For as long as I can remember, I have always been a nerd. For over 47 years, I have dibbled and dabbled in everything nerdy. It is something I pride myself in. If one were to look at all the nerd things in American culture the past 50 years, you would see me staring right back at you.
It all began in the 1960s…
Growing up as a child in the 1960s meant confusion. One one hand, you had the wonderful world of black and white TV and then, “POOF!”, It goes to color. Shows went from Adam-12, Ed Sullivan, and Red Skelton to Batman, Star Trek, and Dark Shadows. For me, Star Trek was where it was at and still is through today. I bought books, models, and action figures. As a young bachelor, I would have a poster of the Enterprise on my wall. Growing up in the late 60s also meant paying attention to the space program. It is hard to conceive of now, but astronauts were actually heroes. Neil Armstrong, John Glenn, and Buzz Aldrin were amazing. I remember my older brother having different models of the Saturn V rocket, the lunar module, and the Eagle on a shelf above the dresser. The 60s were also the golden age of comic books for me. The original X-Men, Fantastic Four, Thor, Captain America, and Nick Fury were my favorites.
The Early 1970s
As the 60s faded away, the 1970s brought a new set of nerdness to my world. As I got older, I began playing sports and baseball was something I could do all day long in the summer. It is not like today. In the 1970s, we played outside all day long. We did not have a choice. Parents kicked us out by 8 a.m. and wouldn’t let us back in except to eat. As a result, we had to make our own fun. With baseball being a priority in checking the box scores each day before I left the house, baseball cards too became a priority as they were only a nickel when the decade began. You got a ten pack of cards with a piece of gum. The smell of the gum permeated everything about the cards. It not only left a smell but a residue – like a stamp of authenticity. I continued to collect cards even when the price doubled to a dime. In the winter it was all about hot wheels and electric car racing. There is still nothing like the smell of electric slot cars doing a burnout.
The Late 70s/Early 1980s
As junior high school arrived, so did other things. In 1977, Star Wars came out. I cannot tell you how many times I saw it at the theater in Dixon. But it was substantial and it was air-conditioned. In 8th grade, I read “The Hobbit”. This book changed everything for the next ten years. Between reading cool stuff like “Lord of the Rings”, the 70s and 80s started to blend together. Video game technology in the form of Atari, Dungeons and Dragons, and Strat-O-Matic all came along in the late 70s and early 80s. In addition, cable tv made sure I would never leave the house much during college years. My memories of those years are filled with all night sessions of D&D, Risk, cigars, and Milwaukee’s Best all the while listening to Rush, Yes, Genesis, and Pink Floyd. The 1980s also saw the insertion of the “Dune” universe into my nerd universe.My last two years of college saw me reading Frank Herbert books all the time.
After 1986, I don’t remember much of the next seven years as I was working 55 hours a week. I think I continued my nerdness by reading Star Trek books, taping every single episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation on VHS and trying to find the video game TRON wherever I could.
1990s and 2000s…
When I came to my senses and got out of the lifestyle I was in, it was 1993. I settled into a 8-4 job and my nerdness returned in spades. With the Internet on computers (Obscure Homer Simpson reference), The X-Files, Risk on CD-ROM, fantasy baseball replaced strat-o-matic, my nerd level went to new heights. The information age was made of, by, and for, nerds. I even fell in love and got married. I even found ways to get back some of my nerdness (New Dune books, new Star Wars and Star Trek movies) and invent new ways of being a nerd (this blog).
As the age of 50 starts to zero in on me in the next two and half years, I have no qualms of being a nerd at 50. I embrace the things that have made me a nerd. They are part of me and I am part of them.