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Behind Every Geek, Stand The Parents

A week ago I was out with my father at the record store as he looked up new jazz and R&B stuff.

He said he’d treat me to something.

(I can’t let this phrase go, “record store.” No one calls them record stores anymore, but no one’s come up with a good-enough replacement. “Media market”? Nope.)

I picked up Tori Amos’ latest album, Night of Hunters.

When I showed Dad what I got, he replied, “Oh, your girl!”

He would know.


Dad was there from the very early days of my Tori Amos fanboy days. I picked her photo out of his music-club brochures. He’d make me tapes and listen to Little Earthquakes and Under The Pink alongside me.

It was true music geekitude. And everything I learned about being a music geek, I learned from him.

Because behind many geeks, I imagine, are said geek’s parents.

I give special praise to the parents of geeks.

While all loving parents have to sit through a bunch of things they don’t like, just to spend time with their children, parents of geeks often have a much-tougher gauntlet of off-color stuff to endure. It’s one thing if your kid likes baseball, and another if he’s begging for money to attend Monster Mania.

Several of my nerd-traits and geekeries are traced back to my parents; smart, working-class, no-nonsense people.

My father is one of those special levels of geekdom, the audiophile music geek who subscribes to issues of Audio. My mother’s penchant for keeping records of everything, as a city clerk, fostered my catalogs of comic books, my compilation tapes of songs on the radio and music videos recorded from MTV and VH1.

My completist nature has its roots in my father’s music collection, an encyclopedia of jazz and R&B from the 1920s up through today. His mixtapes were so good, my uncle’s radio DJ friends used to take them and play them on air. And he was just as excited clipping the G.I. Joe action figure file cards, checking off the newly acquired figures from the back of the packaging, and targeting the remaining guys to buy.

My parents didn’t always understand whatever geek stuff I was into. But it was always fun to share it with them, and even more fun when I’d catch them enjoying it too.

My father will say now that he watched Batman: The Animated Series just to keep me company, but I remember him commenting on how each episode was a mini-movie, and how much he loved the Batman costume. Or that he wanted to see The Fifth Element and Star Trek: Nemesis in theaters as much as I did, that one of his favorite movies is The Day The Earth Stood Still, and that he’s seen Avatar about 10 times.

My mother spent weekends staying up until 3 a.m. watching Troma gross-ploitation films such as The Toxic Avenger and Class of Nuke ‘Em High 2: Subhumanoid Meltdown on USA’s “Up All Night.” And she’d sit with rapt attention as I talked through the plots of Dark City and Tron: Legacy.

I persuaded them to see the first Lord of the Rings movie when it came out in 2001.

They protested at first; my mom was all, “I don’t know, it’s all swords and wizards.” They saw it, and couldn’t stop talking about it. My father wants to be a hobbit because he’s just like them: he’s short and stout, doesn’t wear shoes, loves a good beer and a smoke. When we saw The Two Towers in the theater, my mom was the one muttering “Oh shit!” whenever Saruman’s army of 10,000 uruk-hai marched into view. Like they were real.

It’s very doubtful I’ll have children, but I’m seeing many of my nerd friends spawning theirs. Will they be able to pass on their nerdery?

For me, the line stops at naming your kids after Firefly characters, but I won’t judge.

This family embraces their Next Generation of geekery

I hope the day comes when my friend Scott bestows his love of Buckaroo Banzai to his children. That Gina’s daughter enjoys The Monkees at age 3, but later on she’ll pick up those Kate Bush albums. And may Erica give her son a touch of hipster-goth cool.

May all my geek friends fare well, because even if their kids don’t like their geek obsessions, they’ll at least come to know the love, passion and dedication it takes to be a true geek.

I’ll just be the cool uncle giving out Preacher graphic novels and explaining why the original RoboCop is genius. And my father will still have his Gandalf and Saruman figurines standing atop his wood-paneled ADS 3-way speakers.

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