Autoblography Part 8: The Dark Year

By Shamus Posted Monday Sep 5, 2011

Filed under: Personal 68 comments

It’s the 1980-1981 school year. Mount St. Helens erupts. The Rubik’s Cube craze spreads to my corner of the world and I discover the pleasure of puzzling over one. Adults won’t shut up about “Who shot J.R.” Pac-Man fever is sweeping the country. I’m in fourth grade.

Things are not going well for me.

I’ve come to think of this period as “The Dark Year”, but it really took place over the course of two years or so, with things becoming gradually more intense in the last nine months. It’s not like the new year rang in and suddenly everything went to hell. This was the end of a long process, and I have trouble putting the various plot-points into proper chronological order.

I’ve struggled a great deal with what to say about this time period. This is a very ugly stretch in my life. I don’t want this series to be a chore to read. I don’t want this to deteriorate into a long screed of complaints and self-pity.

I could skip these events, but that would leave a curious and continuity-breaking hole in my life. I could be explicit, but that would involve a lot of ugly stories that would, I think, be unfair to the adults in my family, and my mother in particular. The only way to avoid making her look like the bad guy would be to tell the whole story, which would be incredibly long, bleak, and not terribly compelling.

Here is the best I can do:

Some adults entered our lives who were no good for us. As a result, my brother and I ended up spending a lot of time under the care and influence of some very rotten people. Just to assuage your worst fears: I wasn’t seriously beaten, I wasn’t molested, nobody died. Nobody gave me illegal drugs. (Although given the witches’ brew of prescription medication I was on, I was arguably higher than the adults in my life.) This isn’t anything that serious. This was a time of neglect, not abuse. Lots of people had home lives that were far more dangerous than the one I knew in these years. But it was rough, and it hit me in an area where I had very few coping mechanisms.

So instead of belaboring things in a litany of complaint, I’ll just pick through the anecdotes of the time and we can move on. Sound good?

I feel like I have very little control over my life. I don’t decide where I go, what I do, what I eat, or who I associate with. This is normal for kids, but it doesn’t feel normal to me.

Continue reading ⟩⟩ “Autoblography Part 8: The Dark Year”



Spoiler Warning Hitmas 3-Marty Graw

By Shamus Posted Sunday Sep 4, 2011

Filed under: Spoiler Warning 47 comments

Link (YouTube)

Watching the “perfect” play-through of a Hitman level can be a strange experience. The player walks into a room, grabs a random item for no reason, walks into another room, changes clothes, goes upstairs, puts the item down, crawls out the window, stands there for two minutes, then goes to the basement, flips a switch, and vacates the premises. Then they get a message that they’ve killed three people and successfully stolen the microfilm.

If you’re foolish enough to ask the player what the hell just happened, they will begin a long, rambling explanation that ends with, “Nevermind. You kinda have to play the game yourself to get it.”

Still, I think Rutskarn did really well on this one. He ought to hire a lawyer and see if he can’t get that “Hoodlum” rating overturned.



Spoiler Warning Hitmas 2 – They Keep Pulling me Back in

By Shamus Posted Friday Sep 2, 2011

Filed under: Spoiler Warning 68 comments

Rutskarn has meticulously compiled a list of who is naughty, and who is nice. And then decided to kill everyone in both groups.

Link (YouTube)

Here is wishing you and your recently departed, a very Merry Hitmas.



Autoblography Part 7: Neighbor John

By Shamus Posted Friday Sep 2, 2011

Filed under: Personal 204 comments

Two doors up from us lives an eccentric fellow named John. He’s married, and his children are grown. He’s a large, wild-looking fellow. Big black beard. Thick black curly hair. Thick glasses. He’s also amazingly gentle and soft-spoken, as well as enormously humble and polite. In all my years knowing him, I would never once hear him speak ill of anyone.

My brother Pat – two years younger and about a thousand times more outgoing – talks to Neighbor John now and again. Eventually John discovers that Pat doesn’t know his states and capitals. He quizzes me, and finds I am similarly deficient. He insists that This Won’t Do, and asks our mother if he can help us learn them.

I am skeptical. This sounds like school, and I do not like school. School is the place with bullies (the teachers) and jerks (the other kids) who disapprove of me and let me know how much they don’t appreciate me or my scholastic efforts. It’s a constant assault on my sense of worth and my sense of agency. I spend all day watching the clock and waiting to escape, hoping I can make it home without experiencing any major humiliations. I spend my non-school hours avoiding thinking about school, and trying to ignore the dread that tomorrow, or Monday, or next fall, I’ll have to go back again. There is no end to this punishment, and the best I can do is put it out of my mind for a few hours.

So I do not like this idea of a neighbor showing up and giving me MORE school during non-school time. However, he’s very different from my teachers and his approach is very different from their fetish for bureaucratic paperwork. I humor him.

Continue reading ⟩⟩ “Autoblography Part 7: Neighbor John”



Autoblography Part 6: Happy Halloween

By Shamus Posted Thursday Sep 1, 2011

Filed under: Personal 144 comments


Third grade. The teacher is explaining adjectives. She offers an example sentence and invites us to add one or more adjectives to it: “The corn is cooking on the grill.”

I zone back in from whatever daydream world I’ve been exploring. This actually sounds a bit interesting. There is a lot of room for adjectives in there. I uncharacteristically raise my hand, “The delicious golden corn is cooked quickly on the scorching hot iron grill?”

She looks at me in stunned silence. I guess she was expecting, “The yummy corn is cooking,” or somesuch. “That’s better than the example they give in the book.” she tells me, referring to the teacher’s guide in her hand. She is genuinely shocked.

When it’s clear she’s not going to give me any more sentences to decorate, I go back to daydreaming. She hands out worksheets later. These have more of the same sort of work, but completing it would mean half an hour of cramp-inducing writing, and who needs that? If she wants more adjectives she can just ask me and I’ll give her all she wants, but I’m not wasting time filling out paperwork.

Some of the kids make fun of the way I’m dressed. I’m wearing brown slacks and green dress socks. This subject comes up again and again in their teasing.

Continue reading ⟩⟩ “Autoblography Part 6: Happy Halloween”