my mind is filled with silvery star

This is the second time in about forty minutes that I’ve wanted to change the title of an entry. First: "when i’m boss of the universe . . ." should be called "new slang", or "gold teeth and a curse" if I wanted to be slightly more obscure and rewarding to anyone who figured it out.

"i call the big one bitey" is a nice homage to a long ago time when The Simpsons was still consistently funny, but "antmusic" would be cooler. "dirk wears white socks"  would be even better, but "kings of the final frontier" would probably be the most obscure and rewarding (the ant habitat was originally designed by NASA, and I’ll let you figure the rest out on your own.)

Now this is a little weird: iTunes must know that I’m writing about music, because for the last seven songs, it has taken me on a little time warp to my teens. These songs are listed in the exact order that they came up. It was set to shuffle through my entire library (currently organized by album title), which is pretty eclectic, so the choice of tunes is particularly eerie.

Songs with their associated memories:

Cinderella Undercover – I am driving my brand new 1989 Honda Prelude Si 4WS to work on Star Trek. I don’t know why, but in all of my memories, it’s early morning, it’s cold, and it’s a little foggy. I loved that car, and it’s the same one that was just slightly better than Patrick Stewart’s, if you’ve heard that story.

Don’t Be Square, Be There – My friend Guy (who was also my stand-in on TNG) introduced me to Adam and the Ants via the Kings of the Wild Frontier album. I can still see the tape, an old TDK number with "Adam and the Ants" on one side and "Kings of the Wild Frontier" on the other, written in Guy’s realy cool architect writing, in a smoky grey case with no paper insert. Guy lived in Costa Mesa, and after I got my Mac II — in color, with four fraking megabyes of RAM, man! — I’d put it in my car and drive down to Guy’s on the weekend so we could appletalk our machines together and play NetTrek and Spaceward Ho! People often asked me in interviews how I avoided the drugs and partying scene that claimed the lives and futures of so many of my peers; I’ve just realized that this is a major reason why: when they were getting high and courting the paparazzi in night clubs they were too young to be in, I was sitting in Guy’s house playing really geeky games.

Still Ill –
When I was in my very early teens, I had one of those massive teenage crushes that consumes your every waking moment and requires you to listen to endless hours of The Smiths in your bedroom wondering why she doesn’t like you "in that way." This particular crush was on Kyra, who was so beautiful, and so smart, and so cool, and so a senior when I was a freshman it was never going to happen. Kyra introduced me to The Smiths (on Vinyl, no less), the Violent Femmes (in her BMW 2002 while we were driving to see Harvey at a local college) and was goth before goth was goth. Though I had such a massive crush on her, we were great friends, and she never broke my heart.

Pale Shelter –
I heard this on the radio in my mom’s car on my way to my first day of public high school at Crescenta Valley High School, and it will always remind me of that day. I was terrified. I remember sitting into first period history class, and not even knowing that I was supposed to write "per. 1" on my papers. I remember that it was nothing like I’d seen in movies and on TV, and how the kids in all my classes were so cruel to me. I was shy, I was scared to death, and I was so withdrawn as a result, they all decided that I was aloof and arrogant and I never got a chance to correct that first impression. Wow – as I write this, I can feel that terror all over again. I feel it in my muscle memory and in my soul. Gods, I felt so tiny as I walked across the quad on that first day, like a little kid who lost his mom in the department store. The time I spent at CV was the absolute worst in my life.

How Beautiful You Are – Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me was the first compact disc I had, and it’s a good thing, too. I love this record so much, I would have worn it out in any other medium. This was also during the "W + K 4EVR" phase, and, nerdly little artist that I was, whenever I heard this song I longed to go with her to Paris and dance in the rain together. You know what I just realized? I don’t think I ever told her that I was so fiercely head over heels for her, and she either knew and didn’t call me out, or I had the perfect combination of infatuation and insecurity to keep it to myself. I wonder where she is today, and how she’s doing? Hrm.

Charge of the Batmobile –
My best friend, Darin, lived just over one mile from my house, across windy streets up in the hills above La Crescenta. We were such Batman geeks and we were such stupid teens, we frequently put this song on my tape deck and drove way too fast across those windy streets late at night between our two houses. It’s a miracle we never crashed or hurt anyone or anything.

Phonetic Alphabet – NATO –
This is from disc 2 of The Conet Project. I never heard a numbers station in my teens, but I spent a lot of time listening to my shortwave radio and my police scanner (I told you I was a geek) so it reminds me of sitting in the dark (because shortwave listening is so much better when you’re in the dark, for some reason) late at night when propagation was better, spinning the dial and thinking it was the coolest thing in the world to hear transmissions from the other side of the planet. I’m glad the Cold War is over, but boy do I miss the SW propaganda broadcasts.

And the Conet Project is the perfect coda to this trip in the wayback machine. That invisible woman’s voice, sending a message to some unknown person in an unknown land, shot into the ionosphere and back, captured by someone else in another time is almost too perfect. If I saw it in a movie, I’d never believe it. Good thing this isn’t a movie.

"romeo, romeo, lima, yankee, november, oscar, oscar, zulu . . . end of message end of t–"

41 thoughts on “my mind is filled with silvery star”

  1. You know, I’m really enjoying your writing here. I’ve seen that you’ve written two books at least, and intend to pick them up. A question though would be, “Are you going to write anything fictional?”.

  2. wow Wil. short wave radio? you really are a geek! I hope you include that in your SG CV as geek editor.
    I just gave my dad a copy of Just A Geek – he is looking forward to reading it.

  3. As l ong as nobody tries to make a tie-in to those annoying “gellin'” shoe cushion ads I’ll be happy – I hate those commercials, its like getting teeth pulled when they come on the tube, usually followed by one of those “enzyte male enhancement” commercials…
    ok Larry, calm down and go rerad a book or something geez, getting the vapors over tv has to be a sign of something…

  4. Had one of those “we’re just friends, she’s too cool for me” crushes in high school, too. I got up the courage to admit that I had wanted to ask her out the whole time the summer after graduation – and she asked why I never had, she had been waiting. Of course, by then she had a boyfriend. You can only regret the things you didn’t do.

  5. Hmmmmm….
    All these question and chat about high school. Wil write about high school? A cathartic experience for you and a wonderful coping mechanisms who are presently passing our day at our McJobs!

  6. One group that obviously supports the saying
    ‘You can only regret the things you didn’t do’
    is the Catholic Church.. :)
    Live and learn.

  7. I completely understand what you mean bout shortwave being better in the dark, somehow. I always close my eyes when searching for something I cannot exactly reach (like in my purse, the back of the cabinet, under the car seat), as if the lack of visual stimulus will make me more focused. :)

  8. I just made a valiant attempt at playing some Shins “Chutes too Narrow” for my 9th grade class and they all stared at me like I was a pod child. I’m going home now.

  9. Police scanners were the ‘IN’ geek gadgets the late 80’s and through the 90’s.
    I still have my old radioshack Pro43 scanner, but it looks as though the police have switched to digital radios, so all you hear nowadays are useless tones.
    At least some taxi dispatchers still use analog.

  10. Eeek. Your mention of high school just gave me hives. Amazing how those old wounds from that time in your life never die. You’d think by now, we’d be over it. I agree, you should write about it. Many of us can identify.

  11. “I say, better alive than dead…”
    Ahh, I miss Boingo. Do you like to listen to the “Farewell” album every Halloween and shed a tear like I do?

  12. Wow… Isn’t it sad how I think I know /any/ of those songs? *knew she missed out on something good being born into the 90s* Not that it detached me from the reading or anything; your flow was beautiful. I love it when somebody can just write out of their heart and their soul, and you do that, Wil.
    Careful with the highschool-hating, by the way. I’ve just turned onto that particular highway, and I don’t want to freak out too early in the “preparing you for the adult world by slowly suffocating your soul” phase, mkay? =P
    And REM /rocks,/ Mudboy.

  13. “…When they were getting high and courting the paparazzi…”
    You do yourself a disservice, Mr W, I believe. So much so I must delurk and name-drop in the same comment.
    I have a memory, fellow readers, of our good host attending a film premier with a number of his then-cohort (this takes place in the mid-80’s, (when ferns ruled the earth) and I was on hand to help wrangle the Iris Burton table at the party, and, as it happened, sat through the film with Mr Wheaton on my right). I distinctly recall commenting to someone else that Mr Wheaton seemed to be singularly bemused and even rather appalled at the excesses exhibited by his peers, either in the form of alchohol (or whatever) abuse, aggressive solicitation for future employment (perhaps not a bad thing, but still a failing of etiquette and good grace), or general bad manners (diva tantrums and bossiness).
    And there Mr Wheaton sat, staring blankly through the party, with a perfect ‘I have /nothing/ in common with these people’ expression, and probably thinking (as now he relates) much desiring to be home in front of the computer.
    So, Mr W, it was not, perhaps, lack of opportunity that kept you from the drugs and papparizi, you had already made other choices.

  14. This’ll be disconnected since I’m typing, baking brownies and waiting for Lost! I agree with you, the Conet Project is fascinating, amazing, and smidge spooky. I was going to write a longish comment about said numbers stations, but Lost is coming on soon (speaking of numbers). Funny how songs take you back…The Cure brings me right back to junior high even though I’ve been listing to them for nearly 20 years. (I just made myself feel MAD old…)
    Did you see Depeche Mode at the Rose Bowl in 1988? (Oh by the way – their new record Playing the Angel is the best they’ve done since Alan left the band.)

  15. I was shy, I was scared to death, and I was so withdrawn as a result, they all decided that I was aloof and arrogant and I never got a chance to correct that first impression. Wow – as I write this, I can feel that terror all over again.
    Exactly my experience when I switched schools in 8th grade. I was shy and had to make friends all over again.
    I had a high school reunion a couple of years ago and I’m still not sure I made the right decision to attend…

  16. Hey, at least you didn’t trip in front of the hottest, most popular senior, spilling your bag of Skittles all over him, and ending up with your skirt buttons coming off. Stupid skirts that button up the front. That was a stupid style. And it wasn’t just any old trip – it was the whole “hey, there’s a handrail here, but I’m going to try to walk through it because I’m dumb and can’t see it because I’m staring at a hot boy” kind of trip.
    I think every kid should be allowed to erase the memory of their first day of high school from their memories.

  17. I sympathize with the geekness and insecurities therefrom… trying to balance relationships with the cool kids, the drug-heads, the band kids and the geeks was taxing… and trying to show half the crowd that I liked Euchre more than Magic: The Gathering caused some tensions. (No one needs to know that my brother and I created our own RPG the summer I was going into grade 8 or 9, I can’t remember, but it was the coolest, I was always a Mountain Dwarf with an aze and a war hammer… those tough little bastards rocked.) Still, the most comfort I had was still from that C-64 blue screen and Bruce Lee (my favourite all time C-64 game) Yes my father bought a 386 when I was in grade six and that beast lasted until P-150’s were the new thing, but I still loved my C-64.
    I had a couple of liberal-minded friends who really didn’t care what you did and when you did it… but the rest … I had to appease them all. I did it with JENGA (and scrabble and boggle and upwords and then pulling out the RISK and pushing each group closer to AXIS AND ALLIES which was a really cool world domination game… don’t be the Germans, they’re bound to lose)
    Anyways, listening to The Shattering Song by Sausag, Ride Like Hell by Big Sugar (a great Canadian blues-rock act dressed in Hugo Boss) and Willie the Pimp by none other than Frank Zappa all gave away my geekiness and had to be defended as vehemently as the female cobra in Kipling’s “The Female of the Species”

  18. I loved Spaceward Ho!
    It was probably the longest lived game of any we ever played. I remember playing while dating my husband, before we’d set up our home network and had to play “hot seat” games. Massive universes, diabolical computer players and half a dozen real players running back and forth from the office to the living room. I think this is probably the only game I’ve purchased multiple versions of just so I could keep playing it as we upgraded computers.

  19. It’s funny to me, living in the same area where I grew up, how all the people who were ‘cool’ in high school are just deadly dull, wasted, old, fat, or all of the above. Whereas those who were tagged the dorks, the freaks, the geeks and the nerds are interesting people and I like them very much. I talked to a high-schooler recently, and he says the worm has turned, and now it’s cool to be a freak. Dork is the new cool. Finally.

  20. High school definitely bit the big one. But all I can do is laugh when I see the former jocks and pampered princesses trucking through the local Target, all fat and tired looking with a bazillion hand-me-down clad kids in tow. Us nerds really do have the last laugh.

  21. It’s amazing how many people have less than warm feelings about their high school years (yours truly included.) I heard it once said of the X-Men that they resonated with young people because of the feelings of alienation we all have at the time. I think it’s something even the “popular” kids feel. High School, in our culture, is the first time we really get to test our social skills out without mom and dad there to boost us (and unforturnately some people don’t have mom and dad there to begin with.) This isn’t to make excuses for those that prey upon the socially awkward, or to express a particular degree of pity for them. Having a hard time of it is no reason to be a prick. But I have been amazed by those amongst the “popular” set that did not torment me that later expressed an envy for my individualism.
    Of course what they called individualism I called be scared out of my mind. Being trans, I had a particularly miserable time of it. No, I wasn’t out then. It was the late ’80’s and quite frankly I got beat up for reading.
    I’m reminded of what a good friend once told me: “we are all fighting our own battles.” You, me, the bullies that tormented us, our teachers (both good and bad), the boss that berates you, and our man Wil’s peers who chose a significantly less wise course than he did. Anyways, I’m ranting.

  22. Paul Graham has a worthwhile essay on high school nerdliness.
    Having spent most of my life up to high school in a non-conformist private school I wasn’t (usually) bothered by being “not with the in crowd”. It was interesting that the “in” crowd reacted differently to me than to others since I didn’t care about the boundaries.
    “Yeah, I’m a member of the Chess club — why do you ask?” πŸ˜‰

  23. Longtime reader, first-or-maybe-third-time commenter. Three things.
    1. I had no idea you were a radio geek! Shortwave fan here too, plus a ham.
    2. I grin to myself every time I see you on I Love Toys in that ThinkGeek shirt.
    3. How can I go about getting an autographed copy of Just a Geek? I’ve been wanting it for at least a year now, and I have stubbornly refused to buy it unless I can get it signed. RuPaul let me buy his book and mail it to him to be signed, would that work? Will you ever sell them autographed again?

  24. What I really like about you, Wil, is that you have all these memories and can write about them so well. It’s like you were filing away all these feelings and thoughts all your life because you knew you were going to share them with the world someday.
    Sigh. At least you have high school memories. I stuck my head in a book in the 9th grade and didn’t surface until I graduated from college. All that time I could have been making life long friends and experiences, I spent trying to get all As. Which, despite my efforts, I never did accomplish. Somehow I didn’t realize I could have been doing both.
    And, you mentioned Guy! I haven’t thought about Guy in ages. I wonder what he’s up to now…

  25. Back in nineteen eighty-(mumblemumble), I saw Adam Ant at the local university, waited up all night to get seventh row tickets, I was the luckiest girl in the world! (“Stand and Deliver” was KILLER, man.) His opening band was this little up-and-coming thing from Australia, what were they called? (tapping chin thoughtfully) Oh yeah, INXS.
    Gordon Gano from Violent Femmes appears on “The Adventures of Pete and Pete” which are on DVD now. Gee he was a handsome man….

  26. I’ve been reading your blog forever, and I just made a typekey account. Clap for me. I share your interest in wilco. Jeff Tweedy played a livingroom concert at my house in October. I had to comment because the boy I had a crush on in highschool took me to see the Violent Femmes, and I lost my shoe in the crowd. I still have the other shoe.

  27. I love that last comment it almost has a Cinderella quality to it.
    Any word on the hosting gig? I keep hoping that when there is no blogging during day you are celebrating! I envision something along the lines of drinking Guiness, doing the happy dance and watching The Family guy.

  28. Nice blog today.
    I spent my high school years listening to the Indigo GIrls, playing D&D and working at RenFaires. I’m listening to Dar Williams, playing D&D with my oldest kid and directing a Pirate Fair.
    I’m not really in the same place I was 17 years ago, but now I want to go back to reread the ‘Climb so High’ post to remind myself!

  29. Reading this entry I am thankful for many things, but a few in particular:
    1) That I was not the only one who “Felt just like that in High School(tm)”
    2) That those days are long long behind me
    3) That I had a “Kyra” who totally “knew and didn’t call me out” and stayed my friend to this day anyways. (Thanks, Molly)
    4) I learned “Why Nerds Are Unpopular”:
    Oh and not to pick a nit, but, it’s “Cost so high The gain so low” –
    in contextus:
    “Your time has come your second skin
    The cost so high the gain so low
    Walk through the valley
    The written word is a lie”
    …Sorry my OCD is showing…
    But seriously, PiL is one of teh greatest bands EVAR. Further proof the Sex Pistols (and John Lydon in particular) were (was) neither stupid nor a fluke. If you haven’t already, read, “Rotten: No Blacks, No Dogs, No Irish” to find out why the cost was so high and the gain was so low:
    OH- And I totally feel old too. Thanks, Wil Wheaton – you bastard! :-)
    Now where is my Geritol?…

  30. Wil, in addition to the present for Don the swell security guard can you take & post his photo.
    I’d be more interested in seeing him rather than the Spongebob statue.

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