To make good on my promise to write more, let this kick off another series where I look way back and uncover the things that have defined my character. Here goes!
I remember countless nights, between 10 and 11 years of age, where I would goto bed convinced I’d wake up alone. A world where my dad abandoned us and where my mother was dead. It wasn’t until my mother had already had surgery that I found out she had stage 3 ovarian cancer and had been making arrangements for her death. She would go on to out-survive her entire support group, but I had already come to terms with a world without her. One where I was king and could do anything. Oh, hindsight!
At the time my family and I were living in a lower-middle class neighborhood on the east side of Las Vegas. Our neighborhood had been settled by old machinists, shop owners, and card dealers of a younger Las Vegas that had since retired. As these folks began to die, younger families that were joining the middle class began to move in. When my dad got a county job at McCarran airport, we too made the jump. Things were good — we got away from the bullies that were teasing my brother at our old house and I quickly made new friends.
Meanwhile, I began to develop a curiosity for what my neighbors did at home. I knew a few of them had workshops and old cars that seemed to always be in impeccable condition. It took me a few months to finally make good on my curiosity — walking across the street and ringing the door of the house with the biggest Mulberry tree. An old lady answered the door and told me she’d get her husband right away. His name was Chuck, an old jewish man, where everything was a matter-of-fact, and who’s opinions he’d defend to the death. His poor wife never realized this and would lose him to cancer a few years later without convincing him of a single thing during their 57 year marriage. I’d find out that he spend his mornings scavenging the city for discarded electronics and gadgets.
It would become habit to go over there every afternoon to see what he found. I’d pick out the best things and we’d spend hours haggling over price. A few notable purchases: $5 for a box of 1,000 condoms — these made great water ballons, $25 for a scale that was accurate to 1/1000th of a gram that I sold to a drug dealer (he had to have been!) for a grand, and $10 for an old Tandy computer with a stack of floppy disks. I must have given him thousands of dollars before he died. It’s odd that I haven’t thought about Chuck at all over these past 15 years when he influenced my life far more then my parents did over the hundreds of hours we spent together during that time. Maybe this had something to do with my parents being dead to me.
All the while, I’m capturing frogs from the local creek — really a wash, where all the runoff water makes its way to Lake Meed — and building up a toad army in the back yard. I purchase two red eared slider turtles from the local pet store and built a pond. I begin to collect rocks to build the ultimate waterfall that is later powered by swimming pool pump I’d purchase for $100 from Chuck. I’d spend the weekends with my Uncle, a man exactly 1 year younger then my mother, searching for deals at garage sales and reselling them on the side. I made a bunch of money and was on my way to independence.
Meanwhile I begin to have dreams where I’m a benevolent dictator obsessed with solving the worlds problems where I’ll stop nothing short of murdering the people standing in the way of progress.
5 years later. I’ll have graduated high school early. And moved to San Francisco.
We’ll begin to fill in the gaps next time around! And recall the agreement I made with myself that I’d totally forgotten about.
endnote: I made a pact with myself to post my thoughts as-is. You’ll have to live with the misused grammer, tense changes, and misspellings. Sorry.
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