We were camping on Pole Line Road, north of Ocotillo Wells. I was still riding the Honda Trail 50 which I had learned on. Father was leading on his beloved Bultaco. There was a wide, flat area to the west of the road, broken only by one small knoll. Father turned a wide circle around the hill, then rode over it. I saw this and turned to follow. The other side of the hill dropped off abruptly, and I found myself unexpectedly air born. Father stopped to talk. “I didn’t expect you to follow me up there.” he said. “Did I just jump?!” I asked in surprise. “Yeah!” he affirmed. After that, I was always on the lookout for places where I could feel that brief reprieve from gravity.
One of the neighborhood kids had a little 60cc bike, and they wanted to go for a ride with me and Father. We had ridden the fire break road around the back of Goat Mountain, and along the top of Crazy Man. On the way back, they asked if they could try riding my larger RM-80. So we swapped bikes. I was surprised at how light the little KX-60 was. The front wheel fell into a rut and I reacted how I usually did, by leaning back and rolling on the throttle. The much lighter but almost as powerful bike stood up vertically and I had to quickly lean forward while reversing the throttle. I had a new respect for that little bike that had almost dumped me off its back.
Evidently Mr. D and Father had been in a motorcycle club together before I was born. Neither of them seemed much like bikers to me, but as we were all out in the desert riding motorcycles together, it didn’t seem too much a stretch. Mr. D loved to tell stories though, so I remained at least slightly skeptical. His taciturn son was a few years older than me and I’m not sure we ever spoke, but one day Mr. D offered to let me ride the boy’s larger, taller dirt bike. Sitting on the 125cc bike, my feet didn’t even reach the ground, so I leaned it over and with some struggle managed to kick start it. I was terrified to ride the bike, because it was new and conspicuously not mine. It felt good though, to know that I was able. Afterward, Father suggested that perhaps it was time I graduated to a larger motorcycle.
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.
From our earliest adventures, Cousin-L and I knew that we were destined to fame. I would carry a portable tape deck and we danced around as she would lip sync the lyrics. However, Cyndi Lauper songs were too good to simply pretend sing, and so we would belt out such classics as “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” and “Money Changes Everything.” Mysteriously, the dissonant racket was tolerated by our parents. The real quantum leap forward in our performance careers came when Cousin-L introduced me to Weird Al Yankovic. I realized then, that I could change longstanding lyrics into whatever I so chose for any available melody. Together, Cousin-L and I penned such personal highlights such as “The Eater of the Snack” and “Livin’ on a Butt Hair.” I learned how to operate a dual tape deck for recording, and soon we cut our demo tape of original lyrics to popular songs. Mother would often drive Link’s mother into town, and they would patiently listen to the album. When the entire band was present, we would turn the drive to El Cajon into an impromptu live performance. We spent any time not taken up by song writing and recording discussing what we should call ourselves. A decision was never reached.
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.”