Growing up, our house always seemed to be the central hub of activity in our neighborhood. On any given day, you’d find a posse of screaming 7 and 8 year olds, running through the yard swinging taped together leftover Christmas wrap holders substituting for light sabers as we acted out our favorite scenes from Star Wars. Or find a gaggle of teenage girls crowded into a small pink bedroom around a portable record player, talking about boys they liked, and dancing and singing to the likes of Donna Summer and KC and the Sunshine Band. Or a herd of teenage boys draped all over the furniture in the living room, cheering for their favourite baseball team on TV (Toronto Blue Jays!) all the while pretending not to notice or care about those teenage girls giggling away just a floor above. And as much as our house was so often full of people, it was also full of stuff. Lots of stuff. My mother, for instance, had a fondness for Blue Mountain Pottery, Royal Albert Blossomtime china, and her own rough-hewn but lovingly handmade bowls and oddities that she spun into creation twice a month at her ceramics class, and you’d find examples of these on table tops and wall shelves and mantles all through the house. My father was a huge sports nut, particularly hockey, and there were many nods on walls and shelves to his favourite team, the Leafs. My oldest brother suffered a rather gripping fascination with all things militaristic, with a growing collection of amry and navy memorabilia to commemorate the same. My other brother was practically a bowling legend at his junior high school, and seemed to arrive home with an even bigger and increasingly more garish trophy once a week to complete for the already limited shelf space. My older sister was the pretty, popular girl at school, and with her came all those trappings of clothes, makeup, and hair products aplenty, enough to overwhelm her bedroom and our tiny shared bathroom. As for my younger sister, her interests were mostly my interests, and she seemed agreeable to whatever toy, movie, game, or TV fad that struck my fancy at the time. And so we’d often alternate from having my 12” GI Joe action figures (not dolls!) rescue all the Tetley tea animals from the war zone that became our dining room table, to running over those evil Barbies gifted to her by a cousin of ours with my Tonka Trucks in the driveway (so um….maybe that part’s a bit disturbing in retrospect), but never remembering to clean up after ourselves once finished our great make-believe adventures. And so with all these varied people about, with all their varied interests , stuff began to accumulate. And the house, with both it’s inhabitants and their belongings, always appeared very full. Although we were each charged with our very own individual chores to aid in the upkeep of the home – my oldest brother was praised as being the world’s greatest vacuum cleaner guy, while my specialty was window washing, mainly because I was so obsessive I wouldn’t walk away ‘til it was spot and streak free! – an d as much as our parent’s worked hard to instill the very ideals of good proper housekeeping, things inevitably always ended up feeling a bit cluttered and….well….lived in.
Truth be told, i’m a bit of a geek. A nerd. A lover of all things so uncool they actually become cool. But, at first glance, you wouldn’t know this. In fact, upon closer inspection, I bear a remarkable resemblance to some youngish upwardly mobile urban professional. Yet still,even though you might have to scratch the surface a bit to see…peer deep into my inner soul even… you’ll find it. My inner geek, shining ever so brightly, in his ripped jeans and faded Superman T, totally getting his nerd-adelic freak on. A side not readily, not easily shown to everyone. In fact, truth be told again, I traverse these two secret worlds, one foot in each other, but never truly a flag waving, card carrying, look-at-me-I’m-in-da-HOUSE member of either. Therefore, I can stroll into some fancy dinner party or extravagant fundraiser, wearing my (borrowed) Armani shirt and Hugo Boss tie, and fake my way through some intellectual conversation on world politics, the economic crisis or how stunningly prepared the bacon wrapped scallops truly are (which technically I…um…licked the bacon grease off of, spit the rest in a napkin, and stuffed it into the nearest potted rose bush plant). Or I might hunker down in my favourite comic shop Strange Adventures, listen to some heated discussion between two portly bespectacled and surprisingly hairy middle aged gents, and try not to interfere but instead burst out with “it was Greedo OK? NOT Han! Greedo shot first!”
Yes, living this double life can be stressful. And at times, I tremble every so slightly in fear, as I sip my sparkling wine spritzer, gossiping and looking about with an air of boredom and feigned disapproval, along with Mitzi,LuLu and Bernard at some high class over priced function, half expecting some burly security guard type in European shoes to tap me on the shoulder and say “you and your Batman underwear wearing self are out of here! And furthermore… no swag bag for you!!” Or perhaps the aforementioned comic book dudes to suddenly start pelting me with half eaten veggie dogs and Sun Chip wrappers (those noisy, crinkly, eco-friendly bio-degradable kind) and say “get outta here you yuppie bastard, or I’ll lift my stomach and show you my hidden piercings!” Yes, as you can see, living two secret lives can be stressful indeed
But what if I’m not alone in this? What if, on any given day, you’d find tons of inner geeks wandering silently but nerdiliicously amongst you? What if that nice middle aged accountant type that finds you all kinds of hidden rebates at tax time is actually and Orc Overlord of the 13th Dimension in some Dungeons and Dragons fantasy? Or that shaggy haired thirty something dude, slightly too mature maybe for that tramp stamp tattoo you can’t help notice above his ever creepin’ lower skinny jeans, that nearly ran you over whisking by with his moch choco latte a la skateboard transforms magically at night into this amazing, toast of the town wunder chef at your favourite restaurant, preparing this beef tenderloin that makes you want to open your pants after comsuming and sobbingly weep your way into hysterics for the mere joy of it?
But what does all that mean? Sure it’s easy to say never judge a book by its cover and call it a day, but that’s too easy a life lesson. I think there’s more to it then that. What if Geek Culture is truly on the rise? What if all things uncool were suddenly – GASP- cool, not just to me but to everyone?
To investigate further, let’s look at the evidence. On television, that love it or hate it barometer of all things pop culture worthy, shows like Glee (a show centred around a high school glee club people – how the hell did show choir become cool????) and The Big Bang Theory, (so very geek-tastic, I don’t even get half of what they’re referencing!) rule the airwaves. Can you imagine a show like Dynasty, or worst, LA Law, premiering these days? Why, the nerds would have that mutha off the airwaves in weeks I tell you! Go to the cinemas, and you can’t possibly escape the glut of superhero movies that abound (Thor, Green Lantern, Captain America) with more scheduled to come next year and the year after that (The Dark Knight Rises, The Avengers, Superman: The Man of Steel, Iron Man 3, Thor 2)….it may be sad I know this, but trust me folks, the list simply goes on and on. Who are they making these movies for, dear reader? YOU? I didn’t think so! So, at this rate, look out when Entertainment Weekly is saying you must run, not walk, to the latest adventures of “The Yellow Armadillo” or “The Rainbow Chandelier”. And as for comic books themselves, DC Comics is making world news with a massive rebooting of their entire universe come September – a back to basics for their entire superhero line. Newsworthy? Sure. These much beloved characters have existed in some form of another for 75 plus years keep in mind. But the front page of the New York Times people, as well as all major media outlets around the world? What….there was nothing else newsworthy to report on that day?? And look to the music industry, and Mother Monster herself, Lady Gaga, our current Queen of Haute Couture. I saw Gaga perform live last March and got to hear her describe firsthand her insecurities in her youth, and what it was like being an outsider and being bullied by peers growing up in upstate New York, where she was a suprising good student (she even spent summers in “nerd camps”, aka enriched learning courses learning about NASA and cow dairies and the like) and was often viewed as too provocative or too eccentric, and therefore a freak of nature, and that didn’t fit in. Well, let me tell you, this uber-freak is gathering an army – an armada even – the likes of which we may have never yet seen in our pop culture world. And this is after Michael Jackson made red leather jackets sell like crazy. And her message to the disenfranchised is powerful, heartfelt, ever reaching, and real. Enough to move a nation even…a nation on the rise. But, it’s important to note that Ms. Stephanie Germano would know a little something herself about traversing these two worlds. She described her childhood as lower middle class, yet she grew up in one of the more expensive neighborhoods in New York City and attended the same private school as Paris and Nicky Hilton. But then again, who’s to say she didn’t pop out of the womb a first class nerd and decided then, the self aware genius that she is, that the time had come to infiltrate society right from the very beginning? I mean, who’s to say that she didn’t look around with wide unblinking eyes to all those pocket protectors and taped glasses and empty champagne glasses and discarded boas and said “You know what? I can work with this!” Hmmmm….
So maybe, all things considered, this double life of mine isn’t such a bad thing. Hell, it seems to have worked for Gaga, didn’t it? Perhaps straddling that twilight world between all things cultured and all things geektacular, between what’s seemingly all grown up and possibly pretentious to all things simple and childlike and downright silly, really isn’t such a bad thing after all. Maybe a good plan would be to keep that Superman shirt with its bright S logo on underneath that borrowed Armani shirt, so I might easily slip and slide into whatever disguise the moment calls for (damn, where’s that phone booth when you really need it?? Stupid cellular age!) Maybe keeping my CNN app and Anderson Cooper’s favourite Twitter updates at the ready, along with my links to AintItCoolNews and PerezHilton will keep me prepared at a moment’s notice for some heavy intellectual commentary or some hard hittin’ nerd throw down. Seems I DO have a plan to navigate through this strange and wonderful new world. So what the hell am I worried about. But….do you, dear reader, do YOU? Well, don’t say I didn’t warn you!