lounge chair, the one my dad used to watch all his football games in.  What an eye sore that thing was.  But this was the late 1960s and these vivid, contrasting colors were out of sight, man.

 

This is the chair I remember spending hours in sitting in my dad’s lap watching a lot of sports and Viet Nam war news footage.  As I said, my dad was my idol.  He was the man, my hero.  He was the best at everything, he was the biggest, the strongest and the handsomest and he could do anything better than anyone.  I knew that all I needed was my mom and dad and I knew that nothing could hurt me.  He joined the National Guard rather than get drafted into the Army and sent to Viet Nam so he got used to getting up at the crack of dawn while he was in the service.

 

Every morning he would wake up bright and early and often he would get me up with him to keep him company.  I remember sitting with him while he read the paper, made coffee and drank that first piping hot cup, he would read me the comics, and we would try to do the word jumble together, watch some television and just have that good father and son bonding time together.

 

While I sat in his lap in this big orange chair my dad would light his cigarettes with matches.  This was before Bic invented the disposable lighter in 1973, so if you smoked you either had a Zippo lighter or matches (having matches in the house was also good for clearing out methane fumes in the bathroom).  He would always let me blow out the match after he lit his cigarette and I would stare at the smoke as it rose up into the air and drifted away.  I watched the plumes of smoke from his mouth carry across the room and dissipate into nothing and I would wonder where it all went.  I would sit and watch his hand holding the burning cigarette as he stared at the television and carefully watch the smoke rise straight up from the glowing orange tobacco, then begin to jiggle a bit and then about six inches above the cigarette it would lose its cohesiveness and spread out into the air and drift away and I would sit and wonder where it all went and what it was going to do after it escaped our house.

 

It was during this time that I got my first taste of beer.  Dad used to drink Blitz Wienhard out of the tin can with the pull tab.  This was before light beer and easy opening cans.  You couldn’t crush those beer cans like you can today.  When someone smashed a beer can on their forehead in those days you knew you were dealing with a person with special needs.

 

Beer tasted yucky but at the same time it had its appeal.  Freshly lit cigarettes and beer in a can…they say that the sense most tightly bound to memory is smell and all my life, whenever I smell cigarettes being lit or a can of beer being opened, I have a sense of comfort and that feeling I had when I spent time on my dad’s lap as a little boy.  What an odd sensation.  But it’s true, I always felt some comfort and maybe that’s why I like to smoke and drink beer.  I really enjoy it.  I do know it’s not good for me and it’s something that I have struggled with all my life.  I don’t over do it; I don’t even have an addiction to cigarettes.  Sometimes I go a couple days without smoking, sometimes have only one in the morning or in the evening.  I don’t understand why people are so addicted to smoking and why it’s so hard to quit.  I can forget about smoking for long periods of time and it doesn’t bother me in the least.  Even when the thought of a cigarette comes to mind I can forget about it and not have the junkie Jones going on for the nicotine.  But I always go back to them and smoke.  I quit all the years I was married but I just do it now as a comfort sort of thing.  The kicker in all of this is that my dad quit smoking when he joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, but I got that monkey on my back from childhood.

 

Crazy things always happened to me and this apartment complex is where it all started.  This was back in the day when the garbage man used to walk into the backyard and get the garbage can, take it to his truck and empty it, then put the can back in the back yard.  We didn’t have to drag our garbage cans to the street corner in those days.  In these apartments that my parents managed, we had garbage cans that were in the ground.  There were several of them in a group and each apartment had a garbage can assigned to it.  There were no dumpsters for us like we see today at apartment complexes.  These trash receptacles were holes in the ground, lined with sheet metal and just the right size so you could drop a steel garbage can down inside of it.  When we took the trash out we would step on the side of the cover and it would open up and we would drop the trash into the can.  The garbage man would have to come into the yard and pull these full cans up from out of the ground and carry them to his truck to dump them.  Then he would get on the back of the garbage truck and ride down the street like a fireman while his partner drove the garbage truck.  This was the days before automated garbage trucks drove up to the curb with mechanical arms to lift the garbage cans and empty them into the back of the truck.  These garbage men were hard working blue collar Joes and they were respected for their hard work.

 

One day the garbage can had been removed from its hole and I was in the back yard playing by myself.  I must have been about three or four years old and I wandered over to the hole in the ground, took a look and somehow fell in.  I was stuck, bleeding, crying and yelling at the top of my lungs for help.  I’m not sure how long I was in there but finally my mom came running out and pulled me out of the garbage hole.  I remember having scrapes and bruises all over me from the tumble I took into the hole.  That was a traumatizing experience and my mother had a hard time forgiving herself for that one.  It wasn’t exactly her fault but she blamed herself because she didn’t have her eye on me when it happened.

 

In that same back yard area there was a small patch of grass that I could play on and my parents had bought me a plastic swimming pool for the hot summer days.  My dad was into golfing and liked to practice hitting golf balls into that swimming pool while it was leaned up against the side of the house.  He would put a blanket over the pool to soften the blow of the golf balls but it still put holes in the pool so I didn’t really get to play in it because he ruined it so quickly.  It didn’t really bother me too much; I do remember my mom getting on his case about it though.

 

One day while he was out there chipping balls into the pool I walked out with one of my toys.  It was a wooden horse with four wheels that I could sit on and ride down the sidewalk or across the room.  I would sometimes take it outside and push it from behind, pretending that it was a lawnmower.  This one afternoon as my dad was hitting golf balls I decided it would be fun if I could run back and forth in front of him as he hit the balls.  He thought it was funny too so he let me do it and kept on swinging.  I remember my mother from inside the house yelling at us and telling him, “Milt, you better not hit him with one of those balls!”

 

Of course, we all know what happened.  After three or four times running past him I started taunting him and saying, “You missed me, you missed me.”

 

So he started cutting it a little closer just to show me that I wasn’t quite as slick as I thought I was and wouldn’t you know it, we just got a little too carried away and, whammo!  He smacked a golf ball right into my nose and the blood began to flow.  I hit the ground holding my nose, I was screaming at the top of my lungs, he came running over to me half laughing and half trying to not get in too much trouble with my mother who had just warned us about this.

 

He carried me into the house and put me in the shower so my nose could bleed and not get all over the floor.  I do remember being in there with him and he was trying to make my laugh by telling me I was getting blood all over his feet and to knock it off.

 

My dad wasn’t the greatest comforter but he had a big heart and really just wanted to make me happy.  He didn’t know anything more than just how to play rough and we really did that a lot.  We were always rough housing in the house, wrestling, I would start punching him, he would start laughing and taunting me, I would get frustrated and one thing lead to another and the next thing you know I’m crying, dad got a little too rough and mom is yelling at us.

 

These were great times for me.  I guess you could compare it to lion or bear cubs roughhousing with their siblings.  We just liked to play hard and laugh hard; these were bonding times for me and my dad and I thought the world of him.  He made me a tough little SOB and a tenacious competitor.  Everything we did was a competition.  We played checkers together, we played all kinds of games, we would run together, I always tried to see if I could keep up with him at everything he did and he always beat me.  Even as I got older and we would play one on one basketball together, or tennis, or racquetball, he would almost always beat me, but barely and the competition was fierce.  I think I pushed him as hard as he pushed me, but he always somehow made me feel that I was still good enough and tough enough to come out on top of any situation.  He really showed me how to compete and fight to the end to win.  The frustration of losing to him carried over into my activities with my friends and sports, and when I would compete I wasn’t the least bit casual about dropping the hammer and I always enjoyed a win to its fullest.

Dig Me No Grave

Chapter 6

 

There was a small apartment complex of about six units behind ours where a little girl lived.  She had a big, black standard poodle named Jocko.  I used to play with her and Jocko and one day she told me that Jocko was a watch dog.  I asked her what that meant and she told me that he would attack on command.  I asked her again, what did that mean and she said, “Do you want to see?”

 

I said, “Sure.”

 

We were standing in her back yard, our yards connected, and Jocko was there with us.  So, to demonstrate she looked at me looked at the dog and the next thing I remember was hearing the words, “Sick ‘em Jocko.”

 

That dog lunged for me with snarling jaws and I took off running in a panic toward my yard.  Jocko ran me down and took a couple of nice bites out of the backs of my legs and my ass.  He didn’t get me down, I kept on running and made it into the house and when I got in the house my mother freaked.  She had no idea what I was screaming about, she just saw me charge into the house crying and holding the back of my legs and she saw blood.

 

She took me to the doctor and I got a tetanus shot for it and that little girl got in some big trouble for that one.  I didn’t really hold it against her, I knew she didn’t mean for me to get eaten alive, she was just an impulsive kid who wanted to show me how badass her dog was and being a child, she didn’t have the forethought to realize that it could have caused some serious harm to me.  But who the hell trains a standard poodle to be an attack dog?  Good lord almighty, what a crazy world I lived in!

 

This was a time when I began to realize that the world was not always going to be completely safe.  This was a time when I learned that I had to grow eyes in the back of my head, watch my step, keep my head up, listen to what was going on around me and always look over my shoulder.  I felt that the best thing I could do to protect myself was to never ever quite relax all the way or trust anyone completely, to keep my friends close to me and keep a close eye on my enemies.  There was always a reason to be on guard and I was on guard all the time after that.

 

It was while we lived in these apartments that I remember watching the Apollo 11 space ship land on the moon.  As I said before, my mother always wanted me to be aware of important events happening in the world so that I could recall them later in life and have rich memories to share with my children.  I remember it was over several days that this transpired.  It was during the summer of 1969 in July.

 

We sat in front of our black and white television on the morning of July 16, 1969 and watched Saturn V launch Apollo 11 from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida.  I remember watching the rocket launch and the different stages of the rocket being released and falling back to the Earth.  The whole launch took about twelve minutes and the space ship was in orbit around the Earth.  They stayed up there for a couple of days on their way to the moon and we waited with great anticipation for the next chance to watch what happened.  Every day we would listen to the radio or watch the television news for updates about how the mission was going and we always heard good news.

 

I would look outside at the moon and try to comprehend that there was an actual man made ship up there travelling to the moon.  It boggled my mind and it was fascinating.  I would stand outside pondering, trying to grasp the greatness of what was going on, although I didn’t draw any conclusions or receive any great revelations, it was a wonderful experience for a  young boy.

 

Then, on July 20th sometime in the afternoon it was time for us to sit down at the television again and witness the landing of Apollo 11 on the moon.  This was what I remember the most, my mother sat me on her lap and said to me, “I want you to pay attention to what is happening here because this is a great accomplishment for a man to be landing on the moon and I want you to remember it.”

 

I made sure I paid close attention and I do remember watching that television that day and seeing the lunar approach, I remember the anticipation and all the talking between Houston Control and the Eagle.  I remember the high pitched squeals of the radio signals going back and forth, the static as the transmissions would go from sender to receiver and I remember listening very closely, knowing that I was listening to a conversation between men who were up in space and about to land on the moon and men who were back on the Earth guiding them to safety.

 

As we watched I remember the exciting feelings of witnessing such an awesome event and hearing the words, “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.”

 

We sat and watched as Neil Armstrong descended from the space ship and set foot on the moon and watched from time to time over the next several days as they walked on the moon, drove the lunar rover, hit golf balls, took pictures and I can remember the most awesome sight of seeing the Earth rise and set from the moon as we normally see the moon rise and set on Earth.  What a sight to behold, and it was happening live during my lifetime.

 

We followed the entire process and even the trip home.  I do remember seeing the command module splash down a couple of days later and the astronauts emerging safely from it.  What an incredible time in our nation’s history, and I was able witness it.  I’m grateful that my mother found it so important to share those types of events with me to enrich my memories.

 

During these early years my mother’s parents lived in Corvallis, Oregon, Home of the Oregon State Beavers.  My Grandfather worked there for the Union Pacific Railroad.  I don’t remember much of that time because we didn’t get down to Corvallis more than once or twice but while I was still very young they moved closer to town and lived in a double wide mobile home in a trailer park called Wood Village Greens.  My grandpa, Glade Rasmussen, took a job as manager of the Gateway Elk’s Lodge far out in N.E. Portland in an area called Gateway.  All I know about the Elk’s Lodge is that it was a lot like Fred Flintstone’s Water Buffalo Lodge.  They did a lot of drinking, a lot of card playing, bowling, yucking it up and having a good time.  I always considered my grandpa to be the Grand Puba.

 

The Wood Village mobile home park was next to the Multnomah Kennel Club where the greyhound dogs raced in Troutdale, Oregon.  If we were at their house during the races I always enjoyed sitting outside in their tiny little yard listening to the announcers and imagining the races as they took place.  My dad would occasionally go to the dog track and bet on the races and once in a while I remember him coming back talking about winning or losing and how much money he would put down on the bets.  I would ask him to take me but he always told me he would when I got older.  That day never came.  I would probably have enjoyed the time with my dad at the track but at the same time, it was probably the last place a young boy should be making memories and bonding with his father.  It’s probably a good thing we didn’t do that together.

 

He would take his trips to Reno for gambling with his buddies, he would go to the horse track, the dog track and he had books on gambling that taught him how to play poker, black jack, craps and how to bet more affectively.  I never remember him coming home with any big stories of hitting it big at the casinos or the track so that must have never panned out for him.  He quit gambling when I was about eleven years old after he joined the LDS church.  Well, I guess I shouldn’t say he completely quit gambling but he quit playing games of chance and betting on the races.  As I said before he always wanted to strike it rich and he made some pretty shaky investments and business moves while I was growing up.  This is probably most of the cause of the tension between him and my mother and their constant bickering.  My mom was a hard working, by the book kind of person who kept track of every move and every penny.  My dad just wanted to get out there, do the work and reap the rewards.

 

My dad always wanted to strike it rich. He worked hard, he was a good and honorable blue collar guy but he just wanted that break in life to be able to enjoy the riches he desired.  He went to college for a short time after high school and studied computer programming.  This was back in the day of punch cards and massive computers with tiny bits of RAM.  He was pretty good when he applied himself but didn’t have the focus so he put his energy into becoming a carpenter and a tradesman.  Like I said before, he was a good hard worker and very skilled at what he did.  I always remember him having jobs down at the docks on Swan Island or some construction job where he would be swinging hammers all day long while I was very young.  He would come home from a long, hard day, tired and drop down into his favorite chair for some beer, and a look at the newspaper.  My mother always prepared a good dinner at the end of the day and we always ate together at the table as a family.  After dinner he would take his routine back into the living room for the rest of the evening and the television would rule the night.

 

Dig Me No Grave

Chapter 7

 

My mom’s parents were an interesting couple.  Grand-dad was an alcoholic and grandma did her share of drinking but she also smoked a lot.  They were from Idaho and Utah and their ancestry was a Mormon pioneer heritage, so they always had the angel of guilt on their shoulders and tried to hide these vices from the grandkids.  We could smell the smoke permeating the walls of the mobile home and furniture.  Grandpa’s Old Spice cologne and grandma’s Taboo perfume didn’t quite have enough strength to overcome the smell of scotch and cigarette smoke and those four smells combined have stayed with me.  Quite an interesting aromatic combination of nastiness and cheap perfumes coupled with the memories of a double wide trailer…not something you easily forget.

 

It was a game of secrets when the kids came around.  My grandfather, Glade, he was the classic alcoholic.  He was a nice man, he always tried to make us laugh and I never saw him lose his temper ever.  He had a hearing problem that troubled him all of his life and I think that lead to his drinking so much.  When he was a young boy he used to get scolded in school for not being able to keep up, but it was because he was mostly deaf.  This was a trial for him and he carried that burden throughout his life and dealt with it the best way he knew how.  He was a handsome man, very strong and athletic and he always wanted to show us his garden and he would talk and talk on and on and, even though he had hearing aides, he still couldn’t barely hear what people were saying in conversations so he would just keep talking louder and louder.  He always had something to say, always had the answer, always wanted us to know what he was doing and why he was doing it and he told us about it all the time.

 

Like I said, he was a really nice guy so you put the alcoholic with the hearing problem and his mastery of conversation and you have a pretty ripe character for a grandpa.  He would drone on about how he used a little corn starch in the gravy at Thanksgiving and how it made the gravy look shiny, just by using a little corn starch instead of flour.  He was right, corn starch works better in gravy than flour and he made sure we all knew it.

 

My grandpa Glade got into a car accident around this time.  I don’t have all the details but in addition to the hearing problem, he broke his leg in the accident, it was a compound fracture that shortened his leg and for the rest of his life he always wore a special shoe with a built up heel.  That didn’t stop him from being the tenacious go getter that he was.  He was a hard worker, always doing something for the neighbors, lending a hand, helping out; he was the standard of someone you could call on for help to get the job done right.

 

My grandparents on my dad’s side lived nearby in Milwaukie.  We visited them often and they lived next door to some kids I used to play with.  For some reason I don’t remember any details of those neighbors other than there were two girls and we were friends.

 

I remember my dad’s parents had a couple of dogs named Jet and Rebel.  Jet was a Black Lab and Rebel was a German Sheppard.  I don’t remember how they died but they did and then my grandparents got a new dog, a big brown poodle and they named him Barney.  He was fun.  I loved that dog.  We would play fetch in the yard like kids do, run around the living room chasing each other and I would just have loads of fun rolling around on the floor with this dog whenever we went over to see grandma and grandpa.  My dad would call him ‘Barn Smell’ if it had been a while between baths and that always made me laugh.

 

My aunt Sandi and uncle Frenchie had a small white poodle named Sam.  They loved this dog as one of their children.  Frenchie was married once before he met Sandi and I remember there being some tension because his divorce was not final when they began dating and he’s about eighteen years her senior.  He has two children, Steve and Claudia.  Steve was a practicing homosexual in the San Francisco Bay area, did the gay thing, contracted AIDS and died from it in the mid 1990s.  I don’t really know what’s going on with Claudia.  I only met them once or twice and it was when I was in my thirties.  I remember liking Claudia.  She was nice.  All I remember about Steve is that he was pretty damn gay and he smoked like a chimney.

 

Frenchie and Sandi never did have any children of their own.  I don’t understand how a woman can marry in her twenties and go through life never having children and still feel fulfilled.  This may be why she always seemed, to me at least, to be antagonistic, always giving everyone the old ‘what for’, throwing her opinion around like it had some sought-after value.

 

They always had dogs instead of children, and Sam was their little guy when I was really young.  It must have been around the summer of 1969, my grandparents were building a deck out back on the top floor of their home and while it was under construction I was outside playing with Sam and the adults were in the house watching me.  I was about six feet above the yard on the edge of the deck and I could see everyone in the house through the open sliding glass door.  They all looked at me and saw that I was holding Sam precariously over the edge.  Not in any malicious way but I was just sitting there dangling my feet and holding the dog.  No sooner did Sandi yell, “don’t let go of him’, than I let go of that poor little dog and he dropped to the ground below, yelping in agony.  He broke his leg when he hit the ground.

 

I remember that moment vividly.  It has always stuck with me.  I still to this day have no idea what made me let go of that little dog, except the suggestion when she said ‘don’t let go of him’.  I just remember hearing those words, thinking ‘what if’ and then opening my hands and watching that poor little dog hit the ground.  I sat there in shock.  I couldn’t believe what I had done.

 

I thought I was in for the punishment of a lifetime.  They were actually really kind to me about it.  I expected to get in some serious trouble but they took him to the vet, got a cast on his leg and nursed him back to health.  They chalked it up to me just being a kid and I guess that’s really what it was all about after all.  I’m grateful that they didn’t freak out over that, I expected some serious wrath and I was comforted instead.  That moment has stayed with me and played over and over in my mind in times of crisis, trauma and stress and I have been able to use that experience to wade through some tough times in my life, knowing that even though things go bad sometimes, they always get better and mistakes are just a part of life and that you have to forgive people because their intentions do not always match the results of their actions.  People screw up and you have to give them a break once in a while.

 

This was a major contrast to most experiences in my life, however, because I remember being railed on for the stupidest, most petty things, leaving my socks in the living room, not sealing the cheese in the refrigerator so the edges dried out, not coiling up the hose after spraying the mud off my bike.  I would receive lectures to no end about this, that and the other thing, but when I broke the dog’s leg or crashed the car there was virtually no consequence by way of punishment.  It was very confusing.

Dig Me No Grave

Chapter 8

As a child I was exposed to some things that most children, especially of the safe, cold-war era, were protected from.  We didn’t have cable television.  Movies were not laced with profanity and sexual innuendo, magazine covers weren’t filled with snippets of explicit sexual instruction, there was nothing suggestive going on in the music, we didn’t have violent video games, pong hadn’t even been invented yet, drug abuse among children was unheard of, kids were not smoking and drinking, you didn’t have to worry about your kids walking outside alone or going down the street unsupervised, it was an innocent time for kids.

 

But, for some reason I always found myself in the midst of mind expanding experiences.  Not always participating but always witnessing, processing those things and drawing conclusions based on what I had seen.  And most of these things occurred under circumstances whereby I could not, or dared not share them with my parents lest I receive severe reprimands and I knew that if I did tell them that they would just try to protect me from having any more of these experiences.  They may not have all been too pleasant but for some reason, I found them exhilarating and challenging and took them in for all they were worth.

 

One of the first mind expanding experiences I had was a Sunday afternoon in August, 1970.  This was a time when Nixon was president, the hippies were trying to take over the country, Viet Nam was the war and protests were going on everywhere.  Oregon was a hotbed of anti-war peace loving hippie nonsense.  It was a place where you could legally posses an ounce of weed, although it was illegal to consume, distribute or grow – you could just have it if that makes any sense — and a place where hippies found themselves refuge from the chaos of Haight & Ashbury and the rest of the conservative world that surrounded them.

 

President Richard Nixon was scheduled to come to Portland for an American Legion convention to help promote the continuation of the Viet Nam war.  As a result of that scheduled visit the hippies were organizing mass protests under the umbrella of a coalition known as the People’s Army Jamboree.  They were planning a series of anti-war demonstrations and other protest activities.  To combat this and hopefully thwart the efforts of the hippies, and to keep the peace, Governor Tom McCall made an agreement with local anti-war factions to organize a sort of rock festival, ala Woodstock, at the state park in the city of Estacada.  The anticipation of this event and the rumors that Santana, The Grateful Dead and The Jefferson Airplane would be performing, and being that this was a free-of-admission outdoor party where the police were encouraged to turn a blind eye to the nudity and drug abuse, the festival became an amazing spectacle that grew beyond expectation.  On the busiest day of this week long hippie love-in there was a line of cars that extended eighteen miles from the park gates into south east Portland.

 

President Nixon cancelled his visit to the American Legion convention, although nobody knows if it was a result of the protest activities, the hippies nevertheless thought their work was a success and felt quite proud as a result of this grand undertaking.

 

Where do I fit into this you ask?  Well, on the first day of the festival my mother’s friend, Connie, who worked as a Portland City Police officer, was dispatched to work undercover at the festival.  Not knowing what to expect and thinking that this would be a relatively harmless gathering of peace loving youth, Connie and my mother decided to show up a day before Connie was supposed to report for duty just to get a glimpse and find out what this thing was all about.  So, after attending our LDS Sacrament meeting services and having a nice and peaceful dose of spiritual enlightenment, Connie and mom drug me and Connie’s young son, Brad, who was one year older than me out to what has now become known as Vortex I.

 

This, like the car crash, is one of my first memories of childhood.  It was August of 1970 so I was four years old, going on five.  I was just about to enter Kindergarten the following month.  I was a little innocent boy who was growing up under his mother’s wing in a conservative home with a conservative nuclear family, and we were about to walk into this psychedelic extravaganza of nudity, rock-and-roll, pot smoking and free-loving LSD freaks.

 

Mom and Connie thought they were going to a state park for a big hippie picnic where there would be groups of young people holding signs and protesting the war.  Hippie love shit was relatively new in 1969 so ‘The Man’ hadn’t quite yet learned that whenever you put a bunch of unkempt, drug loving, jobless, college-aged wanderers together without supervision that it turns into a naked, drug-orgy from hell.

 

I’ll recall the events the best way my memory allows.  This was a mind bending experience for me, shocking to say the least, and it is something that I have never forgotten and has never faded.

 

We parked our car on this sunny Sunday afternoon and walked into Milo McIver State Park for a stroll, to walk down by the riverside for a quick and refreshing splash, to have a little bite to eat and give Connie a good look at what to expect for the next week.  When we walked in my senses were immediately assaulted by the sounds of rock-and-roll, visuals of naked bodies everywhere, people dancing and gyrating freely in crazy trances and all kinds of psychedelia painted on buses and cars, there were tents all over the place, booths set up, tie dyed fabrics everywhere, it was the pinnacle of what you would imagine a gathering of thousands of 60s war-protesting hippies could create.

 

I vividly recall seeing a large hairy man with dark hair and a dark beard walking past a big stage where there was a rock-and-roll band setting up.  Acid rock was blaring, he was buck naked and his ball-sac was bouncing back and forth, side to side off of his upper thighs as he walked.  I found this to be quite shocking but at the same time I found it so surreal that I was strangely amused by it and found myself staring and giggling.  I thought to myself, these are adults, these are people who live this way all the time…they must live this way all the time to be so comfortable like this in the open public, not caring what anyone sees or thinks about them.

 

My entire outlook on people changed at that moment and I suddenly was aware of the possibility, and probability that the world was full of things far stranger than I had witnessed or could imagine.  This set me up as sort of an explorer of sensationalism and strangeness.  I enjoyed being witness to things that normally shocked others and got a bit of a charge out of seeing people squirm uncomfortably while I would just observe and chuckle to myself about how oddly and extremely some people chose to lead their lives.  This is not to say that I ever agreed or had any desire to conform to these weird things, I just found them not so offensive as others did and understood that people were like this, and that they were just regular people doing irregular things.

 

As we continued walking we witnessed people toking weed out of various pipes, smoking joints, all the dancing, nude, semi-nude and otherwise, and then we approached a big hill that led down to the banks of the Clackamas River.  I thought I was going to be able to go swimming in the river and had my heart set on it all that afternoon.  That was the reason I was so excited to go.  This is a four year old mind, a mind that, once it gets fixed on something it is hard to dissuade from its intended goal.

 

We quickly saw that down at the river there was a large gathering of naked bodies all running around, splashing, tossing mud and having a good time.  That didn’t make me change my mind; I still believed I was on my way down there.  Mom put an abrupt halt to that idea and I threw a bit of a fit not being able to go swimming.  I was pretty upset and I remember standing up there looking at all those naked women and thinking, what’s the big deal?  I could still go down there and swim, they weren’t going to hurt me; they just didn’t have any clothes on.  Still, mom and Connie refused to let us go swimming, so we proceeded on walking around and looking at the tents, groups of stinky dirt-bag hippies, hearing blaring psychedelic rock music coming from all directions, there were vivid colors everywhere to enhance the psychedelic experience too.  This lasted about an hour until mom and Connie finally decided they had had enough and took us out of there and drove us home.

 

When we got home my father was livid!  He could not believe my mother would do such a thing as to expose me to this crazed, psychedelic Sodom and Gomorra.  Fortunately I don’t remember being witness to this fight but my mother recalls to me that dad was a little more than pissed off about it.

 

As my life went on I do remember bringing this up to her from time to time and her brushing me off acting like it was my imagination.  I questioned whether or not this experience was real or whether it was in my head because every time I mentioned it she would act like she didn’t know what I was talking about.  I’m positive she did this out of guilt for having exposed me to it.  After I was in my mid thirties I was on Google one day and decided once again to see if I could drudge up this memory and find any evidence of its history online.  I was able to find quite a bit and found out all I described above and also found out that an author by the name of Matt Love had written a book and made a movie based on Vortex I.  We ended up emailing each other back and forth and I shared with him everything I remembered from that day.  I haven’t seen the movie or read the book yet but I will and I’m anxious to see how much of what I remember lines up with the things told in his accounts.

 

I did approach my mother again, this time finally with some evidence, and told her that I did remember this thing and I had her tell me all she remembered about it too.  That is how I knew that her friend was an undercover cop and why we ended up going to this thing in the first place.  Imagine my confusion as I found out we actually did attend but that I had no idea the reason and was left to draw my own conclusions.

 

Dig Me No Grave

Chapter 9

The next month after Vortex I, I started Kindergarten.  It was September of 1970 and I attended a private Baptist school in the city of Milwaukie called Wichita Kindergarten.  The babysitter mentioned in the car accident story had a son, Scott Ruby and we were the same age and so we attended the same Kindergarten.  We became best friends growing up.  One day, before we went to school, just before our ride picked us up we were playing with one of his Siamese cats.  Scott was holding it and for some reason he tossed it at my head.  The cat found itself suddenly flying through the air and engaged all of its claws and began frantically grasping through the air for anything to cling to.  The first thing he caught was the middle of my upper lip just under my nose.  The cat tore a big old scratch mark right down from the middle of my nostrils to the top of my lip and it was bleeding like crazy.  Pandemonium broke out at that moment and there was yelling, Scott was in trouble, I was crying, there was blood, the cat was pissed, everyone was running around and our ride had just pulled up to get us.  We got a wash cloth, cleaned me up and slapped a band-aid across my upper lip and I went to school.  To this day I still have that scar on my upper lip and you can see it in every picture of me.  It’s part of who I am.

 

Scott had an older brother named Jeff, who we tormented relentlessly, and who tormented us back when he could get away with it.  We were pretty good at playing the ‘little brother’ card so if Jeff ever gave us back in equal portions what we gave to him, he usually got in trouble.  We always had this little-kid fanciful sense of accomplishment when we would start trouble, and it would end with his mom or dad yelling, “Jeff, you leave those boys alone!”

 

Big brother vs. little brother was a game we played well.  But then again, it was two on one so it wasn’t all that fair.  We got really good at antagonizing the shit out of poor Jeff, teasing him, calling him names, drawing goofy pictures of him, I have no idea why we did it but we just did.  Scott got particular pleasure out of it and I went along for the kicks.  It was fun and honestly, Jeff took it pretty well too.  He was a really good natured kid and had his older friends he hung out with and he was always really nice to me despite the relentless taunting.

 

Scott had an older sister named Lynn who didn’t spend much time around that I remembered.   She was even older than Jeff so she was always away at school or doing things with her friends.  He had a little sister named Leslie too.  She was about three years younger than us.  Scott and I stayed very close until we were about 18 years old so Leslie took a lot of hell by virtue of her position and gender in the family.  Like Jeff, she was also a great kid.  Actually, so was Scott.  Those kids were all great.  His parents were great, especially his mom, Ruth.  She took care of me probably from age two to age five and she was just an incredibly sweet woman.  Her husband’s name was Clyde.  He worked for the telephone company.  I don’t remember a whole lot about him.  He came and went from work and when he was home I usually remember him doing projects around the house.  They had a huge back yard, like ¾ acre and grew a massive garden with corn rows we would hide in and raspberry bushes we would go through and eat fresh raspberries from.  They had a lot of fun toys outside too.  They were the first family I ever knew who had a trampoline in their yard.  That thing got its mileage from us; we used it for everything from where to eat our lunch to our boxing ring and to sleep on in the summer time.

 

The Ruby’s always had a lot of animals too.  They didn’t exactly have a farm but they had chicken coops and would gather up eggs in the morning for breakfast, there were ducks running around in the yard, always a lot of cats and dogs too.  They even named every animal they had, including the ducks and chickens.  I remember one of the dogs chased one of the ducks around the yard and ate its tail feathers off one time.  The duck survived but his ass was all bloody and missing lots of feathers and Ruth gave the dog a piece of her mind at full volume.  I recall a lot of yelling from her because of all the commotion from kids and animals.

 

I learned to ride a motorcycle in their yard too.  It was a Honda 90, a little thing.  They had a couple of them for the kids to run around the yard in.  It seemed like they always had the greatest toys to play with and I loved being over there.  At one point there was a severed head from some Bob’s Big Boy or something like that, rolling around in the yard.  I remember the big giant head and climbing inside of it to try and make the head speak.  That place was my second home.  Any time I had the chance I would go to Scott’s house for a sleepover I took it.  His house was the only place I felt completely comfortable away from home.  It was under their watch that I learned things like how to tie my shoes, how to ride a bike, how to zip up my coat, those kinds of things that little kids learn at the very beginning of their development.

Dig Me No Grave

Chapter 10

The Rubys were Baptists.  My mom was raised Mormon, although I never knew her parents to ever attend church services.  My mother would take me with her to church often, but my dad wanted nothing to do with it, not until I was a little older, but I’ll save that for later.  Baptists don’t really look favorably on the Mormons but I don’t remember a single religious discussion ever coming up between me and Scott the whole time we knew one another and his parents never told me I was going to hell like a lot of other Baptists I’ve known through my life, so that was nice.  Even if they thought it, it was probably good they kept it to themselves.

 

As I got a little bit older my father began to dream a little bigger and started making some investments and taking some risks.  We moved from that apartment complex to a house on 45th Ave in S.E. Portland in the Woodstock area of town.  I remember the house they bought was kind of old, it was dirty and run down and had a ¼ acre yard on the side.  They bought that house around the summer of 1971 for $17,000.  What a steal.  This is long before the term ‘flipping a house’ came into existence but that’s what they did.  They flipped that house quickly by gutting it, laying down new carpet, stripping the wallpaper, repainting, putting in a new kitchen and bathroom and cleaning up and repainting the exterior.  The house went from a complete wreck to a beautifully restored comfortable and cozy home.  I really like that house and I loved the neighborhood.  It was full of kids my age and I made some great memories in that place.

 

The side yard became the neighborhood football field.  It was absolutely perfect and we would play for hours.  It was empty, just a ¼ acre side yard with grass, and they kept it mowed and healthy.  I was a happy kid back then.  As far as I could tell I had a normal family.  My parents loved me, I had great friends, I had fun at school and I felt safe.  I thrived during these young years of my life.

 

But the safety and innocence didn’t last.  It was while we lived in this house that I began to realize that life was not all milk and honey and innocent safety.  I began to realize that my parents were not perfect.  This was a time when some bad things started to happen, where I began to witness things that dulled the edges of my conscious mind so that the sharpness of shock and dismay did not instinctively turn me away in disgust and horror as it may have other more innocent children.  In hindsight I see this as a blessing and a curse.  It prepared me to remain calm in a lot of situations where other people would panic or lose their cool or just be overwhelmed by what was going on around them that it would leave them traumatized, but it also prepared me to be a little more comfortable in situations where good LDS young men should not be spending their time and energy and it made me curious about things that I would be better off not knowing about.

 

I was exposed to sexual things at a very young age.  I was never molested, never taken advantage of, never abused, nothing like that, I just wound up being exposed to things that I shouldn’t have been exposed to at such a young age.

 

There were a lot of girls in my neighborhood and they were a little older than me, a little wiser, they were pretty sassy and they weren’t too bad looking either.  In hindsight I think that it is possible that there could have been some sexual inappropriateness going on in their homes where they were the targets.  This is based on things I remember them telling me, like their father sticking his tongue in their mouths when he kissed them and them being able to access liquor and get drunk at an early age.  I didn’t know what any of it meant so it just remained in my mind as I got older and realized what it was I was hearing.

 

I became close friends with these girls; we hung out a lot, played all the time, our parents hung out together and I was always quick witted, cute and funny enough to be the older girls’ friend.  One day we were walking down the street, it was me, Sharon, Betty and Joy.  Sharon was in the sixth grade and so was Betty.  They didn’t go to the same school because Sharon and her older sister, Patty, went to a Catholic girl’s school.  Sharon and Betty were just starting puberty and Joy was my age, about eight years old.  So there we were walking down the sidewalk and wouldn’t you know it, off to the side we see some magazine pages flapping around in the breeze.  We walked over and low and behold we had ourselves some porno mags.  Four kids standing there gazing at these beautiful bodies in all kinds of crazy poses looking at us with those bedroom eyes.  We browsed those pages in awe.  I have no idea what the girls were thinking but I had all kinds of crazy tingly warm sensations going through my body that I knew were probably grown-up feelings, but there I was with these cute young girls, getting a lusty look at some hot babes and I have to say that I enjoyed that experience quite a bit.  Even though I was a kid, I felt the stirrings of manhood, if you know what I’m saying.

 

Sharon’s parents both worked and so did Joy’s.  Sharon babysat at Joy’s house during the summer for her and her little brother and a little friend of theirs that was my age too.  One day we discovered a jigsaw puzzle that was up in the closet at Joy’s house.  It was a Playboy puzzle and we knew that if we put it together we could get another look at those naked bodies we had seen in the magazine recently.  So we got it out and played around with it, didn’t ever manage the patience to finish the puzzle but that did lead us to some activities that, if our parents found out about, would have gotten us into some serious trouble.

 

This provocation of seeing the jigsaw puzzle got us to be a little more daring.  It was summer time and we were spending a lot of time in our bathing suits playing in the pool, sprinklers, etc. and the parents were away.  We were little kids, sure, but we had imaginations.  So, I changed out of my swimsuit and put on a towel and the girls dared me to drop my towel and run across the room naked.  Of course, being me I took that dare.  So I ran across the room in my birthday suit and it was quite liberating I have to tell you.  This prompted me to dare the girls to do the same and since Sharon was a budding young woman I knew it was my chance to get a look at something more than just the pages of a magazine.  I don’t remember how it all transpired because the feelings started rushing around in my head and I got caught up in the excitement of it all but next thing I knew there they were, naked girls.  I was an eight year old boy with this going on before my eyes.  Yeah, I thought this was pretty cool.  This went on day after day, no touching or anything but we were naked with each other all the time.  Disturbing on many levels, I know.

 

This only happened that one summer but it was the beginning of some pretty crazy feelings that were awakened inside of me and those experiences made me really dig on the female form and want more of it.  I can remember another time when I was visiting Sharon’s house with my parents and we were downstairs in their basement.  She was down there playing dress-up with a Betty.  I don’t know they saw this in a movie or what, but Sharon pushed me on the couch, made me sit there while her and her friend dressed up and then proceeded to perform a full on strip tease right in front of my gaping eyes.  I can’t describe the feelings this gave me as a young kid.  I felt like I was King Shit of Everything.  There these older girls were doing this crazy stuff for my entertainment and all I had to do was show up.

 

Not only that but Sharon’s older sister, who was in the eighth grade at the time, who had pretty much gone through puberty and had a nice rack of her own, came downstairs while this was going on and asked them what the hell was going on.  She didn’t scold them though, she seemed interested, almost like she wanted to participate too, but she didn’t, probably because her parents were just upstairs.  Her name was Patty.  She would always tell me how handsome I was and how when I got older all the girls would ‘be on my side’ as she put it.  When my parents went away for the evening sometimes she would come over and babysit me and we would sit up talking, laughing, making prank phone calls and having all kinds of fun.  She smoked cigarettes too.  I remember her telling me about things she had done with boys, things she was experimenting with and sharing these things with me like they were secrets just between us and they were new and wonderful experiences for her.  I remember getting butterflies in my stomach when she would tell me these things.

 

Rather than participate in the stripping she started taking my clothes off of me and looking me over.  I remember her saying something like, “let’s see what we have here” as she pulled my shirt up over my head.  I knew this was naughty but boy did I like it.  She only got as far as my shirt and my belt before it stopped but it was pretty fascinating to be a young boy and have these pretty older girls doing these things for me.  There was another time that we were playing hide and seek and Patty ran over and hid with me and taught me how to french kiss.  She told me she was preparing me for when I was older because I was going to be doing this a lot with girls when I grew up.  I remember it was very wet and I wasn’t quite ready for it but it was something I knew how to do when the time came in my teen years thanks to this pretty young thing.

 

There was another little girl who lived down the street a couple of houses named Mandy.  She was a cute little girl and we were the same age and in the same class at school so we walked together in the mornings.  I would often walk over to her house in the morning and knock on her door.  They lived in a run down house with a crappy yard and creaky old doors.  Her mother was single and she had a boyfriend who was around a lot.  He was a big scary guy who I think was mostly her drinking partner and was probably really abusive to Mandy.  Mandy never said much about him but would sometimes talk about how Earl would be coming over to stay the night so she had to be home with them and couldn’t play with the kids in the neighborhood that day.

 

There were always rumors in the neighborhood about Mandy’s alcoholic, abusive mother, how she would beat her children and how horrible it was in their home.  This is never something I ever witnessed but I would hear yelling coming from her home from time to time and her and her brother just seemed a little bit off center compared to normal kids.  Our parents would talk about it candidly and we always thought they were joking around, but at the same time we could tell that there were kernels of truth in the things they said.  Nobody called child protective services and nobody did anything about it.  This was a time when parents raised their children the way they chose and nobody put their nose in anyone else’s business.

 

Mandy also had an older brother named Brian.  He was friends with Patty and in the same grade, although they didn’t go to the same school because Patty was in Catholic girls’ school.  One day Patty was babysitting me at my house while my parents were at work when Brian knocked on the door.  Since he and Patty were friends she let him in and he sat in the living room with us talked for a while.  I could tell he liked her; she was a pretty girl with a great enthusiasm for life.  This day Brian had a fresh black eye and he came over to tell us about it.  When Patty asked him what had happened he told us that he got it for his birthday.  He said that his mother asked him what he wanted, and when he told her, she also said he deserved a black eye so she hauled off and clocked him in the face.

 

He got a black eye for his birthday and he laughed about it when he told the story like it was just a normal part of his every day life.  There was nothing odd about it and to me it just seemed like that was the way it was in their family so I didn’t really say much or think much of it other than being relieved my folks didn’t give me birthday gifts like that.

 

That was one of the last times I ever saw Brian.  I always felt bad for him and hoped that he was doing OK.  I don’t know if he left home, went to live with his dad, joined the Army or what, but I’m sure he got out of there the first chance he had.  I don’t know what ever became of Mandy either.  It wasn’t long after that that they moved away without really saying anything to anyone.  She was just kind of gone one day.

 

Dig Me No Grave

Chapter 11

 

This neighborhood also had its share of young boys and I had some pretty good friends who were in my class too.  Kevin and Ricky were their names.  They lived about a block east and a block north of where we lived.  They loved playing football in the yard with me too.  There were also a group of boys across the street from me who we played with from time to time.  There was one who was my age, one who was a year older and then there was a mildly retarded older brother who we didn’t play with much but who we would see standing in the yard staring at the sun from time to time.  This family was a bit odd.  They were extremely enthusiastic about their Christian religion and they drove a red Volkswagen van.  Their mother was a short, fat loudmouth named Dorothy, who was always giving us, kids a piece of her mind for the things we were doing that she didn’t approve of.  It was usually me she targeted because I was usually the leader of the group and the one who caused most of the mayhem.  She would stand over me and drone on and on about how this was no way for a child to behave, how her children would never do these things and ask me how I would like it if she did that to my things, this and that, how I would like it if she told my parents, etc.  This wore on us and she became kind of a laughing stock with the kids in the neighborhood and it began to ostracize her boys from the rest of the kids in the neighborhood.  Still, from time to time, when we needed a couple extra bodies for baseball or football we would call on them to fill in.

 

These were the types of kids who took every opportunity to tattle and squeal on those of us who were trying to get away with just a little too much or press our advantage as kids would do, and we did it all the time.  These boys also used adult words and phrases when they would speak.  I’m not talking about profanity.  I’m talking about grown-up talk, like sophisticated people used.  They said things that were just not quite normal for young boys, like not ending their sentences in prepositions.  For example rather than saying something like, “the hill he stood on” they would say, “the hill upon which he stood”.  This got them their share of razzing and mocking so they kind of took on the role of the neighborhood adversaries.

 

One afternoon Sharon and Betty had set up badminton net across the street in Betty’s yard and were playing.  I wandered over there to watch and I started playing with them too.  The two boys from across the street walked over and I remember they were just being annoying as hell.  They were asking us if we wanted a drink of water and we thought it was something nice they were doing for us.  When they brought it over to us we drank it and it in the water was a bunch of salt and they started laughing at us after we drank.  They kept this up for a little while, just being as annoying as they could, being their typical adversarial selves, trying to instigate some trouble with us that would end with me getting a lecture from that battle axe, Dorothy.  Finally we started yelling at them and just telling them to go home and leave us alone.

 

They persisted and finally I had enough of it.  I marched over to John, the kid that was a year older than me, and began forcefully shoving him in the chest until he fell backwards onto the ground  Then I climbed on top of him and gave him the beating of his life.  I pounded his face in until his nose was flowing with blood and he was yelling for me to let him up.  I have no idea where this came from, I just snapped and I could hear the girls behind me cheering me on and telling him things like, “see, that’s what you get”.

 

Once again I felt like King Shit of Everything.  While this was going on, John’s little brother ran home and got his mother and when I saw her coming I got off of John and he ran over to her and into the house.  I started walking the other way toward my house and this woman followed me on my heels lecturing me like she always did.  I would usually just stand there and take it because I was a kid and she was an adult, that’s just what you did.  You didn’t talk back or show disrespect to adults.  But this time was different.  I ignored her and just kept on walking with this fat ass biddy yapping in my ear.  Finally I turned around in the middle of the road and yelled into her face, “What?”  This startled her and she gave me another lecture.  I let it continue for a moment or two then realized that I had the power to just walk away, so I did.  I turned around and just walked into my house.

 

I told my parents what had happened and they were a bit startled, then soon there was a knock on the door and it was Sharon’s dad, Jack.  He came over to tell my parents that he had just witnessed this whole thing from out his living room window.  The parents were all laughing and I felt pretty kickass at this point, like I was the man, like nobody should screw with me or they would get what’s coming to them.

 

I took this attitude with me for the rest of my youth and it got me into a lot of trouble, although I never got my ass beat, except for one time when I mouthed off to the wrong kid who was about three years older than me and on the fast track to juvenile hall and a life in and out of jail.  We were in gym class and standing in a line in the gym.  This kid was named Gino.  He was Italian and he was a hard-ass.  He was held back a couple of grades so he was older and bigger and much tougher than the rest of us.  That didn’t stop me from giving him what was on my mind.  In fact, it made me give it to him even more because he was more intimidating than everyone else.  Until this one day, I just carried it too far and all of a sudden, out of the corner of my eye I saw his fist coming and, WHAM!  Down I went.  He cracked me right in the mouth and I hit the gym floor.  I learned my lesson that day.  I didn’t learn to shut up but I did learned how far I could push it and I learned to keep my guard up at all times.  This punch in the mouth woke me up a bit because it bloodied the inside of my mouth and it was the first time I got a taste of punishment from the other side.  I was usually the one to hand out the beatings.  I went to the bathroom to wash up and we made up after that and he had a respect for me and I had a respect for him.  It was just another day in the life and that was how it was at my school.  We talked shit and we took it as well as we dished it out.  Nobody went to the principle’s office, no parents were called; we just took care of things right then and there.  That’s how it was, it was a different time, nobody had to be made to feel special and everyone knew that they had to stand up for themselves.

 

That spring I decided it was time to start playing organized baseball so I had my parents sign me up in the farm league.  We didn’t have tee ball back in those days.  We started the season with full uniforms, fast pitch, aggressive play, winners and losers, the way it is supposed to be.  None of this namby-pamby everyone’s a winner crap.  The teams were chosen with the best players from the neighborhoods and the coaches held try-outs so they could see who had talent and who didn’t.  I had been practicing throwing baseballs at targets at home in my spare time when there was nothing better to do so I could throw strike after strike right down the middle.

 

I was good because I remember figuring it out one day.  I thought to myself, if I could just throw the ball as hard as I can, and also hit my target, I could strike out any batter that stood up to me.  This wasn’t something my dad coached me on or that some gym teacher told me.  It was just something I figured out, so I started to practice doing it.  I drew a target on a cement wall that was in front of our house and stood in the street with my mitt and ball.  I would stare at the spot I wanted the ball to hit and I would wind up and throw it as hard as I could.  After doing this for a while I got very accurate and I could pretty much throw strikes in my sleep.  Then, when it came time to try out for baseball I had a smoking fast ball and it was right on target every time.  So they made me the pitcher and I would switch back and forth with the catcher when my arm wore out, then he would pitch and I would catch.  The team was sponsored by a local drug store called Nolan Rexall.  We had a great time at practice, we bonded, the coaches were great, they taught us how to play ball, we were a great team and we won every game we played…except when we played against the Big Red Machine.

 

These kids were good!  They were undefeated and we were undefeated.  They had a pitcher who could throw as good as I did, so they coasted through their games like we did, striking out batter after batter.  We were a great team.  We knew we were the best, but this team was our nemesis.  They were undefeated and when we played against them it felt like the World Series.  These guys were good, they had great uniforms, looked sharp; their pitcher was as good as me and when we went head to head it was an exhilarating experience.

 

It was a rival game but we were all really good about it, no bad mouthing or anything like that to the other team.  We did feel like we were going to win though.  We had a great game, I even pitched great.  I don’t remember all of the details but I do remember that during one of the innings I was pitching I threw nine strikes in a row and not a single batter swung.  I struck out three guys in a row with three perfect pitches each, just whiffed them with my fast ball as they stood there watching me throw fire down on them.  It felt pretty damn good to be me that day…but in the end we wound up losing the game.  It was a close one but those guys just had better defense than we did and they beat us by one run.

 

It was a good lesson in humility for me.  It taught me that there’s always someone bigger, better, faster, or stronger than me out there and that I’d better keep my eyes peeled and not get too full of myself or else I’d set myself up for a big fall.

 

Something special also happened that baseball season that taught me about perseverance and overcoming obstacles.  I was a cocky little kid, full of myself, I felt like I had the world by the tail and could swing it around any which way I wanted to.  But there was a practice game where I showed up and I was just off that day.  It was cold, we didn’t dress in our uniforms and it just felt weird and I didn’t have the same enthusiasm and drive as I did most other days.  I remember standing on the pitchers mound, cold, teeth chattering, throwing bad pitches, dropping the ball when the catcher threw the ball back to me and having a pretty off day.  This was the first time I ever got down on me.  To make things worse, when I went up to bat the pitcher let the ball get away from him and it hit me right in the kidney.  It was cold; I was in a bad mood and then bam!  This kid drilled me in the back with a bad pitch.  I shook off the tears and took my base and that night as I was going to bed I told my mom that I didn’t want to play baseball ever again.

 

She sat there with me and told me that things like that happened all the time to people and that just because I had a bad experience one day, that didn’t mean that all the other great things I had done and experienced had been wiped away.  She taught me that just because I had an off game and got hit by a pitch that it wasn’t any reason to quit.  She told me that I should take that and not be scared of it happening again, to stand up and try again, to remember all the good things I had done and to think about that one bad experience against all the other wonderful times I could remember.  It really helped me put things into perspective and see that just because I had a bad experience it didn’t mean that I should stop doing what I was doing or that I had suddenly lost my talent or skill.  She taught me that the best of the best have bad days and that it’s just part of life and that we need to pick ourselves up and keep moving forward.  So that’s what I did, and it brought me a lot of confidence and a very successful baseball season.

Dig Me No Grave

Chapter 12

 

There was a kid who lived down the street from us, he was a big dumpy kid who was funny as hell and who had a mouth like a sailor.  I remember when I went to his house to play I would always hear something new, something that most families didn’t allow to be spoken in front of children.  Jeff was his name and he was pretty fun.  I knew that I shouldn’t consider him to close a friend because he just seemed to be on the verge of a meltdown all the time and was kind of edgy.  He entertained the hell out of me and I would always egg him on to say things that the other kids wouldn’t dare say and he would come up with strings of cuss words that were just hilarious and so out of control.  I couldn’t believe a kid had the guts to say such things.  I remember one day he let loose with a real doosey.  He looked at me and said, “You ready for this one?”  Then he turned his head and said “fuckershit!”  I was stunned.  This guy was a master vulgarian and I was beholding something that I knew my parents would never allow me to be exposed to.  Such language from a child!  Where did it come from?  He just laughed it off and thought it was funny that I found it so shocking.

 

There was a family who lived down the block from us, just across the street from Mandy on our side of the street.  The mom was a big fat woman and the dad was a skinny little man.  It was an odd looking couple and they had two girls that went to the same school as we did.  We were friendly with them but we weren’t necessarily friends like I was with the other kids in the neighborhood.  One day I was riding my mom’s bike around the block and I saw Jeff and picked him up.  He got on the handlebars and I rode him down the street past this family’s home.  Their mom was outside hanging laundry on the line and Jeff yelled out, “who wears those fat ass underwear?”  I ducked my head hoping not to be seen but we were in the middle of the street and I was busted.  This woman called my parents and let them know that I was hanging out with this horrible kid who had such a potty mouth and they made me go over and apologize for saying such horrible things.  It wasn’t me though!  I was just there, and Jeff let loose with his turrets or whatever.  I did laugh my ass off, and I’m sure he let it fly for my entertainment but these were the kinds of things I always found myself in the middle of, just trying to amuse myself at the expense of others and getting into trouble for it.

 

A lot of interesting things happened to me while I lived in that place.  I learned how to play basketball at my friend Kevin’s house and would spend hours shooting hoops by myself in his driveway.  His parents didn’t mind that I stayed at his house long after he went in for dinner or to do homework or whatever.  They liked me and just let me have a good old time shooting hoops in their yard by myself.  This is where I remember having the childhood fantasies of championship glory and playing it out over and over in my mind.  I would imagine making that last second, desperation shot at the buzzer to win the game and reap the glory.  I would throw the ball up to the hoop, pretending to be the opposing team missing a shot and I would begin the count down, seven, six, five, I would grab the ball as it rebounded off of the rim and dribble up to the foul line where I would turn and run in for a lay up, pretending to zig and zag through traffic, still counting, four, three, two, one, and I would shoot the ball just as I got to zero and the buzzer went off.  I could hear the crowd cheering as the ball went through the hoop and I scored the winning basket.  I would make cheering sounds myself and run around the driveway with my arms up in the air like I had just won the world championship.  I could almost feel the exhilaration of winning these games, as if they were real.  I had a seriously active imagination and I lived my life in my head because I was an only child who had to entertain himself most of the time.

 

Kevin had a dog named Hebo.  Yeah, weird name, I know.  His older brother called it Hedo, I have no idea why but I thought it was odd.  I didn’t know if he was stupid or if he just thought it was clever or what.  One day I was sitting on the dog like it was a horse and I grabbed his ears and started to twist them like they were motorcycle handle bars.  Hebo turned around and took a big bite out of my face to let me know that wasn’t cool with him.  I learned to be a little more careful with dogs that day and never quite trusted them after that.  I knew it was my own damn fault but after the Jocko attack and having Hebo snap at me, I learned that, as friendly and nice as dogs were, they could turn on you at any moment so you’d better keep your head on a swivel.

 

We only lived in that neighborhood for a couple of years before my parents sold that house for a pretty nice little profit and bought another fixer-upper a few miles away in a new neighborhood.  By this time I was going into the fourth grade and I would be going to my fourth school.  There was the private Kindergarten when we lived on 28th St, then I attended Hosford Elementary in the first grade living in that same place, then we moved when I was going into the second grade to the house on 45th and I attended Woodstock Elementary.

 

This time we moved a little farther north and I was enrolled in a school called Richmond Elementary.  This school was closer to the inner city and it didn’t have any grass surrounding it like the other schools I went to.  This one was all blacktop and the schoolyard was huge.  It was an old brick school with a large boiler room in the basement and was several floors high.  A lot of kids attended this school; it was Kindergarten through eighth grade, so there was a rich schoolyard culture at this place.  At times it was almost like a prison with the way the groups of kids managed themselves.  We would have to protect ourselves in groups of gangs.  We didn’t have organized gangs for the purpose of violence and selling drugs or anything like that, we just had to band together so the big kids couldn’t rule over us.  We knew how to take care of ourselves and it was a pretty fun place to be.  I had really good friends and we watched over each other pretty closely and took care of each other whenever there was a problem.

 

I was always pretty extroverted and confident and always jumped in to volunteer with any activity when I had the opportunity.  I was getting to be pretty agile and coordinated too and I could play sports pretty well for a kid.  I played with a lot of older kids and I could hold my own because of my tenacity and grit, I just never let up and I gave 110% at everything I did.

 

I always loved playing dodge ball during gym class.  This was before things were politically correct, when teachers could use corporal punishment in the classroom and use humiliation and intimidation to enforce their authority on the students.  So naturally, dodge ball was just another school activity.  I was a ferocious competitor and I can remember times when I would be the only one left on the team and we were about to lose and there were three or four other kids on the other side of the line staring me down, trying to get me in their sights for the final kill.  I loved these moments because they were the ones I could really step up to and become the hero, so I would stand there ready, with my head on a swivel prepared for combat.  Some kid would get up the nerve to try and take me out and rather than dodge the ball I would be aggressive and go catch the ball, bringing all of my team back to the court where we would then quickly pick off the opposing team one by one and win the game.  I loved this kind of thing and always tried to get myself in that position in games or sports.

 

During my fourth grade year there was a huge group of boys that played football together in the schoolyard every chance we got.  We couldn’t play tackle because there was no grass so we always played two-hand touch below the waist.  We would line up and choose teams, I was always one of the first chosen to be on any team and a lot of times I was chosen to be captain to pick the teams.  The kids who played were usually older than me, but they always let me play because I was a scrappy kid who could run fast and play hard.  We would have incredible competitions out on this school yard at recess, before school and after school.  We played for hours and hours, we couldn’t get enough of it.  I remember waking up in the morning before school trying to get out the door without breakfast so I could get to school an hour early for the football game.  My mom would always try to slow me down and have me eat something but I would rush through it and run to the school yard.

 

Once there at the school we would start the game.  There would be a big group, usually at least ten kids or more and we would split up into teams.  We would make up plays and strategies in our huddles, throw blocks, have all kinds of rushing rules, it was a blast.  I loved making that dash for the end zone and cutting away from my defender and seeing the football spiraling toward me as I would reach out at a full sprint and catch the ball to run in for a touchdown.  I would spike the ball and run around with my arms in the air jumping up and down and my team mates would come running down to join me.

 

Sometimes I would QB but most of the time I was a receiver.  It was fun to play defense too because catching interceptions or blocking throws was just as much fun as catching passes.  It was the greatest feeling to be playing those games and as the other kids began to come to school in the mornings they would gather around and watch us play.  We had an audience and it felt pretty cool to entertain them.  We were kids but we were pretty damn good and we had respect from a lot of the kids in the school.

Dig Me No Grave

Chapter 13

 

There were no organized little league sports teams for kids in the part of PortlandI lived in at that time.  No Pop Warner football, no city league basketball for kids, there was only little league baseball and that was it.  All other sports you didn’t get to play until you were in high school and you had to learn on your own while you were growing up to get good enough to make the teams.  So we did this with street football and basketball and as I grew up I got pretty good.  My father would coach me on how to throw the football, how to improve my jump shot, how to play good defense and things like that because he enjoyed watching me love sports.  He was a great teacher but at the same time, he was overly critical and very harsh with his instruction and very impatient if I didn’t do something right immediately.

 

I learned a lot from my dad by just observing the way he interacted with people, the way he reacted to situations and the way he handled strangers and conflicts.  He was always extremely confident, very aggressive but he wasn’t quick to fly off the handle and he was had a silver tongue when it came to talking with people so he always did well when making acquaintances and talking with people.  He was a road rager though.  He didn’t have a lot of patience for bad drivers.  If someone drove too slow in front of him or changed lanes the wrong way he would always drive up next to them and give them the stink eye and a head shake of disapproval.  I never did like that side of him, but I kind of took on that part of him because he was my role model.

 

My dad was also pretty tough and could take care of himself when he needed to.  He talked about it once in a while but I actually had the chance to see it a couple of times.  I didn’t necessarily like when this happened, I found it to be kind of traumatizing and unsettling to see my father in these kinds of conflicts, but it did help me learn how to take care of my self and stand up for myself.

 

The first time was at a public swimming pool in south east Portland.  My dad took me and a couple of my friends for a swim one afternoon and we were playing in the pool, just having a good time with the rest of the families that were there.  I noticed a commotion outside the fence that surrounded the pool and saw two young men running around the perimeter of the fence in a chase. They were running pretty slowly and breathing heavily, that is what caught my attention, their heavy footsteps and heavy breathing.  It was obvious that this chase had been going on for quite some time and the guy who was trying to get away was running out of options.

 

They had their shirts off and one was chasing the other and yelling at him to try and catch him.  It must have been pretty serious because the guy being chased jumped up on the cyclone fence, which was about eight feet high, and climbed over it into the swimming pool area to get away.  That didn’t stop the chase, the other guy soon scaled the fence and the pursuit was on inside the pool area and these guys were running around the deck yelling at each other.

 

The pool manager yelled at them to stop and they did for a moment but when they did they just squared off and started duking it out.  The manager stepped in between them and was promptly flattened on his ass by one of them as they continued fighting.  These guys were beating the shit out of each other too and we had no idea what it was all about.  Well, my dad had about enough of it so he got up out of the pool in and walked in between these two guys, grabbed a hold of both of them, one in each hand and with some sort of superhero strength just tossed them both back from each other, stood in the middle of them like he was ready to take them both down and yelled, “Break it up!”

 

I was stunned!  These guys weren’t paying attention to anything that was going on and they had creamed the pool manager but when dad got up there, somehow he was able to take control of the situation.  Then the guys did stop and I heard the manager say, “I’m calling the police.”

 

When the manager walked over to make the phone call, one of the guys went over and leaned against the brick wall to rest.  The other guy followed behind him, walked up to him and took him and cold cocked him with a right cross to the face, which sent the back of his head into the brick wall.  I watched this whole thing play out right before my eyes as I sat there in the swimming pool.  His head hit the wall with a loud thud and the guy was immediately unconscious and slid down the wall onto the ground like a rag doll.  That was the end of the fight.  I remember there were drops of blood in the pool too and by that time everyone was being escorted out of the pool and sent home.  The police showed up and we drove home.

 

I never found out what happened or why those guys were doing what they were doing, and the cops never came to the house to talk to my dad, but I gained some incredible admiration and respect for him that day, watching him take control of that chaotic situation in front of everyone at the pool.

 

 

 

Dig Me No Grave

Chapter 14

It was getting harder for me as I got older to please my dad.  When I was a kid he saw me developing fast, blossoming into a bright young kid with all the enthusiasm and confidence in the world, but as I got a little older and my growth slowed a bit, and his life became more of a grind and a challenge with the worries of the world and the strife between he and my mother, we started to butt heads and he became very critical and scolding rather than encouraging and fun like he was when I was younger.

 

My parents were really good to me through these years but they really struggled with each other.  They just didn’t see eye to eye on a lot of things and they argued incessantly about everything it seemed.  My mother would be doing something around the house and she would make a comment to my dad, he would comment back and it wouldn’t be exactly the way she wanted it so she would ask him what was wrong with him.  He would say, “Nothing, what’s wrong with you?”

 

This little tit for tat type of back and forth bickering was very abrasive and it wore me down by watching it day after day because with the question, “What’s wrong with you?”, would come backresponses, or really reactions of petty little things they had to find to show that they were not the one with a problem.  So they would begin to point out one another’s faults to show who had a problem with this or that and these stupid little pissing matches would escalate into yelling, accusations, the subjects would move from finances to he-said, she-said, to something dad said he would do but didn’t follow through on or something my mom made for dinner that didn’t turn out very good and he would criticize her for that.

 

It just got to be a normal part of life to listen to this chaos day after day, the arguing, the accusations, the merciless needling of each other and I myself became very skillful in the art of argument and persuasion as a result of seeing how these two operated, always showing each other up, showing each other, “Yeah but you this, and you that”, in response to some attack put on them.

 

It was like learning the art of verbal guerilla warfare in my own home.  It was a sport of mental gymnastics and it became something that was just a part of life.  It was engrained in me to be abrasive, to be confrontational, to egg people on, to point out idiosyncrasies, to goad them into things they didn’t want to do and to just manipulate situations for my own means or entertainment, to poke and prod and just needle people to the point of getting a response out of them.

 

I’m not saying I was some kind of evil mind-fucker or anything like that, I just mean I learned how to take control of situations and be king of the hill.  When you’re a kid you have an unlimited supply of energy and I had to direct it somewhere.  So as I got older it started to get me into a lot of trouble.  When it came to verbal sparring, I was the best.  I don’t know if it was intentional, conscious or unconscious but I was a real mind-fucker and I loved to dominate.  I was really smart and could be really devious and maniacal if I wanted to be.

 

The friends I had at this new school were decent kids but they were a little rough around the edges, like me and we were a pretty raucous bunch.  There was Mike Rangey, a tall blonde kid who was the group leader by default because of his good looks and his size.  He also had an older brother who helped Mike grow up a little quicker than he should have.  Mike and his brother lived with their mother.  His parents were divorced and there wasn’t a lot of supervision during the day because she worked.

 

There was also another scrappy and funny little kid we all loved named Tommy Truman.  He lived pretty close to me with his mom and dad and he had an older brother too who was about eighteen.  Tommy’s brother was into hot rods and was always working on loud muscle cars in his driveway when I went over to play with him.  There were a lot of other kids we hung out with quite a bit but these were the kids I stuck with the most.  We were three amigos and we were tight.  We watched out for each other, we shared everything with each other and any time any one of us had any kind of experience that we knew was supposed to wait until we were older, we were always eager to share the details with one another and try to relive the moment for each one of us to enjoy.

 

It was with this group of kids that I got my first taste of tobacco.  Mike had swiped some cigarettes from his mother’s purse and we went behind the school to smoke them.  I wasn’t really into it but they were.  They lit the cigarettes and smoked them just like adults did, puffing away, blowing smoke through their nostrils as we talked to each other, flicking ash to the side like a seasoned smoker.  I could tell these guys had watched their parents smoking and wanted to be just like them.  I always watched my dad smoke but I didn’t really want to be a smoker for some reason.  It was probably because my parents told me it was wrong to smoke and I figured I would get in trouble.  But, nevertheless, there I was with these guys so I had to give it a try.  I took one that was already lit and gave it a drag, inhaling a little bit like they did.  It burned my throat and lungs and I coughed a bit.  I only took one drag and that was it.  I told them I didn’t like it very much and they didn’t really bust my chops or anything, they just kept on smoking and I was the odd man out when it came to cigarettes.

 

I never witnessed it, but these guys also talked about smoking pot too.  It was Mike’s big brother who introduced them to it.  Luckily I was never exposed to it, I’m not sure if I would have partaken anyway, but I knew these guys had tried it, and they liked it.  And when they talked about it I wasn’t put off by it at all, in fact it sounded pretty dang fun and something I might want to try some day.  So, because of the conversations we had, I was pretty familiar with marijuana use and the terminology used in talking about it at a young age.

 

It was at Mike’s house one summer afternoon that I got my first glimpse of hard core pornography.  This was a bit disturbing and I really wish I hadn’t seen what I saw that day.  It was just a little too much for a young kid to behold.  Hell, I didn’t have a clue where babies came from or what an erection was good for, I just thought it was some annoying thing my ding dong did in the morning when I had to go to the bathroom.  But this day Mike’s brother and his friends were upstairs looking at dirty magazines.  Mike and I were downstairs hanging out and he said to me, “You want to see some dirty pictures?”

 

I was curious so I said OK and walked on upstairs to take a look.  I started thumbing through the magazines hoping for something like I saw in the Playboys found in the field by my house with the girls, but this was different.  I can remember me and Mike asking his brother, “Why is that guy peeing in her mouth?”

 

His brother responded, “That’s not pee, it’s semen.”

 

We asked again, “What’s semen?”

 

That’s when we got the old standby answer of, “wait until you’re older and you’ll understand”.  We were confused and frustrated by this experience because we didn’t understand what was going on and fortunately the guys didn’t explain it any further than that.

 

So we went downstairs again to make some lunch for ourselves.  I remember he cracked open a couple cans of Campbell’s clam chowder and heated it up on the stove.  When it was ready I started to eat it but my stomach was feeling really sick from the pictures I had just seen.  That was a pretty shocking experience.  I was a kid with a hollow leg and I could eat for days, but this time my appetite was gone.  It’s the first time I ever experienced the emotions of anxiety, guilt and shame.  I didn’t understand what I just witnessed, I had no clue what it was, and it wasn’t pretty and sexy like the other naked girls I had seen in the other magazines.  This was really extreme and it blew my mind.  I knew it was something way beyond what I should have been exposed to, and it stuck with me for a very long time.  I would try to get the images out of my head because they were so disturbing to me, I almost felt violated that day because those assholes let us innocent little kids look at hard core pornography.  If I could go back in time I would change that scene and beat those kids’ asses for what they showed to us.

Dig Me No Grave

Chapter 15

My parents didn’t have many friends but they did have some pretty good friends from time to time.  This one couple they hung out with had a son about my age named Sam.  They were kind of hippie types and were pretty liberal but a lot of fun.  Sam and I had all kinds of fun together because he was just as adventurous and mischievous as I was and we never had any trouble finding things to keep us entertained and laughing.

 

When I visited Sam at his house I would see his parents’ Playboy magazines and of course, I would take the chance to thumb through them and get a load of the gorgeous females between the covers.  Most kids thought girls were yucky, but not me.  I though chicks were hot and I liked looking at them.  I would still have flashes of those hard core porno pictures come into my mind and they were disturbing, but I liked the softness of the female nude in Playboy.  I knew it was wrong for me to look, but I was fascinated by it.

 

There were a few times that I saw strange smoking devices laying around Sam’s house and he would tell me that his parents smoked pot with them.  There were glass pipes, bongs, bags of weed, etc.  One day Sam took me out into his dad’s truck and opened the glove box and pulled out a big bag of pot.  He said, “You know what this is?”

 

I said, “No, what is it?”

 

He told me, “It’s marijuana and your dad and my dad smoke it together.”

 

I didn’t believe him because my dad said he didn’t like that stuff.  But, Sam may have witnessed them doing it and I wonder if dad really did toke it up a time or two when hanging out with those friends.  I do know that his only confession of marijuana use was a time he said he tried it when he was drunk and it made him sick so he never tried it again.  Maybe it was with Sam’s dad that he did try it, or maybe he was just trying to protect me by saying he never got into it.  Either way, it didn’t really matter.  Dad did what he did and it was OK with me.

 

I always had this strange feeling though that my dad wasn’t always completely forthcoming about his personal activities.  I mean, if I was ever to ask him anything about his life the answer was always very cut and dried and his story was always right along the lines of having done the right thing or made the right choice, except when it came to kicking some ass.  He has a scar on his upper lip and when asked how he got it he says some guy at a bar hit him.  I asked him why and he told me it didn’t matter because it was the last thing the guy remembers doing; and I actually believe him because I’ve seen him in a couple of scraps and watched him go from dad to the incredible hulk in about three seconds – another reason I was always scared shitless of him.

 

I do know he worked at the ship yards as an iron worker.  I’ve seen him as drunk as a junk yard dog.  I’ve seen him blow his top more times than I can count and I’ve seen him bullshit his way through many situations to get what he needed.  I know for a fact that he hid a lot of what he did to keep himself looking nice and guiltless.  I wish I knew more about him only to shed more light on what the deal is with me.

I always remember having some sort of interest or fascination with drugs.  I was always interested in knowing what it was those drug crazed freaks called hippies were experiencing.  There were TV commercials I remember as a kid where some long haired youngster would hold up a crayon-drawn self portrait of himself on fire or in some state of freak-out and go on to tell us how this is a picture of himself while he was on LSD.  They never told us not to do the drugs; they would just describe to us in some nightmarish description what their experience was.  This was supposed to scare us away from being interested.  Well, as spooky and creepy as this was it piqued a curiosity in me.  I always figured out that they were back to normal but that these drugs put them in some temporary dream type state.

 

Most of the TV programming was a bit psychedelic.  Easy Reader from The Electric Company was one tripped out city slicker, grooving out to his kooky, funked out theme song.  I claim to remember seeing Jimi Hendrix on Sesame Street being interviewed by Grover.  I can’t find any evidence of that on YouTube or anywhere online so I may have imagined it.

 

When I was in the fifth or sixth grade we received an assignment to put captions to various pictures cut from magazines.  I got one of a small child about two years old holding his thumb and forefinger together up to his mouth so I captioned it something about needing a roach clip.  My parents saw this drug reference and were not at all pleased.  While I thought it was funny they thought it was something to be concerned about with a fifth grader familiar with drug terminology.  I didn’t even know what a roach clip was, let alone a roach.  I had just listened to a lot of Cheech and Chong records with my little buddy Joe Cox, who had an older brother, who had Cheech and Chong records.

 

So that got me in trouble of course.  It seems like I would always do dumb things like that, sort of innocently but then find myself being punished for it.  I knew right from wrong but I thought it was funny and OK to talk about it as long as I wasn’t partaking.  I guess it wasn’t so OK.

 

Life was starting to get very intense for me.  When we were in Portland I was usually very happy.  I made a lot of friends, I had a lot of fun and my cares were unknown.  We moved to Vancouver and everything started to change.  I don’t know exactly why but things were different.  For one thing I had to make all new friends and that can be a little hard.  I have always been very sociable and I have always made friends easily but I was never too discerning.  Children need to be taught that; all I ever got from my parents about choosing the right friends was stay away from strangers and I could tell they didn’t have much respect or esteem for black people.  They weren’t necessarily overtly racist and telling me not to hang out with black kids but my dad would use the term ‘chocolate drop’ when talking about them.  I remember coming home from school in about the third grade and he would say to me, “did you play with any chocolate drops today?”

 

Mom would reply, “Milt, don’t say things like that!”

And he would say, “What, I was only kidding”

To be honest, it was seriously racist but kind of funny too.

I don’t remember if my mom or he explained it to me or what they said but I got that he meant black people.  They used to call Brazil Nuts, nigger-toes too.  That was just their upbringing but that bothered me.  I didn’t even know what the real name of those nuts was, and I knew I didn’t like them.  Sometimes when we were at my grandparent’s house I would dig through the nuts and take the opportunity to say nigger in front of my parents by talking about the nuts.  I felt like I was getting away with something; like reading the Bible and seeing words like damn and hell.

 

I wasn’t racist, I was just a kid and I loved everyone who just wanted to laugh and have a good time.  I didn’t care where they were from, what they looked like or what category they fit into; I just judged people by how comfortable I was in their presence.  I always liked kids that were a bit on the odd side of things, maybe it’s because they were always the best material for laughter, strangeness and not fitting the mold.  I have never been much of a conformist.  I always found those who ran in cliques to be arrogant and self-centered.

Dig Me No Grave

Chapter 16

My parents’ volatility had taken its toll and after several separations, my mother finally packed me and our stuff up and we moved in with my cousins, the Turners in north east Portland.  This was my mother’s sister, Carole and her husband, Wes and their brood of children.  At this time they had six kids, but when it was all said and done they finished it off with a lot of nine.

 

They lived in a huge house with a gigantic stair case and a huge basement where we could play like wild animals and they had a killer back yard, but not only that, this was back in the early 70s in the northwest before the cancerous Urban Sprawl littered the landscape.  We had acres upon acres of old growth forest to make our domain and play to our wildest imaginations.

 

BMX bikes were a new thing and we were all converting our Schwinn Stingray bicycles into stunt bikes we could hit ramps with and catch some air.  We would replace the old banana seat and sissy bar with the BMX pear shaped seat and take the ape-hanger handle bars off and replace them with the BMX handle bars  with the cross bar, new grips and pads all around.

 

I had pads on my bike, on the bar that ran between my legs, on the gooseneck, on the crossbar of the handlebars, just in case I crashed and burned, the pads on the bike would soften the blow.  We didn’t have any time for helmets or knee pads.  We padded our bikes, not our bodies.

 

And I was the craziest mofickey of them all trying to build ramps to launch myself as high in the air as I could possibly get.  I never even stopped for a moment to think about danger or injury.  All I could think of was flight.

 

So one afternoon there was a nice dirt hill down the street at the dead end, and we had some spare boards so I built the steepest ramp on the tallest dirt hill so I could get the most air possible; never thinking about landing, only the exhilaration of flying through the air on my bike.

 

As I pedaled down the block toward this behemoth of a ramp, which we called a ‘jump’ I was only focused on going as fast as I could because I only understood the simplest of the laws of physics.  Go fast, come in contact with an opposing force, the faster I go, the greater the launch.  So I hit that jump pedaling for all I was worth and I launched myself sky high in the air and for a moment I felt like Icarus flying to the sun, but just like Icarus, something had to give, and I suddenly remembered that there was a landing coming immediately and I was stranded about eight feet in the air with my bike completely vertical at this point.  My mind processed all of this information in an instant and I knew I was going to eat shit in the hard dirt road below.  And I didn’t want the bike to land on top of me so in my youthful wisdom and my instinctive ability to survive I kicked the bike out from in front of me, clearing myself from impact with the bars and pads I had carefully maintained for just this sort of incident.

 

There I was in the air about eight feet up, flying free just like I wanted to be, but now rather than feeling complete exhilaration, it was total panic and I began to give in to the law of gravity.  Down I came and hard I fell.  Whammo!  I Landed hard on my right butt cheek and looking back it couldn’t have been any better than that, thinking about the other options of flailing around and landing with my hands down to break a wrist or try to roll and break my ribs.  I was definitely protected in that moment as well, and even though it hurt like hell, I just got up, jumped up and down a couple of times, shook my head clear of the concussive feeling of getting punched in the nose and grabbed my bike and rode back home in retirement.

 

That was the last of my extreme bike jumps.  I went as far as I could and I learned my limits.  And that day I started to learn that you have to think ahead a little bit.  You can dream big, but you have to deal with the consequences.  And if you’re not prepared for what might come then you’re just going to have to suck it up when it hits you between the eyes unexpectedly.  You can be as crazy as it gets, but sometime you’re going to get seriously injured.  Fortunately, that was not the day.

 

Most of my life my right leg has been a little bit shorter than my left leg.  I never noticed it until I was 18 years old and a chiropractor took some X-rays and showed me that my pelvis was a little bit out of kilter.  And not until I wrote these stories did I realize that my crash landing into the ground from way up high, flying free as I always wanted to is what caused that imbalance.

And there was another crash that got my spine all compressed and discombobulated that happened while I was fooling around on some gymnastics equipment at the local health club.  This was before Gold’s Gym was everywhere and everyone worked out.  Back in these days, it was rather expensive to be a member of a health club, and they were exclusive too.  There were several around town.  There was the one at the golf club called Green Meadows.  The Portland Trailblazers used to work out there.  Then there was the broke down ghetto workout club called Landover that sat nicely inside of the Landover subdivision.  And then there was Club Oxford.  That’s where me and dad worked out.  He had good taste and liked to feel like he was something special in society so he joined that club and it was awesome!  Dad really was a pretty cool dude, always.  He just ruled life, took it by the horns and rode it the way he wanted to.  And that’s what I learned from him.  I just did as my father did, and I became quite an ass for a time in my life. But I had fun doing it!

 

So we would go to Club Oxford feeling all uppity and righteous while our lesser important brethren would work out at Landover.  We felt pretty superior, and we were.  That club was great, and I was just a kid, eating this entire thing up.

 

Dad taught me how to play racquetball while I was pretty young.  And being the fierce competitor that he was, we of course, had to take it to the nth degree of competing against one another.  And I could never beat him, but I came close many times.  But that man taught me tenacity and grit and fortitude that wouldn’t quit.  He instilled in me a strength of character, a Constitution that is so solid, and that’s why I became what I am today and did all the things I did in life.

 

And when I went to college I ruled the racquetball courts.  People were astounded at how good I was and it was frustrating to them because nobody could beat me and I wouldn’t join in any tournaments.  It drove them nuts.  I understand today why I did what I did but while it was all happening I was a little confused and down on myself for not getting in there and dominating the racquetball tournament.  Thinking back, it was my fear of failure that plagued me so terribly throughout my life.  And that’s why I passed up many opportunities, because of my fear of failure.  I was never taught that it’s OK to fail in achievement.  That failure is part of the process of achievement and reaching one’s goals.  One must fail time and time again to understand who he truly is, to know himself through and through.  But failure in my household was a bad thing, and when I failed at something I was given the what for over and over again for my mistakes.

 

My parents bless their hearts, they did the best they knew how with the knowledge they had at the time, but they were an angry couple.  I mentioned it previously, but it’s important to understand how profoundly that rancor and contention shaped my life.  Throughout my life, any achievement I would accomplish, the benefits, the good things, the growth that I might have experienced from them, were overlooked and the minutia of the flawed was focused upon.  I kid you not.  It was that bad all the time.  No matter how well I did with anything, the mistakes were presented afterward to me so I could learn from them I suppose.  But that gave me such an inferiority complex, and it created a serious rebellion in my soul.

 

My dad was also my basketball coach.  And in one playoff game against our rival team I schooled those boys, I was on fire!  I had like 6 steals, 24 points and 8 rebounds.  He let me play point guard and I loved it, and we had a team that the others feared.

 

But after that game we were on the drive home and I said to my dad, “I did pretty good tonight, huh?”

 

And his response was nothing more than, “you did alright.”

 

That moment right there was the moment that I turned into a rebel against my father.  I busted my ass for him all my life and I kicked ass for him all my life in football, basketball, racquetball, golf, baseball, any sport he wanted me to play I did the best I could and all I ever got was, that was alright.  Never, ever did I hear accolades, praise, good job, you’re awesome!  None of that ever crossed my earholes and I believed I was scum at that point.  I thought I was worthless.  I believed that no matter how hard I tried, no matter how much talent I had, no matter how much effort I put into anything, that nothing mattered because I screwed it up somehow.

 

How’s that for a mind job?  And my parents wonder why I hated them when I was younger.

 

It’s so tragic too, because they have moved forward in life, although they have never recognized any of their behavior, and I drank it all in, metabolized it, made it myself and turned it out again for the world to comprehend.

Dig Me No Grave

Chapter 17








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