Saturday, April 13, 2013

My Life As A Blerd

Many of you know me as an athlete as well as a writer. Though I started lifting weights when I was twelve, being an athlete was a fairly late development in my life. Before that, I was just a big gangly kid who read horror novels and comic books and wrote poems. I was an awkward kid. I had growing pains that kept me from running track or being much use on a basketball court or a football field. Besides, I had only a rudimentary understanding of those games and even less interest in them. I was shy, so I was often teased, despite (and often because of) my freakish size, six-two by the age of twelve and six five by the time I was fourteen. As a kid, I was the guy who'd rather read a horror novel or watch Creature Double Feature than watch a basketball game, who'd rather watch Star Trek than the Super Bowl, whose breath could be taken away by a Renaissance painting, but was bored to tears by baseball. I was the kid who left the party early because there were drugs and alcohol there, preferring to spend the evening curled up with a Stephen King novel. I was more excited by the latest issue of Discovery Magazine than Sports Illustrated. I watched PBS and listened to NPR. I didn't play Dungeons and Dragons, but my best friends did. I collected comic books. I dreamed of owning a telescope and a science kit and wanted to build my own robot. I cried while listening to Prince songs. I couldn't rap or breakdance or dance like Micheal Jackson, but I spent hours in front of the mirror trying my best. But I could barely pull off a decent two step with a twist until I was damned near twenty. I could kick ass, but other than that, I was a nerd. And I still am. Living in Texas these last few years has hammered that fact home.

I'm a writer, an artsy-fartsy liberal. I don't hunt or fish or have any desire to own a pick-up truck or build anything with power tools. I still don't get the attraction of Sunday night football or spending a day drinking beer on the back porch or the couch. I'd still rather read a book or watch a horror movie. I love boxing and MMA and being an ex-fighter keeps me from having my man card challenged, but I still get the looks.

People are still surprised that a guy my size never played basketball or football in high school. I went to Creative and Performing Arts High School where I learned to write poetry and angst-ridden Existentialist prose instead of how to slam-dunk or tackle a quarterback. I grew up in the ghetto during one of the most violent decades in history, but I was never a gangster. I didn't use or sell drugs. I didn't carry a gun. I fought for fun, and because you had to fight to survive, but I never killed anyone. I did what I had to do, but I didn't glorify it. I was the good kid.

Growing up in Philadelphia as a young, Black, male who wasn't interested in sports, who read Tolkien, Asimov, King, McCammon, Barker, Nova, Scientific American, every Marvel comic I could get my hands on, wrote poetry and short stories while dreaming of getting published in magazines like Cemetery Dance, Twilight Zone, and Night Cry, watched horror movies and Kung Fu flicks obsessively, and listened to Prince like it was a religion, I could not have been more different from my peers if I'd had a dick growing out of my forehead. I was an outsider and I still am.

When they hear that I am going to a horror convention, my co-workers snicker and ask me if there will be people in vampire costumes there, equating KillerCon with news clips they've seen of ComiCon and DragonCon. They invite me to spend a weekend with them at "the deer lease" hunting, and I politely decline. Frankly, I'd rather be dipped in shit. They ask me if I'm playing in the company softball, golf, or fishing tournaments, and again, I politely decline. I'm just not that kind of guy. They talk about spending the weekend working on their truck or the new high-caliber assault rifle they spent half their paycheck on and I talk about the new limited edition Jack Ketchum or Ed Lee novel I picked up to blank stares. That's cool. I'm used to it. It's all lovely. I know who I am and I am comfortable with it. I am the former US Heavyweight  Muay Thai Kickboxing Champion. I trained the former UFC Heavyweight Champion. I am the writer of The Resurrectionist, Succulent Prey, Yaccub's Curse, Pure Hate, and a dozen other novels and novellas. I have run marathons, acted in action films, been a runway model, dated runway models, and read poetry in the nude. I am the husband of Christie White, the father of Sultan, Isis, and Nala, the son of Floretta White, and I am a nerd. I am a Black nerd, a Blerd, and I'm damned proud of it. I wouldn't have it any other way. Word to the motherfucker.


Ronnie McPhee said...

You're right, of course.

Coming from it from another angle, I'd never have suspected the writer of 'Population Zero' was a big, black kickboxing champion (at least not until I reached the 'about the author' page).

Partly, I suppose that's because almost every other horror writer I've encountered has been a white, balding, middle-class guy with a paunch, but also because, well... who would suspect that?

We should all have moved past such one-dimensional concerns, I guess. In the 21st century, it shouldn't be surprising in the least that a guy like you is into the kind of shit he is and capable of the kinds of shit he is... but it still kind of is, isn't it?

Ah well. Maybe in a couple more decades we'll all be over it.

Anton Cancre said...

Oddly enough, I get the same reactions when I talk to people at my work about going to conventions. Even sillier is that many of them go to cons, but are confused as to why someone would go to a Literary one. I work at a middle school, by the way.

Weston Ochse said...

This is as great an identity statement as I ever saw one. Right on, my friend. And we thank you for writing and contributing to the world's literature. It wouldn't be the same with out you.