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Showing content with the highest reputation on 12/02/2007 in all sections

  1. just sayin...sorry porc...
    4 points
  2. As I mentioned before, I will be posting a chapter a day of my book up until my birthday on the 13th. All feedback is welcomed. I forgot to post yesterday so here's the first two chapters: Train tracks, tribulations and Egg Fu Young. This Book is dedicated to: “Presto”, Jessica Price, The Hines family, The Stump family, The Harsch/Lowe family, The Reid family, The Karban family, Chris Cook, Santina Protopapa, Cleveland Public Art, Bill, Dawn and Delores Menear. Special thanks to Jennifer McVay for proofreading and editing contributions. Foreword I'm not an author and I don't claim to be one. Honestly, I do most of my reading at my computer monitor in five minute bursts on average. The reason I wrote this book was because every time I spoke to someone about my life in detail, the response was always something along the lines of “That should be a book!” After hearing that enough times, I figured they were probably right. I started writing one week before my thirtieth birthday as a promise to myself last year. It wasn't a fraction as easy as I thought it would be. Even as I type this, I'm fighting with my computer about formatting and margins. Despite the obstacles, I plunked down every day for six months straight and poured my heart and mind into these pages. I tried to write this as if you were sitting with me having a few beers, blabbing the day away and trading stories. This book wasn't written by a guy who uses phrases like “dubiously enigmatic” in his day to day speech, so if you're not a fan of straight talk about real life, you might want to trade this in for the new Harry Potter book or something. It was my goal to compile some of the most interesting, hilarious, heartwarming, and downright devious times of my life into these pages and share them with you the way I would with my buddies. I hope you enjoy what you're about to read and if you know me in person, hopefully it will explain all my screwy quirks. Your pal, Bob Peck * Some names have been altered throughout the story to protect the innocent. Chapter 1 “I'm this many today!” I yelled out to the people passing by Woolworth's Department store as I burst through the front doors. I held up four fingers proudly as I marched down West 25th street with my Birthday present, an E.T. Color-it-yourself velvet poster. What more could I ask for? It was December, but either the weather was unseasonably warm or the birthday endorphins had kicked in full force and I wasn't feeling a thing. Everyone I saw that day found out that I had turned four years old, like it or not. Most people smiled when I said it, and that made me proclaim it louder each time I said it. That day I didn't have a care in the world. I knew I'd be home shortly, coloring the rest of the afternoon away. We lived in an area dubbed “Ohio City” in Cleveland, Ohio. Now predominantly home to yuppies, aspiring musicians and local artists, this however was decades before it was cool and hip to live there. In fact no one chose to live in that neighborhood in those times. You did it because that was what your Welfare check or crummy minimum wage job could get you. Home was a small two bedroom apartment on the third floor of a dilapidated building off of 27th and Franklin named "The Guernsey". It had all the makings of a ghetto building of the late 70's, complete with tennis shoes hanging from the phone wires out front. Dirty barefoot children played in the gravel parking lot on the side of the building while their mothers sat on the front stoop and leaned off the fire escape gossiping while drinking beer and coffee. My mother was one of those women. Picture a mix between Barbara Streisand and Laverne from the t.v. show “Laverne and Shirley”. Now add on about 10-20 years of hard drinking and smoking to the features and you've got my mother, Patricia Rodich. It might not have been the best of places, but to me it was the best place on Earth. I had all a kid could want. A mom and dad who loved me, plenty of toys, and a black and white 13” t.v. that showed reruns of Sesame Street if you adjusted the foil on the antennas just right. I spent my time learning as much as I could about my surroundings, and often got in trouble for leaving the property with some of the older kids that lived in the building. I knew there was a lot to be seen in every direction, from the mysterious spatterings of abandoned buildings on the other side of the The Guernsey, to the daily hustle of West 25th street's merchants and bums alike. I loved to explore every inch I could get to. Rusted fences divided property lines, lush green piles of overgrown weeds sprouted from cracks in the sidewalks, and in the distance you could see the old iron lift bridges that once helped serve as a main artery in and out of this city for supplies of steel and salt coming and going by train. I knew that this area was a whole different world from where the rest of my family lived, but I didn't understand why we were here and they weren't. I had two half sisters, Joanie and Laura who lived in the suburbs around Cleveland at the time but my closest relative was my “aunt Rosie” who was actually my great aunt. Rosie was the classic old lady of the times. Grayish-blue hair rested on her pale head. Her glasses were oversized, tinted on the top and took up about half of her face. She would always smack her lips at the end of each sentence due to her denture cream failing. She wore fur coats, flashy jewelry, and drove a car that to a four year old looked like a mix between a limo and a hovercraft. Rosie would come and visit us every few days and drop off food money to my mother. It wasn't much, fifteen dollars on Mondays and Wednesdays and thirty on Fridays. As the years passed I figured that Rosie must've borrowed a LOT of money from my mother to constantly be “paying her back” and that's why mom never had a job. Sometimes we would leave with Rosie and traveled for what seemed like forever all the way back to Shaker Heights, an outer ring suburb of Cleveland. Her neighborhood was a completely different world from mine. Neat little rows of pastel toned, identical ranch houses lined the streets. Perfectly manicured lawns sat proudly in front of each home. It was always so quiet there, no train whistle blowing in the distance, no sirens blaring down the streets every few minutes. It kind of scared me honestly. Compared to what I was used to, it felt like a ghost town. I usually would just play in the basement while we visited for the day. Sometimes, I would hear Rosie and my mother talking about how awful my father was and how we needed to leave him. It would make me furious. So mad in fact, that when I would get home I'd tell my father everything I heard. How could these accusations about my father be true? He was the man of ALL men in my eyes. Bob Peck Sr. Stood well over six feet tall, weighed in slightly past Two hundred pounds, and had a full head of bushy blond hair. His voice was commanding and intense. Even if he was greeting you, it sounded borderline threatening. On his left arm he wore a tattoo of a panther head, below it were the words “hell bound”. He got this marking while serving in the Korean war fighting for our country. How could a man so strong, so courageous, be talked about like this from the rest of my family? I couldn't allow it. Telling him everything I heard seemed like a good idea at the time. I figured my father would use this information to try and be a better person. Maybe if he heard that people thought he drank too much, and started fights in bars for no good reason and was always “up to something” that he would stop, so people would quit talking about him. This was not the case. Every time I'd go to Rosie's house and would come home he would sit me down next to him and say “son, tell me everything your mom and your aunt said about me.” And I did. Everything. I guess “everything” had reached the limits in my father's head one night shortly after. I heard yelling back and forth between my mother and father through my bedroom door. Things started crashing around, and I became afraid. After a few minutes, I opened the door and peeked out. I saw them pushing each other around and bouncing off the walls of the living room. I couldn't help but cry. I didn't know which one I was more upset about getting hurt, I just knew it hurt me just as much to watch. As soon as I let out a shriek, all action stopped in the room. My father walked over and told me everything was fine and they were just having a small disagreement. My mother slumped over onto the couch and untangled her hair, which I'm guessing was being used as a leash on her only seconds before. I don't remember much those next few days after. I do know that things were never the same again. I was far too young to understand the severity of the occurance, and thought things would be fine over time. I was wrong. I don't know if it was a week, a month or a year after that day but I remember the words from my mother's mouth clear as a bell. “Bobby, your father and I have decided to get our own separate places, it's better for everyone this way.” I broke into tears instantly. My mother tried to console me with quick bursts of “We both still love you!” and “You'll see your father all the time sweetheart.” but it didn't cut it, I cried until I fell asleep that night. From that day on, I was a different person. That was the first time in my life I realized that nothing is forever. Time passed and the move happened, my mother and I ended up on Storer Avenue In a run-down two family house. The neighborhood was slightly better than West 27th and Franklin, and being almost a year older I was now allowed out of the yard for three houses in both directions. I made new friends quickly and was getting ready to start Kindergarten in the Fall. Things were coming together again it seemed. My father ended up in a multi-unit house on Clinton Avenue, just a few blocks shy of where we used to live. I liked staying with him on the weekends because we would go over to the old neighborhood to go shopping, eat, etc. It made me feel like things never changed. Every weekend though, I would get the same question that had started all of this. “Tell me what your mother has been saying about me.” By this time though, I learned the valuable trait of omittance. Things went smoothly for awhile with the whole back and forth thing between parents, I handled it like any kid my age could. I started to feel more and more disconnected from them both though as time went on. I was no longer their baby boy. I was a double agent full of confidential information waiting to be debriefed at the opposing base. As time passed, the interrogation game mutated into brainwashing as well. Each one telling me how wrong and evil the other parent was. This went on for countless months, and over time I learned they were both right. I don't quite recall what happened to, or at the house on Storer, but I do know we didn't live there long. This second move in a year was just the first of dozens to come. In hindsight, based on future moves I'm sure it had something to do with an eviction based on my mother's way of life (which you'll be hearing plenty about). We moved again and now lived on Madison Avenue on the West side of Cleveland. I was going to attend kindergarten at Marion C. Seltzer Elementary this year which was right across the street from my house. With everything changing so much around me, this was comforting being so close to my new home. Our place of residence was now a cramped, dingy apartment above a Laundromat this time. The thing I remember most about this “palace” was that the apartments didn't have their own bathrooms, each floor shared one. Now that's classy. This would also be the place where I'd first be introduced to the game of Chess, which would grow into a lifelong pastime love of mine. There was a strange assortment of people in our building, the kind of people you see on the street and veer around or stare at for just a little too long in passing. People that just didn't seem to fit in well with the general population. One of these odd people lived at the end of our hall. He was a small man. Well under six feet tall and very slim. He was soft spoken and always had a briefcase in hand. We'd see this man several times a day in the hallway and he'd always make smalltalk with my mom. A lot of the time I'd throw in my two cents on the conversation. He'd smile, look down and actually begin to have conversations with me too. Most grownups would just brush me off as some dumb kid but not this guy. I'd end up seeing him more and more in the hallways and near the building in the days to come. One day while I was with my mom, he stopped and asked me “How would you like to learn to play chess? I'll bet you'd be good at it!” out of nowhere. My mom instantly contorted her face into a look of disagreement and discontent. I think she was worried that he was some kind of pervert or something, trying to do who knows what with her boy. The man could tell I was intrigued, and fortunately shrugged off any negativity that my mother was projecting. He started to explain to me that it was kind of like checkers, I stopped him politely and told him I was familiar with the game, but had never played. A BIG smile rolled up onto his face. I could tell my mother wasn't happy, but she wasn't going to ruin this little piece of happiness for me. The conversation ended soon after and we made arrangements for me to come visit. My mom let it go, rather than dealing with an hour or so of me screaming and crying. I would end up going down to his apartment several times a week in the evenings to begin my lessons after our conversation. Of course my mom gave me the “what to watch for” speech in advance, just in case he was some weirdo, which I was pretty sure he wasn't, at least in the manner that she was worried about. On average, I'd spend about an hour or so a day down there and I picked up the basics quickly. In no time I was eager to move on to actual game play, which I could tell amused him, and pleased him and myself equally. Every time I'd remember a move he taught or the names of all the pieces, he'd surprise me with a gift. Little things from the dollar store, Army men, kazoos, etc. Nothing extravagant, but to me they were trophies I was more than proud of. Over the coming weeks and months I played nonstop with him. I loved this game, it was fun and it made me feel smart. As time went on I stopped going over there as much, but I never forgot the game. Unfortunately, I did forget his name in the years to come. Looking back, I think I helped a lonely man who might have had and lost a little boy just like me somehow, or maybe I was the boy he never had. Either way, we both walked away fulfilled from our friendship. He never did try anything funny, he was in it for the game and for the good company. Hard to believe in this day and age. This would become knowledge that would stick with me forever. One of the greatest gifts one person can give another, a skill. Kindergarten came along shortly after and began as well as could be expected. It was at this point in my life that I started to feel separated and alien from the rest of my peers. I had a lot on my mind at such a young age compared to the other kids and had a hard time relating to those living a somewhat normal life. I decided to turn inward to my budding artistic abilities for comfort from life and all that it entailed. While the other kids struggled to draw a straight line and gazed at each other with blank stares, I stayed to myself at the end of the table and was busy drawing our solar system. I remember one student coming up to me once and asking me if I was drawing Heaven ...I angrily replied “No, you idiot, it's our solar system!” He cried, I got in trouble. From then on, I knew it was going to be a bumpy ride. Now that my mother and father lived further apart, I noticed that my dad started coming around less often. Instead of seeing him every weekend, it had trickled down to every few weeks, if that. Both of my parents were once again on the dating circuit as well, a sure sign that it was really over between them. Mom wasn't picky about her dates and often found them at her place of choice, the corner bar. I remember sitting with my mom in various taverns around the evening hours watching her mingle with the male regulars. I would get my hand full of quarters for the Pac-Man machine and mini bowling game to stay quiet while she stopped in to “see her friends for a few minutes.” For an alcoholic, a few minutes in a bar could easily turn into the rest of the evening...and it often did. It was in the bars though that I first honed my art skills surprisingly enough. I always got in trouble for drawing in School when I wasn't supposed to, so I used my time in these places to draw on napkins and fliers laying around. My mother saw this and soon realized the way to keep me quiet was to have a steady supply of pens and napkins on hand. It worked out for both of us. At the time, I thought this was what happened for every kid after school. They left school, did their homework, then it was off to the bar for the evening with their parents. Over time the local drunks would offer me nickels, dimes, and quarters to draw them or some random cartoon character. Now mind you, I was five or so. The drawings were hideous, but technically it was my first paying gig as an artist. It seemed like we had just gotten re-situated in our new place and life was going well. I was getting adjusted to our new lifestyle without my father. Before I knew it though, out of nowhere the move was on again. I was too young to know exactly why, but looking back I'm sure it had to do with a mix of finances, her drinking habits and my mother's overall attitude towards either the neighbors or the Landlord or both. I hated moving and I didn't understand why we did it so much. No one else did it seemed. Whenever I'd ask about it, I wouldn't get a straight answer, so eventually I gave up and just accepted it as part of our life. This time it was back to the lower West side. We got a place over on Franklin Avenue, which was just blocks away from our old place with my dad. The building was old and creepy, and stood in between some sort of halfway house and a place called The Franklin Castle. Franklin Castle is the kind of place you see on television that's shown towering into the dark sky with lightning crackling behind it. It was an old gray brick building built in the late 1800's and had many urban legends attached to it. On any given day while playing in our backyard you would see countless strange occurrences. People's shadows staring at you from windows, water leaking from cracks in the wall on a perfectly sunny day. Once I even saw a peacock running around in the backyard of Franklin Castle...I swear! Nobody ever believed me about that last part, but it was there, I know it was. I started school once again, wondering if I was going to get to finish kindergarten without moving again. Thinking like this was seriously throwing off my perception of what a normal life was and was really messing with my thought process of my everyday world. I was pretty sure that most six year olds didn't have these kinds of problems to worry about. To top it off, my father for whatever reason had lost his place of residence and was now living at the local YMCA down the street from us. I was starting to question my mother and father's living habits in my mind but couldn't decide if they were normal or not. I didn't have much to compare them against at this young age. I did know I liked this place, “The Y” that my father was staying at. It was like a big club house for adults. They had video games in the lobby, ping pong, all kinds of entertainment for the slumming parental figure in your life. Once again, too young to understand the reality of the matter, I thought it was a privilege for my dad to be staying in such a cool place. It was in that very lobby that I learned to play video games, which was a virgin industry at the time and fascinating for young and old alike. This was the one thing my father and I bonded together with. I stood on milk crates and played Centipede with my dad until my hand was red from spinning that ball that controls your little bug...ship...pixel thing. Things were strange, but all in all okay. I eventually even met some of my dad's friends who lived there with him and they said they had kids my age so I guess it wasn't so weird after all. I managed to finish out the school year at the new school, but was getting into trouble there for a lot of stuff like making up my own games on the sidelines while the teacher was trying to get us to play her games as a group, not following rules and having a complete and total lack of obedience in general towards my teacher or anyone that tried discipline or educate me. My failing sense of stability and a rational life at home were getting the best of me in school and causing me to lash out to all authority around me. You couldn't show me anything, I felt like I knew it all. I guess I felt I'd seen it all already with all I'd been through. I would go round and round with both teacher and student alike. I was six going on thirty. The worst was when it came down to my art. It was all I really had at this point, no matter how many times I moved, it was there with me. It was the one thing that couldn't be taken out from under me or changed. I had my way of doing it and could care less about anybody else's ways. A teacher or student that corrected me or questioned my work was a threat in my mind, someone who could potentially take away the one thing that was still in my possession. I often tried to keep my artwork to myself in class but it never quite worked out. On one occasion I distinctly remember getting called a “retard” repeatedly by other students for using perspective and shading in my class. Their puny brains couldn't think dimensional yet, so they thought I was just scribbling random lines and screwing up comparative sizes when I was applying light sources and foregrounds to my drawings of houses, flowers and magical unicorns. I'm sure they're enjoying their Mc jobs somewhere right now. Guess what? You got it...time to move again! Who knows why? No rhyme or reason as far as I can remember. I just remember uprooting our lives all over again. Sadly enough, it was starting to feel like second nature at this point. It seemed like every time we unpacked we were loading it all right back up. Over and over it was happening and each time seemed less rational than the last. Jogging my memory, the next neighborhood we landed in on the poor and unfortunate tour was over in the Fulton Avenue area, another less than desirable dot on the map. A lower class neighborhood of mixed ethnicities who were all down on their luck in one form or another. We were slowly working our way up the West side as my mother made enemies in each previous area for one reason or another. When she drank, (which was constantly) she could find fault with anyone and anyplace ...and she did. To make matters worse, at this point I couldn't count on one hand how many times a year I was seeing my father. I was now about six or seven and on my way into the second grade at Charles H. Lake Elementary school. I liked the Fulton area we were now living in because busing to schools was still in effect in the city those years. I never got to travel far from my house so this was awesome to me! Each new day was like a mini road trip. Every morning I got up bright and early and got to go hang out at the bus stop with the other neighborhood kids. We were all white trash to the fullest. I fit right into this area perfectly. Picture us standing there in our borderline fluorescent shirts, ill-fitting sweat pants, and your choice of white high-top Reeboks or some God awful color of L.A. Gear tennis shoes. Did I mention my sweet Trapper Keeper with the yellow Lamborghini on it? It matched my blond mullet and rat tail combo. The great thing about being bused to the East side is that it truly integrated students. Under one roof at anytime you would have blacks, whites, Hispanics, Asians, you name it all at the same school. In my opinion this worked better than nowadays...but I digress. Charles Lake would be the place where I would begin to learn about the world around me and the realities of it. Now I'm not saying I was a mamma's boy, but up to this point the only music selections I knew were either Patsy Cline, Frankie Yankovich, or whatever songs were playing on Sesame Street that day. We also couldn't afford a car either so a majority of my life as a child was often spent in a few block radius around my house. Charles Lake showed me people from all walks of life and I loved it. The only problem was they didn't love me. I'm not even gonna' lie, the black kids were the stars of the school even at such a young age. They were also the predominant ethnic group. They had the fresh haircuts, the brand new shoes, and the attitudes to back it all up. I would get made fun of constantly by most of the kids from the East side. How is it that a six year old got brand new Nikes, a matching shirt, and a gold chain? I dunno either, but it didn't work out in my favor most of the time. Needless to say, I kept to myself a lot. I had my small posse of dudes from the neighborhood that were as weird looking as me and we always hung out together. Putting all the fashion sense aside, this would be the place where I'd first hear the beats of hiphop music. Once some of the black kids found out I could draw they started to let my goofy white ass hang out around them once in awhile. In exchange for drawing so-and-so's name is “in the house!” and street names, I got to hang out with the cool kids and listen to Run DMC and LL Cool J on their Walkmans at lunch or at recess. I really got into hiphop at that point and was now constantly begging my mom for Beastie Boys Cassettes or Adidas shell toes like I was seeing the rappers were wearing that these guys were showing me. I never did get to be as flashy as some of those East side kids, but I got a few bones thrown to me here and there. A halfway decent shirt from the Rosie funds or a cool pair of stonewashed jeans came my way once in awhile. The Year was 1984 and life consisted of playing with my G.I Joes, building forts, and rambling off any rap lyrics I could remember. I honestly liked my life at this point. We hadn't moved in awhile and I was developing my own identity. Things finally started to feel good again. Until the day I met Richard Zachrin that is. I'm not quite sure what rock he crawled out from but I'm sure it was one near one of my mom's local watering holes. I can still remember his face to this day. Picture Charles Bronson, now squish his face in towards the middle, give him beady eyes and glasses. There you have it. Richard or “Rick” was a small man in stature, and was often soft spoken (until you got a few drinks in him) then the real person came out. I never liked him from the first time my mother brought him into our house and introduced him as her “friend”. He was nobody's friend, and never would be as far as I was concerned. Rick and my mom dated consistently for several months, going out to the bars nonstop together, it was a match made in Heaven. After a few months of this my mom asked me what did I think about Rick moving in with us? Let's see: I don't trust him one bit, he screams at me and her when he gets drunk, and he's a lowlife with no job. How do you think I feel mom? Rick moved in later that week, my words meant nothing to her and I knew it when I spoke them. My vote was vetoed instantly and just like that, he was under our roof - drunken abusiveness and all. Rick had an ex-wife named Lois Westfall that he still kept in contact with regularly. Not like once in awhile, like everyday. I found this odd even though my mother didn't. Something told me this guy was a two timer and up to no good. I guess it was a mix of the turbulent life thus far plus my age kicking in that made me seriously question his intentions. For whatever reason, my mother didn't seem to care even when I presented cases against him. I think she was just happy to have anyone in her life again truthfully. Lois was a good woman from what I can remember. She had a daughter about my age named Esther who was a scraggly little thing with a big mouth. Over time my mother befriended Lois, and I became friends with Esther after some forcing from both women. I even remember recalling when things would get too bad between Rick and my mom, we'd go to Lois' house to get away. I don't know if Lois ever warned my mom about Rick's dark side but if she did my mother took no heed. I think Lois had the right idea by getting away from Rick when she did. The thing about her was, I think she was in the same situation as my mom. She wasn't the prettiest lady in the world, and I think she was just happy to have someone at the time as well. But what do I know? Love is a crazy thing, or so I'd heard. We continued to live in the Fulton area for awhile, and I continued to try and figure out who Richard Zachrin really was. He wasn't here for love, I could feel it in my bones. It's sad that the seven year old is this distrusting while his mother just goes along merrily with life around her like nothing was wrong. My aunt Rosie didn't like Rick much either and was always reminding mom about what she had already gone through once with my dad. My mother wouldn't listen to Rosie and they even stopped talking for awhile because of the relationship. I would sometimes lay up late at night and hear Rick talking to my mom about ways he was going to get money to survive. Credit card scams often came up along with shoplifting and other petty crimes. I knew this guy was no good and now I had proof. I knew my mom didn't like what she heard but she knew she had a young, hungry mouth to feed and no money to do so. At this point you might be asking yourself “why didn't she just get a job?” good question. I often wondered myself. Sometime in between this point, and when I was born my mom was diagnosed with Emphysema, she had been smoking since she was thirteen and had no plans on stopping. At this point she was now 49, and still smoking at least a pack a day or more. Pall Mall unfiltereds on top of it all. You know the safety videos that show in the event of a fire to crawl below the smoke line? They could've filmed that in our living room. She was constantly lighting one after the next up from morning to night. This hobby left her barely being able to take more than a handful of steps without wheezing like she had just climbed a mountain. Add that up with the education level of a tenth grader (at best) of the 1940's and you have got one highly unqualified employee. My mother took what she was given in life, and it wasn't much. After hearing conversations about all his scams I knew he was no good. Several days later Rick asked me if I wanted to go shopping with him. He said if I was good, and helped him do his shopping he would get me a toy. I don't care if you're Genghis Khan, you bribe a seven year old with a toy and he'll be your friend. Off we went in Rick's station wagon. The ride felt uneasy, and I wondered why my mom wasn't coming along. You know that face and sound people make when they go to say something but don't? Rick did that several times on the ride to Sears and every time I waited to hear what was going on in his head but never did. Finally as we pulled into the parking lot he spoke. “Now Bobby, you have to be good in here. I have to get a few things. We might have to leave quickly though, if we do I want you to go as quick as I do. Don't ask any questions, okay?” I knew he was up to something wrong but I was too young to fully understand the seriousness of it. Rick had either“borrowed” a credit card from his ex-wife or her checkbook from what I gathered and was planning on getting a few nice things with it. Back in those days, it was much easier to get away with these kinds of things than it is now. No computer going back to the account instantly, just charge and go. He walked in holding my hand. This was the first time he ever held my hand, figured it would be part of a fraud. I guess I was there to make him look like a family man or innocent or something. He walked around cautiously, looking all the employees over. I was beginning to feel sick to my stomach. I just figured that if my mom let me go, it must've been alright. At least that's what I kept telling myself. For the life of me I can't remember what he got, I know I ended up with a Care Bear and a few small trinkets. We took everything up to the counter and Rick made small talk about the purchases between him and the cashier. I don't know if it was me or not, but the cashier knew something was up it seemed. He gave Rick some excuse to leave the counter for a minute, either a price check or manager call or something. About a minute went by and I could see Rick breaking down. The next part is a little blurry, but I remember more people than the cashier walking back to the counter and Rick saying “Time to go.“ He grabbed me by the hand and strided me out of the store, everything still sat on the counter where we placed it. We jumped in the Wagon and took off out of the lot car rattling and tires squealing. I'm sure he wondered if I knew what had just happened and I wondered if he was going to tell me. Neither of us ended up speaking on the matter on the way home. Life with Rick was always something like this. There were times when he acted normal, and we'd do pseudo “father and son” things together. At one point he even asked me how I felt about taking his last name. It caught me off guard to say the least but I looked at it as some hope for a family again. This warm and fuzzy moment was a rare event. Most of the time you either weren't sure what he was up to next, or if he was going to explode into a violent fit of rage. One of the worst events I remember involving him was the time he and my mother thought that she was pregnant with his child. I remember my mom asking me “Would you like to have a brother or sister around?” I thought to myself “Not if it came from Rick.” and just gave a little nod. A few weeks went by with this scenario in play, I don't know if my mom ever actually went to the Doctor to find out if she was really pregnant or not. I do know that about a few weeks into it, they got into the worst fight yet. Who knows how it started, I'm sure alcohol was the fuel. All I know is that out of nowhere I heard my mother screaming “I'll throw myself down the stairs with your baby inside me!” No child should hear things like this, but I did. Then there was the sound of breaking glass, a thump and silence for a minute. My mom had been in the bathroom at the time she yelled out her threat, and Rick took it upon himself to shove her face through the bathroom mirror. There sat my mother on the floor whimpering, broken glass and blood everywhere. I screamed everything from obscenities to nonsense gibberish at the top of my lungs. I had never seen anything this horrific happen in my life before to anyone, let alone my mother. She saw how scared I was and jumped up into the kitchen where I stood. Rick followed behind, still in full rage. I thought she was coming to console me, but she passed me by heading for the utensil drawer, no doubt going for a weapon. The next few seconds blurred in front of me as both Rick and my mother maneuvered around the kitchen with limbs flailing. Rick ended up with a kitchen knife in his hand, this couldn't be good. My mom grabbed me and positioned me and her on the opposite end of the kitchen table. It became a game of strategy, we all stood silent waiting for the first move. Seconds that felt like hours went by, and Rick went for the advance flipping the kitchen table over on top of us instead of going around. Being small, I was totally pinned and my mother was injured already so she was using the table as a shield. Rick leaned in holding the knife in my mother's face. He made a lunge at her neck area. Before I knew what happened, I grabbed the blade with my left hand and screamed. Blood drained onto the floor as Rick let go of the handle of the knife. I still held it by the blade. Everything went silent. The fighting stopped. You might think this would be the last you'd hear of Rick in this story right? Any woman in her right mind would've got up and out that night. Not my mother. The fights continued on for weeks and months to follow. She never had the child she mentioned. I don't know if she ever really was pregnant or if that night ended a life before it began. We never talked about it, even in years to come. Rick made mention of his family in Michigan here and there, and always talked about taking us up there to meet them. We made the trip in the Spring of '85. The plan was to go up there for a few days or so, and then it was back to Cleveland. I remember wishing that Rick would just stay in Michigan and my mom and I would come back alone. I was however happy though because I got to miss a few days of school. We left early one morning and drove into the afternoon. I sat in the back of the car playing with my Mr. Potato Head and Transformers figures that I loved dearly. We arrived in a city called St. Clair Shores that day. I liked it there a lot from the moment I stepped out of the car. It was very well kept from what I can remember and it made me realize how dumpy my neighborhood was comparatively. We got to our destination and met his family. I believe it was his aunt's house if memory serves me right. They were nice people, not at all like Rick in any way. I even remember over the course of the few days we were there that some of them tried warning my mom about Rick's ways. This was very reminiscent to me of the talks people had with her about my father. Like always though, in one ear, out the other. Even while on vacation these two could find ways to get a fight brewing. While out driving around Michigan one day, my mother and Rick got into one of their world famous arguments about God knows what again. I remember being more annoyed than scared because I was trapped in the back seat and couldn't walk away this time. The fight escalated over the next few minutes, and my mother was now trying to jump out of the car at every traffic light while screaming at full volume. It felt like the whole city was staring at us. I was so embarrassed that I slumped down into the back seat away from onlookers. Every time the car stopped or slowed down she would fling the door open while screaming at him. He'd grab her left arm and drag her back in while accelerating quickly so the door would slam shut. During one of the jump outs, my mom managed to make it into the back seat with me. Great, now the screaming and flailing had entered my little bubble of space. It kept up for about fifteen minutes until a well timed door opening on a left turn shot me and her out onto the street and sent us tumbling. Fortunately for us the car was probably going only about 10-15 miles per hour at the time. Rick had seen this coming and had slowed down considerably. She held onto me, and I held onto Mr. Potato head, and we all did an army roll towards the curb. Rick at that point, just took off down the street. (Honestly, I don't blame him.) Pedestrians and motorists alike stopped and looked at us in shock. We did a once over on each other to make sure we were both okay and we were thankfully. A few bumps and scrapes but nothing major. I picked up Mr. Potato Head's eyes and walked back over to mom. Embarrassment wasn't even a factor anymore. We were standing in the street alone, in a strange place, with next to no money. It gets a little blurry again at this point. From what I can remember we somehow made it into Detroit that day either by public transportation or hitchhiking, quite possibly a mix of the two. My mother contacted local shelters for battered women and we ended getting space in the YWCA near Downtown that night. I was scared of our situation at first but It wasn't that bad once we got there. I actually liked this place because there were lots of kids there my age. It may not be the best circumstances but I was trying to look at the glass half full. The building itself was an old hotel from the 1930's or so. It was actually a very nice place considering what it was. We settled in and made camp there for the next few days. My mother was trying to figure out her next plan of action but I could tell she had no clue. We were offered bus vouchers back to Cleveland but My mom wanted to stay and try to find Rick. Something told me we weren't going anywhere in a hurry. You could stay at these shelters for a few weeks at a time, provided that you could prove to the social workers you were trying to get back on your feet or get away from an abusive situation. My mom on the other hand was trying to reunite with her abuse. Another rule was, if you had a child they had to attend school. A week or so went by and we ended up leaving the YWCA. We were bouncing around from shelter to shelter, no money and miles from home. We ended up being taken in at another shelter as the quest for reuniting with Rick continued. I ended up being enrolled into Detroit City Schools against my will so we could stay in the shelter. I did not want to go to school here, even if it was only temporary. I knew I had no choice, she wasn't going back to Ohio empty handed. If only she put this kind of determination into her every day life. I was scheduled to start the following week and eventually was a tiny bit excited along with being scared. Being enrolled in School at least gave me a false sense of stability in my crumbling life around me. Here was the bad part though, when we abandoned ship from Rick, all we had with us was the clothes on our backs. I was wearing hand-me-downs from who knows where. I had on Fluorescent green socks, really ugly faded black jeans that rode up when I sat down, and I'm sure the shirt fit the attire as well. How does one remember the color of their socks on a certain day when you're seven years old? First off, when I say fluorescent, I mean it. Not bright green, but true to form early 80's bio hazard green. Every time I sat down, my pants slid up revealing them like traffic lights for anything ankle high. That day my socks and I headed off with the rest of the kids from the shelter to Campbell Elementary in Detroit. Inside the shelter I was the only white kid but it never was an issue. I noticed once we hit school all that changed instantly. I got the cold shoulder right at the steps of the school from the black kids I had befriended. I walked in by myself alone and confused. Was me being a whiteboy really that big a deal? I'm sure they had other white friends here. Someone from the office came up to meet me a few seconds later, she must've seen the look of bewilderment on my face and came to help. I noticed she had an odd look on her face as well. I wondered what hers was about? As she walked up she said “You must be new here, I'm Ms. So-and-so!” We both went into the office and she looked up my class and information. I noticed I was getting funny looks all around from staff and students now. I checked to see if they could see my socks. Nope. Ms. So-and-so came back up to me and asked me how old I was. I told her I was almost eight and she nodded with a big smile. After asking me a few more questions she looked around and the smile gave way to a more serious face. She pulled me off to the side and said “You seem like a smart child Robert.” I nodded. “I don't really know an easy way to say or explain this, so I'll just come right out with it. You're the only white student here. Some students are going to give you problems.” I took in a deep breath and knew this would be a long day. I got walked down the hall to my class by Ms. So-and so, every student along the way whispered and stared. I could feel my face turning bright red and against the contrast of my nearly platinum hair it made me stand out even worse. I walked into my room and silence fell. There was a seat for me square in the middle of the room and as I sat down all eyes were on me. Not only was I the lone whiteboy of the school, but my socks were in plain sight as my pants rode up. Right then, I wished the green did mean “go”. The boys near me started on me instantly. Laughing at me, whispering names at me, throwing scraps of paper, you name it. Most of the girls felt bad for me. One even reached over and held my hand and said “You leave him alone!” (Wherever you are lady, you rule!) After a few seconds the teacher handed out warnings and punishments and the class went silent again. I did my work for the day, all the while feeling like I was going to throw up or pass out. Finally lunchtime came around. We all lined up and went down the hall on our journey to the cafeteria. Other classes were doing the same and again came the stares and whispers. I looked around for any sign of a friendly face. No such luck. As the lunch line moved along I kept an eye on the girl who stood up for me in class, she was ahead of me by a few people, maybe I could sit with her? It was my turn in the line to get served, who am I kidding? I couldn't stomach food right now if you paid me. I walked out of line with my tray, the friendly girl had sat down with some of the unfriendly boys from my class earlier. Off I went. I wasn't even going to take the chance. The lunch tables were positioned in long rows that could fit about twenty kids on each side. The Coolest kid always sat either at the farthest end with the other cool kids. Each kid after down the row was less cool. Sort of a lunchroom hierarchy. Or the cool kids sat in the middle of the rows and coolness radiated out to the edges of Loserville. Either seating configuration allowed for empty seats at the end of the table. My classes table was full. I walked around the lunchroom with about four hundred eyes all staring me down at once. All I wanted to do was sit down and be out of sight. A few tables down I found some empty space at another classes table. I took a seat and stared straight down at my food. Three or four boys came over and said “This is where we sit.” I immediately grabbed my tray to leave. “Chill out. You can sit here too.” Looks like I had found a safe zone. Looking up at them I could see why they were okay with me. Before I came along I'm sure this was the group catching the rotten tomatoes each day. I had found the nerd corner of the lunchroom. Every School in every city has one. The place that all the losers and weirdos just gravitate to and claim for the year. It was a motley crew indeed. Three of them were black kids, all dressed funny. Most looked as poor as dirt. Dingy clothes and busted haircuts all around. The fourth kid was either half Puerto Rican or half white. I'm sure he was the “me” of the school before I was. He was the one that told me to be careful, especially at recess. “Who knows what people will try out there.” he said. I felt like I was in prison at this point. The lunch bell rang and it was time for recess, I tried to stay close to the outcast flock as everyone headed outside. Much like what you see on Discovery Channel, the herd fends for itself and the weakest or slowest fall victim to the predators. The outcasts spread out when we hit the outdoors. So much for safety in numbers. I walked over to the edge of the playground and leaned face first into the chain link fence. I stood there wishing I was on the other side of it, away from all of this. Then the shoulder nudges happened. I didn't want to turn around, but I knew I had to. A large group of boys were all positioned in a half circle around me. I had nowhere to go. I sized them all up as they talked, even if I took one out I couldn't get away. “Come on whiteboy. We boutsta' play downy man.” They were trying to say “Down-the-man” A game played with a football where it's everybody versus the guy with the ball until you tackle him. I wonder who was getting the ball first? Gee. I told them I wasn't interested and tried to work my way through the huddle. As I passed through, the football got pressed into my chest. I refused to touch it with my hands. I knew if I did, it would be over for me. After a few seconds of them pressing the ball into me I heard “He got's the ball” I guess they considered it good enough for it to just touch me at this point. Hands were all over me. Feet kicked my feet, trying to destabilize me. I could've held out longer honestly, they weren't that strong. But I knew if I did, it would just get worse. I went down hard, face first into densely packed sand by the swings. Who knows how many of them ended up on top of me. I felt knees, elbows, and shoulders all over. The lunch lady, playground technician, lookout person, whatever, finally noticed this was not a game anymore and blew her whistle. They all got up after a delay. I could barely move. I wanted to cry, but I didn't. This was the point in life where I learned to never show weakness in the face of the enemy. Back at the shelter was a different story. I cried for hours to my mother. That was my first and last day at Campbell Elementary. Mom pulled me out of school that night. That meant we needed to find housing and quick. I'd come to terms that I wouldn't be seeing Cleveland for awhile, if ever again. It was what it was. For the first time in my life though I saw mom pick up the help wanted ads! This was a good sign indeed. Although on one hand, this looked like we weren't leaving Michigan without Rick, this meant we'd have money coming in soon if she did in fact get a job. Due to the lack of funds as well, mom had no say in her drinking habits and hadn't had alcohol in at least two weeks. This was a new record for her. You could see the change in her demeanor and physique. She didn't look and sound so worn out and helpless. She was actually becoming friendly again on top of it. Maybe a change of scenery was just what we needed. After a few days of paroosing the papers, she came across the perfect job. The ad was placed for a live-in house keeper. This was perfect! This meant money coming in and a roof over our heads. She called the ad and set up an interview. It seems this family had several young children. Both parents worked, so they needed someone there at all times. Within a few days we went to their home. I think they were a little skeptical at first about my mother and I both living there and our current housing conditions. Mom put her new found sober “people skills” to work and she got hired that day incredibly enough. The next day we left the shelter and moved in, which consisted of carrying a garbage bag of clothes into their house. Mom and I shared the guest room. It was cramped with both of us in there, but much better than the shelter. Anything was. After a few days things felt natural again. As natural as it could get at this point. It was great for me, I got to play with the kids all day while mom worked around the house. Their stuff was my stuff...good times. I might have been living vicariously through their possessions but I was living. These were genuinely good people, they even started to take me and my mother onto their family outings once we got to know them. Boat trips, amusement parks, all the things real families do. I felt comfortable there. I think my mother became a little too comfortable though. Now that she had money back in her pocket, she was off the wagon again. We'd go out to Lunch and she would down several shots of Vodka while on the clock. I'd yell at her but it would do no good. This went on for several weeks and I saw her personality begin to degrade again. The sweetness was leaving and the depression and temper was creeping back in. I think in the course of her short lived soberness, she had even given up on her Rick hunt and was considering a new life out there for just us. One day we just packed up and left out of nowhere. Once again, no rhyme or reason to her ways, just time to roll. I never knew why we left there when we did. Looking back now, I can only imagine the things my mother might have blurted out at her employees or the children while boozing it up. I'm sure one way or another she sealed her own fate. With enough money for two bus tickets and a handful of meals we packed what little we had and said goodbye to the mitten shaped state. Chapter 2 That day we headed to the Greyhound station. We got tickets for the next bus home to Ohio. As we boarded the bus, I could feel excitement taking over. Within a few minutes we were going to be on the road. It was now Summertime and I couldn't wait to get back to Cleveland! Go to the places I knew, see all of my friends in my neighborhood! Wait...We had been gone for awhile. Much longer than planned. It had been over two months. I looked up to my mom who was next to me and asked “Do we still have a house in Cleveland?” Even at a young age I knew that bills had to be paid or you were out on the curb. I said it full volume and I could see the look of embarrassment on mom's face. I think I had my answer. She replied with a low level “We'll figure it all out when we get there.” The trip was three hours and during that whole time I recapped our shelter experience, questions about our future, seeing my father again, so on and so on. I think everyone on that bus knew my whole life by the time we pulled into Cleveland. (What? I was scared. I was trying to make sense of all this. I talk a lot when I get scared.) My mom just let me ramble on and gave me vague answers. As we got into the terminal I kept trying to get my mother to call aunt Rosie who she hadn't talked to since Rick came into our lives. “Maybe she can help us, call her!” I kept saying. My mom just looked like a zombie standing there in the middle of the terminal. My words weren't even phasing her. Suddenly, a woman came walking up to us out of nowhere. She was a petite older lady, very friendly looking with a pleasant but serious look on her face. She said to my mother “I couldn't help but overhear your conversation with your son on our trip.” I realized this was the woman that was one seat in front of us. “I'd like to help you two out a little if I could.” My mom said “Thanks, but that's okay. and walked away while dragging me along. She stopped us again and said to my mother “Fine then, I'll give it to your son. Will you make him give it back?” She reached down to me and handed me something crumpled up, then took her hand around mine and closed it up into my fist. She stayed low at my level and said “I want you to take this and use it to help yourself. Remember though, anytime you see somebody that really needs help, you'll try and help them...do you Promise? I said yes and she walked away. I never looked to see just how much money was in my hand, but I know there was more than one bill. And I'm sure one of them was at least a twenty. I just handed the wadded up cash to my mom. She looked at it, and I could see some relief come over her. From the Greyhound station we headed to familiar ground, the west 25th area. That night we went to the Jay Hotel in Ohio City. Now under construction as home to future luxury lofts, the Jay Hotel of those years sported a long track record for prostitution and drugs. The whole place was dingy and yellowed. Strange noises and stranger people could be heard and seen down the halls as we walked to our room. The Room itself was no bigger than an apartment sized kitchen with one twin bed jammed into a corner. Our window showed a lovely view of a neighboring brick wall only a few feet away. I tried to go to sleep quickly and forget where I was but it wasn't working, eventually I passed out in the darkness. We woke up the next morning and was on our way to...well, good question. We had nowhere to go and all of our possessions were with us in two gym bags. My mother called people she knew in the area and we couch surfed for the next few weeks while mom try to get things in order back in Cleveland. I felt like I was never going to have a home of my own again. This way of life was becoming the norm and I wondered if I should just accept it as my reality? When our lives took this turn, I used to ask everyday what we were going to do? After days and days of unclear answers I just gave up. I had missed consecutive weeks of school at this point and wondered when that was going to change as well? We even ended up staying with Rick's ex-wife, Lois for a while. During this time we had heard that Rick had come back to Cleveland as well. The next part is a little unclear but, we either ended up moving into a house that Lois owned or that someone she knew owned from what I can remember. We settled in there for awhile and made due with what it was. It looked like no one had lived there in quite some time. The grass in the backyard was almost up to my knees, all the windows were covered in grit but it was a roof over our heads at least. We ended up living there for most of the Summer and spruced the place up to our best ability. I remember being grateful that we could stay there but it didn't feel like home to me. We scarcely furnished it with things left behind from a previous tenant and things my mom would get at thrift stores or garbage pick. My mother saw what our lives had sunk to and decided to give Rosie a call and make amends. (Basically, my mom needed money and Rosie had it.) Mom still had no job, but was collecting welfare again and had Rosie's stipend coming back in after a few halfhearted apologies. It was enough to survive for the time. Things felt good again for the time being, that is until my mom had informed me that she talked to Rick again and he was coming over to see us. Somehow Rick found out where we were staying and paid us a visit. I remember feeling like I saw a ghost when he came into the house for the first time again. He managed to sweet talk my mother and she took it all. Hook, line and sinker. Within no time He was living with us again. Things didn't feel so good anymore. Every night I'd pray that he would just leave again, like he did in Michigan. Sometimes I'd even wish that he would just get killed somehow or fall off the face of the Earth. Sad but true. Well that flaming meteor from the sky never did come crashing down that I wished for. Instead Rick sealed his own fate when he got into one of his famous fights with my mother again, left for awhile, only to come back locked out. My mom finally got some sense in her head and refused to let him back in. Rick thought it would be a good idea to take a sledgehammer from the garage to the back door which fortunately was metal. That night I remember sitting in the living room trembling, wondering what he would do to us if he made it through. We were up on the second floor and that back door was the only way in or out of our place. We had no phone so we couldn't call police, and no one lived downstairs. We were trapped. I just sat there with my mom holding me listening to the BANG!, thump, BANG! BANG! over and over. Mom just kept reassuring me that he couldn't make it through that door. I hoped she was right. After about fifteen minutes of this he gave up. I guess swinging a sledgehammer in a fit of rage wears you out. Everything got quiet again. We watched from the window as Rick drove away and we both broke down into tears. That would be the last we'd ever see of him again thankfully. I think then mom finally realized this was an unhealthy relationship. That following week mom pulled together enough money for a new place and got a small one bedroom apartment on Madison Avenue. I liked Madison Avenue from the minute we moved over there. Lots of kids, dirty back alleys to run around in and I got back into school when Summer was over. I had now started life over for the third time and I wasn't even eight years old yet. We furnished our new apartment with hand-me-downs from family members and tree lawn shopping as I like to call it. On trash day my mom would walk around apartment buildings in the area and find things moved out tenants had left behind. Their trash was her treasure. I made friends in no time and was finally starting to feel settled again. As I mentioned before the chaos with Rick began, I was becoming a huge fan of hiphop music now that I was getting older and the kids of Madison Avenue were into it as well. I'd spend my afternoons hanging out with the older kids on West 87th learning how to breakdance on old refrigerator boxes laid out on top of lumpy concrete. We would spend all day sometimes out there in the alley practicing. A bunch of gritty little white trash kids all standing in a circle yelling out “headspin!” or “helicopter!” both terms for breakdance moves of the era. In the background, playing on a big silver and black boombox one of the local teenagers owned you would hear The Fat Boys or LL Cool J blasting from the speakers. For a poor ass kid with next to nothing, it didn't get much better than this. Even though I loved my life at this point I wondered how it would be torn apart again? Who or what would come along and change everything I grew to know again? I was now conditioned to expect the worse in regular seasonal intervals. All things considered, things stayed level for quite some time surprisingly enough. We ended up living in that area for over a year, a new record for us! I even got to see my father a handful of times again. Just when things got settled though, mom decided it was time to move again. Once again I uprooted my life, waved bye to my friends and hit the road again. (I've lost count at this point, have you?) Another home gone, another new beginning. We ended moving into a primarily Puerto Rican neighborhood on the West Side called Clark Avenue. We settled in on West 43rd and Clark. Another cramped one bedroom on the third floor of an apartment building was our new home now. I got the bedroom, mom slept on the couch. Once again I couldn't help but wonder how long it would be until we up and moved again? Even though I was used to it I couldn't help but think how crazy this was. I was getting to an age where I realized the full irrationality of the matter. What would my mom do to screw this one up? I can't lie, from what we had gone through up to this point I had built up some serious hatred for my mother. I had even tried to convince my half-sister Joan to take custody of me at this point. Joan was my half-sister from my mother's first marriage to a man named Ralph. From what I understood, mom, Ralph and my two half-sisters, Joan and Laura lived the average middle-class life until my mom started drinking constantly and ruined the marriage. He left her, years went by, drinking escalated, met my dad, had me, ...you get the idea. It was all downhill from there. A death roll of alcoholism and failed attempts at leading a normal life led up to this point. From what I remember, Joan did try her best to get custody of me but it never worked out. I felt trapped. I felt like my life was going to be worthless as long as I was bound to my mother's side. The only thing on my mind at this point was figuring out ways to get away from her life and start over on my own. All of this coming from the mind of a child that was only nine years old. The whole process repeated itself. Start a new school. Make new friends. Lose it all again. Like always. I was sure of it. Most kids would've probably fallen apart by this point. I developed the “whatever doesn't kill me, makes me stronger” mind state. Once I had established some new friends in the area, I made an effort to be at their houses instead of mine as much as I could. I would often try to spend the night at various friends houses several nights a week. My mother at this point was becoming progressively ill from the Emphysema which in turn caused her to self medicate more and more. This meant by the time I was coming home from school in the afternoon she would be half drunk and on a few painkillers. If she wasn't passed out all over the couch she was waiting for me to get home so she'd have someone to pick a fight with. Generally she'd start slurring obscenities at me for some reason, it would be followed up by her telling me how she loved me as a little boy but now she couldn't stand me. If I dared to talk back, I'd catch a few backhands across the face. The owner of the building we lived in owned a c.b. radio shop around the corner and had a son my age. He saw what I was going through with her and used to take me to his house in Port Clinton for the weekends to play with his son Donnie and his nephew Tommy. I always liked going out there, it was the way life should be. It wasn't lavish by any means. A general middle class life in the 'burbs but it far surpassed my life. Donnie had a playroom in the basement and I'd spend all weekend down there playing with him and his cousin. This would also be the first place that would spark my interest in computers. They had one of those old Commodore type systems and I'd beg Donnie to let me on it all the time. I'd play on it even long after he'd fallen asleep. Living the life I'd lived, I never had a chance to sit down in front of a computer before. I loved it. Not just the games either, I would use the drawing program and sit there for hours making pictures. I loved the archaic “programming” you could do with it as well. Whenever I got to play with things like this I felt like I was meant to live a more enriched life than I did. Even at such a young age I knew that if I had the opportunities that most kids had I could do great things. I wanted to be able to live in a house like this and live to my full potential. Well I got to until Sunday nights at least. We continued to live on West 43rd for a few more months. In that course of time my mom had more and more frequent doctors appointments, sometimes several every week. She would begin to tell me that she was “very, very sick” and that she “hopes to live to see me through College” I used to block it out of my mind when she'd say things like this. I never believed her. I always thought she was just saying that to scare me so I'd behave. Physically she was showing signs though, she could barely leave the house at this point and when she did she'd shuffle down the street like an eighty year old. She lost a lot of weight and was down to skin and bones. Anymore, she was barely a parent. She couldn't do much with me at all. The neighbors down the street even had to teach me how to ride a bike because she was to feeble and just about bed ridden now. After one of her doctor visits she called me inside from our yard. She was sitting at the kitchen table and had a very serious look about her. She told me to sit down and I did. In a more serious than usual tone she said “I saw the doctor today...” I nodded and said I knew. “...what he told me isn't good.” she said. This conversation definitely felt different from all the other times she talked about being sick. This felt more intense and I hadn't even heard the diagnosis yet. “Bobby, I have Cancer.” My heart dropped. Even though this woman had put me through hell, she was still my mother. I knew that there was a good chance that this would take her from me permanently. I teared up instantly. She did too. I think this was the first time in years we were sharing feelings other than anger for each other. A few weeks later she informed me that she was going to try and have the Cancer removed, it had worked it's way into her ovaries and other surrounding areas. I was now a ten year old who just got his life somewhat together again but was now in jeopardy of losing his mother forever. Because of all this on my plate, I started to fail miserably at school that year and my friends saw the change in me as well. I honestly just gave up. Sometimes I would just miss three or four days in a row without a care. The school would send letters home to my mom about it but she was too sick to walk the few blocks up the street to go talk to them. I just continued that whole school year to skip school as I pleased. I had bigger things to worry about than fractions as far as I was concerned. I had to grow up quick. I never saw my father anymore so I knew living with him wasn't an option. Rosie was too old to take care of me, that was out of the equation. My mom and my sister Joan weren't on the best of terms at the time, so who knew if she'd step in? What if this really was the end for her? I wasn't even a teenager yet. Where would I go? Time passed and my mom underwent several surgeries and biopsies for her Cancer. Every time they would remove some of it they would find a complication somewhere else. It was like plugging a dam, only to have another leak spring. Due to decades of neglect on herself she was a mess inside, it was a hopeless cause. I realized she truly was a dying woman now. The question was when would it happen? This was a question even the doctors couldn't give a concise answer to. Some gave her a few years, some said that if she quit drinking and smoking she could possibly live on into her seventies. Ironically enough, it was then that she just gave up on herself completely. The binge drinking was now nonstop. She would wake up at six or seven a.m., have a cup of coffee, then go across the street to the convenient store and buy her beer for the day and begin drinking. On one occasion I remember her being so drunk that she fell down the fire escape while shaking out a throw rug. She tumbled two thirds of the way down until her head got stuck in between two of the steps stopping her descent. (Go ahead and laugh, I did as I typed it.) Had her head not gotten lodged she would've tumbled to the end, fell off and probably died on the spot. The Fire Department must've enjoyed getting her out of that one. Well if you haven't guessed by now, it was time to move again. At this point I stopped questioning why. No point in making a big deal over it, right? The good thing though was in her condition she couldn't go too far. We ended only moving about ten blocks up up Clark to West 52nd. I was now almost right across the street from the school I attended (sometimes). For once I didn't have to start over completely again, I still talked to my old friends once in awhile from down the street but for a ten year old that's a pretty far distance to travel for a day of digging holes in dirt or a few games on the Atari. I was now in the fifth grade and was making new friends from this end of Clark ave. As I got into the fifth grade the shock of my mother's condition wore off and I was trying to straighten up in school again. This neighborhood was very cool for a young urban child that loved to explore. It had veins of alleys that ran parallel and perpendicular to most of the side streets. This made for great games of hide and seek and bike riding. I liked going through all of these alleys because a lot of them had graffiti all over the backs of the garages. My friends would all warn me to not go into the alleys alone, I might get jumped or mugged. I didn't care though, I had gone through enough in my life, their warnings were a far cry from scary. Sometimes I would spend hours going through all the alleys and abandoned areas around there. It reminded me of all the places around west 25th that I never got to really explore as a young child. A lot of times I'd bring a notebook with me and copy the graffiti tags and pieces I would see painted on the walls. I always wondered who was doing it? Why were they doing it? I was pretty sure it wasn't allowed. That made me like it more for some reason. Illegal art, seemed like it was right up my alley (no pun intended). These people got to do art and be rebels at the same time. I like it. The notebook I used to copy all of these monikers I saw was also one of my school notebooks. This meant I was carrying this graffiti covered compendium with me at almost all times. I noticed something though once I started doing this, people looked at me differently. Some kids would read the names and symbols I had copied and kind of look intimidated, others would come up and ask me to look through it at all the rest of the graffiti. It almost felt like a spell book and I was a young apprentice. One day though the spells backfired. Outside of school a tall slim Puerto Rican dude with long wavy hair maybe a year older than me walked up to me and said “What's that say?” He was referring to the words “Clark Crush Crew” and the letters “CCC” along with a DJ character I had copied onto the cover of my notebook. I had seen this on one of the local buildings and thought it would be great to add to my collection. I told him what it said, he replied with “You better not let my brother Angel or his friends see that, they'll call you out on it.” Call me out? What did he mean “call me out”? I got a little worried about this strange encounter and took heed to some extent. A few days later on one of my alleyway excursions I saw the kid again. He was in the alley off of 51st smoking a cigarette with a few of his friends. As I came around the corner and saw them I became afraid. I thought for sure it was time to get “called out”. “Hey! Come here bro.” the kid yelled to me. I made the deer in the headlights face and walked over cautiously. I could hear some of the guys who looked older than him, probably early teens say “him?” as I got closer. They were all Snickering as I approached. I thought for sure I was about to get the ass kicking of my life. I was shaking furiously but tried not to show it. I told them I had to keep going, I had homework to do. Everything I said they just laughed harder so I decided to just stop speaking. As I walked away, they made jokes about me “repping” (representing) C.C.C. and I basically got told to chill out writing it on anything again. I think the look they saw on my face said more than any beatdown could've. That was my first lesson about graffiti. NEVER copy someone else's work. Always do your own thing. I never wrote CCC on anything again. I did however keep a constant eye on any graffiti art I saw and documented it mentally. You're probably not even gonna' believe it if I say it, a few months later...You got it, we moved again. We got evicted for failure to pay rent on time as usual and moved approximately ten to fifteen houses up the street.(I think at this point I should have just stopped unpacking my things at each stop.) I was still going to Clark Elementary and I still kept the same friends in the neighborhood so it wasn't that serious to me. I had seen my fair share of evictions already, this too shall pass. It turns out that all these guys from Clark Crush Crew all lived right on this block and I was within a few houses range of most of them. At this point in time that name was written all over everything in the neighborhood and my mother was convinced they were some sort of bloodthirsty killers. I tried to tell her that they were just graffiti artists having fun and that I had met them. I got backhanded before I could finish the statement and told never to go near them again. Anytime my mom would see one of the neighborhood kids with C.C.C. tagged on their belongings she would yell at them and call them “awful hoodlums” and “heathens” among other archaic slander that didn't even phase them. Word traveled quickly and soon we were getting “CCC” cat calls screamed at our house followed by mass laughter at all hours. These guys were not going to let me be down in any way, shape or form now. Besides all of this happening outside, the inside had problems of its own. Our new house was now by far one of the worst yet, mom took something that was open, cheap, close by and easily attainable without considering the details. We ended up in a run down duplex that looked like no one had cared for it in years. The thing I remember most about our new abode was when you turned off the lights at night so many roaches would come out that you would here them “clacking” around. Occasionally you would be woken up from one that lost footing over your head and dive bombed you while you slept. I woke up screaming several times from this scenario. After it finally happened to my mother a few times she realized this place was no good as well. Needless to say, we didn't live there very long either. We ended up staying down the street with the Lykens family for awhile until we could find a new place. They had two boys, Mark and Nabil. Both of them went to Clark Elementary too but were a grade ahead of me. Mom was friends with the husband and wife of the family and I was acquainted with the boys from seeing them around the neighborhood. They knew my mom for awhile and felt bad for all that we were going through and graciously opened their home to us. While we stayed there they tried their best to treat us like part of their family. They were even nice enough to set us up with our own room in the back of their house for a few weeks. It felt like I had a real family with siblings while I was there. We'd do goofy kid stuff, stay up late and get into trouble around the house together. Despite all the hospitality, within a few weeks my mother and her shining personality had made sure we overstayed our welcome. By the end she hid in the back room intoxicated and screaming nonsense at both me and the Lykens family. Mom came into that house with gracious friends willing to help, and left with people who I'm sure wished they never knew her. It was time to be on our way. We now moved a few streets over to West 61st. Street. I don't have many memories of that house at all but I think we lived there for almost a year. Things were happening so quickly these days that it was hard to keep up at times. After that place all I remember is ending up in a shelter for another run. I was now around eleven years old and back in the shelter system. At least I was in my hometown this time. Everyday in the shelters you wake up at the same time, you get some breakfast, then as the adult you're supposed to spend your day trying to find employment and/ or housing. You're not allowed back into the shelter until evening hours, like five or six p.m. Some of the women used this time wisely and did get back on their feet quickly. Others like my mom spent the nine or ten hours a day just wandering aimlessly through Downtown and the East side area near the shelter. Here's us: Old white lady who could barely walk dragging a dirty hillbilly looking kid through the projects. Good times. I would always beg my mom to do something, anything productive, with the time. She rarely did though. We'd sometimes sit in the waiting room of the local hospital watching their T.V. for hours on end. Sometimes they'd feel bad and let us stay. Other times we'd get shooed away, then it was just more wandering. This was not helping our situation. It was around that time that I realized my mother was a hopeless cause. I had to get away from her soon. I had a feeling this would be they way she'd spend the last of her years on Earth and I wanted no part of it, I was meant for better things. It seemed like every adult I would turn to for help with the matter either didn't want to get involved or just couldn't legally do anything. I needed someone to talk to. Someone to help. I needed a friend. The Salvation Army shelter we stayed at was essentially shaped like a squared “O”. At the top was the offices and kitchen, down either side ran dorm rooms for women and families. Finally, at the bottom was a living room/playroom area that could be used from the hours you were let back in until lights out. One day I was sitting in a recliner watching Superman 3 on TV when this impish little girl poked her head into the room from the hallway. She must've just gotten there that night, I had never seen her before. She looked at me and said “Who are you?” “Who am I?” I thought to myself, I'm the guy being bothered by a little girl while I'm trying to watch Superman. Being the gentleman I am though, I told her my name. She replied in a quick, perky voice “Well I'm Dana and I've got a brother your age.” “Cool” I replied in a semi-uninterested manner. “I'll introduce you to him later.” she said. I said alright and went back to the Man of Steel. I remember thinking though, it would be cool to have someone my age to hang out with. Most of the kids were Kindergärtners on average. Later that night before the lights out call I got to meet this brother of hers - Danny Hines. Dan was an odd fellow, even in those days. Very tall and lanky with long, spindly fingers that moved around a lot when he talked. He just didn't fit into his body very well. He was a half black and half white kid who could've almost been mistaken for Puerto Rican if you didn't see his blond afro. Dan's sister Dana dragged me over to their room to meet him. He was sitting there playing with a Transformer, I liked him already. Dan spoke beyond his years using words that would probably confuse a majority of the women at the shelter. I was the same way except I learned to “dummy down” my words so I wouldn't get funny looks from people. I learned at a young age that if people think you're more intelligent than them they tend to keep their distance and use it against you calling you a “snob” or a “know-it-all”. I liked having friends so I used my “general population vocabulary” more often than not. I liked what I saw in Danny and we became best of friends instantly. Now when my mom would do her daily wandering we'd at least have Dan, his mom and his sister Dana by her side. Dan's mom, Dorothy would also begin to coax my mother on our travels into finding help for me and her and this was a good thing. Dorothy and her two children ended up leaving the shelter about a week and a half after they got there, I was happy for them but at the same time I didn't want to see them go. They had become a little piece of normalcy in an all too crazy environment. Danny and I vowed that we would talk again soon and that we'd hang out as soon as my mom and I got our own place. I prayed that this would turn out to be true. They told us what area they were moving to and believe it or not I got my mom to move only a few blocks away in the next few weeks. Maybe she actually listened to me for once or maybe it was the cheap rent, either way I was happy. Dan and his family moved up to West 110th and Detroit Avenue and we were on West Boulevard about five or ten minutes away. That area now is becoming home to newly renovated, high-end condos with froufrou cafes a few blocks over that overlook the lake. Back then though, it was quite different. Drug dealers on every corner and every kind of crime and hustle you could think of. Dan's family was in the same situation as us, they got what they could afford. Which like us, wasn't much. Their home was in the upstairs of a four unit building that hadn't seen a repairman since Watergate. The hallway had holes in it from various fists and foreign objects. There were scribbles of names and street numbers from years before, and the railing was just laying on the side of the stairs - completely detached from the wall. The first day we moved in to our spot (which wasn't much better), I literally ran all the way to Dan's house to go hang out. Dan and I would sit around for hours on end playing with Legos and busted up action figures. Dan had all these great Legos from Germany, where he was born. The thing I remember most about this was there were all these crazy rare pieces from sets that were never released here in the States. This gave Dan 100 cool points in my book. I was always a fan of the unusual. We'd always make crazy robots, futuristic buildings and anything else we could conjure up. We were the weird creative kids that other kids didn't quite get. Just as I was developing my artistic abilities, Dan was a budding musician. Give him any instrument, let him pluck around with it for a few hours and he'll be playing you your favorite tunes in no time. His sister Dana was quite the vocalist for her young age as well and they would often collaborate on musical compositions together. We were all like peas in a pod together. The building Dan lived in was one of three identical buildings that all sat in a row. Dan's was the third one and sat next to a wood chip field right on the corner. In the first of the three buildings lived two brothers Dan had befriended named Freddy and David, they were kinda' quiet dudes not like Dan and I. We were always babbling about some trivial information we obtained from who knows where. I don't think the brothers really knew what to make of us when Dan and I were together. Quite honestly, they never became more than an acquaintance to me. I think Dan just hung out with them because they were close by. They moved away some time later and we began to meet more and more of the neighborhood kids. I barely even bothered to try and make friends on West Boulevard, the few kids I had met were either in training for future prison sentences or were as dumb as rocks. Dan's sister Dana had made friends with a girl from the next street over named Susie Stump. Susie had a brother a few years younger named Frankie. He eventually met up with us and joined our little posse. Frankie was different from Dan and I and was sort of an odd fit at first, he was your classic all-American college bound golden boy. The kind of kid you'd find in the middle of Nebraska, not that that's a bad thing, it just didn't fit what we were used to. While we spent most of our time concocting plans for homemade projectile weapons and creating art and music, Frankie wanted to toss around the old pigskin or wrestle. I didn't quite know what to make of him at first but something told me he'd turn out alright. Frankie loved to hang out at Cudell Recreation Center, shoot hoops, use the weights, etc. Ironically enough it was dead across the street from my new place and I had never set foot in there once. I wasn't what you'd call the “athletic type.” Sometimes the whole crew from Dan's neighborhood would come down that way to go swimming at the Rec Center's pool. I can't swim but I figured since they were all there I'd come and hang out on the sidelines. Every once in awhile you could find me waist high in the shallow end but between my glowing white bird chest and me fearing drowning, it wasn't very often. Remember the few kids I said I met from West Boulevard? They used to go hang out at the pool too. One of the kids, a beast of a child named Toby - used to like to bully the hell out of me. He was one of the main reasons I didn't hang out on my own street. This kid was no older than fourteen at best but stood about six feet tall at least. I'm sure he weighed in around 150 pounds or more as well. Toby, like all good bullies, had a henchman named Larry who was gargantuan in size himself. On the rare chances I would be on my street, they found it fun to lock me and the other local kids into boiler rooms of buildings, chase us with knives, or just plain slam us to the ground repeatedly. One day while my friends were swimming in the deep end at Cudell, I walked over to tell them I was leaving. They were playing around in the middle and didn't notice me. I leaned in to yell again, and along came Toby who decided it would be a good idea to give me a nice shouldering into the pool. All I saw was the ceiling of the pool room as my head lunged back and my scrawny little body jerked forward to the water. I felt impact, then heard that murky “blup, blup” underwater sound that I still hate to this day. I hit the bottom of the pool like a rock. It was silent and I could see feet kicking around, but none near me. I panicked as I looked up and could see the top of the water several feet above my head. So close, yet so far. Several seconds went by and I tried everything. I tried walking to the shallow end, No luck. I tried to figure out how to swim, still stuck. Finally I did what made sense, I flailed my arms and legs around as much as I could. I did not want to go out like this. At least I could die some cool way, not being four and a half feet tall and drowning in seven feet of water. Someone finally saw my pathetic underwater boogie and rescued me a few seconds later. I got pulled up and did the gasping and falling over thing for a second, then I looked around for my friends who at this point had left the pool and were out in the sun drying off. They never even knew what happened. I officially wanted nothing to do with any of the fools from West Boulevard now.
    3 points
  3. btw, i hooked up with a girl last night who was down for anal. that deserves props. fa trillz.
    1 point
  4. I dont know. I really am just not attracted to porn girls that are all inked up. Doesnt do anything for me. It wasnt until pretty recent times that I started noticing porn actresses with tattoos and/or sporting the Betty Page look. Kind of a gimmick.
    1 point
  5. Re: the second level of a football stadium bounces like a trampoline. would you jump on it oontz oontz oontz
    1 point
  6. nope not dropping anything just gaining more knowledge
    1 point
  7. rappers will buy this just because of the "G"
    1 point
  8. Damn i miss Beavis&Butthead:) BB Vanilla Ice BB Snoop Doggy Dogg BB: Cypress Hill BB: De La Soul BB: Smashing Pumpkins BB: Dr. Dre BB: 2 Unlimited BB: Nirvana ..............
    1 point
  9. 1) He votes anti-abortion. On the flip side, once those kids are born, he also votes against head start and against health care for children. 2) He votes against incentives for clean tech, but seems to support oil drilling pretty much anywhere - can someone explain this to me? 3) He votes against stem cell research from what I can tell - sounds like his support of the market place and individual/states rights is limited to things he doesn't care about. Am I wrong here, can someone explain this one?
    1 point
  10. what about vagina wise?
    1 point
  11. Re: My Fight Against the Lobbyist Scumbag Group, the Center for Democracy and Technology ( C'mon people, give me some props here.
    1 point
  12. I only have 7 prop points. I deserve like four hundred thousand, because I am awesome and always right.
    1 point
  13. i will vote your mom as president of my genitals 2008. otherwise i wont be voting as usual.
    1 point
  14. this is the machine we got at my friends house, not actual pictures. The mechanical bull is on its way here.
    1 point
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