In the nearby Laguna mountains there were myriad hiking trails, ranging the gamut from leisurely to terrifying. Among the more popular destinations was Stonewall peak. Little more than tall bump among other bumps, the peak itself couldn’t be seen from the parking area. A heavily traveled trail meandered through pine and fern at a leisurely incline. After less than a couple miles of hiking, the meager peak became visible. A cliff of organized rubble sat prominently against the horizon, just barely higher than the pine trees’ upper needles. In case the rocky peak suggested adventure, a series of stairs had been set into the ridge, allowing for easy ascent and decent. At the top, I leaned over the railing and wondered at the view. I must have talked about it a lot, because Father suggested we could climb the much higher San Jacinto. I was of course interested.
Five of us were loaded into GG’s baby blue Ford Pinto. Link’s mother rode passenger, and Cousins-L and B, and myself sat under the hatchback glass, eschewing seatbelts in favor of the better view. I had finished a can of diet soda and was absentmindedly pinging the tab. Cousin-L asked me if I could pull the tab off with the mounting ring still attached. I asked her why, as I’d never even thought about doing that before. Evidently the kids at her school were collecting them. So, I thought about how I might approach the problem, and went about pulling the tab off. Presently, it popped right off, and while I’m not sure exactly how it happened, my thumb slid into the can. I could feel immediately that I had injured myself. Nervously investigating my thumb, I saw that I had somehow scooped a chunk of flesh right out of the softest part of the digit. The pain was distressingly intense, and the sight of the deeper layers of my skin sent me into a minor panic. GG asked what had happened and Cousin-L informed her that I had cut myself. No one seemed as upset about it as I felt they should be. Blood started to gush from the wound, so I wrapped it tightly in my shirt. The pressure of my ersatz tourniquet did much to relieve the pain and stop the bleeding. I thought for sure I was going to lose my thumb. When we arrived at our destination in La Mesa, I hurried into the bathroom to run some water over the cut. As soon as I unwrapped it from my shirt the intense pain returned, and so I wrapped it again and did my best to put on a brave face. When I was back home, Mother asked me what had happened. I told her about the can and she asked “Why did you do that?” and so I did my best to explain Cousin-L’s desire for the intact tab. Mother just looked at me and said “Dummy.”
After school, I had been waiting for Mother to pick me up when J1 came out of the school office carrying a large grey skateboard with a bird skull logo on the bottom side. He tossed the board to the ground, hopped onto it and started to glide away. I called out “Hey, can I see your skateboard?” He let me ride it around, and I was amazed at the difference in quality between his board and my own, which had recently made it’s way to the garbage. To my surprise, J1 offered to help me buy a new board at the swap meet, if I could come up with enough money. I begged Mother, and with the promise of extra chores being completed without complaint, she gave me a twenty dollar bill with which to buy a skateboard. The following Friday, after class J1 and I walked from school to his home, and then the couple of miles to the El Cajon swap meet. I was amazed at the many kiosks selling a wide variety of merchandise, everything from yard sale fare, to handmade crafts and outlet fashions. J1 led me around and to a tarpaulin shaded table displaying a variety of skateboards. I chose a yellow board with a sunset and palm tree logo. It wasn’t a professional model, but it was of much higher quality than my found board had been. After that time, I would spend a couple days each week, and most every weekend not otherwise taken up riding dirt bikes, skateboarding with J1 or S3. That swap meet skateboard lasted me the remainder of the sixth grade school year, and most of the following summer.
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.