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As geeky as we wanna be

By Sarah Henning
April 7, 2005 | Duluth News Tribune

No Geek Prom is an island. It takes hundreds of the city's geekiest to make Saturday's event the glorious spaz fest that it is.

Since geeks are defined partly in terms of their obsessive nature, we went on patrol to find three geeks to represent. Here are true tales of a Pez dispenser kept in a safety deposit box, role-playing games that make "Dungeons and Dragons" look innocuous and Friday nights spent watching "Wall Street Week."

Meet Chris
A gamer and computer geek, one of his favorite pastimes is correcting museum guides.

NAME: Chris Marshall, aka Lumpy G (the "G" stands for gravy)

STATISTICS: 37-year-old Duluthian who works as a "data slinger" at Thralow Inc., the parent company of 19 specialty Web sites based in Duluth

GEEK TYPE: Computer geek/gaming geek

MAIN CHARACTERISTICS: "Computer geeks generally have pale skin, and are stooped from hunching over their computers. I know a lot of computer geeks who have no social skills. I'm socially awkward, but not as much as some geeks I know. We wear T-shirts with logos like penguins (the symbol of the Linux operating system) or anything that's anti-Microsoft. There's also a tendency to talk in 1337 (leet) speak, which is a keyboard shorthand."

MOMENT I REALIZED I WAS A GEEK: "I came out of the closet as a geek in fifth grade, when I realized that all my friends and I were literary habitues, the types who always raised their hands and always had the right answer in class."

GEEKIEST THING I'VE EVER DONE: "I went to knock on the door of an author I really liked. He was an old man already living in Lawrence, Kansas, and I drove down there just to see him. ... It's that obsessive thing, liking something so much you take it to its ultimate, that makes a geek a geek. (That author, ladies and gentleman: William S. Burroughs.)"

BIGGEST MISUNDERSTANDING ABOUT GEEKS: "It's people's sheer jealousy at geeks' massive amounts of knowledge. Just kidding. I think the biggest misunderstanding is that we're not sexy."

Meet Michelle
This is a woman who has collected more than 400 Pez dispensers and owns outfits for said dispensers. She started collecting Pez after she saw a segment on "Oprah" that featured two collectors who met and fell in love at a Pez convention.

NAME: Michelle Rowley, aka Purple (almost everything she wears is purple)

STATISTICS: 33-year-old mass communications graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Superior from Duluth

GEEK TYPE: Collector geek

MAIN CHARACTERISTICS: "I guess I'm probably obsessive compulsive. People are like, 'Oh, it's just Pez.' But I have some that I won't take out of the house. They're in an antique china hutch I inherited from my grandma. And my Batman Pez is in a safety deposit box."

MOMENT I REALIZED I WAS A GEEK: "I think I was in geek denial. I was even a cheerleader for a time. I was the worst cheerleader ever. I only lasted one season. ... I don't think I've dated anyone who would not be labeled a geek. But that's what I'm attracted to: Smart and spastically hyper."

GEEKIEST THING I'VE EVER DONE: "For the first Geek Prom, I put together a geek resume, and it was all true. One of my earliest memories is ... playing "Star Wars," I always had to be R2-D2 because I was the shortest. So I bullied this girl until she left so I could be Princess Leia."

BIGGEST MISUNDERSTANDING ABOUT GEEKS: "That they're sad, these lost souls. We have more fun because we don't put on airs."

Meet Julie
A self-described "four-eyed nerdy girl," Julie has never been to a prom. Her favorite Friday night TV shows are "Washington Week" and "Wall $treet Week."

NAME: Julie Duncan

STATISTICS: 43-year-old bookkeeper for St. Louis County from Duluth

GEEK TYPE: Knowledge geek

MAIN CHARACTERISTICS: "Spends Friday nights in the college library, doesn't own any high heels, and, obviously, quick wit."

GEEKIEST THING I'VE EVER DONE: "In grade school, we all got to contribute words for spelling tests, and I would go through the dictionary looking for the longest, hardest words I could find ... after that, I got bullied."

BIGGEST MISUNDERSTANDING ABOUT GEEKS: "That they don't have any friends."

MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO AT GEEK PROM: "I don't have to have a date. Plus there are so many great, eccentric folks in Duluth. It should be great people watching. And I probably won't be the worst dancer there."