dark optimist banner


Edited by his Mother


[In 1994-95 Steve took classes at San Jose State to earn a teaching credential.  Apparently one requirement was that he write an autobiography that focused on his schooling and teachers.  This became an autobiography, critique, and journal in which he worked through problems he was having in his classes.  What follows is only a small part of what he wrote.  Other articles on this site (Mania, Pod People, and Death) came from this journal.]

Steve Tells His Story

I was born on July 2, 1966 in the little town of Sierra Madre, which is located in the hills above Pasadena.  Except for my birth the only other claim to fame for Sierra Madre is that it was the location for the original version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  (1956) I don't think there's a relation between the film and the course of my life, but sometimes I wonder.  I was named David Steven Howard, Jr. after my father, and that would cause problems for me because I didn't go by David.   I went by Steven.  I've always thought my name is Steven.  Six weeks after my birth my parents moved from Sierra Madre for some fancy digs in USC married student housing. 

About one years old living near USC.

Sept 17 1966   Moved to 12007 West 38th Place (now Roland Curtis Drive) A few blocks from USC. March 23, 1968, Jonathan Philip Howard born

Steve discovers baseball

My parents were active Mormons at the time.  On my father's side his family had been converted when he was about eight.  His father was Jewish, the son of immigrants from Latvia.  His family lived in Chicago, the city my father was born in, but moved to Los Angeles (Sierra Madre) when he was four.  He had a chance of being a baseball player in the minors for the Chicago Cubs, but ironically, couldn't afford it because it didn't pay enough.  He died at age 55 when I was barely eight and I didn't get to know him.  I'm told a lot of my personality and the way I look is like him.

Steve with his grandfather Harry Howard.

My father's mother had TB as a child growing up in Indiana.  She's a good artist - she can do just about anything artistically.  She and her sisters were smart, but uneducated.  Life sucked for my grandmother, and when she was a teenager she went to Chicago where she met my grandfather.

Her father was Philip Woodland.  His mother emigrated from Sweden with her parents.  His father broke his back when my grandfather was only twelve.  This greatly affected him, as did the Depression.  I think he's the toughest man I've ever known.  The kind of man you tell stories about having one arm tied behind his back, and kicking the ass of every man in the joint, and then wrestling bears and biting off the head of Huns.  Dorothy Penrose is his wife and my grandmother.

This is a picture of Steve's grandfather, Phil Woodland who also loved sports.

Mom's great-grandfather, Charles W. Penrose, came to the United States from England where he had joined the Mormon church.  He is the farthest back I can trace my roots to be a Mormon and Democrat.  Charles Penrose was an interesting man because he was a polygamist, a General Authority, a writer and poet.  Some of the hymns he wrote are in the church hymnbook.

My mother's maternal grandfather was Edwin Penrose.  He was a newspaperman for the Deseret News.  According to my Grandmother Woodland, I look a lot like her father and take after Edwin and Charles in writing ability.  This I find both flattering and a little spooky.  What kind of people are floating around in me?  Edwin died young, about age 57.

Steve with his Mom and little brother, Jonathan in Studio City.

When I was about four my family moved to North Hollywood.  We lived not too far from the Los Angeles River, which is of course, not a river, but a bunch of wetness in a long concrete bed.

In first grade we moved to Northridge, which is just a part of Los Angeles.  It's hard as a kid to get used to things and then move.  Being a first grader is a big step. 

Third grade was a great year.  Mrs. Davis was my best teacher ever until I got into college.  I was always very shy, a small kid.  How small?  The smallest in the class more often than not.  She let me pursue my interest of the time in astronomy.  She let me try my ideas.  One was having a planet of the week which we as a class talked about.  I got to introduce it all:  my first big public presentation if you don't count show and tell and my accordion. 

Steve loved to read. He loved words.

By this time I started reading everything I could find in the school and public library.  Science, history, biographies, science fiction, you name it, I was reading it.  I think it was about this time I got tested for IQ and I ended up being smart enough to be an MGM or Mentally Gifted Minor.  There's a problem with MGM.  When you're picked as a smart kid they would take you out of class to go do smart kid stuff, whatever the hell it was.  It was very confusing.  I could read at home, I didn't need to be taken out of class to do it. 

I read biographies on men like Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great, and have always been interested in Military History.  As an adult I would find out these biographies didn't quit tell all the truth, but for a kid they were perfect.  I read about sports, politics, business, geography, astronomy and all sorts of stuff, doing all of this on my own.

Steve loved baseball

Fifth grade was very good and very bad.  The very good was that as an athlete I was one of the best.  Even though I was small there wasn't anybody better than me at kickball, or the volleyball games we played.  I was good at softball, great at dodge ball. 

Also the bubble gum Yubba Dubba came out. It was a soft gum and it was a fad, just like Disco. With the gum there was a scarce supply and I stepped into the void. It was actually illegal to do this at school, nobody wanted to scrape gum off the floor. I had a supply. My Dad would take me to a 7-11 just into the hills and buy a case of gum for like twenty-five cents a pack, and then I go to school and sell it for fifty cents. My brother who was in the third grade was also a seller for me. I made a lot of money. Much of it went into baseball cards I still have, and some of them are valuable so I did okay with that one. I was an independent businessman. It was fun.

The bad news is that Mrs. Pope, the teacher, was lazy. She insisted on calling me David. David was not, and has never been my name. Kids should be called what they want as far as a name goes. It's one of the things that tick me off so much I say I'll never do it if I'm a teacher.

Just before the start of sixth grade, when I would rule the playground, as everyone knew me, I was popular, disaster struck. My family moved to Santa Barbara just days before the school year was to start. (1977) It was a promotion for my father, but not good for me. Suddenly I didn't know who anybody was.

For seventh grade I went to Goleta Valley Junior High. Eighth grade was a disaster for me. I don't remember a lot of this time, and am glad I don't. I wanted to get sick and die. The answer of what was wrong wouldn't be found for another year. It was more than just puberty, it was depressing. I'm not sure I learned much during this time, except for one class, Computers. PCs were just starting. My family was literally the first on our block when we got a Radio Shack TRS-80 model one. Very basic, 4K of memory.

Freshman in high school meant riding my bike four miles to Dos Pueblo High School. In class, I sat in the back and would fall asleep a lot. I was only good for about an hour a day, wasn't eating much, wasn't growing, always cold.

Steve puffed up and slowed down with undiagnosed Hashimoto's syndrome

It turned out I had Hashimoto's syndrome. My thyroid was being attacked by my immune system. This resulted in my pituitary gland going in overdrive and becoming enlarged trying to start up my thyroid. The answer, once CAT scans, blood tests and X-rays figured out what was going on: I started to take [replacement thyroid] and have ever since. I started to grow. As I started to go from zombie to being alive, my personality started to change too. About this time my being active in the Mormon church came to an end. This was spring of 1981.

As a sophomore I was doing better physically. For my second semester my family moved again, this time to San Jose. Ended up in Saratoga. The moving wasn't so hot. The good news is that I changed my name to what it is now, Steven Scott Howard. It's on my passport, driver's license and everything else except for some old school records and my birth certificate.

As a senior I decided to join the Navy. To make a long story short, I did so well on their tests I could have been in the nuclear program, and they very much wanted me. I chose the Navy because I could join despite my thyroid problem. I didn't get into the Navy because the army doctor evaluated me and army regulations said no to thyroid problem.

[At Lynbrook High] Dave Pittman was the principal, and I liked him a lot. The best part was being in a US history class. I did so well I had to sit apart from the others so they wouldn't look at my test paper. Weird stuff was working in the library as an aid. I didn't know what the hell I was doing, but I had a lot of time to read.

The worst as far as high school was chemistry class. There were some jerks who sat behind me and picked on me. Bullies. The only outlet I had was to start writing. I created The Man. A faceless man who kicked those jerks, and went on to other projects. I did this while in class. This is a habit I still have with any class I take. I tend to be writing out ideas and storylines. I have a whole bunch of these notebooks. I did feel somewhat better though. I went with a friend to the assistant principal and he helped fix the situation.

In Writing II class our assignment was to read a Poe story. I liked it a lot and wrote my own story "The King of the City." I'm very proud of this story, and since I've kept on writing stories, a combination of Penrose and Peck.

Steve showing his first Burger King paycheck

For two years after high school I worked at Burger King. Eventually I'll write a book called Life in the Fast Food Lane. In a nutshell I fell in love with a girl who was my manager who had a boyfriend who beat her up and died of leukemia, no loss to society there, and another who was married with kids. I drove a Triumph Spitfire which I loved when it worked, and eventually I burned the engine out, threw a rod. It was rebuilt, but when the job ended I got rid of the car. I've only stepped in a Burger King once since then. Lots of people were using cocaine then. I used it once, didn't like it, never did it again. Pot didn't do anything for me either. Weird that a big business could be run by teenagers who drank, screwed around, did drugs, were incompetent, and all had their own fiefdoms and personality cults. Not the way to run a business.

I left Burger King in 1986 and that fall began college at the age of twenty at the College of the Redwoods in Eureka, California.

Steve loved his Spitfire.

I got rid of my Spitfire and my Dad got me a truck. College of the Redwoods is one of the few junior colleges that have dorms. I didn't get anything out of the dorms. I was anti-social. I got all my meals from a Wendy's. Often all I would eat for the day was a triple cheeseburger, no pickles, a large fry and a large coke. I would go to the store sometimes and buy Coke and things like Oreos. (I had a small fridge.) I read a lot of books. I read Plato's Republic (it took a few years for it all to snap into place, but it percolated in my brain) Moby Dick, Frankenstein, science fiction, non-fiction. Lots of the classics. When I wasn't reading I sat in front of the computer I had gotten for this adventure, an Epson Model II. The main thing I did was just write. Sort of a journal. On a good day I wrote a hundred double spaced pages. Just stuff. I still have it around but I don't read it. Most of it is shit, meaning just talking about getting to the end of the page, and finally getting there. I wasn't into fiction yet.

I went home sometimes for the weekend and would get in arguments with my parents. My first roommate was an asshole from Orange County who took about ten showers a day, always changing his clothes. Always using my stuff - he never asked.

We got in a war. I stopped taking showers because he was always nagging me to take one. After a few weeks I won, then came a guy who lasted ten minutes. He was a smoker - I wasn't. Then came a third fellow who was okay, although we didn't really mesh. He moved out to live with his sister. After him I got to keep the room for myself.

I took my clothes home to wash. Save up, and take a laundry trip. Once in a geography class I got a nosebleed and so I hit the Oregon trail to my room. The teacher got worried and that lead to the school counselor, and then a fellow named Mike who was a MSW. He didn't really help me at all; in fact I would call it a negative. One, it made me think there was something wrong with me, crazy, but he didn't fix it. Two, he didn't think I could ever get into USC and that lack of belief angered me. USC didn't let me in - I didn't have 30 semester units - fine, but the problem was they didn't tell me this. I ended up in San Jose going to DeAnza for a year.

I ended up getting accepted to UCLA - I just needed to take a math class. Then it gets funny. I ended up at UCLA Extension taking mostly history and political science classes. I got good grades and learned a lot, too. Wasn't a bad life, taking classes at night, drinking during the day, living with my brother in an apartment in Los Angeles while he went to USC. It was at this time I started to drink a lot more, tried to write movies and lots of other stuff.

In the summer of 1989 I went to USC summer school and it was at USC I would end up because of the pesky math class I wouldn't take, I did get through a statistics class at UCLA extension with a B. (I took it twice at DeAnza without getting a passing grade.) I started to drink more and didn't go to many day classes. I could drink at night and not have a problem. My brother had a monster of a girlfriend. I couldn't stand her. She took over my brother's life, then poked into mine and I went crazy. I started to have seizures at this time, but I didn't know it. I watched the movie Nightflyers hundreds of times and fell in love with (obsessed with) Catherine Mary Stewart, a Canadian actress. I've seen everything she's done and I'm not sure why.

By fall of 1990 I was a mess. I was drinking too much, hated USC, and wanted to transfer but I had hit the point of no return on units taken there. I ended up in geography class again. I was trying to study the coriolis effect having to do with clouds (for a test) when I had a nervous breakdown. Later called manic psychosis. More emergency room stuff. A psychiatrist, lithium and imipramine (an antidepressant.) At best they only masked the true problem.

Elko was Steve's personal black hole.
They assumed he fell asleep when actually he had a brain seizure.

I tried briefly to live in Utah. I ended up back home after nearly getting killed outside the Nevada town of Elko because I had a seizure while driving and didn't know it. The Nevada highway patrol found me at about six in the morning. By then I had lost my contact lenses, my glasses, was barfing, literally freezing, and waiting to die because my car was stuck and I had no concept of where I might be. I stayed in a Motel Six in Elko for three days and it took two more days after that to get to Salt Lake City. Bridges got burned.

[Steve had really a weird life caused by the menigioma brain tumor poking into his left frontal lobe. Click on this link for a discussion of his Mania. Steve was working as a temporary filing clerk in the offices of Deloitte & Touche during the summer of 1991. He no longer could handle school. While at work he had a brain seizure that upset the people around him. They called 911. He was taken to the hospital and the tumor was diagnosed. It was removed in September 1991 when he was age 25.]

This website is the work of Steve's parents:

Susan and Dave Howard. We are responsible for the content.

You can contact us at dshoward(at sign)usa.net