Ars Autobigraphica (part 1 of several)

In 4th grade at St. Luke’s Roman Catholic, my homeroom teacher was an angry bear of a woman named Miss DiOrio. We called her “Miss Diarrhea.” She was shrewd and oppressive, as was most of that period of my life.

As I recall, we would occasionally be assigned ‘creative writing’ projects – every week or month or something like that – it was a long time ago – the Reagan Administration was young.

I remember concocting a story about my cousin Adam and me taking a hot air balloon to New York, where we then did battle with some psycho-balloon-hijacker-types. I was 10. I watched a lot of “The A Team” and “Dukes of Hazzard.” Miss Diarrhea criticized that story in front of the class, claimed it was “ultraviolent filth.” I think that incident must have been the first time I thought I could pull off this “writer” farce.

The next year I started playing guitar. Like most beginners, I was pretty awful. My mom signed me up for lessons, but they went slowly. Thankfully, my dad had shown me a few chords and my mom had given me a “Complete Beatles” songbook as a companion gift to the guitar (the guitar itself) was a blonde dreadnought Dad had bought for $70 at JC Penney). So, I “read ahead” and learned some rock and roll basics – you know, I, IV, IV and power chords and never get too hung up on any one lady, because you’re a ramblin’ man. Don’t give your hearts to a ramblin’ man, Waylon used to sing. . . Anyway, the first “song” I wrote was that year, and followed the basic chord progression and tune as the Champs’ classic “Tequila.” It went something like:

“Gonna blow you away
gonna blow you away today
gonna blow you away ... “

A month or so later, toward the end of the 5th grade school year, there was an inclimate weather day, and a classmate and I spent the break period drawing pictures of naked women. My drawings were good enough, considering I hadn’t really seen any naked women or taken any formal art lessons. But the nuns at St. Luke’s were not so fond of these drawings and they sent me home with my artwork sealed in a Manila envelope for my mom. My mom seemed to think those drawings showed some aptitude, so she marched me back to St. Luke’s and informed those reactionary nuns I would be returning to the public school system. Happiness all around.