Learning To Love You More




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

Jesse Hilliard
Northern Ohio, USA
Email Jesse



Autobiography of Jess Hilliard, Written in Less Than 24 Hours: Actually, Four Hours.
In 1967 my parents converged from Chowchilla, California and Denton, Texas and moved together into an apartment the size of its Murphy bed, on Hyde Street, in the Tenderloin of San Francisco. They drove a small white Volkswagen with a blue racing stripe on it, with only a nearly-maxed-out gas card, a pair of white go-go boots, a Spanish-style guitar, and one whole, fried chicken. On my first attempt at being born, I died. But the 2nd time had better timing-just short of a proper lunchtime-11:58am-and the clouds parted at the very moment of my birth. The doctors were all students. And my father had to give blood for an emergency transfusion, but the nurse was also a student, and caused my father to bleed, and bruise. But she finally got the blood.
Babies' hands will hold any pose you put them in, and so my dad formed my tiny hands into fists, with only the middle finger of each hand extended, and they stayed that way for a long time. A few weeks before my birth, my mom had been shot in the stomach by a man with a rifle who had been hiding in the bushes. But because of her many layers, including a Navy pea coat, she and I were mostly unhurt, just grazed. And throughout my life I continued to witness many drive-and-walk-by shootings, and mis-haps with giving blood, but they seemed to get farther away, and spaced apart, or out. In 1970 we moved to Chowchilla, with a small white and brown dog named Goldie, who followed me closely, to snatch and eat my diapers, right off of me. From this tiny home, at the age of one and a half, I "ran away" in my walker, but was found by my mom a few minutes later, a few feet from the house. Mom wanted us to move to Fresno to be farther away from my dad's college friends-but once in Fresno, they still came over to "hang out" in variously annoying, 70's ways. Then we moved into a small, abandoned, water/electric tower, which was kind of an elevated, wooden shed. My favorite activities there-being naked, flushing the toilet, throwing rocks into puddles, putting rocks into my pockets (if I was clothed), turning on faucets, and walking around naked with my pet parakeet, "George", sitting on my head. In 1973 we moved into the Diplomat apartments, still in Fresno, where I would run naked around the pool, and sometimes swim. My favorite foods were butter-fried bananas and grilled cheese sandwiches. I was very obsessed with the Mr. Bubble brand of bath bubbles, and its logo, but was not ever allowed to use it because my mom said I was allergic to it. And it wasn't until I was in my thirties that I finally did buy myself a bottle of Mr. Bubble, and used it-with no allergic reaction-but also no fun reaction. It was a very boring epiphany. It was about that time, in 1973, that my mom began sewing all of the clothes that I wore, and continued this through high school-but back then, part of the wardrobe would be matching leisure suits as my dad, so we could dress alike when he took me with him to his office. My mom also made me costumes over the years-some of which I still have, and wear-cowboy, "Indian", and devil suits, capes, fabric masks, pirate shirts, pants, shorts, and jumpsuits with attached belts on them. At my dad's office he would encourage me to play with his office supplies-I'd lay on the floor and draw, and try to copy whatever it was I thought he was doing up there at his desk-writing notes and letters-like bits of the alphabet. Since this started at such an early age, I totally bonded with office supplies, and still draw comfort from them. My earliest friends: Tonya Toybuster, as my dad called her-she was the daughter of one of my babysitters, a neurotic, screaming woman who watched game shows and chainsmoked as Tonya tried with all her might to break my toys. And there was my friend Pookie, the daughter of another babysitter-who hated all males, and would tell me how bad men were, and that she was glad I was just a little boy. I didn't know what she meant, and didn't care. I was pretty much just concerned with watching Bull winkle, or running around naked outside. They also had goats that I would sometimes secretly share a salt lick with-but I don't think I ever told anybody that-or maybe I told everybody, I can't remember. Anyway, I was about five by this point, and another friend was Ricky Perry-he liked to wear a towel around his neck like a cape, and he lied about everything. He said his dad made his own shoes, and that his mom was in the hospital-well, maybe some of that was true. We all went to a school called "Little Friends". There was a girl there named Debrah-she and I would never talk to each other, but we would hold hands and walk around the room or yard together, and I would pretend to read to her, and she would pretend to listen, and sometimes she would kiss me on the cheek. We both had pretty chubby cheeks. Our teacher was Teacher Stella. At that time, I thought "Teacher" was her real first name, and that she lived in that room, and never ate or slept, just waited for us to come in each day. She would play the guitar for us, and every day I would try to get her to play my favorite song, "Dueling Banjo's", from my favorite show, the show with the little cartoon pigs dancing across the bottom of the screen while Roy Clarke played. But Teacher Stella would say it was a "banjo" song, and that all she had was a guitar, and only one guitar-not two, "dueling" banjos...but I could not understand. And still can't.
I was really good at making paper airplanes, even from a pre-school age, and I loved "nap time". Because then I could just think, and look around secretly at all the stuff on the walls, and press my face down hard on my itchy carpet square, and then feel the pattern on my face. I would save bits of my fruit cocktail from lunch and put it in my pocket and then give it to my mom as a present. I thought she ate it-but when I asked her recently, she said she doesn't remember eating it or not. Sometimes we would encounter Japanese tourists who would want their pictures taken with me-I think because my eyes look slightly Asian, yet they are blue, and my hair was down past my shoulders, and kind of a white-blonde. And every time a Japanese tourist would ask to photograph me, they would give me a present of a colorful, paper ball.
Near our apartment complex-The Tiki Apartments-was something called "The Pistachio Store". I wanted to live in the Pistachio Store, and eat their pistachios, which I had not yet tasted, but I had seen them, I thought, and I loved saying the word-pistachio.
In 1975 we moved to Delhi, California, into a house in the middle of a vast walnut orchard. When all the blossoms dropped, it looked like snow. I was on the peewee league baseball team, "The Green Gremlins". We played against teams like "The Blue Angels" and "The Red Devils." There was a guy named Kim Flowers on my team. He was really good. I wasn't, though. I would forget which hand it was that had the glove on it when I reached out for the ball, and would get my hand all sore. "The other hand", my mom would shout out to me. She was the coach. I wanted to be either a dancer, or an Amway salesman when I grew up.
The water was extremely, heavily fluoridated in Delhi, and I thought it tasted absolutely delicious. I loved drinking it from a water hose-any hose-till my belly was taught and I felt "high". Yeah, if you drink enough, and it's extremely, heavily fluoridated, water can make you high.
From as early as I can remember, my dad would tuck me in at night by playing mellow 60's songs on his guitar for me-and also teaching me some yoga, to meditate, and about visualization-and becoming, at bedtime, a "wet wash-rag." And to scare away monsters, he would post up on my walls photocopies of his hand-which he would make at his office and then tape up for me. My favorite songs in 1974-the theme from "Bonanza", "Rhinestone Cowboy", and "Searching For A Heart Of Gold", which I thought was about my dad looking for his briefcase before work each morning. In 1976 I liked Kiss, but only for their makeup. I owned a couple of their records but didn't listen to them-just looked at the record covers and wondered about their blood and fire. A few years later I gave them away to a guy who, at first, wanted to beat me up, but we ended up becoming friends after I gave him the records. He would say stuff like, "Man, I love King of the Night Time World", and I would say, "Yeah," having no idea what he was talking about.
In 1977 we moved to Modesto. I joined the swim team, but only for the practices, which I loved. I never competed or went to any meets. I also took roller disco lessons, and became really good at it. I still am, I guess. I can do kind of a crossover, ice-skate-disco, too. But in hockey skates, not figure skates. Hockey skates are easier for disco because the blades are thicker.
For years, until my early 20's I would spend every Saturday at Roller King. There's no story there, just stating a personal fact. In 1977 I got to meet George Lucas, just a couple of weeks after Star Wars came out-my dad knew his dad, and we all went out to George's house in Marin, and he gave me a bunch of promotional prototype stuff that would be worth a lot today, but I have very little of it left-a signed copy of the Star Wars (pre-movie) novel, a few blue prints of some of the machinery in the movie, a couple of prints of oil painting backdrops from the film, a belt buckle...and I do still have a picture of me and him together, and a letter he wrote me, thanking me for a nice visit, signing it with "May The Force Be With You." They are both hanging on the wall of my dining room, and will forever. I also got a paper route that year, for a newspaper called The Ceres Courier. I was a "Courier Carrier", but found it hard to pronounce when I announced myself at my customers' homes to collect their dues.
From 7th-12th grade I was in the marching band and "jazz" band, but we mostly played Huey Lewis or Billy Joel songs. Once we played a song by "Mr. Mister"-I think it was called, "I carry a laser". I was also in the community concert band, which was mostly senior citizens. I played trombone-and we had a really big trombone section-we called our section, "Hogan's Heroes"-they were all old guys, except for me, and one of them had the last name of "Hogan". We would all trade trombone secrets, like the best ways of lubing our slides-Hogan always brought Pond's Cold Cream for his. Everyone else used either Vaseline, or Conn's slide oil. And are you wondering about me? Yeah, I used the face cream.
I got my driver's license in 10th grade, and I was really into goth, but kind of secretly. I was also into wearing bow ties and short pants, as part of the same outfit. Sometimes my family would rent a houseboat for the weekend on the lake. I took judo lessons, and got into rocketry with my friend Dave. Me and him were trying to dig a tunnel to each other's house. But our moms made us fill in the holes. I had two ponies, at two different times-Brownie, and Becky. Both were really mean, and would kick and bite if I got near. So we couldn't feed them, pet them, ride them, or be anywhere near them. But we had them. "I have a pony", I told one of my friends at school. "Do you ride him?" he asked. "No."
We made family trips to Mexico, sometimes by car, and sometimes in our friends' small airplane-they had a beach house down there that we would fly to. And when it rained, the park near my house would flood and me and Dave would bring out my inflatable raft and paddle all around the park. But the bullies would taunt us from the shore and throw stuff at us, trying to hit our boat, or pop it. One time they threw what looked like a stick at us-it landed in the boat, right between me and Dave-but it wasn't a stick-it was a bloody, severed, deer leg. Dave and I would also use my metal detector in the park, and try to fly using cardboard wings, jumping off my roof. In the summers I went to Camp Jack Hazard-the kids were divided into two groups-the Raggers, and the Veggies. And that's all I remember about Camp Jack Hazard, other than having non-stop asthma attacks, and wondering where I was, and when I would be back home, and how I would get there. Camp Jack Hazard was a total mystery to me. It seemed like everyone else knew what was going on, except for me. It was like some other dimension that I would slip into-a dimension of difficult breathing, and miles and miles of strange faces and trees.
From about 5th grade through college I tutored fellow students in English and writing. And it wasn't because I was good at it-the other kids have always assumed I was "smart" just because I was so quiet. A lot of them nicknamed me "Brain." But what they didn't know was that my grades were about the same as theirs. But I would still tutor them. And the continuation of that is due to more of a habit than of a skill. But no one calls me "Brain" anymore, thank God.
In 5th grade my parents took me out of school for a few weeks to spend some time camping in Death Valley, but I don't know why. It was really fun, though-lots of camping and hiking, and learning about strange desert animals-at night by the campfire my dad would play the guitar and my mom would sew something, and I would think about things I wanted to shoot the next day with my sling shot. As part of the arrangement my parents had made with the school for my absence, I had to continue with my lessons on that trip-so I did a big part of my 5th grade year as a giant journal, keeping track of all the rocks, formations, animals, plants, weather, our gas and food expenses-keeping track of all this stuff, collecting samples, taking photographs, making sketches...and based upon that journal, was what most of my grade was for that year.
From 4th till 7th grade I was really good friends with my 4th grade teacher. He and I would bake, play Frisbee, swim, go jogging early in the morning, play tennis, talk about gold investments, politics, weight gain formulas, his own elementary school experiences, how he became a teacher, Battlestar Galactica, ancient Greek and Egyptian history, early California history--we would also sing 1840's-era folk songs together-and he would give me his old comics because he said his wife didn't want them cluttering up the house anymore, and we would watch old movies from the 1920's. Also from 4th till 10th grade I would roller skate to and from school, every day. And from 7th-9th grade I liked to dress up as though I were "Coach" from "Cheers". I had a friend who dressed up like the judge on Night Court. Amazingly we never got made fun of for that. I knew a lot of boys named Stacey. I knew four kids who died before they got to high school. From 11th-12th grade I worked in a screen-printing shop, making silk screens and their wooden frames. At our "grad night", which was held in Disneyland, my friend Stacey (the only girl I knew by that name) insisted on holding my hand the entire night so we wouldn't get lost from each other. It seemed to make sense at the time, for practical reasons, but looking back, I think she really just wanted to hold my hand. And it was nice. We never let go, the whole 12 hours we were in there. Well, we did to go to the bathroom. But that was it. A few days after the trip, she asked to take a picture of me with my shirt off, and I said "ok". And then when it was developed, she gave the picture to me. Which was weird, because I thought she wanted it. Anyway, I still have the picture. And it does make me think of her. I can totally sense her being behind that camera, looking at me-my awkward body language in the photo totally reflects her subliminal mood toward me, and it is a beautiful moment.
At the end of 12th grade I won a scholarship that was a travel-trailer trip down along the coast of California into Mexico-my high school vice principal was the trip leader, and my friend Chip also won. It was about two weeks long, and was about as confusing as my days at Camp Jack Hazard had been. Then I moved up to Arcata to go to Humboldt State University, and lived in a camper with no electricity or toilet or plumbing. I was on the school's rowing team for a year. Then I borrowed my grandpa's 1970 Ford Ranger truck that had a camper shell on it, and lived in that, in the San Francisco area for a couple of years, at the time in which I played bass in the Shatners and The Hi-Fives. I started having trouble with the police-for peeing in public, mostly-the camper also had no amenities-I got married, gained about 150 pounds, started kicking in windows and knocking over motorcycles, and then the band kicked me out, and I got divorced, and was dying from liver complications from years of heavy drinking, vodka, every single day, lots of it, as much as I could get. I moved to Sacramento where I was almost killed by a gang of heavily muscled transvestites who not only wanted to torture me, but also said I dressed bad. For a while I was a tour guide at Sutter's Fort State Historic Park, and then was a Network Account Administrator for Intel, and for a while was the sole security person at a Ramada Inn, where my job was to enter supposedly "vacant" rooms and try to kick out the junkies, hookers and gangsters that were holing up in there. Then I tried to get a job as a live-in tour guide out on Angel Island-I knew the head ranger out there-but he had heard about my drinking and though we were friends, thought it "wouldn't work out". I then moved to Portland, Oregon-was an operator for Sprint, until they fired me for hanging up on someone-and then for a short time at Hollywood Video, which was the most stress I've ever endured for the least amount of money in my life. They monitored the employees with microphones and cameras to make sure we greeted every customer by name, and remembered what kinds of games and movies each person and family liked, or wanted, or might want. And at some point I woke up from this little life-coma I was in and moved to Ohio, quit alcohol entirely, and spend a lot of time working on my parents' farm-I lost all the weight I had gained over the years, and am finally writing again, and wondering what the hell happened to me there for a while.