Knights, Spies, and Astronauts

Growing up in Hollywood was not as glamorous as it sounds, but the education is unmatched in all the country. In class I was taught geometry, history, and biology, but on the way home I learned how to recognize drug dealers and whores. I could spot a hopeful actor or actress from across a restaurant by the script they kept folded in their back pocket. My friend Dickson and I never finished at the top of our class in school, but outside those walls we felt like Einstein and some other smart guy like Einstein.

My family moved to Hollywood when I was still in diapers because my dad was an actor. He mostly did plays, but wanted to be in the movies. He was always talking in weird voices and pretending he was other people. Sometimes he would let me play along with him. We were knights and spies and astronauts. No matter what adventure we shared it always ended with a tickle fight and lots of laughter. After a while we didn’t pretend anymore. He said it was because I was getting older now and it was time for me to grow up. Luckily I got a new best friend right around the same time.

Dickson moved into the apartment above ours the summer after I turned ten. His parents would fight all the time. As soon as I heard shouting from above I knew the low rumble of Dickson bounding down the stairs would be next. It almost became a game, even though we never talked about it. Once the fighting started it was a race to see who would get down to the dirt lot the apartment complex called a “playing field” first. Dickson almost always won. Our apartment was a floor below his but he had other advantages. He could hear the fight before it escalated into shouting and sometimes I wasn’t allowed to go outside until I finished my chores.

Our parents were pretty different. This was another subject in our ever-expanding education. When my parents fought they would go in their room and try to keep their voices low so that I wouldn’t hear. I hated that. I wanted to know what they were arguing about. I told Dickson that once. He just shook his head and told me I was stupid.

Neither of our parents were very strict, but they had certain rules that didn’t make any sense to us. Dickson was not allowed to go inside if he saw an old sock on the doorknob. This happened a lot after his parents fought. One time the sock stayed there all night and he had to sleep on our couch. It was my first sleepover. We went upstairs the next morning so he could change clothes and grab his backpack for school. The sock was gone and when we went inside Dickson’s dad asked where he had been. Dickson looked really scared and I could barely hear him when told him he had spent the night at my house. His dad just smiled, rubbed the top of his head, and said, “Good man.”

My dad only had one weird rule. I was not allowed to watch NBC. We didn’t always have this rule. It started at the same time “Nick of Time” came along.

“Nick of Time” was the biggest show on TV during the fall of ’88. It was about a guy named Nick who woke up in the hospital after a bad accident and couldn’t remember who he was. But then he started getting these strange flashes. Most of the time they were about bad things that would happen in the future and he would have to try and stop them or help the people they were going to happen to. Sometimes they were about his past and in each episode he got a little closer to discovering who he was and where he came from.

The show came on every Thursday night and its all anyone ever talked about on Friday at school. Because of my dad’s rule I was stuck listening to the retelling of each episode on the playground at school. The more I heard about the show, the more I had to see it. I would ask everyone about it until I knew more about it than some of the kids who were watching it each week.

One day on the playground I realized that I did not even know what Nick looked like. I began to ask about him and as a pictured emerged I could not believe what I was hearing. My dad was Nick! It made perfect sense. That’s why he didn’t let me watch. He did not want me to see him as a famous actor or start asking for expensive gifts. He just wanted our family to stay normal.

It took every bit of self-control I had but I didn’t tell anyone about my dad. If he didn’t want our family to be famous I would not ruin that, but I was filled with pride. My dad was the star of the coolest show on TV.

As the show got close to the end of its first season I became obsessed. It was clear that the last episode would be the most anticipated show of the year and I was the only kid in America who had not seen his dad playing Nick. Well… me and Dickson. Their family didn’t have a TV, which is one of the reasons we always hung out at my apartment. I realized that if I missed the final episode I would have to wait another six months for the chance to see my dad in his greatest role.

I told Dickson that we had to see the last episode and together we came up with a plan. He asked his parents if he could have dinner at my house and I asked my parents if I could have dinner at his. They both said yes. The night of the final show we took my bike and rode like the wind to Sears. I peddled while Dickson sat on the handlebars.

We got there a little before the show was supposed to start and asked the salesman if he could set one of the TV’s to NBC. He explained that they were all connected, but said he would ask his manager. A few minutes later, after the screens all went to static, the wall of televisions came to life on NBC. It was greater than anything I had hoped for. When I saw that little bird a wave of nervous excitement shot through me. The thrill of breaking the rules, along with months of anticipation, bubbled inside me and spilled out as I bounced on the balls of my feet.

Dickson and I smiled and high-fived as we waited to watch the show for the first time. When the theme music began we both froze. All my energy was devoted to soaking up every detail, for entering the world of Nick Condor. My heart was beating a mile a minute as the intro played showing snippets of past shows. Maybe it was hope, maybe it was fear, but I convinced myself that the guy they kept showing was not Nick.

Thirty seconds into the show there was too much evidence to keep my illusion any longer. I couldn’t move. My hands started shaking and I knew that meant the tears were on their way. I couldn’t let that happen in the middle of Sears with Dickson right next to me. I squeezed my eyes closed as hard as I could and fought to stop the flow. I only mostly succeeded.

When the first commercial break came Dickson exploded into motion and a blur of words that came so fast I could barely process them.

“Whoa! Thatwassocool! Doyouthinkhe’sreallybeeninacomathiswholetime!? Ineverknewashowcouldbesoawesome!”

Fortunately this gave me a chance to wipe away the tears that clung to my eyelashes without him noticing. I had to admit, even though I was crushed that my dad was not Nick, the show was super cool. I breathed a sigh of relief that I had never told Dickson what I had thought about my dad.

We stayed and watched the rest of the show transforming into statues while it was on and back into rowdy, laughing, shouting boys during each commercial break. In the middle of one of these breaks Dixon grabbed my suddenly with his mouth hung wide open. I turned and saw my dad on a hundred different screens. He was smiling, but when he sat down his faced showed that he was in pain. The scene went away and a doctor appeared talking about something that I didn’t understand. He held up a tube of something. The commercial ended with my dad riding a bicycle and laughing. “Nick of Time” came back on, but I don’t really remember what happened. I couldn’t stop thinking about what I had just seen.

My dad was famous! But this only confused me. I was old enough to realize that he didn’t want me know about it. Those two facts didn’t seem to match in my head. I wanted so badly to ask him about it, but if I did I knew I would be in big trouble for breaking his rule. Was this why he stopped playing with me? Maybe now that he was a big time actor he didn’t have time to waste his talents on me.

I asked my mom once about what kind of shows dad acted in, but she said that I shouldn’t ask such questions. Not long after that we moved to Sacramento. Even though my dad got a job as the manager of a tire shop I always thought of him as an actor. I was proud of my dad, but I missed our tickle fights.

Copyright © 2012 Adam Drake

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9 comments

  1. LOL @ “and some other smart guy like Einstein” I’m not sure what to say about this story, Adam. I was really captivated. This just felt really real, and I think you have a great idea for a TV series!

  2. Having grown up in and around Hollywood, I can tell you this rings very true- well, except for being able to spot drug dealers and whores. After all, it was a much more innocent time. But this certainly brought back memories, Thanks!

  3. Agreed, the “child-like innocence” is definitely there-and I was as riveted as one would be reading some action-packed drama, even though it’s a little kid watching TV. I felt all the little guy’s anticipation as he waited for the show to start, that thrill of doing what you’re not supposed to perfectly integrated.

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