You'd better light that candle and brew a big pot of whatever for this one; I've a feeling it's going to take a while. My last post notwithstanding, I've been asked to write about myself; and, though my natural bent is to speak my peace and opinions and let my own story filter out during normal conversation, this is a horse of a different color. Nevertheless, I'm going to make this as short as possible, which means it will probably stretch halfway to the moon. So be it.
My bio already says much, but I'll reiterate. I was born here in Cowtown on the day Apollo 11 took off, so you can surmise at least two things:
- I grew up in a city obsessed with putting out for potential tourists an archaic image of nineteenth century western robustness, complete with daily cattle drives and 'historic' landmarks; yet, in reality, forging ahead with a 'fuck everyone who doesn't have too much money and/or listen to country music', thoroughly modern western robustness, complete with backroom-dealing city fathers and a shady business atmosphere so pervasive you can't stretch your foot out from under your bedspread without stepping in it.
- I love math, science, and the unimaginable complexity of this oddball universe in which we live. Most of all, I love questions-or, I should say, I love the quest; because it's not enough for me to ask and expect a verbal response, I must also go out there and find the answer myself because that is the best way to differentiate between me and notme. I'll expect no less from all of you.
These two concepts have shaped my personality and politics ever since the first time I snuck over the back fence and found a short cut to school, along with an irate neighbor and a connection between the feelings of freedom and rebellion. Yet my life has been influenced by so many factors I'd despair to investigate them all in the order they appeared; so I'll dispense with chronology and just wing it from here.
I am the youngest of five children, the first three of whom came from my mother's first marriage to a redhaired scoundrel with a wandering eye and at least two other families and seven other daughters (that we know of). My oldest brother, Donny, the first and only son he alienated to his own detriment, became a career Navy man, now retired, who has a knack at biting sarcasm coupled with a sense of devotion and loyalty that should make any of you straight women out there weep to know he's been married for some twenty-five years. My two sisters, Barbara and Nancy, have run the gamut of relationship types and lifestyles (except, as far as I know, bi/homosexuality); Barbara has been married and divorced four times, the first one at sixteen and preggers, following the Family Curse to a tee and therefore giving me a nephew at five; Nancy has been everything from barmaid to rodeo cowgirl to career trainer with the Postal Service with a first marriage to one Benjamin Hugh Carrillo (a reformed asshole currently returning from his stint as MP on some makeshift airbase in Iraq) that, along with Barbara's escapades, lost her on the whole marriage concept (she has, nevertheless, been blissfully shacked up with Carl now for, oh, fifteen years?). My other brother and true childhood rival, Michael, is a career Domino's driver living in a mobile home with his Wal Mart wife Sherrie and four-and-a-half kids (one livein, one liveout from her previous hubby); dirt poor and happy, if constantly exhausted, he was never my hero but now is a hardfast ally.
Their influences on me are legion, but perhaps the greatest is that the ups and downs in their lives have helped me come to the conclusion marriage (in its 'accepted' definition) is neither a rule nor an exception but rather a choice, for better or worse, which has repercussions reaching far beyond the vows taken in space and, possibly, time; and that it is okay, sometimes even preferable, to be alone if you are able to realize that you are a whole person and can make your own way through the labyrinth. Some aren't, so we need to be ready to help them along.
My parents were, for most of my life, the steady rock upon which my world was founded. My dad was stern and uncompromising, the unquestioned head of the household; yet he knew no other purpose in life than to make ours as stable as possible. He and I shared very little in the way of emotional charity; the talks we had were usually about books, movies, or our other intellectual pursuits; yet Mom has told me that on the night I got shot he cried like a baby, asking why it couldn't have happened to him since he'd already led a full life, and I believe it. That's who he was. He's been gone now, seven years this week, after dying in the most horrifyingly painful way, of cancer. Be careful what you wish for. My mom, on the other hand, carried me for nine months and somehow never stopped. She got pregnant at fifteen and married at sixteen like her mother, her daughter Barbara, and now, Barbara's daughter Carrie. The Family Curse we call it, for the first marriage doesn't last long for the recipients and generally paves the way for troubles aplenty; but my mother, divorced and mostly homeless by twenty-one with three kids, found my own father and lived as the traditional American housewife for at least thirty-five years until he died. Since then, she has learned how to live on her own (mostly, I'm still here) and shows no sign of slowing down any time soon. You go, chick, just don't forget to use the start menu when you turn off your computer (she was born on a farm in 1939)!
What did they teach me? Mostly things that I didn't give a damn about until 1991, when life kicked me in the back and left me sitting in this stupid chair; but I'll get to that later. They taught me how to survive on my own terms in circumstances not of my choosing; when to be humble and when to reach out and beat the hell out of fate; but, most of all, they taught me to think for myself (by their example if not their words) and never take authority at face value.
Most of my childhood here in Fort Worth was spent as a short, skinny loner, riding bicycles and playing in the local parks until waaay too late. My brother Michael and I went all the way through elementary school with the same group of kids, who, in junior high, realized we were not as rich as they were and shunned us from their social registry. Thus began, for the both of us, a new life of shuffling between innumerable and diverse circles of close friends. He's mostly finished with that now, but I forge forever on; and, though most such entanglements prove temporary, I still find that I can hang with anybody at least once and will not give up the search for variety until they nail my coffin shut (and you'd better nail it next time!). I do have two good friends I've kept long term, one for over twenty years and the other for about fifteen; but I see them infrequently and have found that that's probably for the best. As for the rest of the human race, it's mostly come and go, finding for a while shelter from the storm then jumping back out again to test the waters. I guess you can take this as a warning; I'm not really looking for the One, but if I do find her, I'll stick with her. The rest of you will have to prove to be quite extraordinary to keep my attention for long; as I, yours.
I said most of my childhood was spent here in Fort Worth, and that is unfortunately true; yet every summer, and almost always during July along with my birthday, my family went on three week driving vacations all over the country. Thanks to my dad's job having a good 'package', his uncanny sense of direction, and being a stickler for details; and my mom's quest to take pictures of all the state capitol buildings, which she has since completed without the rest of us, I have been in forty-eight contiguous states plus some of Canada and Mexico.
Do I sound like I'm bragging? For the first few years, I hardly knew what we were doing and rarely enjoyed it; going through my formative years, I considered myself in bondage until I would realize that soon we'd be coming back; finally it got to the point when I couldn't get out of here fast enough and began to consider those trips my 'real' life and the rest merely a waiting period. It wasn't until I was seventeen that they gave me the option of staying home and I took it, but I've regretted it ever since; as that proved to be my last chance. So I'm not bragging, as it was neither my idea nor my planning; though I am proud, because I have walked up mountains, through deserts, and down beaches that most people in the US only hear about but never see.
I've crossed the Mississippi River many times, once barefoot stone-to-stone at Lake Itasca; as well as the Missouri, the Ohio, at least two Reds and Colorados, the White the Green, the Snake, the Columbia, the Susquehanna and Sewanee, the Shenandoah, the Los Angeles and San Diego (though they hardly count), and the East. I've hiked down part of the Appalachian-, the Oregon-, the Continental Divide-, and a hundred other Trails I don't need the names to remember. We camped as much as possible, so I've seen the sun rise and set over the Great Sand Dunes and White Sands, NM; the Mojave, Chihuahuan, and Sonoran Deserts and much of the Great Basin; Crater- and the Great Salt Lake, as well as Lakes Okeechobee, O'the Ozarks, Powell, and Roosevelt and four of the Great Lakes; Yosemite Valley and others to make a Swede sweat; Zion, Bryce, the Black, the Snake River, and the Grand Canyons (of the Colorado as well as the Yellowstone); and even Devil's Tower, Wy. I've played in both Oceans and the Gulfs of Mexico and Cortez/California and felt the spray of so many waterfalls I'd swear there aren't any left ;). Of bridges, I've crossed the Golden Gate, the Coronado, the Chesapeake Bay (-and Tunnel), the Royal Gorge, the Grandfather Mountain (on foot, of course), the Mackinac, some that no longer exist, and how many across the Mississipi and the Missouri? All these things I remember and much more: Mackinac Island (no cars allowed and the hotel from Somewhere In Time), the striped Lighthouse on Cape Hatteras (long before they moved it), the rolling hills along the Little Bighorn (and the jacket of that bastard Yellow Hair who got his just desserts there), Andersonville POW camp (origin of the word 'deadline'), a big blue ox named Babe (in a small town named Bemidji), Fourth of July fireworks over a bowl lake somewhere in Colorado, dropping one wheel of our `76 Impala off the (formerly) dirt road into Cripple Creek Co., the Matchless Mine in Leadville (with its tragic tale of the Tabors-Rosemary Silver Dollar Echo Honeymoon RIP!), climbing up Independence Rock (etc. ad nauseum), sliding down the tallest dune at the GSD (it was quite a trip just to get to it), digging up dino bones at Dinosaur NM and amber in the Petrified Forest, standing in four states at once (small matter that, but it was near Monument Valley, which was not), talking with my dad via walkie-talkie and CB radio while hiking endless miles in the backwoods of just about everywhere (at first with Michael, then alone), walking down a pitch black Park road (feeling my way by the center stripes) and being knocked down by some deer (I think, I never saw a damned thing) and their pursuers (I'm still not sure, there aren't supposed to be wolves in the east, but they smelled like dog and didn't stop), and taking a spiritual sidetrip down the Hidden Lake Trail in the closest place to paradise that I've seen on earth (Glacier NP, nice place to visit-in the summer).
Do I miss it all? Does a bear...? Heh. But that was long ago, and since then I've had bigger trails to blaze. It's still here, though, just below the surface and always ready to come to my aid in times of need. Still, if I ever get to walk again, I'm going to hike all the way up 287 and take another drink from that icy, Hidden Lake.
Where to go next? Well, during high school I was a nerd, but my grades didn't reflect it. That was the second biggest mistake of my life so far, not doing all my homework simply because I thought I shouldn't have to. I learned how to read and write, I think, ten minutes after I was born, and the English classes in high school and college are so repetitive I could cry-why are they always the required ones? I know, because eighty percent of the people who graduate still don't know their shwa from a tilda. Ho, hum; I'm still a little angry at myself for that. Yet, finally after six years and two schools, I got out, still a virgin in many ways. In fact, I never got laid, drunk, or stoned until I was nineteen, when I happened to find the right/wrong crew. Who'd have thought they lived two blocks away the whole time?
After a slew of mcjobs, including Six Flags Over Texas, Primo's Pizza, Taco Mayo, and Jack In The Box, I'd had it with Fort Worth. This period of my life was a clusterfuck of worlds colliding and social experimentation that I look back upon fondly, though at the time I felt mostly frustrated and anxious. I owned a woefully inadequate Honda Elite scooter and not much else, so I decided to drive it out to San Diego where my brother Donny lived with his wife, Mickie, and two (step) sons, Kevin and David, to get a 'real life'. You know, I figured it probably wouldn't make it; but even if it died en route I could still grab a Greyhound, which I had happily used several times before. Lo and behold, the damned thing got stolen a week before I left; so I ended up on the bus anyway.
San Diego! I could tell you so much about the eleven months I spent there, but I'd have to start this whole thing over; and even then it would come out five times as long as it is now. There were uneasy relations with Mickie, my fastidious workaholic sister-in-law from Taiwan (love ya, don't ever change ;Þ); there was my twenty-first birthday getting drunk on tons of free booze at a bar in La Jolla and passing out on the beach (oh, the cliché of it all!); there were crazy nights cruising with my nephew Kevin (getting him drunk, holding his drunk girlfriend's hair while she prayed to the porcelin god; the guy is now married w/kids, of course); screwing a mysterious rich grrrl all over her parent's second house on Mt. Soledad; there were me and me droogs soft on the milk+ (+++ you get the idea) moving nightly from house to house down on Mission Beach; there was some bareassed sunbathing on Black's Beach (the only time since I was twelve that I got a tan). There was, in general, lots of Calipornia but very little getting my act together.
I did have my longest running stint at a job there, at seven months, stocking a Target store and bought a modest Honda motorcycle; yet I could tell that at that rate I'd never be able afford my own apartment. SoCal is murder on the expenses, even when you're not out trying to find yourself. So I did something radical and signed up for the Navy; Donny was still the consummate Chief Petty Ossifer at the time and I thought it would be a good way to get even farther from Texas while making some real money. I've always been pretty much a pacifist, but I figured I could use a little discipline. I didn't have a HS diploma, which they required at the time, so I had to go delayed entry for six months. Two months into that, I broke my bike and my leg trying to go through a woman who thought left-turners have the right of way. This wouldn't have stopped me, but instead of fitting me with a cast they put a pin in my leg. Navy say no. BaBye. I still had to mend for a couple weeks before I could go back to the Target and in the meantime the expenses mounted; so I decided to come back to Fort Worth. That was the worst mistake of my life.
Three weeks after returning from California, I was walking home from a bar with two friends, one old and one new, when I was shot in the back by a teenage latino probably being inducted into the gang he was riding with. I don't remember his face anymore, but he hit me with a nickel-plated, snub-nosed .38. Such is the ficklness of memory.
If you think my life took its biggest turn right then, you'd be wrong; I thought it was over. The fear preceded the bullet; as I lay on the ground, knowing by the loss of feeling below my heart what had happened, it went away. There was no pain, just an almost imperceptible shortening of breath. The only real problem I had with it was that my glasses had gotten knocked off and I couldn't see the stars. As for God, the Buddha, what have you? There was nothing; and I was fine with that too. I'd never believed in God before, and didn't even start thinking along those lines until days later.
Because, as you already know, The paramedics arrived in time and did their work well. I went to the hospital, awake the whole trip and through the x-rays and lung-draining (that hurt). They didn't put me out until they were sure there was no internal bleeding; as, I found out later, anesthesia tends to thin the blood and relax the veins, making bad wounds potentially life-threatening. You see, that's when the real learning started and that's when my life changed; I knew that I had been wrong and was going to live after all. Following a two-day stay in the local County hospital doped up on demerol, I was moved to Fort Worth Rehab, where I spent the next five months building up my arms, learning in short order how to live sitting down, and generally being pissed off at the world. About halfway through I had my twenty-second birthday, on which the physical therapists gave me a Matchbox `57 Chevy (because I'm so fucking cute) and the youngest nurse gave me three tapes of Concrete Blonde (because the universe knows so much more about us than we know about ourselves). Through it all I had a 'team psychologist', Dr. Dave, who eventually told me that I really didn't have a need for him; but I already knew that, because the one thing I never considered before, during, or since was doing myself in. Killing, turturing, and maiming just about everyone around me, but never myself. That's for people who don't have anything for which to live. For me, though I don't believe in fate or soulmates, my opinion is not fact; so there is always the possibility that I'll find the One, and that is enough.
Since then I have become a very different person; having gone through most of the pop psychological 'stages of death', yet somehow missing the depression part, I find that I am, indeed, not who I once was. Somewhat more subdued, a tad bit more studious, and slowly losing interest in sexual gratification (you tend to lose interest in things like that when they simply don't exist anymore); I am still, however, intensely curious and have definitely not lost interest in women. Or science, or math, or a billion other things I haven't gotten to yet. I went to college here at Harvard on the Highway and got a two year degree, but the secondary health complications of my injury have since gotten to the point that I'm, ahem, uncomfortable some two days out of every week; so I doubt I'll be going back into formal ed. any time soon. This has turned out to be a small matter to me, as about ten years ago I got my first computer and have found that I can get through a whole helluva lot more information here than I ever was able to otherwise. Moreover, I still have plenty of friends IRL, though the names and faces have changed, and have made the neighborhood around the TCU area my own like never before. No, I don't have a job, nor do I want one-do you? With the problems I have, which I won't go into, doing a regular workweek, much less full time, would now be a nightmare. I get the usual government stipend (thank you all for your support ;Þ) and will try something else only if they yank it from me.
Do I feel guilty? No, most of you people out there would probably have gone Islamic Jihad by now if you were in my place, so I consider this at least as tough a job as, say, picking up trash all day in the hot Texas sun, which I did out at Six Flags. If you think otherwise, you can kiss my skinny, white ass; but you'd have to find it first!
Do I still feel angry? Sometimes, though not today. If Bush gets re-selected, I will be very angry for a very long time; but even then I will get over it.
Am I looking for someone with whom to exchange love letters? Um, no; I need hugs and kisses, not long distance masturbation (if I can't feel the real thing, what am I going to get out of the artificial kind?). Besides, for all I know you might all really be thirty-four year old long-haired hippie guys in wheelchairs; and I'm already in love with myself.
So that's me, pretty much; there's a shitload I haven't told you, but that will have to come out as this journal lengthens. Or via email for the juicier parts. Now, what about you?