I was born in the last month, in the last year of the decade 1940 in Cleveland, Ohio. After their marriage, my mom and dad settled in the old neighborhood, an Eastern European enclave on the east side of Cleveland. My parents were married for 14 years by the time I was born and chose my arrival into the world as a good time to buy a house. So at the age of five months, they moved me and my seven-year old brother to the west side, where many young suburbs had begun to grow after WWII to accommodate the postwar baby boomer families. The town where we moved was a place I always thought of as Nowhere, USA. It still is there, although most of my family is long planted in cemeteries all over northeastern Ohio now. And the town is even more nowhere than when we inhabited it. I always despised the place and spent the better part of my 18 years living there trying to figure out just how I would escape its borders.
I think I was a happy baby. There are tons of snapshots of me like the one above, almost all of them showing me smiling in my chubbiness. All those photos are black and white. It isn’t until my second grade school picture that the world changed into color and many of the snapshots turned to kodacolor. Ironically, this coincides with the time when my childhood turned into a rather sad one. My father had his first nervous breakdown the summer between my first and second grade. And nothing in our house, our family or our lives was ever very happy for me again. It’s like the reverse of the WIZARD OF OZ, when Dorothy’s house lands in OZ and the world becomes beautiful. My little world turned into color and got very, very ugly.