If you havenít noticed it by now, Iím basically a big geek.† And one of the major attributes that fits me fairly well is a lack of well developed social skills.† And that is an understatement.† When I last took a personality profile at work some years ago that breaks everything down to four components, the portion of mine that dealt with others just about dropped off the scale.† Of course, when we then went over how to deal with people, the ones with a high attribute here had the same solution Ė take them to lunch.† Nearly always, because they are so people oriented you get them in social situations.† Nobody ever takes me to lunch, I donít talk to anyone, and I just hide behind my computer all day, pretending that I actually have a life to write about.
Ok, so Iím not actually that bad.† My parents didnít really have to hang a pork chop around my neck to get the dog to play with me; it was just an extra treat for him. Iíve never been one to make small talk, and while I can easily talk with friends, meeting and initially getting to know people is quite difficult for me.† I know I donít generally make a good first impression, which is why I only had a few friends growing up.
Growing up on my block, there were no other boys anywhere near my age, or any other age.† In fact, at the time my neighborhood was aging, so there were only three families with kids in them, and the only boys were at least four or five years older; not really ideal for a play group growing up.† And while there were some girls my age, at this stage I still had boy-cooties, they had girl-cooties, and everyone growing up in suburban America knows that if boy-cooties meet girl-cooties, then there is a cootie implosion that can destroy the whole child social structure.
I actually donít remember when I met Scott, it seems like I knew him forever.† I didnít see him much, simply because he lived on the other side of town. †In fourth grade, that was almost as if he lived on the moon, though not nearly as cool as that would have been.† But occasionally our momís would arrange it for one of us to go over to the otherís house.† He always seemed to have the better G I Joes, including the one with the Kung Fu Grip (was their any dumber Ďaction figureí accessory than Kung Fu Grip?† Here was a doll that could hold onto things, with his hand in an open fist that, as a teenager, provided no end to our amusement (and poor GI Joeís abuse, both inflicted and self)), and even a jeep.† Sure I had the one with a pull string to make him talk (which worked well as a rope that he could climb), but it was so much cooler to have a jeep for them.
Going to catholic school for several years, and living in Alabama for a semester didnít help either.†† But once I hit fifth grade, things started to improve quite a bit.† Back then, we had a separate school for fifth and sixth grades, and then the junior high for seventh and eighth.† And Evans (the fifth and sixth grade) was for the entire district (not that the district was all that big, there were only two elementary schools anyway).† But I was no longer at the Catholic school (which closed a few years later anyway), and it was only a couple of blocks from home, so I could walk.†† And I did, with my nose in a book each way, twice a day, never once looking up.† Some people were amazed that I never got hit crossing the street, but I could hear all the cars Ė it wasnít a problem.
My friend Scott went there as well, of course.† And though we never managed to be in the same classes, we were now in the same school.† Plus at that age I now had a much wider range, both in how far I could walk, as well as riding a bike.† So at least on weekends I was able to do something other than stay home.† And by junior high we were over at each otherís houses all the time (well, I think I was over at his much more, but that didnít really matter in the long run).
Junior high is when I really started to feel my freedom; well at least before dinner.† Now we had bikes, and the road was open to us, or at least the side streets, before it was dark.† This was back in the primitive times when we still had Junior High Schools, instead of Middle Schools.†† Our Junior High was, as are most, an old high school.† It was solid brick, with a small stadium out back, surrounded by a brick wall with decorative ironwork on top, and ticket houses on either side.†† Yep, except the lack of guards and guns it was as much a prison as you could ever expect Ė spikes on the wall and guardhouses guarding the inmates in the exercise yard.† And people wonder why kids come are so happy to get out of there at he end of the day.
By then, I got to know a couple of other boys who lived down the street from Scott.† Elden was a good friend of his, but he moved out of town before the eighth grade.† There was also this annoying kid, two years younger than Scott or I that lived way down at the end of the street and was always hanging around.† His name was Eric, and I just really couldnít stand him at first; probably because he was younger, and didnít go to our school, or have our classes.† Of course this was the time that I found Dungeons and Dragons, so we all started playing and learning the game, and many others, together.† And after a while, he wasnít so bad.
Once high school came around, Scott and I drifted apart.† As everyone has experienced, high school is nothing if not cliques, and we just werenít in the same ones.† I was with the smart kids, and the nerds, but he was fairly popular.† Of course, the popular kids went on to fascinating careers in the fuel and lubrication industry (ďWill that be regular or premium?Ē), while the geeks just went out and made money (just think about how big a geek Bill Gates was growing up).† After the first year, we barely saw each other.† Eric on the other hand, the annoying twerp that I didnít like, grew to be the best friend I had growing up, and all through high school and most of college we spent a lot of time together.† So much so that I named one of my sons after him (with the spelling he preferred).† One of the few regrets I do have is not keeping in touch with him as an adult.† He got moved around by the army quite a bit, and finally left to stay in Alaska, where he got married and had a couple of kids.† Last I heard he was a state police officer in Alaska, but was afraid he was going to have to move back down to the continent to get a better job.† I think last years Christmas card got returned for an invalid address.
Then there were the Johnís.† Except for Eric and me, it seemed that everyone else we knew in high school was named John. †Maybe I just filled my capacity for names (ďSorry, I canít remember any more names so the rest of you will be JohnĒ) or perhaps it was a Superman motif (instead of having the initials LL, all the supporting characters in my comic book life were named John).† So while Erik and I didnít really have nicknames, everyone else did.† There was Ozzie, not named after the singer but a simple variation on his last name, and Roach Ė named for the same reason (his own last name, not Ozzieís).† Plus Greco Ė he got that one because he was a Greco-roman wrestler.† And then there was the curly haired kid who moved here in my sophomore year, we occasionally called him Garfunkle (because he looked like him), and sometimes sheep head.
Ozzie was in the scouts with Eric and Scott and I for a little while, as well as Rudy and Ricky Ė we called them the boweenie brothers (we like to make fun of peopleís last names), until they moved as well.† We even had a couple of camping trips during our summers in high school, one with Eric and Roach, the other with Eric and Ozzie.† Ericís dad would bring his trailer and park it at the other end of the small state campground, and we pretty much wouldnít see him all week.† Mom would make us a huge frozen lasagna (all the boys were always up for Momís lasagna) that we would cook in the fire Ė one end would be burnt, one end still frozen, ashes would always fall in part, and in the middle it hot, melted and mouth watering.† And the creek kept the beer cold as well.
Eric and I double dated quite a bit.† One great summer we established a really good routine; Iíd get off work painting, get cleaned up, drive over to Ericís, then we would drive to pick up my girlfriend, who lived about seventeen miles away.† She and I would then get in the back seat, and he would drive about twenty miles to pick up his girl, and we would then go to the drive-in Ė alternating who got the back seat each week.† After the movie, we then dropped off his girl (whoís father was the sheriff in the little town they lived in), Iíd go back to the back for more making out while he drove my girlfriend home, then once she was dropped off we would go and drink beer for the rest of the night.
When Ericís parents had the opportunity to go to Bangladesh for a year, I moved into his house to help take care of it.† This was during my sophomore year of college.† I had managed to build this reputation as being responsible and a good kid, fooling nearly everyone quite successfully by this time.† We had some great parties, and then he took a bike trip that spring across the US alone, while I watched the house.† We had some great times there; the only time in my life Iíve ever had a roommate (that wasnít family).† Even if I did find him and Ozzie locking me out of my room one afternoon so they could finish off my good scotch.† We even built two beer can pyramids, one on the china cabinet, the other starting on the floor, that both reached the ceiling.†† Back then I could actually taste the different formulaís used for Coors beer (they had at least three) blindfolded.† Today beer is beer Ė it is one of those things you have to do a lot of to be an expert.
Eric, Ozzie and Roach were the best men at my first wedding.† It was pretty cool.† Eric had gone into the army by then (he made the 82nd Airborne, which was always one of his goals.† Me, I donít see any reason to jump out of a perfectly good airplane and plummet to the ground when you can peacefully land and walk out later), and looked really good in his uniform, even if the little punk was by then about six inches taller than I am.
Girls never came between me and my friends, because I never dated the girls the others did.† In fact I rarely dated any girl in town Ė I had to go where they didnít know me to overcome the geek factor.† The rest of the guys would end up dating a lot of the same girls, but I never did.† Tonya was one who dated several of the guys, eventually she ended up marrying Greco, and we became good friends when we all lived in Denver for the first few years of my first marriage.† Roach ended up marrying his high school sweetheart Diane as well.† We didnít keep in contact after we moved to Ohio.
When I moved to Ohio, I didnít really make friends for a while.† But I never expected Ozzie to move up here as well, but he did when he married a woman in the Air Force, and I saw him several times while she was here going to medical school at Wright Patterson Air Force Base.† Unfortunately, I had kids and they didnít, and it was really hard to do things when you are at different stages of life like that.† But as with all military families, they were transferred, and I donít know where they are now.