Warp Drive

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Nintendo Rhapsody (World 1: Far From Home Redux)

Nintendo Rhapsody is an ongoing story about how Nintendo, and video games in general, helped me through some of the harder times in my life. Each chapter, known as a 'world' in Nintendo Rhapsody, is rather self contained with introductions and conclusions.

World 11-1: Alone in the Dark

When I was eight years of age, I lived away from home five out of seven days a week for a period of six months in East Los Angeles at a facility known simply as The Diagnostic School. On Friday afternoons, I would be released to spend the weekends at home with family. Every Sunday at 5:00 PM, I would have to return to The Diagnostic School for the forthcoming week. Once there, I had to eat cafeteria food. I grew to loathe cafeteria food.

On those particular nights, however, I would often choose a bag of Skittles. I hated Skittles. I greatly preferred M&Ms, but Skittles was all that they seemed to have. I would sit on the far corner of the cafeteria, my back to the window, eating my bag of Skittles. All the while, dreading the days and week ahead. I peered out into the darkness of the night every so often.

The Diagnostic School: Outside Dormitory

Every night, I slept in a room with other children such as myself. It was arranged somewhat like a dormitory. When I was bored and could not sleep, I would make funny sounds to pass the time. This often garnered the attention of a staff member monitoring from just outside the room. I would then be asked to stand in the hallway with my face to the wall for a few minutes.

A friend of mine slept in the bed nearest the hall, and I would sometimes attempt to talk with him during these periods of discipline. On a few rare occasions, the staff member on duty that night would forgo this penalty and instead drag me down to the padded room at the end of the hall. Once inside, the staff member would lock the door and turn out the light, leaving me in pitch blackness. It was a frightening experience unlike any other.

The Diagnostic School: Time Out Room

Desperate to see light of any kind, I tried to peer through the small viewing window in the door. My friendly chaperone for the night became wise to this activity most of the time, and also shut out the light in the corridor just outside the darkened room. It was for my own good, I was told. If I learned to behave, I would be allowed to return to the bedroom.

Each day, I attended classes per usual. These were one-on-one experiences. An assistant was always present during hours of study. There were no windows in this room. More than likely to prevent unnecessary distractions. A star system was used to reward students for hard work. I used these stars to purchase items from the school store. More often than not, I chose a can of Welch's Grape Soda. It was one of the few saving graces of The Diagnostic School.

The Diagnostic School: Inside Classroom

World 11-2: Hour of Light

Soon, it would be time to eat from the cafeteria again. I braced myself for the sludge mine. I was escorted back to the bedroom to wash up before lunch. I was all set to head for the cafeteria when I was told that I had a visitor waiting for me out in the hall. I rarely received visitors in the middle of the week, so this came as a legitimate surprise. My eyes lit up wide when I realized who it was.

On leave from a jury summons in Los Angeles, my dad had stopped by to surprise me. With a smile planted firmly across my face, I quickly rushed out to greet him. Dad had arranged to take me out to lunch that day. There would be no cafeteria food on this day. No, on this day, we were to eat like kings. We were going to McDonald's for a burger and fries.

Super Mario Maker 2: Dad Arrives

It was the sweetest burger and fries I ever ate in my life. And I am not just saying that because of the sludge I had to endure at The Diagnostic School. It was because I was spending time with my dad. It was truly one of those rare whisked away on a magic carpet ride moments. One which I will never forget. The only thing that made me feel sad was that it had to come to an end. I would have to return to The Diagnostic School at the end of our little field trip.

And I could tell that my dad was as broken up about this as I was. We would have to part ways. It was almost too much for either of us to bear. "Bread and butter," my dad often said aloud when our locked hands met a pole. It meant I have to let go now, but it won't be forever. It won't be forever.

Nintendo Rhapsody: Going Home

Don't Worry, Be Happy (Paul Haley Acapella)
"Michael was enrolled for extended assessment within a five-day per week residential setting at the Diagnostic Center from January 7th, 1991 through July 24th, 1991. While attending the Diagnostic Center, Michael was placed in a diagnostic classroom with up to five other students." -Discharge Report
"In response to a request to draw a person, he did a self-portrait with great care and attention to detail, such as the colors of his shirt, much overworking and some perseverative characteristics. The overall quality of the drawing was good for his age." -Neurological Examination
Further Reading:
Nintendo Rhapsody (World 1: Far From Home)
Psychoeducation: The Diagnostic Center

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