Willie and Todd and my brother Matt and I had a game we played where you’d make a quick buzz sound and become a spirit, which was like a superhero. There were good guys and bad guys, and each one had a special power. Matt’s main spirit, The Claw, had a dangerous weapon called the Brain Hold. There was no defense against this hold but Matt was fair by not doing it all the time. He’d often yell “Brain Hold!” whenever he was going to do it. I had one spirit that was so fast he could run around the house several times and not look like he was moving at all. I had to tell my friends when he was done running. I imagined that this spirit might have a female sidekick, but there were no girls who would play with us. Todd’s sister was about our age, but we all teased her because she wasn’t pretty and her name was Sissy.
At night, in our bedroom, we’d talk about what our spirits were going to do next, and discuss maybe killing off some of our spirits for new spirits. Another neighbor kid, Darren, was our age too, but he thought the spirits thing was too weird or childish. I was going to make up a spirit with a super brain to combat The Claw and his famous hold, but Willie and Todd moved away and we stopped playing.
That’s when my brother and I began reading books about Bigfoot.
Two plastic record players and a nice stack of Top-40 45s were all I needed to start my own radio station. My plan was to do a pirate radio show that would broadcast to my neighborhood. Instead I just pointed my speakers out the upstairs window and hoped the sound reached the corner.
In fifth grade I started writing really bad pop song lyrics. When I wrote something I thought to be particularly hit-worthy, I’d cut out a piece of paper in the shape of a 45 and then, after coloring in the black wax area, I’d put the name of my song and band on the “label.” I can’t remember my imaginary band’s name but some of the hits were “Sound of Thunder,” “Rich Dude,” and “Diamond Girl.” Come to think of it, I didn’t even have an imaginary band; instead I just went by the name Billy Rivers, because I thought it sounded cool. After cutting out the center hole, I’d string the smash hit to a hook on my ceiling. If you ever saw my bedroom you’d think I was a mega-star. Sometimes I’d even put them on one of the turntables and watch it spin. Once I put a needle on one as it spun and ruined the needle. I had to go to the record store where they sold little smoking pipes and stoner posters, spending my entire allowance on a new Diamond-style needle.
All that summer Darren and I snuck into the back of Mayfair Market to use the guys’ employee bathroom, even though we lived right across the street. They always had a Playboy or Penthouse badly hidden behind the garbage can.
We were just becoming familiar with naked women since the Dinken brothers had shown us some of the hard-core magazines their dad kept behind the seat of his old pick-up. I’d steal candy bars for those Dinken kids, and, in exchange, they’d tear out pages from the magazines for me. The pictures were often of couples, and those confused me more than anything. Just naked women standing by themselves was all Darren or I needed.
Once, at the Mayfair, I talked Darren into stealing one of the magazines by stuffing it down his pants. On his way out of the store it slid out of his left pant-leg, and he was taken to the manager’s office. I ran across the street and watched the store to see if he’d get away. Minutes later, police arrived. Then his parents. I was scared they were talking about me.
My friend Matthew and I decided that our parents needed secret nicknames. My mom was Fuzz because she had one of those white old lady afros that became so popular, partly due to the influence of the TV show “The Golden Girls.” My dad was Pudlow because he was kind of scrawny and weak, even though he had these little humorous outbursts (known as spazzes back then) and tried to act all authoritative. Matthew’s parents’ nicknames were somewhat more random and obscure. His mom was Art for the simple fact that she made some fuss about taking up painting once. Garno was his dad’s nickname, simply because it rhymed with Yarno, and John Yarno was a big dorky-looking offensive lineman for the Seattle Seahawks at the time. Matthew told me once that his dad’s fingers would often become curled in cold weather because of some metal in his hand or something. He called that “doing the Garno.”
Dad gave me a vibrator once. Sort of oval-shaped. He gave it to me so I could wrap it and give it to Mom for a birthday present. Later, they kept it in a drawer by the bed. Then, shortly after, they slept in separate beds.