Growing Up Geek: Christopher Trout

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Growing Up Geek: Christopher Trout
Who wants cake? This guy does. Or so says 29 years of photographic evidence. Baked goods loom large in my pictorial history, as does the use and abuse of Dep Gel and even, dare I say it, an affinity for socks and sandals. As much as technology's played a part in my existence, however, my photo album is all but devoid of references to my geekier undertakings. Believe me, there were nights spent playing D&D -- although my relationship with RPGs was short lived -- and days lost in the wormholes of the web, but, truth be told, I've never really considered myself a geek.

Now, nerd is a pigeonhole I'm willing to accept. Not to say there's anything wrong with being a geek -- hell, some of my best friends are geeks -- but I'm not trying to front. I've always felt more comfortable with my head buried in a book than awash in a computer's glow.

I was an overachiever at a very young age -- note the executive realness I served at age three -- in fact, by the time I graduated from high school, I had amassed a laundry list of extra curricular activities that could have very easily made me a social pariah. Along with maintaining a top ten ranking, I was a member of three different National Honors Societies (officer of one), played on both the Academic Decathlon and Mock Trial teams, and wrote for the school newspaper and the special teen section of the local daily, The El Paso Times.

But in life as in study, I was too ambitious to let my nerdiness hold me back. So while I spent my weekends writing essays with a room full of Poindexters who preferred the thrills of multiple choice test taking to tossing around a sports ball, I maintained a healthy social life, which, to my naive mind, also meant picking up a couple of bad habits. The result being that I spent as much time in study as I did in trouble. My reputation for mischief was so strong that by the time I left in 2000, I was on a first name basis with the entire Burges High School security team.

Of course, you don't make it to the top of the GPA food chain without connecting with a keyboard and mouse on the regular. Computers invaded my life in 1985, when my mother, a master's student at UTEP, bought a RadioShack Tandy TRS-80 4P to pound out her thesis on the negative transfer of speech sounds from second to first language. If you're not familiar, the 'P' in 4P stands for portable -- portable like a suitcase full of bricks. It may have been the 4P or a later TRS-80 that I have my first retrievable memories with. There's not much to those memories, but I distinctly recall the tinny circus sounds accompanying the opening animation of Clowns and Balloons and a fez-sporting monkey perched on a high wire.

As my mother, the families go-to gadget enthusiast, points out, the Trouts were never early adopters. By the time she bought her first Tandy, it was probably three years old. In fact hand-me-down technology was the name of the tech game in our house. My sister and I both longed for an NES for years, but we wouldn't get one of our own until the SNES hit shelves. When we finally landed our very own console, my excitement had dissipated a bit. As it turned out, my affinity for gaming was limited even then, and hit a brick wall with the introduction of Super Mario Bros. 3. I do remember taking to watching others play video games quite naturally, however, especially after I'd acquired the aforementioned bad habits.

My real love affair with technology took flight in the summer of 1995 when the Trouts got the internet. I recall the first time I heard the squealing and beeping of dial-up with equal parts horror and fascination. It was an awful, ear-splitting sound, but it signaled my introduction to a world I wasn't privy to growing up under the roof of a West Texas preacher. (I'll leave the more sordid details of my relationship with the internet to my unauthorized autobiography, Fishing with Disaster: The Christopher Trout Story.)

The nondescript Acer setup that played host to my first rendezvous with the world wide web served as one of my most consistent companions over the next 5 years. When I wasn't exploring the liberation that awaited me beyond my parent's four walls, I would engage the family computer in more artistic pursuits. My dedication to the school newspaper meant a whole new set of connections with the computer, centered around Photoshop and PageMaker, and later the rest of the Adobe Creative Suite. I spent hours applying filters to anything I could get my hands on -- one of my favorite subjects being the iconic photo of Patty Hearst's turn as the Symbionese Liberation Army's gun-toting Tanya. The skills I learned tricking out a girl and her gun would serve me well later in life, when I landed my first freelance gig, designing ads for a local lingerie shop in Austin, Texas.

As much time as I've spent chopping and screwing in Photoshop, I've spent probably twice that vigorously clicking away at a keyboard. My bond with my laptop, as I would imagine is the case with most writers, is a close one. I snagged my first MacBook iBook in 2000 -- the same year I enrolled as a Journalism major at the University of Texas at Austin -- and I've been tethered to some form of Apple laptop ever since. Call me a fanboy if you will, but they've never done me wrong. My Macs have carried me through essays on the emergence of the African Renaissance, interviews with famous artists and photographers, and, most recently, this very autobiographical whatnot.

So, I may not be the geekiest kid on my block. Hell, I may not be the geekiest kid on the south side of my block, but I'm not denying the impact of technology on my life. Without the gadgets that have guided me to where I am today, I'd be nothing more than a hard drinking, heavy smoking cynic with a notebook full of thoughts and no way to publish them.

Christopher Trout's isn't the type to burn the candle at both ends -- he prefers dreams to the real world. If you can't find him on the web, he's probably sleeping or out sucking down Manhattans. You can occasionally find him on Twitter (@Mr_Trout), posting pictures of his pit bulls and discussing the pitfalls of cosmetic surgery.
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