Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Monday, March 28, 2011

DAY 20: BATTLESTAR GALACTICA



Being a young pre-teen geek was liberating. The excitement and fascination derived from an obsession with pop culture freed you from fear of embarrassment. You knew who you were and were ok with it. This heightened self-awareness and self confidence in non-geek circles would have resulted in an elevated popularity and even attractiveness. Instead, our reward was the constant ridicule at the hands of those less imaginative and secure...you know, those graced with elevated popularity and attractiveness. Ultimately, we nerdkind pitied these constrained narrow-minded knuckle-dragging socialites, confident they would one day be crushed under the metal heel of the Super Robot we would eventually complete.

A common pre-teen geek pastime was play-acting scenes from our favourite pre-teen geek television shows and movies, such as Buck Rogers, Logan's Run, and Planet of the Apes. The 1978/79 tv season provided fodder for our already overactive minds in the form of one of the largest scale network sci-fi extravaganzas since Star Trek: BSG, or Battlestar Galactica to the uninitiated. During recess and lunch we'd divide up into 2 opposing but equally socially awkward teams, the rag-tag Colonial Viper pilots vs the evil robotic cyclopean Cylons, and re-enact situations from the previous nights episode. Sticks and slide-rules substituted for blasters, and for added realism someone would invariably bring hockey gloves for the Cylon team. Everyone had memorized the 2 edicts of play: the good guys always won, and you fell down when shot (dramatic license was varied and subjective). For the most part everyone knew and accepted their roles once assigned...except Robbie. 

Robbie was a maladroit and gawky Skippy Handelman-like lad, even by geek standards. His Chicletesque front teeth were much too large for his crooked mouth, and he was perpetually tripping over his gangly appendages like some drunken spider-monkey. In the geek hierarchy Robbie was our Gleek, Bat-Mite, 7 Zark 7, and H.E.R.B.I.E rolled into one. He unintentionally made us feel better about ourselves, and took the brunt of the abuse from the cro-mags; if we'd been chicks he would have been the fat one. When we played Thundecats he was Snarf, when it was He-Man, Orko. And when we role-played BSG, he was Muffit, the daggit.

Robbie was becoming disenfranchised with his ascribed lot in geekdom, and one fine spring day, in an unprecedented show of assertiveness, decided to attempt a move up the food chain. We had gathered at recess in behind portable # 3 so as to avoid a roving band of mean spirited but comely eighth graders. In a blatant breach of character and etiquette Robbie stammered "Dibs on Starbuck!", his eyes furtively darting around, looking at all of us but settling on none. There was a collective gasp from the others, followed by a pregnant silence as the eyes of the consortium each in turn fell on me expectantly. Noone had seen this gambit coming. Calmly, coolly, pretending this wasn't as big a deal as we all knew it was, I replied with a chuckle in a kindly albeit patronizing tone, "Robbie, I'M Starbuck. I'm ALWAYS Starbuck". 


Visibly deflated, but realizing he had reached the point of no return, Robbie held his ground. He puffed out his concave chest and barked "Excatly! Why do YOU always get to be Starbuck? Why can't we, I dunno, take turns or something?". I could see the others starting to process this postulation. I had to act fast. Putting on my best Starbuck smile, a hand on Robbie's shoulder, I stated my case as if to a simpleton "Robbie Robbie Robbie. Starbuck has long blond hair and blue eyes. I have long blond hair and blue eyes. I'm Starbuck". Robbie wasn't going down without a fight, "Luke Skywalker has blonde hair and blue eyes, but you're always Han Solo!". This point seemed to hold resonance for the others, their greasy brows creased in consternation and they collectively looked to me. I looked at make believe Apollo, Boomer, and finally Robbie, slowly shaking my head in mock disbelief, "You can't be serious. That's Star Wars! You telling me you don't know the difference between Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica?!". The gang looked intently at nothing down by their shuffling Keds, and not wanting to lose geek cred, a jumbled chorus of "Yeah yeah. Of Course. Totally" unanimously went up. The rebellion had been quelled.

Truth is, I was always Starbuck because I was the best looking.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday, March 18, 2011

DAY 18: IRELAND



"Where was this tee yesterday" you might ask, "In honor of St. Patrick's Day" you haughtily demand. Your indignation is noted, but let me explain.

I just didn't want to that guy.

You know the guy. The same clown who wore the concert shirt to highschool the very next day after the concert. The guy who thought that his endorsement of Duran Duran or ability to procure Huey Lewis and the News nosebleeds made him especially cool and unique.

Just like the 200 other especially cool and unique douchebags who all wore the same shirt that day.

That guy.




Thursday, March 17, 2011

DAY 17: SHADY OAKS



The guy with the leg brace and a stammer at the Gas n' BBQ assured me that if I stayed on the old dirt road I'd be at Shady Oaks within the hour. I could not have expected nor would I have wished to see as much of the mad and macabre as I was to see that day. What started as an idyllic summer afternoon drive became a nightmare. The events of that day were to lead to the discovery of one of the most bizarre crimes in the annals of American history.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

DAY 15: JOYSTICK


(Related posts: Days 22, 36, and 40)

By the ripe age of 10 I had learned through experience that any and all interactions with my brother would be unsavory and ultimately end in violence. This precocious acumen presented a unique conundrum: the sensible course would be to regard my elder sibling as a necessary unpleasantness and avoid him at all costs, however I was also aware that to shun him would insult and anger him and draw his protracted and indelible spite. Catch 22. It was easier to resign myself to his immediate wrathful outbursts. Pain is, after all, temporary.

So when my lonely brother resorted to actually asking me to play our home videogame system with him (the awesome Bally Astrocade), I entered into the arrangement with much dread, and was wary of the inexorable bloody conclusion.

The game in question was The Wizard of Wor, an action oriented game that required 2 players to play concurrently and collaboratively. 2 ingredients for failure.

His tongue poking from the side of his mouth like a gorged and bloated leech, my brother sweatily manoeuvered his 8-bit avatar Worrior through the 2 dimensional maze, his entire body spasmdically leaning into his every movement, screaming at me to 'Cover him' and 'Get his back', as he blasted the rapidly encroaching pixilated evil Worluks. His excitement reached a near rapturous state as he was upgraded to a Worlord and his score slowly neared his personal best, a highscore he had fervently, obsessively been trying to surpass daily for 6 months.

As long as he held the controller in his meaty hands he wasn't able to give me an Indian Rug Burn, so I quietly cooperated. But my time was running out, he was down to his last man, sweating profusely and breathing heavily. Outside of wailing on me daily this was the most exercise he had had in years. His inarticulate screams increased in direct correlation with each level we advanced. He had stopped blinking altogether and was now standing at attention, rhythmically hopping from bare foot to bare foot like some backwoods voodoo high-priest. He was crazed. And he was only a handful of points away from beating his elusive high-score.

For 2 blissful hours I was not the victim of physical torment, his energy and aggression instead focussed on his video assailants. But I was not to be completely forgotten. In his desperation he resorted to unsuccessfully trying to kill my guy, Player 2, in an attempt to accrue a few more points, even though I had been acting as his cooperative partner, trying to help him reach his goal. Mercenary bastard!

I knew that once the game ended I would once again be the focus of his ire. I had not earned a reprieve by being an active participant in his efforts. I was still going to get pummeled. Such was my lot in life. It was the Universal Bane of the Younger Sibling. So if the predestined outcome was immutable, why not make it worth while? My brother had 4 years and 75 lbs on me. I knew that I couldn't yet best him physically, so I took opportunities for revenge and delayed retaliation whenever and however they presented themselves. And this, my friends, was a prime opportunity indeed.

He was so incredibly focussed on the one last single kill that would achieve the desired score that had all but consumed him, that he paid no heed as the video version of me casually walked up behind him and vaporized his last man.

He never did beat his high-score.

Payback is a bitch.
Unfortunately payback of a payback is a much bigger, much more painful bitch.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

DAY 14: STAR TREK



If ever my rightful place on the Throne of Geekdom were to be challenged, I would merely direct the partisan to a recent exchange between myself and my enduring and beguiling wife, presented here verbatim: 

Me: "Babe, if you are going downstairs can you grab my glass of water, I'm thirsty?" 
Wife: "Where is it?"
Me: "Next to my phaser." 


Next to my phaser.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

DAY 13: JACK




A Shirtful of Kirby.
If you can name them all you win a +4 on Magical Attacks.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

DAY 12: IRON MAN



This particular tee has always reminded me of a can of soup. Not Iron Man himself, not in the obvious tin can way, just this shirt. Perhaps its the color combination, or maybe it's that beneath the mask I picture the cherubic faced mascot of a particular brand of sodium laden puree, I just can't place it. And canned soup reminds me of the first time I ran away from home. 


There were 3 occasions where I left the nest, and the first time was simply because my mother dared present me with the option of canned split pea soup for lunch. This would not stand! Chicken noodle or Minestrone might have warranted a pout, maybe a tantrum, but split pea? This was the last straw! I looked at the bowl of green mush, sniffed once, and announced my immediate departure. This might have surprised my mother, especially seeing as I'd never tried split pea soup before, but she didn't show it. "Better be on your way then, before it gets dark" was her blasse response. My infinite 6 years of wisdom deduced that her banal non-reaction was a ruse. I loaded up a bright red paisley 'kerchief with Merlin the Electronic Wizard, Dr Zaius wearing an Action Jackson jumpsuit, and my broken Star Trek Walkie Talkie, and secured it to the end of a hockey stick just like I'd seen Heckle and Jeckel do, then said my goodbyes. In a desperate 11th hour attempt, my mother said I might get hungry, but all she had to offer was this here split pea soup. I glared in defiance as she handed me my yellow plastic rain poncho, "In case it rains tonight". Oh she was good, hiding her pain and heartache under an ice cold facade of indifference. "Well I guess this is goodbye", and that was it, I was gone, a lone wanderer, the world my oyster.

I got to the bottom of the driveway as a white van was driving towards my ex-abode. "Gasp! Stranger Danger! McGruff was right!", I panicked and ran next door to Mrs C's place, ringing her doorbell like a bulimic Pavlovian dog. She was older than god and smelled funny, but she made killer oatmeal raisin cookies. The van passed without slowing as Mrs C opened the inner door, leaving the screen door locked however. Not wanting to look like a frightened 6 year old I nonchalantly advised her I was running away and wouldn't be able to wash her car anymore. She croaked "That's nice dear. Oh I do hope I don't get anymore eggs thrown at my car, I've been hit 3 times this week".
 
I breathed deep as I made my way down the street, the air crisp and smelling of autonomy. Whistling "The Lonely Man" theme from the Incredible Hulk, I envisioned myself roaming from town to town, solving mysteries and righting wrongs, just like Dr David Bruce Banner, or The Littlest Hobo. I tipped my plastic-mesh-backed Lucky Charms cap at everyone I passed, and proudly announced I was running away. The responses ranged from chuckles to smiles to winks. One pimply faced teen in a tight Led Zeppelin tee gave me the finger. 


I arrived at the top of my twenty house street; I'd never been beyond this point unsupervised: The Point of No Return, No Man's Land, The Forbidden Zone...Old Lady Zimmerman's place. The dilapidated dwelling had long been considered the local haunted house, a witches den. Parents warned of strange goings on and missing neighborhood pets, while older brothers told impressionable siblings tales of meat pies made from the amputated fingers and toes of siblings who tattle-taled to their parents about hidden stashes of nudie mags. I stared at the decaying estate and could swear it was breathing. A not unpleasant rush of fear coursed up my spine. The front lawn was an overgrown jungle of knee high nettles and dandelion, the perfect habitat for the poisonous snakes and spiders said to populate the haunted garden. The front door ajar and slightly askew like a solitary crooked tooth in a cannibalistic humanoid underground dweller's gaping maw. It had an honest to goodness turret for godsakes. A turret! The place was practically oozing foreboding. But there, amidst the palpable malevolence, sitting on the crumbling stoop, was an angel in pigtails: Chloe, old lady Zimmerman's niece.


Chloe came to stay with her necromantic aunt for two weeks every July while her parents went to go summer in Zurich. Suddenly the place didn't look so haunted, so evil. It was as if a beacon was shone down from the heavens, bathing this one spot in purity and goodness, banishing the monsters and the myths in its wake. Chloe looked up and smiled at me, and innocently asked if I wanted to come inside and play with her dollies. Maybe she had inherited some of her kin's enchantments because it was as if I was enthralled, powerless. I agreed immediately, but recovered enough to do so conditionally, "I can only play for a bit, I have to get back to running away". 


When Old lady Zimmerman discovered us undressing her antique China dolls up in Chloe's bedroom her face turned the color of a day old hematoma. She did indeed resemble a witch, right down to the wart on the side of her nose, and several strangely hypnotic black hairs above her lip, like a spider trapped halfway in or crawling halfway out of her twisted puckered mouth. She silently lifted me up by ear, surprisingly spry for one so wrinkled and hunched. "This is it" I thought, "The sorceress is going to tenderize me with a hammer made from the molars of victim's past and bake me into a fingers and toes pie". I took small pleasure from the fact I had been sweating in my Keds all day and was not wearing socks. Choke on that hag!


Instead of making me into a tourtiere, she threw me into her Dodge Dart and drove the vast distance of the entire twenty houses back to the brick and mortar I had so recently vacated. 
My mother never acknowledged my 20 minute absence, not then, not ever. It is something that has remained unspoken between us to this day. Instead she just sat me down and spooned out a hot bowl of split pea soup. I didn't realize how hungry I was, and I have to concede that it was quite good, albeit a bit salty.

A decade later this scenario would echo itself, like an aged deja vu, except it wasn't her dollies Chloe invited me in to play with as I just happened to be passing the haunted garden, and it wasn't China dolls I was caught undressing by Old Lady Zimmerman.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

DAY 11: BATMAN



Why so serious, Bats?


For all of Bat's growling and blacky blacknessity, at the end of the day he's still a grown man who slips into a floppy eared rodent costume, with a frilly cape for added flare. He enjoys rubber and spandex as much as my eighth grade gym teacher. 


Batman (or is it The Batman) just needs to pause for a reflective moment the next time he creases his cowl and utters "I'm Batman". Put it in perspective Caped Crusader: You wear your undies on the outside. You need a caretaker who makes your meals, lays out your clothes, and looks after your every petulant whim. 


You have a self anointed nickname, a really neato whiz bang clubhouse, and your only friend and confidant is an effeminate kid half your age. 


Christ,you weren't even allowed to dial out on the big red phone!


I'm pretty sure he's Slingblade.