Saturday, October 15, 2011

On Being A Geek

I’m kind of a geek.

At my age, however, it is much easier to admit it.  I never would have said that when I was, say, 23 years old, even though it was true then as well.  Actually, anyone at this point in time can admit to being a geek and not have a whole lot of self-esteem issues.  Over the past twenty years, as science and technology has reached ever more deeply into almost every aspect of our lives, it has become more socially acceptable to be labeled as one of the geeky.  Even the thickest skulls can see that the things once stereotypically associated with being a geek (computers, electronic gizmos, science-fiction, robots, etc.) have made life immeasurably easier and much cooler.

Of course, not all geeks are science and technology geeks.  Take me for example.  I can find my way around a computer to some extent.  I can install software and empty my recycle bin.  But if you asked me to reformat a hard drive or do anything that requires taking the plastic casing off the machine, I would likely break into a cold sweat and have to go lie down. So “computer geek” is not really what I am.

Nor am I a “gadget geek”.  I have a cell phone.  I hate it.  I rarely have it on my actual person (it lives in my chariot), and it has not been off “vibrate” in months.  My current phone has been with me for three years now, and I have racked up a grand total of (are you ready for this?), 47 minutes.  The only reason I even have it is for emergencies.  Living in a rural area as I do, breaking down on the road can be a major problem.  It’s possible to not be within walking distance of any civilization.  Really.  And there’s no Triple A around here.  If you break down, you have to get hold of someone you know, and a cell phone is usually the only way to do so.  Otherwise, you could be eaten by a yeti.  Or so I’m told.  Also, I have several older relatives for whom I do a lot, and I want them to be able to reach me if there is a pressing need.  Trouble with that is, they don’t believe in cell phones, much like most of us don’t believe in the tooth fairy, and would not even think to call me on mine, even if they were starving to death and I was the only person able to bring them oyster crackers and sugar-free chocolate crème pie.

Ok, I DO have an iPod Touch.  I haven’t had it for very long, and it kind of scares me.  I can do so many things with it, and I know I am only scratching the surface.  I can convert  millimeters to bushels (or whatever), I can find the cheapest gas (usually 140 miles away), and have recently learned how fling upset avians at green porkers (that’s the game “Angry Birds” for those of you who have been vacationing in the Himalayas for the past two years).  Beyond that, the only use I have for it is my music.  (More on that coming up.)  I am afraid that if I am not careful, I might inadvertently launch a nuclear missile on a small foreign country with it, and starting an international incident can seriously throw off one’s day.  Can’t be too careful, you know.

I wouldn’t really consider myself a “sci-fi geek” either.  Sure, I’ve seen all the Star Wars movies, and had lots of the action figures (NOT dolls!) when I was a kid.  However, my interest in Star Wars as an adult doesn’t really go beyond having enjoyed the movies.  And I have never “gotten” Star Trek.  I’ve never been a fan.  It probably stems from childhood.   Back when Saturday morning programming was a HUGE deal to kids, Star Trek was the last show before the boring grown up stuff came on and the day grew exponentially less exciting.  It meant it was time to actually get dressed and go entertain ourselves.  Often outdoors.  Can you imagine?  So Star Trek, which was also the only non-cartoon on the Saturday morning slate (if you don’t include H.R. Puffinstuff, which I don’t), was the signal that the fun was over.  I developed kind of an aversion to it that remains to this day.

I am definitely not a “comic book” geek.  I associate comic books with waiting my turn at the barber shops to which I was taken as a child.  Believe you me, I had some damn unfortunate haircuts back then.  Plus, I’ve always been a fast reader, so a comic book to me would be like eating one jelly bean.

So, what kind of geek am I?  I am a music geek.  Big time.  Ever since I got hooked on rock music by the Eagles in the late 70s, I’ve loved music.  My first record, the big vinyl kind, was Freeze Frame by the J. Geils Band.  Since then, I’ve accumulated literally hundreds of albums in progressing formats: records, cassettes, CDs, and now MP3s.  I even had a few 8 track tapes.  At this point, my MP3s alone add up to more than ten days’ worth of listening without a repeat.  In my teens and twenties, I was lucky enough to have worked in broadcast radio, which was a dream job for a music geek like me.  To this day, radio is the road not taken in my life…the great “what if”.

If I am playing a trivia game with friends, they all steer way from the music questions, because I dominate.  If someone at work wants to know the name of a song based on a few lyrics, I am the go to guy.  If “Name That Tune” was still on the air, I’d clean up.

For me, the best way to unwind is to strap on my iPod, hit shuffle, and then lie back and vegetate for about an hour.  Nothing clears my head nearly as well. While a rock guy at heart, by collection is all over the road.  I’ve got rock, pop, metal, some folk, some blues, and even a little country, not to mention a smattering of new age, classical, hip-hop, and jazz.  These days I average about one new album a week.  (When I use the term album, I mean a collection of songs released by the artist together, not a vinyl LP.)  My latest is Nine Tonight, a live album by Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band.  Bob's stuff has only recently been released in the MP3 format, so I've got some catching up to do with him.

There was one other person I knew growing up who was a comparable “music geek”.  I won’t mention his name without his permission, but he took it to a whole new level.  We lost touch after high school, but I recently reconnected with him to discover that he taught himself to play the guitar (something that I am only middling at, at best), and then drove himself to follow his dream.  He’s now a big-time heavy metal guitarist in New York City with a number of albums under his belt.  He’s still the same guy though.  I am friends with him on Facebook, and every once in a while I see the notice that “Insert Name Here now likes Bananarama” or some such thing.  He may be “metal”, but his musical taste is all over the road, just like a true music geek’s should be. 

Like a true geek, I could go on and on about this topic, which is probably of only marginal interest to most of you, but I need to end it here.  I just noticed that I can download a rare Bay City Rollers double album at half price.


  1. I love everything about this post. If only because I am 24 (very nearly 25) years old and have been a self-confessed geek (and nerd - and I would hope you know the distinction as well as I) for most of my life.

    I'm probably not as good with music trivia from the last five years of pop music or anything before about 1970 - but everything in between, I got this. (And I play a lot of trivia - about once a week, and sometimes more.) My shuffle routinely follows paths like the one that happened yesterday: Jackson Browne (my absolute favorite) to Ludacris to Dixie Chicks to Massive Attack to Tool to Bonnie Raitt to Punch Brothers (bluegrass/folk).
    (Also, I just checked out of curiosity, and my iTunes would play for 18 days uninterrupted. Not that we're counting.)

    I'm also pretty good with movie trivia, mostly from the last 25 years or so - even ones that I haven't seen. Sometimes I'll be having conversations with people where someone will mention a movie, and I'll be able to discuss who's in it and what it's about, but then someone will ask me, "Oh, was it good?" And I'll say, "I don't know, I haven't seen it."

    That actually happens a lot, I guess.

    Anyway, geeks are awesome. Keep up the good work. :-p

  2. Also, I meant to say: I love the analogy of reading comic books = eating one jelly bean. And I feel the same.
    (And no, I have no idea why I just remembered to say that, 12 hours after the fact.)