teachers

LIFE STORY part IV

Some time between junior high and high school, I developed a strategy of telling stories at lunch time to members of the football team . . . and breaking the stories in half, the Scheherazade technique. This had a delightful result in that when bullies came after me, the football players would say, “Leave the little brother alone!” And that, of course, anchored additional pleasure to story-telling.

My mom signed me up for a class in laser technology at the Los Angeles Museum of Science and Industry. As terrific as the class was, I enjoyed wandering around the closed museum, opening odd doors even more. In some of them were stacks of old magazines, and I remember thumbing through old copies of Life magazine. Along with 1930s patent medicine ads, I remember cigarette commercials proclaiming that their products were actually healthy for you, that they “soothed the Y-Zone” in your throat. I remember that every time I hear someone suggest that unregulated capitalism will save us. My father eventually died because ads like that did everything they could to convince you that tobacco was benign. If there is a single group of human beings in the world I hold in lowest esteem, it would probably be tobacco executives.

And people who think unregulated capitalism will save us.

In junior high my love of science fiction was more deeply cemented, and with members of the journalism staff, including a kid named Jeffrey Johnson and a pretty thing named Patricia Butler (who had received her hormonal gifts before most of her fellows, to spectacular effect), we formed a science fiction club called “Foundation,” in tribute to Isaac Asimov’s trilogy. About this time I also started a fanzine called “Monolith,” dedicated to my all-time favorite film, 2001: A Space Odyssey. (more…)

LIFE STORY PART 2

The day I entered Alta Loma elementary school, my mom walked me hand-in-hand to the kindergarten, introduced me to the teacher (can’t remember her name; I know my first grade teacher was Mrs. Benjamin, and my sixth Grade was Mrs. Turner) and said: “Hi, I was wondering if you’d watch Stevie for me today?”

A very sweet, very comforting way to introduce a child to the idea of school.

In kindergarten, I made two friends, Howard Kokubun and Lee Taylor, who were respectively Japanese and White. Didn’t mean squat to me—we were three musketeers, all for one and one for all, right?

My sister Joyce, three years older than me, taught me to read, and the first book was one called The Five Chinese Brothers. She read it to me a dozen times, until I could recite it by heart. Then I read it until I could identify each of the words. And then I had it!

Then in first grade, Mrs. Benjamin’s class, all the kids were divided into reading groups. I remember Lee and Howard were placed in a group composed of white and Asian kids. My group was black and Hispanic kids. “Wow!” I thought. “Wonder why Howard’s over there, not here with me?”

I found out a few minutes later. We were tested for reading by some older kids, fifth grade perhaps. They listened to the other kids struggling with their reading, and when it was my turn, I read better than the fifth graders. Embarrassed, they immediately took me out of the black group and put me in with the white kids. (more…)