Age 14 and the dawn of the 90’s

7th grade was in Pottstown junior high school. This year for me is pretty hard to remember. The grief of my grandmother’s passing may have a lot to do with it. I think it may also have to do with me just not being me anymore. I was placed in section 724. We were the D+ kids. It was the first year I was in industrial arts and home economics. We did the first quarter in wood shop, second corner in metal shop, 3rd quarter was cooking and forth was sewing. I became addicted to working with wood, I loved the smell of it, the stain smell. Made all kinds of things for my mom she kept for years and years. Metal shop taught me the most useful thing i ever learned and still use to this day. He taught us how to measure properly with a ruler, tape measure whatever. What all the little lines meant, God it’s amazing how people I meet do not have any idea how to read one. Boy am I still thankful for that.

Lunch was terrible. I always ended up with shit thrown at me or people making fun of me. I usually sat with the neighborhood kids I walked to school with, we

kind of had a bond at the level where we shared cigarettes every morning before school and hung out bullshitting. Sometimes it turned on me, but whatever.

Better than nothing. Most of my days were spent daydreaming and observing other classmates. I hated everyone. Maybe I was more jealous than anything because all of them had good normal lives. It’s like I saw everyone in slow motion, studied there every move. I began to systematically calculate what and the way people were typically accepted by the group or community as a whole.

One thing I noticed was anything you did that made you appear grown up or more mature. For instance there were a pair of girls this year that decided for one reason or another to get pregnant. Even though bonnie and dottie were a couple of nasty hoes that did men twice there age they were instantly very popular. Dating older men, getting knocked up etc… seemed all the girls around me wanted to do was be accepted as grown women when they still had no fucking clue what they really wanted, needed or desired. Kids that were dealing drugs or hustling were also respected. Anyone defying the typical tradition of what was expected got a lot of attention from peers. There really was nothing I could do at the time to assimilate, I was already labeled. Cliques were together and tight, I guess forming up over the 6th grade summer. I never hung out at social places to much, that was another problem.

Well, on to solutions. My paper route expanded to this point to another route I picked up close by and gave me around 230 papers a day. It was getting up earlier, smoking about 5 cigarettes to get going and just miserable. To be honest I can’t even remember what I did with all the money. I bought clothes, extras for school. Smokes. Smokes were easy back then, I used to buy them at the corner store now owned by the Niemens. The parents of the kids I used to play with. I was playing with the neighborhood kids a lot, Jimmy in particular and we got really interested in building a fort. Mainly a tree house in his back yard. We scavenged all kinds of wood from shit in alleyways, garbage piles etc. We actually made the thing pretty fucking sturdy.

At the time I was seeing a counselor at a church. We really didn’t speak about much because I knew the game by now. Anything I say that puts me in threatening situation by law requires him to contact the proper authorities. Nobody does anything and I catch more beatings. So it was mainly school and fitting in. I did however mention the tree house with jimmy and he liked the idea. He even gave me a roll of tar paper to roof it. Yah it was a real nice fort. Wood shop came in handy. We’d get visits from the neighborhood kids, they come up chill out bullshit whatever. Which brings me to my next stroke of luck.

Jen… Jen mother and my mother were friends in high school. I knew her pretty early on. She sat close to me in lunch and one day she was getting fucked with so I stuck my neck in where it didn’t belong and promptly got my ass kicked by 3 people for it. The luch was jen had a boyfriend in high school. Well after he settled the score jen told him the story and well, we all became friends. I palled around with them whenever I could, and ed used to talk to me all the time. One hell of a couple. Madly in teenage love. You know kissing in the halls passing notes doodling on books the whole spiel. I kind of liked it. Well he used to find me there at the fort once in a bit, he lived right behind it above the old barber shop.

Well one day, I come to my home away from home and they ripped it down. The landlord didn’t like it. But it at least started my interest in forts, which I think first peaked my interest in my own home. My uncle Gar had this red cedar fence he was tearing down, and a dog pen he was getting cleaned up and rid of. So we had planks, nails, and concrete flat blocks for a floor. Well we also had a garden patch in the backyard that really nobody was using so out of some miraculous luck I got permission to build one in our backyard. So I stayed in the yard and at home again. I forget how the materials were transferred I think my uncle did it.

So I built, I leveled the ground laid the blocks set the corner posts and got 2 walls up in about a month or 2. Had it about 3 months and was told to tear it down.

Not only tear it down but get rid of the materials. The wood was easy the garbage man took it if i sawed it into bags. The stone? shit that was fun. I busted it to a rock pile with a sledgehammer and drug 6 wagon loads to the Manatawny river about 10 blocks from me.

From there I gave up staying in the neighborhood. Me and my cousin bob would meet every time I could get out or run out. Usually a run out was finished my chores don’t give a fuck who checks what and haul ass. Sometime I caught it when I got home, sometimes it was like never even knew I left, I don’t think he ever left the couch some days. On the double shifts I finally solved the problem with my brothers trashing the house. I put them in their room and tied a rope from the doorknob to the banister. So they could trash the place till dinner then after dinner all I had to do was clean up one room. Got they’d fight they’d scream they’d kill each other. Fuck em, I just couldn’t take it anymore they were like Cain and Abel. They hated each other it was ridiculous.

About this time me and my cousin bob were exploring the parks and woods around the local area a lot deeper. Couple of hot dogs in the microwave at his place on a slice of bread and we were gone for the rest of the day. We had a few creek spots we built some dams, looked for crayfish etc. We found a real nice spot on the Manatawny river and noticed a giant pile of creosote power line poles dumped back there. I got this idea for a raft. A wood raft. So we spent our days rolling these logs in the river and tying them together with some twine I found or stole. I was becoming quite the little petty thief. Hell I got blamed for everything that disappeared anyway, my brothers would bury my stepfathers tools in the back yard for fun. Well to be totally honest, about half the shit that vanished in the house I stole, so 50 percent of the time they got me. I acquired some useful things however, A blackjack, a survival knife, and some misc tools for some work I will explain later. So one year we had the river flood and that was it. It washed all the logs away. They were all over the place. Man what a life.

Our ultimate discovery was the trestle bridge. It was near an old building with nothing left but a foundation, the building what was left of it was by a drainage inlet to the Schuylkill river. Looked like some hobos had camps back there at one point. But the bridge was so awesome. We had to climb up the slag and pull ourselves up on it. It was about 40 feet in the air. the highest point bridge to the river was about 60 foot id say. We spent a lot of time building yet another fort, but on the bridge. Hauling wood up etc, lot of work, but some fun days. We’d wade out in the river below in the summer, was about waste deep. Come home smelling like a sewer with mosquitoes chasing us like lunch the whole way.

Well one day were out there and we climb the bridge, fort is gone. Nothing left but one board. Carved in the board with something extremely sharp, almost like a wood chisel but it was so perfect it almost didn’t look like it was made with human hand. Almost a machine or something. “Death to all who trespass on our dark hallowed ground”. The writing looked nightmare like. Sharp, angular, and creepiest of all, perfect. Well we didn’t think much of it at first, so we thought we’d fuck with the pranksters a little and we fashioned a few crosses with the wood and mounted them up there. We come back the next day and on one beam in the same writing we read “crosses do not work you fools”. Ok so at this point bob is freaked the fuck out and doesn’t want to be there anymore. I used to go back on my own, Poke around, look for things. The site had a dark but comfortable feeling to it. If I didn’t have anywhere to go, that’s where I went.

My final attempt at a fort was a bunker. I stole some shovels and found a place by the park and started digging. I got the idea if it was under the ground nobody would find it. Even had some help from time to time, but holy fuck. I had no idea at the time digging 10 feet down and 10×10 square was going to be impossible with a couple of shovels. We didn’t do to bad though, got a shallow grave almost till we gave up. Well I didn’t give up somebody found our tools and burned them. Just couldn’t win for losing I guess.

Winter we were ice skating on the creek in our sneakers. It was also when we started hanging out in the mall because it was warm. It was where we met Joelle. She wasn’t the cutest in the world Christ she had wop nose like i aint never seen since but she was fun to hang out with, bob and Joelle became boyfriend and girlfriend and eventually he tossed her and I picked her up for a few weeks. Nothing sexual, just I dunno we were from the wrong side of the tracks. The low class poor people. Parents didn’t like us at all. Summertime was rafting with the raft I bought on occasion. We took it out once or twice a summer. Of course we had to patch the shit of it all the time. Had many a fun time in that thing though.

I remember it was around this time I had a very infamous conversation with my mother. We were coming out of the grocery store and she was talking about me behaving and I was getting out of control and I told her my stepfather was beating me too hard. She said a biblical passage to the effect of sparing the rod and spoiling the child. I said I was going to call the police on him and she said if I have him put in the jail we will all be thrown out on the street and homeless. I never said another word about it.

My stepfather also began working double shifts like a madman so I never got to go out anywhere anymore. I was now getting cut off from the world and had to start finding another way out. However this was a strange time. I decided on my own I wanted out of Pottstown schooling. I asked to go to west mont, the same place the youth center was when I was a kid. I figured it would be much better than public schooling, I just couldn’t fit in. I volunteered to pay it with my paper route riches. So that was that.

I wish I had more to say, I don’t know some day I might remember more. The most important thing was my behavior. Vincent created this giant chip on my shoulder. I also just did not care. Didn’t care if I lived didn’t care if I died. I lived every day like it was my last best I could. Consequences were just meaningless. But I also noticed something else. Girls started to talk to me here and there until they found out how fucked up and pissed off I was. Some stayed around longer than others but it just wasn’t that long.

I spent more time studying the occult and folk lore more than anything else this year as well. I became well versed in the arcane and believe me I used it to my advantage anytime I could.