Learning To Love You More




Assignment #14
Write your life story in less than a day.

San Francisco, California USA



I was born in 1972, an only child. My father left shortly after I was born and expressed little to no interest in remaining a part of my life. I grew up knowing almost nothing about him and quickly learned that the easiest way to explain his absence was to say that he was dead. More on him later. My mother was overly protective of me, her wounded maternal instincts awash with paranoia and neuroses. If I believed in luck, I'd say that my mother was saddled with a lot of the bad variety for most of her life. You'll see what I mean. My childhood was, for the most part, non-descript, peppered with several episodes of violent misery. I grew up in Los Angeles. I skipped the 5th grade.
My pre-teen and teen years were appropriately awkward, made worse by my extremely sheltered upbringing. I recall getting on the school bus for the first time and being blown away by Prince and Chaka Khan. Girls frightened me and so, although I harbored several painful crushes, I avoided them.
At age 13, I was sent to a preparatory school on the East coast. I was already uncomfortable in my own skin and wary of others; being the one of the few non-whites on financial aid in a student body accustomed to privilege and affluence was positively terrifying. My one friend was a black kid named Jamal. We had absolutely nothing in common, except for the fact that both of us were oddities within our environment. We clung to each other out of sheer desperation. Within six months, I was asked to leave. I never saw or spoke to Jamal again. I still wonder about him.
My 14th birthday saw me in Phoenix, Arizona: depressing rows of cheap tract homes punctuated by Circle K stores. I met Michelle, my first girlfriend, who introduced me to heavy metal, drinking, smoking, drugs, and fucking. I thought of her as tough, but she cried when we broke up. She was a year older than me and had a waterbed. I don't think I've been on a waterbed since.
An episode of violent misery. I woke up one day and realized that my mother and I would be better off apart. The act of running away itself turned out to be easier than I thought it would be. I siphoned several thousand dollars from bank account funds earmarked for college and walked to Sky Harbor International Airport at 3 a.m.. I moved back to Los Angeles, re-enrolled in high school and graduated, supporting myself by working a series of shitty McJobs. I wouldn't see or speak to my mother again for almost three years.
I lived in several apartments during this period and had a variety of roommates, my favorite of which was a 26 year old hipster woman who was in charge of the till at an underground club that changed venues often. One night, she came home and woke me up. She brought me into the living room and showed me a plastic trash bag filled with cash. Shaken, she told me the story. Cops had raided the club and the promoter had handed her the bag with one word: "Run." She asked me to help her bundle and count the money. It took us two hours. As it turned out, there was over twenty thousand dollars in cash. She wondered aloud if she shouldn't skim a little off the top. I shrugged. What did I know? "Why not?" I said and went back to bed. In a few minutes, she knocked on my door and handed me an impossibly thick envelope held together with tape. The next morning, I opened it - it contained a thousand dollars in twenties, tens, and fives. I was seventeen.
Many of my friends and acquaintances worked at record stores and spent most of their income on music. Highly impressionable, I bought a lot of unlistenable, noisy records that I displayed publicly but never listened to. After a while, I thought I'd develop a better palate if I worked at a record store, too. It never worked.
The friend with whom I spent the most time with was Julio, a Guatemalan artist-type three years older than myself. We drove aimlessly through the city, listening to mix tapes that he would make from his massive record collection. The most startling thing about our friendship, in hindsight, was the fact that our communication was almost wordless. We could spend entire days without talking, only breaking the silence with an occasional "You hungry?" His friends were all older, some in their late twenties, and they would delight in taking me along with them on their drunken outings. I was their mascot of sorts.
My first opportunity at a college education came and went with little fanfare. I only applied to two schools, UCLA and UC Santa Cruz. I was accepted at Santa Cruz but not at UCLA. I ended up working two jobs and taking care of my mother, with whom I had gotten back in touch by this time. She died a few days after I turned 19. I took up smoking. I dated a crazy, strung-out dominatrix for a while.
In and out of several community colleges and relationships. Turning 21 was an anti-climax, as I'd been drinking to excess for several years. On and off, I had tried to teach myself how to play guitar, but I was always frustrated by the handful of cowboy chords I knew. One day, I figured out bar chords and everything changed. I started a band immediately. Within a few months, we were playing clubs. We were signed to a small label and went on tour a couple of times. All of this took about three years. All the while, I took classes here and there, waited on tables, and tended bar.
After several years of amassing useless credits at a community college, I entered UCLA at the age of 24. I was an literature major. I broke up the band. I was ready to take my life seriously. One day, a sixty-year old magazine editor that patronized the bar at which I worked asked me why I wanted to be a writer. When I couldn't give him a straight answer, he laughed contemptuously and told me that I needed to reconsider my life. After that, my survey classes seemed paralyzing and stupid. I dropped out.
I decided to go to art school. When I first brought my thrown-together portfolio to the admissions counselor, I was laughed at. Literally. On his recommendation, I took some of the core evening classes and re-submitted my portfolio. I was admitted a year later. I lasted a semester before transferring to a rival school, who offered me a better scholarship package. I finished school, spurred on by chemicals. I lived in several depressing apartments. Decided to get the fuck out of dodge and move to San Francisco.
I guess this, more or less, brings me to the present day. I work as a graphic designer for a small tech company. My boss is a surfer. He says "Dude" and "Killer" a lot. I paint.