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January 30, 2011


I hope you'll excuse the delay in getting my next blog out. I've had a serious health issue, a cold or flu since the beginning of the year. In addition, the following is a more focused view on my experiences in the mid 1970's...

I didn't know what to expect - moving away from home, age 18. It was pretty much expected, my doing so, back then in the earl 70's. I was simply, an unlikely candidate; I'd never exhibited a streak of Independence. I'd lived, dependent upon my routine and controlled environment. My traditional and predictable environment. For all practical purposes I'm the kind of guy who would have lived at home, with the parents until at least age 30.

I wasn't raised in the type of family that encouraged independent thinking, self-sufficiency, or self-esteem for that matter. Most decisions were approved, and then reversed by my mother as if my mother decided I should do what I I'd just asked, or a plain, "no". My father was a sales manager, traveled a lot, and so my mother ruled the nest. To make things worse, I was a collector, of what she called "itsy-bitsy's". Pretty much everything from books, to Matchbox cars, baseball cards, and I loved to draw and write.

My mother would both look at me with pride suggesting I'd write the next "Gone With the Wind", someday, but at the same time it was a joke. In her words, "I wasn't a writer". Having said that, I wasn't a writer. That was my reality. I was to be a teacher or sales manager like my father. The collectibles I collected constantly vanished as my mother constantly cleaned. And as soon as my "childhood" waned, my drawing and writings vanished too. A passing phase she was sure I'd grown out of. Baby pictures were priceless, my drawing and writing, not at all important - just clutter.

Our's was a "proper, Christian family". Church on Sundays, though my Dad, when around, rarely went to church. In the early days they had the occasional beer, then later the Manhattans. My mother was as pure as an angel when it came to sex, no talk of it, no discussions. My father was a flirt. A damn good flirt. I'm always wondering how far he went on those business trips he often took. My mother never questioned him, and I never asked. But he made no mistake about the fact that sex was something good, and something to have whenever the opportunity might present itself. He used to say, "it's the one you could have had and didn't that will haunt you the most". And it's true. So while my mother nurtured "the husband" in me, the "faithful husband", my father secretly encouraged me to sow my seed... which was a joke as growing up I was not only extremely naive, but geeky, gawky, and thin. I was every bully's target... and up to a couple years after graduating HS I still didn't know how to talk to a woman.

Recall, at age 6 my mother forbade me to hang out with my sister and her friends, and "fixed me up with boys", to be friends with.That "forbadence" stayed with me for a long time, and still haunts me today. I was in a traffic accident a few years ago, a woman in a mini-van rear-ended me. A young, attractive woman was driving the other vehicle, and when I told my mother about the accident she made a snide comment that if a "man had been driving, I would have fought tooth and nail in court to get everything out of the accident I could". Guilt.

But to be fair, my real handicap wasn't women, it wasn't lack of motivation, but rather, my parents had protected me as much as they could while I grew up, and were constantly trying to protect me from the bullies that latched onto me. Without intending to, at least overtly, they made me dependent on them.

Now ironically, at age 18, having graduated HS and gone onto college, I was destined to be the "perfect sheep" in the family pasture. I literally didn't have a mind of my own. I fit in perfectly with a neurotic family in which the child never grows up, but is expected to behave in a way that feigns growth. I probably would have married the woman I couldn't touch, would have become a store manager at a dept. store, bought a modest house and like everyone else, hated it. But I'd learn to pretend, like everyone else, that everything was perfect.

Only one problem.


Age 19 I was beginning my junior year of community college. I was pursuing an Associates of Science degree, in electrical technology. I'd begun college on schedule the fall after graduating high school. I had two terms of physics under my belt... and for anyone familiar with physics, you'll know why I'm proud of that. I carried a B average for two terms, but the math, the calculus was coming next.

It was, near as I recall the summer of 1973, I was not yet 18. At 18 I could legally drink alcohol at that time. It was, something to look forwards to. Getting drafted wasn't. I was in college because that is what a middle class person at my age did. I'd chosen "electrical technology", being as I was a home electronics hobbyist. I was also a chemist... chemistry sets being popular back then, I had a room in the attic where I had both an electronics lab, plus chemistry lab. God only knows what I created, with the chemistry set!? I had crystals, scums, bubbling mases the likes of Dr. Frankenstein. I accomplished nothing. The rest of the time I was in HS, and generally home by myself isolating myself in my room or the backyard, playing with matchbox toys.

I was a loner growing up. My first friends were my sister and her tow friends, Julie and Susie. But by age 6, my mother was actively breaking up the friendship - boys don't belong with girls.

She was afraid I'd grow up gay. I've told the story before. Her fears were totally unfounded and dysfunctional. The current controversy over "this princess" concept of raising girls is proof of that. Fact is, there was no reason my sister and her friends couldn't be my best friends around age six.

By age 19 I'd had 3 girlfriends. Brenda, in 8th grade, lasted a long, hot week... over the phone we talked about heady topics like breast size. But i broke up with her after a week, for totally insane reasons. Then, Diane, whom I met through a co-worker, a women whom I consider to be my GF, but there really was no connection; the physical attraction and personal experience was quite limited. We didn't "French-kiss" nor physically touch flesh to flesh for the 3 years I called her my GF. Then, a "fling" one Friday night when I visited a friend I'd met through my sister. Four of us were in the room. Myself and the two men played cards along with a woman sitting on a couch. My friend said if I wanted sex, just ask her. I did, but truly, I didn't know what sex was, and I was around 18 years old. I asked her, we bedded together, but all i remember is how erotic it was French kissing her. We didn't have intercourse, nor anything oral.

Around a year and a half after graduating HS, after losing my virginity to a stranger woman at a state park, I met my first "real" GF. Her name was Sue.

I met her at a party, and despite my shyness, struck up a conversation with her. By this time I had moved away from home. I was so scared... a male friend who was at my apartment, who knew Sue, I had asked his advice. His response: "If you don't ask her out, someone else will".

I asked her out.

Our first date, I hitch-hiked 20 miles in a storm of pouring rain to her house... to be with her. My friend came by later to bring me home. I honestly don't remember the first time we had sex, but I know it was very good. We eventually moved into an apartment together. We had sex at least 10 times a day... we were a couple for almost 3 years. My mother despised her, and it began the war - the war of morals.

I can honestly say "the war" escalated to the point that my relationship with Sue led to a quandary - a war between my mother and myself, a war between right and wrong, a war that ultimately made me believe I was cursed. I wasn't, but I was... because, I loved Sue with all my heart, and my mother despised her with hers.

The rebellion of youth began.

And I lost...

"Brass-Tacks"... moral, don't question authority.

I did, and I still do...

January 21, 2011

RITE OF PASSAGE - Part Eleven - Pursuing the Dream

Dreams and Reality, quite the combination!

With few friends growing up, and "the underdog" to those I had, I was operating on level 2 self-esteem. 10 being ideal.

I see signs these days, newspaper articles and school billboards announcing "Understanding Bullying".

Ironic. Since age 5 I was bullied. I can still remember, age 6 maybe, crossing the road to "see" my neighborhood, stranger, to me. His name was mike T. And we got into a fight, and he rubbed my face in the dirt. I lost. Have no idea why, or why?

Then, getting older, i had neighborhood friends, very good friends, but when in a group, I was the underdog ( which puts it quite well).

Those days were a dream. Age 4 - 8... constant exploring... walking miles, anywhere, alone. Parks woods, and later, age 13, hunting with childhood friends, never killing deer, but we did get some ducks. Hunted age 13 -16, then things changed. Again.

Hunting ended. Focusing on graduating HS took priority. Women were not in my life, or at that age girls... sex was not even something I really knew existed. Naive.

Age 16 through 19 remain vague... mostly working, at a dept store and planning my exodus from parents and home.

Come age 20 I believe things started to assemble itself.

Two years of community college was a "no go". I was majoring in electronic technology ( before home computers were even dreamed about). My parents were paying my tuition, and by the third term i wanted out - about age 19.

On a dreary, rainy night I said "good-bye, I love you", to my parents, in bed, and they were very nonchalant about it. As I was driving to my new apartment, I considered that a good sign. I was off to new beginnings, I had ideas and most important dreams. But I knew it might be impossible. I'd grown up the under-dog, the excluded, the bullied for 8 years, unless you add the original bully incident with Mike T., age 6.

But that dreary, rainy night was perfect. I arrived at my new home, a room on the second floor of a rebuilt horse-barn, at the edge of the college campus. There were two large apartments downstairs, and 5 rooms upstairs, bathroom, and kitchen. We all used cannabis, plus other substances... we had fun together, and I made friends.

I switched my major to Liberal Arts, dropping the technology, and wanted to write. I sold my car, a 1969 Ford Mustang, I bought a bike.

Said it before, a sci-fi book I got as a present at age 8, "R is for Rocket", by Ray Bradbury, was key to my future... a short-story within it called "Frost and Fire", set my goal.

In the story, the humans live on the planet Mercury, survivors of a manned expedition of the planet. They somehow made emergency landings, saving the ships, but ultimately they had to abandon the ships, survive a near death run to some caves and from there, those that survived multiplied. Two primary problems.

Ultimately the caves the survivors lived in were too small to support the growing population. They divided... exiled to caves lower down the mountains, where the protection from the Sun's radiation was more acute. After an undisclosed time, though hinted as 100, 200 years, the two societies were enemies, though they rarely met. The environment of Mercury gave them half an hour at best, morning and night to wander outside, and enjoy a sudden plume of flowers and plants.

One other vital effect of living on Mercury. In that 100 - 200 year span, those in the lower caves were born, grew up, became adults, parents, and grandparents all within 7 days. Those in the upper valley, lived ten days.

The hero of the story is named Sim. And around age 8, second day after birth, he hears rumor that there are "scientists" still living and searching for an answer, to end the suffering. Mostly they are laughed at, and said to be a myth.

Sim by day 3 is already planning and trying to find where the "scientists" are. And he gets a break... he finds them. Deeper in the caves his aging slows some, so he spends time taking in decades of history in hours... and discovers that two space-ships are intact, and located some mile away, very close, from the upper caves.

Sim lives in the lower caves. Nearly half an hour from the upper caves. Only one way he can move there, and that is challenge a resident to a duel... a fight to the death, winner takes refuge.

Along the way he meets his soul-mate, nice touch. Wins the duel in the blazing hot afternoon sun, and he and his lover move into their new cave and gain 3 extra days of life. Time to plan.

I did pretty much the same. The story became my guide in my early 20's... I had little time... by age 24 I needed a life-plan.

I had a lot to do ahead... but on that rainy, dreary night I moved out on my own... I was ready to build my life.

Next Time Brass Tacks...

January 15, 2011


The Awakening...

Edited Jan. 18, 2011

This is a story that must be told. I really have no choice. Well I do, and I choose to share it.

Over the years, friends and co-workers have said - "you ought to write a book".

And yeah, I know.I should.

That was my original goal, in fact, in my early twenties. To write, become an author. Between 1974 and 1979 I wrote well over one million words, the number ascribed to what makes a hobbyist in writing different from a true writer. One million words...

I wrote in 6X9inch notebooks. I was always writing. One of the benefits from my job at the time, custodian at the Fine Arts Center was that I knew what work had to be done, so I made time in-between to go down to my office, and sit at my desk and write. Heck, my co-worker on the 3 to 11 shift worked on "projects" in our workshop at the time. Things like rubber band guns, birdhouses, doll-houses, and the like... that would be Oats, my work-partner, half Italian/half Apache Indian. He was quite the co-worker, as you'll discover.

In a previous post, a reader commented that I became who I became in large part due to the books I'd read. In general that would be true. But there's much more to the story.

In the entirety of my Blog I may repeat myself from time to time. Expect it. My blog is my story, it's me... so I'll repeat things, until I get it right. The best thing about being able to blog is being able to be a presence on the WWW. This is an age 50's fantasy, as when I was in my early 20's and this story was unfolding, there was no WWW (World Wide Web), nor even a hint such a day might come when such a thing - a medium of WW communication would exist. There was very little to any internet then, no e-mail, not even telephone answering machine, though all that changed quickly. Too quickly, really, for the average person to realize. Fact is, society was simply social back then, and there was little in the way of extensions, except for the opinion pages in news-papers.

My point - until approximately 1990, there was no WWW!!! We were strictly a social society. In 1975 when "my awakening" occurred, there weren't dating magazines, much in the way of support groups, and knowledge was dispensed in a limited number of ways - books, newspapers, magazines, word-of mouth, schools and colleges.

As a voracious reader since age 8, and experiences both very good and bad, I had a hunger for knowledge. My parents were the type that pushed, me, to become what they thought I should become. No blame there, they simply were the type to push. I got it, my sister got it. We both had our own ideas!

At age 16, as described in my last post, I smoked marijuana; yes, a common theme in my blog, and for good reason, the best reason, in that, it helped shape my life. And not in a bad way. Though some might initially be skeptical about that.

When you grow up struggling in school, with a C average as your norm, social issues that make you a target of bullies, limited self-awareness, and very little regard for life, nature and the environment, to suddenly "awaken" to all of that and more, to me, it's a miracle.

Well, I get ahead of myself. At age 16 I was pretty naive and mostly doing what was expected of me, or pretending.

So during a family vacation, in Sarasota, Florida, 1970, my sister and I enjoyed 10 day vacation days, with parties on the beach at night around a campfire. Groups of young people came from everywhere, and we drank beer, listened to music, smoked pot, and i'm sure aroused suspicion among the adult community. But we behaved, and the drinking age was 18 at the time, though I was only 16. Thing is - I didn't get stoned, just drunk, and every night we returned to the motel and simply went to sleep.

My point? "I didn't get stoned". I used pot, marijuana, "a drug", and nothing happened. Many people would agree the first time they may have tried it, nothing happened. That's the difference between and herb and a drug. Yet William Bennett, the 1980's Drug Czar, made the popular yet incorrect statement - "use it once and you're doomed..."

Yeah. "Doomed".

It was two years later when I used it again. In the meantime I remained a strict opponent to "drugs". While trying hard as I could to hold my liquor, which was impossible. Two beers and I was drunk. The 3rd and I got sick. Meanwhile, my friends counted the beers they drank at the keg-parties we had... the usual bravado was 20 - 35 beers... and then while I stayed where we camped, they went off driving, to pick up girls which they found walking, for sex. This was routine in the late 60's... and if one reads current police logs today, one would find that DUI is still one of the most common offenses police are involved in.

My failure to be able to hold my beer was a real setback, socially. I was shy as it was, and not being able to hang out with my friends, drive around drinking and picking up girls was quite a blow. Of course, looking back now, it was a Godsend. That wasn't me. I was the shy guy.

Today, most right-wing conservatives would look upon me and say this is exactly the person we are trying to save. Me. My friends today, would by now, todays standards, would have been arrested for DWI, many times over. Would have quite the rap-sheet (They don't). But me, DARE we say, at age 18 or 19, I discovered marijuana was much more that the Devil's Weed... Recall earlier I said I had very little awareness of myself, nature or others. All that changed.

Fortunately, there was no DARE at the time to intervene. There was considerable attention to illicit drug use, no doubt about that, but then, and until "my awakening" I would have been the perfect narc, except, I was straight as an arrow; I almost turned in my own sister when I discovered she used "drugs"...

I didn't. So, sometime around age 18/19 I found myself with two close friends, on an average summer night, with the one friend having a "dime-bag" of Panama Red, marijuana. I almost screamed out loud like he had a gun on me; but fortunately I thought twice. By then i was able to "question authority"... I'd had enough exposure to the real world to take an objective look at life. What i saw was a plant in a baggie... and I realized, here was a risk for experience in the real world that is being offered. And if there is a God, and I mean that, then here is an opportunity I have to make a decision on.

I chose to use it... my second time, and this time was different. This time the effects changed my life. I became aware of myself. I experienced the world in a way that suddenly i saw I wasn't an isolated, bullied, shy kid, but rather, everything I'd ever experienced, read, imagined fell into place. I saw myself as an "agent", not "a victim". I saw myself as an individual in society, and that I had choices to make on how to best become a part of my society. Beginning with, I wasn't a child anymore... I was an adult.

Next Time - "Follow Your Dreams..."

January 13, 2011

RITE OF PASSAGE - PART NINE Sex, Drugs, Rock and Roll

"Sex, Drugs, Rock and Roll"!

That's the ideal/attitude/memories that seems to paraphrase and summarize the 1970's. Even in my own mind I kind of see it that way; but the phrase itself, wasn't coined until 1979, in music by Ian Dury, a frontman for the UK band, "the Blockheads" - Wikilink:. And fact is, WE didn't live it that way.

In 1975 "we" were pretty straight. At age 18 you were legal to drink alcohol. You were eligible for the draft. You became an adult. There was no "Dirty Dancing", Gangs of any importance, conspiracy to commit fornication, or shirk society. We all knew "drugs" were bad. We all idealized the white house, the beautiful wife, the perfect job, and the picket fence. In NY State anyways most kids in HS had shot-guns in their trucks if they drove to school... there generally wasn't a student parking policy. But in NY and PA most students who were hunters got the day off. That's the way it was. We did think a lot about Sex, and Rock and Roll, but "drugs"? We had alcohol... We thought all the time about alcohol... had we thought about marijuana I believe many of us would be better off today.

Yeah, controversial. But it's the truth. Drugs were a fringe element. Getting drunk was the man thing to do. And smoke tobacco. Seriously, had cannabis been legal, I doubt we would have considered it all that much.

Until 1972 I lived in a country with a military draft. You signed up for the draft, by law, age 18, and at that time, 1972, there was a "draft lottery". On Jan. 01 of the New Year the numbers were drawn for every day of the year. My number was below 20... which meant I was drafted when I turned 18. Headed for Viet Nam.

In those days, the draft wasn't at all popular, especially since if you were "well connected" you could find ways to avoid Viet Nam. And one could always join the Coast Guard, or the Navy or Air Force. But if your mind wasn't on the military, and mine wasn't, what could one do back then?

The idea of the "conscientious objector" was a new one, and most often failed. One went to Canada often, to avoid the draft. Some cut off fingers or toes, some won insanity cases, and some even were bold enough to claim they were gay. But of the latter, few darned claim that.

My father told me sometime in the mid 70's ", he hadn't thought so at the time, but in hindsight he wouldn't have held it against me to have gone to Canada. "The War was wrong," he said.

It was the Beatles truly... who had the most influence on me in the early to mid 1960's. There was a lot of talk then, among my elders, of drugs, and the Beatles with their rock n' roll and long hair, they hated that.

I had an older 2nd cousin who was talked about a lot - John, how he was, "hooked on marijuana" and, had "attempted to jump out a window".

'Really', I wondered? At the time it was very real to me, the idea he had. But I learned later that he'd never tried to jump out a window. He had done acid, LSD, and was found out. "Marijuana and LSD", the parent's worst nightmare! All parent knew what it meant!

Your child would go insane.

I certainly vowed I would never "get hooked on drugs".

What I didn't know then, but do now, is it's a fallacy, born of political and corporate greed and fear.

I grew up on science-fiction, so I was already swimming in my imaginative universe by age 8. At age 6, 1960, I was outside most of the time, or we did have TV, though I forget what I watched that early on... other than cartoons. By age 10 it was "Dennis the Menace", Lassie", "My Three Son's" and "I Love Lucy"... "Combat", "Man from Uncle", and "The Fugitive", "Star-Trek"...

The Civil Rights Movement.

The influence of the Beat Generation and then Hippies... The Summer of Love "The Summer Of Love", The Yellow Submarine by the Beatles. "Pink Floyd", "Led Zeppelin", "David Bowie", Uriah Heap, Black Sabbath, Genesis.... .

In 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. I was home alone, sick from school that morning, watching TV in my parents bedroom. I was almost 10. It was an event that would be forever remembered.

The draft ended Aug. 31, 1974. I was, as far as I felt, I was "a free man". The "draft" was dark angel cloaking the country. Promising freedom, and an end to tyranny.

By 1974 things were a changing. I was 20.

In 1970, however, a documentary on Woodstock was released as a movie. Woodstock, The Movie. I was 16. That summer my family visited my father's sister and my cousins in NY City... well, Long Island. I was second oldest to my 1st cousin Wini, and on par with a cousin Kathy, with my own sister and several cousins more. They were going to the movie... my mother absolutely forbid it, so I didn't go. That would be a mistake as it only made me curious, and me being "curious", well, like I said, things started changing in 1974/75.

In 1970 my family took my sister and I on a vacation to western Florida. I smoked marijuana for the first time at age 16 around a campfire on the Sarasota Beach. Nothing happened! I didn't get stoned. I wasn't drugged. I was only a bit drunk from beer.

I didn't even go for a swim, or kiss a girl, or cause trouble. Went back to the hotel and went to sleep.

To Be Continued... Next: The Awakening...