Orgone Research

Saturday, November 04, 2006


When I was about 8 my vocabulary expanded. No, not really expanded, perhaps exploded. Because of this, things began to happen to me that I couldn't really understand at the time, and became a source of life long turmoil and torment.

I can remember Reader's Digest magazine having a "build your vocabulary" column each month. I remember it having 20 words with multiple choices for the correct definition. My mother highly encouraged me to pursue this, and I enjoyed doing it. At the time, Reader's Digest seemed very "grown up" so it seemed like quite an accomplishment to be able to take these tests and do well on them. But of course at 8, a child does not have the developed social skills to know how to present these sort of behaviours to the world. The world of Missoula Montana in 1970 was a cruel place for a child with a large vocabulary.

When I realized I was good, I wanted to be better. I set about to learn ever more exotic and "big" words. My mother had taken to reading the books of Adelle Davis and Prevention magazine, and so I became aware of the "eight essential amino acids". I decided it would be cool to memorize these words, and of course to show them off at school. The very pinnacle of "big words" was one I found listed in the Guinness Book of World Records: "pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis" at 45 letters. It really was not too much for me to memorize this word, as I could give the letters and syllables a sort of rolling cadence.

Well, I think everyone can see where this is going. As you might imagine, my new found skill was greeted with absolute ridicule by the other children at Paxson grade school. Usually the fourth and fifth graders wouldn't pay any attention to the social games of the third graders, but I was the exception. The word got out that I was a freak of some sort, and and various fourth and fifth graders would crowd around me at recess and demand to know what "that thing in my pants is called" or "what's under your underwear". I honestly had no clue as to why I was being tormented. At 8, I simply didn't have the social skills to realize that they not only didn't think "big words" were cool, that they took it as a direct insult.

But the torments of the fourth and fifth graders were nothing compared to the terror that I felt by my own classmates in the third grade. The ringleader of my tormentors was a little shit named Michael Nimlos. Since I was never beaten by my parents, I really had no concept of serious physical pain. The thought alone that I would be beaten after school by Michael Nimlos and his gang of assholes was itself terrifying. Michael Nimlos had already chased me once after school, and I ran to the safety of a house on the way and rang the doorbell hoping that someone would be inside. Nimlos broke off his attack.

Since I knew that I now had the threat of multiple, simultaneous attackers, I decided I needed an improvised weapon to deal with the threat. I never had the famous GI Joe "action figures", but instead a series of Western figures by Marx, including Captain Tom Maddox.
Tom Maddox had articulated joints. His legs were connected at the hips by a spring that ran transversely through the pelvis. His arms and head were held by the same kind of spring arrangement. If you pulled the arms and legs far enough out of the sockets, you could remove the springs from their connecting points, and be left with a plastic torso. I sacrificed my Tom Maddox to make my improvised defensive weapon; a mace. I strung a twisted sisal rope through Captain Tom's pelvis, and tied it off to form a loop. The free end I could wrap around the torso. This created a weapon small enough to conceal in my jacket. Why I never simply went to my parents before the attack, I really don't know. Perhaps the fear of "telling" inhibited me from taking the direct approach.

The appointed day came, and indeed after school the faster, stronger boys encircled me in a vacant lot beside the school. Michael Nimlos was there, goading on Teddy Vinton and two of the Burwick brothers, Terry and Tracy. I pulled out my improvised mace and swung it around my head. Indeed it worked, or perhaps they viewed the situation in a more comical light than I did, and didn't want to venture into the path of the swinging plastic torso.

At this point I had to tell my mother, who decided that a passive approach was best; don't tell the school administrators about the physical attacks, but instead pick me up after school in her black Renault Dauphine. I could see her parked there at 3:00 PM each day, and it reassured me that I would get home safely yet another day.

Even after the after school gang attacks stopped, I was still tormented. It was a genuine shock for me to learn the reason I was being tormented. At one point I was taken out in the hall with Michael Nimlos, even though I was clearly the victim, and a teacher asked Michael why he was tormenting me. Right there, it comes out: "Big Words". I began to overeat when I was eight, and became somewhat overweight. In retrospect, it was obviously a reaction to stress, as I have the same problem today.

When recess would end we had to line up and quite down before we were allowed back into the building. Grade school was a study in chronic lack of adult supervision, and this day was no exception. Though the third grade class was lined up, they were not quiet, and the chant began; "Matt, Matt, you gotta lose some fat", again and again. I perceived it was horribly wrong to go inside before allowed to do so by the teachers, but I couldn't stand it anymore, and ran inside and sat down in my desk, crying. Miss Hanson, the fourth grade teacher, heard me and came in to comfort me.

Yes, being 8 years old, overweight, large vocabulary, and living in Missoula Montana in 1970 was a really shitty combination.

Yeah, life can be a bitch for a child with a large vocabulary. As you might imagine, as one grows up, you don't get physically threatened for having a large vocabulary, but from time to time, you still catch shit from people who decide you must be a pompous asshole for using unusual words. Frankly, I think having a large vocabulary is kind of like being left handed; it's easier to move through the world using the tools you are comfortable with, but you must adapt to the mainstream from time to time and use your right hand. You have to be able to read your audience and decide what kind of words will allow you to be best understood. As you grow up, you learn that having a large vocabulary is almost NEVER a social advantage.

As I've gone through life from time to time I've seen "vocabulary building" programs that are usually sold as a set of audio recordings to build your vocabulary. Jebus, do these people really know what they are getting into?

Over the years I've wondered what ever happened to that little shit, Michael Nimlos. Well, I see he became one of "Missoula's greatest dads":

Now it must be admitted that people do grow up. Perhaps Michael did too. Would he torment and physically threaten me today? Probably not. I can't deny I did mean things to other children, and I'm sure I underestimate the impact it really had, but you know, I never organized any after school gang assaults. On the other hand, why should I give him the benefit of the doubt? I still have a large vocabulary, maybe Michael Nimlos is still an asshole...

Perhaps I actually got off easy in childhood. There are people who have experienced much more physical and psychological torment than I ever did. I can only say that for me, what should have been a wonderful development of a mental skill turned into a nightmare that still torments my memory.


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