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THE AWAKENING OF JOHN DAVID

Higher Functioning & Schizophrenic Equals Mystical.

The Best Ever First-Person Account!

























By Donald W. Carroll

Copyright

Copyright © 2019 by Donald W. Carroll


All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, contact the publisher, Donald W. Carroll”, by telephone, email, or at the address below.


Donald W. Carroll

45/14 Theparak Road

Anusawari, Bangkhen, Bangkok

Thailand, 10220

Skype: +66-097-226-4175

Email: donald_carroll2003@yahoo.com


Ordering Information:


For details, contact the publisher at the address above.


Printed in the United States of America


Publisher’s Cataloging-in-Publication Data:


Carroll, Donald

The Awakening of John David: Higher Functioning & Schizophrenic Equals: Mystical. The Best Ever First-Person Account!

Print Length: 527 Printed Pages

Publisher: Independently Published with Smashwords (February 8, 2019)

ISBN: 9780463002261

Language: English

Main Category: Non-Fiction/Schizophrenia

Secondary Category: Non-Fiction/Personal Memoirs

First Edition

Table of Contents

The Awakening of John David

Copyright

Prologue

Chapter One: Before the Voice

Chapter Two: Sex, Drugs and Rock n’ Roll

Chapter Three: The First Signs

Chapter Four: The Cross and the Triangle

Chapter Five: The Dark Night of the Soul

Chapter Six: Repent or Be Redeemed

Chapter Seven: The Awakening of John David

Chapter Eight: Til’ Death Do Us Part

Chapter Nine: The Fate of Silicon Valley

Chapter Ten: Into Darkness, Into Hell

Chapter Eleven: The Do’s and Don’ts of Schizophrenia

Prologue

My name is Donald W. Carroll. I have suffered from severe schizophrenia for just over twenty-one years. This illness runs in my family, and, this illness has also afflicted others in my family. I have a grandfather who took his life from this condition. And, although I have seen many doctors, and although I have tried nearly all the available antipsychotic medications, including the best that there is – Clozaril - I have had to conclude that I am treatment-resistant. And so, today, I live medication-free. I also learned to cope with my symptoms at an exceptional level, though I did walk quite the delusional path to get here, and under the most severe of symptoms – including visual, auditory, olfactory, and other hallucinations. In the winter of 2013, I came across a book by Elyn Saks called “The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness.” This book sold over half a million copies, but my real interest in Elyn’s book then laid with the fact that she also had schizophrenia, and that she had some success with the drug Clozaril. In February of 2013, I managed to send an email to Elyn Saks to inquire about the drug Clozaril. She replied to my email, and she wished me the best of luck in my pursuit for a prescription for Clozaril or medication that would help to either arrest or better alleviate my schizophrenic symptoms. She also extended me an invitation to either visit or participate in one of her research projects, but I first would have had to relocate to either Florida or California.

During this time, I had also discovered that although Elyn’s book did so well, and, at least one movie did manage to bring this illness into the limelight. I could find no real account of a schizophrenic’s inner experience that satisfied my quest to find out if what I was experiencing was anything like what other schizophrenics experienced? The movie I am referring to is “A Beautiful Mind” – based on the book by Sylvia Nasar. I was not satisfied in that I could not find an adequate account of what it is genuinely like to experience this condition. Elyn’s book did do some good towards shedding some light on what it is like to live and breathe as a person with schizophrenia. Inspired by the success of Elyn’s book, I sought likewise to write down my own experiences of with this condition. I then further thought that I might as well include my whole life story, as many of the decisions that I made, and many of the things that I encountered, perhaps contributed to my developing this condition – aside from the genetic factors. Indeed, my life has been impressive – never dull - from my almost success as a rock n’ roll guitarist, throughout my studies and practices in the occult, magick, and my psychic gifts with the tarot, and finally (while suffering with schizophrenia), my superb success as a computer network engineer and instructor in Silicon Valley, where I am from. Finally, all of this was further surrounded by (and complicated by) years and years of drug and alcohol abuse.

Furthermore, my experiences with schizophrenia began in the most classic sense of me understanding the voices that I was living with as belonging to God – this for over one year perhaps. From there, my understanding then went to the opposite of that – believing that maybe I was possessed, or, that I had somehow succeeded in attracting an evil presence into my life! Finally, as my delusional thinking began to break, and as my education as regards this illness began to further itself, I came into clarity. My struggles were often horrible, and painful, but for twenty-one years, I went through hell to learn what I know today. And, today, I live a very happy and a very functional life with my beautiful wife Airy, in Bangkok, Thailand. I am also altogether free from any form of drug and alcohol abuse – a freedom that seems to have been formed both from my past experiences with schizophrenia, and, my growing up, or coming of age. This book is my life story, to date. These are the events that led up to my full-blown development of schizophrenia, and, this book is, more importantly, a detailed account of all the events that followed. This book is a full account of my struggles, my quest for knowledge, and ultimately my great success in both overcoming and coping with this condition – medication free. When I first began to write this book, in February of 2013, I started with this section – the prologue. What follows here is an edited version of the original preface that I wrote between February of 2013, and October of 2015, while I edited the initial introduction.

February 2013 to October 2015: “The Awakening of John David” is my story – an autobiography, and a detailed account of my struggle with a brain disorder – either schizophrenia or perhaps schizoaffective disorder. I am not sure if my correct diagnosis is schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder – the latter also involves a mood disorder. Not being an expert in these subjects, and only understanding what I do know from my experiences of living with schizophrenia, I will refer to my illness as being schizophrenia. I have had no definite diagnosis from the many doctors that I have seen, but they all seem to concede on either schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder as a diagnosis. Schizoaffective disorder is rarer, and in the case of a higher-functioning individual, like myself, I was told once even rarer. I have also heard within my family that a borderline case of autism may also be in the mix?

At the time that I am writing the prologue to this book - beginning in the second week of February 2013, only to continue now in October of 2015 - I am still suffering from severe symptoms schizophrenia, and my mental health is sometimes in a weak and deteriorated state. From moment to moment I carry a significant burden, and I am never truly at ease with myself, in my inner world, and within my surroundings. I have become ill so many times that I have laid down my present work (to a significant degree at the time of this writing), having once already laid down my career, all due to the burden of this strange illness. It is, at present, too much for me to cope with and continue working in the manner that I have now done for so many years. Now, writing a book can also be quite a task, and so it is that I may not even be mentally fit enough to write my memoirs down, and of what I have learned about this illness, and about myself; nevertheless, I shall try anyway. While my life was gradually being emptied of things that I would instead be doing, because I am sometimes too ill to do them, and because of the other labors that go along with this illness, I have settled upon trying to write everything down in the form of my story. At least, my account, as it is, while also talking about how I do manage, and how terrible this illness can be, as well as to point out some useful things to know in managing as best as I can with this illness.

I have experienced hallucinations with all my senses – mostly today (as of October 2015) I hear threatening voices, and I experience other troubling thoughts and sensations. I have felt things on and within my body, like someone inside of me, touching me, poking me, getting in my face as the worst times, harming me using thought suppression, thought insertion, and other mentally torturous phenomena. I have experienced thoughts shoved into my mind, and a being debating with me for the sake of debating alone and being disagreeable in every way, for long periods. When these full-blown episodes are not occurring over many days at a time, or even longer, I experience other dreadful symptoms as well throughout the day, every day. When I think about my work, my loved ones, things that I want to do, things that I dream of, fantasies, and anything else that I am passionate about, I feel horrible. I feel great apprehension and fear because my symptoms often flare up around the thoughts of things that I enjoy. These experiences happen with all my thoughts and feelings about my life, and my moment to moment plans as well. It is like living with someone who seeks only to attack you most all the time, in significant ways, and small ways. It is like someone is challenging you on any and every belief that you have, and whatever random or even structured thoughts cross your mind. When everything you love and hold dear to your heart is being destroyed from gross symptoms such as these, you walk around in constant apprehension, fear, with a continuous feeling of being in the presence of something that wants to hurt you. The method of torture is usually a mentally and emotionally exhausting debate, which amounts to torture, for days at a time.

In this book, I will go into detail as I describe what it is like living with hallucinations, sensations, feelings, visions, voices, and the struggles that go on from moment to moment, from day to day, and from year to year. I do not ultimately have a positive message to share. Medication has never worked for me, and it seems that unless a cause and a cure for this illness are one day discovered, I shall be condemned by and because of my disease. I want to dispel any delusions about this illness as being friendly in any sense of the word – people write of positive experiences with their hallucinations, but there is a very sinister reason for that. These symptoms manifest out of disease, and they only mean harm (if they could say anything in themselves.) The hallucinations are just, in a sense, manifest opposites of thought, but they still need to be arrested before any real therapy can ensue. As I will also discuss further, most people who have a mental illness, where they experience hallucinations, are somewhat delusional - meaning that they are not interpreting the hallucinations that they are experiencing correctly. They sometimes think that the voices they hear are coming from someone inside of them, outside of them, or someone or something often real, or fictional. I was delusional more than once myself – delusional regarding what it was that I was experiencing. I will discuss in detail as I interpreted the voice(s) to be the voice of God, and later even evil or demonic spirits.

Medications are what are prescribed to reduce the hallucinations since there seems to be the consensus that one will experience them for life. Psychotherapy is often necessary if the hallucinations are brought under control using medication - to either recover from living with hallucinations for an extended period and maybe also to address some of the underlying issues, if any, that is regardless present along with the illness. My instance of this illness is rarer in at least several ways: that I am a higher functioning individual, that my case may be treatment-resistant, and that this illness has been present in an alarming number of people in my family. Those are three massive strikes. I came from the point of severe delusion to sanity while still suffering terrible symptoms. This disease of the brain does also affect the mind, and that is where both the positive and negative symptoms play out. There are hallucinations produced by my brain, and my brain chemistry - that is some of what we know today about schizophrenia and other illnesses that produce similar symptoms. I cannot ultimately control the hallucinations, and to think that you can also is a mistake, for long periods anyway. Even the best of times for me are filled with fear of the next inevitable breakdown, and there is a constant burden of having to carry on within the mental confines of a futile debate with the voice or voices. The debate continues, all the while you are trying to think, experience the world, and interact with people in as typical a fashion possible.

Maybe this book can help those who are still suffering from schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, psychosis, or from any other form of madness that involves hallucinations - anyone who suffers from hallucinations can benefit, in some way, from reading this book. Maybe even if only to learn something more about the true nature of their illness. Or, to break free from the delusional thinking that goes along with this illness, and happens to almost everyone, if not everyone. Do you know, or have you ever seen anyone who funnily mumbles to themselves, or seems to talk with people that are not there, or who performs crazy mental and physical routines? Most people have encountered at least one severely mentally ill patient before, at least once in their lives. Their behavior to us is odd, and so we call them mad, or crazy. The behavior is crazy as it is only relative to the truth of what they are experiencing internally. For me, even knowing that I am not interacting with an actual person does little to change the altogether negative aspect of my experiences with these hallucinations - as my symptoms are persistent, dominant, and constant. Even though I understand that the voices and sensations that I experience are hallucinations, I still live every moment in continual fear, and I often find myself engaging into verbal battle with my hallucinations. For me, presently, it seems impossible to remain out of a debate with the voices, for very long anyway. There is something always going on in my brain, the voice or voices, and a constant ringing in my ears. There are also other experiences thought-blocking, thought insertion, and other uncomfortable sensations and mind stuff that goes on. Much of it is very difficult to explain, but I will do my best to describe my internal struggle with these hallucinations, throughout my story.

There are my thoughts and the feelings along with the thoughts and feelings that I am being watched by an imaginary person – unavoidable, due to the persistent nature of my hallucinations. Even though it is not real, you experience it internally as if it were somewhat real. The mind can tell the difference, but the brain cannot. There is a constant feeling that you are being watched and being hunted by a being that you have helped somewhat to create in your mind - an individual who poses as a human being, an alien, a ghost, a demon, God, or what have you. Just because I understand that it is all not real does not necessarily make the hallucinations (and my reactions to them) any less real. I know everything, I think, and I cannot ultimately avoid conflict without the help of a successful antipsychotic medication, or until science has a better understanding and treatment regimen for this illness.

I once majored in psychology myself. I will discuss that period in my life as well as other periods, for example, when I was somewhat of a rock and heavy metal guitar virtuoso (up into my early twenties) and played in lots of bands – going so far as to grab the attention of a producer from Atlantic Records. Later, in California, I became a senior computer network engineer and educator, in Silicon Valley, during the “dot com” boom, in the late nineteen-nineties. I once also worked with Steven Job’s niece. My illness began for me as I know it today as I was entering the field of information technology. For a long time, I did also abuse drugs and alcohol, and I was also heavily into the study of mysticism, magick, and the occult, and I know a lot about these subjects. I can demonstrate a psychic gift that I have myself, with tarot cards. I am also the son of a preacher man. Religious men and preachers (including my father) are aplenty on my father’s side of my family, along with this hereditary illness. Facts indicate no real correlation. Both my grandmother and my grandfather, on my father’s side, were severely afflicted with schizophrenia.

November 20, 1997, is the first day that I heard a voice speak to me, and that voice (or almost even a group of voices) has lived with me ever since, and still lives with me. Over my lifetime, I did have a collection of other strange experiences, before 1997. Even though the voice came into my life permanently, in 1997, in 1995, I had my first real hallucinatory experiences with this illness. But they were brief, and I interpreted them differently altogether.

Here are some things that I experienced that may or may not be so related to my illness, prior to living with full-blown symptoms of schizophrenia, as I do now, but are still strange stories in themselves: I had a near-death experience related to alcohol once in my life, when I was eighteen years old. I also had what is called out-of-body experiences, for a period of maybe ten years of my life - during my twenties, and into my early thirties - maybe fifteen or more actual out-of-body experiences. Also, there were things like waking up in a dream, waking up to find my body paralyzed, and a handful of other similar experiences. Incidentally, in 1997, just before my having full-blown symptoms of schizophrenia, I did have some out-of-body experiences that were related to what was about to happen to me. (i.e., I had out-of-body experiences with a being that would become that voice or voices that I live with, still today.)

I was twenty-eight years old in November of 1997, and I was entering a career, and now I am forty-six, and I am almost unable to work altogether. Before I begin headlong into my first chapter - outlining my birth, and my early years - I would like to mention some facts about my case of this illness. My diagnosis of schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder is both severe and somewhat rare due to my being a higher functioning adult, and, my case may also be what is called treatment-resistant – meaning that medications do not work for me. I have tried almost every antipsychotic medication there is and even went so far as to endure shock therapy, more than once. I also heard that my grandfather, who had this illness, also went to many doctors, and he could get no relief. He ended his life when my father was only twelve years old.

This illness strikes one out of every one hundred people - regardless of race, culture, upbringing, personality differences, etc. Its’ cause and its’ solution are still a mystery. Some people in more remote cultures interpret these experiences as being examples of communicating with the divine, and people with schizophrenia in these populations are even idolized for their spiritual gifts, and their abilities to communicate with spirits, the dead, or what have you. All rubbish! This illness does have its’ patterns. When things were dramatically negative for me in my life, it was as if the hallucinations were hardly there. I have been almost symptom-free for up to a couple of years at a time. These hallucinations attack the positive things in life, and they cause negative symptoms of all sorts, but they are somewhat ineffective or less active during times of crisis. (Though in recent times, that theory, in my own life, has been duly tested!)

Today is December 8, 2018, and most of the above prologue is what I wrote between February of 2013 and October of 2015. Today, my symptoms are not as severe, and, the changes that have occurred within my life have since fortified me in such a way as to render these severe hallucinations to be almost impotent! How did I achieve this? Well, it all just sort of happened, naturally! You will have to read my story to find out. With that all said, here then is my story - at least through age forty-nine - which is how old I am today.

Chapter One: Before the Voice

My name is Donald Carroll. I was born in Eureka, California, on March 22, 1969. I was raised, however, almost right after my birth, in San Jose, California. My grandfather, on my father’s side of the family, was a victim of what was probably severe schizophrenia, as best as I can tell, as the actual diagnosis might have been different. My grandfather consulted with many doctors, and he sought treatment, but ultimately with no success. He committed suicide to escape the pain of his torment (characterized by this physical brain disorder) when my father was only twelve years old. I later learned that my grandmother, his wife, was also afflicted with the same disease. Though she was a nurse herself, she was also in and out of the mental hospitals many times throughout her lifetime. Finally, I have a cousin (one of two twins) about my age, also on my father’s side of the family, who also suffers from schizophrenia, or a similar diagnosis. (And, more recently, I learned that my other twin cousin - her twin sister - may have also developed the same disorder.) I bring this up to show that I have a lot of genealogical factors working against me regarding my ever having been able to avoid my own experience with this disorder. This brain disorder runs in my family, and so regarding current medical understanding, it seems it was almost certain (or at least very probable) that no matter what I did, I might have gone on to develop schizophrenia myself. I did have some thinking problems, or perhaps even some thinking disorders myself, as I entered my teenage years. I then developed more obsessive-compulsive tendencies, perfectionism, and drug and alcohol abuse. I sometimes thought that my problems were not so significant that such a condition as schizophrenia (or similar diagnoses) could arise? Was my brain physically deformed already, thereby allowing me to develop some disorders of personality, thought, mood, or even emotional difficulties? Or, was it the other way around? Modern understanding of this brain disorder (and the accompanying mental illness) tells us that one percent of the population is afflicted, regardless of race, culture, upbringing, personality differences, etc. There is sometimes a physical deformity of the brain involved, a genetic inheritance, and modern research is leaning more and more towards the theory of enlarged ventricles, or other physical brain deformities (suggesting that the schizophrenic’s brain is physically structured differently.) The cause of this brain disorder is still unknown, but most research points to physical brain deformity, either occurring at birth, or, at other important brain developmental phases – like entering puberty, and the teenage years.

I thought that there was generally no truth in the idea of thinking yourself crazy - not permanently anyway. Other evidence suggests that my history with drug and alcohol abuse are perhaps deciding factors to developing this disorder - especially as regards a drug called methamphetamine. Many individuals who develop this disorder do use drugs and alcohol as a result perhaps of suffering from this condition – with drugs and alcohol not always necessarily being the sole cause of such a disorder. If severe mental illness does befall you, you may think that you were somehow picked at random – though vulnerable to this disorder, by birthright. Modern research does indicate that strong factors for its’ development seem to be drug abuse with certain types of drugs specifically, and short or long-term psychological trauma – perhaps also short or long-term thinking disorders. This disorder usually (but not always) befalls the victim at one of four specific ages; some develop this disorder in childhood, some in puberty, some in adolescence, and some in later adulthood – usually before age thirty. I was twenty-eight years old when this illness struck me, a prevalent age, and I later recalled having earlier experiences with schizophrenic hallucinations beginning as early as age twenty-five.

I am not a psychiatrist, nor am I an expert on brain disorders, or mental illness, nor am I a doctor. I did complete both basic and advanced psychology courses as part of my liberal arts program; I got straight A’s; I also got A’s in two psychology courses during high school. I read widely in the subjects of science, psychology, and the human sciences in general. I also had interests in pursuing psychotherapy, psychological counseling, and even parapsychology. Though my studies and related pursuits in these areas did help me in some respects to understand this condition better, my real expertise comes through my survival, learned strategies, and direct experience with this brain disorder, for almost twenty years – to date – as of the time of this writing. I have suffered, all the while, with no success ever as regards finding an effective medication to minimize, or do away with, the constant hallucinations that I continue to experience, daily.

A lot of the men on my father’s side of the family were the types of thinkers that also pondered on the mysteries of God, and religion. Their studies were focused mostly on the “Holy Bible,” the teachings of Jesus Christ, and living a Christian like life. One of my uncles, I heard, was even a televangelist of sorts. I, in the likes of these men, also came of age to ponder upon these mysteries, and more, and these studies occupied my life for more than ten years. Also, just before I was born, my father became the pastor of a small church in Northern California, which unfortunately burned down, and so his stay as a pastor was short lived. He also had ambitions early in life to attend Bible school, and even join the ministry himself.

About my mother’s side of the family, her father, my grandfather, worked in a mill most of his life, and he was also quite the alcoholic and gambler. His gambling skills were somewhat legendary, and he was also a third cousin to the famous outlaw Jesse James! My mother had a couple of rather strange experiences worth mentioning just before my birth because they seem to be real accounts of psychic premonition – having a dream or vision of something just before it happens. During my later studies of the human sciences, I became rather adept with tarot cards. I also had a host of other somewhat unexplainable experiences I will later explain in detail. If my mother did or does possess such a gift, maybe I inherited it to some extent, at least in my being able to manifest it through my skills with the tarot. I have always, even to this day, been able to accurately predict events for both myself and others, using tarot cards – even from the very first time that I attempted to divine with the tarot.

My mother and father got married before my mother had even graduated high school. Sometime shortly after their marriage, and before my birth, my mother had a dream that she and my father were asleep in the bedroom and that the house had caught on fire sometime in the middle of the night. A couple of nights later, my mother and father did indeed awaken in the middle of the night to find that the house was on fire, and they both managed to escape with their lives, losing their home and all their belongings in the process. On another occasion, while my mother was pregnant with me, she again had a dream that her and my father were driving home from somewhere close by to their home and that they were then suddenly hit by a car. Sure enough, some days later, my mother and my father were driving home from somewhere, and just about a mile or so from their home, they had gotten in an accident with another car. The vehicle slammed into the passenger door where my mother was sitting, and at this time she was pregnant with me. As I understand it, no one was seriously injured.

When I was four years old, my younger brother was born. In our early years together, my younger brother and I were brought up in a church environment, where my mother attended church on Sundays as a Pentecostal, and later attended a Baptist church. My father was then a practicing Seventh Day Adventist, and he attended church on Saturdays. Being as young as I was, I had to attend church with my mother sometimes, and with my father sometimes, and sometimes I had to attend church on both Saturday’s and Sundays. My mother was also the director of the church pre-school where I attended, and she was also the choir director and piano player for the church, and so I often had to hang out at the church several or more days a week after pre-school, and later I also spent time there after elementary school. As for schooling, I attended private Christian schools through the fifth grade, before finally in sixth grade I attended a public school for the first time, as my parents could no longer then afford private school for me.

In most ways, my early life around San Jose and Campbell was normal. It was the 1970’s, and my father worked a nine-to-five job, and he got home at the same time every day - with his overalls ready to be thrown in the washer, and his empty lunch pail prepared to be filled for the work day the next morning. My mother did all the cooking, house cleaning, errand running, and even yard work – though we all had to pitch in when and where asked. My father, at that time, had firm beliefs that it was the role of the wife (and mother) to stay at home, and care for the children, as well as to tend to the domestic chores, like cleaning and cooking. It was the man’s role to work and to be the provider. My mother did branch out somewhat in taking the position of director at the church pre-school I attended. That was a plus for me because when you are attending pre-school, and your mother is in charge, you can get out of naps, get more extended playtime, and do just about anything you wanted to.

As a family, we had dinner at the table together every night. During the days, after school, I occupied myself with numerous ventures of sorts - including organizing and running clubs with and for the neighborhood children, playing with or tormenting my younger brother, hosting neighborhood carnivals, forming baseball leagues, and other creative games and activities. My father was also then into stage magic, as a hobby, and he is still very good at it. He used to build custom magic tricks, both big and small, and he maintained a whole library of books written by such masters as Harry Houdini. He also belonged to various magic clubs, and sometimes I could attend. I became interested in stage magic and ventriloquism when I was seven or eight years old, and I teamed up with a neighborhood friend, Jeff, to perform magic and ventriloquism shows for the local pre-schools and libraries. It was fun, and we also earned much more money than our weekly allowances provided us.

As for my time in private school - when I was in the second grade, we (at school), had a contest to see how many books of the “Holy Bible - both the Old Testament and the New Testament - each student could memorize. Just the names of each book – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, etc. I came in second place, and I succeeded in learning all the books of the Old and New Testament, in order. (I can still name them all, in order, today!)

During all my private school years, across several different schools, we always had to say a prayer before and at the end of every class. We did not spend a lot of time discussing the subject of religion during class - mostly just on subjects like math, reading, and spelling. I did receive a paddle on my bottom one time - for going some ten yards off school property to retrieve a soccer ball that we had kicked off the school grounds. On another occasion, a few of us forgot to bring our reading books to class, and so we had to take turns receiving either a paddle to the bottom or a switch to the bare legs! I got the paddle that day, and that was probably the better of those choices that day. Private school was also strict, concerning rules and discipline, but the educational curriculum was outstanding, and things were not overly religious.

At church, on the weekends, and sometimes during the weekdays, I had to learn to sing Sunday school songs, and I had to learn Bible stories. During my time at the Pentecostal church, I remember being almost awestruck whenever I would see men and women suddenly become filled with the Holy Spirit, and begin speaking in tongues, as they also entered strange trances. That was very weird to me at the time. I did not give a lot of thought then to God, but I did say my prayers every night before going to bed, asking for forgiveness for my sins, and I hoped that I was also doing well enough to get into heaven. Religious views and teachings surrounded me, but my childhood was full of the usual sort of play, both at home and at school.

My parents had gotten into the habit of decorating my bedroom and my brother’s bedroom, whenever we had separate rooms. I had been away to church camp one week; a church camp affiliated with the Baptist church that my mother later attended, and upon my return, I found that my parents had wholly remodeled my bedroom. They had re-decorated my bedroom twice before – once they chose a pirate theme, and once they chose Ernie and Bert from “Sesame Street” as a theme - my younger brother Matt and I then shared a room. This time, however, I had my own bedroom, and they decorated my room in the spirit of World War I airplanes. They did this, along with new shelving, a custom desk, a full-length corkboard bulletin board, and a captain’s bed.

I don’t know how it came to be, but I became influenced by the way that my mother kept the house so clean and well-organized all the time. My parents’ work inspired me, and I caught the spirit myself, and shortly after I returned home from camp and saw the newly decorated bedroom, I decided that I would set about to keeping my room ship shape, clean, organized, and even inventoried - in terms of my toys – their location, their quantity, etc. My father had built an incredible shelf unit with a desk, and I set about organizing all my toys and belongings, and I went so far as even to take a written inventory of everything that I owned, and where I kept each item. After a few days of doing this, however, and running my room as some business establishment, I got bored of this project, and I gave up paying such meticulous attention to my belongings and keeping my room so neat and organized.

By the time I was eight years of age, I had mastered my play skills. I was very creative in organizing a grander style of gameplay, for both myself and my playmates. I used to create new clubs almost weekly - complete with wooden forts, tree house, and basement forts, with actual working desks, built from wood; and even a turn style; like something from “The Little Rascals”, but with desks, and even a special office for me that sat overlooking the work area. I was going to assign various tasks to my friends - certain positions or roles within the club, and award them privileges, but it never came to that because by the time I had set everything up I was often on to doing something else. When it came to baseball, I organized all of us into two teams that would play regular season games, and eventually even have a sort of world series as well. We did this almost every spring and summer, during baseball season.

I once hosted a backyard carnival complete with face painting, games with prizes, and a magic and ventriloquism show run by myself and a friend who was also learning the craft. I rallied up my gang of friends, gals and guys alike, to go door to door announcing our weekend carnival, and at least a few parents came. I continued to organize my magic and ventriloquism shows with my friend and fellow magician (whose parents could afford the more expensive magic tricks), and together we dominated the local pre-school and library scene for a few months, and we made good money. I once even invited the whole fifth grade class over to my home for a Halloween day party, complete with a haunted house that my parents and I built for weeks before the event. I got to scare everyone in the class at least once, as I sat behind a secret booth, wielding a scary record, and some strings attached to horrors of various sorts; I got to scare each one of them at critical points throughout their journey through my haunted house.

If my play was rather grand and creative, also were my pranks. I played elaborate games sometimes with my friends. For at least a month, I had a friend of mine named Dustin believing that a girl from school, and some of her friends, hung out at her home every day, nearby to my house. I told him that they rode around after school on bicycles – like a bicycle gang – I think I said motorized mini bikes? I also told him that they captured boys like us from the school, and tied us up, and then whipped us, and even made us kiss them. I was careful to make it all sound as credible as possible. I told Dustin that sometimes the girl’s captured us boys and kept us overnight at their slumber parties. I often orchestrated all kinds of clues - phony written notes from them, things I had intercepted, stories, and more, and I had him convinced for a month of the existence of this secret gang of girls headed by a classmate we shared in one of our classes. I silently laughed whenever he saw her at school, and I thought of him thinking about this after school life every day – wondering if he would be captured, and tortured.

Here is another long-term prank I played on my younger brother, Matt. I had Matt believing that there was a duplicate of me named Red Devil – named after the Red Devil fireworks products that once littered San Jose, around the Fourth of July. I would be playing with Matt, and then suddenly I would tell him that I spoke with Red Devil and that Red Devil wanted to see him. I instructed Matt to go into the basement and await Red Devil’s arrival.

As my brother Matt would leave the room, I would quickly run in the opposite direction to beat him to the basement. Once arriving, I would hide behind a furnace we had in the basement. When Matt entered the cellar through the main cellar door, I would wait for him, hidden, with balls of dirt in my hand. Then, I would throw the dirt in the air to make a sort of smoke screen, and then I would walk out into plain sight from behind the dust. As Red Devil, I would give my brother advice, or tell him things that I wanted him to do as my brother Matt - usually things that involved or would involve my future about our play time together.

Now I want to talk about what I was doing between the ages of nine and twelve, and later, of my parents’ divorce - when I was twelve years old. By this time, my friends and I were playing a lot baseball, playing guns, and playing ditch. We had highly organized ditch games, and even naughtier games like making homemade dough out of flour, water, and salt. Then we would wait until evening, and we would hide, and then throw dough balls at cars coming up and down our street. We once went so far as to stretch a dough man in the middle of the road, using fishing line, so that a car would smack into it, at windshield level. I got into trouble for that one!

One time, I heard that the famous baseball player Reggie Jackson was somewhere in the town of Campbell – people reported seeing him, and later we learned that he was in town getting some new rims for his car. Campbell is known for lots of custom auto body shops that work on European vehicles, harder to find cars and more expensive cars. We mounted our bikes, and we circled the town of Campbell looking for Mr. Jackson, and we saw him outside of a nearby auto body shop. As I and several of my friends were peeking at him, from an adjacent building, my friends suddenly pushed me out into open view, and Mr. Jackson saw what had happened. So, only slightly embarrassed, but not about to back down, I was the first to approach Mr. Jackson, and I politely asked him to autograph my baseball, which he did. (I wish that I still had that signed baseball.)

Aside from my creative ventures into play and business (like collecting aluminum cans for profit) with my friends, and my pranks and games with Matt, I had gotten into a few other things. In my earlier years, I practiced things like stage magic and ventriloquism. But now, at this age, my new focus was martial arts. In my new clubhouses and forts now, I built wall makiwaras (Japanese punching pads), made of thin foam and boards. I ordered books in the mail, through comic books, and soon I got a great series of books from Bruce Lee called “Bruce Lee’s Fighting Method: Volumes One through Four.” I got all four books, and later I also acquired “Tao of Jeet Kune Do,” by Bruce Lee. I became interested in martial arts. I watched David Carradine on television, every day, in the television series “Kung Fu.” I read Bruce Lee’s works faithfully.

I was reading books, exercising, and I practiced martial arts techniques often by myself, in my room, or in one of the homemade gyms I was now making. I also had fun play fighting with my friends in the front yard - mock fights, semi-contact, no pads. One time I got into it with Dustin, and he ended up hurting his shoulder, while I also injured my foot – a kick to his shoulder blade with the top of my foot. We ended up in the emergency room. Dustin later challenged me and told me that he knew someone who did know real Karate, at his school. He said to me that this friend of his, in the sixth grade, could easily kick my butt, and he knew real Karate. I playfully argued that I could kick his friend’s butt instead. (I also assumed that I would never even meet this guy anyway.) But, as it turned out, that next year I went to public school - for the very first time - to the same school as Dustin and his Karate buddy.

One day then, on the playground, Dustin brought over his Karate buddy, to meet me. I quickly denied ever saying anything about kicking his butt, or even fighting him, as the guy was much bigger than I was. He was also known as the toughest kid in school, and he was sometimes a bully to other kids. He was the toughest guy in the sixth grade, outside of Karate, but he was also purportedly pretty good at Karate. I ultimately avoided a fight with him, and later I had yet another close friend named Michael, and we used to work out together and practice martial arts. We would get up early in the morning and go running, on the nearby par course, while also doing exercises. We practiced moves, and we talked a lot about martial arts movies that we saw in film, and on television. We even went to Chinese cinema. (And, we were the only toe heads in the audience.) The movies we watched were all in Chinese, with English subtitles.

During the fifth grade, I had a problem with one guy. He wanted me to fight him, and he pursued me for at least a week on the matter. At recess, he was always trying to get me to fight with him. In the end, he bothered me so much about it that I finally agreed to fight him after school. And, just as we assembled to fight, just off the school grounds, my friend Michael came running up from nowhere (and Michael did not attend my school.) He saw what was going on, and he instead went to business fighting this kid. In the end, it was probably almost an even match.

When I was twelve years old, I had begun to learn that my mother was not altogether happy with just having to be the stay-at-home mother. Besides being the church pre-school director, I think my mother wanted the freedom to pursue a career of her own. It was the late nineteen-seventies, almost the eighties, and there was a women’s movement geared towards empowering women. The campaign also meant to empower women enough to win greater job choices in the workforce. My mother and father had married when they were quite young, and as I pointed out already, my father was then very strict in his belief systems. He was not so much in agreement, at the time, with my mother having her own professional life, and the freedom to pursue a career. In some agreement, however, she did join the United States Navy, as a reservist, and she went away for basic training. She became ill during basic training, and she was shipped to Guam, for some reason, to a Navy hospital. I remember that she brought back a real bow and arrow set, from Guam. My friends and I had some fun playing with that, as well as the throwing knives, and the blowgun!

During all of this, I sometimes heard my parents arguing - usually late at night after everyone went to bed. I heard them arguing, and I sometimes heard my mother crying, maybe a few times throughout several weeks. I did not think too much of it at all, because things went on as usual during the day, and there was nothing more to indicate to me that there was any problem. I think that they had been growing apart, over several months, or perhaps longer. And, while my mother was away for basic training, as a reservist in the U.S. Navy, my father had a woman come over to the house, once. Then, my father and this woman (named Rose) got into her truck, and drove to Burger King, for dinner. On the drive back home, Matt and I were sitting in the back of her small truck. At one point, I looked through the window of the cab of the truck and observed my father, who was sitting in the passenger seat, holding the hand of this woman. I don’t think that they noticed me, but I sat back next to Matt feeling that I might have to bring this to Matt’s attention now. But, I did not. Matt and I were soon also introduced to Rose’s young son, named Crash – a nickname. Matt and I visited her home, where I saw my father smoking cigarettes with her, and that was something odd! But, I feared questioning it. I knew that my father’s religious views were pretty much against smoking. They were smoking cigarettes on her couch, while Matt and I played with Crash.

What I did not know about, at the time, was that my mother and father had already talked about separating. During the time that my mother was away at basic training, my father did not just run away with some woman. My mother had told him already that he had the room to explore. At any rate, when my mother returned home, she took us, boys, aside, and she broke the news to us - that her and my father were not going to be living together anymore, and that they were not going to be married. She explained to us, as she cried, and hugged Matt and me closely, that we were going to live with her. I remember being overwhelmed, and sort of shocked at all of this. It was not so much the thought of missing my mother and my father being together, but the question to me was more like “what was life going to be like now?”

After that talk, Matt and I began spending more and more time visiting at my father’s new girlfriend’s house, with Crash. We lived with my mother at home in Campbell, where we had been living, and my father moved in with Rose. Matt and I visited Rose’s house on the weekends, and we spent the nights playing with Crash. I remember spending at least one Christmas there, and Matt and I had a lot of fun with Dad, and his new girlfriend Rose. Now came the time that my mother and my father had decided to sell the home in Campbell. Our house was the second oldest home in the town of Campbell and still stands today. So, I was now about ready to enter the seventh grade - junior high school. I had thus far attended private school up, until the fifth grade, and I spent one year in public school for the sixth grade - as my folks could no longer afford private school for me, nor Matt. All of this occurred around the time that I, Matt, and my mother relocated to another end of Campbell, on Hacienda Avenue - somewhat close to where we had been living. We moved into a townhome that my mother rented. Now, with just the three of us, Matt and I had to begin helping with the daily and weekly chores. My mother had once done all the household chores, except that myself and Matt had to clean our rooms whenever we were told to do so. I mentioned that I went through an organizational phase (and this was also after I had gotten severely scolded at for spilling paint thinner on the new carpet at the Campbell home!) But, I was still rather ordinary, in that I was not as overly-organized as I would become. My room was then sometimes messy, and sometimes it was picked up and clean, but not necessarily with everything in its’ proper place – meticulous – as would later become a pattern for me. Matt and I now had daily chores to help with, like dishes and such, and my mother made us help her clean house - including dusting and window washing every Sunday for several or more hours. We also vacuumed the carpets, and we cleaned every room in the house - plus other chores sometimes. Now in junior high school, my martial arts interests continued. I built and maintained a dojo (a gym) in the garage of our new townhome.

And, my dojo was neat – I neatly placed a large piece of leftover carpeting on the concrete garage floor. I hung my Bruce Lee poster, and I hung up my jump rope, my forearm training exercise tool, and my Kung Fu iron claw exercise contraption. Also, some other things - I had small dumbbells, and martial arts magazines lined around the perimeter of the carpeting. I also set about to run in the wee hours of the morning, before school, or even after school - running only a mile or two at the most. I did various martial arts stretching, push-ups, sit-ups, and other exercises I learned from books, and maybe even from television. I practiced punches, and I practiced kicking, as best as I could determine how from the diagrams in the books I studied. I was becoming even a bigger Bruce Lee fan by now, and I was a fan of his book “Tao of Jeet Kune Do,” and it became a sort of my bible for martial arts study and practice. (It is certainly his most important martial arts book ever.) I even went so far as to order the yellow and black-striped jumpsuit that Bruce Lee wore while filming “The Game of Death.”

I had the choice of either catching the bus to and from school every day or riding my ten-speed bicycle - almost three or four miles each way - to and from school. I chose the latter. It seemed a long ride each way, but as I was into exercising and training, I rode my bicycle faithfully to and from school every day. Also, when it came to hanging out with friends at school, I chose to hang around the foreign Vietnamese students. I was not a popular kid in school, at least then. In private school, I was at least known for who I was, and I had a close circle of friends. I did well in activities like flag football, soccer, and especially softball. I also played little league baseball outside of school for several years, and one year I was a star pitcher. Campbell Little League was a big thing in Campbell, and our home town team went on (not once, but three times) to face the Taiwanese baseball team in the Little League World Series. I played in the major leagues for only one year, but it was too hard for me by that point. I did well in the minor leagues, playing as both a shortstop and as a pitcher.

In the sixth grade, I was who I was, with nothing standing out particularly - except that another cute girl – the cutest girl in class – took up a kissing experiment with me one day in class, and it made me blush. I did develop a sort of crush on her, and this was perhaps my first interest in the opposite sex – aside from seeing them as playmates. At this age, for me, kissing a girl in front of the whole class was something that just made me blush, as I was then shyer. I was then also kind of nerdy, and so that is why the older boys had her kiss me! Her name was Angela, and she was the hottest girl in the sixth grade.

Now in seventh grade, everything was more confusing at first. I now had periods of class in separate classrooms, and students were coming from all the elementary schools around. I did not know anyone? There was one student named Benito, from my previous fifth grade class, in private school, and he became popular with the young girls. He was the class clown – a natural comedian – but, a harem of young girls always surrounded him. My interest in martial arts led me to hang out with the Vietnamese students. It was also of my opinion then that they were all knowledgeable of martial arts, and its’ practice! Many of them did practice Tai Chi Chuan exercises and other martial arts practices. They would practice in the early morning before school, on the soccer field. It turned out that many of the Vietnamese kids did know how to fight - using some martial arts skills. They could not speak English very well, and they were new to our country, and they often got picked on by some of the bullies. It seemed that perhaps they knew how to fight, because they had to know how to fight, or they could get seriously picked on - or beat up even. I got to school every morning, and I quickly set about to finding either my friend Su or my friend Kwon. Su could usually be found hanging out by the gym bars - doing pull-ups and other exercises.


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