I am bored as usual, so I thought I would take a moment and write about myself, not just the wheelchair side of me, but who I am, a little bit about me personally, where I come from, that sort of thing.
I was born in 1981 in Fort Smith, Arkansas. My parents named me Joseph Randall Luther. My mother’s name is Julie and my father’s name is Randy. Mom’s parents were Bettie Jo and Dean and Dad’s were Emma Jean and Lonnie.
They really couldn’t have been more different. My Mom’s side was your typical middle-class family, with a strong matriarch heading up the family. My Mom possesses a unique mix of her mother and father. She is very reserved and proper around people she doesn’t know, but can be a hard ass like her Mom if needed. She’s got a pretty good sense of humor, everybody who meets her likes her and is very beautiful. My mother has two siblings, my Aunt Dean and my Uncle Steve. Both are great people. Throw one up to the Spirit in the Sky for my Aunt Dean, as she is dealing with cancer and the treatment is pretty brutal this time around. My Uncle Steve is a successful accountant. My Nona (grandmother) was definitely an interesting person. She was a bad ass. If she didn’t like you, she made no bones about it, she was intelligent, quick-witted and gorgeous in her day. Had she been born later on, I have no doubt she would have done something in business and been great at it. She was a born leader who never second-guessed herself and she could be a bitch if you made her mad. I was fortunate enough to never be on her bad side and she always looked out for me. My Grand-Dad, her husband, was awesome. One of my favorite people, by far. Unlimited patience (required for being married to Nona), loved watching sports, didn’t say much but when he did it was thoughtful and kind and loved his family very much.
My Dad’s brood was a different story. Very poor (most of them lived on the same street) and my Dad had 3 siblings, well 4, maybe more, we don’t really know, but 3 he grew up with. My father is an interesting character, he drove a truck for most of his life, is extremely quick-witted, very intelligent in a non-traditional way and extremely gifted mechanically. If it has an engine, he could take it apart, rebuild it, make it better. He also is surgical with just about any firearm in his hand and tells the best stories (and he has a ton) that you’ll ever hear. My Uncle Terry (Uncle T) was and I’m sure is still hilarious. I remember him as being a very large man, was the sheriff of the town he lived in and was very loud. His wife when I was growing up was Kay, who was very sweet and timid and I remember being very kind. My Uncle Ronnie was a preacher, very religious, but I remember him as being funny and witty as well.
Now how my mother and father ever got together to get married and create me is beyond me, these people have about as much in common as fire and ice, but thankfully they did.
It lasted long enough for yours truly to be born and then that was that.
Enter in my step-parents. My stepfather was great, as far as stepdads go, I kind of hit the lottery. My Dad was a trucker, so that meant he was gone a lot. My stepdad filled in and was pretty amazing, to the point he eventually earned the name Dad and treated me as a Son. He taught me a lot, gave me a good childhood and was always there when I needed him. He had two sons from his previous marriage. Ron (named after Dad) and Shannon. These two couldn’t be more different if they tried and yet share similar traits that are uncanny. All of these men are big guys. My Dad being the toughest, followed very closely by Shannon, the younger of the two brothers. Shannon is 9 years older than me and Ronnie is 9 years older than him. Shannon was an interesting step-brother. Close enough in age to give me a lot of shit, but he had enough cool big brother moments that I looked up to him and desperately wanted his approval growing up. Ronnie was more like an Uncle than a brother. Being 18 years older than me, we had nothing in common, but he always owned a company of some type growing up and it usually involved something I thought was cool. I remember riding around in vans with decked out custom speaker systems that probably contribute to my tinnitus to this day and he would take me out at 3 am to get donuts, that sort of thing. He is an interesting character in his own right and currently owns a few restaurants in Kentucky, where my stepdad and my step brothers were from.
My Dad married a woman named Susie who would eventually become a nurse. Thank God. He was a rambling man and she was definitely a positive influence on his life. Her nursing skills have definitely come in handy over the years as well. My father had an operation to fix a bone spur in his neck (C1, I believe), that ended up leaving him on a permanent ventilator. Susie is the reason he’s beat the projected 2 years he had left to live by almost a year and a half with no signs of going anywhere anytime soon. She’s EXTREMELY intelligent and as I’ve grown older, is someone I definitely rely on for good advice and conversation. They adopted 4 children, the twins, Timothy and Cara, were months old when they took them in, along with William who I believe was 4 or 5 and eventually they also took in their older sister, Ashley. Being quite a bit older than they are and living in San Francisco for so many years, I don’t know them all as well as I should, but they generally seem like good people and have cared for my Dad well. William I am closest too and he’s a good kid, works as a rough neck I believe.
Growing up, I was an odd kid. Intelligent, quick-witted, but due to my birthday and my parents decision to start me in kindergarten early, I was smaller than the other kids and less mature during grade school. I did well in my classes until 3rd grade. Due to the combination of having a horrible teacher who was just there to collect a paycheck (this ones for you Mrs. Parker, oh and if by some chance you are reading this, yes, that flaming bag of dog shit was me and so was the egg you got pelted with putting it out with your foot) and some issues going on with my parents, I had a rough time adjusting. I was too small, had too big of a mouth and didn’t fit in well with my peers. Around 5th grade, I started to adjust better socially, but I had completely lost interest in the education part of school. Luckily, I was a voracious reader who could decimate a freshman college level book in a day and at that time averaged around 20-25 books a week. My parents, frustrated, took me to have my IQ tested and evaluated for a learning disability. The shock they experienced when they were told I scored higher on the evaluation test than any child that had been sent to them and tested at a 9th grade level in the 4th grade was priceless, to me at least. As awkward as I was, I had a few friends, but my childhood best friend was a kid named Scott who would be a constant in my life until the age of 28. That’s a story for another day. Just know, in everything that follows, Scott was always around and in the picture, much to the chagrin of his mother.
I think all children of divorce learn the manipulation game early on. I mastered it by the time I was 10. I was extremely good at avoiding consequences for poor choices I made, much to my detriment later on in life and picked up some bad habits that would come back to bite me in the ass years later.
Junior High was kind of a blur, I bounced around schools and didn’t really fit in any of the traditional molds most kids do. I was rebellious, lazy and intelligent. At 15, that makes for a pretty useless brat. I also had mastered all the systems my parents and the schools had put in place to control me, so I pretty much had free rein to do what I wanted.
It was around this time my life would change. I lived on a horseshoe off a main road in my home town. Directly above me, a kid moved in that set me on a different path and gave me a career, without even knowing it. The day I met Ryan, who would become my best friend for many, many years, I was hanging out with the little girl who lived down the street. This awkward and shy kid fumbled over to us and informed us his mother wanted him to make friends with the neighbors. Lindsay and I exchanged glances and laughed, as this seemed an odd thing for a mother to force her kid to do, but for some reason I gave him a chance.
After exchanging names and making introductions, Lindsay went home and Ryan and I began the typical grilling kids do when they meet for the first time. “What do you do for fun?” “What kind of music do you listen too?” “Do you have any cigarettes?”.. (I never said I was a good kid).
Ryan answered, “Computers, rock and my Mom does”. Good enough. The computers response is what intrigued me, followed by the cigarette I knew I was about to enjoy. I’d never had a computer before, but I remember hearing about them on the news.
Now you have to understand, the internet you are using now to read this incredibly long and probably boring autobiography was a completely different place in 1994-1995. I distinctly remember asking, “So what does it do?”, to which he replied, “You know, games and stuff, I have the internet.” Ok! It clicked, I remembered what I had been glancing from the news as I walked past my parents watching it. Porn. The internet = porn. Ryan didn’t know it, but we were about to become best friends, a friendship that would last to this day, though the depth of friendship has waxed and waned over the years.
So, after seeing terrible things that took way too long to load on his 14.4k external modem for a few weeks, I asked what else it did. Ryan, who either long ago had been through the porn phase and showed little interest while I toiled away destroying my image of what the perfect woman looked like via the likes of Pam Anderson and Jenny McCarthy, suddenly was interested. He then proceeded to teach me DOS, gave me a primer on HTML, visual basic and databases that would lay the groundwork for a very lucrative career that would last until my illness finally took away my ability to work for a living.
I now was obsessed. I convinced my parents to buy me a Compaq x86 with a Pentium processor, 500 megs of hard drive space, 8 megs of RAM, a 17-inch monitor that weighed about the same as the laptop I’m using now if I had 10 of them stacked on top of each other, a 24-bit accelerated video card, an internal 56K modem, with a 2x CD-ROM and a trusty internal soundblaster 16-bit video card. One of the happiest days of my life, after a mishap at Best Buy and an idiot sales guy who sold me a useless AMD processor in an Acer by mistake that had to be exchanged for the Compaq, I had my own computer.
That computer and the ones that followed would become my friend, my teacher, my window into the world and ultimately my meal ticket for over 17 years, in one way or another.
I won’t go into specifics, as I’m not sure what the statute of limitations are, but Ryan and I had fun learning about security. Even if the local ISP made an unexpected visit to the house politely asking us not to use any of the passwords we’d gained from his system to use the internet anymore. You have to remember, back then, as AOL was still not mainstream, the Internet was dialed into and charged by the hour, like a cheap no-tell motel, which is fitting.
Eventually, we would learn how these systems worked and with a few tricks we’d picked up, how to never pay that hourly charge or the monthly charge AOL eventually went to again.
When I was 17, I began building machines from scratch, using parts I’d rounded up or ordered from a website off the net and selling these “Premium Gaming Systems” for twice what I’d paid for them. It was a lucrative business.
Ryan and I would eventually do some stupid things that would cause him to have to move to another city for a few years, but in retrospect, had he not, I wouldn’t have met my third best friend of my teenage years. Bear Garrison.
Now, I think it goes without saying that a guy named Bear probably earned such a nickname, Bear was no exception to this rule. Ryan had a friend, a girl, who I occasionally would explore my teenage hormone fueled urges with. The problem, this was Bear’s girl.
Bear apparently found out about this and the day before I started highschool, showed up at the pool she worked at to let me know his feelings about this innocent teenage experimenting I’d engaged in with his girlfriend.
Sometimes, for no reason at all, a situation with the least likely outcome you can even fathom, is exactly what happens. This day was one of those days.
Bear and I became best friends. Just like that, just that fast. Bear was actually a kind, compassionate, sensitive goof ball who just wanted to make people laugh. He also would hit people in the face a lot, but they usually deserved it and he was Bear, so I’m sure more than a few of them just wanted to make sure he deserved the nickname. He did.
Bear took me to my first party that night, a Sunday night, before I would walk into Southside Highschool the next day.
I made new friends, saw some old ones from junior high and knew I was really going to like highschool. I was right. I partied too hard (believe it or not, nothing harder than keg beer, cheap vodka and weed), but I definitely ran with the party crowd.
Highschool was an adventure. One that I will have to tell you about another time, as my eyelids are heavy and I am going to sleep.
To be continued…