I was in all ways a better and more interesting person when I was a little kid. There is one main difference between me as a kid and me now. As a kid, I followed through with shit. Did I want to learn about medieval history as a kid? Then by god, I read every single book ever about medieval history. Did I want to learn how to draw the Superman symbol? Then I would sit at our kitchen table and repetitively draw that symbol until my fingers bled.
These days, I have no attention span. I can’t even manage to make it through the first season of Lost, which is a show that I like. I have the DVDs, and I’ve only ever made it as far as the polar bear. What is my problem? The problem is that I’m an adult. I’m stressed out, I get distracted by booze and sex, and I have limited time and resources. It is all very sad.
Anyway, here is a partial list of the things that I was obsessed with as a kid, as a reminder that I was an interesting person once. (And you were probably an interesting person as a kid as well…)
If I could do my childhood over again, I would definitely spend way less time on origami, the Japanese art of paper-folding. No one is impressed by origami, and especially no one is impressed by origami when you are an adult. As an adult-type-person, I have attempted to make origami cranes for a girl at bars, as a way of “breaking the ice” and starting a conversation. All this does is result in the girl moving to a different section of the bar. Or, if all the seats are taken, then the girl will start wildly scanning the bar with her eyes, hoping against hope that an empty seat will open up.
As a kid, I wasted hundreds of hours on origami – even to this day, I can make multiple magical animals that no one gives a shit about – cranes, ducks, frogs, horses, cormorants, dragonflies… But as it turns out, turning a piece of paper into a differently-shaped piece of paper is just not impressive, and moreover, it can be accomplished far more quickly by the simple “crumpling the paper up into a ball” method. Oh well. FML. FML for real.
The other thing I remember about origami is that a Japanese legend says that if you make a thousand paper cranes, your fondest wish will come true. I attempted this as a kid, but around about crane sixty, I already knew what my fondest wish would be – I wanted to never see another goddamn paper crane again for the rest of my life. So I stopped. FML again.
I don’t know what my deal was with Japanese shit as a kid, but this was probably a spin-off of the whole origami thing. Anyway, as a six-year old, I decided that I would learn to speak Japanese. But here’s what I actually learned: Japanese is fucking hard! I spent long boring, boring hours on Japanese, but I could only ever remember how to draw the word for “sun.” I was going to say here that I still remember how to write “sun,” but that is a total fucking lie. I do not remember. I know; like you even would have been impressed that I still knew how to do the thing for “sun.”
Joan of Arc:
Perhaps my oddest obsession as a kid was with Joan of Arc. I was fascinated by Joan of Arc, because I read in a book that she was “burnt to the stake.” Because I couldn’t spell correctly, I thought this meant that when she was burned to death, all that was left of her was a juicy T-bone steak. (In my imagination, this resembled the steaks featured in Tom & Jerry cartoons.) This obviously turned out not to be true, but the whole steak/stake thing was sufficiently gory to capture my imagination, and so I started reading lots of books about Joan of Arc and about medieval history.
As an adult, I remain fascinated by Ms. Jeanne d’Arc — and so I got a Joan of Arc tattoo, which was a stupid idea, for me to get a tattoo like that. (Although any tattoo is a stupid idea if you think about it for too long.) My tattoo is of the Cross of Lorraine, which is the symbol for Joan of Arc. It’s probably good that I don’t live in France, because soon after I got this tattoo, I learned that the Cross of Lorraine is also a fascist symbol in France. (It’s also probably good that I don’t live in France… because the only two French words that I know are “bonjour” and “oeufs,” which means that I could only ever say “Hello, eggs!” over and over again.)
Another thing that I have learned about Joan of Arc is this — if you’re obsessed with her as a kid, it’s supposed to be an indicator that you’re going to turn out gay. (It makes sense if you think about it; cross-dressing, martyrdom, etc…) I did not turn out gay, although I have always felt that this was a mistake on my part. Certainly, I would be better at being a gay dude — if only by default — than I am at being a heterosexual.
The one and only time that people thought that I was a genius was when I was four years old. When I was four, I could draw pictures of cubes and houses and things in perfect three-dimensional perspective, and for two weeks my parents were thrilled: “Our little Oliver is a savant-level GENIUS at drawing!” etc… There was, however, a sadder and more realistic explanation. My dad is an architect, and I was just copying the pictures that were on his drafting board. So much for that.
As a kid, I was obsessed with writing and drawing, but I quickly hit a wall, wherein my writing improved, but my drawing did not. So I can still draw really well… for an eight-year-old. The things that I can actually draw are the following: a dog; a bunny; a flower; the face of a pretty girl. Anything else, and the results are not pretty, and will definitely not be appearing on my mom’s refrigerator anytime soon.
This is the only one of my obsessions to bear any fruit. Comic books essentially taught me how to read, and they no doubt taught me how to write. Comics taught me about plot structure; they taught me about climaxes and angst and continued story-lines. They also did wonders for my vocabulary. Thanks to comics, I now know what an “exo-skeleton” is and what “slumgullion” is (hint: it’s a type of stew). Comics taught me what “invulnerable” and “omnipotent” and “telepathic” mean; it is due to comics that I am in any way smart. I became a writer because I wanted to write comic books, and though my drawing remains stuck at a shitty level, my love for writing continues.
As a kid, I had over four thousand comic books. They were all neatly alphabetized and placed in order of publication, and were safely kept inside acid-free pouches, which were themselves placed within acid-free boxes. I had heard sad stories from my dad about how he threw all his (now-valuable) comics out when he was a teenager; I was determined not to make the same mistake.
And indeed, I didn’t make the same mistake. I had all of my comics until I turned twenty-nine. Then I moved to New Orleans. Then my house got hit by Hurricane Katrina. Ahem. Farewell, Oh four thousand neatly-packed comic books!
I’m still sad about this, and there’s probably a metaphor in here somewhere — something about youth vs. age. Maybe it’s a metaphor for how you simply can’t hang on to the things of your youth; that they will simply slip away, and perhaps they will slip away all the faster, the more that you try to hang on to them. But whatever. I’m just still pissed that I lost my copy of Giant-Sized X-Men #1. It was in Near-Mint condition! With the first appearances ever of Storm and Colossus! Anyway, fuck my life again. The end.