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Entry date: 1-7-2022 - Beginnings and such. Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,

The first week of the year is in the books and I have thoughts.

Politically, I liked President Biden’s speech yesterday even though I would have added something along the lines of “that whiny, crybaby, liar lost.” I’m wondering if the Democrats are going to actually back up the tough words they shared yesterday. Who is going to stand up for our democracy right now? The authoritarians are figuring out that they need to go small, like attacking school boards, and build their powerbase from the ground up, but what are those of us, myself included, doing to protect democracy in our neighborhoods?

I mean, as a teacher, I must walk a careful line and not express my personal political beliefs to my class. I respect this and follow this, but I can also help my students learn to think critically, question things that don’t make sense to them, and be able to listen, learn, and read. I can help them be self- and socially aware so that they can be empathetic to others and build their lives based on respect, open communication, trust and boundaries. These things are enough to help push them in the right direction, I think.

On a personal level, I get a microphone tomorrow to share my thoughts with a crowd, although I have no idea what kind of crowd will show up. It seems like it might be good, but as I’ve mentioned, that is a bit scary in and of itself. Covid is constantly looming right now.

*****

I was thinking earlier today about how I met my friend, Mark.

He and my cousin Ben became friends when Ben started at Camelback in the beginning of his sophomore year. I followed along in December after my dad and I got to the point where we just couldn’t get along, but I met Mark before that.

I was over at my mom’s apartment for the weekend and Ben invited me to go to a pool party with him and some of his friends. It was at a really nice house off of Stanford Drive in Phoenix, which is part of town with a lot of money. It was mostly freshman and sophomore students from Camelback high school, and I got to meet a couple of Ben’s new friends, plus our buddy, Eric, was going and he lived in the same apartment complex that my mom lived in. We shared a love of Prince, and the movie Purple Rain, and Eric wasn’t bummed at all on the fact that Ben and I were part of the punk/mod kind of thing.

I liked Mark immediately and enjoyed his mellow surfer/skater kind of thing that he had going on. He was also quick with his wit, and we were soon talking a lot of shit about the people at the party who were not as enlightened as us about the ways of the world (or so we thought). The party was really kind of a drag as it was mostly pretty normal type kids, and our little band of weirdos didn’t quite fit in. The girls were not paying us the kind of attention I was hoping for and I was not really down with hanging out by the pool, although I did enjoy jumping off the high dive they had.

I’m sure we probably went to Tommy’s that night, as that was what we did a lot of in those days, or to a show. Who knows? What I do know is that on the weekends, prior to becoming a Camelback Spartan myself, I began to spend more time hanging out with Mark and our friendship was becoming solidified. I learned about his interest in skateboarding, and it really influenced my own budding curiosity in the sport, too. We also got to know his older brother, Scott, who would buy us alcohol. This was a good thing and Scott shared my passion for smoking pot, too.

*****

I had started doing that pretty early in my teenage years. It’s still very odd to think of it being legal when so much of my life it was omnipresent and still had an aura of danger and such. Unlike Mark, I had grown up with parents who were somewhat open about their partying. Now, my dad wasn’t open about it and didn’t do it around me and I don’t remember actually seeing my mom smoke weed, but it was always around, and I was very curious about it.

I loved the smell of marijuana. I’m sure I still would if I had a sense of smell (that’s another story), but alas, I haven’t smelled it since 1985. When I would be at my mom’s house on the weekends and her boyfriend Bill would smoke it, I loved the smell. Late at night, when I could smell it in the apartment I shared with my dad, I loved the smell. When I finally tried it, I was pretty much hooked.

That was my freshman year of high school. I was kind of out on an island as Dad and I had moved from 12th Street and Butler to the 43rd Avenue and Bell Road area during my 8th grade year and I had opted to finish 8th grade with all my friends from elementary school. In hindsight, I should have switched schools because the majority of freshman year was a pretty lonely year. I hated my new school and not knowing anyone in a school of over 4000 students is intimidating. I was lonely.

But I had video games and cable television at home and I figured out quickly I could ditch quite easily. My dad hadn’t remarried yet, so when he went to work, he was gone all day. I could just act like I was walking to school then turn around and go back home and have the house to myself all day long. I could watch TV, play intellivision, and steal my dad’s weed and smoke it in the backyard or garage.

There is a lot more to this story, but that’s enough for today.

See you tomorrow.


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