Monday, February 13, 2012
ROBOT ATTACK FROM THE YEAR SIXTY-EIGHT!
I don't want to make this a regular thing, but I'd like to lay down a few more impressions of how my childhood shaped my life. I say impressions rather than memories, because, while I remember all the details of my childhood with excruciating clarity, I'm going to focus only upon those incidents that turned me into what I am today. These impressions are still influencing me.
Let's take a jog back to 1968, to my grade school years, spent marveling at the possibilities of those things yet to come, spent reading science-oriented books and magazines and fiction of the day, spent reading about 10 books a week, actually. And, yes, I could give an impromptu and comprehensive report on the contents of any book stuffed into my bulging satchel. I was 8 years old.
One of my grade school teachers was a Mrs. Spears, a great big-boned woman with a broad, smiling face and ruddy cheeks and a spreading bough of hair like copper wire on top of her head and sparkling green eyes — I always thought she was one of us, I thought she was a kid at heart. Rumor held that she was a Morman, which was something highly unusual in southeast Texas in the 60s. But, then, Mormans are highly unusual people to begin with.
Mrs. Spears' class was a pleasure to me because every Wednesday she would close the door and draw the blinds — thus eliminating any external distractions — and pull up a sturdy wooden chair before the class and sit down and open a book and read to us from it. Her choice of literature was eclectic, to put it mildly, and very much unpredictable, but definitely the sort of stuff to stimulate a young mind.
I recall one book in particular, A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L'Engle, which had won a number of awards and was a fairly sophisticated book for eight-year-old kids to digest back in 1968. It was about a young girl's quest to rescue her father who was trapped in another dimension. It seems the girl and her father shared an inherited trait that allowed them to cross over physical dimensions, to travel in time by sheer willpower, right.
That's a pretty complex concept, even by the standards of modern physicists.
Mrs. Spears read a few chapters to us each Wednesday from that story, then opened the class for discussion. I remember she asked us to imagine the year 2000, what it would be like, and she wanted us to write about it and then talk about what we wrote.
Well... I already had my own notions about Time Travel back then. In fact, I'd been pondering an unconventional means of communicating across Time. As I sat in Mrs. Spears class, listening to the other kids babbling about flying cars and laser guns and all that nonsense, I thought that there must be a way to discern the true nature of the future, if only I had a telephone that would allow me to call myself in the future and ask a few questions.
I figured, in order to see into the future, all I had to do was mentally link up with myself at a future date. Establish a mind link across time, right?
While all the other kids were bumbling around in their Star Trek-induced fantasies, I was musing upon interdimensional communications. I remember becoming completely detached from the noisy scene in the school cafeteria, gazing out the window on an exceptionally clear and sunny day, TRYING to contact myself in the future.
Did I tell anyone about it? Oh, no, you must be kidding. They would've thought I "needed treatment," and I was smart enough to avoid treatment all throughout my life. Yeah, I saw a few counselors who determined that I had "anger issues," but they were utterly wrong in their diagnoses.
See, when a psychiatric counselor observes a child drawing pictures of monsters all the time, as I did, they tend to think it's an anger issue. No, I wasn't angry, the fact was that I LIKED monsters, I loved the misfits, I loved asymmetry, and I enjoyed the horrified expressions upon the faces of those who encountered monsters. In my mind, every monster is just a kid who stepped on an anthill, right? An outsider in the wrong place at the wrong time. Anybody can be a monster.
Monsters shatter the illusion that everything is normal and pleasant and comfortable. It's a matter of perspective, who's a monster and who's not.
Anyway, I remember trying to send these mental "gifts" to myself in the future. And it worked.
In the year 2000, after 32 years of decidedly carnal living, after drinking my ass off for 23 years following my father's death in 1977, after living like a goddamned heathen berserker, wrecking property and maliciously injuring those closest to me, after surviving that den of iniquity in Florida and returning like the prodigal son, something hit me.
I mean, it really hit me like a wallop — suddenly, out of nowhere, I had this resurgence of passion for toy robots.
As a little kid, I loved toy robots, and dinosaurs, and all the usual stuff that 8-year-old boys love. My passion for robots went a bit deeper than most in that I disassembled and modified and reassembled robots, trying to make them do things they weren't designed to do.
I lived for robots, I dreamed about robots, my first job mowing lawns was one of many labors in an Arthurian quest to obtain a ROBOT on lay-away at Goggin and Gorman's Toy Store.
In my 8-year-old mind, I had constructed a virtual reality populated by anthropomorphic robots, pursuing their various missions across space and time, okay? I cogitated upon robotic scenarios. Robots meant a lot to me back then.
But that childhood obsession, like so many others, fell away as adolescence descended and The System's mandatory education drones attempted to breach my intellectual perimeter. In short, I forgot all about robots for 32 long years.
Then, wham, in 2000 comes this all-consuming passion to collect robots. Out of nowhere. Except, boom, look back to 1968 and that little kid in the school cafeteria peering out the window on a sunny day, trying to send a message with his mind into the future.
It worked. It works. And it works both ways, I think, but more on that later.