The likelihood of meeting the person you’re destined to be with is a statistical anomaly. That’s if you believe it’s possible. Be that as it may, my parents almost never met.

In the 1970s when the manufacturing industry was thriving, and before health and safety regulations were what they are today, the man my mother loved, spent his summers working in a plant in Detroit.

It was good money for a black kid at the time, but the air he breathed working there was toxic. He developed a then-fatal lung disease called sarcoidosis.

This would not be the last time my mother would lose the love of her life to the American working environment.

Scientists today say sitting is the new smoking. It’s something we all do without the long-term health risks fully understood.

Most of us sit all day staring at screens. Will we look back at our current day jobs through the same lens we look at the inhumane working conditions of the past?

My guess? We definitely will.

After Donald’s funeral my mom drove for days with no destination. It was the worst thing she had ever been through, up to that point.

Unbeknownst to her then, it would also be the catalyst to propel her into the world she knows today.

Even more important, for the purpose of our story, I owe my existence to this seemingly horrible event.

There’s an old fable, of the wise man:

A boy really wanted a bike and finally got one.
The people in his town thought it was great.
Reserving judgement, the wise man said, ‘we’ll see’.
The boy broke his arm riding that bike.
The villagers then thought it was bad.
The wise man said, ‘we’ll see’.
Then war came.
Because of the broken arm, he didn’t have to go.
The townspeople changed their tune again.
They thought his arm breaking turned out to be a good thing.
The wise man simply said, we’ll see…

These stories reflect the importance of non-judgement and non-attachment to any particular outcome. It’s best to stay here in the present moment.

We never know where it will take us.

Chapter 1

Have you ever considered the improbability of being alive?

Think of all the near-death experiences our ancestors must’ve made it through. The earth had to be 93 million miles away from the sun. Every living organism that existed in the 6 billion years between Earth forming and the evolution of man had to make it through unimaginable difficulty, all for your parents to meet.

And like I said, mine almost didn’t. When it happened, it was a chance encounter.

My Mom and Aunt Phoebe had plans to visit their friend in Virginia – who ends up ditching them for some random guy; an encounter I can only imagine was as random as my parents’.

Not wanting to waste their vacation, my mom suggests Charleston. While there enjoying the summer day, they notice a group of guys. My mom was way too shy but my Aunt was the opposite.

She walked right over and started talking to one of them, named Curtis.

My father was one of 14 brothers and sisters, born and raised in War, West Virginia – the state’s southern most town. He and his siblings would grow to resent their country upbringing and began moving to New York City when they became of age.

They had family there who they spent their summers with as children. My father went to college however in Charleston.

The summer he graduated he found himself outside at the city fountain, discussing plans to finally move to New York permanently.

It was then when a heavy-set, light-skinned, African-American woman named Phoebe approached him, asking, “What’s there to do around here?”

My dad, noticing her pretty brown skinned 5’1 sister standing quietly in the background, invited them both out. He said he’d be happy to show them around.

They accepted his invitation and for the rest of that weekend they all hung out. Then my mom and dad exchanged numbers.

After a couple years of dating my parents got married. By then my father was living in New York full time, working real estate in Harlem, and trying to get his record label off the ground.

My mother worked for a doctor’s office back in Steubenville, Ohio. My dad eventually enticed her to move to the big city.

Through the lens of history it seems apparent now, but for them at the time, the magnitude of danger in Harlem 1983 wasn’t as obvious. And like the boiling frog, my father would slowly succumb.

He was also in mourning. His father was dying.

Most of the time then, my dad was nowhere to be found. Where he was and what he was doing, we won’t find out until I’m much older. It’s something that would change my family forever.

Fortunately for my mom, her mom who I called ‘Gram’, came to New York to help. Gram was an unapologetically courageous black women, though light enough to pass for white.

It was right around this time my mother became pregnant with her first child, me.

Chapter 2

I don’t know much about reincarnation, but once out of curiosity, I googled who died the day I was born. Howard Dietz. We have some eerie similarities.

Because I’m a Leo, I’ve always loved lions. Howard Dietz created the Lion you see at the beginning of every MGM movie. Not only did he die the day I was born, but it was in the same city!

If that’s not enough, he was a writer too. Creepy.

I don’t know much about my paternal grandfather either, other than he died on July 1st, and by the end of that month I’d be born.

You would think losing your father and becoming one, would create some sort of balance. But my father couldn’t handle death. Not even new life could lead him from the depression that followed.

My mother hadn’t seen him in days. Miraculously he came home the morning she gave birth to me.

My parents had an arrangement with their neighbors. They were supposed to drive her to the hospital when it was time. When it actually happened though, they “chickened out” and gave their car to my father to drive instead.

Racing from 127th – 12th street through Manhattan traffic on a hot Saturday night in July, they make it without incident to St. Vincent’s Medical Center (the hospital used first on September 11, 2001).

While my father was parking the car, my mom and grandma were getting into a heated confrontation with the security guard. He’s telling them they have to go in through another entrance.

My grandmother is yelling, “Can’t you see she’s pregnant!? There’s no time! Her husband is parking the car, we can’t lose him!” My mom is thinking that my dad, with his temper, is seriously going to fight this dude.

Just before my dad catches back up with them, the guard recognizes my mom…she works in the same hospital! He let’s all three of them in, just in time. Crises averted.

At 5:38pm on July 30, 1983 I took my first breath in one of the most artistic and open minded places in the world, Greenwich Village. I was handed to my mother and father by a nurse with purple hair. Then it was back to Harlem.

Chapter 3

Giving birth made my mom really sick. She was in the hospital for weeks. I owe my life to grandmother being there. My father missing in action.

One night Gram had enough of my father’s disappearance. She went looking for him and started at his Mom’s.

None of us had any idea why my father was hiding or what he was running from, but Gram found him there on Grammy’s couch. He was just sitting there watching TV, as if neglecting your newborn and sick wife was acceptable.

She yelled at them both, telling them how ridiculous it was to be so irresponsible. The ridicule worked because after the berating he came home.

My mother began to feel better and for my family things started to improve. My mom was working, going to school, and learning to navigate the city. My Dad was trying his hardest to be successful with his businesses.

One night after showing an apartment to some potential tenants my father was robbed and pistol whipped for the few hundred dollars he had on him. He came home that night bruised and bloody.

I was still too young to remember, but they told me I could sense the trauma and lifted my little baby arms to his wounds with a cold compress.

That’s when my mom realized the danger in Harlem.

She tried my dad’s way long enough. Now it was her turn. After years of negotiations, she talked my dad into moving to the town she grew up in, St. Clairsville.

We stayed in a small house there where I made my first memories. I can remember my dad’s brother visiting, Uncle Jackie, and me riding on his back.

Next when I was 4 we moved to a nearby town called Martins Ferry where I start to recollect memories. This is where I first learned about the opposite sex, and the opposite race.

The first time I heard the word nigger was from the neighbors across the street.

They were laughing and pointing at me, calling me nigger while I played along. I had no idea what it meant. Later I asked my mom. She said it’s a mean word to call a black person.

My response, “well what’s a mean word to call a white person?”


My father was coming and going. Every morning I’d wake up and ask,

“Is Daddy here?”

“No. I’m sorry sweetheart”.

Could this be where my issues with abandonment stem from?

Possibly. But also maybe Day Care. I’d be there for 10 hours a day sometimes. No one knew it then but now studies now suggest children left at Day Care suffer from abandonment issues later in life.

Back at home there were several children in my neighborhood, most of them were older than me. A few of the girls were my age and that’s who I played with.

One of the kids who called me a nigger, told me a story about a lady on our street. He told me this grown woman let him see her breasts. I was jealous I didn’t get to.

I found myself alone with the woman’s daughter. We both ended up with our pants down.

“Oohh baby I want to kiss you”, I said.

My brain was already starting to be corrupted.

Days later I found myself playing with another one of my girl friends. At this point I assumed pulling your pants down was normal.

“Aren’t you gonna pull your pants down?”

She did not and promptly told her mother.

Her mom yelled at me wildly, saying she would tell my mom. I was terrified. I waited outside on the porch while they talked. That night I waited for the fury of my parents to erupt. I was so ashamed. But that fury never came.

I have no idea if she told my mom. I lived with that guilt throughout my childhood. I’ve since forgiven myself, understanding it was misguided human nature.

I couldn’t have been more than 5 years old but I loved Michael Jackson. His songs laid the foundation for what my musical palette is today. No one will believe this, because of how uncoordinated I am, but back then I could moonwalk. I swear.

I’ll never know how she pulled this off, but one day when she picked me up from Day Care, she had Michael Jackson tickets. Not only that, but when we go home to get ready, my dad was there!

As for the experience of the show, it was horrifying. I was scared the whole time. I guess I was too young for pyrotechnics. But creativity snuck into my subconscious. I would never be the same.

I’m forever grateful for that night. Seeing the greatest performer of all time gave me an appreciation, respect, and curiosity for the arts.

My parents must’ve had fun that night too because a couple months later my mom had a talk with me.

She asked what I thought about having a younger sibling. I told her of course I wanted one. She told me I would in fact be a big brother. I could even pick the name.

We were always in church so I picked a name from the Bible if it was a boy, Joshua.

Chapter 4

”Skeletons, found years after their souls left. Kneeling in prayer, clawing their way through the dirt, hopelessly frozen forever.
It was the 1960s and the mines caved in again. These things happen in towns like War, West Virginia. This time it was the work of the Mothman. Just months prior he brought down the Silver Bridge and killed 46 people.”

My father would tell me ghost stories from his childhood in West Virginia. He was a staunch believer in ghosts and thought our house was haunted.

“Daddy tell me just one more!”

“Okay, just one more…”

They say that newborns possess a knowledge and understanding of the unknown, a memory even, of what’s on the other side of life – having just come from there themselves. They say that children forget this divine information as they learn to speak.

As unlikely as this may seem, it’s true we have early experiences we can’t remember. No one remembers their own birth, but we know it happened. If our memories don’t begin were our experience does, where’s the timeline begin?

I don’t think my father had given much thought to these ideas, but I can’t help but to consider them when I reflect on the next story he told me…

When you were very young, Arthur, just beginning to talk, I heard you in the middle of the night in your room. I went to check on you. My heart froze when I saw you standing there. I asked what you were doing. You told me you were talking to the ‘blue man’. I asked where the blue man went. You told me he walked back into the wall. I had chills all over my body because I had already seen things myself in the house. That’s when I knew it had to be haunted.

I slept in my parents’ bed that night, scared to death.

My mother was the opposite of my father and didn’t believe in anything outside of her five senses, unless it was in the Bible.

When I wasn’t being told horrifying ghost stories, I was preparing to become a big brother. I was really excited.

I saw a child psychologist to help me cope with feelings of jealousy that were said to be common with new siblings. But I never felt any of that. I only ever wanted to best for him from the moment I saw him.

The morning he was born, March 10, 1989 – I woke up to an empty house. I found Gram standing in the hallway. I asked where everyone was. She told me they’d gone to the hospital to have the baby. I can still hear her voice, warm with excitement.

I guess because 95% of the people I was around were white, and I was too young to understand genetics, but for some reason I kept thinking my little brother was going to be white.

My dad took me to see him in the hospital and just laughed when I asked.

Chapter 5

My father was determined to do better with Josh and for a large part of my brother’s infancy he was a stayed at home. My brother and father would grow to be really close.

It’s the reason Josh loves sports. They would stay home all day together watching any game they could. When I was his age and he wasn’t around, so I grew up hating sports.

I’ve always found sports boring. A bunch of dudes running around in their matching outfits chasing balls, risking neurological damage – to pursue contrived victory.

I never got into it. But to each his own.

That’s only one possible reason I don’t like sports. The first football game I ever went to, I was taken to by my Dad and Uncle Jackie. These Friday night lights happened to be on Friday the 13th.

My Dad took me to the concession stand in between plays. Everything was loud and chaotic. I looked up to tell him I didn’t want ketchup on my hot dog, but he was gone.

The lights, the announcers, the whistles. It all seemed to swirl around my head. What couldn’t have been more than 2 minutes felt like an hour. I was so short people couldn’t see me. They kept bumping into me. Someone burnt me with a cigarette on my cheek. I fell and the crowd didn’t seem to notice. I didn’t cry. I was too disoriented to even think.

Just then a teenage girl rescued me. What had to be the prettiest woman I’d ever laid eyes on, reached down and picked me up, like an angel from heaven. I hugged her like I’d known her forever.

I wish I knew her name and could find her on Facebook. She’s probably still hot. I’d have the best DM dive intro ever, but back to the story.

She took me away from the crowd and towards the fence against the field. She asked me where my parents were. I almost didn’t want to find them. I would have rather stayed with her.

Eventually my Dad and Uncle came looking for me and found me with her. They overlooked how distraught I was and laughed because they found me a pretty girl. They joked and said I did it on purpose. I didn’t see the humor in it, even if there was truth to it.

My dad paid for the girl’s hot dogs and sodas, and thanked her for her help. She smiled and gave me another hug. She said I was the cutest thing she’d ever seen. The feeling she gave me can only be described as love.

When we got back to our seats my Dad still had jokes.

“I didn’t know you liked the white girls” he said.

That was the first time anyone ever gave me that critique, but it wouldn’t be the last.

Chapter 6

As bad as I’ve done in school, my entire life, teachers have always told me I’m smart. I’d like to think that maybe I am, but it’s debatable. If there is anything that does set me apart, it’s awareness. I see things others don’t, and I don’t mean the blue man who walked into the wall.

When I talk about ideas like the totalitarian slave state we’re all heading towards, being complicit in our own subjugation by accepting the oppressive conditions we’re living in, most people just call that ‘going to work’. While on one level, they’re not wrong, there’s still something else, deeper, behind the scenes; I think they’re missing it.

I’ve tried discussing how institutions like marriage are not only archaic but actually counterintuitive to what love is supposed to be. I say that love is freedom and contractually obligating your partner to you, is in fact the opposite of what it means to love someone. I explain how a young couple starting a life together could better use those thousands of dollars they’re spending on throwing a pretentious party (wedding) for themselves, for something more important, like food and shelter. They never even have a decent counter argument, they just mumble something about it being tradition. But truth is like light and just like you can’t stop the sun from shinning, most marriages end in divorce.

Miss Lauryn Hill, the famously reclusive R&B singer once said, ”We spend our life in sacrifice to a system for the dead. Are you sure it’s God you’re serving? Obligated to a system, getting less than you’re deserving.” 

Is she referring to these systems, created by dead men, that we artificially prop up – to our own detriment?

I dream of a world where we throw off the shackles of the past to forge ahead with a new enlightened, current, and more relevant way of being.

Theres an expression that says if you raise a child in church, he’ll always come back. But really that just means you have to feed nonsense to a child because an adult will never believe the literal interpretation of these superstitions.

Even though my parents tried to raise me with the same arbitrary lessons passed down to them for generations, from who I can only assume were slave masters, somehow I was able to see through it at an early age.

I remember my first ever debate. I overheard a kindergartener describing in great length a conversation he had with the Cookie Monster. He was explaining how the Cookie Monster asked how many cookies would he have left if he started with 5 and then ate 2. Scott proudly shouted, ”three!” at the T.V. The Cookie Monster reassuringly said ”Yes that’s right”.

I interjected the conversation he was having, trying to explain how the cookie monster cannot hear him. I tried to tell him the Cookie Monster wasn’t real at all, just a puppet being controlled by forces off camera. Some things never change.

Needless to say that regardless of how sound my argument was, he wasn’t mentally prepared to accept this truth. It’s not that Scott was dumb, he was a better student than me. What he lacked was awareness. This frustration I had with Scott I still feel today, as I try to explain what I see as obvious truths, hidden in plain sight.

I don’t let it upset me because just like Scott would eventually realize the cookie monster wasn’t real, soon enough you too will realize, neither is anything else.

Chapter 7

Kindergarten was the last grade I have fond memories of. My teacher Mrs. Duke was very kind and made each of us feel special. I wasn’t great academically though and would fall behind my classmates in spelling.

First grade was worse. I started getting into trouble. I would talk back and question everything.

Did I mention it was Catholic school? The hate questions. When I questioned a perceived contradiction in a Bible story, Ms. Case lost her mind; screaming at me, telling me I’m nothing like Jesus and I never could be.

He that believeth in me, these works that I do, he shall also do. And even greater works than these

John 14:12

After she recited this verse, I asked her if I could also make miracles. It wasn’t me saying I could, I exclaimed.

Jesus said I can do more than he can! Shouldn’t we take this into consideration? Imagine the implications.

What if instead of thinking we’re born sinners, on our knees begging for forgiveness for our ratchets souls – we were striving to become enlightened and ascend to a higher consciousness?

What might the world look like?

Is our anxiety and depression at least partly rooted in the lie they tell us, that we’re damned from birth?

Of course I’m paraphrasing the argument I made to Ms Case.

I think what actually happened is I spilled my cup of water on the floor, walked across it, and told everyone I was just like Jesus. This garnered hilarious applause from the other children and the fury of Ms. Case.

She was the first in a long line of teachers who seemed determined to stifle my creativity and intellectual curiosity.

Back in Martins Ferry, with 2 children and my father being there, the house became too small. My mom was slowly moving up in her company and with my dad staying at home with Josh, we were able to save a few dollars.

We decided to move back to Saint Clairsville and into the house my mom grew up in, where Gram lived.

By the time I left that Catholic school my behavior had really become a problem. My parents encouraged me to use this new school and city as an opportunity to start over. I even changed my name. I no longer wanted to be called Arthur. I was A.J. now.

Chapter 8

Before classes started I took a tour of my new school with my mom and the principal, Mr Albert. It helped ease the anxiety I was having about switching schools and starting the second grade. He seemed nice and told my mom he thought I’d do well. My mom breathed a breath of relief, hoping she wouldn’t have to deal with me always in a his office – like before.

They were calling me A.J. instead of Arthur which helped reinforce the idea of a new life. I felt good while I was being given the tour, but when I left I felt strange twinge of worry.

I’m not sure where it came from.

Looking back at the school ominously, out the window of my mom’s maroon Grand Am, I thought to myself… at least they’ll be weekends.

That night at home we had a surprise visit from my Uncle Habron, Aunt Rose, and Cousin Curtis.

I had never met any of them but it was cool to be around an older cousin, I thought. Curtis was 13. He was named after my father. My Dad didn’t love the idea of him being named after him though. He always thought they gave out his name prematurely. What if he wanted to give the name to his own child one day?

When I was younger I thought Curtis would’ve been a cooler name than Arthur but as I’ve gotten older I’ve learned to embrace it. I’ve always had a weird relationship with my name. Let’s be honest, it’s an old person’s name. The name Arthur is very typecast. When you’re Arthur, your fate is sealed. There’s no way you’re not going to read books and wear glasses.

I’ve always envied people with cool names. Not only is my first name Arthur but my middle name is Whitlow! Can you believe that? Arthur Whitlow. What kind of shit is that? What my parents were thinking will forever be a mystery.

 was named after my two grandfathers but still. I mean, you know you would never name your kids Arthur. When I present it like that I usually win the argument, when people try to be nice and tell me my name isn’t peculiar.

Back to our  surprise visit.

The biggest surprise of it all was yet to come. Apparently my Aunt and Uncle were having some unidentified problem that required leaving their child. So unbeknownst to my mother, she was now going to have a third child living with her for an unspecified amount of time. It was as if she didn’t get a say in the matter. They essentially left their kid on her doorstep, stork style.

My dad disappeared again. He would literally escape in the middle of the day. One time we found him in the driveway in his car about to take off. He wouldn’t tell anyone he was leaving and be gone for days at least. Even with his wife taking care of essentially 3 of his children.

It was tough on my mom, all of a sudden raising a 13 year old. She had no experience with teenagers, finding condoms, and having to deal with 8th grade melodrama. It was outside of her current realm of parenting at the time.

I couldn’t see how difficult it was for her then. I liked having a ‘big brother’, most of the time.

So here I was, starting at a new school, with a new name, and a new family member…

Chapter 9

Before we go any farther we should talk about something.

I know I’ve maybe alluded to this already, but I just want make it clear now and then we can move on.

I was the only black kid in my class, and one of a few in the entire school.

I don’t want to dwell on this more than I have to, particularly in these early chapters. This fact, being black and being different in general, is something I had a very limited understanding of back then.

The older I get, the more I realize it’s impact on my life and the way I view the world. And also, the way the world views me.

I said something before about liking a different girl every year. My crush in second grade is when the memories change from analog to digital. I remember her well, Jessica was her name. Her complexion was the same as her hair, butterscotch.

Does her being tan represent some sort of racially ambiguous fixation rooted in me due to my surroundings? Perhaps, because this description would become archetypal in my life.

I never told her though. I never told anyone. Having the world know was for some reason my worst fear.

I had a best friend named John. John was what you would’ve called a bad kid. His Dad was what some might call a redneck. They liked me and my Dad though. My dad coached our flag football team. It’s where we all met.

My dad must have learned how to get along with rednecks growing up in creepy West Virginia. I must’ve learned how in St. C. It’s a skill that surprisingly comes in handy sometimes.

Even though my dad was the coach, I rarely got to play. In his defense, I wasn’t very good. He let me know ever chance he got. But it was his fault. He was never there to teach me.

People will make you into something, then resent you for becoming it. This is why you have to create yourself.

On recess John and I were racing. At the finish line stood Jessica. If I could win, it would be an opportunity to impress her.

Our friend Brian yelled go, and we were off!

I ran as fast as I could, keeping my eyes on her the whole time. But in the end it wasn’t fast enough. I couldn’t keep up with John who collided directly into her. They both fell to the ground, she was crying hysterically.  John had been in trouble several times before and so had I.

The teachers blamed me initially but had to concede it was John, due to the eye-witnesses.

The next thing I knew the teachers were walking him off of the playground.

Soon I found out his dad was taking him to another smaller school, in the hopes of curbing his behavioral issues. As for Jessica, she now associated me as one of the bad kids, so that was the end of my crush.

I was left with no crush and no best friend. No friends at all really, being I was the new kid in school.

Brian  who yelled ‘go’ at the race, eventually became my new best friend. His older brother was in the same grade as my cousin Curtis, so we had that in common too. I had my first sleepover at his house and we would go on to wreak havoc on Mrs. Bizzari. It was great.

Having a best friend and ‘older brother’ was vital for success in the game of grade school politics. A friend for companionship, and an older sibling for protection. In the early 90s bullying prevention wasn’t a thing like it is today. No one cared enough to stop it.

It was like the wild west back then. We would settle our differences on the playground or after school. Sometimes one on one. Sometimes five on one. It made no difference.

Because fights were a regular thing, it wasn’t long until me and Brian got into one, over whose dad made the most money. It’s funny to think about this now because both of our fathers were broke.

In any event, the fight ended our friendship. I still know Brian and our relationship has never been the same.

Right around this time cousin Curtis moved back to Virginia with his family. I would be forced to navigate my way through this new terrain, of being the new black kid at the white school, alone.

I started walking home from school with some kids in my neighborhood. Those walks were dangerous, at any time a fight could spontaneously combust.

Of all the fights I had been through, the biggest was just about to happen.

Walking home I found myself getting swung on, ferociously, by some kid I never saw before. I looked to see were my friends were. Not for help, but to make sure they weren’t seeing me get beat up. I didn’t want the embarrassment.

No one back then was really afraid of getting hurt. We were only afraid of losing.

I kept getting hit with blows. The situation was deteriorating and had become such a spectacle my friends couldn’t help but to notice. They came rushing down, presumably to save me, but when they realized who I was fighting with, they didn’t engage.

It was all too chaotic for me to process.

By now my assailant’s mother had taken him into her car and was driving away. My friends tried to stop me but I was too enraged. I yelled at them, laughing like a mad man and crying.

I assumed she would just keep driving off. I was wrong. She stopped her car in the middle of traffic, right in front of the high school. She opens the door and gets out.

I freeze.

She’s calling me a nigger and a bunch of other things I’m sure I’ve mentally blocked out.

A black high schooler overhears everything. He says, “don’t be talking to a child like this, he’s just a kid!”.

She calls him nigger too and finally gets back in the car and leaves.

That maybe saved me.

By now I turn around to my friends, to ask why they didn’t help. They look like they’ve just seen the Tales from the Crypt keeper.

One of them looks pitifully at me and says, “that kid you got in a fight with is Carl, the toughest kid in school!”

Carl hated a lot of kids at school, with a passion. He terrorized even more than he hated. But off all his foes, I had become the number one target.

The older cousin and best friend would’ve been helpful here, but what was more valuable was the understanding.

I would have to make it through life on my own.

Chapter 10

Yes I was failing classes. Yes I had the toughest kid in school after me. Yes my dad was in and out of my life. Yes there were talks of suspending me, something unheard of at the time.

None of that bothered me.

Before smart phones and tablets distracted and addicted young boys, we used to like girls. In the third grade it was Brenda.

I again never told her. I assumed no one would like me since I was different and felt embarrassed because of it.

A classmate of mine liked her too and she liked him back. I took my mom’s earrings to school. I told him to give them to her. I don’t know why. I guess I wanted to be the reason she smiled, even if indirectly.

In Judaism it’s said that one of the highest levels of giving, is when the recipient is unaware of the giver. Love should be altruistic. It’s funny how we understand this intuitively as children, until our modern world suffocates it out of us.

This gives credence to the idea we discussed in chapter 4, that children are in tune with the divine before they arrive.

I was forming something of a double life. I was becoming very active in my church due to my mother. Church was in Wheeling, West Virginia. Because of the slander I gave WV earlier for being so country, you maybe wouldn’t expect Wheeling to be hood.

But East Wheeling is, and that’s where I went to church. It may also seem to you like those rougher elements of the city wouldn’t be imposing on my church going experience.

But you’d be forgetting about one thing. Kids in the hood go to church when they’re young. Today they probably don’t, but in the 90s they definitely did.

Their parents knew what they were up against in those streets, so they tried to keep them in the church as long as they could. It’s how I know that expression about ‘raising a child in church’.

So while I was spending my weekdays with white kids, whose parents were mostly upper middle class. My weekends were spent with black kids, some who would eventually gang bang, others who already were.

I know how hard this is to believe, but surprisingly enough, these city kids didn’t like me.

Saint Clairsville was one town of many, making up the tristate area of what is referred to as The Ohio Valley. The only town there you maybe heard of is Steubenville Ohio. Famous for Dean Martin, The Sopranos, and Wu Tang.

If the Valley was California, East Wheeling was Compton, Steubenville was South Central, and St. C was Beverly Hills.

So here I was, the kid from Beverly Hills (minus the money), around the kids from Compton. Yea, they didn’t love me.

Even though I was fighting as much as I was, even though I was getting in trouble in school, even though I’d end up having my own legal cases to fight, I still wasn’t considered tough enough to get respect from the streets – yet.

Did this juxtaposition of opposing lifestyles help to frame my perspective, cultivating intellectual duality and understanding?

Does that sentence even make sense, and thus, do I even have any of those traits?

All questions I’m not prepared to answer right now, and I definitely wasn’t then.

In the midst of all of this going on, I had moved on to my new 4th grade crush. Roxy.

Not that she liked me back, or had any idea that I liked her. Just the fact that she existed made me feel better. That was enough. That was hope. That was my escape from it all.

Whatever else was going on, I could leave there, just by thinking about her.

With my advanced understanding of the inner workings of the cookie monster, you may have gathered I was watching a lot of TV, and you’d be right.

What I hadn’t realized was the effects programming was having on my subconscious. For example, I always thought that everything would end up okay. While that may not seem negative at first, allow me to expound.

TV shows usually have happy endings. I had come to expect everything was magically predestined to work out.

In order to create change we desire, rational human beings understand; we must exert our energy to coerce the external world – as well as inner. Sometimes we fail and things fall apart. Expecting anything to happen without accepting responsibility for it’s outcome, isn’t only foolish its lazy. And that’s what TV did to me.

I didn’t learned this until Roxy.

I found out she liked someone else, my next door neighbor. This is when, for the first time, I understood that the main character doesn’t always get the girl.

I came into possession of a note she wrote him. It said: “Dear Clayton I think you’re cute but don’t tell anybody”.

I was devastated. I cried. My parents asked what was wrong, I told them I hurt my thumb. My dad found the note and told me to stay out of other people’s business. It was the best advice he had ever given me, up to that point.

Things with Clayton and Roxy wouldn’t work out sadly enough.


Years later we would find out that Clayton was in fact gay. She didn’t see that coming.

My idol, Tupac, once told his friend turned deadly rival Biggie, ”If you want to make money, rap for the bitches. Do not rap for the niggas. The bitches will buy your records.”

Women know what’s popular currently. It’s why they tend to set the tone for pop culture and fashion. In school they like who seems to be the coolest, at that moment. In adulthood, they go after professional athletes and surgeons.

They tend to like their men older, more established. Who can blame them? I can’t. But as with any and everything, there’s good and bad.

The bad side of going after what’s en vouge right now is that it’s short sighted. What if that surgeon is being investigated for insurance fraud and on his way to losing it all?

What if that kid you don’t think is cool now is on his way to becoming a best-selling author?

A big picture strategy is necessary in war, or in this game… of love.