The Writers Voice
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Chapter One: The start of it all.
Well, I guess you start a story at the beginning. Then again, some start in the
middle and fade back, like Forrest Gump. No, that's not my idea here. Another
way would be to start at the end, work my way to the beginning, THEN back to the
end. No, that wouldn't work either....I am not at the end yet, no matter what.
Okay, from the beginning then, I guess. First I must explain that much of my
earlier childhood is fragmented. Some people can remember way back, while others
cannot. My circumstances were a bit different. Most of my clear memories start
at age 8. I was in an accident when I was that young, and much before then I
just simply don't recall. Most, as I said, is fragments. I have a recall at
times. Memories come in flashbacks, triggered by an occurrence. Sometimes it is
a song, other times a situation, smell, taste, or much like the music, a movie.
One day I plan to go back to Virginia, and see what more I can remember being in
places familiar in my mind.
Life started for me on January 11th 1976. My father was in Lakehurst, NJ, going
to B school with the Navy. Mom went to Mt Dora Florida, to stay with my aunt
Dorothy. When the time came, momma loaded up and we went to neighboring Eustis
Florida. So I was born. Not long after, Dad had finished his school, and was
moved to Guantanamo Bay Cuba. After I was about 6 weeks old, mom moved to
Norfolk to live with another aunt, Stella, who we call Aunt Kitty. Grandpa had
little nicknames for all of my mother's siblings. Well, Aunt Kitty lived with
her husband, Harold. He was in the Navy too, and stationed at Norfolk. Well, he
was a bit of a nutso at times. I don't know if it was alcohol, PTSD from
Vietnam, or what. I was not much older then 6 months when he decided to take my
mother, aunt, and I assume myself and my sister all "hostage", as my mother puts
it. During this siege, he decided to play Russian Roulette with my mother, him
pulling the trigger each time to my understanding. Eventually he fired the
round, hitting my mother in the shoulder. For years I had seen the scar, and mom
would never tell me where it came from. It was clearly visible if she wore a
bathing suit or sleeveless shirt. Finally, when I was "old enough", she told me.
Well, I guess that snapped him back into the real world, and it all ended. From
there mom moved back home to her mom and dad's, until the papers came through
for us to join dad in Cuba. After some vaccines, we were living in "Getmo". I
don't remember much bout the place. I DO know that iguanas roamed like roaches
do in Florida. They were everywhere. Mom said I bit the head off of one, but I
couldn't have been much more then barely walking at that time. I guess you could
say I took my first steps there. Mom says I wasn't walking yet when we did move
there, and I was around two when we moved from there to Norfolk again. Mom and
dad separated while they were there, and there we stayed.
Dad was moved to Mississippi, for duty, after that. Dad was stationed in Norfolk
eventually, but we didn't get to see him too much then. He came out and visited
for one of my birthdays. He bought me some he-man toys, and another type called
MASK. They were normal looking cars that changed into battle vehicles. I
remembered there was one that looked like the "A-Team" van. Anyhow, after that,
I didn't see him, not for another year, when I had my accident. That part of the
story will come later.
Growing up, life wasn't all that bad, or all that good. I remember walking to
school for the first few years. First we lived with some friends, Linda Stroud.
She had a big old house down the road from a laundry mat.... the old "coin-op"
sign outside is fresh in my mind. Took me a long time to realize what that
meant. I remember one time we got a bad rain or something and the street
flooded. I also remember running upstairs in the house and getting thumbtacks in
my foot. I know I walked easy through that area of the house after that. One
thanksgiving, the lady we stayed with told me that the neck of the turkey was
another anatomical part, closely resembling. I would also ask her for water, but
try to reverse the word's letters. Instead of retaw, I would call it "doowaa"....
don't ask me, I was like 3 I bet. The only remaining fragment of those days I
remember is when we caught head lice really bad. I had curly blonde hair at the
time. They cut my off, while living there, and it grew back brown and straight.
We had a friend named Linda Everett. She had a son named Larry.... he was okay I
guess. His father was killed walking down the interstate after his truck or car
broke down. Years later, after moving back to Florida, we talked to him and his
mother. He had a Mohawk, painted his hair, and worst of all, was in and out of
trouble. I am kind of glad I escaped all of that. Mom had other friends there,
too. One was Ester Wineschank. I don't even know if I spelt the name right. She
had several kids close to mine and my sister Valorie's age. Mom could tell me,
but I do remember Bobby. I think he had a younger brother, and a sister or
two...the name Wendy comes to mind. We also made friends with some people from
Massachusetts. The kid my age was named Christian. His mother was annoying when
she talked, but largely I remember her as being a nice lady. She cooked chicken
and pork chops with this weird type of glaze. I don't think it was a sweet ham
glaze, but some Yankee thing. We have grits, and they had that stuff. Maybe some
day I will head to bean land and see if I can figure it out. I also remember he
ate ketchup on everything....I am talking Mac and Cheese, GRITS, and lord knows
what else. It seems that we lost track of them easily. Mom also had two good
friends she met when she lived back home. One was Marilynn. She had a daughter
that was a few years younger then me. The other friend was "Aunt Patsy". Both
she and Marilynn's husbands had been stationed in Pensacola/Milton.
Let's see...other memories. One time we went fishing under a bridge on Jetties.
I remember at low tide we could walk out on rocks, into the water. During high
tide they weren't as visible, so we had to stay closer in. I am thinking it was
salt water, but I am unsure. I also remember fishing in the Atlantic Ocean. We
went to a pier to fish one time, and we didn't have much luck. An old guy there
fishing told me that if I could pick one of the fish he had lying on the ground
up, that I could keep him. Bastard did it for his own enjoyment, though. I tried
and tried, but couldn't get my hands to hold on to that slippery little devil.
After we lived with Sue Stroud, we moved into the projects, tactfully called
Ocean Air Apartments. I lived in 606, Chester St. We had some nice neighbors,
and a few we didn't talk to that much. One time I fell in a mud puddle and hit
my head. I remember telling mom it looked like a carrot in the mud. Later
recollections lead me to believe it was a common household brick. We lived there
with mom's boyfriend, Wade. Wade Wiley Whatley...best I know he deserted from
the US Navy. He was a fire fighter, and bored with the job, so he just went
AWOL. He was very abusive to us. My earliest memories were both good and bad. We
would watch cartoons and Kung Fu Theater together on the weekends. We always had
a good pirate movie to watch in the afternoons after Kung Fu. Oh I loved it back
them. I know the bulk of the cartoons were like Bugs and Daffy, Hanna-Barbara
cartoons (Grape ape, Jabber Jaws....the like). Next we lived on Chesapeake Blvd
in a nice 2 story yellow house. I remember it had a nice large yard to play in
the front, and a decent yard in the back where Wade kept a garden going. The
landlord was a Jehovah's Witness, but he didn't impress his beliefs on us too
much. I recall that they were very nice people. They also had a son, I think
named Doug. He had Down syndrome or some similar affliction. In back of our
little yard was the landlord's garden.....a huge grape arbor and different types
of crops. He would sometimes bring us tomatoes, cucumbers, and the like. I do
remember once or twice that he let Val and I pick us some grapes. We had
neighbors on both sides...all older people. The people to the right were very
nice. AN older lady lived there with her son. She would also grow veggies in her
yard. She would snap peas on her back porch and let my sister help her.
Sometimes I would help to, but not as often as Valorie. On the other side were
decent people from what I remember, but I don't think we had that much to do
I enjoyed living in that place a lot. The front yard had a nice large cedar tree
in front. The front steps had large concrete sides that I could play with my
cars and other toys on. I was short enough then to lay with my head at one end
and my feet wouldn't reach the other end. Upstairs I had the room on the left of
the house, while my sister had the one on the right. I had a lot of toys...a
Barrel of Monkeys, slot cars, other things. I had this great kid's activity
book. It was fairly thick, had matching games, mazes, math and spelling
exercises. It had fun games and coloring pages. The book had a medieval theme,
with dragons, castles and knights. From that book I think I learned a lot. I
would sit for hours doing stuff in the book. I wish I still had it, or knew even
what the book was called. I'd say it achieved its purpose; it entertained me as
well as taught me things. Between it and my sister, I was well prepared for
school when I started. My sister played with Barbie Dolls, and some other kind
of doll called "Darcy". She had Disney books, tapes, and records, and we would
play with them for long hours too. We also played with play dough,
etch-a-sketch, and Val had fashion plates toys. It was at this house we had our
first real great toy...now a relic. Wade and mom got us an Atari 2600 one
Christmas. It was great.
Wade loved diving and swimming, so we frequented the local swimming pools. I
don't know about much of the world, but there we had public pools in the parks.
You paid like a quarter and got to swim till you shriveled up. I learned to swim
at Northside Pool. They had a kiddie pool there, and I loved the day I got to
graduate up to the normal pool. Mom, being the mother she was, wouldn't let me
go past the 2 foot marker for a long time, even though we learned to swim deeper
in. Just the same, I still had to wear arm floaties. Eventually she would let me
venture further, to the 4 foot deep marker. My sister vehemently protested this,
because she was older, and she could go there, so she was better then me for it.
At the park there was a BMX track, a nice playground, tennis courts, and a huge
open field. The park was pretty nice. We played on the courts sometimes, other
times we played wherever. My sister and I would get McDonalds sauces and mix
them, then smear them on the sidewalks. Didn't understand why people got mad at
me back then. I understand now though....the sweet and sour doesn't go well with
The playground was neat. It had culvert pipes above ground, arranged like a
submarine, or so I thought. I remember the part going up was hard to reach when
I was smaller, but as I grew I could shimmy my way up the pipe. A pinnacle of
achievement was the day I stood on top of the pipe, hands raised high, yelling
"Look mom, I made it" Promptly she told me to get down before I hurt myself. Val
just laughed at me. Also, there was a wooden jungle gym type thing. One could
climb to the top of it and slide down poles. I was always too afraid to get
close to the edge when I was smaller. After I grew some I made daring leaps from
the massive four foot drop, tucking and rolling like a paratrooper landing in
Normandy. Eventually I was tall enough to reach up, grab the ledge, and just
pull myself up, so it got boring. Other places we went to a lot included a flea
market that was huge (to my standards then...I was younger then 8 still,
remember?). We also visited a place called Coleman's Nursery Christmas
Wonderland. It had tons of Christmas lights, and animated creatures. As quoted
from an article I found online, "Starry lights glittered on snow-flaked
greenery. Beavers split logs. Reindeer nodded to the tune of "Frosty the
Snowman." Calliope music floated over a circus, where a stuffed bear performed
gymnastic tricks around a bar. Bears cut wood. A raccoon seesawed with a skunk,
a clothespin holding his nose". I read, in that article, that after 30 plus
years, they were closing shop. December 2003 was the last go around. I wish I
knew before. Until I read that, I had always wanted to go back and see if it was
still there. I truly wanted to cry when I read the article. I guess I will
always have my memories.
From there, we moved to mom's friend, Linda Huran's, house. Mom and left Wade,
but he moved in with us there, leaving what we didn't move with us there for the
next tenants. Linda lived in a nice house also in Norfolk. She had a singing,
songwriting boyfriend named Greg. What made this couple odd was that Linda was
white, Greg black. I had no problems with it, and still don't. They were great
people, Greg especially. He always had time to talk to me. While living there,
we lived closer to the park, so I enjoyed it. Living there in the winter was
interesting too. We waited out a blizzard before grabbing some cardboard and
sledding down the buried steps of a catwalk over a highway. Eventually Wade left
mom and moved home to Arizona.
Schools were nice there. I went to Oceanside Elementary for Kindergarten. At
first we had a nice old black lady for our teacher, but she was replaced during
the school year with a beautiful young teacher. I remember even in Kindergarten
I had a crush on my teacher. One time she was telling us about how people kiss
in other cultures, and decided to demonstrate an Eskimo kiss with me. I was so
embarrassed, but I loved it. In that class we made different crafts to bring
home. I made a beaded clay necklace for mom and painted it with paints. We made
peanut butter, carved pumpkins and toasted the seeds, and watched the first
launch of the space shuttle in class. There was this girl I had a crush on too.
One time while we were running out on the playground she got hurt and said it
was me that hurt her. She said I pushed her down and she hit her head on
something. Years later she still said it was me that did it, although I know I
didn't do it. Mom still had to pay the doctor bills though. To get to school we
had to walk out of the back of the projects, cross a ditch and walk through the
woods. Somebody we knew was raped in the woods and left in a huge hollow tree. I
don't know if they caught the guy who did it, but I hope so. We also had alerts
sometimes warning us of strangers that might try to get us into their cars. The
school made a big point of teaching us not to talk to strangers.
By the first grade I was moving to the Chesapeake Blvd House, and attended
Crossroads Elementary. I went there in the first and second grades, missing time
when I had my accident. There was a teacher who loved oceanography, and
collected all sorts of sea life for the students to view. He had a classroom
that only had a huge tank in the middle of the room. In it were all sorts of
neat creatures. I remember in particular a Horseshoe Crab he had. He rescued it
from the beach, where it had broken off its barbed tail. He somehow made a new
one for it and grafted it to the animal. Other things I remember is that the
school covered a lot of ground. We had more room to run and play then we knew
what to do with. They also had this big gym that they would dress up as a
haunted house for Halloween. It was a work of art. I walked to this school as
well. It was a street or two off of Chesapeake, and only a few blocks away.
Next I went to school, briefly, at Northside Elementary, which was close to the
park and Greg and Linda's house. I wasn't there and awful long time before Wade
left and we moved to Virginia Beach. Mom worked while we lived in Norfolk at a
place called the Sea Isle Motel. Wade didn't seem to mind it too much, since mom
could sneak us in to watch movies and boxing on HBO. Cable TV was a new thing,
but it was awesome. I remember watching MTV for the first time at Greg and
Linda's. Well, after that mom worked at the Wayfarer Tavern. She had painted a
mural on the side of the building, worked in the kitchen, and eventually managed
it. On the weekends Wade and mom would also clean the restaurant. Val and I
would tag along often. I would watch pirate movies and the like while they
worked. Mom would fix us sodas and BLT's to eat while we waited. I would snare a
few cocktail swords every now and then to use for my GI Joes. They were the
perfect size. The tavern was decorated in nautical items and had richly deep
dark stained and polished wooden tables, floors, walls, and railings. That is
the most I can remember about the place now.
When we moved to Virginia Beach we lived in nice town houses. Liberation from
Wade's tyranny made mom a driven person. She managed a place called Donald's
Go-Go World, and did well for us. Her friend Beth moved in with us. We had a
nice back yard with privacy fencing around it where Beth would lay out topless.
Mom told me to stay away from the windows upstairs, but yeah right. I was young
but not dumb. One time, totally on accident, I got a full frontal show. I walked
into the upstairs bathroom, not knowing she was taking a bath. She was getting
out of the tub just as I walked in. I stood there for likely a second, but it
seemed like an eternity. She knew it was an accident, and just laughed about it
later. From then on I am sure she remembered to lock the door. At one time we
had 2 dancers from mom's work, Billy and Chris, living there too. Billy moved
his stuff into my room, but was rarely there. Mom called him a "psychic Ninja".
He acted strange...sort of like he had a split personality or something. Chris
was a bodybuilder. He was so huge that he couldn't put his arms down by his
sides. Mom said they both went on to dance for Chippendale's. Mom had a lot of
other friends that would come and visit. Another that comes to mind was a recent
graduate from the police academy. I think his name was David. Well, David wasn't
supposed to be carrying his firearm off duty, a condition of probation after
joining the police force. Well one night he, Beth, mom and some others went out.
David went to remove the revolver from the waist of his pants and the hammer
caught his belt and discharged the revolver. The bullet zigzagged through his
leg, finally exiting his leg and lodging in the foot on his other leg. I woke
from all of the commotion, finding a bleeding guy sitting at the bottom of the
stairs, police everywhere, since the neighbors called the police and informed
them my mother had shot an officer, and my poor mother freaking out over
everything. I know he was fine, considering he was shot. I do not know how much
trouble he got into, but it is my understanding he made it on the force.
Mom had one more friend I think bears mentioning. His name was Dave. He liked
mom, and wanted to date her, but she wasn't interested I guess. Well, what made
him great was that he rode a motorcycle. I guess to impress mom, he asked her to
let him take me for a ride on the motorcycle. She wouldn't let me go for a long
time, but eventually she allowed it. She was afraid I would get hurt. Well, he
strapped a helmet on me and took me for a ride to the boardwalk on Virginia
Beach. We were gone most of the day. We stopped at a Toys-r-Us on the way home.
I wanted a Jetfire Transformer figure really bad. I remember I didn't have 20
dollars to buy one, and mom really didn't have 20 bucks to throw away either.
She bought me most anything I wanted anyhow, but I usually got the 3-5 dollar
toys, which were great back then. Money went further when I was younger, of
course. Now 3-5 dollars won't get you squat. Well, back to Dave. The thing that
stands out in my mind is the motorcycle ride. Since that time I have wanted one,
and I am finally getting one any day now. It's great. It is a 1980 Honda CB650
Custom. It's blue, and still looks great for a 24 year old bike. It only has 22
thousand miles on it. Well, enough about now...back to then!
We had a lot of friends in the neighborhood. Valorie had a friend named Lisa.
Lisa was a piece of work. I don't know if it was true or not, but she claimed
she was a cousin of David Lee Roth. My sister believed her, but I never really
did. She also had an older boyfriend, and claimed she was sexually active with
him. I was about 9 at this time, so I am guessing she was about 11 or 12. Sad to
think how common that is these days, but who knows if she was then. The most I
remember outside of those details is that she liked to play truth or dare a lot.
I guess she is the first girl I remember kissing, but it was on a dare. I don't
remember who else Valorie hung out with, but I know I had a friend she liked.
His name was Brian...Brian Okamoto. His father was a successful businessman, and
I guess his mom was a housewife. They had a lot of board games, and we would
play Life, Monopoly, and other games like that. Brian also had THE largest
collection of Star Wars toys. He had metal shelves in his room, lining the
walls, and the shelves were full top to bottom. I bet if he kept up with them in
later years like he did then, he would still have them, unless he got smart,
sold them, and bought a yacht! He wouldn't let his best friends play with them.
Greedy, somewhat, but at the same time smart. I wish I took as good care of my
stuff then as he did and I do now. Brian was a great friend. We would camp out
in his back yard in his parent's huge 3 room tent, and spend many a night
playing those board games.
I had other friends as well. I had a friend who was much older then even Valorie.
He liked to hang out with us anyhow....I don't know why. He brought me as a
guest to the Chuck Norris Karate School. I got a lot of free lessons...I just
kept going for a while and they never said anything. I made it to gold or yellow
belt, whichever the second one is. He, I, and 2-3 other neighborhood kids all
played in this huge clay pit outside the neighborhood. One of the kids had a lot
of GI Joes. We all had a lot of them...I know I sure did. We played with them,
Transformers, and a few other toys. I loved those days. About a year or two ago
I got into collecting Transformers again. I spent quite a bit of money
online...about 750-800 dollars, buying both whole toys and junk parts. I made
about 600 bucks putting those parts back together and selling them, as well as
extra figures I didn't need for my collection. I would buy lots of figures, and
you always seemed to get one or two you already had. I sometimes would get one
better then what I had, and sell the lesser. I pretty much finished my
collection within a year, and wow what a collection I had. I recently sold that
collection for a thousand dollars. Talk about a profit! I didn't want to part
with them, and considering the shape some of them were in, and the value the now
20 year old toys have, I could have made a lot more if I found somebody willing
to pay what they were worth. I don't know what happened to any of my friends,
but I hope they still remember me as I do them. Maybe they are out there some
place wondering where I got off to as well.
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