I had a number of imaginary worlds in my friendless grammar school years, but the Big Three were football, knighthood and Indians.
In all my worlds, I’m the hero, of course. I mean, what’s the sense of creating a world-class world in the first place, if you’re just going to be a waterboy or armor polisher once the cameras start rolling? Might’s well lay on your back and count the cracks in the ceiling instead.
In football, I’m Johnny Lujack, ace quarterback for Notre Dame back then. On the receiving end, Bill Swiacki, the slippery Columbia end who single handedly beat that legendary Army team with his outasight catches.
I grab my football, stand at the foot of the back porch steps, throw a spiral straight up in the air, catch it. Next pass, couple yards farther from steps. Next, farther still. Half-hour later, ass-over-tea-kettle grabs out there in the ruts and scrub of the field 7 yards away.
Though we (I) never had a for-real opponent, we (I) also never lost a single game — we (I) always won.
“I’m a winner” ain’t an all-bad attitude for a kid to have.
All to know about my world of knighthood is my respect for the knightly code of honor, and that my hero was Sir Galahad whose motto was, “My strength is as the strength of 10, because my heart is pure.”
I liked the sound of that, and I still shoot for it a lot. Mostly I miss.
Far and away the biggest of my Big Three was the world of Indians.
I always use the term “Native Americans” in today’s context. But my alter ego, Lone Eagle, was from the 1940s. Lone Eagle was not a Native American in the 1940s; that would be untrue to the telling. Lone Eagle was — and is — a noblest-of-the-noble Indian. On that, my heart is pure.
The name “Lone Eagle” is a composite — it needed to be Indian-sounding. The “Lone” aspect derived from my favorite radio program, “The Lone Ranger.” I could identify like crazy with the stirring adventures of old Lone. After all, I was a lone.
But Lone was a white guy, with a Hollywood white hat, which probably went to the dry cleaners between shootouts with the Cavendish gang. I wanted to be an Indian … but not like Tonto. Tonto was a copout, a white man’s Indian.
To arrive at the name, I simply swiped the “Lone” from the Lone Ranger and combined it with what I judged the ultimate symbol of adventure and freedom: the eagle.
There’s no record of the date I was self-christened Lone Eagle. But that’s who I was until we moved to Greenwich when I was 13 — where I soon shoved him into the deepest pinhole recess of my mind, along with all the other trappings of boyhood.
With Lone Eagle successfully out of the way, I was now able to devote the next 26 years to becoming everything Lone Eagle was not. I tamed my imagination, joined the crowd: bowed the good bow, yessed the good yes — within the good Box. Sold out to The Man. The Woman. The Groupthink. The Lemmings. The Box.
Lone Eagle would surface now and then — for a blink. But I’d repress him back to limbo and continue on my compromised way. Not a backbone to my name.
Finally/luckily, there came the day. In 1974. Lone Eagle, in war paint. Not gonna take it anymore. I had the guts to go out in business on my own, at a time when nobody in their right mind went out on their own. Lone Eagle reclaimed me.
I returned to the essence of that boyhood me, the idea kid me — guided by a set of principles called “Instincts.” Though they were scarcely front of mind at age 13, they were there at the heart — and soul — of me even then.
1. God has a sense of humor. It’s good to think funny.
2. You are one of a kind. “One” is a verb.
3. Life is a game — play it.
5. Dream big, live full, stay small.
6. Dare — pounce.
7. Be sure of nothing: Surprise is everywhere.
8. Time is the only currency — spend it your way.
9. The center of the universe is between your ears.
10. Stay loose. Mind-travel: in-venture. Create worlds.
11. Help the good. Rock the smug. Smithereen bullies.
12. The only wealth is friendship. The only place is home.
13. There is always a way. Adapt.
My boyhood was off the curve, if not the planet. I thank God for that … now. But at the time, at age 13, how prepared was I for the real world? Time would tell.
Bob Baker gives life to ideas in Marblehead. His memoir-in-progress is “Outlucking Gatsby: From Greenwich to The Green Light.”