I was born on November 4, 1946, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. When I was four I played a miniature guitar. There was an old man, a neighbor, who used to give me dimes, sometimes a quarter, when I sang, and strummed, “Home On The Range” and “Oh Suzanna”. The most exciting an important thing I can remember from that time (up until I was 5) was watching trucks go by on an overpass near my house and wondering where they were going. At five I flew to California.
At age seven I remember going with my brother and grandmother to downtown San Jose. When we got off the bus I looked up and saw my first tall building. I stood there looking straight up, feeling awe for the first time in my life.
One morning, at the age of 8, after having pestered my father for a week to be allowed a taste of his after dinner beer (and he relented), I walked from room to room around the house composing my first poem, “Burgermeister Beer”. It was around this time as well that I started having doubts about “God” and religion. At nine, I refused to get baptized with the rest of my family. I felt it would be repugnant to give myself up to someone who was going to push me under water and then have myself looked upon as having done something important. I had a sense that I would not respect myself any more if I let that happen.
In other respects, age 9 was a great year for me, walking 7 or 8 blocks home from school (where I was the leading kick-ball player) to an elderly couple’s house in back of ours, where I watched “The Lone Ranger” and “Flash Gordon” until my mother got home from work; racing bicycles at 30-40 miles an hour with a friend down from the hills (timing the lights at cross streets!)and , most awesome of all, a trip to Hoover Damn, going down inside with the giant turbines—Ah! what magnificent power!
At age ten we moved to the little dry tomato town of Woodland, where I kept mostly to myself, riding my bike through sun and wind and rain, my constant companions.
At thirteen I knew, and stated explicitly to myself, that “God” was my imagination.
At fifteen I re-discovered poetry and began to write it in earnest. Every study hall period was my poetry writing period.
At sixteen I discovered Jack London’s short stories and novels and decided that happiness could only be attained by working with passion at what one loved. At eighteen I discovered Ayn Rand’s “Anthem”, and at nineteen I was on a Greyhound bus to New York with $50.00 in my pocket.