My editor suggested I title my memoir "Mr. Lawrence - Diary of a Failure." I think it was supposed to grab people's attention, but I thought it put a negative spin on my life which is, by the way, far from over. I'm an optimist, so I see my life as full of potential for better things to come. I'll let you decide whether I've failed at life or life has failed at me.

My Dreadful Childhood

My mother called me Lawrence. Just Lawrence. Kind of like "Cher" but without the fame, fortune or Bob Mackie. My father apparently abandoned us as soon as Mother brought me home from the hospital. According to Mother he said, "I couldn't possibly father anything that ugly. His head has more lumps than your gravy." Mother rallied and raised me alone - something for which I blame her daily.

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Mother had no fashion sense to speak of and dressed in a manner I now think of as "suburban hooker." I suspect she may actually have been one, since she never went to work and I had more men I called "Uncle" than a boy should. In elementary school, I found out most children did not have a diet primarily consisting of snack cakes, soda and cheesy poofs. I felt sorry for them. My teeth were always rather loose, which is probably why so many fell out when Tommy Belcher gave me my daily pounding. I think Tommy was disappointed when my permanent teeth finally grew in.

School was frankly boring. I taught myself to read when I was 4, using back issues of the National Enquirer. I had no idea what the capital of the United States was, but I could name all of Elizabeth Taylor's husbands. In comparison with my usual reading material, Dick, Jane and Spot had little to recommend them.

Fortunately, I had my friend Randy Taylor (no relation to Elizabeth, sadly) for entertainment. Randy had a mean streak a mile wide, but he generally reserved its use for bullies like Tommy Belcher, girls who thought we both had cooties and anyone who gave him the stink eye. A long list.

When I was in fifth grade, Mother was convicted of drunk driving and taking out the Bobo speaker box at Clown Burger with her turquoise Gremlin. She wouldn't have gone to jail for the offense, except she grabbed an empty Jack Daniel's bottle off the passenger seat and started swinging at the police officers who responded to the 911 call. I went to live with Randy's family as a foster child.

Having Randy for a quasi-brother was a mixed blessing. On the one hand, I got to hang with him and enjoy antics such as him gluing snobby Candy Wallace to her chair before the school spelling bee. But on the other, it meant he expected me to participate in his start-up venture: selling pot to the bullies who formerly beat us up but now stayed too stoned to bother. I admired his chutzpah but was not eager to follow in Mother's law-scoffing footsteps.

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