Michael Chaffee

Michael Chaffee

Biography

I was born in 1955 in Southern California. My family moved from their Redondo Beach, CA home in 1958, to a suburb community about thirty miles north of Los Angeles named the San Fernando Valley.

Michael Chaffee

I came from a family of five children and I’m second to the youngest in birthing order.

My family’s sibling’s gender of three boys and and two girls were in descending order, including myself as; girl, boy, girl, boy, boy.

I was raised in the same three bedroom, two bath home from three years old to eighteen and attended public school throughout the Valley.

The shaping of my mind…

A condition called dyslexia runs at 100% in my family’s male gene pool, my father, brothers and myself all inherited this life long usual genetic condition.

In the setting of my immediate family my inability to read the phonetic alphabet wasn’t seen as a disability internally but, in the world at large it was a different story!

This learning disorder is marked by an impairment in one’s ability to recognize and comprehend written words. Statistically it only effects around 10% of the general population.

In the 60’s during my elementary schooling years this went virtually undiagnosed and was seen as a mental block, as some refereed to it in those times as an inability to visually comprehend letters arranged as words, correctly.

How I ever thought that the world would embrace my writing skills or style is beyond me but, this condition was actually a incentive for my story telling to be heard rather than to be read…hum?

Initially it gave me cause to root my story telling intellect in the only way that I owned at the time, my spoken words!

Even as a small child…I spoke often and attempted to compensate for my deficiency in understanding the written word by overdeveloping my verbal communication, which evolved into a very verbose style.

Although in developing my “Chatty Chaffee” neuro-imaging of the world, it too would be meet with less enthusiasm!

A Short Story

A funny example of this was when we were (as a family) all on our way in the 1961 Baby Blue Ford Station-Wagon going to our Grandmother’s home, back in the early sixties.

It was about an hour’s ride to her home, which was over the hill to a South Central Los Angeles area neighborhood, called Watts.

We were traveling up Sepulveda Boulevard, a street in Los Angeles, California that paralleled the 405 Fwy.

From the valley’s hot basin floor we ascended up and over the Santa Monica mountain range on a August summer day.

The Conversation…

While setting cross-legged and unbuckled (No seat belts back then) in the furthermost rear area of the station wagon, I was chatting it up in rare form trying to bend an ear of my older brother!

I must have been about five years old, and my brother was about ten.

As I often did…I went on asking my brother questions about every form of stimulation that my eyes were feeling, no that’s right feeling not seeing! You see my world was captured as a feeling at five for some strange reason…hum?

As I went on, and on, and on…my brother chimed in and afforded me a bit of his advanced wisdom.

He said;You know Mike, we only get so many words…and if we use them all up when you are young, you won’t have any left later in life!

WOW…yes for the rest of the ride these wise words gave cause to pause but, not for long!

In overdeveloping my ability to become expressive verbally, yes my style of communication evolved into using more words than necessary and my writing is certainly plagued with that as well.

My dear friends will certainly agree that I enjoy a deep and meaningful conversation, if only for my own entrainment..hum?

I suppose it’s an attempt to express what I feel from how I see the world?

Neuroimaging Studies…

I suppose this phenomena of my senses is very much like the affects of the hearing impaired, as one’s eye sight becomes more develop when suffering the loss of hearing.

My mind’s rooting of nourishment was fed through the rerouting capillaries of expressiveness in my speech!

In viewing things absent the corruption or benefits of the written word my imagination was left to my own devices.

This limitless interaction between the tranquility of internal dialog and summations of tone in viewing the world through such eyes uniquely aspired to find new ways to seek understanding.

Upon entering elementary school, I came to know the cruelties of my peers and the necessity for balancing a strong and purposeful personality with that of the “pick and pecking” critiques of my school yard chums.

During my elementary and junior high school years my small stature and clear internal tone offered an outer conflict to the presumptions being imposed for for my intelligence.

This self image resisted these implications and the interpretive assumptions being imposed (however presumed) in my social surroundings were that of suggestive inferiority!

This academic environment was applying a pre-emergent herbicide to any further rooting of my intellectual capacity.

My social defense was to rebuke the stigma that could narrow down my cognitive capacity to just that of a higher GPA.

As I entered junior high school the sprouting of my physical attributes were further held in check, as my smaller stature offered up a clear target for being pushed.

Unfortunately these larger school yard chums failed to see the deeper “under the thin skin” meaning of the struggles in Michael Chaffee’s evolving character.

Being smart enough to out-think an adversary was easy enough but, lacking the tools to employ such talents in anything beyond the gift of thought especially at a height of 4′-11″ required INTENSITY“, in order to deliver the internal tones that were screaming for respect!

The shapes of family…

My older brother came down with polio at three years old in the early 1950’s, and this combined with the effects of dyslexia only furthered to ravage my brother’s self confidence and way-point headings.

Further complicating my older brother’s childhood was the Orthopedic Hospital’s Experimentation Program for polio scoliosis, which resulted in him having to wear a full body Plaster Paris Casting from the time he was three to twelve years old.

This effort was successful at straightening his spine but, it would come to leave deep wounds and a form of scoliosis upon my brother’s developing personality as a result of the tormenting by his peers.

The same dyslexia stigma was suffered by my younger brother’s educational experience, as he was inducted into the “Special Education” classes that were setup to deal with real mental handicaps.

It mattered not that he possessed an incredible aptitude and brilliance for dissecting electronics and building inventions, because the educators only evaluated one’s abilities by them being able to be taught to read.

One needed to express the theorem in the equation by reading and writing, if that couldn’t be accomplished well then,…you couldn’t authenticate your cognitive capacity nor intellect!

It would be the prejudice inflected by academia and the results of their Scholastic Achievement Exams that would justify their decisions for placing my brother in the demoralizing environment with classmates that were truly mentally impaired.

Intelligent quotient was and still is the basis for evaluating your “degree” of usefulness in our society and those master’s of degree educators got a “failing grade” in recognizing that other forms of genius exist!

In the 1960’s the Los Angeles City School’s public education system wasn’t encouraged to recognize or assist such unknowns and as a result those being afflicted were often segregated and ostracized as being ones of inferior intelligence or having a special education need.

The Chip…

My exposure to how society misinterpreted dyslexia and the failure of the public education system to adequately tackle the task of teaching those with such conditions gave cause for me to distance myself from such stigma by choosing to practice word memorization and an adaptation to becoming a Chameleon.

I saw the results of what could happen when exhibiting an inability to phonetically sound out words and read aloud correctly in class and this made me focus upon teaching “thy” self how to memorize and read complete words, rather than the jumbled clustering of confusing letters.

Due to this early life experience my appreciation and adaptation in learning to apply the written English language as a form of effective communication and self expression would lay dormant for much of my young adult life.

The Neighborhood…

In these early years growing up in the expanding megalopolis I banded with neighborhood associates who would engage in many summertime activities such as; riding bicycles, investigating the storm drain system, tinkering and fabricating motorized mini bikes and go-Carts, as well as building tree forts and tunneling shallow caves in empty fields.

My local associations and friendships formed a well rounded sampling of pranksters and envelope pushing characters that exempted one from intellectual comparisons, as this environment scaled the weighted worth of another by the size of his jewels, not his IQ, metaphorically speaking.

Although it had nothing to do with intelligence, a guy that was known to have a big pair was much less likely to be asked to show them.

This of course required leaving a lingering uncertainty for how close the fuse was burning at the end of the sweating stick of dynamite!

It also required an occasional exhibition of sorts of an example of a Compulsive Obsessive Explosive Disorder (COED) to emanate from any requests to show em’…how big was big?

The rules were the rules and everyone within the band of neighborhood brethren knew exactly where the lines were drawn and what potentially would happen, if one were ballsy enough to try to draw new lines.

On another side of this, I suppose if our societal order today drew something from this primordial basis of law, we probably wouldn’t have the level of personal unaccountably being exhibited in everything from politics to the right of way acknowledgements for common courtesy at an intersection.

I mean you wouldn’t have people flipping you the bird at a traffic light for a two second delay in moving your foot from the brake peddle to the accelerator.

If only because of the risk of the consequence, as it wouldn’t be worth the freedom taken in blurring the lines of distinction between these two boundaries?

Lessons Learned

Corporal punishment seemed to be the “go to” solution when boys behaved poorly during this schoolyard indoctrination era and some lessons were taught and learned well.

The path of logic acquired had set strong precedence and the examples administrated from higher authorities was a strong source of knowledge but, not wisdom!.

After-all, teachers and law enforcement had been handed the baton of parental controls by proxy and the stick of encouragement was to;“let that be a lesson to you!”.

Unfortunately, you still had boys behaving poorly and clowns at traffic lights flipping the wrong guys off at the right moments and it appeared that some would never learn, no matter how hard you’d paddled their asses…hum?

During the 50’s and 60’s America represented a changing demographic profile, which is refereed to as the “Baby Boomer Era”.

My farther served five years in the Navy during the war and my mother had worked in a B-29 manufacturing plant back east.

Post WWII America took on the face of a population boom as the returning veterans settled into a civilian lifestyle.

In 1952, before I was born my parents decided to leave Michigan with their three children at the time and moved out west to California.

The 1960’s was the decade of my adolescences and both family life and a wide range of social interactions formulated my views and perspectives for the world that I’d come to question latter.

Anchored in a mid-western morality from my mother’s Catholic upbringing and my father’s down to earth and heartfelt farmer’s sensibilities, I ventured out into the unsupervised world of L.A.’s evolving Hipster-ville lifestyle with a strong morality foundation in my tool bags.

I came to view the world in a way that offered an unique exposure to a diverse and changing tide while gaining insight for which of the next waves just might sink the boat!

From the sexual revolution of “make love not war” to the unsuspecting hazards of the Hippie’s mind altering drug induced lifestyle.The cultural shift during the sixties represented many new freedoms and dangers.

The Neo-Americana became virtually unrecognizable from the mom and apple pie, “Leave it to Beaver” view in the fifties to the mid-sixties, as American society was placed into a blender!

The disapproval of the continuance of the Vietnam War together with the U.S.median age of 27.5 years lit the fuse for the spark of social unrest, not unlike the recent Arab Spring.

As I grew up in an area of the country that was a melting pot for the cultural revolution, I was able to smell see and hear first hand the delivery vehicles of change!

The music of the sixties blared out everything from “War, What is it Good For” to “Everybody Must Get Stoned”.

The now “world famous” musical artist such as Jim Morrison and The Doors, Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendricks and Janis Joplin, were only unknown bands playing local bars and high school stadium gigs!

The sixties offered kids parental freedom unheard of today, as I and my buddies would peddle our bicycles miles from home right up to the chain-link barricades that surrounded these events.

These venues would afford us a bird’s-eye view of the topless hippie chicks and rowdy motorcycle gang’s ungoverned Roman Holiday bliss!

It was also known that the sentences for encroaching upon the lines of territorial boundaries would also invite grave consequences, quite literally!

Debbie…

My elder sister of two years, Debora Lynn Chaffee was a kind soul and at two years older than I, she would become a brief but strong influence in my mid-teenage years.

She allowed me to drive her little MG all the way down to San Diego on a weekend at fifteen, as she knew I’d need to practice to get my drivers license.

Little did I know that she had fallen into a bad crowd and the San Diego trip would be our last.

I think it was on this trip that she had somehow contracted infectious hepatitis, as she was a thin and frail girl with a million dollar smile who was just beginning to see her potential.

I remember that Sunday morning as if it were yesterday. I’d returned home from a sleep over at a buddy’s house and was walking up the front walk to my front door. I could see my oldest sister Karen standing on the porch,…crying?

As I approached, the air became still and there was an impending doom that lingered in this absence of sound.

The next ticks of tock seemed to all unfold in slow motion. The words…“Debbie died last night” appeared to rolled off of Karen’s lips but, they fell silent. I could only see her lips moving, I couldn’t hear the words…I didn’t want to hear the words!

Oh…lord how could this be…was this all being imagined? There wasn’t any sound…maybe it’s just being imagined, I’d thought? Maybe this was just a bad dream?

No…no…then the sound reached my ears and my mind was introduced to the totality that offered the affirmation that my sister was dead.

The finality of death is so abrupt, that I don’t believe we are equipped to fully process it in the immediate moments after being informed.

It takes time for this new reality to become fully appreciated and fathom the fact that someone dear to you has moved on without a word spoken or a forwarding address to write to or a telephone number to call or…?.

It requires us to be reintroduced time and again over the course of months and years in order to formulate concordances of reckoning, that those who are gone are never going to walk through that front door again!

It takes time to come to an understanding for the absolute “terms of death” and to fully comprehend it’s finality!

Finality…yes!…it is so abruptly final…and forever empty.

I suppose this may have prepared me somewhat for the loss of my younger brother some years later, as this polishing of our emotional capacity shapes the lenses from which we peer into our realities.

It would be from these lenses in viewing life and the examples of “rewards” and “consequences” that I came to develop my opinions for the views behind one set of inquisitive eyes.

Throughout my school years with dyslexia and in combination with the self imposed disrepair perceived by my socioeconomic conditions, I justified in my own mind the manifestations of an illusionary “self”.

I was blind to the source of my rebellious behaviors because the heart of my soul was blind to my cosmic responsibilities.

The Eye Opener…

One night, while standing unsuspectingly in front of a typical 1970’s San Fernando Valley Friday night “open” party a muzzle flash erupted and broke the calm in the distant darkness!

A ranch house’s exposed long gravel driveway introduced the eminence of associated risk!

Although at that moment the rapid secession of flashes failed to broadcast any need for urgency, in a nanosecond latter the traveling lead projectiles from the 9mm pistol penetrated the trunk of the parked Rivera that was located next to me and my small group of gathered brothers.

As hot pieces of searing metal and shattered paint ricocheted off of the car’s trunk an abundance of flying sparks were magnified in the reflections in the Rivera’s polished chrome bumper!

At such a moment…time just seems to take on a different form of progression in the span between the second hand’s ticks-to-tock!

Das Augenblick…

Some refer to this as an undressing of one’s subjective mindful reality, which eclipses any appreciation for what takes place between the blinking.

In the lull of the metal penetrating gunfire, I and a small group of boys who thought of themselves as men, came to terms with new conditions for living the dream in a boy’s mind.

A new understanding for how easily one could become a finalist in just the time that had elapsed between the; blinking of an eye, Das Augenblick!

For after all, this was a life or death calling and if by chance the latter unfolded, what then would be said of one’s uniqueness?

Having reached the legal age of eighteen years old, I and a small sampling of my childhood brethren, on that night, in that space, made the decisive giant leap to challenge our world’s perceptions!

To Be Continued…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Writing with the Veiled…