Wednesday, February 2, 2011


  • 1973 is a big year: my sister Sara is born, and we move from suburban San Jose to another part of suburban San Jose.  It's a quiet cul-de-sac including other families with kids my age, a block away from my first school.  From '73 to '76, a real geek awakening occurs.  On my 5th birthday, my grandfather gives me a crisp $5 bill, with which I purchase my first G.I. Joe and extra outfit (and have a few cents change left) from the local Toys 'R' Us.  Super Friends, Underdog and Speed Racer make their presence known.  And both the original Star Trek series and the animated Star Trek series are in my standard rotation, while Syd & Marty Krofft productions like Wonderbug, Land of the Lost, Lidsville and H.R. Puffinstuff are standard viewing on Saturdays.
  • I continue my obsession with all things aquatic, influenced by hours of Sea Hunt and Flipper reruns and The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau, and the fact that I was swimming like a fish by age two (and would continue to take lessons throughout my childhood).  Invariably, the first outfit purchased for a G.I. Joe type toy would be the SCUBA set, and he'd start having adventures in the bath that very day.
  • I pick up a fascination with classic horror films due to the presence of Bob Wilkins on Bay Area television, and to my dad's Saturday afternoon viewing preference (when we're not out sailing on Lake Vasona).  I also develop a liking for Toho giant rubber monster movies, especially Gamera.
  • Interesting juxtaposition - Perhaps due to my dad's experience with military service, or to the bad taste in everyone's mouth from the Vietnam conflict, we are not allowed any toy guns.  No replicas made of plastic or wood, no cap guns, not even brightly colored squirt guns (we had other water weapons, but none of them were "gun" shaped).  Yet I had a collection of little green army men, and G.I. Joe sure came with his own arsenal of plastic weaponry.  In hindsight, I can understand not wanting your kid to simulate first-person gunplay, but I was definitely doing my share of third-person shooting with my action figures.  Perhaps there's a reason that to this day, I prefer third-person action/RPG videogames as opposed to first-person shooters.
  • I often visit my dad at work.  He's a computer programmer and data analyst in what will eventually become Silicon Valley.  I marvel at the big, spinning wheels of magnetic tape on refrigerator-sized computers.  I play an unofficial "Star Trek" game (with ASCII characters) on the terminal in his office.  He brings home stacks of used punch cards that I draw on or make into cutout characters.
  • The neighbor kids and I play superheroes by cutting out masks from construction paper and pinning bath towels and pillow cases around our necks.  Comic books aside from Disney characters and Archie begin to find their way into our home.  I am Superman for Halloween two years running, made possible by a costume lovingly crafted by my very craftarific mother.  The camp '60s Batman series is in syndication and is featured every afternoon on KTVU channel 2 as the main feature after a smorgasbord of Jay Ward cartoons hosted by Captain Satellite and puppets Charley and Humphrey.
  • Up to this point, Elizabeth Montgomery and Barbara Eden have symbolized female sexuality for me (usually in their evil twin brunette guises - go figure), but things are about to change as femininity shifts to become synonymous with strength.  Yvonne Craig as Batgirl stirs something within my very prepubescent loins, but it is Lynda Carter in Wonder Woman who really gets things rolling. Of course, I am already a rabid Six Million Dollar Man fan, with my Steve Austin action figure (complete with roll-up latex condom skin), so incorporating Lindsay Wagner as Jaime Sommers into my pre-adolescent fantasy stable is as easy as creating adventures for my legion of Mego action figures (including Marvel and DC superheroes, Mad Monsters, Super Knights, Robin Hood, Star Trek and Planet of the Apes characters). My first figure is Aquaman.
  • Sometime around '75, I play my first game of Pong on a friend's home system from Sears.
  • Bicentennial fever starts in 1975 and reaches a fever pitch July 4th, 1976, which we spend very quietly at my mom's parents' place out at Half Moon Bay.  I add the Mego knock-off Heroes of the American Revolution action figures to my collection.  It's rather comical to see George Washington and John Paul Jones do battle with The Hulk, but by golly I am absolutely riveted.
  • The summer of '76 is spent (when we weren't swimming or playing outside) camped out in front of my  dad's parents' console television, watching reruns of 1960s programs like Lost in Space, Banana Splits (and every Hanna-Barbera animated series ever made), and The Monkees.  We would pick up stakes and build a home in Aptos, California in August 1976, upending my friendships and social life, such as it was.  To cope with the move, I take my imaginary worlds with me.  Space: 1999 also makes its appearance on my radar, but I don't really get into it for a couple years.

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