Everybody's falling all over themselves to show how much more patriotic they are than anyone else. I haven't seen this much red, white and blue crap on everything since the bike parade we had in third grade. We kids were supposed to decorate our bikes in patriotic fashion and ride them around the circular part of the school's driveway. Never mind that July 4th wasn't even during the school year.
I was really into it and wanted to decorate my bike, until it occurred to me that I would have to ride it with training wheels in front of everybody. I was eight years old and still didn't know how to ride a bike. My mother had never managed to teach me how; she would just tell me to 'keep pedaling,' as though she had considered the physics of it... she has always failed to adequately explain anything she was trying to teach me, preferring to scream at me until I just did what she said. So before long, with me scared shitless that I was going to fall off my bike and kill myself, she gave up. (Much later, at the ripe old age of twelve, I learned how to ride. The owner of this shabby family-owned hotel we were staying at in Florida taught me in about five minutes, and that was that.)
So I pleaded with my mother, emphasizing what a retard I would look like with training wheels on, and she eventually suggested I just walk the bike around the driveway. Then came the decorating. We had some streamers left over from some holiday or another. They were sky-blue, white and pink. Even at that age I could tell the colors were totally off; they didn't match the flag. But Mom deemed them adequate and it was them or nothing. By now it had changed from a cool idea into a source of embarrassment, and I tried to back out of it, but my mother insisted that I was going to participate in the event.
When I got there, everybody else had straight-up red, white and blue stuff on their bikes. Mine looked like it'd been sitting out in the sun for a month, or maybe dolled up for a baby shower. When the parade was over I promptly ripped the streamers off and hid them someplace. I guess it wasn't a big deal, though. There were certainly more humiliating moments in grade school.
One day they decided to show this film called 'Free to Be You and Me,' which was a piece of animated propaganda meant to convince kids to stop picking on each other and being discipline problems... it probably also had the unrealistic and far-sighted goal of curtailing discrimination and racism. The people who made it didn't show much understanding of how kids' minds work. The only part I remember is the 'Billy Wants A Doll' number. Little Billy likes to play with dolls instead of trucks or BB guns or whatever boys must play with, and he is mocked by the other kids in the title chorus. I was horrified. In the end, of course, the kids in the movie learn that it's cool for little boys to play with dollies, but in the real world I had to listen to the other kids singing the chorus at me for months. It's a rare moment when educational material singles you out by name for mockery. All little boys named Billy are faggots now, Amen.
I think Sunset Heights had their eye on me for some time, really. It was also in third grade that I got sent to the psychologist's office, because I wasn't paying enough attention in class. At first she had me play with some little half-red, half-white blocks, having me try to duplicate the patterns I was shown. I enjoyed that a lot, and was disappointed when she quickly had me move to something else. Later on I realized she was testing me to see if I was brain-damaged.
On to the emotional test. She had this punching bag with a picture of a clown named 'Socko.' "That's not a very nice name," she said, and asked me what name I would give him. Presumably I was supposed to give him the name of a bully who was picking on me, or maybe an abusive parent. I called him 'Harry,' after a character in a kids' book called 'The Cricket in Times Square.' I really liked the book and I had never heard the name before. The psychologist wrote it down and later submitted it to the secret police, I guess.
She let me take one or two swats at the punching bag but mostly bade me stay my hand. She suggested that instead of punching 'Harry' I should hug him instead. I didn't much get into this. It was a punching bag. The function of a punching bag is to be punched. Only eight and I already understood the ways of the world, 'Free to Be You and Me' or not. But I obliged her, the psychologist outranking me, and shortly after that I was released to the general population. Not long after that they started giving me pills for my 'hyperactivity.' The medication did nothing that anybody could detect.