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 half way 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
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
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
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.