Tag Archive: life


School Sux


The new school sux.  It’s huge, it’s large, it’s empty, and crowded at the same time.  I don’t know anyone there, for I am a fresh arrival from overseas . . .

The other kids avoid me like the plague. They don’t know me and I don’t know them.  I don’t like them, either. They are mean to me.

I am in the band.  I play a sousaphone.  I played one last year, only it was over in Germany and it was for an orchestra band.  This one is shitty, but at least it’s fiberglass.  I’m gonna be glad of that when I march in a parade.  Only the parades here suck. Their people are so undisciplined. They throw trash in my horn.

I am marching for miles.  A long parade – Easter down in Augusta, Georgia.  The weather is cold and damp and there’s a cold mist blowing.  We march over a bridge.

I haven’t seen so many black faces in my lives.  There are so many of them.  They throw trash as I march by.  Every once and awhile I dip my huge sousaphone, dumping it out.

They are scum.  So is my life.

I am a quite bitter child.  And I understand this.

I hate my life and I am at school.  I work in the lunchroom for chow, saving my cents for purchases of “Ludens Throat Lozenges” – Wild Cherry Flavored – when I have time and walk by the little room they have in a hallway for just this sort of thing and school supplies . . .

I palm my 3 or 4 salisbury steaks under my tray after working the line. They serve them on Tuesday. They are my favorite food here, but they are dry and breaded and thin.  I can feel my fat growing and wish I was thin.

There is a boy in my Sociology class.  He is a boor.  He’s black and he walks around like he’s proud, and he’s the class clown. He’s obnoxious and loud and disrupts everything.  The teach cannot control him; she is afraid and she knows it.  He snatches up my book for no reason, my notes – everything.

I spend my time studying him, making notes of my own.  My dad has started me on my psychology lessons, on big books about Freud and Maslow and more.  Abnormal psych is ahead, as well as some sociology lessons on my own, of my own.  This boy – this ‘class clown’ – is one of them.

I hate him and express it in my notes there.

I hate this class and I hate this school.  Despite testing out with college level reading & comprehension skills, I’ve been placed in a remedial class.  “Dick runs.  See Jane.” That kinda shit.  When I’ve been reading adult level material now for three or four years, including my favorite novel of all time, the “Lord of the Flies”.

How I began to wish I was on that Island.  And I would, one day . . .

tho’ it was just in my mind.

They’ve also put me into advanced math class.  Me! – who cannot divide a fraction to save his life, who doesn’t know anything – I’m missing “math” from the 5th grade on and now they are wanting me to do calculus . . . I’m serious; I can NOT turn a fraction into a decimal or go the other way . . .

My parents suck.

So much was lost during delivery, too – that’s when our “goods” came in: all the stuff we’d entrusted the Army to put into storage during the three years we were gone.  So much is missing!  Most all of my toys, my mom’s Corningware – that kind of stuff.  Even now the adult in me misses my G.I. Joes and the original Apollo ship I’d stole during my North Carolina visit up North . . .

they’d be worth so much money.

My mom says such stuff happens; movers stealing stuff.  But it ain’t right and I don’t like it.

I’m all alone.

Coming in in the middle of school always sux.  But this one is different.

I’ve been going to the Army schools the last three years of my life.  These are much less successful, much more riotous.  Their crowds are so unruly, and they have “teams” and everything – and a gym!  The only one I’d known was on post, and it was open to the G.I.’s.  But this ones different.  For one thing, they have no weight room.  And they have no known organization.  Once a month or so they gather there for something called a “Pep Rally”.  I find it noisy, needless, confusing, a useless waste of time.

I wanna go to the library but they keep kids outta there.  And since so I am so new I’m not allowed to check out books.  Nor later.

But the book mobile comes by our neighborhood every 30 days or so.

That sux, too.

This school sucks

and

my clearest memory of the whole thing is standing outside that great big gray brick building, in the field down low on the hill, staring up; the building surrounded by gray twilight and swirling clouds, and a few students scuttling about

and I hate it.

and I can hate it so thoroughly I want to throw up.

and I hate my life as well.

(back then . . . news from “13”)

 


Soon after we’d moved into the rental back in the ‘hood it became rather apparent that the old house – a slab floored stick-frame clapboard construction, which was quite weird, given the former and now deceased owner had been a mason.  The toilets kept backing up, vomiting the contents of their bowels and ours across the loose linoleum floors like bad memories of meals once eaten.*

So my dad did what he does best: he called someone in.

And here they come in their big white truck with a tanker behind – and a long, long hose for sucking the sewage up . . .

They park it behind the house, and after poking around with some shovels (I could’ve told ’em where it was at) they found the septic tank.

Digging at it most carefully, they outline the profile; then bringing in a backhoe, they go at it awhile, their ancient machine puffing and chugging like a dinosaur or dragon with a sting tail – lifting buckets of dirt, dumping them aside . . .

And then, finishing the job with the shovels, the expose the concrete lid.  It wasn’t as far down as I expected – but there they were, the workmen (or country bumpkins, from the look of it) – hooking big rusty chains with big rusty hooks to the rusty steel loops set in the concrete . . . then to the backhoe’s bucket . . .

The workmen stood back, and I, who had wisely placed himself in the bedroom, stood looking along with my tiresome brother – protection from the stench which would appear as soon as they lifted the lid.  I was quite sure my protection was futile, given the shallow aluminum framed windows and condition of the house.

Then the lid came up, looming and awesome as the backhoe’s engine gave a big chug and belched smoke, choking down as they gave it the throttle . . .

And then there it stood! it all its awesome and hideous glory: the thing we had been waiting to see: the staring open eye of the pit . . . only instead of there being sewage on top . . .

there was this thick, pink, undulating skin.  Ugly, mottled, smooth, it heaved like a living thing.

Immediately the workmen standing beyond the pit began chuckling, some of them chortling and slapping their knees and giving knowing looks at the house where my parents stood in embarrassed confusion, then comprehension . . .

And as I stood looking at that milky pinky white cloud floating in the museum of past bowel movements and desire, I realized what I was looking at:

the entire pool of the septic tank was covered in a thick floating layer . . . of condoms!

Huge it was.  In more ways than one.

And the workmen apparently thought so, too.  My brother began gagging as the stench oozed into the house despite the closed windows (the seals were no good) – and ran from the room into the interior . . .

while I stood alone, thinking.

Thinking about what HE did and our times together.

He never used a condom for that! I recall thinking.  He always rode me ‘bareback’, down on the dirt, face down in the grit . . .

But there they were: obvious evidence of the previous owners.  Maybe after too many children and not enough family or dollars to support it, they’d gotten a clue.  ‘Or,’ (the thought had occurred to me) – ‘this was from renters before, though after we’d left.’  I don’t know why I a) found it so disgusting, b) it bothered me so much, or c) it kept disturbing ‘me’ (and still does to some extant) so much later on.

But they were certainly gone, and I was here.

As I stood looking – and looking up (I remember looking at the sky a lot – so refreshing, though it was more an overcast blue and gray.)  Smelling that stench.  Reflecting on my past and theirs while relishing somewhat my mid-Western and prudish parent’s embarrassment – yet knowing they the ones, for we had just gotten there.

And yet all those facts didn’t matter, because it didn’t change anything.  My parents were still there and so was my brother (shudder).  Nothing was different.  That’s what we dealt each other.  Outside lay other lives; ones we were imitating, but not quite perfect.  We tried – and tried again.

But it was no use.

It was like I was something foreign here.  Or had come to a foreign land.  Again.

I saw my old best friend once.  I was standing in the sand driveway of the home across the street when he came riding on a motorcycle.  He stopped in front of me and we stared at each other.  I had grown fat, wore glasses – not the kid he knew.  Not a good match for his memories.  And as for him – his curly hair was wild from the wind (he wasn’t wearing any helmet) and his eyes wilder.  Like a feral cat.***

And I knew as soon as I saw him we’d have nothing in common, nothing to do together. We were no longer friends. I no longer knew him, nor he me.  He gave me a long look, a few words, and took off . . .

I saw him again, some thirty years later.  He owns a shop. He’s poor and rash. And he has (or had) a young boy. One of several . . .

and he hangs with his brother, his bigger brother, the one who ‘did’ me (and his little sister when she was four – and he 14 or so).

That thought’s kinda scary . . . but kinda sad.

The End.

(’13’)


Host Notes:
* Some part of me kept trying to connect the ‘vomiting toilets’ with the memories I kept having, only ‘I’ refused to do it (it made the sentences too long) – and it wasn’t the ‘memories’ which were bothering ‘me’ at the age of 13, it was the emotions connected with them – that along with the problems at school
** As a matter-of-fact the description of Jeff’s eyes in the when Matthew first see’s him in the book “The Boy” from when I saw him.  Feral, like a wild cat.

Back In the ‘Hood . . .


So we’d finally come back from my dad’s overseas tour with the military, arriving in our new (old) neighborhood in style.  We were the envy of the ‘town’ – albeit it be just the dozen or so houses that made up the majority of “the ‘hood” – because we were fresh arrivals from a place that was all but unknown – a figure on a map, a name in their geography books.  Yet we lived in a house that was poor as dirt, and the living conditions weren’t a lot better – not what I’d been used to ‘over there’ (meaning in Germany and the adjacent countries).

Yet I managed to get along just fine – and yet not.  All my old friends were gone.  I was okay with them not being there, yet I longed for my old friend, B.W.  I had my homosexual urges; I took them out on the boy next door.  That was okay, too, for awhile, then he grew tired of me.  That was okay, too . . .

Yet the house I lived in seemed haunted – haunted by ghosts gone past, years gone past.  There was always a particular ‘haunting’ in the room I had – the ‘guest’ room in days gone past, and Sarge’s room, too, I’d rather suspect – but he was killed, dead, by a wheelbarrow coming into the back of his head at high speed.  “Broken neck,” is what they say killed him.

At the very least the house was ‘haunted’ by Mr. M.  And his father, the fat man, who had such great arms he could gather four or five of us kids in his one embrace and lift us all to the ceiling.  A great big fat rolling man, he earned his living laying bricks & building block. His son (Mr. M. I’m gonna keep on calling him) had been my ‘abuser’ at one time, teaching us boys of the ‘hood about sex and things.  I still find it quite shocking he was doing ‘it’ with his younger sister; she was only about four at the time – the time I met her and could have “did it”, too, but didn’t.

But don’t get the wrong idea.  “He” (Mr. M) was about – I dunno – 14? 15? – when we met him the first time.  13 maybe.  But he was our babysitter at one time – I was about 7?  More than once, actually.  He took care of a lot of the kids in the ‘hood.  In more ways than one, if you know what I’m meaning (wink! wink!). Ugh.

We had just moved in and everything was going fine.  (Okay, not school, but I’m saving that for a very different kind of story.)  The house was falling apart – slab floors, the linoleum tiles loosening from the floor every here and there and you had to watch where you stepped or suddenly you’d find yourself scooting on a loose one and sliding across the floor – taking you down with it.  The house was clammy and cold, and it was ‘fall’ – or late fall in the South.  There were baseboard heaters and that was it.

It was weird, looking out the back window into the next yard.  “Mine” I kept on thinking, looking at it.  We had lived there, in that redwood house, for so long, but it was no longer ours.  Now we were renting our neighbors (for that’s how I kept thinking of them – and it).  And I was living in it.  And the house was falling apart – like the neighborhood I’d lived in for so long seemed to be doing.

There across the now-paved once pristine white sandy road lay my ‘friends’ house.  Only there were several of my ‘friends’ living over there, as well as one awesome mother.  She was to be ‘my best friend’ for life; still is.  Just hear from her now and again; not much.  But she’s changed, too . . .

As have her kids.  The youngest one – he’s quite a bit of a daredevil.  The other one, more my age, is built like a brick mansion.  His arms are strong and he lifts weights all day long . . . and apparently he’s begun smoking (or at least his parents – and my mom – are saying so) – and they want me, who is smoking right now (but I’m only 13) – clandestine, of course, but they know – they want me to go and advise him on quitting!

Can you imagine that one.

So I go over there, talk to him one night while he’s lifting weights out in the yard, and he starts – we start – arguing.  He doesn’t believe I’ve been smoking for over a year now, and he isn’t smoking anyway – and he’s angry at me.

We make back up, but there’s always that ‘thing’, some distance between us, as if we’d discovered some deep division between us – a cliff that had formed.  His stepdad was very abusive; I know that hurt and haunted him; their entire family suffered.

I got to watch that, too.

~ 13

Homecoming


Home.  “Home is where the heart is,” they say.

But what if you have no heart? What if it’s dead and buried?

Ripped

“Home is where you are at; wherever you stand.”

That’s I learned moving around so much.  Home is where you hang your hat – whether it be a tent, a house, apartment, or truck.  ‘Home’ is where your stuff is.

Home.

It was early winter, 1973.  We’d finally arrived.  ‘Home’.  Back in the Good Ol’ U.S. of A.  Coming down the gangway stair from the jet to terra firma, solid ground, and not the four thousand miles of ocean we’d just covered . . .

As per custom and sworn duty, I got on my knees and kissed the dirty white tarmac, then looked up, wiping sand from my lips and spitting grit out.  My mom and dad scolded me for doing that as they attempted to herd us toward Customs in a low white hanger.  There wasn’t much – just long white stretches of concrete lined by pine forest, burned jet fuel’s acrid stench wrinkling your nostrils; the shrill scream then thunder of the distant jets laboring airborne, burning off precious gallons of fuel in dark swirls and leaving acrid  haze behind them . . .

My brother and I struggled across the open tarmac towards the building with our carry-on bags, our parents in embracing us like brackets.  I was 13; we’d just arrived from Germany, and the future was a big blank – just like the blank white wall in front me with the man-door.  The straggling line weaved towards it,  passengers in bunches and gathers, separated by social graces and grim tired faces – making a rather unsteady beeline for . . .

CUSTOMS” it said in plain black block letters over the door in English on a white sign.  Like everything military in which I’d spent the last three years of my life . . .

Customs.

Customs were about to change, that was for sure.  My whole world was about to get different. And I knew it.

I had been briefed going in.  We weren’t going to be living in our own house anymore.  That had been sold. Rather, we were going to be living in our next door neighbor’s house – now a rental, and the one . . .

the one . . .

even then my mind had stumbled.  Those last days were a daze in the ‘hood – Mister W gone: dead. Sarge, his trusty sidekick and companion: gone, dead as well.  My entire family, life, and childhood had been upset in a rapid series of transitions.  Things that had gone wrong.  It has been like shock therapy to my mind.  Then the move . . . nearly four years gone . . .

The Hood.

Our car was waiting for us. A family friend – the people who lived across the street from us – had gone to pick it up from Customs.  She squealed her delight and gave me a good hug, Southern style.  She had always been like a second or third ‘mom’, only much more loving and kinder than my own – and also a lot more sympathetic.  Towards everything.

Then:  The Drive . . .

The change in scenery: we had been in winter, here it was like fall. The Southern pines were green and tall, the grass visible, though splotched brown.

Where was the snow?

I was calm, but also upset.  I had had this Dream . . .

The Hood.

The miles rolled under the tires like a tolling bell.  Not many, for the airport off Tobacco Road, not far from our former home.  The sand hills rolled by, decorated in scrub and barrens.  I saw the run down clapboard houses with shingle and metal roofs, a hunkering trailer park, roads lined with trash and weeds . . .

Not at all like the Germany where I’d been twenty-four hours before.

The Hood – the neighborhood I associate with my childhood (between 5 and 10). When I left, it was a single dirt road lined with a few tract houses sheathed in clapboard or siding, or, as with our former house, redwood. Only one had brick, and it was the envy the neighborhood. It was across from ours and belonged to the family which had befriended ours so many years ago.

As we made the turn, our family friend still chatting about the changes ahead, I tried to access what I knew.

Most of my friends (or former friends, anyway) were gone. The army family up the road – friends I had known for years – had followed us overseas, coming to visit us while on duty. They were still gone, would be for another two years. They were the “other Army family” in the ‘hood. The rest were civilian, having lived civilian lives, and would continue to live them for as long as they lived. Others were gone, teens grown up, moved out . . . scattered to the winds.

My best “childhood friend” was gone – they’d moved soon after we’d left.  Their father was dead and I’d heard their mom had gotten a new husband soon after, and they’d went to live somewhere over in South Carolina.  We were going to be living in their house, renting it next door to our old one.   As we pulled in – on a paved road – I could see it.  Gone was the barn where my girlfriend and I had cuddled and kissed after getting ‘married‘ one day. Gone were the relationships. Gone were the ditches where we used to sink in cool sand while water ran in clear sheets around our knees. . .

So the isolation would remain.  The nearest store – a 7/11 – had been built about five miles away. There was a book mobile which would come around about once a month, but it was slim pickings compared to what I was used to – a real library, PX, and a whole lot of freedom.  Gone were the bus and train.  The only ones left – the only ones I played with as a former child – were the kids across the road.

Worst of all:

We were in HIS house – the same house – as the guy who had groomed and sexually abused us kids.  Sure, he was gone . . . but I remembered, him and his little brother,  my former best friend . . . still I didn’t know it was ‘abuse’, but the pain of his final rejection and betrayals still stung, that whole mess  near the end . . .

Gone – but unresolved.  It was still there.  Fresh, like a wound that bleeds that you can’t see.  And it was affecting everything I was, everything I felt, along with everything else I’d experienced.  As it would for years . . . all of it.

Return To The Hood


GermanflagIt was a wet, rainy afternoon at the Frankfort International  Airport. I stood in front of the big wide windows looking at the big jets on the tarmac.  I had lost the required thirty-five pounds (in three months, no less) to get my dog shipped home with me; there was a piece of carry-on luggage, and my family behind me . . .

I was ready to go. I had lost my best friend ever, and was aware that I was going into a great unknown. Sure, my parents had told me we were ‘going home’ – but I just knew everything had changed. It had to . . .

After all, I had changed.  I was heavier – fatter – and I wore glasses now.  I had learned a little something of the world.  I had taken up smoking – a heavier smoker, now, though a pack would still last me a week or two or three . . .

and I’d heard (and met) my old compatriot from the U.S. Army back home – a kid up the street who’s family was Army as well.  They’d come over when we were two years into our tour, and weren’t going to be back home until much later . . .

and things had been in such an uproar when we’d left The Hood before . . . with the death of my best friend (and lover) and his abuser’s (and mine – sexually, that is) dad . . . their family breaking up, poor as dirt mice . . . all that was gone; had to be different, much different . . . but how?

I stared out at a jet, wondering if it was hijacked.  It had been sitting there a long time.  A lot of hijackings were happening about then (it was November, 1973, I am sure of it).  Wondering what lay ahead . . .

I can barely remember my family getting on.  But it was a Lufthansa jet.  Wonderful airline.  I can remember the dinner – filet mignon, chunked roast potatoes, some kind of cheese, and a nice fresh salad – and I gotta beer.  My parents allowed me – almost as a celebration of what we were leaving: Germany, going home, going to the Promised Land where we had been once before, a place where you could drink water out of faucets and there weren’t men peeing publicly (and sometimes the women as well) . . .

I didn’t think about it – and I guess I didn’t know . . . but what lay before me was a tremendous change:

AmericaTown

Going from military schools to civilian ones,
Getting away from the military bases, PX’s, cafeterias, AFEES & more . . .
No more sitting with the G.I.’s outside marching, or singing, while dinner went on . .
No more post theater, library system, reasonable source of transportation, or the rules and regulations that went along with living on a military base overseas during the Cold War – and a military base that dealt in secrets, and secret technology as well . .

Instead I would be arriving in a rural environment, just a few miles from Tobacco Road (of novelist & Southern fame – or infamy).  It was a poor area, poorer than most – even poorer than that of the Tobacco Road crowd – and far from everything – a dirt road last I met it, with a scattering of Craftsman style slab houses (plus a few old farmhouses, mostly falling down) – around it . . .

A place of dirt and poor, ignorance and poorly read, with nary a library – not even a store

Dirtroad

and all my old friends? None of them left?

How was I to know?

I don’t know.

So I ate my meal, my bag stored overhead – and enjoyed it.  It was quite good, and Lufthansa seemed to put on a special flight just for me – until the kid behind me threw up in his seat . . .

and so I had to ride with the smell of vomit in my nose, a decent steak setting in my abdomen, and the silver clouds drifting by below as the moonlight – the moon was riding full and bright – with the occasional dark glimpse of the ocean . . .

and we arrived.

I couldn’t tell you much about that – the brief kiss (custom) – when getting off the gangplank – where you get down on your knees and with much gratitude and love kiss the ground you are thankfully! – finally! – soundly!  on . . . then marching over to Customs to make your “I don’t declare anything” declarations, the open bags; the searching & rifling through, the hand passing you on . . .

gathering your things . . . into the airport, a new beginning, a rental car . . .

and we are going home.

In twenty-four hours my life had changed from what I’d known . . . into something new. Something alien and different again, only in a big way.

And I’d be living here for a very long time . . .

I sighed, shouldering my suitcase across my back, and heading for the taxi cab . . . hoping this ride would be fun . . . and filled with dread . . .

For we were going back to my old neighborhood . . . and would not be living in our old house.

Instead we were renting the house next door.

The house my abuser had lived in.  My friend, my lover and betrayer, and the one who had hurt me so much in the end . . .

Escape

A Pause for Station Identification


We’ve taken a long pause on this, our blog of our childhood – and beyond. Perhaps this become another’s story; perhaps it is our own – though I know in reality they are intertwined, for ‘I’ am DID and there’s a lot in my life I don’t understand.

This is about “13”, our alter, who more or less took over from the time we left Germany until we came back to the USA – and beyond.  It wasn’t supposed to be that way it appears . . .

This is where “we’ve” been stuck, and is part of the reason for this blog: to work our alters out of our woodwork; to understand our own life, its arc and path – ‘who’ became ‘what’, the reasons why . . .

And that’s why ‘we’ have been stuck for such a long time. We’d sit down to work on this blog – and draw a blank on emotions, memories sometimes. Oh some of them would be there, like glimpses through a fog – snapshots only.

But a few weeks ago we started experiencing a disturbing emotion . . . and it turned out to be “13” – the key to moving on.

So we’re going over what we’ve wrote over the past week . . . documenting 13’s journey, and the steps we – he – ‘they’ took . . .

In many ways this is another alter’s story; not my own, not “Mikie’s”, nor the alter ‘he’ sprang from – an entirely different viewpoint, way of looking at the world . . .

for ’13’ was born when we were 13, and had only a few months left ‘in-country’ before we would go over the the “Good Ol’ U.S. of A.” which we had left a few years earlier.  Change was in the air; our best friend was gone, our girlfriend was fast becoming a thing of history, clouds were on the near horizon – gray ones, whirling and thick in my mind . .

 


I am 13 and I was born over in Germany but I was fairly prepared.  Gone were a lot of the emotions and outlooks I’d had.  I’d read many books and seen a lot of things, but sex with a girl was on my mind – not that I’d had any, tho’ I’d come close with a cousin once, and then with another girl.

I’d had sex over here but it didn’t take – friends were a thing of the past. I was way more into science and writing and stuff.  I played in the band.  I’d learned not to make friends.

I had learned racism over here, due to a few incidents with some blacks. That’s okay. I’ve very nearly gotten over it, but statistics don’t lie, and the black mobs over there were cruel. Unruly. And ran around in mobs.

That reminds me; I’m supposed to write about dealing with racism over here. (germany – host entry – he’s still a bit lost over ‘here’ in the real world)

Not that that has anything to do with this story. Racism plays a part in my life, but just a little one. We didn’t know nuthin’ as a kid about racism. All were the same in my little kid’s mind. ‘We’ learned better later on.

My host is reminding me it’s time to go on. “How should I write this” he is saying.  Should I do it from first person viewpoint or ‘yours’ (his).  I should be writing a question to my (intended) audience.  I could do it like stories like my Boss wants me, or just cut to the chase. I don’t want to do it either way.

But (sighing) I suppose I should fill in the racism blank. And a few other things over there.  But it was hard.

(Bosses Viewpoint):

Okay here I gotta step in (teen attending).  13 is a highly intelligent kid; apart somewhat from “the system”, although very important.  We’d always kind of ignored him – ‘he’ was like an engine running in the background, quiet, but doing his job . . .

then he began to ‘choke’ a bit last week.  Funny how what you took for granted can suddenly misbehave.  But that’s good. We’re gonna get some work done on this blog.

He’s all alone in his own way.  “We” had stripped him/it from certain aspects of ‘his’ personality.  He read.  He was well traveled.  He’d seen Berlin, Spain, whatnot . . . and plowed through every book he could get his hands on.  Fluent in English, he had gained a junior college vocabulary and reading comprehension skill level – he was tested for that – and wrote quite a bit (mostly poems).  And he was shy – painfully so. But at the same time big, quite strong, a bit flabby in the middle, but close mouthed and HARD.  He’d lie to you in a heartbeat, smoke a cigarette in the restroom – give a blowjob there – and go on to steal tank parts (or the bullets that go in them) at night.

He knew about nuclear bombs and nuclear missiles; about girls and boys – knew enough about the biology to make a woman happy; the seven erogenous zones (on a woman, anyway) – knew how to drink and hold it, used his bike like a car; was at home in a German atmosphere as the home one, tho’ sometimes ‘he’ would retreat inside while the child was being punished, sparing himself some pain . . .

He’d read “Everything a Boy Needs to Know About Sex” – and the girls version, too – just to be safe.  He’d seen a dog jacked off; done it on his own as his abuser had taught him to do, had loved and lost and loved again – and had lost

until he’d sworn off of it.

“Never again,” he was saying in the back of his mind. “No more pain.”

But ‘he’ didn’t know that, not yet . . .

that still laid ahead in his future . . .

and he was a pretty tough kid.

 


While we were overseas, there was very little to do in life during the evenings. We had our old black & white TV which offered up two channels – in German. There was nothing like watching Hoss from Ponderosa ride up on his horse exclaiming: “Vas is los!”.  And I like how they packed all their commercials at the end, and like sweets, sprinkled a little cartoon between them.

But what really saved us was Armed Forces Radio – and a reel-to-reel tape player that my dad had gotten in Thailand to record missionary spiels on.  In that collection of endlessly boring and droning voices was a tape of Bill Cosby’s earlier shows, the ones he’d done while he was young, and, I guess, touring for the G.I.’s on duty over there.

By this time – the time we’d found the tape – I was suffering from some pretty bad depression.  Shifting from base to base, living on American military bases in a foreign nation; no friends I could count, nobody to know me – or I them, and no time to do it anyway before we’d be separated, yanked apart . . .

I read books, I counted time till “the end” when we would return to Stateside (and I wasn’t the only kid doing this!) – usually bored nearly out of my mind, especially during the winter months when night started earlier – we’d sit and listen to those tapes, their contents unwinding from one reel to another, laughing at Bill Cosby’s outrageous stories of Fat Albert, Suicide Hill, and the Chicken Heart.  How I loved that tape!  It was double sided, and long.  We’d get lost inside those stories, watching the cop’s cuff’s slide off those kids signs, imagining rubber baby wheels gone, and home-built carts with those wheels.

He saved me.

There were times when, despite being 13, I had developed a cynical mind. I’d seen too much already: I knew about sex and gunfire, I had squatted and eaten with the  G.I.’s.  I’d ridden tanks and learned to fire machine guns; I’d learned survival.  I was reading ten to twenty novels a week, and could march 20 kilometers at a time.

I was hurt inside by the loss of my friends, and being stuck in a foreign land.  I had withstood school bomb threats (new to my experience), grown tired of the racism (something I couldn’t understand, but which had recently occurred to me).  My family – a shattered one at best, each individual plodding along as best they could, nobody for someone else.  You were expected to make it on your best bet, your best decision.  Your emotions were up to you, and it was up to you to control them – or at the very least, not express them to anyone . . .

In three years I had gone from an open, happy-go-lucky kind of child (“Gregorius”, my mom had called it) to a silent kid.  I’m sure I appeared sullen some of the time, but it was merely watching, mixed with a growing depression.  I kept on having nightmares all the time – not just the ‘normal’ ones (I had nightmares for 48 years) – but nightmares about what I feared was coming. A returning to something new with everything I had known gone.  The ‘end’ was approaching, our tour was fast running down.  And I knew it.

And I wanted to kill myself before the end.

And I can kinda blame Bill Cosby for reversing that when I’d get desperate,  feeling so bad . . . I’d kinda want to go bury myself in a road and let some tank run over me, take one of those .30 caliber rounds and set it off pointed at my head – do something stupid, something to get rid . . . of me.  End a deepening misery I could not understand nor articulate.  I guess I didn’t know anything was wrong – but felt it.  Hell, I was just a kid.    I suppose Debbie kinda helped me with that, in the end.

But nothing helped like putting that old Bill Cosby tape on and listening, doubling up with laughter again.  Interspersing it with some Armed Forces radio shows (“Suspense”, “The Shadow”, etc) we’d find ourselves coming back to that long reel-to-reel in the end.  It helped settle some of the violence in me that was struggling to come out, easing my on-coming rage issues (both inside and out), helped keep the depression and that tearing sense of loneliness – one that was growing every day – ever since I’d lost my best friend over there even worse . . .

and I had forgotten how to cry anymore.

I had done that when I was 13 – once.

After that it was all kept bottled inside.  For over forty-five years plus.


It was freezing night, a silver sliver of a moon showing through scattered rents in the racing clouds.  Streetlights threw yellow rays across slushy streets, and stark trees threw spidery silhouettes across the road.  We were walking the deserted streets from dependent’s housing section to the base’s amenities area, my family and I, surrounded by the impersonal military buildings, each with an identifying number, and some by symbols on the signs they wore.  We were on our way to see a movie.

What movie, I can’t recall.  It was on Fleigerhorst, a small military base.  It had it’s own little PX, an old theater, and a cafeteria for enlisted soldiers and people like me: dependents, brought with their father as part of his own army while he served the one we all worked for – in one way or another.  All part of earning a paycheck and doing duty to God, Country, and more . . . a tradition we’d been steeped in since I’d been born.

There wasn’t much to do – no internet, no TV, and only one radio station – but we still found things to do.  I ‘played’ with the G.I.’s, was in Scouts; we met in bunkers, and school dragged on, albeit on a different base.  I commuted on one of those old green shuttle buses, slugging through the crunch snow in the morning, coming back in slush in the afternoon . . . and god forbid you were too late for the last bus. It was a long walk from one base to another, though they had plenty of biking paths.

I had already gotten into trouble once about the theater by going to see “The Yellow Submarine”.  My parents had forbidden it.  They hated the  Beetles, didn’t like rock and roll, and were very conservative.  The only music they listened to was “Mystic Moods” (easy listening) and Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass Band.  I had gotten beaten for going to the movie but I didn’t care.  I’d been beaten so much it didn’t matter.  I was tough, used to them.  It was just another in a long string of ‘spankings’ – all my life.  It seemed normal.  I was used to having my ass pounded.  The trick was hiding it all.  My sense of self. The things I’d done – and was still doing.  And the crimes I’d committed, whatever they were (or were perceived to be) at the time.

But it didn’t matter.  During the “Yellow Submarine” the theater had caught fire.  It was a matinee so the G.I’s weren’t there – they were at work, which is how I managed to get there without my father knowing.  Us kids were sitting there in the semi-darkness when smoke began to billowing out from the bottom corner of the screen, and there were low red flickers behind it.  Us kids shifted restlessly; we were waiting for the movie.  Then a voice came on the PA saying “Stay in your seats! There is no cause for alarm.  The theater is on fire and we have it under control.”

I wasn’t dumb.  I sat there thinking this is a classic nightmare (I’d read enough books to know) – where the theater actually was on fire! – and here all us kids were just calmly sitting eating our popcorn and watching the smoke pour around the screen while the red glow grew brighter.  No panic, no popcorn throwing – just rows of quiet kids watching the scene.  Only in the Army would you see that.  In the civilian world there’d been a riot, people trampling each other as they raced to the doors . . .

But not us.  We were Army kids. We wanted our seventy-five cents worth.  We wouldn’t run until we saw the flames were higher than us.  But . . . true to their word they got the fire put out, we watched the Beetle movie, smelling acrid smoke.  I was happy, but puzzled.  I could not figure out why this movie was forbidden.  It didn’t make sense – the ban, not the cartoon, though the cartoon made little sense either.  However, I came home smelling of smoke and talking about the fire. Bad news: my parents knew what was showing, so I got my beaten and restricted again.  Another few days in my room. (sighing)

But this time it was an ‘approved’ movie.  The whole family was going.

We trudged through the snow and slush to the theater . . . saw some movie . . . and then when we came out I rushed over to the cafeteria and spent some of my own hard earned money for an ice cream.  Walking out to the sidewalk in front of the cafeteria I encountered my dad.  He stood there staring at me.  Then he walked up and with a scornful look snatched the cone from me and dashed it into the trash.

“If you can’t buy enough for everyone you can’t have one,” he said as I looked with horror at the pristine, brand new ice cream planted upside down in the garbage.

And I broke down and cried.

Because here’s the thing:

I had been taught and trained – it had been enforced and beaten into me over and over again: you don’t waste food. Not ever! – not a single crumb.  It’s an issue still for me, big time.  I have a hard time controlling myself when someone wastes food.  Why?

Well, when dad went to Vietnam, or overseas, or TDY, we’d go from thick to thin in a hurry.  Food was . . . hard to come by.  Hunger was an issue.  Money was thin.  I had to work for every dime I had, hauling trash and such.  Why?  Because he would give all his money away! – to missionaries to look good, and whores when he thought they weren’t looking.  With the former he was trying to feed his ego; with the second his selfish self wants – while we went without and he knew it.  Lord knows my mom knew how to complain (and we got the brunt of it, him not being there).  We were not with him.  We were a thousand miles, if not half a world away and more.

Why should he care? Except in a most superficial, distant way . . . the way he often cared for us when he was home – or not ‘disciplining’ us according to his needs . . .

As a result my mom always – always – fought to make ends meat, and barely succeeded. He would fight about her getting more education, fought about it when she had a job.  He wasted money at every turn of a dime.  It go so bad when he was away that sometimes our neighbors would come just to make sure we had food.

Meanwhile dad ate steaks – sometimes in front of us – and ate good.  He never knew a day of hunger and he kept his sweet tooth fed.  Sometimes he would eat steak while the rest of us had plain boiled hotdogs. No buns. Boiled in thin tomato soup, served up on noodles.

And that night that was cold as a freezing moon I ‘felt’ something ‘in me’ change . . . harden a little bit more.

The Omph-Pah Band


I had a choice of an elective, one of the few choices I had, being a twelve year old Army brat stationed on a base overseas.  “Home Eck”, ‘something sports’, or join the band.   However, as I said, choices were limited and even those were whittled down by the parents, peers, and doctors I had.

“You can’t play basketball – you might fall,” my parents had said, based upon an Army doctor’s advice.  Nor could I play football – or even climb trees! – or run, jump, or do anything but walk and swim.  Walking – I’d done a lot of that! – going on 20 kilometer marches, sometimes with a backpack, and climbing trees?  I still did it as best I could.  But the doctors had forbidden me any decent physical activity a boy of twelve or thirteen might have.

It was my knees, of course – those worrisome, troublesome things that hurt and ached and swelled up like grapefruit at times.  The doctors were so interested in them that they kept x-raying them every month or so.  It’s a wonder they don’t glow.  It took them six months to diagnose the problem, and there was a bone tumor as well.  They had to ship the x-rays overseas – back to the USA – then wait for a reply afterwards.   And then they proclaimed their ban.

Home Ec – “Home Ick” to us boys – was a girl sport, one which I or any boy would have been horrified to be in.  Plus my mom had already taught me how to sew and cook a bit; I made up my room, cleaned – the whole bit.  Not to mention my father would have been as horrified – if not more – than the little boys my age, had I shown such a desire to sign up for such a course.

So there was only one thing left: the school band.  Military schools – even army ones run by civilian principles and guarded by some really weird teachers – had those.  Or at least most did.  While the schools were consistent, the courses weren’t – some ahead or way behind, some far, some near . . .

You could find me tripping (knees made me unsteady) reading a book in one hand while navigating between classes; a book on the table while I ate, or a book neatly tucked into another book so I could pretend to read one thing while reading something else.  I was an avid reader, gobbling novels down.  I used to go to the base libraries (when I could) and rob them –  huge stacks at a time.  That’s where my love of reading really blossomed and grew.  By the time I was 17 I had read every science fiction book I could get my hands on.  Anywhere.  So I had to give them up.

“What instrument do you want to play?” my parents asked when I announced my decision (such as it was).  It wasn’t the first time I’d played an instrument (besides those little recorders  in elementary school – though the teacher usually handed me the tiny cymbals nobody wanted.  She didn’t want me, too.).   I thought about it for a moment – just a moment – then I said:

“I wanna play the tuba.”

(Now, at a later date, I wish I’d been much smarter and gone with a violin – or flute – or harmonica instead.  Something I could haul in my back pocket rather than this big old brass tube I’d have to hang around my head!)

“The tuba?  Why?” they asked quizzically.  After all, it’s not the most ‘normal’ instrument to want to play.  But I had my heart set on it.  I loved those big bass tones, that thumbling subsonic under-roar that accompanied most bands.  That deep bass tone drew me like a charm.  To my credit, I also liked the kettle drums – but imagine hauling those around!  At least with a tuba I could play in a marching band . . . something I was to discover later on.

And so I got it – and as I found out, it was easier to play than say, a trumpet or French horn.  The mouth piece was huge by comparison, and suited my misjoined lip from an accident I’d had.  The French horn was tight – you had to pinch your lips together so hard! – and my lip made it difficult to operate the reed on a woodwind (or so I was told).

All would have been wonderful, had it not been for one lad – a black boy, my age, who hated whites with a passion – and who had been there for some time, and resented this white interloper who sat in the class beside him.  He, too, played the “Sousaphone” as the marching band version of a tuba is known – and made my life torture in that class.  Our teacher, too, was black, but I didn’t mind.  He was a good guy.  But that boy taught me all about racism, that’s for sure.  However, that  for another story about how racism can be taught by those who are prejudiced against you, because it was never an issue in my own home.  Not even back then.  We were all Army and the only color was green.

And so it was that I joined the Omp-Pah! band, and the school?  They gave me a Sousaphone to take home to practice on.  This in military apartments.  And truth be told, I loved making “Chicken Heart” sounds from an old Bill Cosby story (about a  “Chicken Heart”, of course).  How our apartment neighbors stood it! – the “OOOMMMMPPP! . . . . PPPPPAAAAAAA!!!!” rattling their walls . . . but then again those old World War Two German barracks had some mighty thick walls . . . .

Time went on – I stayed in this school almost all year (joining late) – Mz. McManus would become a steady threat – I became more  bewildered – and then hateful towards my fellow tuba partner – and I joined the symphony band – playing concerts for the G.I.’s late at night (yes, a real tuba, sitting in my lap and all) – enjoying the show their kids put on . . .

The Dick Knot


“It’s a dick knot,” the boy was explaining to me, swinging it in loose circles between his fingers.  Then he threw out a challenge.  “Nobody has been able to untie it.  If you can – ,” his eyes rolled towards the gray fall sky, “you’d be the very first one to do it.”

I examined the thing.  I had come across it while wandering the playground – a small one on a small base we were on.  This was the last base we would be on; after this we would be going back overseas.  Stateside. We were far from being “short” (that is with only a short time to go) but we could sense a change over the far horizon.  Only about a year left to go . . .

I sighed, taking the knot.  It was huge, the size of a soccer ball, tied in a rope which hung from a massive tree on the playground’s edge .  Facing us was a row of identical apartment buildings, each five stories tall, with identical windows, balconies, and curtains.  The upper floors were more desired, but no one wanted the top one.  That was for “transients” – people who were either coming or going – and consisted of a long hallway the two stairwells, with eighteen identical rooms with 18 identically slanted roofs.  They each had dormer windows.  There’d be a room with a stove and a W.C., but there was no way of locking the doors at the end of the hallway.  As a result kids would occasionally run through, playing chase or escaping foes while a family was cooking dinner or going about their business up there.

Around me stood the playground – one slide, two teeter-tooters, and not much else.  There was, however, the eternal jungle-gym which haunted every playground – a huge cube constructed of pipe iron, set into smaller cubes.  The ends were joined with plain crosses and fittings, and if you fell through – woe to the child who did! – you would crash through all that iron, maybe breaking a bone or your head.

There was another playground once, on another base.  The way the military constructed their toys back then – this time one took off a girl’s fingers – almost took her entire hand – chewing it up in the center pivot of a merry-go-’round they had made out of old sheet iron, a post and some fittings.

But this dick knot – I studied the knot, then looked up.  The rope was tied high on a distant branch.  Looking down, I picking at the knot.

I was about twelve and we’d already been “here” (overseas in Cold War Germany) for two years.  I was tired of moving, the constant changing of schools and ‘friends’.  I appreciated this move – we were on an air corps base now, where my dad belonged and worked.  I had just arrived this afternoon, and dark came early in late autumn.  The rope was easily an inch plus some in diameter, stiff and strong.  I fought the tag end, finding where it looped under a tight coil, and began unraveling.  It was harder than it looked.  The kid who had been encouraging me suddenly turned wandered off . . .

I stood toiling.  Below my feet was sand.   I had become used to kids wandering off – disappearing in and out of my life until it was just a blur in my head.  Not knowing, I was depressed.  I felt it, but didn’t know the word for the situation I was in.  After all, life seems ‘normal’ while you’re living it.  It isn’t until you get to the end that people tell you it wasn’t so . . .

We were on the ‘outskirts’ of the main military bases around Hanau, a region in Germany.  Isolated from the other ones by about five miles through ‘Krautland‘.  There was a shuttle bus that ran from one base to another – old civilian Bluebirds converted to military use, and our school buses in the winter.  Now I was five miles from school, and I’d have to get up even earlier to get on, whereas before I’d lived right across from the school on Old Argonner.

I looked around.  There was no one in sight.  I felt lonely, tired, and bored.  It was best to stay out of the apartment while my mom got things settled, and she’d shooed me outside, telling me “go out, explore!”.  I was beginning to make progress . . .

There was no one around me when I had begun, but after awhile a few kids came up.

“What have you done?!” one of them exclaimed, almost in horror, as the last few kinks in the knot fell away.  “You unraveled the dick knot!”  He came up and grabbed the rope from my hand, glancing between it, me and his companions.  He looked frustrated, looking up at the tree.  “Now we can’t swing on it!”

I felt confused.

“What?” I asked.

“Dumbass,” the kid said, thrusting the rope back at me.  The other two kids (there were three of them) glowered at me expressively.  “Tie it back.  TIE IT BACK!”

Somewhat alarmed, I began redoing the knot again while looking him.

“I thought – someone told me – that this knot needed undone – ,” I feebly protested.  It was going to take a little while – the knot had been huge.

“No it didn’t.  It’s for riding this thing.”  And with that he shook the rope, making my task a little bit harder.

After I’d gotten done, then he showed me how – and why it was called a “dick knot”.

“You ride it like this,” he said, grabbing the rope and jumping up, putting the large knot behind his butt.  The rope disappeared between his legs in the front.  Then he bounced against the tree – feet first – told us to stand back, and took off.

Shoving himself hard with his feet, he spun around in circles while going around the tree.  “Thunk!” – his feet came down on the trunk just as the rope got too short to support another go-around.  Then he took off again, only this time in the other direction.  Shooting past his original starting point, the rope coiling around the tree – his spinning on that knot – then his boots came down on the trunk again; the rope was all wound up, ready to go again, and he did.

“The trick is!,” he yelled as he spun around, “to come down with your feet!”  And with that he smacked his shoulder in the tree as he attempted to turn around.  He winced, fell, and stood rubbing his shoulder.  As I watched another kid got on.

“The trick is: who can get the most go-arounds while you’re going around the tree,” he said, pointing at the kid who had replaced him.  “One-two-three-four – ,” the kid smashed, back first, into the tree’s rough bark, and he groaned, falling to the ground.

“Ouch,” he said, standing up and rubbing his back.

I stood and watched for awhile.

Then after awhile, they left.

Then I tried it on my own.

It grew to be one of my most favorite things – spinning and twirling around that trunk.  I’d go for hours and hours.  I got good at it after getting busted up a few times – sometimes good! – and I’d taken my share of scrapes, bumps, and bruises – but I loved it!  The sensation of flying through the air at speed, the world whirling and spinning around you – the perfect (and careful) timing that was required.  I got to where I would win those ‘contests’ – where you had to get off if you messed up on the landing – going around and around until my audience would get tired.  I kept testing my limits – how wide I could take off, how many rolls I could complete before having to come in for a landing – until the other kids learned it was useless in challenging me.  And I’d be far off in my head – thinking about back home, thinking about the woods; the ‘games’ we played ‘playing’ war – our fears and desires and the great unknown, back home, waiting over that far horizon.