Confessions of a Talented & Gifted Dropout: 1980’s
1975 – A star is born
I was born in 1975, the middle of a turbulent decade. In technology Bill Gates and Paul Allen for what would become known as Microsoft. Gerald Ford was president and Saturday Night Live debuted with a tripping, fumbling Chevy Chase lampooning Ford. And several seminal heavy metal bands that would be big influences on the thrash metal genre of the 80’s formed including Iron Maiden, Motorhead, and Rainbow. But, in the cultural zeitgeist Gay pride was all the rage, high water pants had given way to bell-bottoms for the in crowd (thanks to Sonny & Cher), and the Vietnam War ended with the capture of Saigon.
I don’t remember much from those first few years of life. I remember my mom or grandma taking a picture with grandma’s polaroid camera of me laying naked on the bed, arm propping up my head, smiling, with a red balloon the size of my head from a local Waterloo restaurant called Happy Chef.
I remember my stuffed gray elephant Ralph that my mom says she used to smuggle money and dope (drugs) from Louisiana to Iowa when I was only one or two. I had a black girlfriend named “Punkin” and there is a photo somewhere of her and I in a swimming pool down south.
I must have drawn something during that time, because I was very gifted — I knew the alphabet by 6 months and I could pronounce long words like “cornucopia” and foreign words like plateau by age two.
1978 – Age Three
Mom and I lived on W. Third street. I think it was 323 West 3rd. Three-Two-Three is an interesting number that shows up many times in my life. Not sure what the biblical meaning is, but I’m sure it will be revealed in time.
I remember Mom knew and artist — either a hippie or a Jesus freak. This guy drew amazing posters with colored pencils on white poster paper. I remember Mom having four or five of his posters in her bedroom on the wall at one time. She always had a thing for artists, though I don’t know if they were involved romantically or just friends.
Because I don’t remember his name, let’s call him “Terry”. The one drawing of Terry’s that I remember the most was a giant 3-D heart in space with stars all around it and a rainbow ribbon entering the middle. It was amazing and he was very talented. I don’t remember him after this time.
I remember walking home from Terry’s apartment with my mom on a cold and winter Iowa day. She had to make a phone call so we stepped into the phone booth and while she was on the phone, I thought it would be interesting to lick the delicious frost that had formed geometric patterns on the metal frame inside the phone booth. I remember, even as a 3 or 4 year old fearing that I was in a jam that wasn’t going to be easy to get out of. My mind has blocked most of the event out, but I remember licking the phone booth, tongue getting stuck, and knowing somehow there was going to be pain and blood as a result. The final thing I remember was being back at the apartment with Mom telling me to let my tongue bleed into the white porcelain clawfoot bathtub. Whether or not I got stitches I don’t know.
1980 – Age Five
I have this enduring memory of being about 2 or 3 years old (but I actually must have been five), standing up in the back seat (before the government began making illegal) of a car while some man in a blue jean (denim) jacket drove down the road with my Mom in the front passenger seat. What I recall the most about this instance isn’t that it was either a Chevy Impala or a Chevy Nova, but rather the song playing on the radio. “I love a rainy night” was a hit song by country/pop star Eddie Rabbit and I remember singing along with the radio, the chorus “I love a rainy night! I love a rainy night!”
1981 – Age Six
This was a strange year. We lived on Block Street in a white stucco building with popcorn ceiling. The two-story apartment building was shaped like a cube and I thought that’s why it was called “block” street.
I remember starting first grade in 1981 and walking by myself to the school bus stop.
1982 – Age Seven
My teacher, Mrs. Nissen, took me to see ET. She was very kind and knew that we didn’t have much money for extras. I got an ET for Christmas or Easter, which was something I had wanted, although I think I wanted other toys more. But, I loved my ET. I had a plush “teddy bear” ET and a hard plastic figurine with extendable neck.
Well, I have to quit writing for now. Let me leave you with the first documented piece of my art that I still have: An ET-themed birthday card I made for my Mom when I was seven years old.