– Or –
Where Da Wolfe learns what he is
Me, at 11
BigFish – my older brother, 3 years my senior
Trucker – my father
Gloria – his 2nd wife
Brat – her daughter, one year younger than me (and another Gemini)
Jock – her younger son, one year older than me (and another Gemini)
TheBrain – her oldest son, 5 years older than me
Dig if you will, a picture: one average, American boy, age 11, growing up in small-town Oregon. He has no real clue who he is at this point.
He has moved in with his father in order to follow his older brother, as BigFish and Ma are nearly at each other’s throats at this point in the game. My father is married to Wife#2 Gloria, and she has talked him into starting his own business and basing it on her Mexican heritage – only the Universe knows why the hell he thought it would be a good idea to do this in Klamath Falls, but there you have it.
Trucker and the brood lifted sticks and went over the hill, and I visited a few times while living with Ma and her 2nd husband, but I eventually got sick of the stepfather scene and tired of being an only child, so I opted to move back in with Trucker. Klamath Falls had around the same population as Grants Pass at the time, but has always felt bigger to me for some reason. This is my first experience with an honest-to-$diety suburb – prior to this, I had never seen a town that decided “you know, we need an organized housing tract right about here.” It probably has to do with K.Falls being home to a military base.
By the time I move in, BigFish has already been there for about 3 or 4 months, and is fairly acclimatized. When I get there, however, it’s a whole new ball game for me. Suddenly I’m next-to-last in the pecking order instead of the trusty Lieutenant to Bigfish, and I’m sharing a bedroom with three other boys ranging in age from 11 (me) to 16 (TheBrain). Two sets of bunk beds with maybe a foot and a half of clearance between them. I think I was allotted about a square foot of closet space to go with it.
Compared to this adjustment, going to a new school was nothing – in fact, this would make the 5th school I had gone to, but they threw a twist at me there as well. I was in the 5th grade, and at my last school the next step was middle school. In K.Falls, however, gradeschool went to 6th grade, so I was knocked back one on the seniority ladder there as well. That first couple of weeks, I was really wondering if it was going to be worth it.
I did stay, however, and I have to admit, TheBrain’s best friend ThePunk had a lot to do with it. ThePunk found us through school, and he was extremely glad when he did. K.Falls, for those that have never been there, is primarily populated with two kinds of people: Cowboys and Indians. I mean that literally – the Klamath Indian reservation is right outside town, and the biggest industry in the area is cattle ranching.
You can just guess the average IQ of the place, I bet. For most people there, it’s the same as their inseam. Anyone who has ever been to Albuquerque knows what I’m talking about.
Anyway, ThePunk was at a disadvantage in this environment, for he was (gasp!) intelligent, and had a bad habit of speaking his mind, which often got his ass kicked. He figured if he was going to be an outcast, he might as well go whole hog and dove headfirst into the Punk lifestyle. He had a well-kept short mohawk when I met him, and a pocket full of mix tapes of stuff I had never heard before. He was also the only Punker in all of Klamath Falls and surrounds. He was the definition of outcast at this point and this town. The only thing worse for him would have been being gay.
Needless to say, when he had the good fortune to find a bunch of kids that didn’t want to kick his ass on sight, he latched on tight and damn near moved in with us. Two weeks after I moved in, I came home to find ThePunk shaving TheBrain’s hair into a mohawk.
Up to this point, I had really just followed BigFish’s lead, and hadn’t spent a lot of time thinking about what I wanted to be like. With this move, however, I suddenly found myself with many examples to choose from. The Brat was, well, a brat – she was the baby and always being a bitch about it. I avoided her as often as possible. The jock is pretty self-explanatory as well, but he was every bit as much of a dick as his little sister was a brat. We casually hated each other.
BigFish could be a consummate asshole, but he was my brother and I knew how to deal with that. TheBrain and ThePunk, however, were both cool. I think the biggest moment of revelation for me, however, was riding on the bus one day and someone was playing Rodney Dangerfield’s comedy song “Rappin’ Rodney”, and my brothers were laughing along with a bunch of other kids and I thought to myself “oh, it’s ok to like this, the other guys do too.”
This immediately brought me up short. I had to examine that thought pretty hard for a couple of days. I borrowed a bunch of tapes from ThePunk and snuck off with BigFish’s Walkman for who knows how much time listening to all kinds of stuff – The Clash, China White, Dead Kennedys, Black Flag, Peter Gabriel, XTC, the list goes on. (I still haven’t figured out how ThePunk got all those great records, the stores in KF suck).
The song that mattered the most, however, was “Grey Matter” by Oingo Boingo. Right here was a song pointed at me, and I was listening. This was followed up by “Who do you want to be today?” Yeah, they were talking to me alright. Thankfully, I was ready to listen.
By the end of that set of batteries, I had decided that from here on out, I would be doing my own thinking and not just blindly following along with what the others thought. TheBrain would go on to be a big influence on me in later years, but it was ThePunk who handed me that Boingo tape and said “check this out”.