When I was 8 years old, my mind was at least 60% filled with these words: “Law of the Pack,” Akela, and “The Arrow of Light”. (The Cub Scouts are rife with symbology from Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book). I thought being a Cub Scout was pretty darn cool. I got to wear a dorky uniform, got to carry a cool pocketknife (like McGuyver), and got to go camping twice a year at Will J. Reid Scout Park, a secret camp, hidden in the center of a Long Beach residential area, right next to the Los Angeles River. Once, we even went on a weekend trip in Camp Tahquitz, a scout camp nestled in the ponderosa forest of the San Gorgonio wilderness. I still sometimes long for the nights spent under the billion eyes of the Milky Way, telling ghost stories around a campfire, and singing oldies while on KP.
But, I wanted more. I saw what the older guys were doing, those old enough to be Boy Scouts, and I wanted in. And I’m not talking about the smoking weed part. I couldn’t wait to go on week-long camping trips or multi-day hikes with nothing but the supplies I could fit in my external frame pack. I wanted to wear the marginally less dorky olive and khaki uniform, carry the slightly more tool-ed pocketknife, and go on the week-long, Southern California-wide, camporees at Camp Tahquitz.
Eventually, I did turn 12, which I suppose is obvious. I definitely did it, though, and I definitely got to do all those things I wanted to do as a younger scout… plus more, like the time we got airlifted by helicopter out of the Angeles National Forest. Also, there was that bear scare in Tahquitz, and that thing with the raccoons. And, that one time when the older guys got in trouble when they painted our Troop number on the roof of the Tahquitz commissary. And whatsername, the Environmental Science counselor at Tahquitz. Rawr. And the days spent at the archery range. And that one time I met Tommy Lasorda, and got to stand on 1st base line at Dodger Stadium. Fun times. Good memories.
Though, I’d say, I effectively ended my stint as a Boy Scout when I was 16, there are certain things I learned that stuck with me for the rest of my life. Lesson One: Be Prepared. Lesson Two: Do things you like. Fuck if they’re cool or not.
Arguably, I may have discarded the most the other tenets of the Boy Scouts of America over the past 15 years of my life (some, very justifiably so), but the Scout Motto, “Be Prepared,” continues to pervade my being. I took “Be Prepared” not only as “have the tools you need at any given time,” but as “know all you can about everything you can.” As a teen, that transcended scouting into areas such as computing, the internet, website design, comic books and anime. I’d say that “know all you can about everything you can” is definitely one of the currencies in geekdom. The deeper your knowledge, greater your worth.
Sidenote: It’s now, though, that I have to wonder. If geek is the new cool, are the cool kids geeky? And is the prom king/jock/class president the new subculture? Or have the true geeks found a deeper level of nerd?
Secondly: Do things you like. Fuck if they’re cool. Let’s be real. Yes, there is a subset of people that think, “Wow, you did archery and went camping as a kid? That’s pretty cool.” But I seriously doubt they hold majority opinion, especially in the 1990s. The cool kids weren’t earning merit badges and hiking with full packs. The cool kids were playing pogs or whatever. Or having pre-marital sex, or wearing awesome clothes, or smoking and huffing glue, or going on joyrides with their super-pomaded hair and letterman jackets. Cripes, my knowledge of “being cool” comes down to archetype. Anyway, I did whatever I wanted because I thought it was cool. Because I wanted to be something someday, not look cool now. Let’s just say that I’m glad those pictures are lost to time somewhere. If you think I dress poorly now… wowsers.
That’s an earmark of geekdom: Like an uncool thing, know as much as possible about said uncool thing. And if, again, we take this in context of D.B. Weiss’ definition of a geek, which I state in a previous article (an article I wrote while inebriated), this all definitely smacks of geekery.
You know what, maybe what this all really comes down to is a obsessive-narcissistic personality type, and I’m just offsetting responsibility to a set of rules to explain my behavior. It’s possible. I just made you read this for the LuLz. I don’t think that’s the case, though.
There is one thing – one weakness in my Boy Scout armor. I can’t swim. I never learned how. I’m pretty darn useful on land. But, when it comes to anything water-related, I’m useless. I’m fuckin reverse-Aquaman. he played the better odds, though, seeing how over 2/3rds of the Earth is covered in water.
Good job, TerraEarl. Terra-man? Earl, the Supra-Terrestrial? Fatso. Earl, the Fatso.
Special shout out to Troop 145, Long Beach Area Council, Dan Beard District, motherfukkahs!!