I own a white dinner jacket. I've never actually worn it at least not in public but I keep it hanging in my closet, just in case I ever find myself gambling with Le Chiffre in Monte Carlo. I once owned a watch exactly like the one 007 snapped onto his wrist in Live and Let Die, except mine didn't deflect bullets or contain a buzz saw. If you want to get technical, mine didn't even tell the correct time. I still own an Aston Martin, complete with ejector seat and rotating license plates. It's five inches long and parks on top of a bookcase, but it's a DB5 just the same. In case you haven't already guessed: I've always wanted to be James Bond. Sardonic and suave. Dashingly ruthless. Dodging danger with a smooth maneuver and a snappy comeback for every situation (even when strapped to a table with a laser beam pointed at my groin). I may have grown up in suburban Scarsdale, N.Y., where zoning laws prohibited hollowed-out volcanoes, and none of the swimming pools had sharks in them, but I still had my own supervillains to battle. Junior high schoolers, mostly. And there was something about Bond the way he coolly straightened his tie after braining a bad guy, for instance that made me believe I too could saunter nonchalantly through a world of peril and chaos and eighth-grade girls. Maybe even deal with the far more serious SPECTREs that sometimes came my way.
I have watched pretty much every Bond movie at least a dozen times all 21 of which were rereleased on DVD Nov. 6, in the latest James Bond Ultimate collection from MGM. Every time I look at one again, I take a journey into the deepest coils of my childhood obsession. I don't remember which I saw first, but it was probably On Her Majesty's Secret Service when I was about 8 years old (I vaguely recall George Lazenby's angular face). Whichever it was, my older sister maintains I mortified the family afterward by serpentining through the theater parking lot shooting at strangers with my finger. I encountered most of the early titles first on TV, in an era before VCRs and cable-channel ''Bondathons.'' Back in the 1970s, it was a huge deal whenever 007 appeared on the small screen; the network would clear a whole Sunday night to make room for the event. I could have powered Dr. No's entire underwater lair with the radiation I absorbed sitting too close to our giant Zenith during those ''prime-time specials.''
The movies, naturally, led to harder stuff: the books. I spent the summer I was 13 huddled in my bedroom devouring Ian Fleming's whole Bond oeuvre, all 14 volumes. Of course, at that age I wasn't reading Fleming for the crispness of his prose; I was scouring his books for hints on how to be as debonair as a double-0 agent. I procured a pack of king-size Chesterfield cigarettes because that was the brand Bond sometimes smoked in the novels (when he ran out of Morlands). I would have killed for one of those ''sea island'' shirts Fleming was always going on about the author itemized virtually everything Bond wore, ate, drank, drove, or killed with, proving himself to be decades ahead of the culture in the use of product placement. But I still have no idea what a sea island shirt is.
I knew my limitations. I never took up judo lessons, never introduced myself last name first, never finished that pack of Chesterfields. And, as I grew into my later teens, I acquired other pop fascinations. Humphrey Bogart, Woody Allen, Laura Antonelli movies they all made indelible marks on my personality. But no matter how much I or the world around me kept changing, I never got over James Bond. Even as the character lost his cultural cool in the 1980s and the movies themselves became all but unwatchable with Roger Moore literally turning 007 into a clown in Octopussy and Timothy Dalton playing him as James Bland in The Living Daylights the fantasy never fully faded. To this day, I still hear Monty Norman's jazzy theme song in my head whenever I stroll into a casino. I still imagine myself on clandestine missions whenever I check into a hotel in a foreign city. I am still sometimes tempted to raise my finger in parking lots. You know, the index finger, like a gun.
NEXT PAGE: Why boys nowadays aren't as wowed by Bond