On a hot June afternoon in 2000, I joined my best friend Darin for lunch at one of our teenage haunts, Old Town Pasadena.
An afternoon in Old Town is a trip through time, back to when we were free of responsibility, and the world was filled with possibility and opportunity.
There is always a touch of sadness when we visit, because as we have grown up, so has Old Town. Thanks to the efforts of the Pasadena preservationists, the historical building facades haven't changed, but they are the only thing which remains the same. The empty doorway where a punk rocker once sneered at passing businessmen is now a Pottery Barn, occupied by a San Marino yuppie on her cell phone. The eclectic record store where we'd buy imported Smiths records is now a Wherehouse, its windows plastered with posters announcing the latest release from Ja Rule. Tourists stand uncomfortably at crosswalks, trying to ignore the homeless who have come to enjoy the trickle down economics of a prospering shopping thoroughfare.
All of this progress is not without its benefits, though. Old Town is safe, if sanitized, and the revitalization brought several good restaurants into the area.
We walked down Colorado Boulevard, following the same route as Pasadena's claim to annual fame, the Tournament of Roses Parade. We passed The Cheesecake Factory, several trendy Japanese noodle houses, and walked straight into Hooters.
Hey, Darin was engaged, and I'm married. Sometimes a guy's gotta know if he still has it. What'd you expect, a trip to church?
We walked in ahead of the lunchtime rush, so we could sit wherever we liked. We stood in the doorway, Bob Seger blaring above our heads that he was workin' on a night move, and chose the section with the hottest waitress in the joint. As we were taking our seats, she came over to our table: a cute-but-not-beautiful girl in her early 20s. Bleached-blond, fake tan, long legs. Hooters. Her name tag said "Destiny." She flirted with us as she took our order, all smiles and giggles. We ordered wings. Super Fire Hot, baby.
She stood up, and left to put in our order. Darin and I stared at each other. We still had it, and it felt good.
She'd only walked a few steps, when she stopped suddenly, turned around, and came back to our table. She looked at me, lustily. "Can I ask you something?"
"Oh, hell, yeah, Willie," I thought to myself, "The ladies still want your sweet action!"
My throat went dry. My face flushed and my pulse quickened.
"Sure," I croaked.
She screwed up her courage and leaned close to me, her full, pouting lips just inches from mine. Her perfume embraced me. Her ample cleavage seductively longed to bust out from beneath her thin cotton T-shirt. She drew a nervous breath, bit down on the corner of her mouth, and asked, breathlessly,"Didn't you used to be an actor?"
"WHAT?! USED TO BE?! I STILL AM!" I hollered, as images of a hot Hooters threesome were replaced with images of myself on Celebrity Boxing.
She immediately knew that she made a mistake. She thought quickly, licked her lips, self-consciously fussed with her over-processed hair and tried again:"Oh, I mean, weren't you an actor when you were a kid?"
All I could do was numbly answer,"Yeah, when I was a kid," as I hung my head and ordered the first of many pints of Guinness.
Funny story, right? Yeah, funny like when you watch another guy get kicked in the nuts.
In the days that followed, I tried to write it off. Tried to bolster my wounded self-esteem by telling myself that she was just a Hooters waitress, so she didn't matter.
But the truth was, this simple, scantily clad waitress had driven home with painful acuity my deepest fear: I was a has-been. I "used to be" an actor, when I was a kid. That weekend, my wife was out of town and I found myself in front of my computer, surfing the Internet, playing Diablo II, doing anything I could to get that Hooters waitress out of my mind.Yes, that's how badly it hurt me: I was actively trying to get a Hooters waitress out of my mind. While my wife was out of town.
Somewhere in that day, while I was battling the forces of polygonal evil on Battle.Net, I was hit with an inspiration: I would make a website and let the world know that I was still alive and still working. I had wanted a presence on the Web for a long time, but I had just never gotten around to it. I was offered the help of professional designers, many times, but I wanted to do the whole thing myself, for better or for worse. I didn't want just another lame celebrity website, existing only as a clever promotional tool. I wanted a website that looked more like one of your friend's sites and less like some Big Hollywood Jackass. I had absolutely no idea how to write HTML. I knew nothing of tables, CSS, RSS feeds, and the W3C, so I went to Yahoo! Geocities and created an account called "tvswilwheaton." I spent the next few hours using the Yahoo! Pagebuilder, doing a sort of WYSIWYG page design. The result was incredibly lame, but it was mine. I named it "Where's My Burrito?" after one of my favorite episodes of "The Simpsons." I looked at it, edited it, then edited it some more. I was proud of what I'd created and I posted a link to it in a small Wil Wheaton on line fan club and wondered if anyone would care.
People cared. Lots of them. They came by the hundreds, and then by the thousands. They laughed with and at me, and I began to keep a weblog. Just six weeks after I built the lamest web page ever, I opened the site you are reading now.
So, if this is really your first time here, you are in for a surprise!
I can promise you that I'm not what you expected.
By reading this website, you will get to know the real me, not the space-suited, enterprising young ensign, or the sweet, vulnerable little dead body seeker.
I'm thirty years old. Although I don't always take myself seriously (if I did, I would be in an urn next to River Phoenix by now . . . those people who are the real life inspiration for The Comic Book Guy have been giving me shit for decades), I am politically active and aware. I passionately believe in progressive causes, freedom from religion and government intrusion, and the right to privacy -- on line and in your home.
If you've come here looking for a washed-up, former child actor, I guess you could find that. But if you're willing to look beyond the surface, and challenge your preconceptions, you will get to know me for who I am now: a very happy husband, step-father, and writer.
So now that you've been properly warned, you may enter, and experience the lameness that is WIL WHEATON DOT NET.
I love you, Wil Wheaton! Let's be friends!
You're lame, Wil Wheaton. I hated Wesley, and I hate you.