Probably the first obsession I had as a child was over Really Rosie by Maurice Sendak and Carol King. But I’m going to start later, after the New Kids on the Block obsession. I mean. You know. If I had one. Which I didn’t. Hey what’s that over there??? Oh, it was nothing after all. Moving on then!
1. 10,000 Maniacs As a child growing up, the churches I was raised in were sadly very negative and fear-based. I was warned against many things including evil music which may lead me “astray” and, eventually send me to hell. So when my 7th grade friend told me she was listening to 10,000 Maniacs I panicked a little bit that I’d chosen a friend who liked Satanic heavy metal. Go ahead: HAHAHAHAHAHA! When she finally persuaded me to listen I was absolutely hooked. It was my first experience with music (of my generation) that sang about more than just love or big butts. Now that I look back some of the lyrics are cheesy or elementary, but at the time I just felt so passionate about the subjects of the songs. Natalie Merchant was my idol, I absolutely adored her. I even punched a guy at school who dared to insult her nose (and I’d do the same again to defend hers or any other nose I happen to respect). I’ve never forgiven my mom from not letting me go to their concert because “people do drugs at concerts” and I guess she was afraid I might fall onto a joint and accidentally inhale it? (For the record I was not allowed to go see Nirvana’s last San Diego show because “don’t they fall down on stage or something?”) I did end up seeing Natalie Merchant herself in concert once and that was great, but just not the same. I told all my friends they should call me even in the middle of the night if they happened to see 10,000 Maniacs or Natalie Merchant on TV (life before the internet was so hard *sigh*). I decried the replacement of Natalie with Mary Ramsey. I called record stores regularly to see if they had rare copies of the original vinyl records the band put out. When we were in London I grabbed a copy of In My Tribe that had “Peace Train” on it since it was no longer available on CD in the US. I was utterly enveloped in 10,000 Maniacs for years and years and to this day, even if for no other reason than sentimentality, I hold them close to my heart (you may remember that my minivan is named Natalie Bubbles).
2. Jurassic Park I didn’t see this movie right away. In fact I didn’t see it for months. I wasn’t really interested in it until it came to the $2 theater in January the following year. I remember having a bag of Cheetos in my hand which I gently put down, uneaten, about four minutes into the movie. And I was glued to that story for approximately the next six or seven years. That night I had a hard time walking home because I was fairly certain a tyrannosaur would come bounding out from behind a building (and this was the original movie, not the sequel in which tyrannosaurs did, in fact, come bounding out from behind San Diego buildings). Over time I came to (almost) literally believe velicoraptors lived under my bed. This was not helped by the fact that my high school boyfriend pretended to get dragged under (which was one of the awesomest things he ever did. And he did a lot of awesome things). I had to run in from the hallway and leap onto the bed, lest they reach out and pull me under. I read the book and then the sequel, dutifully saw both following movies the night they opened (both of which were still pulling heavily from the original book). I bought the soundtrack and the toys and carried a tiny Jeff Goldblum with me wherever I went. I was so obsessed that I think I colored my friends’ high school experiences – we all made a point to use the metal service stairs in the mall so we could thump down and pretend we were the tyrannosaurs. I was so faithful to the damn movie that I even rode the ride at Universal Studios more than once. And I don’t do big scary rides. I lived, breathed and ate Jurassic Park until….
3. Hitchhiker’s Guide I was aware of this as a child. My mom had the book and the game for the Commodore. But she told me it was “for grownups” so I assumed it was some boring copy program. I assumed the book was the manual for the program. When I saw Summer reading it in 11th grade (her 10th) I thought maybe I was mistaken and I read it over the summer. And by “read” I mean “consumed voraciously”. I’d never read anything like Douglas Adams’ writing before and was hooked. The way he saw things and the way he used his words to express his humor seriously changed me. Aside from reading everything he wrote that I could get my hands on, I pulled out the computer program and found out I’m terrible at it, I watched the BBC miniseries and found out the 80’s were terrible at special effects and makeup, and I made all my friends who would would listen to me read the books, too (final count: two more friends). And with this obsession I colored not only my friends’ high school experiences, but possibly the entire school’s. Summer and I, as leaders of the drama club, used the series to promote our club. We made signs that said things like, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has this to say about Stage Company: Mostly Harmless.” And our fellow students looked at us like we were maybe a little bit insane. I’m sorry, fellow students. (I’m really not.) Being drama nerds, we got creative with our lockers and the day we were assigned them we brought in paints and wrote geeky Hitchhiker’s Guide phrases all over them. I even drew the green guy. (Interestingly, the school officials had a big problem with our, er, graffiti, but instead of confronting us directly, they spoke to the rest of the school about it and enforced it in all the buildings besides ours. Moral: Drama Nerds are scary.) In college I went so far as to adapt a scene from the book and make it into a short film (which was TERRIBLE and I hope to GOD it’s been lost to time). When we went to Europe in 1996 we got hold of a phone book and started trying to call Douglas Adams. As it turns out there were a shitload of Douglas Adamses in London so we gave up pretty quickly. (Update: OMG I wrote down some or all of them in my travel scrapbook! Although I guess it’s too late to try again. *sigh*)
4. Lost I just told Karen the other day that we first started watching Lost just as season two was ending and we threw internet safety to the wind and watched the entire second season online illegally in a week. She looked alarmed. Which is probably the right reaction because I think the sheer intensity probably aged my brain about 6 years in that week. And I don’t regret it. Lost was that awesome. Especially second season. That finale is still one of my favorite episodes ever. By the time this obsession happened I was a Grown Up so I didn’t have any lockers to paint and I’d rather buy real toys for my kids than buy myself Display Only toys, so this obsession was slightly more internal. But I did spend hours each week reading various internet forums and discussing various theories with Alex and making various inside nerd jokes with anyone else who would listen ever and some who would not. I even had a Dharma Initiative birthday party. I’d like to rewatch the series from the beginning sometime now that I know where it’s going (and all the places it’s not).
And there have been other things like the books by Madeleine L’Engle and the story of Harry Potter that may not have qualified as full-blown obsessions but they are just as important to me as the listed items above and are now an important part of the fabric of my life and I can just as geeky about them as I can about my obsessions.
And, again, looking at this list, comprised entirely minus one item of Geek Things, I’m just continually astonished at how long it took me to realize I’m a nerd. But that’s still another post.