The transition from the urban jungle of Brooklyn, New York, to the hot, arid desert of Southern California was a tough one; at 13, I quickly learned that my peers were not so open in the acceptance of a New Yorker, especially one who pronounced words like "dawg," "wahta," and "dis. (dog, water, and this).
I did, however, notice one thing: the 8th graders weren't so kind, but the 7th and 6th graders were. These were my friends; through all the teasing and "jumpings" from angry Mexican thugs-in-the-making, I remained friends with those younger than I. One of the people who first accepted me for who I was, was Conrad DeLaRosa-Anderson.
When I met Conrad, he was a stocky young boy who played in the school band, with a demeanor that quickly made me feel at home at La Quinta Middle School. I was extremely unpopular, but upon my 8th grade commencement, Conrad was the first person to congratulate me. To make it up to him, when I saw him again 2 years later at the start of his freshman year at La Quinta High School, I made sure to see him on the first day to congratulate him and welcome him to La Quinta High School. After seeing for the first time how I matured after 2 years, Conrad quipped, "Well, good to see you're still an 8th grader."
I think the most common phrase Conrad would say when we would have a conversation was, "Shut up Tasso." He never did it to be mean; he always did it as a subtle way of telling me that I was making a complete ass of myself (which was as common as sand in the desert, and still is).
The last time I saw or spoke to Conrad was several days before his accident at College of the Desert. I remember vividly the last few seconds until our final parting, when I was walking with Michael Snyder to my car for "herbal rejuvenation," Conrad called out to me, and when I turned around, he said, "Pot's gonna make you stupid!" After a short silence, he then said "Wait a sec..." and we all burst into laughter. Conrad had a great sense of humor, one that was so teasingly offensive that it was unoffensive.
I miss Conrad terribly. No one has ever made me laugh like he has, nor has any other person made my self-confidence sky-rocket just by uttering those three simple words: "Shut up Tasso."
Thank you for making my acquaintance, Conrad; and thank you for the many things you've done that have affected me directly and indirectly. Thank you, Leighton and Pinkie, for raising Conrad to be the person we all came to know and love; and many thanks to everyone on the forum, for their support and friendship. Conrad would love the conversations we have on there; I bet he'd have more posts than anyone...and almost all of them would say "Shut up, Tasso!"