© 2014 All rights reserved
© 2014 All rights reserved
My name is Amanda, also known to my family and closest friends as Mandy. I was born to my mother, Connie, and father, Dwight, on October 27th, 1974. For the first five years of my life, we lived in Hayward, California.
Just after we had moved to Penn Valley in the northern part of the state, my sister, Kristi was born. My family had relocated there for a fresh start, and our house was situated on a dirt road in the middle of the country.
After living there for a few years, Mom and Dad bought twenty acres of land four miles down the same road. We spent the next six years building a house, tending Mom's garden, and growing up as children, carefree and happy in the country.
With our nearest neighbor miles away, we often ran around naked as jaybirds, building tree forts and playing with all the animals we had at the time...goats, geese, chickens, dogs and cats. It was a primitive life, and we actually lived without power or a phone for many years. Finally, Dad got ambitious and hooked up a generator and 12-volt batteries so we could have some power. This was significant because, when the generator was running, we could actually watch color TV.
But though we had this luxury, there were many reminders that our life was essentially a very rural one and that we were progressing one step at a time from rustic warriors on the land to, perhaps, a modified type of country gentry.
For instance, in the beginning we had to set up a fifty-gallon tank on top of the hill behind where we lived so we could siphon water into our home. It took awhile, but we finally got our well up and running.
Yet, although it had it's difficult moments, between cutting firewood and clearing and landscaping property, my family kept food on the table for the four of us. Nevertheless, while our carefree life as children was seemingly tied so securely to the world of nature, it came at quite a cost with regard to living in the modern, day-to-day world we were cohabitating.
In general, we had to do with hand-me-downs and shopped at thrift stores for our school clothes. But like special occasions like Easter ,Mom would make us new outfits that we could call our very own.
Even though we were broke, looking back, I would never trade growing up in the country with the more technically and socially refined lifestyle in the city. In fact, I experienced some of my best ( and ironically, worst) moments back on that four-mile dirt road. Still, I believe being raised in that rural environment was good for me, and the lessons I learned served me well when I moved on to city life. It also enabled me to remember what was truly important and not get lost in the hustle and bustle of the city and it's seductively toxic materialism. But in our culture, there is always a financial downside if one's skill set is not attuned to a "civilized" environment's survival requirements. My family could make it on the level of man against nature but, in that location, could not prosper in the human marketplace. Eventually, the everyday struggle put such an increasingly large strain on my family (particularly with regard to my parents' relationship) that they finally separated after seventeen years of trying to make ends meet.
To affect their parting, Mom and Dad sold the house and split up our things, and Kristi and I moved into town to live with my mother. But since she was working two jobs to keep us clothed and fed, we hardly ever saw her. Because my Dad couldn't bear to be away from his daughters, he relocated as well, renting a place nearby.
Their divorce was finalized sometime shortly thereafter. A few months later, my Mom seeking greener financial opportunities, decided to move my sister, Kristi and me to Las Vegas.
We arrived in this glittering venue on October 1st, 1989, ironically the date of my parents' anniversary. After eight months or so, my father missed his girls so much that he again followed us to our new hometown.
After several years, my Mom decided to remarry. With Dad not living with us and Mom focusing on her new husband and life, I felt a bit out of place in my surroundings. This created somewhat of a rift between Mom and me. Eventually it was mutually decided that I would move out of the house, even though I was not eighteen years old. Deprived of the family support I had grown up with, life became a bit more challenging for me. I moved in with a couple of female roommates, worked odd jobs, and started to drink too much. I went through a wild stage and had to face some pretty difficult consequences.
These repercussions made me slow down and become more cautious and careful about the way in which I conducted my life. Forced to assume adult responsibilities for the first time. I grew up quickly and came to realize that I was the only one that was going to take care of me. Thus, I decided on a career of sorts and began work as a cocktail waitress, first at Binion's Horseshoe steakhouse on the famous Las Vegas strip.
Eventually I had my own apartment, and, although sustaining myself enough to get by, I searched for opportunities to increase my cash flow. Ultimately, I decided to find a job on the newer side of the Vegas strip, with hope of securing a cleaner environment, better money, and nicer patrons.
I soon began waiting tables at the All-Star Cafe', even though I knew I was not cut out to be a food server. At least, however, I was in the area of the strip where I wanted to work. At the time, I had also sworn off dating men for a while.
But apparently my non-dating vows were not powerful enough to overcome the polite advances of one of their employees, namely, Michael Brown. According to Michael, it took a few weeks for him to work up the courage to talk to me. As soon as he did- and it was a matter of seconds- we became good friends.