The subtle difference between my first, second and last two years of high school cut across a few borders normally absent from a standard experience. Which, essentially, is a polite way to say I had kind of a rough go of it.

To summate:

I attended a high school in Los Angeles, California, where the population was half Caucasian, half everybody else. But, it felt hard to be a member of the majority when you add in the social cliques, economic differences and possible gang affiliations. Plus, throw in the drugs, sexual deviancy factors and the truly geeky gamer kids (that'd be me, thank you) and we're talking a whole rainbow of strange love.

The high school guidance counselor I had was a mystery to me, my freshman year. Seriously, I saw her on the day I left, and only then because she'd left her keys in her desk and needed to open her Volvo. She paused, tilted her head and said (and I'm quoting directly, mind you): "Oh. Hi. If we've never met, I guess you aren't an Honors student or a gangbanger. Good luck with... uhm... where are you going, anyways?"

That'd be Carson City, Nevada. State capital, home of the governor (a mere five blocks from my home, no less) and basically an intersection between two highways with a casino or five thrown in for good measure. My first day at Carson City High School I was the lowest guy on the totem pole for four major reasons: I was the New Guy, from a poor family, a Sophmore (in a school which relegated its freshman to the local middle school, this meant strategically, I was fighting a land war in Asia) and best of all -- I was from Someplace Dangerous (tm).

Suddenly, I had street cred; the kind the dealers, hustlers and thugs who lived in my neighborhood actually had to off people to attain. The strong, charismatic kind, you wonder, which would flock the babes to my side and fill my loins with lust?


The kind where everyone hardass wants you use you for a testing ground, in the theory that if they can beat you up, they can successfully take on the entire city of Los Angeles. Ergo, I learned to survive CCHS the same way I dealt with my first high school: offbalance the Enemy. I turned mindgames into high art.

Inside of my first week, I'd been in five fights, and one of them stopped the next eight attempts from turning into fights, as that was the one wherein I unleashed a secret weapon. Now, I did own a gun. I did have some grudges. And, yes, I was a role-playing game geek.

What, you ask, is the secret weapon?

Ambush. Fairly simple, easy and quick. The one who'd first popped me upside the head whilst I was rummaging through my locker got one in the back of the neck while he walked up the first of two flights of steps to the upper tier classroom. His buddy caught my bookbag in the crotch, complete with a collection of sturdy and rather heavy AD&D books. They reacted in a comical, if unfortunate fashion, with both of them landing in a heap in the staircase, tangled up and confused at the blitz.

I leaned over my former aggressor, and explained that'd be happening as often as I felt it should, which he should pray greatly would be sparingly. I did a checklist of potential upcoming and unfortunate events which made Pompeii's demise look promising as an alternative. Yes, it was a bad thing to do, but quite frankly, I'd been at wit's end and the reception end of a few too many punches to give a sailing shit. Ergo, I did it the best way I could: gloat from the safety of range after a blitz.

Call me kooky, but it worked. The word got around I was the one with whom not to fuck; I didn't get to nail the prom queen, but that's life. I didn't deal with the pampered elite ski club wannabes with their three-toned canned tans and Fake and Bake looks telling me I wasn't such a stud, because I was born in L.A.

No. I turned my childhood home into my shield, my staff and soon, the swift sword of retribution. You swing on L.A., you go through me first. Los Angeles kept me alive when it could have killed me; it saved me more times than I can imagine, and I owed it more than I'll ever repay. It taught me to survive everything: floods of rainwater in the river overflowing the bridge at La Ballona, the fires which ravaged the hills, the Santa Anna winds scouring the city and the riots which plunged the city into a nightmare of blood and fear only to turn into a chance to be reborn.

I owe Los Angeles enough to stick up for it, when push comes to shove. I got pushed, so I shoved right back.

Small town thinking says, you can push new guys forever, turning them into your little lapdogs. Big city childhood says..

Wanna bet?

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