I can pinpoint the place and time from my childhood that has steered my life – the origin of becoming a nerd. Prior to that moment on September 1974, I was your average mild-mannered kid growing up in the early-70’s, wearing wide collared button-up shirts, playing with Hot Wheels on a wicker chair race track. Little did I know my life was going to change forever.
It was the first week of second grade at a new school. Our class consisted of children from a variety of neighborhoods in San Francisco, many bused in, as an experiment to group so-called “gifted” children together, to form this new class (sort of like X-Men but without any mutant powers for us children). Since I knew only one other classmate, a girl, and I was too shy to actually talk in her presence, new friendships needed to be forged and quickly. Recess break came around and I walked out of the classroom to the school yard. Two of my fellow classmates, Chris and Jeff, had taken out a black Hot Wheel car from a pocket and began to play on the ground over in a corner of the yard, secretively trying to put something into the car. Immediately I was drawn to the fact that they were playing with a Hot Wheel so I approached and asked about the car. Chris replied that it was the Green Hornet’s car and they were trying to put a dead bee they had found into the car so they could go and fight crime. I had no idea who the Green Hornet was and why a bee would be in a car to fight crime but I was intrigued at that very moment and had to find out more.
I learned that the Green Hornet was a hero on a TV series showing on a local Bay Area TV station and usually broadcast just before the Batman TV series on the same channel. That same day I ran to the TV when I got home from school and tuned in to The Green Hornet and Batman. I was hooked though I found myself liking Kato more than the Green Hornet since Kato seemed to actually do more of the crime fighting work.
Chris and I became good friends after that and he opened my eyes to things like Star Trek, Superman, and Godzilla. I soon started reading Archie comic books because they were easily accessible at my grandparent’s house. I started reading other comics like X-Men, Batman, Superman but never collected comics like some friends did. I watched Super Friends on Saturday mornings. I was fast becoming the nerd I was always meant to be.
And then 1977 hit and Star Wars would forever infiltrate every day of the rest of my life. Star Wars blew my mind. When The Making of Star Wars aired on television later that year, I was inspired to make movies like Star Wars. My father gave me an 8mm film camera and I figured out how to make “stop-motion” animated shorts using Revell plastic model kits I had built of an X-Wing and Tie Fighter. I made Jawa eyes out of LEDs I had from Radio Shack electronic kits. I had a Don Post Darth Vader mask of my own.
The show brought series like Flash Gordon, The Space Giants, Ultraman, Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, and Starblazers to the now eager new kid audience to gobble up. And gobble up I did, as I would travel via skateboard and MUNI buses to a store in Fisherman’s Wharf called Galactic Starport and spend my extra money I would make helping out at my father’s TV repair shop on movie posters, memorabilia, autographs, and toys. By the time The Empire Strikes Back came out in 1980, I had amassed quite a collection and my bedroom became a Star Wars shrine with shelving filled with items from floor to ceiling. Thus my training was complete.
And now, as I near half a century in age, I am training my own apprentices, my children in 4th and 2nd grades, respectively. Training them in the ways of nerdom to join me so that together we can rule the galaxy and know the true power of being a Nerd of Color – all thanks to my life long friend, Chris, the biggest nerd I know.