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Autobiography

Preface

Writing an autobiography is a work that's never done. Literally. Your last addition to your own biography is fairly guaranteed to occur prior to your death. The only way for your story to be finished is for someone else to write it. Then you have to remove the "auto-" part. I think that's a law.

In my case, "never done" means I don't even come close. I've started this thing over and over, and have never managed to get anywhere close to "now."

It's always the same. I find myself off to a good start but either something comes along that I'm not sure how to put into words, I can't figure out what else to write, or I get attacked by a horde of Nazi zombie cheerleaders. When I hit that metaphorical brick wall, my instinct is to work on something else while my mind mulls over the issue in the background. Soon, distraction kicks in and I completely forget that I was writing something. I'll eventually come back and try to finish but take one look at what I've written and produce some convenient excuse for not resuming or just starting over.

It is my belief that keeping a record of one's life is very important, for many reasons. First is the fact that I occasionally enjoy reading the musings and goings on of my own forebears and assume there is at least one pair of eyes that don't exist yet who would find amusement in perusing upon my incoherence.

Second, looking back on my own past gives me a sense of perspective. One must be careful with perspective, though. Getting the clearest possible perspective of oncoming traffic might result in a divide-by-zero error.

Third, sometimes there's just too much going on in the old noodle bowl and you need to file some of that away into an outside bucket. It's like Dumbledore's pensive. It seems really neat until you realize it's fiction.

This lengthy bit of prose is very heavy in my obsessional biases: science, technology, computer games, console games, arcade games, table games, role-playing games, and, most of all, beautiful, unattainable women. I've heard it said that a man remembers the women he couldn't have and a woman remembers the men she could. This is a bit of wisdom I can agree with.

I hear the hamster wheel squeaking between your ears. It sounds like, "nothing's unattainable if you try hard enough!" This notion that's creeped into modern culture of never saying can't is preposterous. "I think I can" applies to having the stamina to do something you can already do, not doing something you haven't done yet. For most of us, chanting that self-affirmation while trying to balance a forklift on our nose will result in the in some serious injuries, known in the scientific community as "pancaking." I won't go further to define what I mean by unattainable with regards to women because we live in an era of thought police.

There are questions in this world that we are always prepared for. "What is your name," is one example. Some men take on the monumentally intellectual challenge of dividing the world into two camps: men who prefer boobs and and who prefer butts. I like both equally. More than the aforementioned attributes, though, I've always preferred a pretty face. My general appreciation of women, as I've aged, has grown such that physical characteristics are just one portion of the so-called balance sheet. A quick mind and sweet disposition are far more important to me and I genuinely believe this is the case for most men. The trouble lies in the fact that one cannot see what a woman's personality looks like from across a crowded room.

Many of these events are out of order. The first reason for being out of order is that putting them in correct order would break events into a confusing jumble. Second, my memories are like marbles in a jar. You can group the marbles by color but there's no meaningful way to arrange them "in order."

In cases where my memory contradicts with the "facts," understand that facts are occasionally wrong.

Demographics

Things About Me

I'm second spawn of Jeff Donald Murphy and Helen Kathleen Sneddon. The primary brood consists of five children: Leah, myself, Laurel, Brian, and Erin. These are the people I grew up with. When I was eighteen, my dad remarried and brought about two more siblings: Asher and Luet.

The hour of my birth, by the Gregorian calendar, is 8 January 1977 at 8:48 PM in Seattle, Washington. I'm fond of telling people that I share a birthday with the famous singer, Elvis Presley, and jokingly adding that he died the year I was born. I usually go on to ask, "Coincidence? Maybe." If you've spotted my birth information and told yourself, "Ooh! I've gotta do a chart," don't bother you can find the chart here.

If you're saying to yourself, "there's no way planets control your destiny," you're right. Truth be told, I've investigated numerous so-called divination disciplines in my life. The smart watch on your wrist doesn't control when the bus comes, either. They measure out large cycles which astrology asserts match the cycles of life and history. As far as their accuracy, I cannot make a strong case one way or the other. What I can tell you is all of these methods replace going to God for answers which will, over time, weaken your own relationship with Him.

Some other famous people born on the 8th of January include renowned physicist, Stephen Hawking, singer/songwriter David Bowie, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, a musician named Jenny Lewis who acted alongside Fred Savage in "The Wizard", and the actress Gaby Hoffman who was in such films as Field of Dreams, Uncle Buck, and Sleepless in Seattle.

My personality, according to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is INTJ.

I was born into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, more commonly known as the Mormon Church. Though I've strayed at times in my life, I'm presently an active member with a personal testimony of the Jesus Christ and the Gospel. While I might write up something separate in the future containing a dissertation on my own faith and testimony, I'm making an attempt to avoid getting too far away from the narrative.

Houston, Texas

My Earliest Memories

My early childhood involved a lot of moving around. My earliest memories are not of Seattle, but of an apartment in Houston, Texas. I'm unclear on my exact age when my memories begin, but it was before I started Kindergarten. The apartment was down the street from Wilchester Elementary School, where my oldest sister went to school. Actually, it was just outside the apartment complex but, when you're less than three feet tall, a walk to the neighbor's house seems like miles.

Wilchester is still there so it's pretty easy to find the place in a Google search.

I do recall one birthday, which must have been my 4th or 5th, where I had been given some Hot Wheels cars in a blue vinyl case. I remember thinking that it was normal for car cases to come with cars so, whenever I saw them in the store, I looked to see what kind of cars they had in them and was always disappointed. Some of the assumptions we make as children are amusing many years later. Now that I think about it, maybe my mom picked them up that way at a garage sale. That's a good place to get toys for kids that will be disposed of in a few years.

Another memory is of a red plastic fire truck I had gotten for Christmas (at least, I'm pretty sure it was Christmas). I liked that fire truck. One day, I left it outside and never saw it again. Apparently, it was upset that I had abandoned it and left for greener pastures. That's good as green complements red.

The phone number we had in Houston is something I've never forgotten. Falling under the category of "things parents would never do these days," my dad knew a young couple who had immigrated to the United States from somewhere in Asia. Being of an age where it was unimportant, though, I never investigated further. It might have any number of places where the forks are shaped like little sticks.

I wasn't privy to the conversation that went on, but this couple arranged to borrow me for a day or two. While readers of these sorts of stories expect the narrator to break down in tears and explain how they had been violated with a turkey baster, I must ask, "what the hell is wrong with you?" They never touched me in my special place, teach me how to massage a prostate, or even watch dirty movies.

The couple was nice and treated me well. I'm sure they fed me but I don't remember if it was at their home or if they took me out for dinner. As they tucked me into bed the man said we'd call my parents the next day. Being a cocky and world weary four-or-five-year-old, I checked to see if he knew the number. He didn't have it memorized so I showed off. It never occurred to me he might have it written down somewhere. I'm pretty sure time-traveling assassins want to kill my pre-adolescent self so I won't tell you the phone number so as to prevent myself from being prevented from writing this autobiography.

TRS-80 by Radio Shack, courtesy of oldcomputers.net

My dad had a filthy habit. Not drinking, smoking, or main-lining powdered Cap'n Crunch into his cephalic vein. He was a technophile. Technophilia is a disorder characterized by the uncontrollable urge to acquire objects that blink, beep, move, or simply collect copious amounts of dust, all on their own. Extreme cases are known to bankrupt families and require the services of a HazMat team when the technophile has to move or passes away.

Unfortunately, Technophilia is often transmitted genetically and I'm no exception. My gateway drug was a silver TRS-80 we'd had as far back as my memory goes. I remember being able to write PRINT "JOEL". I could also type LOAD and press play on the tape recorder (this was the thumb drive of the early era of computers).

Sibling numbers one and three, both sisters, had had been born when I started remembering things. My brother came along while we were still in the Houston apartments. Sometime after his birth, my parents moved us out to a mobile home outside Houston.

It's here you might ask, "But Joel, you promised girls! Where are the girls?!" I'm with you. I don't count my sisters as girls either. At this point my only lady love was TV's Wonder Woman. I was still somewhat unaware that the people on the TV had real names. That didn't matter, though, since she had bracelets that could stop bullets. Realistically, I wasn't in love. I just wanted to be able to stop bullets too.

There was also a brief flirtation with Jennifer Keaton, but that didn't last.

Incidentally, Lynda Carter is still beautiful. This is of note because I don't generally go for older women. Growing up, I found girls to be generally bossy and fond of inventing arbitrary rules designed to exclude me.

Tomball, Texas

School n' Such

Our mobile home was a double-wide on a long dead-end street called Country Meadow Lane. The community was supposedly called Whisper Meadows but there weren't any signs anywhere verifying that. I assume that's what the marketing brochure said when my parents were shopping for a new home. Our half acre abutted Country Meadow Lane, which was paved. Our driveway wasn't. At the back of the property was a dirt with more trailers.

I had a friend named Thomas who lived across the dirt road from our place. He had a sister but I don't remember her name. His mom was weird though. She kept saying "dinner" when it was lunch time.

My parents hung a simple rope swing in the tree just outside the front door. While I didn't use it much, I liked swinging on it.

I attended two schools while living in Tomball. In Kindergarten, I was a Brill Bronco.

There was this cute redhead in another class whose name I never learned. Maybe it was Michelle. Or Unice. Or Snacks-With-Paste. Whatever it was, she was the first symptom, though, of my Charlie Brown Syndrome where I find delight in redheads. Fortunately, I wasn't bald and didn't own any yellow shirts with jagged stripes. Keep in mind, this doesn't mean the red hair is the draw. It's more like icing on the cake.

There was a decided lack of spaying or neutering in that part of the world and/or history. A guy down the street had some puppies. Well, his dog had the puppies. At least, that was his story. My dad procured one.

Anyway, aside from a couple of goldfish, our first pet was a dog which we called Daisy. Daisy spent only a few days inside and, instead of just teaching her not to crap on the carpet, my dad exiled her to the backyard. Looking back, I feel really sorry for that dog. She spent long hours chained to a tree without any company. On a couple of rare occasions, she got loose and invariably found a fun play toy in the form of a kitten. I'm not sure how long we had her but I think it was a good long while. After the escapes, the conclusion was reached that our yard was not the right place for her and my mom arranged new masters.

While attending Brill, some workmen were building Krahn Elementary. With the opening of a new school, boundaries got rearranged and I found my Bronco self mutated into a Cardinal. That redheaded chick who was to be my main squeeze didn't live in the restructured area so I never saw her again.

I had a friend down the street named Glen. Glen was a bad crowd. Along with his sister, Lori, we would go to the nearby woods and run around naked, smoke cigarettes, look at dirty magazines he'd stolen from his dad, and do other things small child shouldn't know are things. In retrospect, I'm sure the two were severely abused and were acting out with me. But, in the words of Forest Gump, that's all I have to say about that.

In the summer of 1983, on my older sister's birthday, my youngest sister came along. For a while, we said they were twins. Then I figured out what twins actually were and had to stop calling them that.

My dad had difficulty holding a job. In addition to his aforementioned technophelia, my dad was born with a defective filter. Better judgement would interceed on rare occasions but his word making got him into trouble on more than one occasion. Turning serious for a moment, he had severe depression which went undiagnosed for a long time. When I was a teenager, his depression was diagnosed, he was declared unemployable, and began receiving social security benefits.

There were a few months when my dad was without work and, for a time, we had no electricity. My mom did all the cooking on a small grill outside the front door and illuminated the house with the illumination of candles and an oil lamp. One fateful night, showing the genius of childhood, I was running around without shoes and didn't notice the hot grate my mother had placed in the grass to cool.

The second-degree burns I sustained on the bottoms of my feet made walking difficult. My mom took me to see a man at his house. He took a look at feet and prescribed a bottle of happy pills. The pills tasted suspiciously like jelly beans. I assume he was a doctor and an acquaintance of my parents, possibly from church, and had offered to help my parents out.

I think it was during this same summer that my parents received a phone call telling them that we had been approved for the free lunch program at school. I was excited because it meant a hot meal and, for some reason, I was jealous of the kids who got to go into the lunch line.

Packing a lunch wasn't all bad, though. One time my mom sent me to school with my lunch packed in a Cheerios box. The teacher from across the hall noticed and asked if she could have my box top. I had no idea what she was talking about but, as I didn't intend to take the box home, I readily agreed.

Upon arriving home that day, I related the story to my mom. The next day she handed me a big stack of box tops which I took to school and gave to that teacher. Later in the day, I got a thank you card from the teacher saying she could get her flatware now. She included a stick of gum.

There was a period where we had another computer which was probably an 8088 PC clone. One game I remember was a set of Interactive Fiction stories which included The Golden Baton, The Time Machine, The Arrow of Death, part I, The Arrow of Death, part II, and Escape from Pulsar 7. How do I remember all of that, you might ask? I don't. Google does.

Interactive fiction (IF), if you don't know, is an interactive story combining text descriptions of your environment and a simple verb-noun parser. The parser recognized simple instructions like GET HAT or GO SOUTH. It didn't understand instructions like IM OUT OF IDEAS. Probably the most famous IF game is Zork.

We also had a game named QWERTY where you moved a little bucket around the bottom of the screen, catching letters until you caught Q, W, E, R, T, and Y. I think we had other games but, if we did, I don't remember any of them.

Another shared toy we had was an Atari 2600. My favorite games on the Atari were Adventure (play Adventure online) and Superman. In my opinion, Adventure still holds up. Superman doesn't.

Intellivision by Mattel Electronics, courtesy of oldcomputers.net

A "friend" of my dad's had a quite a lot more toys than we did, such as an Intellivison, a ColecoVision, and some sort of computer, I'm not sure which, that my dad liked to play Temple of Apshai on. I most remember the Intellivision because we borrowed it for a while. Some of my favorite games included Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, Utopia, and Microsurgeon.

One evening, my parents called me to the living room and introduced me to a lady who showed me a badge then proceeded to ask me questions about this so-called friend and my interactions with him. I don't recall having much to say on the subject. It was then revealed that he had done things to two my sisters. Things that leave scars no one can see. He went to prison.

Not long after sibling number five was delivered by the buzzard (we were too poor to afford a stork), my dad got on a plane to leave for Oregon. He was headed out there for a new job. The rest of us would follow when he had enough the money to bring us out. Knowing that Oregon was "way up north," my mind's eye was filled with images of blizzards and shivering all the time. My mom had to reassure me that Portland was close to the coast which meant a fairly temperate environment. Well, she didn't use those words exactly, but I know more words than I did when I was seven so I like to use them.

Left for several months with five children, each with numerous issues, my mom dropped further into insanity. It's a wonder she didn't drown us all in the bathtub. In due course, my uncle Larry arrived to drive the moving truck that would carry our all of the worldly possessions we could fit to Oregon. Mom would drive the aging Dodge Aspen with most of the kids but, the day of the move, the Aspen fired its last cylinder. My mom and three youngest siblings got on a bus while my sister and I rode in the moving van with my uncle.

I hated my uncle. I didn't know him well, he wasn't very patient, and he made fun of me when I showed any weakness. He had a thing for foods that didn't sit well in my stomach, such as hamburgers, and forced me to eat them. This led to some vomiting which earned the ridicule mentioned earlier. In later years, I would come to enjoy hamburgers and learn to value Uncle Larry but, on that trip, I hated him. I also like hamburgers now.

I think it was six days later, we arrived in Estecada, Oregon. I remeber feeling very odd riding in a normal car again after having spent all that time in a moving van. I met my Aunt Irene whom we were to stay with for a little while. I also met three cousins who had already moved out.

Sellwood Park, image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Portland, Oregon

Welcome to 1985

The city of Portland has five quarters: north, northeast, southeast, southwest, and northwest. You can tell which quarter you're in by looking at any street sign. The reason for the fifth quarter is the Willamette River (wĭl-ă´mĕt, goes like "pill SCAM threat"), which divides the city, flows northward halfway through the city then turns northwest. Anything north of the river bend and west of N Williams is North Portland.

We moved into a duplex, on SE Clatsop street, in the Sellwood neighborhood of Portland, Oregon. Sellwood is nestled into the armpit where where the Willamette and the south border of Portland meet.

My birthday conveniently occurs one week after New Years Day. The convenience lies in the fact that 98% of the year happens on or after my birthday so, when figuring out how old I was in a certain year, or what year it was when I was a certain age, is made easy. My middle sister's birthday is four days later. She and I celebrated our birthdays very shortly after moving into our new apartment, placing us neatly on the cusp of 1985.

Two-thirds of a block down the street were the first corner stores I ever lived close enough to walk to on my own. One of them was called My Food Market and the other was, conveniently, called Convenience. When we were moved in, my aunt and/or uncle gave each of the three older kids about 50¢.

To Be Continued...

I stopped existing here until further notice.

While you're waiting, look at this baby.