Ars Autobiografica (part 2 of a few)

So, I transferred back into the public school system in the tree-lined suburbs of Youngstown, OH. Youngstown itself is a sad place from a sad Bruce Springsteen song. It’s a lot like Michael Moore’s Flint, MI. Poland, however, was a bit more hoity-toity. It’s one of the oldest towns outside of the first 13 states, and most of its upwardly mobile residents act as if their families have lived there since the 18th century (most of them are newer residents who live in gods-awful cookie cutter McMansions). My family was not so well-off, but we happened to live within the borders of the school district, so I was in like Flynn. Or, at least, I was in the door.

In 7th grade I had an English teacher who thought I wrote like Stephen King. Even at that young and impressionable age, I was no King fan, but I milked it in her class and I guess that helped some initial skills-honing. I really didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life (some may say I still don’t). I wanted to play my guitar and get lots of women and float down the river to New Orleans in a canoe and maybe lead a 3rd-world revolution. Some goals never change.

In 8th grade I started up a band. It lasted for about a week or two. We played covers of Pat Benatar and Scorpions and didn’t bother to find a drummer. I spent that summer in Puerto Rico with my aunt and uncle. It was a storm-ridden summer, and I spent most of it reading old standards like “Ivanhoe” and “Wuthering Heights” and “The Sun Also Rises.” “The Sun Also Rises” is still one of my favorite books. I remember sending a long and silly letter back to my cousin Adam in Youngstown about the crazy amazon-like women of El Yunque rainforest. It was just goofy, pubescent boys-will-be-boys stuff, but his mom then forbade him from hanging out with me, the *crazy* cousin, and grounded him to spend the rest of the summer listening to awful Christian Metal like Stryper. Once again, I felt like I was onto something with this writing thing. Again, my poor cousin was somehow involved.

Those years, school sucked. Most of the other kids were the sheltered spawns of newly-rich assholes recently moved out of the city for fear of people of color. I preferred the city to suburbia. I hung out a bit at a really cool secondhand book store and started buying $1 and $2 copies of whatever struck my fancy, or looked cool. I spent a lot of time alone with my guitar. When I did associate with others, it was a grungy circle of other not-so-rich kids who happened to live within the outer reaches of the school district, an edge of the community we lovingly called the “ghetto” of Poland.