atomic_fungus (atomic_fungus) wrote,

#6828: Weekend

Well, Mrs. Fungus and I spent a sizable chunk of time over the past three days (Fri, Sat, Sun) cleaning out the spare bedroom. We've been sorting through things, deciding what to donate, what to throw away, what to keep, and what to store in the attic. We've made so much progress that we can now open the front windows again; and soon we'll be getting rid of my old bed and clearing out what's left of the useless junk.

The idea is to make it into a reading room, with shelving and books and a couple nice chairs. A den, of sorts. I'll be painting it, then removing the carpet, and we'll have someone (NOT Luna or Empire!) come in to put in new carpeting. We'll have my stereo set up in there, too.

Big job but we knocked it out. There's a few minor bits and pieces to attend to but it's mostly done.

I've decided that it is time to let go of the console stereo. I don't have time to fix it, and won't; in non-working condition it's not worth the effort of selling to anyone. Mrs. Fungus suggested that I carve it into pieces and get rid of it that way; I may do that. Leaning in that direction, anyway.

The problem is, that thing came into the house around 1974 or so. I was under 10 and wasn't allowed to go near the thing for the first year it was there. After a while I was allowed to use it with supervision, and then without, but it was slow going. The cabinet is still in gorgeous condition, needing only a little work with oil soap and furniture polish to come back to a high gloss. I still have that vestigal caution: If I screw that up, I'm in BIG trouble.

But it last worked in 1978 or 1979. I don't have a circuit diagram for it nor a parts list, so it'd be a crapshoot at best whether or not I was buying the right components for it. It's a balanced transformerless amplifier using transistors that were developed in the early 1960s--and are likely no longer available--and it would need to be completely re-capped before I could use it. Being the type of amplifier that it is, if at any point you try to drive an open circuit, it blows out. (That's what happened to it both times it popped: the first was when my brother ran wires to his bedroom and had a remote speaker, and the balance was set wrong; the second was when I had a cobbled-together headphone that only took audio from one side, and turned the balance knob.)

And we don't have room for it, either. If the bunker had a full basement--but one might as well wish for the Moon, I suppose.

But the decision is made; now it's just a matter of executing it. That will come in time.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Fungus and I have been playing WoW Classic and watching eps of Mad Men and in general enjoying ourselves. Dinner tonight was ribs--Jewel had a "buy one, get two free" deal--and I tried another of the rubs I got from that "appreciation week" thing at Ace when I still worked there. This one was really good--not too salty, a good flavor without having too big a kick--so I'll probably figure out where to buy it from and get more when this one runs out.

Still, there have been developments in the job sector, not-good things that are happening to me work-wise. I do not want to be specific at this time, because the last chapter of that story has not yet been written, and I don't want to prejudice anything or have to retract and/or redact later.

Suffice it to say, prayers would be very, very much appreciated, because this is going to be tough, regardless of the outcome.

* * *

But a conversation with my wife on Saturday got me to thinking.

All my life I have been told not to fight back, not to stand up for myself; I have never really done so--and when I have, it's been the wrong way. All the horseshit I put up with at school because no one had my back, ever--not the faculty, not my siblings, not even my parents. I needed to thump heads to get it to stop, but the stupid zero-tolerance "no fighting" policy would have gotten me expelled if I fought back, and I knew it.

God Bless America! I can still hear the vice-principal: "He shouldn't have been doing that, but your response was inappropriate," as an explanation as to why I was receiving punishment while the asshole who instigated the whole thing got of scot-free.

And if I'd gotten expelled? Lord of Mercy, the shit I would have been in when I got home! That would have effectively been the end of me.

Everyone always told me "just ignore it" and I tried, really I did. I listened to what the adults said and I did my best to follow their advice. The problem is, it was shitty advice. It completely ignored the psychology of children. It was utterly divorced from practicality--it would not, could not work, not even if the person receiving it had the self-control of a Buddhist monk.

And that's followed through everywhere else. I was always told why I couldn't or shouldn't do something. 12 years old, writing my first novel, declaring with the optimism of a child that it would be a best-seller--all I ever got was people telling me it would never sell, that I'd never get it published, that it was really hard and complicated and it was okay to write a story for fun, but I shouldn't get my hopes up. FFS, I was twelve--you couldn't let me fantasize a bit? You had to just stomp on my dream? There are things you can say to a kid which won't get his hopes up but which also won't make him feel worthless, you know?

Every time I told an adult what I wanted to be when I grew up, I was told why it was going to be either really difficult, or impossible, for me to do it--and I wasn't talking about being an astronaut or a football star or a racecar driver; I was talking about regular, middle-class vocations. Realistic things. "I want to be a computer programmer!" "Ohh, you'll need to know a lot of math, and you aren't too good at it!" "I'd like to be policeman." "Oh, but you'll have to scrape up accident victims from the pavement!" "Maybe I could be a lawyer!" "Why would you want that? They're all dishonest." You know, at a time when I should have been encouraged to explore these things, I was getting warnings instead of encouragement. I stopped answering the question after a while: "I don't know," because then they'd chide me for not having any idea, but that was better at least than being left feeling stupid.

I've been nearsighted all my life--I think I always was, in fact, but it only started to get bad when I was in third grade. I couldn't read the chalkboard; during math lessons we'd be working on multiplication problems that the teacher had written on the chalkboard. My third grade teacher wrote small; I'd sit there squinting at it, trying to see the numbers clearly, wondering how everyone else could see them so easily, and not realizing I was nearsighted because I was eight. I remember being glad when we were given the work on mimeographed sheets, because that way I could do the work.

And no one twigged to that? Perhaps I was asked, "Can you see the blackboard?" but this is me we're talking about. I answered the question I was asked: of course I could see it. The question that should have been asked was, "Can you see the blackboard clearly? Are the letters and numbers sharp or fuzzy?"

Parental guidance in these matters amounted to an old saying: "Put your nose to the grindstone and don't look up." But I wasn't refusing to do the work because I was lazy; it was because I couldn't see the damned problems.

In fifth grade, with me performing below my level (but finally having glasses so I could see) I was given a series of tests. The series of tests revealed that I was "gifted". I read at a freshman college level--this was in 1977, when you actually had to be able to read to go to college--and my mental abilities were not impaired in any way. I was not, as some say these days, "on the spectrum"; I was an extremely intelligent child with no developmental deficits. My poor performance in grade school wasn't because I was incapable of doing the work, but because it was beneath my mentation. I didn't need to spend a week on fractions; I grasped them in a couple of days. I understood the basic mechanics of the uranium "gun bomb" when I was eleven. I could draw and label the anatomy of the human eye from memory.

Given the "lowest common denominator" pace of socialized education, I "fell off the curve" pretty rapidly after that. Junior high was a hell of hazing, bullying, and stultifying busywork. High school was scarcely an improvement, and I didn't even have the option to fight back any longer. Repeatedly being discouraged from considering careers left me rudderless. But for all of my failings, I never smoked. I never drank. I never did drugs. I never got into legal trouble. I didn't run away or shoplift or do any of the myriad of things "bad kids" did.

* * *

So, I believe I understand things a bit better now. I still don't know how much of it was my fault. This is not me saying, "Look at how they screwed me up!" because I know I have complicity in the whole thing; but it is not stretching the point to say that besides my own failings, the adults in my life failed me as well. There are a great many things I should have done differently, but in all probability if I had been given good advice a lot of the negatives could have been turned around.

I thought the adults knew what they were doing, so I did what they told me to do. The problem is, they had no better idea how to solve the problems I faced than I did. That's not really their fault.

My parents had three kids who did really well in school and always got good grades. Then there was me, who didn't; and I don't think they understood why that was. The test in fifth grade shed a little light on the core issue but I don't think it was enough; and anyway most of the adults thought that more discipline was the answer. "You can do the work, so do it. Put your nose to the grindstone and don't look up."

In the end I still don't know what it all means. All I know is that there is no easy answer to any of it. It's not anyone's fault, as dissatisfying as that is.

That will have to do.

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