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Geek Origins – Thanks Dad!

By Josué Cardona

For Mother’s Day I wrote a bit on how my mom was very influential in helping me become the Geek I am today. Well, it’s Father’s Day and my dad is just as responsible and more importantly, we still share many interests today. Here are some of my favorite memories related to why I’m probably into what I’m into and why it matters so much to me.

From the Master System to Mortal Monday

I don’t think I knew what video games were when our first console appeared at home. If I remember correctly, my dad bought it from a co-worker who decided to buy a newer console. So dad brought home a Sega Master System and a lot of games. I remember my father and I spending a lot of time on a bonus stage in Shinobi in which you flinged throwing stars from a first-person perspective at ninjas running and jumping around the screen; It was my favorite part.  

We later had a NES that my parents bought, complete with a matching Mario-branded TV cart where we kept a small TV and all of our games. 

As I got older my dad implemented a rule at home that I could get any console I wanted but I had to sell the one I had first. This was actually a really good rule to have and I was very careful when managing my console “resources.” I sold my SNES and Genesis multiple times each during the 16-bit era. 

Then there was a time when the only way my dad was able to get me to go to church without complaining was with the promise of Sunday afternoon arcade visits.  One of our favorite games was Mortal Kombat and we played it every weekend. My dad was really good as Sonya Blade. Fun fact: He was very tough to beat as Chun-Li in Street Fighter II.

While it seems funny now, Mortal Kombat was very impressive visually in 1992 (I was only 8 years old…) and when it was announced that it was coming to home consoles, well, a part of me had a hard time believing it was possible. So as Mortal Monday (9/13/1993) grew nearer, I’m sure I must have told my dad a million times by then that the game we played every Sunday at the arcade would soon be playable at home every day. I think we we were both very excited because that afternoon he left work, went straight to a department store, and brought home the Genesis version of the game. I don’t know how to accurately describe how I flipped out when my dad showed me the box but it is a memory I still cherish.

Yeah, it’s my dad’s fault that I love video games.

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Mortal Kombat!!!!!

Cowboys and Superheroes

“When I was your age…” my dad would often say. Nothing too surprising here since lots of parents share what they liked as kids with their own children but I’m proud to say that my dad seems to love those interests just as much today as he ever did. I’m actually jealous of how he’s been able to see his favorite characters evolve over his lifetime. Oh, and the regret you see on his face when he talks about losing his comic books is just painful…

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Even my love of anime is my dad’s fault.


My dad showed me tons of shows he used to watch. Everything from old westerns to the original Batman serials. He even introduced me to anime, although neither of us realized it at the time. He loved Astro Boy as a kid and showed me some old black and white cartoons. I fell in love with Osamu Tezuka’s art style and eventually became the typical Dragonball-loving, I-import-my-anime, tried-to-learn-Japanese-in-high-school teenager.
I remember 1998 being a particularly interesting year because two of my dad’s favorites were made into new Hollywood movies: Lost in Space and The Mask of Zorro. After watching Zorro at the theater, my dad was so excited that he ran in the lobby and did a full swing around a column, jumped out, and proclaimed he was Zorro. I don’t think I’ve ever been more embarrassed by my father’s behavior. In retrospect, I may have never been prouder. 

Little did I know at the time that my dad was the biggest Geek I’d ever met. 

Superman

Superman is definitely the most important character to my relationship with my father. George Reeves’s Superman, the Christoper Reeve movies, the Superboy TV series, Lois & Clark, and even Superman: The Animated Series were all things that my father and I shared religiously. We loved everything superheroes but there was a lot of Superman for us to share. 


To this day, my father is a huge Superman fan. I’ve bought my dad a lot of Superman-branded stuff and we have matching Superman keychains. His friends just made him a Superman cake for his most recent birthday.
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My dad’s 58th birthday cake.

My father and I were very close but my parents divorced and a few years later my father remarried. I did not get along with my stepmother or my stepbrothers and my relationship with my father got so bad that I stopped talking to him.  This lasted for a very long time. We spent a few years during which we barely spoke and definitely didn’t share any of our geeky passions. 

Then one day I saw a commercial for a new TV series. They just showed a field, some voices could be overheard, and then the title flashed on the screen: Smallville

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Smallville helped repair my relationship with my father.

I got goosebumps when I saw this. I cried when I saw the commercial. I was excited because I knew enough about Superman to realize that Superman was coming back to television but I was also extremely sad that something like this was going to be on TV and I would not be sharing it with my father.

I was 17 at the time and I realized I really missed my dad.

Instead of staying sad and feeling like I was missing out because I couldn’t share this with my dad, I called him to tell him about it. It didn’t take long for us to start talking on the phone almost every day.

Smallville was on the air for 10 years and after almost every single episode my dad and I would talk on the phone to discuss what we just saw. During those 10 years I graduated high school, college, switched careers, finished grad school, and moved 5 times. We even had a couple of movies during that time. A lot changed but we always had Superman.

It’s not out of character for my dad to still call me Clark, Clarky, or Kal-El.

Thanks Dad

My dad showed me how to unabashedly love your interests and how powerful that love can be. Not just because it feels great to fully embrace something you’re interested in but he taught me how those interests can bring people together and even heal some old wounds.

I don’t think I would have learned that lesson as clearly and early if he didn’t live by it every day.

He has obviously also influenced my work because I form relationships with my clients and students based on sharing and embracing their passions.

So thanks Dad. I don’t know who I would be if you weren’t the way you are.

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