Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Brief Autobiography

I break it down to decades: my first ten years I am a child, and spend them in Prospect Park, Pennsylvania, a deeply urban bedroom community ten minutes from Philadelphia. I am born; I grow a lonely, fatherless boy, raised by a disaffected mother, foreboding grandmother and a vacuum-tube television set; I learn very quickly which one of the three to trust most. School comes, and I make friends -- Steven Weatherill being my best one, after a blackout during a rainstorm forces us together -- but I am quite obviously different. I am programming computers by age 7. I am bullied frequently, cast as a freak. Even my teachers hate me; Mr. Lewis physically abuses me in 4th grade, and Mrs. Neff emotionally abuses me in 5th grade.

In 1985 we sell our house and move to neighboring Glenolden. I have almost no friends; only my art teacher takes pity on me, and I spend many after-school hours in her classroom. I test at college level on that year’s aptitude tests; meanwhile, the school’s gifted program literally runs out of things to teach me. The decision is made to send me to Milton Hershey School, where I spend six more years in a place which also has nothing to teach me, and I am beaten by drunken dorm fathers and sexually molested by upperclassmen. During my time there, my family moves to rural Nottingham, Pennsylvania. Upon graduation, I am left to nurse after my ailing, increasingly delusional grandmother for three years, with no prospects for college or other continuing education. That's decade number two.

My third decade begins with my discovery of electronic music, specifically the artist Aphex Twin, and I decide to pursue music. Simultaneously, I make new friends at nearby radio station WVUD in Newark, Delaware, and within a year I've moved to that town. I work at the now-defunct East End Cafe, becoming a raging alcoholic mess squatting in a room on 18 Ritter Lane. I take LSD for the first time. I release albums under a female sockpuppet and make thousands of dollars. I move to North Carolina, and back, and New Jersey, and back. I form a band, and we record the two best electronic albums of all time. I fall in love so hard I take a train to California to lose my virginity, and I fall out of love so hard it takes me two years to recover. Everyone betrays me, or maybe I betray everyone -- details are fuzzy. I leave Delaware in disgust. I move to Arizona.

This is decade number four. I'm six years in, and it's drastically different from the previous three. I've signed into a domestic partnership. I've cut off most of my friends and family from the East Coast. I've become financially stable (more or less) and emotionally stable (more or less) -- or is that, too, just a failure of perspective? Will I look back on this decade as a horrible mess, as I have the three before it? In truth, all the decades before certainly seemed to be the important ones while they were happening. Is that the lesson of this life: to remember that now is the only important-seeming moment, a moment that is fleeting and detestable in retrospect?