Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Dissed By The Best, Yo

My life's story, in a nutshell.

I have found, in my long incarceration on this planet, that people who insult you often do so out of fear, jealousy, or, in rare cases, as a defensive mechanism against something you have done to negate or hurt them.

I spent most of my childhood being criticized for what I now perceive as petty things...my shyness, my inability to socialize or to fit in with the crowd.  Keep in mind that those who don't always fit in or learn differently from the norm often go on to excel in something that sets them apart from the mundane. People who are forced into solitude often embrace it over time.  So, that person you ignore or don't call up to play ball with the rest of the crew may become an accomplished writer or director, or may end up on the sorry end of life.  This is a common theme in life, there's always a few who just don't fit in.  I was always lumped into that category.

My home life was difficult as my father was estranged, I had no brothers or sisters, and my mother was a very troubled person, having been abused and abandoned as a child herself, carrying incredible pain and heartache into her adult life.  She wanted me to be something more than what she accomplished, so she tried to teach me but was ill equipped emotionally. She wasn't the typical loving parent, and was often brutal when I didn't live up to her expectations. She had a lot of rage, mainly from her being victimized as a child.  That said, she did try to do the best she could by me.  But that lack of love or expression of love left a giant hole in my heart, as I look back on it, and perhaps explains why I became materialistic and immersed myself in television as a replacement for what I lacked in real life.  I especially found solace in reading comic books, something my mother had disdain for, despite the fact those same things gave her some catharsis when she was young.

Part of this solace was an escape from my next door neighbor, who was an older boy 6 years my senior and son of our landlord, who turned out to be a molester.  He had molested me from age 8 through 11.  This confusion and fear fueled my lack of trust and failure with other children my age. I was so fearful and shy, I had few friends, and those who befriended me only did so to get something from me.  I ended up buying my attention from other children, using money I had been stealing from my Mom. We were already impoverished, so this would eventually lead to a huge confrontation with her when she finally found out.

In January of 1967 I became obsessed with the TV show, The Invaders. It was about alien beings taking over the world, looking and acting like us, infiltrating all aspects of society.  The only way you could tell an alien was their lack of emotion and a mutation of their 4th finger, causing many of them to be unable to bend their pinky when holding objects.  I thought this was very cool.  It fit how I felt, as I felt alien. This would be a major influence on my life and an escape from my troubles, which were about to get a lot worse.

When I was 10, I made a mistake that had a profound and lasting affect on my life.  I made a habit of saving change every time my Mom sent me to the store, and bought a lot of small things that gave me solace or comfort, like comic books, pens and paper, toys, and 2 notebooks that I hid in the back of my coat.  I came home from school one day, and was read the riot act by my Mom, who learned from the local drug store that I had been making a lot of purchases unusual for a 10 year old. She was so angry I stole from her that she went on a tirade. I was beaten within an inch of my life. I had been beaten before, but this one was way beyond anything I had ever experienced.  Even our landlords and their 3 kids became aware of the violence, especially after my Mom went into my room and destroyed everything I had. It wasn't enough that I was beaten, everything I owned was also destroyed. My mom hurt her foot destroying a G.I. Joe tank a friend of ours had bought me.  I was able to salvage my G.I. Joe, who had a broken arm and only one boot and a pair of gloves I hid.  Everything else ended up in a big box of trash, which my so-called friends rummaged through and took what wasn't severely damaged.  I was so devastated I didn't care.  At least, I don't remember that I did.  I was just happy to have my G.I. Joe and a pair of gloves.

What really broke my heart was disappointing my mother to the level I did and was sure she must have hated me by beating the hell out of me and destroying all my possessions.  Even the landlords, who I recall were ordinarily rather callous, were shocked at the devastation but as I saw it, convinced I was completely to blame. Yes, I deserved punishment for what I did.  Looking back, though, it hurt me deeply.  It's taken me all of my life to come to terms with it enough to finally write about it.

It didn't end with just the beating and the destruction of all that I owned, or the indignity of other children knowing of it. It made me appear weaker. Once you're perceived as weak at the outset, then having this happen, it meant I would never be taken seriously by anyone I knew.  Thank God none of my friends knew I was being sexually abused by the landlord's son next door.

I became immersed in make believe, talking to myself and spending most of my time in solitude. Eventually, my mother relented and let me have possessions again. I had my G.I. Joe and I was able to salvage a stuffed bunny I had had since I was a baby and a pair of gloves I made into "people."  I found solace also in watching television.  My mom spent more time with her friends and I felt safer that way.  I had become interested in girls as far back as 5 years old, but while I had a kind of girl friend when I was 8 and 9, most of my difficulty dealing with the opposite sex was extremely difficult as I had a profound sense of inadequacy.  After that girl, whose name was Kathleen, moved away ith her family to Tonawanda, I found it impossible
to attract the interest of any female other than being the subject of ridicule, a common theme in my life.  Music, movies and television became my loves, and unlike human beings, never disappointed me.

At 11 years old, I was an emotional wreck, had anger issues, but found catharsis in my make believe world.  I had my meager possessions, my G.I. Joe, my gloves, and I was able to sneak some comic books into the house, eventually finding tolerance, eventually by my Mom.  Having lost so much before, I appreciated everything I had, especially since those things made up for the love that was absent in my life.  Loss was a theme, but I wasn't going to let it get me.  And I wasn't going to take being abused by the neighbor boy any more.  I finally told him no one day, possibly because I had grown so much between age 10 and 11, possibly because after being beaten to near death and losing everything I owned, I might have gained some confidence or maybe I just didn't care anymore.

He was angry, however, angrier than i realized. He took a 22 rifle and shot at my bedroom window one Spring Day, but luckily, he was a bad shot and forgot I had gone outside to play.  I literally dodged a bullet that day. My Mom was going to press charges, but the Landlord convinced her if she dropped the charges we could stay in our house for good.  What they didn't tell her was that they'd triple the rent for her audacity at blaming their son for his actions. They were a lot more evil than I realized.

So we moved from Royal Avenue, Buffalo, to Niagara Street in Buffalo, right over a bar. I thought this was a step up from our existence before.  I still remember the songs the bar played as the juke box was just below my bedroom. It was Blood Sweat & Tears - Spinning Wheel and Sly & Family Stone - I Want To Take You Higher.  Loved those songs. Music took me away from my troubles. The Invaders went off the air, but I still had TV, my growing menagerie of toys and comic books, and the gloves, who I later named Beakles, inspired by the Flying Glove in the Beatles movie, Yellow Submarine.

I had some fond memories of my grade school years.  I became a little more confident, having escaped death twice.  I still had a problem communicating with girls, but after months of wooing a girl in a neighboring class in West Hertel Middle School, my Mom decided we were going to move to Salamanca, about 60 miles south, thus ruining my chances for developing that relationship. At 12 years old, that as another devastation, but I had gotten used to it. Unlucky in love and life, make believe became a lot safer.
 
I went through grade school and high school being called various epithets opposite from reality, but that gave me a special understanding of what gay people go through and why many kept their sexual orientation as secret as possible as even today, in what is arguably more of a melting pot than at any time in history, people are still bullied for their sexual orientation, which shouldn't have anything to do with life in school or in the business world.

Finally escaping the torment of school, not even going to my graduation ceremony because I felt so severely ostracized, I went on to pursue a career in the business I was most enamored by, entertainment.  At 21, with the help of friends, I started an organization for the promotion and advancement of electronic music, an alien sound that made me feel human.  The International Electronic Music Association began in 1978, which changed my life, this time for the better.

My connection to this organization, many members were quite famous or went on to fame, including Yanni, Larry Fast (Synergy and keyboardist for Peter Gabriel), and Klaus Schulze, led to my being able to make my first film, Elena - A Videosymphony, in 1980.  Elena Naimushina, a gifted Russian gymnast who went on to a medalist in the 1980 Moscow Olympics, was the subject.

The film was financed and edited through the help of the Canadian Television Network (CTV) and I can thank Cameron Rourke, the Sports technical director and the Sports President of the network, Johnny Esaw, who took a liking to my project, which was designed to promoting peace between the West and Russia, who were deep in a cold war at the time. Elena was a Russian Olympic Gymnast and I being an American filmmaker, made it in tribute to her lovable personality and friendship between our two countries. Reagan put a stop to my being able to film her with the boycott, so I relied on stock footage obtained from ABC used by permission by CTV.

My film was the most advanced music video of its kind at that time, using computer graphics, digital image manipulation, laser graphics, and a rudimentary form of morphing, with an original electronic music score I performed with the help of my music friends, including Harald Bode, inventor of the Bode Vocoder, among many other advanced musical instruments.  The 16 minute project was supposed to have narration that I had recorded, but we ran into budget problems and the decision was made to leave it out. As a result, the head honcho of ABC Sports at that time, Bob Iger, thought my film was too odd to air.  Looking back, if we put the narration in, he might have understood and liked it better.  It might have gotten me into the business.

Bob Iger dissed my film and me, saying I was a rank amateur and to not quit my day job, which at the time was working in an office as a purchasing agent for a furniture factory.  When I asked if I could do something with it in the states on another network, he threatened to sue me. Scared, I gave up on the film.  I probably could have done something with it in Canada, but I was too depressed and dejected, and so I gave up.

Bob Iger is now the head of the largest entertainment company on Earth...Disney.  So, when you have the nerve to spend your time to say I'm a punk or an idiot or don't know what I'm taking about, either about politics or anything else, keep in mind I have Asberger's, a form of autism. I don't consider that a disability, however. I consider it a DIFFERENT ABILITY.  Keep in mind that I also have been dissed by the best.  Yeah, Bob Iger, considered one of the most successful people on this planet.

Speaking of a success, while I am not one, I have had some successes.  I'm a survivor.  I have survived death 3 times.  While I have never known love, I became a decent writer.  My obsession with The Invaders led to one of my most important and lasting friendships with its star, Roy Thinnes.  I've known him personally since 1987, 20 years after the show first aired.  I even named my son after him.

Yes, I have a son. His mother and I are still good friends. He's into music and writing, coincidentally perhaps, like his father.

My 3rd brush with death was in 2002, when, coming to Las Vegas on a perceived movie deal, I found out I was played for a patsy and nearly died from a stroke as a result.  My blood pressure was so high, I should have died back on April 9, 2002.  Dodged that bullet. As a result, though, my broken heart became literal. I am dying, slowly, of Congestive Heart Failure.

Why I am still alive might surprise you. I'm too stubborn to die.  I've turned my lemons into lemonade. My illness has allowed me to expand my mind, to come to terms with my past, to survive against all odds, entertaining and educating others on how to make it despite the craptastic pain of day to day strife.  In 2007, I retired, but while I've been homeless from time to time, I'm still kicking and while I don't have a lot of friends, I haven't given up on making movies, haven't given up on bringing some joy to others by making them laugh. After all, when you've been through the shit I have, you almost have to laugh.

Pluses in my life are few, but they're there....Roy Thinnes, my mentor and one of my all time best friends, John K, who saved my life at least twice, John A. who also saved my life, John P., a mentor who inspired me to do something with my voice talent, my Son Karl, and my ex, Athena, his mom.  And my music and facebook friends.  So I'm not a total loser. And neither are you, so before you say, "woe is me," remember this:

"I felt sorry for myself because I had no shoes...until I saw another man with no feet."

And before sny of you think you can diss me...keep in mind, I've been dissed by the worst...life itself...and the best, Bob Iger, CEO of the most powerful entertainment entity on this planet. Hell, they own Star Wars.

So, bring it.  You can't do shit to me that hasn't already been done.

Be cool, be nobody's fool, and don't dismiss the bliss.

Quantum Goddamn Mechanic, yo.

P.S. Still have the Beakles.