The simple questions are the most powerful. I’m reluctant to admit I was ill prepared, at least with a nuanced answer, when this question was posed to me. Sure, I’m writing a tongue-in-cheek blog chronicling my efforts to acquire secret agent skills. But why?
Quite simply, many of the talents, skills, and activities of Bond align with my own. Sure I love Bond for the hedonistic thrill. He’s the ultimate male escapist fantasy. However, while those primal trappings have helped build a multi-billion dollar franchise, they’re only part of the equation for my fandom. From sports cars and foreign locales to gadgets and martial arts, I’ve been arguably patterning my hobbies after Bond for years. Now I’m not a womanizing alcoholic orphan, nor am I prone to violence, but its best not to get too literal.
Like many coming of age stories, mine started behind the wheel. The car culture was alive and well at Franklin High School. I had many friends’ families whose car values nearly exceeded the values of their homes. My habit began when I replaced the steering wheel and shifter of my baby blue 1981 Volkswagen Rabbit with some sexier after-market models, but I didn’t stop there. Two ten inch sub-woofers and 500 watts later and you could hear my car a block away. My parents always knew when I was nearly home as my dog, ‘Turbo’, in a canine homage to Radar on MASH, would run to the door well before I pulled up. My rear view mirror actually vibrated off the windshield one day and dropped in my lap. Worse still, were the cheap accessories. Snap-on windshield wiper fins? Check. Seat Covers? You bet. DIY window tinting? Sign me up.
In hindsight I attribute my love affair with cars to delayed gratification. My parents, so seemingly well-intentioned, pushed me into kindergarten a year early. They tell me that I was hyper verbal, good at puzzles, and often complained about my peers’ inability to put a sentence together. I think they likely just wanted some peace and quiet. This practice is in stark contrast to modern-day parenting in which young boys are actually held back to give them a leg up on the sports field and in the classroom. I guess that makes me an Outlier of a sort, but not in-keeping with the Gladwell-authored definition. While I sure didn’t mind being one of the last of my friends to turn 40, being a year younger than my peers was less enthralling when I was 15 and 20. After a year of being carted around by my friends I grew accustomed to fantasizing about cars. I just forgot to stop.
Just this year I’ve ratcheted things up a notch and been obsessively following Formula One, an interest I lost sight of after returning home from working in London. Next year I’ll see my first race in Austin. And I can’t wait. Dan, ever the humoring husband, is slightly less excited; even going to so far as to inquire if I might be turning straight. I think he saw me reading a Guns & Ammo article about the new Walther PPQ M20 while watching the Formula One Grand Prix in Japan. I might as well have been thumbing through a Hustler.
I studied martial arts for years experimenting with different styles from Kickboxing to Tae Kwon Do and Chinese Kenpo. I even briefly held a North American Champion title in tournament fighting. Although, in all fairness, it was the tournament’s first year and there were only two others in my age group. While not exactly a banner achievement I did take some pride in the fact that one of my competitors was several ranks higher than me. After I was declared the victor he came up and shook my hand telling me that I “just kept kicking him.” I found this feedback curious. There was a medal on the line. Quitting Kenpo before attaining my black belt is one of my biggest regrets. I was a probably 18 months away.
Like many I love to travel. I studied and worked abroad at different points in my life and have seen a reasonable amount of the world from Bali to Budapest. But my travels of late have grown stagnant. With limited vacation time, I’ve been more likely to return to one of my greatest hits rather than risk vacation time on somewhere new. That I’ve vowed change. It starts this February with a trip to Argentina. I also have an interest in languages. Although, as I stated in my post on my fledgling French, my passions may reside more with the idea than the commitment required.
And finally, a couple of years ago while on an extended sabbatical, I had a brief love affair with the pen. I knew I could write reasonably well thanks to a slew of stellar teachers and professors, but had never done so for anything other than obligation. And certainly never in such a public forum. My time off, and resulting travels, provided the appropriate creative fodder. What was intended to be merely a journal for my own records turned out to be something more. Unfortunately, when I went back to work, my personal writing stopped. I did a number of guest posts on various tech blogs, but it wasn’t the same. It wasn’t for lack of interest, more a lack of material. I’m nothing if not self-aware and the great American novel isn’t clamoring to escape my fingertips. Since experiential narrative seems to be my jam, I need to generate my own material. And what better material than my personal path toward secret-agentdom?
What’s funny, looking back on it now, is that I don’t recall exactly when the specific idea of pursuing this childhood fantasy and writing about it took place. At some level I think it’s been building for years. I’ve long been haunted by the notion that I’m supposed to be doing ‘something else.’ The problem was that I was never knew what that was. I almost left technology in my 20s to teach, but couldn’t stomach the pay cut offered by a private high school. And, to be clear, I’m not thinking about leaving right now. I’m fortunate enough to love my work; which is good news as gainful employment isn’t optional. However, I don’t want to do it forever.
My fantasy outcome is to get to a point where my writing, and resulting expense tab, becomes self-sustaining. I’d love to write as a secondary, albeit part-time, career. And I like to think the idea reasonably original. A quick Google search yields the inevitable SEO-driven drivel. I think I can eclipse the content found on Wiki Answer and E-How. Thinking perhaps more ambitiously, I’d love to be featured in Esquire or even publish on a larger scale. I’m under no illusions that that isn’t going to require some stellar material, but when I reflect on the items on the list, I humbly think my future is bright.
Should that never happen I won’t consider the effort a failure. Above all I want learn, to have an adventure, and to make my friends and family occasionally shake their heads in dismay. And mostly just to have a good time. It’s really not that complicated.
Last week at a holiday party a friend (and Pulitzer winner) asked me when I would be done. It wasn’t clear to him, and perhaps yours truly, if there was an ultimate milestone or benchmark to cement my status. We kicked around a few really interesting ideas that got me thinking in a myriad of new and fun directions. Even more importantly, he passed on a great piece of advice – “People want something to root for.” Indeed. That’s a post for another day.