Monday, June 12, 2006

Answer to Dweezila, 2

Kids didn't wear backpacks in America in those days. You just carried your books. If you were unpopular, somebody might knock the books out of your hands and into a mud puddle. Dirty water would seep into your algebra book, and soak your homework.

There was a TV show, of excruciating stupidity, called The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Crude Cold War propaganda, but I didn't notice that, of course. What I noticed was the swaggering hero's sidekick. This sidekick was a small, sensitive, reserved Russian defector, played by David MacCallum. I even remember the character's name: Ilya Kuriakin. He wore black turtlenecks. He had no home. He had hopelessly divided loyalties. He carried a black attache case.

Attache cases were fetishes of enormous power, in the years of the Cold War. Do you remember? I talked my mother into buying me one. It wasn't quite the same, somehow. It was plastic. It was too fat -- really it was more a dwarfish suitcase. But at least it was black. I carried my books in it to school, and I'm sure I looked quite ridiculous. It would have served to confirm my dork status, if that had needed any confirmation. I wore black turtlenecks, too. They somehow failed to make my pudgy pink Norwegian face pale, thin, sensitive and slavic like Ilya Kuriakin's, but I persevered.

There were always science fiction books stuffed into this case. I read all the science fiction in my school library. There wasn't much -- science fiction was still marginal in those days. So after school I went to the town library. It had a whole wall-full. I simply started at the A's (Asimov) and read every single one.

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