The Best Way to Travel

I started this blog for several reasons.  First off, I wanted to get back into the habit of writing.  I wrote quite a bit when I was younger but really lost all patience with it in recent years.  Secondly, I wanted an outlet for my political and social opinions.  I think Facebook is okay for that at times but if that’s all it is, it becomes tedious for everybody.  Better to post my crazy shit here, where the only people who read it really want to be here and where I’m not beating people over the head with my opinions in their news feeds.  I’m just being polite, really :).

Maybe the main reason for doing this though is so that, some day when I’m long gone,  my kids will be able to read through all of my ramblings and maybe have a few laughs, listen to some cool tunes, and get a better sense of who I was.  Hopefully, that will be far in the future and I can leave them with tens of thousands of words.  I hope it will bring a smile to their faces some day.

I want them to know how different life is now compared to when I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s and how I became the nerd they know now.  They’ve never known a world without the internet or smart phones or even cable television.

I spent my free time in the summer riding my bike, playing baseball and football with my friends, and doing all the normal things kids did.  Winter months were filled with board games and card games.  My friends and I were in a weekly bowling league at Northpark Lanes(our team name was Blood & Guts).  It was just a normal, quiet, happy and fun-filled childhood.  Pretty average stuff but it could get kind of boring at times.  There were only 3 channels on TV.  Three, plus PBS!  Think about that kids, three channels and no internet.  What would you do to pass the time, especially in the winter?

Very early on, I developed a strong craving for any sort of entertainment that was different and out of the ordinary .   I started with comic books.  My father would make an almost daily trip to the corner store(yes, we actually had a corner store a few blocks away) or to Key Drugs at The Plaza(Irondequoit Plaza was just The Plaza to everyone) to buy his cigars(if I never smell those disgusting things again, it will be too soon).  It worked out well for me though, because he was an easy mark  and would always buy me a comic if I asked.  At the time, comics were only .20.  The Marvel Universe was endlessly fascinating to me and I kept buying comics through the early 80’s, when they became too expensive.  To see it all come alive on the big screen these last ten years or so is endlessly amazing to me.  The technology just wasn’t there to recreate these stories back then.  All we had were lame cartoons.

In second or third grade, we did a section on mythology and it was my favorite part of the school day.  I took out every book that the Southlawn library had on mythology and read them all, cover to cover.  It didn’t take long to finish those mythology books and I was left wanting more.  I started to read a few sci-fi books but they were over my head at the time.  It wasn’t until 6th grade(77-78), that I found another great escape.  A book was making the rounds at Rogers Middle School.  Everyone was reading The Hobbit!  Of course, the book was forty years old by that point, but there was a renewed interest in it and it was brand new to us.  It was the best thing I had ever read!  Remember, there weren’t a lot of entertainment options back then.  This was pure escape and I never wanted it to end.  I was crushed when it was over.  I wanted more.  What’s this?  Three more books?  Thank god!(I was already a non-believer in 1977, just an expression). There was an animated movie version of the Lord of the Rings coming out in theaters in 1978, which, looking back on it, is I’m sure why we all found the books to begin with.  The LOTR was a serious piece of work, not lighthearted at all like The Hobbit was.  I was absolutely crushed when(spoiler alert for the 3 people who don’t yet know the story), Gandalf fell in Moria.  I devoured those books in the Spring of ’78 and have reread them many times over the years.  I remember that my friends and I were in a bit of a race to see who would finish the series first.  I’m not sure any books have had as big of an influence on me as those did.  When the movies came out, I was so happy.  Peter Jackson did an amazing job(not the Hobbit movies, those suck) with them and I love to annoy the kids by reciting the lines before the actors do.  Getting to see this story come to life on the big screen and not look cheesy seemed like a pipe dream in 1978.  I also remember that as a gift for being in her first wedding, Vickie bought me a hard cover of The Silmarillion, which had just been released.  I was so excited to read it but honestly, it was dense, complicated, and not fully formed.  I had a hard time with it and have still not gotten around to rereading it.

There was no other Tolkien to read but I found plenty of other fantasy and horror books to read.  I loved reading Terry Brooks, Piers Anthony, and especially Stephen R. Donaldson and Stephen King.  In 1983, Donaldson came to Brockport to do a reading and sign books.  White Gold Wielder was just about to be released.  I asked Cheryl and Gary if they would take me and they said yes and we actually went to see one of my favorite authors.  They bought WGW for me that night and it’s signed and dated one month before the publication date.  It still sits proudly in my bookcase.  That’s a great memory.  Thank you C & G!.

My love of Tolkien and all things fantasy happened to coincide with some of my musical tastes.  My sister Vickie had a fairly decent little album collection, which included Zeppelin IV, Deja Vu,  and Living in the Past. I took to that music immediately and every night after dinner, I would lie on the bed in my sister’s room and sing along to her records.  From a very early age, I loved Zep and Tull, especially the acoustic stuff. It wasn’t until high school that I found my way to Fairport and Richard Thompson but I found them through Zep and Sandy Denny. I’m not sure at what point I realized that Zep was singing about Tolkien in a few of their songs but man, that sealed it for me.

I’ve been a lifelong Tull fanatic and this song is one my earliest musical memories:

I feel like it all ties together, my love of fantasy and British folk.

The only other outlets for fantasy and sci-fi were television and film.  There were a few movies that come to mind in the early to mid 70’s, like Westworld, Logans Run, and Planet of the Apes but there were actually more options on TV if you looked hard enough.  Star Trek reruns were on every Saturday night and I loved them.  There was a real future in space? I loved every one of those 79 episodes,  even Spock’s Brain, which is pretty stupid. There were also Twilight Zone reruns and Outer Limits.  Kolchak, The Night Stalker scared the heck out of me.  And then there was Dr. Who.

What a weird freaking show Dr. Who was! Tom Baker was the Doctor when I started watching it.  He was smart and funny.  The sets were low-budget and cheesy but it had a great vibe to it.  When Baker left the show, I stopped watching it and only recently picked it up again(Tenant may have been even better than Baker).  Smith was not my favorite and the jury is still out on the latest Dr, although he is starting to grow on me.

I went to a Dr. Who convention at the Holiday Inn in downtown Rochester in the early 80’s and actually got to meet the Brigadier!  I’m guessing this does not mean much to anyone who may be reading but I thought it was damn cool.

The thing to remember kids(I’m really talking to my kids here but you can listen in), is that being nerdy back then was not widely thought of as being cool.  It’s not like it is now with Comicon and The Big Bang Theory, etc.  Being nerdy then was more of an underground, badge of honor, kind of thing.  It was not mainstream and you could pretty much guaranty you were going to be made fun of.  Going to a Dr. Who convention in 1981 was just about as nerdy as you could get.

There’s more to tell but that’s a good start for now.  Live long and prosper and remember kids, thinking will always be the best way to travel.


2 thoughts on “The Best Way to Travel

  1. Did you ever read Count Zero or anything by William Gibson? For me those books are right up there with Dune and Donaldson. It’s a bit more blade runner and so speaks to my particular psyche maybe more than it would for you but give it a try. I also grew up on the outside in the nerd world only to find that world sucked into the mainstream. Personally I never felt like it was any kind of badge.. honorable or otherwise. It’s just what I was and I couldn’t stop being it if I wanted to.


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