WALKING ON EGGSHELLS: Excerpt #3

One of my coping mechanisms for when I get stressed out due to my Asperger’s tendencies: Looking at nature scenery like this…

 

Just like I did for the first two chapters of the book I’ve been working on, “WALKING ON EGGSHELLS”, Which I still plan on (self) publishing by the end of this year, here’s an excerpt from Chapter Three, called “The Bullied Life: We Were Just Playing”:

 

I will always recall – not at all fondly – the moment when Marlon (not his real name – if you grew up with me in Santa Monica, CA you can probably figure out who he is) first started to torment me. It’s a cliché of course, but it was as if it was yesterday instead of forty years ago…

I was in the fourth grade and had just started Will Rogers Elementary School, being among a most ethically diverse group of kids, rainbow-like in that all colors were represented after having exactly one black classmate (she was in my first grade class) during the previous four years that I went to school in Riverside combined.

It was around mid-morning when it happened:

My class, room 404, was outside on he playground with another fourth grade class, milling about on the blackish-gray asphalt in the cool, gray overcast weather that Santa Monica is famous for, waiting for P.E. class to start.

I was just standing there in line with the other nine-year olds when all of a sudden I felt this hard, sharp punch on my arm. I turned around to see who had hit me and here he was, this cocky kid with a big, toothy, arrogant-looking grin, posing like Joe Frazier with his fists up saying “Come on!”, looking like a wolf who had just spotted his prey and was getting ready for a possible meal.

It’s obvious from the perspective of a middle-aged guy that Marlon, in the grand tradition of inner city African-American youth, was “testing” me to see how tough I was, a requirement for social survival among that crowd.

Unfortunately to a nine-year old aspie, it was not so obvious to me what was going on – at all.

I had absolutely no clue whatsoever about how one needs to have a certain toughness or “hard” factor to be respected in the “hood”; I was a weirdo on the Autism Spectrum Disorder from the country, what the hell did I know about needing to fight (among other things) in order to be seen by the other black kids as “cool” as up until that time, about 99.99% of the youngsters of African descent that I knew were cousins, and even there I felt there was a culture clash as I was a rural kid with cows and feral cats as pets, playing in open spaces and hearing roosters crow in the morning, while pretty much all of my cousins were city kids from L.A.

When you put all of those factors together, I suppose it was inevitable that I would be a target to Marlon.

That little punch that Marlon gave me that morning would greatly pale in comparison to what would happen two years later in the sixth grade, the reason being that great Satan and I would be in the same class, room 502, and his unadulterated evilness would result in grade six being the worst year of  my pre-teen life as to say it was nine and a half months of hell would be an understatement.

To be fair, Marlon wasn’t the only kid in that class putting me through such nastiness that year; I’d estimate that roughly a quarter of the class, maybe a little more than that, including many of the boys, either did something or said something to me that made me feel bad in some way. One boy –  not black (to show that it wasn’t just an African-American thing) – who was harassing me said, when I asked him what I did to make him be so mean, forcefully answered, “You came to this school!”, as well as warning me to not go to John Adams, the junior high school across the street, near the end of the year.

Actually, I should have known that my social life at Will Rogers wouldn’t be great the first month I was there…

It was yet another cool and overcast morning: I was walking to the playground and was just about to step onto the wide open part of the asphalt when about eight boys bum-rushed me and , in my mind, were bugging the hell out of me, tugging at me and pulling on my shirt sleeves as it felt like I was being attacked by an invading army.

It was all a blur; as far as I was concerned I was being attacked by strangers for no reason when I just wanted to be left alone…which was why I threw a mini-temper tantrum, commencing to push one or two of those kids away and taking off running afterwards, those kids yelling “get him!” as they intended to jump me and try to beat me up. I ran to a teacher and ended up hiding in a classroom until recess was over.

I specifically recall one time when the teacher had me, Marlon, and another boy in the hallway outside the classroom door because of some shitty thing that he and that other boy did to me in class. When confronted, I’ll never forget what Marlon told her:

“We were just playing.”

This is a commonly used phrase for bullies when taken to task for their evil deeds, the teacher then telling Marlon and the other boy to leave me alone.

Needless to say, it didn’t work.

 

COMING NEXT MONTH:

Excerpts from chapter four of “WALKING ON EGGSHELLS”, called “The Black Alienation”, which describes my struggles with being accepted by my fellow African-Americans, particularly in the low to lower-middle income neighborhood I spent much of my childhood in, and my trouble with completely adapting to black social youth culture after spending my early childhood years almost exclusively among whites.

 

This reminds me of what I went through during my preteen years, especially in the sixth grade – only I wasn’t a red-headed kid with glasses. Photo courtesy of aceofgeeks.net

 

 

 

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SANTA MONICA, CALIFORNIA: The Three Things I Like Best About That City

My favorite image of the town I grew up in and lived for 22 years….

 

Everybody has a hometown.

Technically, I have two…

Riverside, CA, fifty miles east of Los Angeles, where I was born, spent the first nine years of my life, and have idyllic memories of as I lived with loving grandparents in a rural community outside of that city.

The other place I consider my hometown?

Santa Monica, CA, fifteen miles west of downtown Los Angeles, a town famous for its beach and pier.

It’s in Santa Monica where I lived for 22 and a half years, eighteen in one house.

It’s in Santa Monica where I spent my pubescence, adolescence, and young adulthood.

And it’s in Santa Monica where I did the milestone/rites of passage; play little league,  get my first  (unrequited) crushes on girls,  graduate high school, work at my first jobs, things like that.

Though it’s approaching twenty years since I lived there, moving to Culver City at the end of 1998, there are three things about that seaside town that provide fond memories.

I won’t waste any time with listing those three things:

 

1.  THE AFTERNOON SEA BREEZES

Being that it borders the Pacific Ocean (or technically, Santa Monica Bay), Santa Monicans have been blessed with what I call God’s air conditioning, as starting at roughly 3:00 p.m. winds from the ocean cool that city – and neighboring ones like Venice, Pacific Palisades, and Marina Del Rey – and make it very desirable while starting at between five to ten miles inland the temperature significantly rises.

On hot days, that means that while people in Santa Monica and other beach cities are reveling in those cool breezes, folks living inland are suffering.

Why else does the beach in Santa Monica, Venice, Malibu, and other places get crowded with wall-to-wall people during heat waves?

 

 

A VERY nice view of the Santa Monica Mountains, Malibu, and Point Dume at sunset. Photo courtesy of shuttlestock.com

 

2. THE VIEW OF MALIBU AND THE SANTA MONICA MOUNTAINS ON A CLEAR DAY

On a clear day, particularly after it rains, I always loved looking north and viewing the Santa Monica Mountains and various places like Pacific Palisades, Malibu, and Point Dume.

The views of those area is especially spectacular from the Santa Monica Pier, which I took some time to do on Christmas morning in 1998, just a few days before I moved away as I wanted to set my eyes on that incredible view one last time.

I unfortunately haven’t been able to see that sight due to the pier being crowded with tourists and life’s obligations in general, but rest assured that view is something about Santa Monica that I’ve always appreciated.

 

 

My all-time favorite place to eat – sorry that the picture is so small! Photo courtesy of camposfamousburritos.com

 

3. CAMPOS FAMOUS BURRITOS, ON 20TH STREET AND PICO BOULEVARD

There has been no other place where I’ve preferred to eat in my lifetime.

Since age eight, I have been enjoying the tacos, nachos, and burritos from what was originally called Las Palmas until it was renamed Campos around the late 1970s.

Having lived two blocks from Campos for 18 years, I have had a long history with that place…

I remember taking field trips with my junior high school Spanish class to that Mexican eatery for lunch, taking dares to drink the hot green salsa.

Though I was a bit too much of a goody-goody to do so, many of my friends have ditched school to enjoy Campos food.

I can recall taking dates there during my early 20’s.

And my latest enjoyable memory of Campos?

Going there on my 50th birthday to buy avocado burritos, which incredibly enough I had never tried as I always preferred ground beef tacos in my youth and chicken tacos and burritos in later years.

I don’t have to tell you the waves of nostalgia that passed through me that day.

In fact, if someone asked me what my number one memory of living in Santa Monica is, Campos would be it.

I thank God that there’s a branch about a block and a half from where I live in Culver City; their tacos was the first meal I had upon moving there.

I’m quite proud and blessed that I’ve been eating and enjoying Campos food for over forty years, and will continue to.

 

So there they are – my three fondest memories of my twenty-two and a half years in Santa Monica.

Hopefully these descriptions make anyone from that town who may be reading this smile.

 

 

The inside of the Original Campos on 20th & Pico in Santa Monica, which is so successful there are several branches all over Los Angeles’ Westside. Photo courtesy of tripadvasor.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

LOS ANGELES REBELLION (or Riots) 25-YEAR ANNIVERSARY: Where I Was On That Day

 

REMEMBERING ONE OF AMERICA’S LARGEST RACIAL UPRISINGS FROM A PERSONAL STANDPOINT

 

I’ll get right to the point:

I was living (figuratively speaking) pretty far away from the infamous flash point of Florence Ave. and Normandie Ave. in Santa Monica, CA the day those verdicts in the first Rodney King trial in Simi Valley came down, setting those bigoted policemen free despite that tape showing the most obvious incriminating evidence of all time.

Though I was never brutalized like Rodney, as a African-American male in his mid-20s I could certainly relate to being racially profiled, being stopped by the Santa Monica police a number of times; there are two instances of this that stand out in my mind:

 

* I was getting some food from Campos, a Mexican place two blocks from my house whose food I grew up on, loved, and still love to this day.

As I was walking out with my order a policeman, out of the blue, stopped me and began to ask me questions, saying that I “fit the description” of someone they were looking for.

If it wasn’t for another guy walking across the street that yelled out, “That’s not him!” I would have most likely been arrested for something I had no knowledge of.

 

* One day in July of 1997, a month after my 30th birthday, I had left my house to get a newspaper when a plain clothes policeman stopped me when I was literally across the street from my home, exiting his car.

“Get your hands up!” he said, putting me in handcuffs.

Thankfully I was able to convince the cop to let me into my house so I can show him my ID, proving that I wasn’t a stalker.

To the cop’s credit, he apologized, but that did nothing to ease my irritation.

 

Being that I lived in the Pico Neighborhood, Santa Monica’s inner city for all intents and purposes, I knew deep down that being a young black man in that area, I was both a target and would be suspect for anything that went down.

The irony in all this? Santa Monica had an African-American police chief in those days, James Butts, who’s now the mayor of Inglewood.

 

 

TV news footage of that fateful day at Florence and Normandie, courtesy of YouTube

 

 

Anyhow…

I remember the day everything went down on Florence and Normandie quite well;

My mother and I were watching it all go down live on the local TV news. I specifically recall seeing a van ram into the front bars of a store, breaking the bars and leaving that store ripe for the looters, which we likewise saw.

I believe I saw Reginald Denny get smashed by that brick as well.

The other memory I have of that uprising – I’m making it a point to not call it a riot anymore – was the next couple of mornings as I was leaving the house to go to work; though no fires or looting happened in Santa Monica or the Westside, I could smell the smoke drifting from the many fires in the rest of L.A.

I was a physical education assistant teacher at a couple of elementary schools at that time, and the kids at both places, most of them white, were quite upset not only with what was going down, but also with the cause of it as being the liberal town that Santa Monica was and is, pretty much everyone felt that those four cops who beat Rodney got off scott-free.

At one of those schools there were a couple of African-American kids, both 4th graders, who lived in what was then called South Central L.A. (they were able to attend the Santa Monica school because their mothers worked in the town and were able to acquire permits) and were subsequently adjacent to all the chaos if not in the middle of it.

I knew that those two youngsters would be at least a little stressed and traumatized, so I made it a point to ask them if they were OK.

Things went more or less back to normal in Santa Monica and the Westside after the so-called “riots” ended, but you know what?

 

 

Rodney King’s famous “Can’t we all get along?” speech, courtesy of YouTube.

 

 

After 25 years, I think everyone – at least every one of color, especially Blacks and Latinos – would say that nothing has changed as far as young African-American men getting profiled, targeted, and killed by the police across America.

If you don’t believe me, ask the families of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, and the many other young men who are no longer with us.

And ask the black folks who live in places like Baltimore and Ferguson, MO, if things are better.

To be honest, particularly under the still relatively new leadership of our President-Whose-Name-I-Will-Not-Mention, I’m surprised that “riots” like what happened in L.A. in 1992 don’t happen twice or three times a year.

And the worst part of all of this?

Considering the polarizing climate in these United States, racial and otherwise, I honestly find it difficult to see any light at the end of this pick black tunnel.

At least for the foreseeable future.

As Malcolm X once said, it’s going to take God himself to solve this dilemma.

Which I wholeheartedly agree with.

 

 

 

 

 

 

PERSONAL OLYMPIC MEMORIES

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The Coliseum peristyle on July 28th, 1984; note the newly lit torch burning to signify the start of the Los Angeles Olympics. Photo courtesy of experiencingla.com

 

IN LIGHT OF THE 31st SUMMER OLYMPICS BEGINNING, HERE ARE A FEW RECOLLECTIONS OF MY EXPERIENCES REGARDING THE GAMES

 

As this latest rendition of the Olympic Games are a bit more than 24 hours away from the Opening Ceremonies and the torch being lit (as of this writing),

Amid all the issues and troubles that have been dogging the host city, Rio De Janeiro – ranging from garbage in the water where the sailing and other events are scheduled, to people losing their homes to make room for venues, to the mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus that has driven a good number of Olympians away…

Memories of one particular Olympics have popped up in my head: the 23rd Summer Games that were held in my city, Los Angeles, California, in 1984.

I was 17 and on the verge of my senior year in high school when Rafer Johnson lit that torch in the Coliseum that July 28th; I remember attending a funeral that day and coming back to the deceased’s house, turning on the TV, and watching the parade of athletes march down the track.

Like pretty much everyone else in L.A., I was into the Olympics as this was an obviously once in a lifetime event.

It didn’t even matter to us that Russia and other communist countries (except for Romania and China, much to their credit) boycotted to get back at the U.S. for skipping the Moscow games four years before; nobody seemed to care once things got underway.

I recall my female schoolmates having crushes on the U.S. men’s gymnastics team, Mitch Gaylord in particular as he was seemingly everybody’s honey.

As for me, though I thought Mary Lou Retton was cute, the Los Angeles Times’ columnist Jim Murray calling the women’s gymnastics all-around gold medal winner “Charlie Hustle in a leotard”,  I was more into a synchronized swimmer named Tracie Ruiz.

 

1984:  Mary Lou Retton of the United States in action during the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, California. Mandatory Credit: Steve Powell  /Allsport

1984: Mary Lou Retton of the United States in action during the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, California. Mandatory Credit: Steve Powell /Allsport This young lady more than earned the title “Darling of the 1984 Olympics” with that all-around gold that she won. Photo courtesy of snipview.com

 

I remember my mom’s old boyfriend from college coming down from Oregon for the Games, which was cool as I specifically recall him knocking on my bedroom door to let me know that baseball, which was a demonstration sport and featured future Hall-of-Fame level talent like Mark McGwire on the U.S. team, was on TV.

The biggest recollection of those Olympics for me was the marathon, traditionally held on the last day, for the simple reason that the start of that race was about a half block from my house at Santa Monica College.

I stood on top of a parking structure overlooking the small football stadium on SMC’s campus among – as you would imagine – a huge crowd as after the starting gun went off, the runners went around the track a few times before heading north on 17th Street, right through my neighborhood.

There’s a picture of my mom and my then-two and a half-year old brother watching the runners go by that I thought was cute.

To be able to say that I saw an actual Olympic event was, to risk a cliché, pretty special.

Although I would meet 1996 Magnificent Seven Olympic hero Kerri Strug 16 years later, those 1984 games provided some good memories for me.

And despite all the problems that have plagued Rio, I’m sure that when the torch is lit, the athletes start to do their thing and the medals are given out, people will put the bad issues on the back burner.

At least for a while.

At the risk of sounding corny, let the Games begin!

 

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Carl Lewis competing in one of his four track and field events on the way to matching Jesse Owens’ four gold medals. Photo courtesy of gettyimages.com

 

ADDING ANOTHER YEAR: Thoughts Regarding My Birthday

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March Air Force Base in Riverside, CA – where I was born and in a full-circle way would very much like to visit next year on my 50th birthday. Photo courtesy of pinterest.com

 

WHAT’S GOING ON IN AND THROUGH MY HEAD AS I ADD ANOTHER YEAR TO MY LIFE SPAN

Not intending to sound pompous, but…

Roughly 36 hours from this writing, I will officially enter the last year of my forties.

Meaning – if I have done the simple math correctly – I will officially be one year away from the ultimate middle-age milestone:

The big five-zero.

Most of my thoughts, as my birthday approaches, is not unlike others in the same situation.

Of course it should go without saying that I’m very grateful and blessed to be able to add another candle on my birthday cake.

Especially since the list of people I’ve known throughout my life, folks I grew up with and others,  who have not made it to 49 (my age as of the 18th of this month) has been growing due to various factors like disease; I can think of several people I knew well who have succumbed to cancer off the top of my head.

Quite sad – again, that goes without saying.

Being the age generally considered middle-aged in general society, besides my health issues that have already been written about, there’s another thing that I’ve been experiencing for a while that has me concerned…

Forgetfulness.

Actually, I have had a habit of forgetting important things since childhood; I remember being locked out of my house more than once as a kid and a young adult because I forgot my keys.

And what’s worse, I wouldn’t realize that I’d forgotten them until I arrived home from school or work or whatever.

This absent-mindedness reared its head again recently, when after arriving home I realized that I had left the hard drive that the book I’m working on, “WALKING ON EGGSHELLS”, at the library.

Which, as you could imagine, would have been devastating to the point of considering abandonment of the whole endeavor if it weren’t for the fact that when I went back to the library, the good people there had it in their lost and found.

I was relieved as I left the place, but couldn’t help feeling a tiny bit frustrated over this continuing habit of forgetting things and not finding out until much later that I had forgotten them.

There have been times when I would wonder if this was an early sign of Alzheimer’s or Dementia, or merely a “senior moment”.

I obviously hope not, as the best thing I can do is wait and see.

One thing’s for certain as I advance in age…

While I’m physically feeling the effects of middle age in the form of not only hypertension – for which I’ve been taking medication – exercising, and changing my diet to combat this issue for the past year and a half,

But also in the form of pain in my upper back (when I’ve been on my feet for a period of time), left Achilles tendon, and particularly my right knee as since early spring, whenever I have done cardio, walked long distances, or played softball, I’d wake up the next morning with my knee hurting fairly badly, which would go away after putting ointment on it and/or spraying it,

Emotionally speaking, I don’t feel like a 49 year-old, at least the way American society says 49 ought to feel like.

Without going into detail – I’ll save that for the book – I don’t always behave the way people on the verge of fifty years old ought to behave according to American norms, as I always feel like I’m “walking on eggshells” (hence the reason why I renamed my book) to fit my square peg of an Asperger’s person into the neurotypical round hole.

Having said all of this…

It is NOT my intention to whine about how crappy my life is; I know full well how blessed and loved I am.

Even if, in my aspieness, I don’t always see it.

As for birthday plans, they’ll be relatively modest, the big highlight being playing softball as it will be the third time I will have played the game I’ve played nearly my whole life on the anniversary of the day I was born.

It should be fun.

Outside of having food from my favorite Mexican restaurant, a place where I’ve eaten for over forty years – if you’re from Santa Monica, you should know what that restaurant is – and cake, that’s basically it.

It’s next year when, like so many other folks turning 50, my birthday will be a relatively big affair.

But for now, I’ll give much thanks to God when I wake up on the 18th, as I always do,

And enjoy this personal holiday.

 

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Where I spent my early childhood – Woodcrest, CA, a suburb of Riverside which to me was most idyllic. Photo courtesy of activerain.com

 

 

MY PERSONAL RACIAL PROFILING STORY

Thousands of people march around the Justice Department in Washington, Friday, Nov. 16, 2007, during the "March Against Hate Crimes" to protest hate crime issues. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Thousands of people march around the Justice Department in Washington, Friday, Nov. 16, 2007, during the “March Against Hate Crimes” to protest hate crime issues. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana) Photo from bailoutpeople.org

 

SINCE THIS RACIST PHENOMENON HAS BEEN PREVALENT IN THE NEWS IN RECENT TIMES, I THOUGHT I WOULD SHARE MY OWN ENCOUNTER WITH NOT BEING TREATED WELL BY LAW ENFORCEMENT SOLELY DUE TO THE COLOR OF MY SKIN

 

Sometime during mid-July, 1997. Santa Monica, CA.

I had just celebrated a milestone birthday –  my 30th – just a few weeks before, as I stepped out of my duplex house in Santa Monica’s Pico Neighborhood, the part of town where African-Americans, Latinos, and the low-income population  of that seaside town have historically resided and continue to do so.

I was on my way to buy a newspaper that late Saturday morning, and had just crossed the street when all of a sudden I heard behind me,

“FREEZE! PUT YOUR HANDS BEHIND YOUR HEAD!”

I turned around and saw a guy in a plain clothes suit, his badge hooked on his belt, his gun pointing straight at me as he asked if I was a stalker named Tony Phillips.

The fact that I had said no didn’t deter him any, as the next thing I knew my hands were cuffed behind my back.

The plain clothes cop then asked me if I had my identification, which I admittedly didn’t have. “If you let me go inside my house, I’ll show you my ID”, I said.

He then led me across the street to my door, then at my request took the handcuffs off of me so I can let myself in to get my wallet from my bedroom.

When I did so and showed the guy what he wanted to see, to what I am forced to admit was his credit he said to me upon realizing that I was not the man he was looking for, he then said to me before he and his partner left,

“OK, we’re sorry.”

That apology, however, did not change the feelings that countless other young black men feel in encounters such as this; like they are seen by policemen, particularly white policemen – of course the guys who handcuffed my and believed I “fit the description” of a stalker were Caucasians of European descent – as nothing but sub-human degenerates and criminals who needed to be controlled by any means.

It wasn’t the first time I was profiled like this as roughly five years before, I was getting some food at my favorite Mexican restaurant a couple of blocks from my home – those from Santa Monica would know the name of the place – a cop in uniform entered the restaurant, stopped me as I was heading out the door with my arms full of tacos, nachos and burritos, and would have arrested me right then and there for “fitting the description” of some criminal if not for another guy across the street shouting, “That’s not him!”, essentially vouching for me.

Being that I had lived in Santa Monica for over twenty years at that point (17 years in one house), and being that I was known as someone who stayed out of trouble, not joining gangs or doing any other degenerate things, I was obviously quite irked over how I was treated in that community due to what I looked like and where I lived, as the Pico Neighborhood is, for all intents and purposes, the “inner city” of Santa Monica.

In fact, in a play on Los Angeles’ more well-known counterpart I have referred to the area as “South Central Santa Monica”; while the gang, crime and poverty issues were and are not as prevalent in the “Pico” as in what’s now referred to as “South L.A.”,  without going into any details such issues were certainly there.

Putting it another way, I was not as sad or nostalgic as I may have been otherwise when my family and I moved away a year and a half later.

While it’s not my intent to badmouth Santa Monica or the Pico Neighborhood, for the reasons I just described and others which I don’t really want to discuss, I just didn’t fit in there.

It was time to go.

As for the racist profiling I endured, I can certainly understand what young African-American men and boys go through across America because of what had happened to me.

Granted, I was never arrested, and mug shots of me do not exist.

And I’m obviously here to write about all of this, unlike so many others who are no longer with us due to police bullets being shot into them.

But I more than sympathize – I want to make that crystal clear.

Sometimes I wonder if encounters and incidents like what happened to Trayvon Martin in Florida, Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, and so many other young black males in so many other places, will ever stop.

My honest answer to that, if some one asked me, is…

“I truly don’t know.”

 

 

racial-profiling

An all too common site, tragically speaking, in certain neighborhoods. Photo courtesy of atlantablackstar.com

 

 

GOOD TIMES, GOOD NOSTALGIA: My 30th High School Reunion (Can You Believe That?!)

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The Greek Ampitheatre at Santa Monica (CA) High School, where the Class of 1985 wore their caps and gowns and recieved their diplomas on June 21 of that year.

 

MY RECONNECTION WITH THE PEOPLE WHO I SPENT MY FORMATIVE YEARS WITH

 

I reckon it’s always a little bit trippy to see people who you go back decades with,

Who you once played Little League with,

Or played kickball and handball during recess with,

Or had sleepovers with,

Or took pop quizzes in Algebra with,

As full-fledged adults after those days are long gone.

Before I go any further, let me make one thing crystal clear:

As far as social nuances and level of popularity were concerned, my career as a member of Santa Monica High School’s Class of 1985 was arguably the worst of all time, no doubt due to my having the part of the Autism Spectrum Disorder called Asperger’s Syndrome, which because of its main characteristic of negatively affecting social interaction – and which I knew nothing about until 1996, over ten years after graduation – more or less doomed me as far as being thought of as “cool” in the eyes of too many of my fellow classmates.

And which doomed me to being largely shunned between 1982 and 1985 as I did and said inappropriate things that induces a bit of post-traumatic stress today.

So the fact that none of that seemed to matter when I attended my 30th reunion of Samohi’s (take the first two letters of Santa, Monica, and High) class of ’85 this past weekend;

That I had a very good time saying hello, reconnecting, and catching up with people whom in some cases I met in 1976, when I was a goofy Aspie kid with quite the unruly afro, moving from a place where roosters crowed every morning, where the nearest neighbor was at least half a mile away, and where I fed calves – yes it was a rural area,

To a place where, well…let’s just say that it was an 180-degree level difference from where I came from, making it as a kid with ASD extremely difficult to adjust socially,

That is truly saying something.

Particularly since this two-night soiree was held at Brennan’s, a local pub, and the Riviera Country Club in Beverly Hills-ish Pacific Palisades, which happened to be the site of the 1985 Samohi Prom and, unfortunately, held more bad memories for me as my date that May night was of the fixed-up kind who evidently saw me as a Steve Urkel on a pronounced scale, she gave off such a vibe of “Oh Lord, just let me get through this night with this goofy mark!”

But that was neither here nor there as several things went through my mind as I was glad-handing and hugging people, finding out what they were up to and telling them what I was up to:

 

Santa_Monica_Beach_seen_from_the_pier

My favorite image of the town that the Class of ’85 grew up and attend high school in, as viewed from the Santa Monica Pier. Nice skyline, huh?

 

1.  After checking out the views of the golf course that is home to the annual Northern Trust Open, where Tiger Woods has played in and which big names like Arnold Palmer has won, I understood completely why the reunion organizers chose Riviera Country Club as our site.

The place was absolutely gorgeous!

And well worth the money I paid to attend the big shin-dig.

 

2.  Much like our 25th reunion five years before, everyone looked great!

Youthful in a haven’t-changed-a-bit kind of way.

I was telling people how I had attended an all-class reunion that Samohi was having back in the mid-1990s, and when I saw the folks that had graduated thirty and forty years before in the 1950s and 60s, the main thoughts I had (with all due respect) were “Gee, they look so old,” and “Is that what we’re going to look like when we reach that age?”

For too many of those 50s grads in particular, it seemed to me like they were on their way to a Lawrence Welk concert in Branson, MO; and this was in 1995!

I was happy to see that regarding that second thought above, the one about whether or not we ’85 people would look similarly at the thirty-year mark, the answer was an emphatic “No!”

I felt a sense of pride that we apparently took care of ourselves and our health, having a better knowledge of how to do so than previous generations.

And speaking of health…

 

3.  I was especially glad that I was able to go, because…

Back in October, I had a stroke scare, complete with an extreme pressure headache and numbness in my right hand that sent me to the emergency room, where I found out that my weight was way too high and my blood pressure and cholesterol levels were off the charts, to the extent where the doctors were quite concerned.

As was I; to be frank, I was scared.

Scared that I may not be around for any kind of reunions anymore.

That fear caused me to go on an exercise, medication, and nutrition program that I’m continuing to this day and beyond.

So I guess one can imagine how pleased I was to be at that country club and chat with former cheerleaders, class officers, athletes, and musicians like I (sort of) was, my main activity in those days being a member of the Samohi Marching Band.

And lastly…

 

4.  As I learned what my fellow class of 85ers were up to and what they had accomplished in the thirty years since we were handed our diplomas, what I heard induced more pride in me as we all turned out fine with enjoyable lives.

Of course it goes without saying that much credit and thanks goes to the ladies who spent so much time organizing the two get togethers; booking the places, arranging the meals, contacting hard-to-find classmates, making the name tags.

If I had the financial ability, I would have paid them a good sum of money because they so deserved it.

And it also goes without saying that I had quite the fun time seeing so many people who I knew so well in the time of Disco (and “Disco Sucks!”), New Wave, (VERY early) Madonna, Michael Jackson (RIP), Prince, Ronald Reagan’s Revolution, and everything else that went with that 70s and 80s era.

As for the next reunion, whenever that may be…

I hope I’m around to see it, and I hope everyone else in Samohi’s Class of 1985 is, too.

 

 

famous-santa-monica-high-school-alumni-and-students-u4

Barnum Hall, Samohi’s Auditorium, an iconic landmark in Santa Monica located right on campus