Observations of a Geek Guy
I am a Singularity. But what does that truly mean? That means that in a world of Anomalies, I can stand out as being one of them, while still maintaining a Y chromosome. Yes friends, I am the lone male on the Anomaly staff, and as such am privileged to be one of the only male voices in a podcast/blog devoted to looking at geek issues from the female perspective. But I have found that my Singularity nature extends beyond just these hallowed grounds, and when I really think about it, I have been a Singularity for longer than I have even known about the podcast.
It was back in 2009 when Angela came with the PR team from the company she works for to the radio station where I was a news reporter. She walked by my office where she saw my huge Chewbacca Pez dispenser and my Darth Tater (Darth Vader Mr. Potato Head), and she immediately saw in me a possible listener. We chatted briefly about nerd topics, and I gave her my standard Nerd Test by asking which of the Star Wars movies was her favorite. She maintains that she gave the ‘correct’ answer in Empire…but so long as she didn’t say any of the prequels I knew we could be friends. It was really the briefest of chats before we went in to talk business, which we did, and afterwards we exchanged business cards and they left. It was only hours later that I noticed that Angela had oh so subtly, in a ninja-like fashion that I will admit I was impressed by, slipped a business card for the Anomaly Podcast to me underneath her business card.
Being the completest that I am, I started back at the beginning of the archive and worked my way forward, sometimes skipping episodes that were nothing but BSG…because I (still) haven’t seen it. DON’T JUDGE! It’s on my Netflix list…
But that’s the short version of how I started listening to the Anomaly podcast, and due to the proximity that I have to the hosts I was able to make the leap from listener to hired muscle to assist in setting up the Anomaly booth at the Austin Comic Con, which was my first Con experience. I will say that I am probably spoiled beyond belief now, and any Con experience without a booth to go back to and recharge will pale in comparison. And now I am officially on the Blogging Staff! Woohoo!
I told you all that to tell you all this. I’ve officially been a Singularity since 2006, because that was the first year I worked at Camp Mitre Peak. Mitre is a Girl Scout camp located WAY out in West Texas between Alpine and Fort Davis, and is named for a Mountain that sits in close proximity to the camp.
It has the standard things you expect from a summer camp: a pool, an archery range, trading post, cabins, dining hall, pavilion and so on, but it also has a huge crafts building, and a barn with horses. This is a dream camp for just about anyone, and the girls that come here often come back year after year because it’s just so much fun. This is my third summer working at this camp, where I am known as Biscuit. We all get camp names. I was the Head Cook back in 2006, and I was the Archery Director in 2013, and in 2015 I was the full time Archery Director once again…and I was the Head cook for the first two weeks of camp. Yeah. I know. I’m a masochist. Because I am the Singularity, I felt like I had a unique perspective on how this camp, and Anomaly in general, can relate to young women, so I paid close attention and may have taken any opportunity I could to have the Anomaly podcast running in the kitchen.
The Importance of Education (Music and The Anomaly Podcast)
…I kept my eyes open, and there was a lot of geek culture represented among the campers that came this summer. There were plenty of t-shirts, hats, and backpacks featuring comic characters, and the girls would readily and happily talk about why they like the characters they do.
The kitchen. It’s not my favorite place to work at camp, mostly because it’s isolated. You don’t get to really interact with the girls because you’re stuck making food or washing dishes all day. Plus, it kills my back. For those of you who don’t know, I am a big dude, and all that bending over was hell. But one thing you can do in the kitchen is train the 2 kitchen aides that are there with you. And I did. We started with simple things like, “This is Stevie Ray Vaughn. Listen and pay attention. There will be a test later.” Then we went to more advanced topics like, “This is the Traveling Wilburys. They were the first Supergroup. Their members were Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison, George from the Beatles, and the guy from Electric Light Orchestra whose name everyone forgets.” (Jeff Lynne…thanks Wiki.)
Then after musical history class I would occasionally put on an Anomaly podcast for us to listen to. Luckily my two kitchen aides were both nerdy, so this was something they also enjoyed. During our off times we would often find ourselves chatting about nerd topics and I was always overjoyed to hear their thoughts on nerd topics or just to hear them talk about issues of a typical 16-17 year old. Nothing makes you feel older than hearing teenagers talk, but it gives one insight into how things have changed since you were that age. But the nerdiness didn’t just happen in the kitchen. The staff skit for the leadership team was all about being Wonder Woman. The gag at the end was, of course, me coming in wearing a Wonder Woman apron and talking about how I am really Wonder Woman. But I kept my eyes open, and there was a lot of geek culture represented among the campers that came this summer. There were plenty of t-shirts, hats, and backpacks featuring comic characters, and the girls would readily and happily talk about why they like the characters they do. So I conclude that the nerd is strong among the young women of today, and the ranks of Anomalies will continue to grow and thrive.
Anomalous Archery and other Martial Skills
But that’s just a small part of what made me feel so proud inside when I looked at these young ladies. After the first two weeks in the kitchen, I got to spend the last two weeks teaching archery and various crafts and things. I have been shooting archery since I was six, and teaching Archery to youth since I was 15. At SOME point I will teach Jen. But I also like to sprinkle some education into my teaching of martial lore, so I talk about the physics behind archery, and I talk about the history of ranged combat. I even had a spear and an atlatl demonstration!
Words can describe many things, but it can’t touch the feeling you get when you watch a young lady who has struggled to even get her arrow to reach the target hit her first bulls-eye. She lights up in a way that defies description. There is a peal of excitement and accomplishment that makes the hard work, the desert heat, and the perilous insect population worth hazarding.
“You’re Not Scary! You’re Funny”
Now you may notice that the pictures I am posting are lacking in any…well…Girl Scouts. There’s a very good reason for that. These aren’t my kids. I don’t have the right to publicly post pictures of them on this blog. That leads to another big part of my life at camp. Protection. Aside from myself, there is only one other male on the whole camp, that being the camp manager who lives far from the cabins where the girls stay and has his own agenda and pretty much stays out of the daily lives of the campers, whereas I am right in the middle of it all. I lived in a building called the Kiva, which also served as the place staff congregated during their off time. So, no matter what, there were usually 5-15 staff members hanging out when I would go to take my daily shower. I don’t know if you’ve ever had the experience of making a public proclamation whenever you go shower, but it really sets in that you stand apart from everyone else. It wasn’t a camp rule, but I made it my personal rule that I would not go to the pool when campers were there. I always called out in a very loud voice whenever I would come into an area where girls were staying. I never wanted to make camp uncomfortable in any way for any camper, so that’s what I did.
But there’s the flip side of that coin. I was quite literally one of two guys in a five mile radius. And the other one was rarely seen. That makes you an instant celebrity. I’m sure my natural goofiness and positivity help, but yeah. Biscuit is a rock star. But I also strive to be a positive male role model for all these young ladies. One camper made it her goal to walk up to me every day, smile as big as she could, and tell me, “You’re not scary. You’re funny.”
I would always put on a very not scary voice and say, “No! I’m very scary! Rawr!”
I have no clue what brought that about. Maybe that camper has some bad experiences with scary men in her life. But she knew that I was not one of those scary men. I was funny. Not scary. Words again fail to express how that makes you feel.
Then there’s trying to describe camp itself. The songs, the crafts, the silly catch-phrases that you come up with, the camaraderie, getting my nails painted, the occasional drama, getting really dressed up nice for the 24 hours off you have off, the majesty of the site, wasp attacks, the notes you get from staff and campers telling you how awesome you are, dealing with four foot long rattlesnakes, and the true affection between staff members, some of which you’ve only known for a few weeks. It’s like taking a vacation where you have to work really hard, but once it’s over you really don’t want it to end.
A Race Well Run
The best way I can put it is to tell a story. My wife also works at this camp, and at the beginning of the year, we decided that we would do a 5k race every month of the year. That meant that we would do one while we were at camp. We found one that took place 4th of July weekend, and when we told some of the staff that we planned to run in the race, a few said they would like to join us. That’s cool. The more the merrier. A few turned into about half the staff. We went and started the race together and as is natural, the more athletic ones outpaced the slower ones and we split up. I am, again, a big dude. To quote Baymax, “I am not fast.” But I am determined, so I push through and keep going, even if I am the slowest person participating.
The race had us go about a mile down the road, turn back and come to the start of the race where we did a loopy part before finishing. By the time I got to the loopy part, pretty much everyone else from the staff had already finished. So what did they do? Cheer me on? Of course…but along with that, they came and jogged with me. Almost every single one of them. They did about an extra mile to show me support and camaraderie. When I got close to the finish line, those who hadn’t joined in before…did so at that point. So when I finally crossed the finish line I was surrounded by the rest of the staff who had come, cheering me on to the end. Words are again failing to describe my feelings at that moment.
So in conclusion, Camp is a magical place. Not just for the women of the staff, or the girls who come to participate, but also for the lone Biscuit. I am so honored to be the Singularity that can fit in and be counted as a crucial part of something that is meant to be for those not of my gender. As I once espoused for an intro I recorded for Anomaly, “Gender matters not.” Those feelings are not something that can really be described in a blog. You have to go out and live it.
Live the Journey.