Don’t get me wrong…
Every aspect of my life, from a very young age, keyed me in on becoming the barely-known geek icon I am, today.
I have heavily documented how my dyslexia was overcome by using comic books to learn to read thanks to the fact that the hand-lettering was different enough to allow my perceptions to read it. Because I could read them, comic books were readily available to me from a very young age and I followed a number of series before I was even in school (Marvel Team-Up, Star Wars, and Incredible Hulk being examples of these).
Re-runs of the Batman TV show, ‘The Incredible Hulk’, and the original ‘Star Trek’ series were some of my first memories, as a child. Cartoons weighed in heavily, as well, with ‘Voltron,’ ‘Tranzor Z,’ ‘Thunderbirds 2086,’ and re-runs of the ‘Fantastic Four’ cartoon (the one in which the Human Torch was replaced by H.E.R.B.I.E. the robot) and ‘Spider-Man’ (there has never been a point in my memory that I did not know every lyric to ‘Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does whatever a spider can!’). Of course, I also watched Scooby-Doo (my favorite incarnation being ‘The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo,’ mostly due to the presence of an aging Vincent Price), ‘Battlestar Galactica,’ ’The Dukes of Hazzard,’ ‘M.A.S.H.’, ‘Buck Rogers and the 25th Century,’ and ‘Taxi,’ as well as a variety of other influential classics.
I saw Star Wars in its original run, at the drive-in, and The Empire Strikes Back in it’s first weekend. I caught every monster movie I could and was obsessed with King Kong and The Creature From the Black Lagoon. The first movie I was ever allowed to see without adult supervision, in the theatre, was Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
I didn’t read books, all that much; see above for the whole dyslexia thing; but I pushed my way through The Hobbit and devoured The Chronicles of Narnia. I also read the novelizations of a bunch of movies, including The Empire Strikes Back and Logan’s Run.
When I talk about having ‘nerd cred,’ these are the kinds of thing I mean. Prior to the age of seven, my obsession with genre fiction and the unusual was obvious to anyone paying enough attention. So, when I say that my Grandmother was critical to my development as a barely-known geek icon, it could only have been some critical event immensely life-changing that could have connected with me in such a way that I would refuse to align with other children for the rest of my life in school.
It was chickenpox.
A couple of things occurred around the time I caught chickenpox and was out of school for two weeks. The first was that my Grandmother, on my Mother’s side, had undergone knee surgery and was forced to be off her feet for an extended amount of time, which coincided with my illness. My mother was raising me, on her own, and I had a close bond with Grandma, already, but the time we spent together ended up cementing this bond.
Another was that the first issue of Marvel’s G.I. Joe comic book was released. My mother purchased the giant-sized version of this book for me to peruse, which I did, many times. I learned the names of the characters; the heroes and villains.
Also, Tom Baker was portraying the Doctor on Doctor Who.
Well, actually, Peter Davison was portraying the Doctor, at the time, but the U.S. was a little behind with the re-runs and Tom Baker was the Time Lord on PBS, at the time. This was very good for young me because this meant that my Grandma watched the show, religiously. Every afternoon, Mr. Baker would come on the television and Grandma would swoon while I took in every moment of the strange series. For those two weeks, I obsessed over every serial episode as the Doctor and Romana sought the Key to Time, for some reason.
Lastly, it was at this time that I was introduced to Monty Python; also, by my Grandmother.
These three events led to critical alterations in my thinking, which would shape the way I would view everything, forever.
Every issue of Marvel’s G.I. Joe comic book series was written by Larry Hama, who grew up learning martial arts and very interested in military history. This led to the G.I. Joe comics reading as though they were remarkably accurate (which they really were). From reading this vaguely military comic book that was based on a series of toys, I learned the importance of continuing accuracy when writing, despite whatever other factors may exist outside of the realm within which one is writing.
My lifelong obsession with Doctor Who has enabled me to view science fiction in ways that is different from those fans of some other genre properties. It allowed me to keep an open mind about science fiction, in general, and empowered me to find the value in those films, books, comics, and shows that others may have passed on. It also enabled me to develop critical thinking in consideration of consuming media which, ultimately, is why this site is here, in the first place.
And Monty Python?
Python taught me how to embrace the absurd and find the humor in even the most unlikely of situations.
As the years have passed, I can’t help but notice that every activity I participate in seems to have aspects of my skill set that were developed directly in response to those experiences I encountered while spending time with my Grandma. I write technical documentation, as the Director of Consumer Experience for an application development company, which requires exacting research and critical thinking. I write fiction, much of which requires similar capabilities. I developed DocPalindrome.com to offer opinion and knowledge and sought out others because I value alternate opinions, ideas, and thoughts. I perform comedy with Nuts and Bolts Comedy Improv and bring a unique point of view to those shows.
My Grandma is no longer with us. She passed away a number of years ago due to Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as ‘Lou Gehrig’s disease’ (although, it’s not technically a disease, but a disorder), also known as ‘ALS,’ also known as ‘that disorder for which people were pouring ice water over their heads.’ For the last couple years of her life, she needed help with every activity. I took time off from my life to be there for her and be a part of those who were caring for her. I can say, with no small sense of pride, that I was the only person she wanted to lift her from place to place. When someone can no longer help themselves and they choose you to help them, there is an undeniable power to that experience.
Without a doubt, my early life experiences, or something in my chromosomal makeup, or some encounter would have ensured that I would become a lifelong geek, but those two weeks with chickenpox, at the age of 7, affected me in ways that continue to reverberate in my very bones. I developed creative and original opinions of various forms of entertainment that not all people have encountered, which altered the direction of my geeky obsessions. It also brought me closer to a woman who had lived through so much hardship and become stronger while still retaining humility.
My Grandmother stayed who she was, despite how easy it might have been for her to simply tow the line and be what everyone else expected her to be. She dealt with others honestly and firmly, never backing down to those who would take what was hers. She laughed at life, until the very end.
I can only hope that I am a fraction of the human being that my Grandma was. I hope that I can pass on the lessons I learned from her to others and I hope that I exemplify what it means to be strong, independent, caring, and decent.
I’m not real great on the humility thing, though.
DocPalindrome.com is a part of developing a community that exchanges ideas, educates one-another, and builds upon itself. Once upon a time, I called myself ‘Doc Palindrome’ as an alias as an online journalist. I did this for nearly two decades. It doesn’t represent what it once did. To me, and to those writers who have chosen to honor me by allowing me to publish their brilliant articles, it means the chance to teach; to tell stories; to build something bigger. Their contribution is exciting and powerful and I thank them for their time and their faith.
I would have always been a geek, but had I not had chickenpox for that specific period, I may not have been the geek who writes this now.
Let’s build something.
Let’s be creative and make a thing.