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Life Story


Danny Kinser

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 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 with them.

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 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 concrete!

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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