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Chapters My story

1961

I was born on March 17th, 1961 at 3:16 pm. There is all sorts of wierd math stuff you can do with my birth date and time... So much that it is worth listing here:

1) 16 backwards is 61, my birth year.

2) 1 + 9 + 6 + 1 = 17, my birth day.

3) By the standard counting of weekdays starting with Sunday as 1, Friday is day 6 leaving 1 day left... 61.

4) 3 (pm) plus 3 (March) equals 6. 17 minus 16 equals 1. Again...61.

5) Numbers 3 and 4 above could also represent 16, my birth minute.

6) This one is scary. 3 + 16 + 3 + 17 + 1961 = 2000. Divide by the only number to appear twice, 3, and you get 666.666666...

7) 3pm in military time is 15. 15 + 16 + 17 = 48. Divide by the 3 skipped in that sequence and we get 16, my birth minute.

Panels from my birth place.

These limestone panels are all that remain of my birth place, the Passavant Memorial Hospital, named for the Lutheran saint William Passavant who founded a number of hospitals and orphanages across middle-America in the 1800’s.

The old Passavant Memorial Hospital

Passavant’s Chicago hospital was the one of the predecessors of the medical monster that is now Northwestern. Passavant Memorial merged with Chicago Wesley Memorial to form Northwestern in 1972.

The 325-bed neo-gothic building was designed by legendary Chicago architecture firm Holabird & Root in 1929 to compliment the design of Northwestern University next door. It was built at 303 East Superior Street, which is now the location of Northwestern Universtiy’s Robert Lurie Medical Research Center.

While the hospital is long gone, the panels remain. They depict the leaves of the acanthus plant, which is often used in stylized forms for architectural details. In this case, the panels are installed on the walls of the new hospital where they exist in plain sight, but most people don’t realize they’re there, or their significance.

We lived in a modest apartment in Chicago but I don't remember much of it as I was still just a baby! After 18 short months, we sailed to the Miami, FL area on my dads twin masted boat.

The lush green everglades
Coconut Grove Sailing Club, founded in 1946

For the next five years this was life! Lots and lots of sailing. The twin mast sailboat gave way to a catamaran briefly and then a single masted alacrity sailboat. We spent many hours out on the ocean and even a few overnighters with other members of the club sailing out to one of the islands in the keys.

The Franca C. This magnificent ship still survives as a land based luxury resort.

We took a cruise to Jamaica when I was around 5 years old. I remember the cruise ship and its wild smimming pool. Did I mention I was a major water bug? Anyway, the pool moved with the ship, but the water did not. Since the passengers also rocked with the ship, it appeared the water would rock wildly back and forth in the pool climbing its high walls and almost splashing out onto the deck.

7 mile beach

The highlight of the trip for me was the raft ride. It was a long and narrow raft with a small bench on one end and a navigator standing on the other. The rapids are what really made the ride exciting for a 5 year old!

The rafts still look the same and remain an attraction some 50 years after my thrilling ride!

1966

In 1966, for some reason, we abruptly sold the boat, packed up and left the beloved oceans. Suddenly I found my self in Strafford, PA surrounded by tall forests, little creeks and this stuff called snow.

This is a simular house to the one we lived in.

I remember the house was huge. It had 6 bedrooms upstairs, a large living room and fireplace downstairs, a full length basement and a full length walk around attic. Behind the house was a small creek and a tree house to play in.

Snow and tall trees that lost their leaves we a new thing for me. I soon grew to love the forest and the little creeks that were everywhere. We went on frequent camping trips and took the newest boat, a hand made Folbot which was kind of a big canvas covered, 2 man kayak.

All too soon, it was time to move again. This time the leap was not so far and not so life altering. We settled into this odd 6 floor townhouse in McClean, VA.

The Commons still standing and still the same name!

These still standing apartments were really odd. You enter on the "ground" floor which is the dinning room and kitchen. You have stairs going up and down. Down leads to the living room and further down, the basement. Up goes to a bedroom (mine) then further up to another bedroom and bathroom then further up to the master bedroom. I used to climb from the top floor to the living room and back between the stairs. There was a small hill next to the townhouse and I used to sled down it in winter time. There was also a haunted house near the complex that us kids would dare each other to enter.

Just one of thousands I climbed on.

When I was not in school or playing around the apartments, we would go to all these historical places like Ghettysburg. I must have climbed a million canons in the 2 years we lived in McClean. We also went to all the memorials and points of interest in Washington DC including the fantastic Smithsonian.

Westgate Elementary where I attended 2nd and 3rd grade.

A quick two years later marked the end of this chapter and the beginning of the nightmare that would become the rest of my childhood and half of my adult life

1969

The Desert

Just some of the lovelyness of the desert"

Before we even got there I was scared to death. It had been drilled into me. Deadly snakes and scorpions behind every bush and rock. Giant deadly spiders. The tiny scorpions you can hardly see will kill you and the big ones make you very sick... Don't put your hand anywhere you could not see. Shake your clothes before wearing them. The first time I stood in the desert I was trembling with fear, turning constantly thinking a scorpion would run up my leg from behind.

The desert where everything bites

Why were we leaving everything I loved to live in the harsh, barren world where even the plants were unfriendly? And the heat... It was like living in an oven.

It looked a bit different back in 1969, but this was the house for 3 long years.

If the harsh environment wasn't enough, the kids here were mean and nasty too. It was a school filled with roughneck barbarions all looking for a fight. There were no manners or upbringing. There was no honor. It was like stepping through a timewarp into some kind of horror story. I dreaded going to school. I had no friends. Even the teachers and staff would offer no protection from the daily battle that had become my life.

I could not turn to my parents either. They knew I was hyperactive, now known as ADD and ADHD, and yet they had no sympathy at all. Despite all the problems with other kids in school, I was expected to do well or I would be punished. In 2nd and 3rd grade that ment beat with a metal edged ruler. I was treated like I was just a rotton kid who was somehow ADD on purpose. I had absolutely no one I could talk to or turn to. No compassion, no understanding ear...nothing.

School from hell #1, Mohave Elementary.

I eventually came to understand why I was treated the way I was by my parents. I was not ment to be. It was the only logical reason for such resentment of my very existance. It explained the intollerance and lack of love. It explained the never finding anything but fault. I simply cramped their style and they wished I had never been born. Even though they provided and tried to "do the right thing" it was painfully obvious to me. This is why I support abortion for I would never wish that on another. My soul would have entered a child that was wanted had that happened and who knows what I might have become.

Three horrifying years later we moved just north of Phoenix to Cave Creek. Yehaw...enter the cowboys.

Ok you have to picture only the drive on the right and it is black gravel, none of the other buildings aside from the main trailer and the two tiny sheds. Both sides had an awning running the full length of the trailer and all the land surounding was completely undeveloped for miles. That was this in 1973 when we first built it.
A cowboy's favorite toy...

The cowboys...OMG...the cowboys. To this day I can't stand anything about cowboys or country whatever and it is all because of my experience with the Cave Creek cowboys. My school, Black Mountain School was sqeaky brand new when I started 7th grade. I mean shiney new. It smelled new. The carpets were thick and plush. It was all simply beautiful.

Within one year... Every inch of new carpet was covered with brown stains from the cowboys spitting chew spit. Every wall outside and even some inside had chew hanging off of it. It smelled bad, you had to be carefull where you stepped. It was disgusting. And that picture and caption of the cow pie? They proudly proclaimed they had cow pie fights before and after school. We were in a restaurant and an older adult cowboy walked in. By the smell, it was fairly obvious he had messed his pants and it didn't even phase him, just sat down and let everyone else gag.

I am here to tell you that real cowboys are not all nice and clean like the movies depict or the "urban" cowboy may be. They are raunchy, dirty, smelly and some of the most ill behaved people on the earth. Ah, my lovely experiences growing up.

Black Mtn. The west half is shale and the east half is granite.

Aside from the cowboys were the other factions. There were the Jocks who only thought with their muscles, the Freaks who were the outlaws and dope smokers and lastly, the pampered little rich kids who all lived in Carefree on the east side of Black Mtn.

Of course I fit none of these since I didn't love contact sports, smoke dope, get off on cow pies or live on the rich side of the mountain. Once again I found myself in a hostile atmosphere and environment.

The more I delt with the crualty, the more I resented having been dragged to this hellish desert land. It felt like a punishment, like all the good in my life had been ripped away. Oh how I missed the water and the nice shady trees.

1974

Trip to Mexico

In the 7th grade, arrangements were made for me to miss a few weeks in order to take a trip into Mexico. I had to basically get ahead of the class so I would not have to repeat the year. All was set and we went to Nogales to board the train.

Train station in Nogales.

The train ride alone was incredible. I had a private sleeper cabin in a separate car from my parents. The bed folded down across the length of the window so I could just lay there and enjoy the view.

I was free to walk the length of the train and the view from between cars was spectacular! I remember a section where we were in jungles that would suddenly break into a canyon crossing on a narrow bridge you could not see below you. Standing between the cars, it seemed we were floating across. I spent so much time there my face would blacken from the diesel exhaust coming from the engine.

Guadalajara, Mexico

Our first stop was Guadalajara. The city reminded me of some of the east coast cities, like Boston.

Mexico City, Mexico

The next stop was Mexico City. I was amazed by the tall buildings and modern feel. I had never been to New York City but I I imagined it to be like this. The subways were in tubes and instead of rails they had big balloon tires. Very smooth and very fast. We visited a large market place called The Zocalo.

We also went to see the Mayan pyramids. That was a real thrill as I have always been fascinated by the Egyptian pyramids and this was similar.

We visited the Museum of Anthropology while there. That was a wonderful walk through time. The historyp of civilization was painted through hundreds of miniature scenes in the form of impressive room sized models. It was very well done and I was enthralled.

Mazatlan, Mexico.

The final stop was Mazatlan. At last back at a beach and ocean if only for a few days. Needless to say, I swam then swam and swam some more!

1975

Finding God and Days at The Beach

Good Shepard of The Hills Episcopal Church

After the trip to Mexico, my parents went on other trips where I was not invited. When they did, they hired a nanny to stay with me. It was just one more way my parents showed me how much they did not want me or want to include me. By now, they did not even try to pretend. It was obvious that I was a mistake. I could do no right as was abuntantly pointed out to me. I felt so alone.

She was a very nice lady who treated me like a human being and would love to talk and play games with me. She felt sorry for my treatment by my parents and one day she offered to take me to church. This is when I became baptized and eventually an acolyte at the local Episcopal Church.

I got involved and served as an acolyte

It was a great honor, once I got over the "stage fright", to light the candles, move the gospel and assist the reverend with the Holy Communion.

Back in the 70's Cholla Bay was much more rustic. There was no electricity and our house was way smaller than in this picture. In fact all the houses in this circle known as Pelican Point were identical, tiny 2 bedroom homes with working fireplaces, gas appliances and the minimum amenities. It was like camping in a brick tent.

I believe it was the summer of 76’ when we started going to Puerto Peñasco, Mexico. My parents bought a small beach house in a place called Cholla Bay, more specifically Pelican Point. I was instantly in love. The ocean! I remember the first night we arrived and I could see the water from our perch above the beach. The next morning I rushed to look again and to my astonishment the ocean was gone. The tide difference was nearly a quarter of a mile!

This was the beach I spent 2 summers snorkeling pretty much all day.

I collected all sorts of critters from the tide pools. You could find fish, hermit crabs, starfish, little octopus and even the occasional sand shark or stingray.

We spent two summers and one Christmas in Mexico before, like everything else I loved, it was taken away forever never to be seen again.

Once again I was stuck with nothing but the hostile desert. I missed the beach so much. I often wondered what life would have been like with a father who loved me and wanted to spend time with me like other boys fathers did. What if we had stayed in Florida and he had taught me to sail. The adventures we could have had, if I was wanted… I remember spending a whole winter cleaning up and preparing the Folbot so we could take it to Mexico, me and my dad. We took it alright. We went maybe twice the whole summer for about a half an hour each time…what a disappointment, but this was my life.

1976

First Jobs and First Loves

The Spanish Galleon was right at the point of this arrow know as The Spanish Village.

By now I was in High School. I did a large amount of chores at home for which I received $10 a month. This was enough for maybe 2 trips to the snack bar at school. It was just one more thing to set me aside from everyone else and it did not help my getting along or making new friends.

I ended up getting my first real job as a dishwasher at a restaurant called The Spanish Galleon in carefree. This was after being an underpaid janitor in the small mall where my dad had a jewelry store and a failed frozen yogurt stand in the same mall.

For the first time ever I felt like a somebody. The owner, Joe, was a really nice man who complimented and advanced those who worked hard. Soon I was a prep cook and then a cook. I had money all of a sudden and I wasn’t the weird broke kid at school anymore.

Chaparral High School looked nothing like this. It's like they bulldozed it and started over...
Sadly this rude comic is the only picture on the web that resembles the old Chaparral High and its unique architecture.

I was finding more and more ways to stay away from home. It was just easier to deal with the rejection that way. I joined school clubs and the swim team. I was in the backpacking club which got me away for weekends. I was becoming more and more rebellious about coming home at all to the 8pm bed time for a high school student. It was just a way to be rid of me for the night so I made it easy by not coming home.

The Bright Angel trail zigzags down here on the South Rim.

I signed up with a church group to go on a Grand Canyon backpacking experience. I really did enjoy backpacking and this was a fantastic opportunity. We hike down the Bright Angel trail and across the inner gorge passing Phantom Ranch before going up the North Kaibab trail. Then we turned around and hiked back! It was an experience I will never forget.

The Inner Gorge
The Colorado River at the bottom of the canyon.

My home life was still a turmoil, and I was still the failure there. My father’s favorite sarcastic expression to anything I had an opinion about was “you are right and the world is wrong”. It got to where I started to believe it. I fell in with the wrong crowd at school and I started to smoke pot.

Smoking pot was great! It took all that pain away and I now had friends to hang out with who accepted me. I still worked but I started skipping school to party. I didn’t care anymore. I figured if I was to be a failure all my life, might as well have fun along the way.

I met my high school sweetheart shortly after I started getting high. She also had issues with her hypocrite father who was Mr. Religion who owned 6 Christian radio stations, a restaurant in Scottsdale and did bible studies. All good except he drank like a fish.

Carolyn and I were like two peas in a pod. We knew we would be together forever. Then one day we got busted smoking weed and her dad went ballistic. Of course my parents sided with hers and neither parent cared about our love for each other. Carolyn’s father promptly shipped her off to be with her mother in Cincinnati. A few weeks later my parents went on one of their vacations without me. Despite the protests of that nice nanny, I was out the door, thumb out and on my way to follow my love.

1978

Freedom: The Cincinnati Adventure

It only took me 3 days to travel across the country the first time. Actually, I got lucky and caught a ride all the way to PA and the I-75 with a coffee freak that rarely slept. It was just a short half day up the 75 and into Cincinnati where my love was waiting with a friend to pick me up.

We spent a few days with her mother, met a few of her friends and poof, her dad made her go back to Scottsdale. It turned out that my parents had contacted him and warned him I was coming. Back on the road again and this time not so lucky, it took me 2 weeks to get back. This time, she met me and we kept going all the way to Cardiff, CA.

We lived as bums on the beach in CA for about 2 months before getting caught by the local sheriff. We were still minors so we were shipped home. My memory is a bit fuzzy, I was so stoned all the time back then, but somehow we ended up in this skid row apartment in central Phoenix. I was working at a Mexican restaurant and we were barely getting by. Then the apartment burned up and I lost all my childhood pictures and memories. The only thing that didn’t burn was our clothes.

After the fire, we hitchhiked again to Cincinnati where I got a job at a large country club working as a dishwasher. That job did not last long and I found myself employed at Kenner Toys.

Kenner was named after the street not vice versa.

Working at Kenner was like working in a mini city. There were roads where forklifts would zoom about their business. All the buildings were connected in some way to keep out the snow. I traveled around quite a bit as it was my job to keep the assemblers supplied with parts. It was a much better position compared to sitting in one spot all day.

I was a line stocker so I got to see all parts of the factory.

The most exciting was alł the new Star Wars toys!

I made a lot of friends at Kenner and everything was great until Christmas. After Christmas, Kenner laid a lot of folks off. Then slowly based on seniority they would bring people back. New folks like me had at least a six month wait to return.

A friend of a friend got me a job for a while at a service station pumping gas and checking oil. It was only a temporary position that lasted a few months. Times were tough, we had moved to another apartment and had taken on a room mate to help pay the rent. Then one day Carolyn caved and moved back with her dad in Phoenix. I kept hearing about some guy named Mark and figured it was over.

I fell head over heels for a girl across the street named Sandy. Bad thing was, she was married. After a month of hot rendezvous push came to shove and she went back to her husband. After that I went into a slump. The feeling of being a failure was creeping up on me again.

I moved in with a friend, named George, and his family. He still lived at home and was another one Kenner had laid off. His mother had worked for Kenner forever it seemed and was only laid off for a week or two. While there we mostly partied and sold joints on the street for money. We worked briefly for the Cincinnati Reds selling hotdogs in one of the stands at Riverfront Stadium. That was a busy job for low pay and to boot, you could not even see the game.

After 3 or 4 months of these doldrums I finally tucked tail and phoned home. A bus ticket was arranged and back to Phoenix I went, age 19…and true to my upbringing, a failure once again.

1981

The Humble Return

Once again I was in the desert I despised. My parents set me up in a hotel and after much lecturing gave me a little money till I could find a job and a bicycle to use for transportation.

One of several Weiss Guys carwashes. This one was my nightmare.

I ended up working at this carwash near downtown Phoenix. Back then it was called Weiss Guys, one of about 7 owned by different Weiss brothers. It was grueling work, wiping off cars on the hot asphalt under the blazing sun. This followed by the hellish 4 mile bike ride home.

The brand new UTI in Tolleson replaces the old (bottom left). They got rich ripping people like me off. The apts I lived at while attending (bottom right).

My dad and I made a deal. I would attend diesel mechanics school and he would pay half the tuition and buy me tools. I ended up at Universal Technical Institute. They are big and fat now with TV commercials and schools all over the country. It all started here in Phoenix by ripping kids like me off.

To start with, I had no high school diploma and no GED, yet they had no problem getting me grants and loans. I got very good grades and graduated in the top 10% of my class. So…job placement? “Well we have a couple of possibilities in Wisconsin, no guarantee mind you, and you will have to get yourself up there…”. Basically it was thanks for the money Uncle Sam and have fun paying back the loans, there’s the door…bye!

I ended up with my shiny new tools, working in the dirt in some lowlifes back yard greasing axels for $5 an hour. No one ever paid half the loan and to this day I haven’t paid either.

1984

Wendy

The 10 Wasted Years

1993

The Highest High To The Lowest Low

And All Points Inbetween

2006

Victoria

2010

Trucking Days

2013

A Sad Ending and A New Beginning

Beautiful Flagstaff, AZ

2017

Waiting For The Axe To Fall

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