Most people would think that growing up in Florida would be great, with all the sun and beaches and the tropical climate. What they don't know is that the average humidity would knock you out on a daily basis. The mosquito's thought that humans were a buffet meal and the love bugs never stopped making love. It was most fun to open the drawers of your freshly cleaned home only to find a palmetto bug ( aka...very large roach with wings) fly up your arms, while you screamed unmercifully at a decibel that would call an army from overseas to come to your rescue. Yes Florida was nice but somehow I just knew that I had been delivered to the wrong parents. There had to be another explanation of why we had to live in the land of the living dead. While there were other kids around that I grew up with , the overwhelming amount of retirees that would pour into our town was staggering, or at least to me it was. I never had a calling for the older generation especially the ones that lived on our block. If you played outside, they complained you made to much noise. If you stepped on their property they screamed for you to get off it. It was the most irritating thing to mow the yard and have them yell that a blade of grass had blown into their gravel yard of tacky gazing balls, pink flamingos(before the gays took control of them), and damn heron statues. Being small made it easy for quick getaways as I ran from turning their yard upside down because they yelled at me for no reason. OK , OK there were reasons for them yelling but hey I was a kid and they were somewhere between 70 and death. I had absolutely no patience or compassion, only evening the score. I was an abrupt and outspoken boy and that did not display well to the old folks. We were not to be seen or heard and I made sure I was seen and most assuredly heard. My mother was at a loss, for I feel she must have thought she had gotten the wrong son also. I admit that I was not an easy child but the one thing you could always count on was my opinion. She was always putting out little fires of senile confrontations about something I said or did. On many occasions she would confide that while I may have said the truth I was to be respectful of the old people. N O T!!!! Now that I am flatly becoming one I will not turn out like these people. It must have been hard for some of them as most of their family abandoned them, which I can see why if they were consistently cantankerous, but there were a few and I mean a few that touched my life and helped me to dream of tomorrow. Their lives were ending soon which gave them an opportunity to pass the wisdom along to a very precocious pain in the ass.
The year of 1958 crashed into 1959 with a bang and it was my first New Year that I stayed up to celebrate. This was the year that I would begin school and give my mother a break for 7 hours a day , five days a week. I so remember that first day of school, I would have been called a cling-on but I soon gave way with a bit of trepidation to risk it alone and took my first step of independence without Mom. Things got off to a great start. My teacher was a stocky German lady whose name was Mrs. Schumacher. A full figure lady whose first year of teaching would be to a first grade class. How easy she must have thought to teach young children their first year of school......I don't think she had planned to end up with a kid like myself in her class. After meeting her I asked her why she was so big and then proceeded to tell her she looked like the fat lady in my old maid cards. Much to my mothers chagrin she apologized for my comment and Mrs. Schumacher laughed it off but as my mother would tell me later she knew that she had me singled out already. I really loved school and I loved that we had art and music day. Things were going quite well for me, that is until the day we were being taught about our names, and how to spell them and put them on the gray paper with the dotted lines. She talked about the reasons we had names and that most of us had three names. Hey, this was new to me but if that is the gospel so be it. Seat after seat she went down each row asking each classmate to stand up and say what their middle and last name was, I began to panic as I really had no idea what she meant, and as quickly as I tried to decipher what she was talking about, it became my turn to talk. Oh ghats!!
I told her that I did not understand what she meant , and as she lovingly explained the details again she asked me what did my mother call me at home. Something like "Sally Jean" or "Michael David" and I sat there squirming in my seat and the light began to break and the angels cleared the clouds and the answer came to me like a bolt of lightning. Hell I heard it a million times a day ...............geez how could I forget that .....this was truly a no brain er answer.......it was afterall three names , first , middle and last name, so feeling quite excited I can remember standing up like all my other classmates and with perfect posture and proper enunciation , I quickly exclaimed...." MY NAME IS JONNY GOD DAMNIT"
Well the look of surprise on her face and not saying anything , I assumed she had not heard me correctly so I took a deep breath and repeated it again and again.
"MY NAME IS JONNY GOD DAMIT"
Finally she ran quickly over to me to shut me up and asked why I would say such a thing like that. Hell I had no idea what I had said, my mother said it a lot especially when I was into something, so what was the big deal? I was briskly escorted out of the room and much to my dismay found myself standing in the hall being asked to not repeat that anymore and that I would be sent home that day with a note pinned to my shirt for my Mother to read.
While my Father sat in the room laughing beyond hysteria my poor Mother was completely mortified that I had exposed this information to the class and that my name was most certainly not JONNY GADDAMNIT.
Strike two, already, and it was only the first month of school. What did Mrs. Schumacher have in mind for me, her prodigy of wickedness. I am happy to state that I did form quite a bond with her. She kept me close to her side and nurtured me with death threats if I did not stay well behaved. What she cultivated in me was the acute ability to out maneuver anyone who thought they had control of the situation that I was involved in. I learned by observation and her German upbringing made for the strictness of behaviors but it was not made for my liking and on any given occasion I made that perfectly clear. It proved to me that getting what you want and where you want to be was going to take more strategy and determination. Her driving insistence of normalcy compelled me not to be in the crowd looking out but to stay out of the crowd and look in. For it was there that my seat assignment on my personal airplane came into view.