I had a few weird dreams last night, but I can’t really remember all of them. But one of them, I found myself in some recital hall. My piano teacher was there, on my right. Anyway, I was there and my sister was playing her piece (she was first in the recital), and there came a part where she forgot it, and she just kind of sat there for a while, not playing anything, then finally she got down and kneeled on the floor, crying. Then my mom came from the back and consoled her.
So I had to go to the bathroom, so I leave the room and the bathroom kind of looks like a barn. And I run into my freshman roommate, Ryan M3dders, but we only say a brief hello in passing. At any rate, I go back and then I realize that I have no idea what piece I’m supposed to play. So I look at the program and find I’m supposed to play a Chopin Polonaise. So I go over it in my mind and realize, I don’t know how to play it anymore. I mean, I vaguely know but there are some parts that are really fuzzy. So I get scared.
Then I focus again and listen to the guy currently playing, and realize he’s playing a Chopin Etude, the “Revolutionary” Etude. Anyway, it’s a tough piece, and he’s having problems with it, but it’s pretty good, and I’m wondering why he’s playing before me, because generally, in my piano teacher’s recitals, they roughly order it from the easiest pieces to the hardest pieces. There’s some finesse to it, also, because age is also a factor, but generally, it goes easiest to hardest. So you know, it’s a good feeling when you’re the last person in the recital. It’s also a bit humiliating when you’re always the first one. I remember the first year I had my piano teacher the first piece was called something like “Rainbows and Butterflies” or something lame like that. First the right hand plays: “C – D – E – F – G – G – G … G – F- E – D – C” Then the left hand plays the same thing an octave lower. I felt sad. But I digress.
I can’t remember actually playing the piece. I don’t think I ever did.
Then there was a part of my dream where I was in the backyard of my old house in San Jose. Weird. I was watering the lawn; just the dry dying parts that the sprinkler doesn’t reach well. That was a great backyard. Not as cool as Tim Dey’s backyard, though. This was a friend from elementary school. When we were in either 5th or 6th grade a bunch of friends of mine decided to make like a club type deal, so we researched on military ranks and gave us all titles. I remember the teachers and librarian were very excited that we were all doing research with encyclopedias and everything when we didn’t have to. But it wasn’t really research. Anyway, Tim Dey was the 4 star-general, I was Major General (or Lieutenant General; whichever was higher, I can’t remember) and Jeremy Nishihara was the next in rank (I think it was Lieutenant General). Then Yash Mehta was Brigadier General. An army of all generals. It was great. We were the losers of the class but we didn’t care because we would really have a great time. Let’s say we were playing some game. Like nation ball or something. Well, sometimes other people would want to play with us, so then we’d stop playing and just walk around the playground, doing nothing. Then the other kids would always get mad, saying “No blocking: school rules” or something like that. Meaning, the school didn’t allow anyone to prohibit others from joining in games. So we’d say, “We’re not blocking anyone. We’re just playing ‘walk around the playground slowly and do nothing.'” Eventually they would get frustrated and leave, then we’d resume our nation ball game. We were punks.
But you could tell we were having a lot of fun, because people always wanted to join whatever we were doing. You know, even the “cool” people had to recognize that the stuff we were doing was idiotic, but we were too busy having fun to really care about that. But we usually didn’t let them join, because they were too athletic. I thought for a long time that being intelligent necessarily meant you could not be really good at sports. I mean, I did soccer and softball and all that, and at school we were playing sports all the time, but we always realized that we sucked, because we were smart. Our “smart” class always was a step below in terms of athleticism. I mean, there were a few semi-athletic people. Like Frank Risner, Eddie Marshall, Nathan Brown kind of was, definitely Mike Grieb, kind of Jeff Bense too. But the kids in Mr. Crawford’s and especially Mr. Kirkpatrick’s class were way better. So we didn’t let them play because it wouldn’t be fun anymore. Speaking of which, Mr. Kirkpatrick was hilarious. Not on purpose though. When I was in Jr. High Jazz Band, we played at various elementary schools, and we once ran into him at Edenvale, where he had moved (from Glider, my school). He saw my friend Yash and said, “Hey guy, now there’s a face I remember. What’s your name again?” We thought that was hilarious. Mr. Kirkpatrick.
Anyway, I thought for the longest time that intellectualism and athleticism were mutually exclusive, and it was another epiphany when I realized that that was not true. But I didn’t know that in elementary school. And I think it was the dominant attitude of the place too, because Mrs. Smith hated how because we were the “smart” class, we had to suck at sports. So for a couple years, it became her goal that our class win the school softball intramurals. So we would go out for like 2 hour class softball practices. That was awesome. There’s nothing like playing outside for 2 hours during class time. Yes. Me, Mike Grieb and Yash would often be first base coach, where we mostly just messed around. We would say the exact same thing every time a batter came up. “Ay batta batta batta sa-wing, batta!” and “C’mon, rope it, buddy!” and we would also mess around.
Mike was actually a really cool guy. Mrs. Smith had this annoying habit of playing favorites pretty extremely and blatantly. I resented this first because I was a first born, and also because I feel it cheated younger siblings out of the experience. Because I think Mrs. Smith’s class was one of the hardest times in my life, but it made me the student I am today. No joke. I have often felt like my sister, whom Mrs. Smith favored because of me, didn’t have it so tough and that in the end, she lost out. Just an opinion. But she played favorites, and she had had both of Mike’s older brothers as students, Tim and Mark. Thus she loved Mike.
You might think I’m joking about this but in both 5th and 6th grade, she seated Mike next to her desk and always joked with him. So lame. This is opposed to people say like Matt Barker or Frank Risner, whom she did not like. They didn’t really like her, either. I remember Frank was always high strung because he wasn’t the best student in the class and sometimes got in trouble. Anyway, Mrs. Smith would often use the phrase, “To be frank…” and everytime she did, you’d watch Frank and he would seriously tense up, like his head would pop up off his desk and he’d look real nervous. Because, you know, he wasn’t listening and all of a sudden he heard his name. Sometimes he’d be resting his head on the desk. And every time she did that, said that phrase, his head would pop up and he’d look scared. It was hilarious. Even Mrs. Smith laughed at it once, because, seriously, he looked scared. Ha.
Mike was great because he recognized that she played favorites with him and he saw through that and was cool about it. Like he didn’t use it to his advantage or anything. I think Mike was just a great, nice guy. He was also without question the most athletic in the class. He was like running 10K races when he was 5. I used to go to his house and there would be pictures of him as a little kid, running these races. Plus he was always the tallest in the class. He came to my Kindergarten birthday party, and if you look at the pictures, he’s like a head taller than everyone else. As it turns out, he’s now playing tight end for UCLA. I saw his freshman year at the airport. I actually didn’t recognize him; he recognized me, and he said my name, but he was so big I couldn’t tell who he was. It was only after I recognized his parents that I gathered that it was Mike. He’s still a great guy. It was weird because for a lot of elementary school, we invited each other to our birthday parties, mainly because the other person had invited the other person last time, so it just kind of kept up, even when we kind of didn’t hang out with the same group anymore. I remember in particular we were in a car and we saw the moon and it was one of those nights where the moon is really low and big and orange/red. It was so much so that I was positive that it was a 76 sign, not the moon. For some reason that memory sticks out in my mind.
Mike also was probably the “coolest” guy in our class. He was like the cool link between our class and Crawford/Kirkpatrick’s class. Him and Jeff Bense. The thing was, most “cool” people, being “cool,” didn’t really associate with me and my friends, the losers. But Mike wasn’t into all that. He was great. Anyway, he and Jeff Bense were best friends, I think. His best friend in Kindergarten was Jeremy, which is hard to believe, because he was tall and Jeremy was really short. We (or at least I) called him “Jeremy, the Golden Fried Shrimp.” Actually, I once wrote a poem about it. It started, “I looked in a tree, and what did I see? Jeremy the Golden Fried Shrimp.” I did this because I was at Christine and Nancy’s house and I was bored so I asked to use their computer and I wrote that. Seriously, it slayed them, my sister and me. It was hilarious. What are some other verses? “I put him in a pan, what a wimp! He turned golden, Jeremy the Shrimp!” “Eddie Spaghetti joined the bunch, I ate him with Jeremy, mustard and punch!” (I was trying to work in all my friends, and as you can see, rhyming was sometimes a stretch.) Anyway, Mike and Jeremy were best friends in Kindergarten and they would run around the playground pretending they were in the army and shooting at people and stuff.
But later in life Mike was friends with Jeff. And they were the “cool” ones in the class. And they talked to girls. At any rate, one thing I remember is once Mike was gone from school for like a week or something, and during that time, Jeff hung out with Eddie Marshall, the whole week. It was weird, like with Mike gone, Jeff was at a loss, no fellow cool person to hang with, so he took Eddie, who was one of us, for a week, and for a week, Jeff and Eddie were cool friends. Then when Mike came back, it was back to Jeff and Mike and Eddie with us. Weird.
Anyway, we had our little army and once Mike was going to join so we had a blast making him do all this physical activity like running around, having to do pushups, etc. Then we made him private. What a great army. We’d do that with everyone that wanted to join. So there were like 4 generals, 3 privates and no one in between. If they were really good we’d be generous and make them Private First Class or something. Or second class. Whatever is higher. I can’t remember.
Once there was a great controversy, because Tim Dey had promoted Jeremy Nishihara so he was my rank. And you know, I was incensed. The reason I wanted to be my command was so that I could be 2nd highest – there’s something about being the 2nd highest that’s awesome. You’re higher than almost everyone, but you can still consider yourself humble, because you’re not the highest. Anyway, I didn’t want to share my 2nd rank with Jeremy, so I was angry. “There can’t be 2 Major Generals; that just doesn’t make sense.” So then Tim Dey says, “OK, you’re promoted too. Now you’re a 4-star general.”
Then I said, “Then what are you? I can’t be the same rank as you.”
So then we all pondered, “Huh. What’s higher than four star general? I guess you’re President of the United States!” And everything was well with all of us again.
Anyway, Tim Dey had a great backyard. (He also had the most arm hair, even in elementary school, of anyone I knew. It was like a rug 2 inches thick. Crazy.) In it was a pool, a playground, and still lots and lots of yard space to run around in. So after I think 6th grade, he was moving far away, so he threw a party and we all went. It was a swim / water gun party. Really fun. To reload, we’d just dunk our guns in the pool and then resume. I remember Eddie Marshall had this monstrous gun and he once cornered someone whose gun was empty. That was great.
Eddie Marshall had many siblings, as did his cousin, Julie Taylor, and both were in our class. Julie, coincidentally, really got us in trouble once. There was this game called Pickle, where there are 2 bases, and a guy for each base with a mitt who throws the ball back and forth. Anyway, everyone else is a runner, and you have to run from one base to the other, without getting tagged by the ball, or else you become the next thrower. Kind of lame, but fun. You couldn’t stay on the base forever; like there was a 4 throw limit or something. Once in a while, someone would get caught between the 2 throwers, one of whom had the ball, so he was in a “pickle,” thus the name of the game. Fun game. We also made variations on it, like my friends always did, so we could form chains, and one guy would lie down with his foot on the base, then he would grab another guy’s foot, and so forth, and you only had to touch the chain to be safe. Then always, one guy near the base would let go and everyone would suddenly realize that they’re not safe anymore and there would be a mad rush for the bases. It always happened, but we always did it anyway. Anyhow, a bad trend at our school developed, in which people running to a base would slide tackle the catcher and try and make him drop the ball, so he would be safe. This kind of resulted in injuries, so the school banned Pickle.
But you know, my friends and I liked Pickle, so we said, what should we do? So someone (it was either me or Jeremy) decided we could invent a game called “Banana.” What it would be is Pickle, except with 3 bases. That way, we could play something like Pickle, but it’s not Pickle, it’s Banana. And it’s not just a semantic change either, it’s really a different game; there are 3 bases, not 2. So if a yard duty came over and said that Pickle is not allowed, we could just say “We’re not playing Pickle; we’re playing Banana.” We would be telling the truth, and there would be nothing the yard duty could do. Everyone agreed that this was a marvelous plan so we played Banana, and got to have our fun and not get in trouble.
Or so we thought. So stupid Julie Taylor comes with a friend (I forget her name, but I think it was Michelle and she was rather large. We called her Thunder Thighs and would throw tanbark into her pool from my friend’s backyard. Children are so cruel) and asks what we’re playing. So Andrew Joyce tells them: “We’re playing Banana.”
So Julie asks, “What’s Banana?”
And Andrew says, “It’s just like Pickle, except there’s 3 bases.”
Stupid Andrew. So, being girls, they promptly went to the yard duty and told her, and since Andrew said, “It’s just like Pickle” we got busted and had to write 100 lines. I can’t remember the lines, exactly, but my teacher was sadistic about it. It takes a while to write that much, and she knew that, so when we turned it in, she would grab it, and rip it slowly and thoughtfully, with a smile, as if to emphasize that we did all this work and it was totally, totally meaningless. Sisyphus-esque. Nina Smith.
This teacher really was evil. She seriously loved giving us lines. Meaning we’d have to write lines during recess or lunch instead of being able to play. I think there were 10 lines total; I mean, #1 was like “I will pay attention in class.” or something like that. All were class rules, and if we broke them, we’d have to write that line so many times. Usually 25 or 50; more was unusual. Anyway, the dreaded one was #8. I wrote it so much I still remember it. “My responsibility in being a successful student is demonstrated by accurate and current record keeping and by being organized.” Dude, that is one long sentence. Try writing that a lot of times. Your hand will definitely cramp up. Plus everyone wants to write it really fast, right? So you can go play again. It’s hard.
Plus, she made you write each line individually. You know how it goes faster if you write each word individually for every line? Like you write, “My” 50 times, and then “responsibility” 50 times. She wouldn’t let us do that. When you do it that way, it all looks lined up, and if she saw that we’d have to do it again. Of course, I mastered the art of doing that and still making it look not lined up. The fastest person I remember was Sandeep. Forgot his last name but that was his first. He was blazing fast, and the amazing thing was he printed it. How you could print so fast was a mystery to me but he was amazing.
Anyway, that rule #8 is so vague it covers just about everything. She made us keep records of everything, and if you missed something, hey, that’s a number 8. She also had desk checks – if your desk was messy, #8. Also insidious binder checks. She wanted every paper in our binder to be… well, bound, not just stuck in there. So periodically she would grab our binder by the spine, and shake it. Every paper that fell out we could “buy” back with lines. #8. Pretty brutal on the binder; this weaned us off of Trapper Keepers and into the real world of 1 inch binders. Everything in the world was a number 8. Except that one time with the Banana incident. That was either a #1 or a #3; I can’t remember.
I had a great epiphany once when Nathan Brown invited me to sleepover at his house. His mom was making us sandwiches and she asked me if I wanted mustard. I thought I was being polite by saying “It doesn’t matter.” I guess I was thinking it’s polite to let them do whatever they want, and not have any preference. Or something. But she didn’t know what to do with that response, and was just perplexed. I remember seeing that on her face. And everything she asked, I kept saying “It doesn’t matter,” because I thought that was the most polite thing to say. Of course, I think it just annoyed her. Anyway, the epiphany is that being polite didn’t mean not ever showing any preference for something, and that at certain times, you needed to show your preference, because honestly, the person asking really doesn’t care. It’s polite to have a preference sometimes. I don’t know if this makes sense. But it was an epiphany for me.
Nathan Brown was a year younger than us. I liked Ohio State, he liked Iowa. Every New Years, his family would set up 4 TV’s so they could watch every bowl game simultaneously.
Jeremy had this habit of joking around too much. Like when someone did something to him, he’d pretend to be hurt and pretend to be crying. Then when the person felt really bad about it, he would apologize profusely, then Jeremy would start laughing because he got an apology and he fooled him. So after a while, we stopped apologizing, at least easily. Anyway, once Eddie Marshall hit Jeremy; I don’t think it was very hard, if he hit him at all. But Jeremy went into his “crying” bit. And no one bought it so he just kept it up. It wasn’t the bawling type of crying, it was the more, bent over with tears in your eyes and say nothing crying. Well he kept it up since everyone knew he wasn’t really hurt. But he got the attention of the yard duty, and ack he and Eddie had to go to the principal’s office. They ended up getting suspended for a day for fighting. That was a joke. But it was a huge deal, because we were all good kids, and getting suspended was only something that happened to bad kids. So that was the only time any of us got suspended.
But we once got in trouble for this game we played, “Count n’ Capture.” 2 teams, each has a base and a prison. The playground is divided into 2, so each team has a territory. It’s a lot like capture the flag. In fact, almost exactly. So if you get caught in someone’s territory, you go to their prison, and are there until someone from your team risks going to their territory, gets past the prison guard, and tags you free. Anyway, there was too much controversy as to what constituted getting tagged, so we made the rule you are tagged when the guy has a grip around your wrist. In retrospect this was a bad idea, because it made people flail around like crazy and the other guy is struggling like mad to grab his wrist, and from an outside perspective, if you don’t know the game, it looks pretty violent.
So our game got attention and we had to have a conference with our principal, Mrs. Zendejas. That was a joke. There are 2 things I remember about Mrs. Zendejas. One is that she was the one who made the announcement in class that the Challenger had exploded. I’ll never forget that. She said it and then everyone in class started exclaiming, “The teacher!” since it was the first space shuttle with an elementary school teacher on board. The other thing I remember is that she was a ventriloquist and would do her little act at every assembly we had. I think all the kids thought she was cool for it, and all the teachers thought she was a joke for it. That was Mrs. Zendejas.
Anyway, we would always be inventing games. We once wrote them all down on note cards, so we would remember. I think I still have it somewhere. Here were some of them. Our class often played Nation Ball. I don’t know what you call it, but it’s like Dodge ball on a basketball court. If you catch it, you’re not out, but if it hits you and then hits the ground, you are, and have to go to the back of the court. If you get someone else out, you can come back in. Have to show you to really understand. Anyway, our friends played 4 way nation ball. Same concept just in a kickball court with each quarter a territory. Fun.
We had these tether ball courts, but one had no pole in it, so it was just a circle divided into 4 sections (2 big, 2 small) and a cement thing in the center. So we invented toe tag. It’s a game we’d play before school started. One guy was “it” (and whenever someone joined they’d be the new it) and his object was to toe tag someone by stepping on their toes. Then the guy who’s toe was stepped on was now it. The twist was you had to stay in the tether ball court (pretty crowded when a lot of people played) and could only move from one section to another by first tagging the middle cement thing, or you became it. We all had different styles, but I remember Yash Mehta’s the best, cuz he would high step, just like Roger Craig, the then running back for the 49ers, our favorite team. Anyway, this game also got us in trouble, because when the bell rang, we decided you ended by having to tag a bunch of landmarks on the playground before lining up to go to class. Like there were 3 water fountains, we’d have to tag these and yell “I – Q – U – (etc)” for “I Quit”. So I guess there were 5 things to tag. And you weren’t out until you tagged all five. So once the bell rang, there would be a mad rush for these things so we could end, and until you had ended, you could still be tagged (ie once the bell rang, there was no boundaries anymore.) Anyway, this caused problems because sometimes there would be a standoff, and the guy “it” would get to the door to our class before some other guy, and block it, trying to step on his toes, while the good girls of the class are trying to get in, around this mad hopping and stomping. It would often make us late for class and get in trouble, but who cared? As long as we weren’t it when class started, that was the important thing.
Once we played Tether Ball and Eddie hit it really hard and the ball flew off the rope. So we invented a game tether tag. We played on a really large grass field. The guy who was it had to hit someone with the ball. But; if the guy caught it, he’d give it back to the it guy and he would have to count to 5 while we scampered off in random directions. Pretty simple, but fun. Sometimes the guy would miss and the ball would go far, then everyone would gather around the ball before the it guy came and start bowing to it and saying this mantra we once heard on TV. That would really get the it guy mad. Which is, of course, why we did it.
We also played 3 man football, since my primary group was me, Jeremy and Yash. There were 2 times when it was just me and Jeremy or me and Yash, so we invented 1 on 1 football. Sounds incredible, but we found a way. Also, do you remember M.U.S.C.L.Es? They were these small pink rubber figures. These were huge at my school. I mean, everyone wanted to have them. Then I think one day, everyone in the world simultaneously realized that you can’t do anything with them. I mean, you just kind of have them and that’s it. Really weird but suddenly, the MUSCLE craze ended, because every realized there’s nothing to do with them. Yeah, the company tried to revive it with that MUSCLE wrestling ring and colored MUSCLES but once our eyes were opened, we could not go back. Anyway, we had these things, so we (I think it was Jeremy) invented MUSCLE football, played with the MUSCLES. Often it was the 3 man variety. Anyway, the way you play is one guy is QB, one’s a receiver and one’s a cornerback. So if you throw it and it lands on the ground, it’s still live, and whoever gets it has possession at that point. But if you catch it in the air, you can run with it. That’s the game. The way our system worked, I was usually QB when Jeremy was receiver, and he was pretty fast, so I would just hurl it and he’d usually get it. We also played MUSCLE thumb war, which is just like thumb war / thumb tag except you use a rubber band to attach the MUSCLE to your thumb.
We played some pretty lame games also. One was called Quarterback. We would roll quarters and see who’s would roll the farthest. It’s amazing how much time we spent doing this. Also we would flip a coin and someone would call heads or tails, and we would all run to it and see what it was. It sounds lame, but it really was fun. It’s amazing what is fun given the right company.
We also played this game called Ninja. On our kickball courts there were 2 circles so it was like a little path. Ninja was confined to this circle. It’s a 2 on 2 game, and each person got a sword, a shield, and 3 ninja stars. Not real, of course, all made up. So the game was you’d try to hit the other guy. You could throw the ninja stars, and the other person would have to dodge it, or block it with the shield (which took 3 hits, I believe, after which it was gone). All this was imaginary, and how we managed to play is beyond me. But it was fun. I especially remember those times when both players’ ninja stars would be gone, as with their shields, so it’s just sword on sword, and then someone would get bold and throw their sword, but they’d miss, so they would run aroun and around the circle, as the guy with his sword left would try to hit the other guy. Hilarious. People who weren’t a part of our group who’d watch us could not understand why these people were running around, one guy trying to dodge imaginary things while the other guy runs at him waving an imaginary sword. But it was fun.
Jeremy ate his sandwiches the weirdest way I’ve ever seen, before or since. He would take one piece of bread off of it, then take the crust off the other piece, taking along a sizeable amount of the bread with it. So what’s left is just meat and a small piece of bread. Then he would fold it in half and eat it. What a waste of bread.
He also had this habit of ditching people. There were 3 of us, as I mentioned, and he would sometimes say to me or Yash, “Hey, let’s ditch…” the other guy. So we (or they) would spend the lunch time running away from the other guy (or me) while the other guy (or I) chased the other 2. Kind of lame. Don’t know why it was always Jeremy. I think once I said to Yash “Let’s ditch Jeremy” but it never happened. And of course by the afternoon everything was normal again. But he was kind of a punk that way. Plus, he and Yash always brought lunch, while I bought it, so I was most often ditched. Speaking of which, I remember thinking how crazy inflation was when school lunches were raised to $1.00, and then $1.25. I thought inflation sucked. $1.25 for lunch! What a deal!
The great thing about us is that we were so diverse. I mean, I remember when I was that age I thought that racism was a joke, that it wasn’t really a problem. Because for us, it wasn’t. I didn’t understand racism at all. I guess I was just naive. That or I’ve got sucked into this race separation thing that always seems to happen. Sigh. But for a while, when it wasn’t the 3 Amigos (as me, Jeremy and Yash were called) it included this guy Josh. Anyway, Jeremy was Japanese and went to a Buddhist temple. Yash was Indian and his family was Hindu. Josh was Jewish, and I was Korean and Christian. That’s pretty diverse. Even back then I thought it was pretty cool, and looking back, I think it was awesome.
The other great thing about that time is that we all acknowledged that girls were gross. I really mean that. But I don’t think we all thought this. I think after a while there were hormones in us raging to get out. But at least outwardly, that’s what we all said. I remember in 6th grade, there was a huge scandal because word spread that Andrew Joyce kissed Karen Mendoza. Oh my. But it wasn’t ground shaking because although Andrew was a friend of ours, he and Karen were in Mr. Crawford’s class, not Mrs. Smith’s GATE class, the one we were all in. So it wasn’t one of us.
The first time one of us fell was in 6th grade. Mrs. Smith’s Gifted and Talented Education class was a special class, a combination 5th and 6th grade class. In 6th grade, in the 5th grade half there were, among others, Dean Campbell and Danny Choi. Yeah, Danny Choi. We made jokes about his name and mine a lot. His sister was a grade above me, so I was in class with her, too. And my sister was a grade below him, so he was in class with her. That happened a lot. Anyway, we called ourselves “The 3 DC’s” because we all had the initials “DC”. Anyway, there was a girl in the class, Thien Au. 5th grade. Also a friend of my sisters, and therefore evil. Seriously, my sister had some whack friends. I remember one birthday she had she invited all of them to a sleepover at my house, and this included Julie Applegarth, Thien, and a bunch others. Maybe Christina Abel also. Oh my goodness. I’m not sure how pretentious you can get when you’re 11 years old, but they went far. I thought I was gonna die. James was with me, and we were in my room, and we looked out during the night and saw that we had been Teepeed. You know, Toilet Papered. I guess since all the girls in the class had been at my house that night, some guys (including Dean, as I recall) decided to T.P. my house. They did a really thorough job. I was actually quite impressed. I thought it was funny buy my sister cried. That started a big deal also, involving them having to apologize and everything. I thought it was funny. Maybe Brian Takahashi was also involved. Can’t remember.
We once went teepeeing also. Only once, but we hit several houses. One was the house of this girl that really annoyed us (and she was at that party my sister had). Actually, it wasn’t really her house but we thought it was. We were pretty thorough. Some of us even put dirt in the mailbox and we (actually Danny Rose) turned the sprinklers on. Later we found out that no one currently occupied that house. We felt bad.
Anyway, Danny Choi got together with Thien Au in 5th grade. We felt betrayed. That was the first time someone fell to the dark side. I remember especially one Valentine’s Day, he brought a stuffed animal to give to her. Yuck. But I think all of us were kind of intrigued by it. But that was Danny Choi. Actually, we all used to make fun of Jeremy and Mieko Futamase also, simply because they were both Japanese, but that wasn’t really serious. Especially since she was in Mr. Crawford’s class. I remember when I was that age how I didn’t understand how an Asian could not be in the gifted class. Kind of racist. But at my school, at least at that time, the numbers of asians wasn’t totally overwhelming, and almost all of them were in Mrs. Smith’s class. Unless they had recently come to the US, like Tom and Joe Ho’s cousins.
Tom and Joe Ho lived on our street. I never really got to know the people on my street that well. My sister was friends with Christina Abel across the street, but I made a point to avoid my sisters’ friends, and I didn’t like her sister, Cabrelle Abel too much. She was just really pretentious. A great moment in my life was when in 8th grade, I was in her Algebra 2 class. She was a Sophomore at the time. And she wasn’t behind or anything. I was just really ahead. And of course I whupped her butt in that class, as I did everyone there. Actually, that might not be true. But I do remember it seemed like she felt uncomfortable with me being in her class. Plus, I sat at the end of her row, so she would always see my homework / test grades as she passed them back, and I remember she would always take a peek, and look uncomfortable. I love it when people’s pride gets hurt because pride is such a lame thing to have. So hurt my pride, whoever’s reading this, because it’s a good thing. But I digress.
For a while I went to preschool with Ronnie Verna. He lived 2 doors to the left. It was weird; we played together before preschool, and after, when his mom would pick us up and I’d stay at his house for a while, but he was a year older than me so we’d never play at school. Peter lived next door. He was a year older than me and mostly friends with Ronnie. He had a younger brother, but I forgot his name. Anyway, his younger brother would ride his bike and then clap his hands, and then quickly regrab the handlebars. I tried to do this once and hurt myself pretty bad. The only thing I remember about Peter is that me and my sister were watching him once through our living room window and we saw him once pick his butt and smell it.
Ronnie Verna was OK, but he and Steven Jeon really hated each other. Actually, everyone hated Steve. He’s a pretty cool guy the last time I talked to him, in high school sometime. In fact, he was pretty cool in Jr. High also. But in elementary school he was a punk. It’s like he wanted people to hate him. So he would say Ronnie’s name, “Ronnie Verna” in the most annoying way possible until Ronnie would want to beat him up. He also would come over and make me beat him up too, until my grandma intervened. He just had this annoying quality about him. Rumor had it his sister would also beat him up. Anyway, he’s a great guy now.
After Peter’s family moved out, this other family came. I forgot the family name, but the father was Hispanic, and he had a Korean wife. Their car’s license plate said “4MYYOBO”. Cute. Also had a young daughter but can’t remember her name.
Our right next door neighbors were first this old lady named Helen. Retired, I think. She was really nice. Like a lot of times, when the school bus came, she’d be there with popsicles for us. She kept her lawn in immaculate condition. When I was learning to ride my bike, I once ended up on her lawn because I was out of control, then I heard her yell,
“GET OFF MY LAWN” and ever since I was scared of her. Until she moved. This other family moved in and they were seriously hellish. I can’t remember what happened to them.
The guy who taught me to ride a bike was named Dan Oh. He lived around 2 corners from us, one of the few Korean families in the neighborhood. A lot older than me. Dan and Barry Oh. I remember their house because I thought it was so boring. They seriously had nothing. No Atari, no Apple IIe, nothing. I seriously wondered what they did for fun. But they did have this oversized comic book, called the Flash vs. Superman. It was a race around the Earth. Can’t remember who won. Anyway, Dan once babysat me and I remember that because we played Monopoly and I won. In 30 minutes.
Steve Jeon’s family was another Korean family in the neighborhood. Lived close to the Ohs, as I recall. But our family was closest with the Hwangs. Billy and Grace. Actually, he goes by Bill now. But they lived pretty close; our families would walk to each other’s houses, and as I recall we were over there a lot.
Bill was older, I think 2 years older than me, which is a lot when you’re young. Grace was 1 year older than me. Incidentally, Grace now goes to Stanford. Crazy world. Anyway, I thought Billy was so cool because he owned Megatron, which my parents would not let me have because it was a gun. Although I did have Mirage, Optimus Prime, Slag, and various other Transformers. All Autobots, though. Interesting.
One memory I have of them is they were over our house and they had seen Back to the Future and we hadn’t yet, so they were telling us about it and I laughed so hard I spit out my water into a napkin. Also, when I was in 4th grade, Billy was I think 1st place in the school spelling bee and Grace was 3rd. I thought that was amazing, since she was only a 5th grader, and she got 3rd place. Pretty good. Their family moved to Korea after that year, I believe. After my 4th grade year. They went to my church, and once they visited (their cousin, Irene Shin, also went to my church and they stayed with her) and there was a big uproar because Billy was now “Bill” and he had a perm.
I think my closest school friend (my friends actually my whole life always split up into school friends and church friends and it never overlapped) in Kindergarten was this guy Adam. There were 2 Kindergarten classes, Mrs. Beach and Mrs. Wayker, and one class had a bunch more toys. I ended up in the other class. Mrs. Beach. Incidentally, this class was the scene of the pinnacle of my life. Anyway, Adam and me were friends. I’d play at his house every day after school. I think we bonded most out of our mutual hatred for this really old bus driver that took us home. He moved after that year so I don’t know whatever happened to him. I do remember some time later there was a TV movie on TV called “Adam” about that guy from America’s Most Wanted’s son who was kidnapped, named Adam. That freaked me out, and now whenever I think about Adam, I think about that show and I feel a little sad.
In first grade, my primary competition was this girl named Michelle Haydel. I wonder what happened to her. Anyway, I remember thinking she was possibly the ugliest girl that ever lived. Mrs. Wlodka’s class. The first show and tell, I brought in my GI Joe tank I had. A smashing success.
Second grade I had Mrs. Fenner and Wong. They team taught. I don’t really remember them too well. I do remember I was in 3rd grade reading with Mrs. Brauch. Bobby Hernandez was in that class. I remember that because he was “cool” and I was not. In the “cool” group, boys and girls hung out with each other, but my loser group was strictly male. Bobby was “cool.” As it turned out, we ended up going to the same Jr. High and High school.
In 3rd grade I had Mr. Masuda. He was a great teacher. Like my first grade class, it was a combination class, and they’d stick the slower 4th graders with the brighter 3rd graders, put bluntly. This was difficult, because they divided the school into lower grades (1-3) and upper grades (4-6), so we were stuck in the upper grades. Which meant a totally different playground (with less stuff, like bars and tanbark areas) and lunch times. Actually, my friends and I always found ways around the system so we would convince the yard duty’s that we should be allowed to play in the lower grade playground. Since we had a different lunch time, this meant we had the playground to ourselves, which was useful for football. We also played those stupid quarter rolling and quarter flipping games there.