Giving Back The Love


It has occurred to me that I may not have the King’s Ransom in life, but I’m living like Scrooge McDuck, diving into a vault of gold, when it comes to the love of amazing people. All of this love has helped make me who I am. I could never thank them enough.

The Owls Are Not What They Seem:

I didn’t grow up in the perfect Norman Rockwell, idyllic childhood. I grew up in an economically struggling neighborhood. I grew up with a father plagued by addiction issues, and probably some undiagnosed mental illness. I have childhood memories of making new friends with the children of other addicts. But from these struggles I learned adaptation. I learned to make due with the little pleasures and to be pleasant when times aren’t ideal. I was prepared for young adult hood struggles of going on food stamps, and learning where you can get emergency food and assistance. I learned to make friends with diverse people, when the girls on the bus would braid my “white girl hair” so tight I wanted to cry. I made friends with the weird kids in the school, the androgynous girl that everyone questioned her gender and sexual identity told me, jokingly, call her “Cousin It” when it was all the rage to call your best friends your “cousins”. That girl took the rap for me when I mistakenly pissed off a girl with definite anger control issues, and stood in front of me when she came charging, not blinking an eye while 5 girls held the other girl back. These were my people, the freaks and the weirdos, in the most loving, cherished sense.

I thank my mother all the time in conversation, for breeding the nerd spirit in me early on. She’s the one that taught me to appreciate old Sci-Fi, Star Trek, and Dark Shadows. My mother and I used to watch Twin Peaks together every week, even though it terrified me to the point of Bob making appearances in my nightmares. At my first school aged birthday party, she made a “Pin The Wart On The Witch” game, since my birthday is in October. She’s the one who bought me art things, and told me about the Creative and Performing Arts high school I ended up going to.  My father is more to thank for the love of Three Stooges. But I blame my cursory knowledge of professional wrestling on my brother. He’s also probably responsible for most of the “boy cartoons” and programming I grew up with, which is probably to numerous to list properly, but it’s knowledge I’ve used in conversations most of my adult life. In fact, it was my brother discovering the X title comics, that led to my exploration of everything from Sandman to Warren Ellis’ titles. Although my mother is the one I thank for reading. She read Alice in Wonderland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to us as children, and specifically bought me the Worried Walrus book because even as a tyke I apparently was of a nervous disposition. My mother let me read all the V.C. Andrews books, and I felt as though I was reading something so dark and clandestine at the time. I’m pretty sure if I tried to reread them, I wouldn’t be able to stomach the pulp.


Most people of unusual character hate high school. If you are not a cheerleader or a jock, my understanding of the typical high school experience is that it is quite unpleasant. That was most certainly not my experience.

Don’t misunderstand, I had angst. I had unrequited love. I had rage against the world and my upbringing. I longed to hurry up and be able to do what adults can do. But since my time in the adult world, reflection and shared experience has made me realize what I got away with as well. I went to CAPA (aka The Pittsburgh High School for the Creative and Performing Arts) as a Visual Arts major, in the mid 90’s.

Where do I start to talk about this experience? Do I talk about how I chose to go to the isolated island of strange misfit toys in Homewood (a very poor and allegedly “dangerous” neighborhood at the time) rather than my local neighborhood school Carrick? Do I talk about the amazing teachers that literally waiting for our class to graduate before they retired, because they were so fond of us? We scraped together art supplies from nothing, reusing already painted on canvases, and crusty paints. Every row in the auditorium had at least one broken chair. We ran around the halls with cameras, coming up with whatever we wanted. We were allowed to paint our lockers. The censorship was very minimal.

I quickly found myself again amongst the strange children, and there I was quite comfortable. No where else in the present time could you get away with what we did. Our collective creative energies and usual senses of humor led to such spiraling inside jokes, and bizarre rituals. We would all have been suspended and under investigation, if I had done what we did today.

Most of our rituals centered around the lunch table. It’s where we released the tension. Daily, we would read from the Worf Journal, which was a journal one of us kept because we were convinced our science teacher had 2 shirts and 3 ties and just mixed and matched. But it became full of descriptions such as “baby diarrhea green”. It was always read in a dramatic, ominous tone, by one of the people keeping the journal. There was also the dramatic enactment of being sucked under the table. This happened because approximately the first or 2nd week of school, one of us dropped a large gob of milkshake on the floor. That gob stayed there for a very, very long time. We began to assume that eventually it would become sentient and have the desire for human blood. I even wrote an entire story/play centered around this.

Weekly, we would have a bit of a pot luck. Everyone would place a small bit of their offering onto a cafeteria tray and after the reading of the journal, everyone would take plastic forks and literally stab furiously at the offerings on the tray. There were occasionally very small injuries of a rogue prong, but no was ever seriously harmed in the fray.

For a school video project, we all dressed up in thrift store Gothic regalia, and ran around Pittsburgh’s largest cemetery, Allegheny. Afterwards, my mother took us all out for iced cream.

I could write a novel on my high school experiences alone. The stories and gags that I love to bring out at parties, these are part of what made me the human that I am.

Lovers and Friends:

And of course, I have to thank all the past lovers and all the friends that I don’t have in my everyday life. These are the people that have influenced my vocabulary and sharpened my wit like a razor.

Without people like my Rocky Horror loving punk rock first serious love, I would never have said things like, “His breath is like a sack of assholes.” Or that it could “knock a buzzard off a shit wagon.” We had inside jokes about the songs we would hear on the radio on the 45 minute trip from his house in Washington to “the city”. He introduced me to The Misfits and Social Distortion. He was the first person I dated with tattoos. I can remember the experience fondly outside of the fall out like the Last Days of Rome, at the end.

I learned realms I never thought of from lovers. I learned inside looks into the world of academia from one and business sense from another. I learned to overcome my fear of “scary movies” and appreciate them. I learned to appreciate myself, and my quirks, the things within me that I bring to the table.

My friends taught me to love myself too. They fostered a spirit of collaboration in me. I’m always happier in a team, rather than being any kind of boss. They came with me on every crazy adventure and sometimes waited for my stubborn ass to fail, and still comforted me when I had the inevitable heartache.

They are all beautiful individuals, the kind of characters I couldn’t make up. The dynamic interactions keep me charged, even if sometimes a little exhausted. Sometimes I don’t understand how an awkward, absolutely NOT cool, geek like myself is allowed to hang out with the cool kids, because I do admire each and every one of them at times. But when we all converge, it all seems to somehow just work out. I love coming home at night, still smiling. The euphoria of creative energies connecting, of minds exchanging ideas big and small, is the stuff I feed off of.

In the present moment I am by and large satisfied with the person I have become. This by no means makes me a perfect person. But each and every molecule of my identity that has been touched by the people has left a fingerprint that I wouldn’t be the same without.

I guess this is my really long winded way of saying, “I Love You, Too.” I hope they all feel the love.


3 thoughts on “Giving Back The Love

  1. Jena

    For some reason, I just found this blog and this post. I love reading your take on a memories we share. So grateful for the role you played in my life during those tender/formative years. The years ruled by Kurt Cobain, Tori Amos (Little Earthquakes…..) and flannel. Grateful for this trip down memory lane. xo

  2. There truly is no high school experience like the CAPA experience. Its refreshing to know that others remember it as fondly as I do. Thank you for describing it so lovingly.

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