01 April 2012

My Time Machine

As a reenactor and as a writer, I spend a lot of time delving into the past and exploring what life was like at various points in history. I've lived in the renaissance and written about WWII, Prohibition, the Great Library of Alexandria, and Shakespeare. And a question I often hear is "Do you feel like you were born at the wrong point in history?"

I believe that children are our future: So 
feed them well and use them to fuel our 
time machines...
(Frankly, I'm a little disappointed that since I wrote Howard Carter no one has asked whether I was born on the wrong planet.)

It annoys me at times, but I suppose it's a fair question.

Let's face it, I have a lot of skills that aren't of much use in the 21st century. And by the metric of the rest of the country, my childhood was more on like my dad's than it was like the rest of my peers. We didn't have a video game system or computer. Dad didn't believe in them. I learned to type on a typewriter (as is right and proper.)

I spent a lot of time at my grandparents' farm where I made a lot of my own toys. I built rafts. I sank them. I swam to shore and built new ones. I played with GI Joe while we listened to Fibber McGee & Molly on the radio. I watched Star Wars like every other kid of my age, but read voraciously from a library that was stocked mostly with books written over a half century before I was born.

My friends refer to this as a 'sheltered upbringing' but I'm not sure I'd agree.

My childhood was a Mark Twain novel ghostwritten by Ray Bradbury, filtered through an Archie comic.
The world that was shown to me on MTV seemed distant and somewhat surreal, simultaneously more modern and less than the world around me.

I still prefer hand tools to electric, my typewriter to my laptop. It probably also explains why I have no real attachment to those wonders of modern technology that the people around me can't live without. It's not inarguable that I really am a man out of my era and I wouldn't blame you if you thought that if given a time machine and license to use it that I'd be off like a shot.

I certainly used to think so.  Why, I may have been misplaced several centuries! I even said as much to my dad once. Dad looked at me and kind of snorted and said "Take off your glasses."

Touché, Dad

I have allergies and poor eyesight and I have an asthma inhaler in my pocket as I type this. Even when I join in a historical reenactment and try to sink into a past age, never far from my mind is the fact that I never would have survived childhood in these past worlds.

Books are my time machine. Then and now, they are my preferred method of time travel. If someone offered me a trip through time I might not take them up on it if I cannot close the cover and return to the modern era any time I wish.

And it's not at all about the asthma inhaler. The women around me are valued as highly as the men. My wife is an engineer. My boss is a woman.  I can see someone passing me on the street and talk to them without see more about them than just the color of their skin. I can say whatever I want here and as long as I don't libel anyone, no one can stop me.

Because honestly... the 'good old days' weren't that good.

So until the man in the Blue Box comes to escort me to the opening night of Hamlet and then safely home again... I like this time period just fine, thanks.

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