Role Playing

Summer Block
5 min readMay 23
Photo from eBay

A few days ago we were eating at our local breakfast taco place when the Brooks & Dunn song “Neon Moon” (1991) came on and I remembered with a start, “Oh yeah, that’s right, I LOVE this song.”

I tried to explain my brief flirtation with ’90s pop country music to my kids. I knew I had mentioned this phase in a column I wrote years ago, but when I tried to find it, I discovered the publication where it had appeared is long gone; their archives are no longer online. (This probably means I should see what other pieces of mine are not accessible anymore, what a depressing task that will be.)

So I dug this one up to run again here, lest the world forget the time I joined my friend’s thirty-something mother for singles night at a country line-dancing club.


I was really into the Lord of the Rings when I was in junior high. This was a decade before the first Peter Jackson film; The Lord of the Rings was not cool in 1991. I discovered the trilogy through my mother, who also loved it. I’m not sure I even knew that other people had read the Lord of the Rings. In any case, I certainly didn’t think of people who were into the books as “nerdy.” Some of my friends may have been less than popular, but I had no contact with nerd culture and knew nothing about it beyond the broadest stereotypes from movies and television.

I never owned a video game system. I never LARPed. I didn’t read science fiction or comic books. I didn’t even use a computer until I was in college. Before the internet, I mostly learned about things by walking past storefronts at the mall. This is how I happened to collect decorative soaps from Crabtree & Evelyn, how I spent all my allowance money on a Galilean thermometer from a store called Natural Wonders, why I coveted a t-shirt with a big watercolor mallard on it from Northern Reflections, a Canadian clothing company for people who think Eddie Bauer is too flashy.

I was into whale song, Laura Ashley prints, vegetarianism, and Fran Lebowitz. I was into stuff so uncool it defied labels. You think you were a nerd in middle school because you collected action figures or played in the marching band? I spent the summer of my freshman year cross-stitching a sampler for my mom. You think you were geeky because you liked to watch Monty Python? When I was in junior high I…

Summer Block

Writer for Catapult, Longreads, The Awl, The Toast, The Rumpus, McSweeney’s, and so on. Owner of After-Party Taxidermy. Working on a book about Halloween.