Part II
Growing up in America

Age 5-9

The plane ride was like a dimension between worlds. I was about to enter a whole new world. A whole new life. But none of that went through my little 5 year old head at the time. I slept for most of the journey there, and I can remember looking out the window at the vast stretch of clouds below us. I wondered what it would be like to go down there and run along them as if they were a landmass, not thinking about the fact that I would fall right through!

When we arrived in America, I was very tired. We collected our luggage and loaded them onto a new SUV that my father rented. The image of us driving out of the airport is still fresh in my mind. I often think of it as my first step into my new life in the U.S.

I was so sleepy when we reached our new house that I didn't even bother to look around yet. The house was partly furnished, and we already had a sofa and a television. The first thing we did was watch a movie. The movie was Independence Day, and I fell asleep at some parts, but managed to watch most of the movie.

In the morning I was full of energy. I eagerly clamored up the stairs to search for my new room. I looked at all the rooms before singling out the one that I wanted as mine. When I told my mother about my decision, she told me that the room I picked was meant to be my sister Georgia's room. I got a bit upset, but eventually settled for the room next to it.

The house was quite big, with white walls and a beautiful backyard that led to a gated swimming pool area. It was located in an upscale part of Woodland Hills. The town of Woodland Hills has great significance in my life. It would be the town that I grow up in. A large portion of all my life experiences, good and bad, would take place in this town. I can recall the first time I said the name on my lips... Woodland Hills... my new hometown.

Soon after settling into our lovely new home, we were disturbed by a problem typical of California: An earthquake. My mother woke me up in the middle of the night, and we all hid under the kitchen table. The earthquake actually turned out to be very small, with even smaller aftershocks following it, but I was still scared. Having never experienced an earthquake before, the only impression I had of earthquakes were the huge, land rupturing earthquakes I saw in The Land Before Time. After this experience, I began to see earthquakes as common, minor disturbances.

And there I was, a young 5 year old boy who has so far lived a happy and joyful life about to embark on a new journey; the journey of growing up in the United States of America. I felt a surge of enthusiasm at the prospect. I now considered myself an "American kid", as I told my parents. I got accustomed to all the American T.V. shows, and I started to adopt an American accent. I was looking forward to my new life.

Soon enough, I was enrolled in school. My father did some extensive school-searching after our arrival, and he found a small private school on Shoup Avenue named Pinecrest. I was to attend kindergarten there. Pinecrest... My 5-year-old self at the time could not imagine how significant this place will eventually become for me. A great turning point of my life will eventually take place there, a tragic turn for the worse. But that will come later, in a darker chapter of my story, when I enter my pre- teen years. For now, I was a kindergartener who was enjoying life to the fullest.

Kindergarten at Pinecrest didn't turn out so well. I had a very unpleasant teacher who was impatient with how far behind I was in my schoolwork, as I had missed a couple months of school due to the move. During playtime, this teacher would keep me in the classroom to do extra work in order to catch up. My parents didn't like this teacher, and one of their friends recommended another school for me, a private school nearby named Farm School; it was named after the farm that was attached to it. After only a couple of weeks at Pinecrest, my parents took me out of it, and I would not return again until I go there for Middle School six years later.

My first day at farm school turned out to be a good start. I had two teachers, and they made an effort to introduce me to the other kids. There was one particular boy named Joey who they assigned to show me around. He was nice to me at first, but would soon turn out to be a rotten little prick who I would always get into fights with. He then became my greatest enemy at the school.

The first real friend I made in the United States was a girl named Maddy Humphreys. Isn't that ironic? The first friend I made in the United States was a girl ! She was the first female friend I've ever had, and she would be the last. Maddy and I started playing together at Farm School, and eventually my parents became very good friends with her parents. Maddy's father is the famous British musician Paul Humpreys, and her mother is named Maureen, though we would call her Mo. They had a nice house in Hidden Hills. Our families got together often to have barbeques and dinners.

I was a 5 year old boy playing with a girl my own age like any normal boy would do. I was enjoying life in a world that I loved. I was happy, and completely oblivious of the fact that my future on this world would only turn to darkness and misery because of girls. This girl who was my friend, Maddy Humpreys, would eventually come to represent everything I hate and despise; everything that is against me, and everything that I'm against. I was playing innocently with this girl, in the manner that all children play. We even took baths together; it was the only time in my life that I would see a girl my age naked. When I think about the experiences I had during my friendship with her, it makes me think ominously of the fact that all children, boys and girls, start out the same. We all start out innocent, and we all start out together. Only through the experiences and circumstances of growing up do we drift apart, form allegiances, and face each other as enemies. That is when wars happen, and that is when the true nature of humanity rises to the surface. At this stage of my life, of course, my war hadn't started yet, and it wouldn't start for a long time. I was enjoying my life without a care in the world, not knowing that all of my joy is destined to turn to dust.

My Kindergarten year at Farm School was filled with exciting, new experiences, all healthy for a growing boy. I had friends, I had playdates, I socialized with the other boys at school, despite getting into lots of conflicts with Joey. I only got into trouble once, over a quarrel with another boy during playtime, and I was sent to the principal's office. Having never been in such trouble at school before, I recall being overcome with nervousness and fear, which caused me to cry for an hour. I especially enjoyed our arts and crafts time, and I loved it when our class would go on visits to the school's farm.

After a bright and joyous school year, it was time to graduate. I was swelled with pride as I wore my graduation cap at the ceremony. I loved that school very much, and I was sad to leave it. Kindergarten was over, and soon enough I would enter elementary school.

My 6th birthday soon followed. My parents arranged a Disney-themed party at a play center that my mother had been taking me to frequently. I invited everyone from my Farm School class, all the boys and the girls, except for Joey. I deliberately omitted Joey as an act of revenge for being mean to me throughout the year, and I felt a sense of satisfaction in doing so.

The party was cheerful, and there was a man dressed as Merlin to host the festivities. I sat at the end of the table during my birthday meal, wearing a wizard hat. As my cake was presented to me, I felt only elation and glee as I took in a breath and blew out my candles. Life was good.

6 Years Old

My favorite part of the day during this jubilant period of my life was our afternoon trips to the park. Specifically, Serrania Park. This park was beautiful and green, with concrete pathways cutting through fields of grass and a fun playground for us kids to play in. I always took to playing on the slides, and sometimes I would go on the swing, though my father had to push me. I remember getting jealous of other boys who were able to swing by themselves, boys who were even younger than myself. It was the second time I realized my lack of physical capability. The first time I had such an inkling of my shortcomings were those disastrous football sessions at Dorsett House.

Eventually, my father got around to teaching me how to swing by myself, and after some practice, I was able to do it. After that, I would always soar up and down on that swing in the Serrania park playground well into the hour of twilight.

I was very small and short statured for my age. I never gave this much concern during my early childhood, but this fact fully dawned on me the day my family took a trip to Universal Studios. At the time, I loved dinosaurs. I was fascinated by them. I had just recently watched the movie Jurassic Park, and when I found out that there was a Jurassic Park themed ride at Universal Studios, I couldn't wait to go on it. We queued up in the line and waited for an hour. When reached the front, the park staff presented me with a measuring stick, and I didn't fit the requirements. I saw other boys my age admitted onto the ride, but I was denied because I was too short! The ride that I was so excited to enjoy at the theme park was forbidden to me. I immediately fell into a crying tantrum, and my mother had to comfort me.

Being denied entry on a simple amusement park ride due to my height may seem like only a small injustice, but it was big for me at time. Little did I know, this injustice was very small indeed compared to all the things I'll be denied in the future because of my height.

We resorted to trying out the E.T. ride, which I was admitted to. I had a miserable time on this ride, however, because the dark atmosphere and the mechanically moving alien statues that lined the queuing area scared the hell out of me. By the time we got to the actual ride, I was crying in fright, but later calmed down as the ride turned out to be mild and relaxing towards the end.

I always enjoyed my family's get-togethers with the Humphreys. These get-togethers became a common occurrence in my life. Maddy became a very close friend of mine. She was the only friend from Farm School who I continued to see after I graduated. They had a huge back yard area, and the two of us would go on adventures. She also grew up watching The Land Before Time, and we would watch the sequels together whenever they released a new one.

Sometimes when I went to her house, she would have other female friends there, and I played with them too. I had no trouble interacting with girls at that age, surprisingly. My six-year-old self was playing with girls, unbeknownst to the horror and misery the female gender would inflict upon me later in my life. In the present day, these girls would treat me like the scum of the earth; but at that time, we were all equals. Such bitter irony.

It was now time for me to start First Grade. My parents enrolled me at Serrania Avenue Elementary School, which was just down the street from Serrania Park. I wouldn't remain at this school for long, however, because only weeks into my First Grade year, my parents decided that they were going to move to Topanga.

Most of the kids at Serrania Avenue school will end up going to Taft High School nearby, a place that will cause me great suffering in the future. Perhaps some of the kids in my class at Serrania will end up turning into those who would bully me at Taft. I don't remember any of the kids from my class there, so I will never know the answer to that. It's very disturbing to think about.

I quite enjoyed my brief time at Serrania. My parents sometimes made me stay an hour after school; I believe this was because they figured it would help me make friends. I can remember this after-school playtime being a positive experience. There were always games that I played with the other kids. And thus I was a bit frustrated when my parents told me they were going to transfer me to another school after only a couple of weeks of settling into Serrania. That frustration would soon cease, because the years that I would spend at Topanga Elementary school would be some of the best years of my life. The last years of being a carefree child.

I started First Grade at Topanga Elementary School a couple of weeks before we prepared to move to Topanga. Topanga is a secluded, mountainous community surrounding a canyon that runs through the Santa Monica Mountains, located in between the San Fernando Valley and the Pacific Coast Highway. We had only passed through this community a few times, when we would take trips to the beach. It has a certain rugged beauty about it.

On my first day at Topanga Elementary, I was very nervous. Since it was about a month after the first grade term started, I was going to be the "new kid" at school. I remember the nervousness taking over my body as my mother drove us up the steep road that led into the school proper. My new class was just lining up to start the day as we walked onto the main courtyard. My teacher, Mrs. Matsuyama, was very nice and understanding. My mother said goodbye and I got in line with the other students. The first kid I saw there was a chubby boy named Bryce Jacobs, who was staring at me strangely.

As we got to class, Mrs. Matsuyama assigned one of the students to show me around and help me adjust. This student happened to be none other than Philip Bloeser. Philip was always very mature for his age, and he was nice to me on my first day. He became my first friend at Topanga Elementary.

The day turned out to be one of great fun. Class time was not too boring, and we did some fun arts and crafts activities. For recess and lunch, there were two playgrounds: the Upper and the Lower. The first and second graders would go to the Lower playground, and the third, fourth, and fifth graders would go to the Upper. The Lower playground was smaller, but it had some nice amenities, especially the sloping hill to the side of it, where I would enjoy running up and down "kicking dust", a game I instantly created due to the dust-like dirt on this hill. When my mother came to pick me up, I recall having so much fun that I didn't want to leave! That's a first. In the past, I was always eager to go home after spending hours at school.

The drive to and from school was a long one, or at least long for my six-year-old self. My favorite part of the drive was the descent from Topanga into the Valley. The view of the broad expanse of the Valley was breathtaking as it opened up before us after clearing the final hill. I would make that trip through the winding roads of Topanga Canyon every day for the next couple of weeks, before we moved to the new house. Sometimes my mother would pick me up, and sometimes my nanny would. I don't remember the name of this nanny, as she was only with us for a brief period of time.

I loved the new house the moment I laid eyes on it. It was a beautiful, round, wooden house located up the road from Valley View Drive, in the better part of Topanga. It had two stories, a swimming pool, and a lovely deck that provided a view of the lush mountains. I instantly named it the "Round House".

I was sad to leave our house in Woodland Hills, our first house in America. I would miss the good times I had there, playing with Maddy and my other friends, swimming in the pool, the close proximity to Serrania Park where I spent a lot of time enjoying the elations of a carefree childhood. Our new Round House in Topanga, however, turned out to be a worthy replacement.

My room at the Round House was a bit smaller than my old one, but I remember it being very cozy. Shortly after we moved in, Ah-Mah came to visit from England, and she baked my favorite peanut cookies. We had some very happy times during the beginnings of my life there.

My father's new directing career was taking off quite well too, and he would go away a lot to direct commercials for prestigious companies, leaving my mother and the nanny to look after me. The only downside of this was my father's absence from my life. Despite this, I always looked up to him as a powerful and successful man.

Adjusting to my new environment in Topanga was quite easy for me, especially since school was so much fun. I was now a Topanga Kid. During recess at school, I started noticing this boy with slightly long blonde hair who also enjoyed kicking dust. Before I met him, I always mentally nicknamed him the "King Arthur Kid", due the regal look his hairstyle gave him. It was only a matter of time before our dusting kicking antics would collide with each other. We then teamed up and starting playing the game together, and this was the start of a long and interesting friendship. This boy's name was James Ellis, and he would become my best friend for the next 14 years of my life. Sometimes, the two of us would join with Philip Bloeser and some other boys, and play fun games like handball, war games, and tag.

Soon enough, I would start having frequent playdates with James Ellis. His house was just down the hill from mine. James's father was named Arte; and his mother, Kim, became one of my mother's best friends.

Christmas arrived quickly, and for my present I got my first video game console, a Nintendo 64! I had little knowledge of video games before this. I barely knew what they were. My father is the one who introduced me to them. With the Nintendo 64, my father bought the games Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire, and Turok: Dinosaur Hunter. I was fascinated with this new form of entertainment, and my father and I would bond a lot over our video game sessions.

Of course, while playing these video games, my innocent, happy self knew nothing of the significant role video games would play during a large portion of my life... and the sanctuary such games would eventually provide for me from the cruelties of this world. For now, they were just a form of entertainment like any other hobby.

Life was good at the round house, but soon enough I had to witness my mother and father get into a lot of arguments. I was too young at the time to understand what they were arguing about, but I knew they were not getting along. It didn't really concern me all too much, because every other aspect of my life was wonderful.

I had playdates with James Ellis every week. Sometimes he would surprise me with a visit after school, as we lived so close by. I went over to Philip Bloeser's house a few times as well, and I met his younger brother, Jeffrey. The Bloeser's also became good friends with my mother. They lived in a nice house up the road from our own, with a deck that provided an extraordinary view of the Topanga mountains. At some point I learned about the possibility that parents can separate... divorce... no longer live together. The prospect baffled my little mind. I once sat down with my mother on our outside deck and asked her if she and father would ever divorce. She told me it will never happen, and that I had nothing to worry about. I was relieved by that. Little did I know, such a thing would happen in only a few months time.

My first grade year ended splendidly. I made a few lasting friends, and I had a blast at Topanga Elementary. I always considered myself a good, well-behaved student, so I was a bit disappointed at the few times I got in trouble. My class had a system where if we do something wrong, we would change our card color from green to yellow, and then to red if we did any more troublemaking. I thought I would never have to change my card, but I had to change it to yellow a few times for minor things. When first grade ended, I made the resolution that in second grade I will never be forced to change my card.

After my last day of school, I was looking forward to a long summer break, my favorite time of the year. I was a bit dismayed when my parents made me attend summer camp. My father had to go away a lot for work, and my mother needed to have some time to look after baby Georgia. Summer camp wasn't all that bad, I had some fun. It consisted of kids from First through Fourth grade, and we played lots of games and watched movies.

7 Years Old

My last memory of my parents being together was my 7th birthday, and I would always cherish it. We didn't have a party for my seventh birthday, but more of a small get-together for lunch. Maddy and the Humpreys were our only guests. We celebrated it at Gladstones, my favorite restaurant at the time. It was in the Pacific Palisades, right on the beach. I had my favorite meal, lobster.

It was a very happy day for all of us. I was turning seven. That was a big number for my little mind. I had spent seven years on this fascinating world, and my life was at a good start. I had loving parents, I had friends to play with, I was having fun at school, and I had all the toys a little boy could want. A stranger would look at this seven year old boy and think that he has a great life in front of him, that there is nothing to worry about. Indeed, there shouldn't be anything to worry about... But I was just a child. I still had a few more years to enjoy life in carefree bliss before I would eventually discover how twisted and cruel this "fascinating world" really is.

My parents seemed happy that day. I remember them laughing and having a good time. It would be the last time I remember them being happy together. Perhaps they really weren't, perhaps they were just putting up a front so that I could enjoy my birthday. I couldn't even fathom the possibility of my parents separating.

Very shortly after my seventh birthday, the news came. I believe it was my mother who told me that she and my father were getting a divorce; my mother, who only a few months before told me that such a thing will never happen. I was absolutely shocked, outraged, and above all, overwhelmed. This was a huge life-changing event.

My father was to stay at the round house, and my mother would move to another smaller house in Topanga. It was arranged that me and my sister will mostly be living with our mother, and we would go to father's house on the weekends. My father was required to pay child support to my mother so that she can look after us.

My life would change forever after this. The family I grew up with has split in half, and from then on I would grow up in two different households. I remember crying. All the happy times I spent with my mother and father as a family were gone, only to remain in memory. It was a very sad day. Just like the move to the U.S., it would be like starting a whole new life with a new routine.

Despite the initial sadness I felt from my family splitting in half, my new life situation wasn't all that bad. It was still practically the same life, though I lived with my mother in one house and my father in another.

My mother's new house was small and red in color, located up a steep driveway from Topanga Canyon Boulevard. I would call it the "Red House". It was the smallest house I've lived in at that point. It only had two bedrooms, and I had to share a room with my sister Georgia. We had a bunk-bed, and I slept on the top. I was quite uncomfortable with this change at first, being used to having my own room and living in bigger houses. My mother's kind and loving nature, however, made up for this, and she turned the household into a fun environment which I enjoyed living in.

After spending the first week at mother's house, father came to pick me and my sister up for the weekend. Georgia had become very attached to mother after this week, and she burst into tears when we drove off. I too, was a bit distressed at having to go from one house to the other every week, but I would soon get used to it.

The Round House was very different without mother being there. When we entered, I felt a wave of sadness creep over me as I was reminded of my life when mother and father were together. The house was full of memories; happy, cheerful memories that were lost in the past. With my mother missing from it, there was a sense of bleakness and loss to the place. Father did his best to cheer us up. I could tell that he, too, was very saddened by the recent events.

My father soon rented one of the rooms of the round house to his good friend Dan Perelli, one of his first friends in America. Dan used to live close to our house in Woodland Hills until he was struck with financial troubles, which I'm assuming is why he started renting a room from my father. I would always call him "Uncle Dan". From this point on, Uncle Dan would stay with us as a lodger for a few years.

The time to start Second Grade arrived. My new teacher was named Mrs. Weisberg, and she was very kind. The students in my class were mostly the same as my First Grade class, with only one or two new students who transferred from other schools. I made a few new friends, such as Shane and Tommy.

I was very disappointed to find out that James Ellis would not be returning to Topanga Elementary for second grade. In fact, his family would be moving out of Topanga to the Pacific Palisades, where they would be renting a house from their friends, the Lemelsons.

My father's stay at the round house was very brief. He suffered some temporary financial setbacks on top of the divorce, so he decided to move to a smaller house on Old Topanga Canyon. It was a very abrupt move, and I would never see the round house again. One day, after he picked me and my sister up from mother's, he took us to the new house and that was it.

The house was a small, two-story house in a more rustic part of the Topanga mountains. The upstairs portion had only a bedroom and bathroom, and it was rented to Uncle Dan. All around the outside of the house were very small hills and hiking trails that led up to the mountains. Overlooking these hills was a massive, imposing rock called "Big Rock". When I first saw Big Rock, I told myself that one day I'll climb to the top of it!

I took a liking to this new environment, and every time I visited father on the weekends, I would always be outside, exploring and adventuring. There were always new places to discover in that secluded region. I didn't venture too far into the wilderness, however, because of the danger of coyotes and mountain lions.

After only a couple of months since my seventh birthday, a new and very important person would come into my life. After father picked us up from school one day and took us to his house, I saw a woman with dark hair and fair skin standing in the kitchen, and she introduced herself as Soumaya. She would become my stepmother. Father told me she would be living with us from now on. At first I thought she was just another friend who was temporarily staying with father, similar to what Uncle Dan was doing. My father having a girlfriend so shortly after divorcing my mother didn't even occur to me. I couldn't understand it. Soon enough, though, I realized that Soumaya was, in fact, his "girlfriend", and they were together just like how my father and mother were together. It was the first time I learned the concept of a "girlfriend", and it was hard to grasp. Before that, I always thought a man and a woman had to be married before living together in such a manner, and that it would take a long time for such a union to happen. Father finding a new girlfriend in such a short amount of time baffled me. I was completely taken aback.

Because of my father's acquisition of a new girlfriend, my little mind got the impression that my father was a man that women found attractive, as he was able to find a new girlfriend in such a short period of time from divorcing my mother. I subconsciously held him in higher regard because of this. It is very interesting how this phenomenon works... that males who can easily find female mates garner more respect from their fellow men, even children. How ironic is it that my father, one of those men who could easily find a girlfriend, has a son who would struggle all his life to find a girlfriend.

I soon became accustomed to Soumaya being part of father's household. She hails from the Akaaboune family, a very prominent family from the country of Morocco. For the initial period of her being a new member of the family, we got along well, and she was quite fun. But soon she would start to discipline me in a harsh way that I wasn't used to. I felt that because she wasn't my real parent, she had no right to discipline me in such a way, and so I rebelled. That's where the first conflicts arose. There would be many more to come in later years.

Along with the addition of Soumaya, I had two new nannies. The first nanny was a French woman named Celine, though she was only with us for a brief period, so I don't remember much of her. My second nanny was a German woman named Christine. Christine would stay with us for a year, and I became very fond of her. She would always look after me during my time at father's house, and whenever I went on my adventures into the hills, she always accompanied me.

Halloween this year marked my first time going Trick-or-Treating. My mother took me to my friend Shane's house, and we walked around his neighborhood collecting candy. Still obsessed with dinosaurs, I dressed up as a dinosaur for that Halloween. Trick-or-Treating was a new thing for me, as it wasn't so popular in England. When it was all over, I was amazed that I had so much candy.

Even though James Ellis no longer went to Topanga Elementary, he was still my best friend, and I saw him a lot. Mother would take us to his house in the Palisades almost every week, where I would play with James, and Georgia would play with James's sister Sage. He got me interested in a new phenomenon that gripped many children of the era: Pokemon.

When I got my first Gameboy console, I started playing Pokemon Red Version, and I was hooked instantly. I then started collecting Pokemon cards, and James and I always compared and traded them. The Pokemon anime cartoon became my favorite show on television. It was a very fun, captivating hobby, and every boy at my school had a folder of Pokemon cards. It provided something to have, something to show off, something to talk about. The best cards were the "shinies", and everyone coveted them.

Mother was still friends with George Lucas, so we got invites to the red carpet premiere of Star Wars Episode 1. 1 always was and always will be a huge Star Wars fan. I had already seen the original trilogy many times, and I considered myself very lucky to be able to go to the premiere of the new Star Wars movie.

It was an absolutely astonishing experience. It was just me and my mother - Georgia was too young, so she stayed at home with a babysitter. Episode 1 is infamous for being the lesser movie of the three new prequels, but as a kid I enjoyed it very much. Afterwards, I met some of the actors, and I shook the hand of Jake Lloyd, the actor who played Anakin Skywalker in the movie.

My Second Grade year flew by like a breeze. I don't remember much of it, but I did have a blast. During recess and lunch, I played a lot with Shane and Tommy. We would play Pokemon on our Gameboys, and sometimes we would have playdates where we played Nintendo 64 games such as Banjo Kazooie, Super Mario 64, and Donkey Kong 64.

I failed in my goal of never having to change my card, which really disappointed me. I went through most of the year without changing my card, but right when the year was about to end, I was caught talking in class with a friend named Danny Dayani, who sat next to me, and I had to change my card to yellow. I blamed Danny for it, because he was always talking in class, but I still had to change my card.

After a fast and fantastic year, summer came quickly, and with it my 8 th birthday. My 8 th birthday was mellow, but pleasant. I remember my mother inviting a few of my friends from my second grade class and we had a cake. During my weekend at father's house, we all went to the restaurant Typhoon in Santa Monica to celebrate it. It was quite a fancy restaurant next to a small airport, and they had a lot of exotic dishes that I tried.

8 Years Old

As I was now eight-years-old, father decided that I was old enough to climb Big Rock. Whenever I was at father's house, I would always see Big Rock looming in the distance, and I was just itching to climb it. I had already conquered every other rock in the area... there was only Big Rock left. And so I set out with father and a few of father's friends to finally climb to the top. The furthest I had climbed on this rock was about halfway up with Christine. There was a very steep rise which I wasn't able to ascend without some help. The second half of the journey was quite a challenge, but it was so exhilarating! I was very nervous the higher we climbed. The best part, of course, was reaching the top, and the sense of accomplishment I felt. I finally did it! Looking down, I could see the vastness of the Old Topanga Canyon region, and father's house looked tiny down there. I was too scared to venture close to the edge, and I felt a sense of dread at the prospect of falling from such a height. The way down was even more challenging, but I felt so proud of myself for climbing that rock that it wasn't as scary as I thought it would be.

I was very excited to start Third Grade. As Third Graders, we now got to play in the Upper Playground of Topanga Elementary, and I considered myself one of the "big kids". The Upper was vast, with a bigger playground, more handball courts, and four basketball courts. My classroom was located in a bungalow adjacent to the Upper, and my teacher was named Mrs. Buntin. She was a young teacher; I believe she was in her late 20's. Being used to having very old teachers, I was surprised at how young my new teacher appeared.

I continued to play with the same friends during recess and lunch, where we would spend our time comparing and trading Pokemon cards. In the midst of elementary school, I didn't interact with girls much, but this was normal. I was at that period of life where the boys played with the boys and the girls played with the girls, completely separate from each other. Girls were the last thing on my mind. Maddy was still the only friend I had who was a girl, and I only saw her on the occasions when our families would have a get-together, which became more and more rare after Maddy's parents divorced and Paul Humpreys moved back to England.

It was as if the girls in elementary school were part of a separate reality. Despite not having much interaction with them, they treated me cordially, as they treated all other boys of my age. This was fair, and I was content with this. I hadn't gone through puberty yet, and so I had no desire for female validation. My eight-year-old self had no inkling of the pain and misery girls would cause me once puberty would inevitably arrive and my sexual desires for girls would develop. Sexual desires that would be mercilessly spurned. Some of the boys in my class would grow up to be embraced by girls, while I would grow up to be rejected by them. But at that moment in time, we were just innocent children growing up together. All innocence is destined to be shattered and replaced with bitter brutality.

I was living in ignorant, innocent bliss. And I was happy with it.

This period of my life, aside from my early childhood in England, was one of the best periods. Life was fair and life was satisfying. As kids, proving our self-worth and gaining validation among our peers was achieved in a fair manner, by how good we were at the games we played, or how big our collection of Pokemon cards were. No one had unfair advantages. This was perfect, and this is how life should be.

And... boy did I have a lot of fun. James's family had to move to yet another house in the Palisades, and mother would always take us there. She became great friends with James's parents Kim and Arte. James and I would battle on our Gameboys, trade Pokemon cards, and walk to the recreation center down the street to play in the pool, and then for dinner we would all go to the restaurant Mott's in the center of the Palisades.

I was quite proud of my collection of Pokemon cards. I had gained a few "shinies" over the last few months, and I enjoyed showing them off to other boys. Shiny cards came randomly in card packets our parents would buy for us. The card that I coveted the most was the Charizard card, and one morning when my mother opened a packet for me and I looked through the new cards... there it was. It felt like the best day ever, and I was swelled with excitement. I jumped up and down all around the Red House, and I couldn't wait to show it to James, who already had a Charizard himself.

Through being friends with James Ellis and going to his house a lot, we became acquainted with the Lemelson family, who were family friends of Kim and Arte. The Lemelson family is a very wealthy family who has been financially helping James's family for a while. Rob Lemelson is the son of Jerome Lemelson, the inventor of the bar code, and his net worth is in the hundred-millions. Rob's son, Noah, is our age and great friends with James, and eventually I became friends with him too, though we would never be close friends. Sometimes we would all go to the Lemelson's house, also in the Palisades, and the three of us played together.

For Halloween, we went to the Lemelson's for Trick-or-Treating, and from then on it would become tradition to go Trick-or-Treating with them. I dressed up like a dinosaur again, because I couldn't think of anything else to be. I wanted to dress up as Ash Ketchum from Pokemon, but no store had that costume in stock. The Palisades was full of wealthy families, so the candy they gave us would be in much larger amounts, obviously. I remember competing with James and Noah as to who would get the most candy at the end. Afterwards, we would have dinner at Rob's house, and then we would dump our candy in piles on the floor to examine what we got. That was my favorite part of it.

Early in my Third Grade year, my mother would often take us to a festival near Topanga Canyon Boulevard, where small concerts were held and people barbequed great food. A friend of hers had something to do with these events, and I played with the son of this friend. He was named Riley Anapol, and he was two years younger than me. A First Grader. I played with some other younger kids there as well, peers of Riley, and I had a good time. Riley became a common friend for a while. The significance of this is that Riley Anapol would eventually become someone I would harbor a great hatred for. Riley would grow up to get lots of girls, and I would grow up to be rejected by girls. But back then he was a friend, a peer, and we were playing together as equals. It's funny how the world works.

When the holidays arrived, my father announced that we were going to take a family vacation to Soumaya's home country of Morocco and meet her family there, and afterwards we were to stop by in England. I wasn't excited about Morocco, since I didn't know much about it except that it was in north Africa, and I wasn't too excited about the fact that we'll be staying there for six weeks either, which meant that my entire winter break would be spent in a foreign country that I knew nothing about. But of course, I had no choice in the matter, and Morocco was added to the list of the many countries I've been to at such a young age. I looked forward to visiting England afterwards and seeing family there.

Morocco was very strange and foreign to me, even more so than Malaysia, which was more westernized. I found it to be very backwards, though it had a lot of culture and the people were friendly. I remember disliking a lot of the meals, but enjoying the deserts and pastries. Soumaya's parents were divorced, though they lived walking distance from each other in the Kasbah, a historic community located in the center of Tangier. Soumaya's mother, Khadija, has a small but elegant house, and her father, Abdesalem, has a very large, almost castle-like house that is famous for being a location where a scene from James Bond: The Living Daylights was shot. This fascinated me, as I was a huge James Bond fan at the time. In the center of this house there was an open courtyard where I always played with a kid named Ayman, and his two younger brothers. They were adopted by Soumaya's father a few years ago and live with him.

After a long stay in Morocco - too long in my opinion - we made our stop in England to visit relatives. We stayed at grandma Jinx's house, and I was able to play with my cousin George for a few days. On one of the days we stayed in England, my mother's sister, Aunt Min, and my grandma Ah Mah came to visit and brought me a lot of English chocolates which I relished.

All in all, it was a good trip and I was glad to be able to experience it, though the length of the trip cut into my school schedule, and I missed a couple of weeks of school.

After the holiday season, my nanny Christine had to leave back to Germany, and this saddened me deeply. Chistine would always be my favorite nanny, and I was in a sullen mood on the day she left.

The remainder of my Third Grade year went by quickly. I continued my Pokemon endeavors, increasing my card collection and progressing on the Gameboy game.

I had a conflict with my friend Shane during this time. Because of some arguments we previously had, I started to play a game with him in which he would become my enemy and rival at the school. For me, I was just playing with him, but he took it seriously and the conflict escalated a lot more than I thought it would. We once got into a small physical fight in which I hit him on the arm and was sent to the principal's office. That was the biggest trouble I've been in at Topanga Elementary. This little conflict with Shane lasted for the rest of Third Grade, but we would later reconcile and play again as friends in Fourth Grade.

Before summer came, my father's spontaneous career as a commercial Director took off once again, and he became very successful. At this point, he was probably the most successful he's ever been. With this success, he decided to move to a bigger and better house. After doing some searching, we moved to a house in an upscale area of West Hills, near Woodland Hills. I loved this house at first sight. It had five bedrooms, which was more than enough space for our family along with Uncle Dan who was still staying with us. It also had a huge swimming pool with a spa, a large grass field to play in, a basketball court, and a nice view of the Valley. I was a Valley kid again.

Despite father's move to a much larger house and all the benefits that came with it, I still preferred my time at mother's house, just because of her gentle and fun attitude and the energy of her household. My mother indulged in me more than my father and Soumaya ever did. She knew what I liked and what I didn't like, and she would go out of her way to make my life pleasant and enjoyable. I was quite annoyed with the recent decision between my mother and father to extend my stay at father's by two days of the week. From that point on, me and my sister would only be at mother's house from Monday to Thursday, and on Thursday night we would go to father's house until the following Monday.

My 9th Birthday was spent at father's house, and father and Soumaya threw a party for me. They invited a few of my friends from Topanga Elementary, though the only friend I remember being there was Philip and his younger brother Jeffrey. James was invited, but he wasn't able to make it. They also invited a few of Georgia's friends, which really annoyed me, since it was my birthday, and not Georgia's. It was quite an eventful party, and it took place in our backyard. My father hired a magician to perform tricks for everyone.

9 Years Old

My ninth year was very interesting, and I went through a lot of changes emotionally and intellectually. It was the year in which I matured to a point where I would start observing the world more conscientiously. Before I turned nine, I was living life as a carefree child in a world that I thought was only good and pure. From this point onwards, I would gradually discover more about the world and society. I would face problems and frustrations that I wouldn't even think about before. My life would still be positive and bright, however, and I would live it to its fullest.

The first frustration of the year, which would remain for the rest of my life, was the fact that I was very short for my age. As Fourth Grade started, it fully dawned on me that I was the shortest kid in my class - even the girls were taller than me. In the past, I rarely gave a thought to it, but at this stage I became extremely annoyed at how everyone was taller than me, and how the tallest boys were automatically respected more. It instilled the first feelings of inferiority in me, and such feelings would only grow more volatile with time.

I desperately wanted to get taller, and I read that playing basketball increases height. This sparked my brief interest in basketball, and I would play it all the time during recess and lunch in the Upper. Most of the basketball courts were unused, so I would play it by myself, or with anyone who cared to join me. During my time at father's, I would spend hours playing basketball at father's basketball court, shooting hoop after hoop long into the evening, and I also remember lying on the ground in the basketball court trying to stretch my body as much as I could in between basketball sessions.

When I played basketball at school, some boys would join me, and when they did I saw that they were much better at the sport than me. I envied their ability to throw the ball at double the distance than I could. This made me realize that along with being short, I was physically weak compared to other boys my age. Even boys younger than me were stronger. This vexed me to no end.

My fourth grade classroom was located in the center area of the school, and my teacher was named Mrs. Gill, who had an assistant named Mr. Devine. Fourth grade was a strange year due to the emotional problems I would go through, and I didn't have as much fun at school as I did in previous years. In class, I sat near Keaton Webber, and I got into a few conflicts with him. We weren't quite enemies, but I disliked him intensely and I would always consider him a foul prick.

By nature, I am a very jealous person, and at the age of nine my jealous nature sprung to the surface. During playdates with James, sometimes he would have other friends over as well, and I would feel very jealous and upset when he paid more attention to them. Feeling left out, I would find a quiet corner and start crying. My mother and Kim were very understanding, and did the best they could to console me.

On the rare occurrence that my mother would have Maddy and Mo over for dinner, or if we would go to visit them at their house, Maddy often played with my little sister Georgia instead of me, and this too made me jealous. I remember all the times I cried when this happened.

Jealousy and envy... those are two feelings that would dominate my entire life and bring me immense pain. The feelings of jealousy I felt at nine-years-old were frustrating, but they were nothing compared to how I would feel once I hit puberty and have to watch girls choosing other boys over me. Any problem I had at nine-years-old was nirvana compared to what I was doomed to face.

A few months into fourth grade, it was decided by my parents to change me and my sister's living arrangement yet again. This time, we would be switching between mother's house and father's house each week. One week would be spent at mother's, and the next at father's. This was a fair split. At first I wasn't so sure about it, because I always disliked any change to my life, but I found it to be a better arrangement. This enabled me to spend weekends at mother's house, during her week, and I was very excited about this. I've only ever spent weekends at father's beforehand.

During father's week, I would mostly be looked after by our two new nannies, Rosa and Amparro. They were of South American origin and didn't speak much English, but they were very kind. I

started to have intense conflicts with Soumaya. I hated the rules she imposed on me, which I believed she had no right to impose, as she wasn't my true parent. I hated how she would force me to drink milk every morning and very foul-tasting soup for dinner. I made such a fuss about having the soup that she used it as a punishment. Whenever I did something wrong, she would force me to drink the soup. I once had a playdate with Philip at father's house, and when I yelled at my sister because she was annoying us, Soumaya punished me by sending me to my room for an hour, embarrassing me in front of Philip. After this incident, I never had a playdate at father's house ever again.

This conflict with Soumaya started a trend in which I would love being at mother's house and dread the weeks I had to spend at father's house. On top of the conflicts with Soumaya, father was rarely there, as he was always out of town for his work. After spending a nice week at mother's house, I would cry when Sunday came and I had to go to father's on Monday. I would then spend the entire week at father's house looking forward to going back to my mother's. I remember those Mondays when my mother dropped me off at school for the first day of father's week... I felt so sad that I cried when I saw my mother's car driving away. Of course, I would hide the tears to avoid embarrassment at school, but I would feel miserable for that whole day.

I always had a pleasant experience during mother's week. She always arranged playdates for me, because she knew I was too shy to initiate them myself. She always made everything fun. On weekends after dinner, we would have "treat time", where she would bring out a box of candies for me and my sister to choose from.

I had a lot of playdates with Philip, and through Philip I also played with his brother Jeffrey, who was two years younger than us. While Philip was calm and mature, Jeffrey was the complete opposite. Jeffrey Bloeser was wild and boisterous, which often brought a lot of fun to my playdates with Philip.

My mother once had a party at her house and invited all of our family friends. James Ellis came over, and so did Philip and Jeffrey. It was the first time I saw all of them together, and it made for an interesting experience. I got a bit jealous, however, when Philip and Jeffrey seemed to respect and pay more attention to James than they did to me. When we were playing on my Nintendo 64 and I was competing against James, they rooted for James, which really upset me.

As my fourth grade year approached its end, my little nine-year-old self had another revelation about how the world works. I realized that there were hierarchies, that some people were better than others. Of course I was subconsciously aware of this in the past, but it was at this time of my life - at nine years old - that I started to give it a lot of thought and importance.

I started to see this at school. At school, there were always the "cool kids" who seemed to be more admirable than everyone else. The way they looked, dressed, and acted made them... cooler. These "cool kids" as I called them, included Keaton Webber, Matt Bordier, Michael Ray, Trevor Bourget, Zalman Katz, John Jo Glen, and a few more. They were cool, they were popular, and they always seemed like they were having a good time.

The peaceful and innocent environment of childhood where everyone had an equal footing was all over. The time of fair play was at its end. Life is a competition and a struggle, and I was slowly starting to realize it.

When I became aware of this common social structure at my school, I also started to examine myself and compare myself to these "cool kids". I realized, with some horror, that I wasn't "cool" at all. I had a dorky hairstyle, I wore plain and uncool clothing, and I was shy and unpopular. I was always described as the shy boy in the past, but I never really thought my shyness would affect me in a negative way, until this point.

This revelation about the world, and about myself, really decreased my self-esteem. On top of this was the feeling that I was different because I am of mixed race. I am half White, half Asian, and this made me different from the normal fully-white kids that I was trying to fit in with.

I envied the cool kids, and I wanted to be one of them. I was a bit frustrated at my parents for not shaping me into one of these kids in the past. They never made an effort to dress me in stylish clothing or get me a good-looking haircut. I had to make every effort to rectify this. I had to adapt.

My first act was to ask my parents to allow me to bleach my hair blonde. I always envied and admired blonde-haired people, they always seemed so much more beautiful. My parents agreed to let me do it, and father took me to a hair salon on Mulholland Drive in Woodland Hills. Choosing that hair salon was a bad decision, for they only bleached the top of my head blonde. When I indignantly questioned why they didn't make all of my hair blonde, they said that I was too young for a full bleaching. I was furious. I thought I looked so silly with blonde hair at the top of my head and black hair at the sides and back. I dreaded going to school the next day with this weird new hair.

When I arrived at school the next day, I was intensely nervous. Before class started, I stood in a corner franticly trying to figure out how I would go about revealing this to everyone. Trevor was the first one to notice it, and he came up to me and patted my head, saying that it was very "cool". Well, that was exactly what I wanted. My new hair turned out to be quite a spectacle, and for a few days I got a hint of the attention and admiration I so craved.

My interest in Pokemon faded away at this time. In third grade, Pokemon was considered "cool" and everyone was playing it. Towards the end of fourth grade, I found out that everyone was growing out of Pokemon, and the only ones who played it were the geeky kids. I heard some kids joking about how lame Pokemon players were, and I decided it was time to quit.

I talked to James about this. He was still interested in Pokemon, so I gave him my Charizard card as a gift, and as an act of my resignation from the game. Pokemon gave me some really happy and memorable experiences, but it was time to move on.

I then started to notice that all of the cool kids were interested in skateboarding. I had never even ridden on a skateboard before, but if I wanted to be cool, I had to become a skateboarder. I expressed this to my parents, and my father was glad that I was showing an interest in an active sport. He took me to the store Val Surf on Ventura Boulevard to buy me a new skateboard, and I was fascinated by all of the different choices. I settled for a red Val Surf branded Skateboard, and they took it down from the wall and built it for me.

I was thrilled to have this new skateboard and the possible chance it gave me to be a cool kid. It was time to start practicing. I found it very hard to even ride on it in the beginning, and I spent many hours outside trying to get the hang of it. And that was that, I was now a skateboarder, though not yet good enough to reveal myself as one to the kids at school. This was the start of an obsession to copy everything the supposed "cool kids" were doing.