It was on a trip to Kaelin’s market with Dah when I discovered that my favorite anime show had not only been novelized, but translated to the comic book medium as well. Unable to keep the excitement to myself, I shared this revelation with Mother. Soon it became a Monday morning routine to stop by 7-11 so I could spend some of my savings on baseball cards and Robotech comics. With absolutely no regard for collectibility, the comics soon littered my bookcase. I practiced drawing my favorite characters, which were always the older love interest, and the fiery biker lady. Sometimes I would try to draw the green-haired alien in her Queadluun-Rau armor, but it was clearly beyond my ability as an artist. One day I entered my bedroom to find Father flipping through one of my comic books. He looked up at at me and asked “What’s this?” In excitement I started to tell him all about Robotech, the cool machines, the conflicted alien invaders, and the complicated human interactions. He cleared his throat the way he did when I was in trouble. “I don’t want you reading things like this. Throw them out.” he said. I was stunned. I tried to defend the innocence of the story, but he was not having it. “If I see these tomorrow, I will burn them in the fireplace and you’ll be grounded.” I asked Mother what this decision was all about, but she had no answers for me. So in tears, I took scissors and cut out my favorite reference images and some of my favorite characters, then threw the remaining scraps into the garbage. I hid the clipped art inside of my other books, in my dresser, and inside of my baseball card collection. Mother and I never stopped at 7-11 on the way to school again.
On the east side of the parking lot that served as our school sports field there was a solitary, unused bicycle rack. Standing behind the low steel bars, J1 offered sportscaster style commentary on the various games being played across the lot. I was still nervous around the boy, but his recent act of kindness had me curious. His running monologue was admittedly pretty funny, and accurate without the undercurrent of cruelty I had come to associate with any schoolyard. I wandered over to the chainlink fence nearby so as to hear better. After a few minutes, J1 invited me to join him in “the box” and cautiously I accepted. Soon we were talking about the recent changes to our class and how strange this school year had been. We talked some about our favorite anime show, and then we started talking about music. It became immediately clear that J1 loved music every bit as much as I did, and so I told him about how Cousin-L and I had written our own lyrics to songs and even recorded them. He was amazed and excited at the idea, and soon the sportscaster box had transformed into a concert stage. The next day, J1 arrived at recess with lyrics of his own, which he taught to me. We must have been the worst vocal duo in all of history, but we had fun serenading the younger students who sometimes sang along with us. Besides the lyrics, he also decided on a name for our band, which was thereafter known as “The Buggles.” Later we discovered that the name had already been taken, but in our minds we were legends.
Despite the addition of the fifth grade class to our once empty room, J1 and I were almost always the first students to arrive. We sat on opposite sides of the room, and never spoke to each other. We spent the few moments of quiet reading before the other students came boiling into the room. One day, J1 had a new book, with a blue cover. I saw a familiar font on the spine, and so I attempted to get a closer look without attracting any of the boy’s attention. I certainly didn’t want any more of that. In spite of my efforts, he caught me looking. Though I was afraid he might want a repeat of one of our previous encounters, instead he turned the book so I could see the cover. Sure enough, it read “Robotech” across the cover and had a painting of a familiar big brother. My eyes must have lit up, because J1 asked if I wanted to see it. Flipping through the pages, I could see that in fact this was a novelization of my favorite cartoon series. Handing the book back, I asked a slew of questions, which J1 answered with a rare sincerity. The next day when I entered our classroom, he walked over to my desk and held out a pamphlet for me to take. “Here” he said. It was a free sample containing the prologue and first chapter of the book titled “Robotech: Genesis.”
From some place lost to time, I had found a plastic “banana board” style skateboard. The trucks were narrow and the wheels plastic, but I was convinced I could transplant them to the board I had found on my recent trip to the Laguna mountains. With equal parts ingenuity and ignorance, I mounted trucks to board. I carried my found skateboard up the dirt road I lived on to the paved asphalt at the top of the hill. From that point, there were paved streets leading in two directions. Naturally I chose the steeper of the two and setting the board down, I stood on it and pushed with my foot toward the declining street. The plastic wheels made a fantastic racket as they rumbled across the rough asphalt. There was a period of learning before I was confident rolling down that short hill. It was then time to see if I could ride all the way down to Mr.A’s Canyon Store and across the boulevard to Old Ironsides Park. Sheer determination took me to my goal, as the board itself was ill suited for any real use. But I was proud of myself. I walked into the store and bought a glass bottle of diet cola and then across the street to swing under one of the great oak trees. My ersatz skateboard sat on the ground as I swung and I looked at it with some excitement about the future with my newfound sport. I had finished my cola and started walking up the hill when I heard someone ask “Can I see your skateboard?” I was about to decline when I saw that it was T1 who had saved me from a group of bullies only a few years earlier. He looked it over briefly before saying “Those trucks are the wrong size. You need them to be as wide as the board.” When I explained that I had found those and had never seen any wider, T1 offered to let me look through his collection of used parts. I followed him down the canyon to his home and with some guidance, was able to find a pair of trucks more suited to the board. More ingenuity was required to fit the new trucks to the board, and the plastic wheels to those trucks, but eventually the work was done and I had a functioning skateboard. It was only a few short weeks before the bearings rolled right out of those cheap wheels and the board found a new home in the garbage.
On many of the weekends the family didn’t camp in the Imperial Valley desert, Father and I would ride our motorcycles together in Corral Canyon. Even though the weather report listed a chance of snow, we decided to go for a ride anyway. Usually if it snowed at all, it would only be a light dusting. The sky was overcast and the air crisp, but the riding area was vacant of other humans, and so we made the most of having the trails to ourselves. We followed a rocky but relatively wide fire break down into the Corte Madera valley, above the dreaded hill of the same name. As we cut back and forth down a series of steep switchbacks, the snow started to lazily drift down from the clouds. Father stopped and asked me if I was okay to keep riding and I said that I was, and so we continued on. Soon though, the snow began to fall in sheets, sticking to rocky ground and riding goggles alike. Icy slush coated the numerous granite boulders, turning the trail into a nightmare of unpredictable trajectories. As my RM-80 started to slide, I instinctively tapped the rear brake pedal. The little motorcycle didn’t slow in the least, instead it drifted at an angle completely foreign to my experience. In a panic I released the breaks and tried to lay the bike down on its side. The front wheel hooked onto a large rock and as as I fell onto my back, the motorcycle slid off the manzanita tree littered roadside. I began to cry in frustrated at the difficulty of riding on the snow covered terrain which was challenging enough when dry. Tears froze my eyelashes closed, even as I tried to choke them back. I heard Father’s bike shut off and his boots scrape the detritus littered ground. “Are you alright?” he asked. I shook my head and whined that it was too hard to keep riding. Father reassured me and promised to retrieve my bike from the ditch. I could hear him struggle to drag it up, but my vision was still obscured by icy tears. “There are only a couple more switchbacks and then the road straightens out. We can take an easier way back to the van. But if you don’t keep going, then we’ll have to go back the way we came, and that’s going to be harder.” I stood up and brushed the snow off my backside. Shivering as I straddled the RM-80, I looked down the trail now white with snow. “I can’t do it.” I told Father. “Sure you can,” he said “just don’t panic and you’ll be fine.” and with that he rode off, leaving me the choice to either follow along, or sit there alone. I kicked the engine over and fighting back fresh tears, I followed.