I Love Junk

In the last few weeks I’ve noticed that a few pretty awesome people have linked me on their blogs. And I’ve had a few of you hint very strongly that you’d like to see me writing again. So I feel pretty bad that I haven’t been blogging, and I figure at the very least I owe you an explanation.

I started this blog early in 2008, with a new digital camera and a dry-erase board full of awesome ideas for articles. And then I wrote, like, four or five before completely failing to update for most of the year. The problem was that 2008 turned out to be a pretty serious year for me. Oh, nothing bad happened or anything, but I spent the year going through a lot of philosophical and emotional changes. I got wrapped up in politics, and educational theory, and redefining my life choices. I even got into prog rock, which is not without its own special brand of hilarity, but is still a far cry from my usual diet of campy 60s and 80s pop. 2008 for me was kind of like spending a year meditating up on a mountain, except I was just here in my room. But in any case, while all of this contemplation and change was good for me personally, it wasn’t really conducive to blogging about toys and candy. Not that I wasn’t still into that stuff; it just wasn’t at the forefront of my mind like it is during more lighthearted times.

And it’s not like I never thought about this blog either. I planned lots of entries, but I’d get all perfectionist and either the appropriate timing or the inspiration would pass before I got anything much written down. Basically I had this model in my head of what I wanted the blog to be – pretty much X-E Lite – and anything that didn’t fit that model got scrapped. Short blog posts weren’t good enough, posts without pictures weren’t good enough, anything that I didn’t have to spend money on wasn’t good enough. So of course that meant if I couldn’t think of a thousand words about a topic, or if I was broke, or if what was really interesting to me at the time wasn’t the kind of stuff other XE-ers typically blog about, nothing got written at all.

Happily, my cocoon year is over and I’m ready to emerge as a glittery, Care Bear-toting, SNES-playing, synthpop-loving geek of a butterfly. And I’m going to write whatever the hell I feel like, because even if I write something that doesn’t totally resonate, that’s still way better than writing nothing at all.

And just so this post isn’t devoid of nostalgic fun, here’s a photo of me as a baby, with my parents in their hilarious 80s getups. I promise my father is not as creepy as he looks in this picture.

I’ve always wanted to do a proper “Christmas Fallout” post, so here it is! My 2008 Christmas, in pictures:

Pictured above is the stuff I opened on Christmas morning, less one shirt that needs to be exchanged and one visually uninteresting throw pillow.  This is all pretty self-explanatory, except that the bottle is vanilla bubble bath and (in case it’s not obvious) the purple stuff below that is lavender incense.  My mom has finally picked up on the trend that every scented thing in my life has to smell like lavender, vanilla, or lavender-vanilla.

With a couple of exceptions, everything here was something I specifically asked for. The Spiderman basketball hoop was kind of an odd gift; I asked for toys, hoping to get Legos, or Pokemon, or something nostalgic like a Barbie. You know, something I would’ve played with as a kid, which my mom should have a good handle on since she raised me and everything. Instead I got a random Spiderman basketball hoop. I actually like it more than I thought I would, because having an excuse to throw stuff in the house is pretty awesome. Plus if I really wanted to I could put it over my trash can and pretend to be a teenager in an 80s or 90s sitcom. Since I’ll never get my own phone booth this is a pretty good substitute.

The only other non-requested gift was the makeup. I’d never think to ask for makeup since I own tons of it, but as my mom pointed out this is because I never throw it away. She probably got tired of looking at my Pleistocene-era makeup in the bathroom, so she got me this neat little kit. It’s a pretty nice kit, where niceness is defined by how many of the eyeshadows are sparkly. At least four or five of them are!

I should also mention how nice it is to have season 1 of The Simpsons. Our local Fox channel doesn’t seem to run any episodes before season 8, probably figuring everyone has the early seasons on DVD by now. As a result it’s been YEARS since I’ve seen anything from the first seven seasons. Watching season one is like spending Christmas with a long-lost childhood friend.

There’s a semi-interesting story about the Scrabble game. I have a close friend who I used to share a dorm with, but who lives far away now, and we both love Scrabble. We spent a lot of nights this summer playing internet Literati but neither of us owned the actual board game. This year for Christmas, we BOTH got Scrabble. Totally unplanned. Not the most exciting coincidence ever, but I thought it was really cool.

And I got a waffle iron! I haven’t made homemade waffles since I was 15! WAFFLES!

And as for Rubber Soul, I was probably the last remaining Beatles fan on the planet who didn’t own it. Now that situation is rectified!

I also got some money, so I went out today and bought this stuff:

HELL YES. I’ve been wanting a new Pokemon game for years but have never kept up with the current handheld gaming technology, so this is my first version since Red. I chose Pearl over Diamond partly on a friend’s recommendation, and partly because it contains a Pokemon called Glameow. I don’t care if the actual Pokemon sucks, the name Glameow is just kickass. And after my recent disappointment with finishing New Super Mario Bros. in a week (still loved the game, but fuck), it’s nice to have a DS game that will occupy me for the next 400 years.

SingStar Legends is just totally badass. I already own SingStar 80s, but two of the four people willing to play it with me aren’t too familiar with 80s music, and the other two moved. Legends has a lot more variety – it’s got everything from Bowie to Elvis to Joy Division to the Jackson 5, and I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t find at least one song they know on here. I’m so in love with this game.

I already owned three different versions of Trivial Pursuit, and now I own four. This one is unique though – the questions are electronic instead of on a thousand little cards, and best of all, you can totally customize the categories. I’m planning on giving this game its own post once I’ve actually played it, but I’m thrilled to death that I can now live my dream of playing Trivial Pursuit without a damn sports category.

Not pictured is stuff I got from people at work. From coworkers, I got lots of candy, various scented candles, one of those mug-and-cocoa-mix sets, a nice hand soap and lotion set, and slippers. From parents of students, I got a little vanilla bath set (yay! vanilla!) and a set of fancy coasters that you can insert photos into.

For posterity, here’s a list of stuff I got my mom:

  • Elvis CD
  • Mr. Coffee iced tea maker (works just like a coffee maker, but makes pitchers of tea)
  • The Honeymooners DVD set
  • Electric blanket
  • Candlemaking supplies
  • Various hair accessories, bubble bath, and body powder
  • Giant collage photo frame
  • Calendar with pictures of puppies
  • Two pairs of slippers

I had a hard time getting in the spirit, but I think it was stress getting to me. Two weeks to relax, play, and get my bearings is my greatest gift this year, and I sure am enjoying it. I hope you all had a great Christmas, or whatever else you celebrate, if anything – and if nothing, I hope you had a great December anyway.

It’s that time of year again – the season to be greedy! Every year around October or November my mom starts bugging me to make a wishlist, and since she’s computer illiterate I can’t just direct her to Amazon. Part of me is glad for this, because it’s a lot more fun to make a list the old-fashioned way, but part of me is frustrated because the stuff I want is mostly obscure shit my mom can’t find. Much as I love Target, they consistently fail to carry Venture Bros. T-shirts and out-of-print prog rock albums. Each year I grow more and more tempted to just say fuck it and ask for toys, despite having reached the frightening stage of life where I’d actually prefer a bunch of kitchen gadgets that only do one thing. I swear I thought that stuff was stupid as recently as last year. Nobody warned me that 23 would be the age where I’d turn into Filburt and make a break for Kerplopitgoes Island, yet here I go doing just that. Help!

Still, the frustration of trying to figure out what the hell I want that my mom can actually figure out how to buy leaves me wishing I could just curl up with a big catalog to circle stuff in. And so, to keep feeling like a kid at Christmas, I’ve decided to browse and review this year’s…

Last year, I remember some people complaining that the Big Toy Book had dwindled to a thin, crappy insert. This year, TRU is boasting an 80-page wonderland as its “Biggest Toy Book Ever!” Unfortunately I can’t vouch for either of these claims, because I only got my grubby little meathooks on a BTB once in my entire childhood, when I was about six or seven. I nearly pissed myself with glee, only to have the experience spoiled five seconds later when my mom warned me that my grandpa’s shitty pickup truck wouldn’t make it all the way to Toys R Us and she did her shopping at Walmart. (My parents always went with the lame “we bring your presents and Santa just fills your stocking” version of Christmas.) Once you got tired of building forts in the woods, growing up in the sticks sucked.

Since my life is so empty without the Big Toy Book experience, I’ve decided to browse this year’s BTB with an eye for what I totally would have circled as a kid. And probably some stuff I’d still circle now. Toys R Us told me not to grow up, dammit.

#1: Dora Designer Dollhouse!

As much as I’d like to be all hardcore and insist that there is no way in fucking hell that I would have liked Dora the Explorer, the truth is I pretty much embraced anything Nickelodeon threw my way. Plus I was obsessed with learning other languages, so I probably would have been all over that shit. But the real reason I would have circled this is more basic: it’s the first true dollhouse in the catalog. Dollhouses were probably the only reason I played with dolls, and they made me the Sims addict I am today. It’s too bad I’m honest, or I could have a cushy job in real estate. Instead, I’m sure in 20 years I’ll be one of those women who watches HGTV all day and orders fake fireplaces from QVC.

Also, take note of that $79.99 pricetag. That’s going to be a recurring theme here, and from now on I totally forgive my parents for all the toys I begged for and never received. I can’t believe the video games and DVD sets I ask for now are actually less expensive than the piles of Chinese plastic I got as a kid.

#2: Imaginarium Marble Mania Genius!

You know those elaborate neon circulatory systems people set up for their hamsters to run around in? I used to be fascinated by those things, and I wanted a hamster just so I could have a series of tubes even before the internets were invented. Of course, the several thousand cats we already had prevented me from getting any rodents, so I was secretly bitter. All that angst could have been prevented if I’d had this marble thingy, because it’s the same basic idea, except that cats are less likely to eat the marbles and barf them all over the living room rug.

#3: Animal Planet Baby Jungle Fortress Playset! (Embiggen!)

At 30 bucks, this is one of the few items I might have actually had a shot at getting. I used to love those little playsets you buy at the zoo that consisted of a bunch of shitty plastic animals and for some reason a bunch of shitty plastic fences. This is like someone took those and moved them into the elaborate fantasy treehouse from the “kids stranded on an island” episode of the Simpsons. It even has little researchers you can have your lions maul, and a MONKEY ELEVATOR! What could be better than a monkey elevator?

#4: Imaginarium Creative Artist Easel!

I’m pretty sure stuff like this is the real reason my mom generally steered me away from toy catalogs. I was perfectly content to draw at the kitchen table as long as I didn’t know shit like this existed. I can’t imagine why anyone would pay 80 bucks for a glorified clipboard, but the catalog makes this look like the most sublimely awesome thing that has ever existed. To rub salt in the wound, there are two smaller, less expensive easels right next to this one on the page, but any child with taste is going to circle this impressive beast and possibly cry if they receive one of its cheaper cousins. Toys R Us likes to give parents high blood pressure.

#5: Play-Doh Creativity Center! (Embiggen!)

I loved Play-Doh, but I never considered it a toy, and certainly not a toy worth begging Santa for. It was more of a diversion you begged your grandma for in the dollar store as a reward for being quiet while she spent about a year shopping for oven mitts. This playset raises Play-Doh to something worth coveting. I’m not really sure what exactly all the extra stuff is, but it looks impressive, which is all it takes to land it on any little kid’s wishlist.

#6: Imaginarium Wooden Dollhouse! (Embiggen!)

I already had a very expensive and impressive Barbie house, so my request for this thing would have been completely ignored, but damn if I wouldn’t have asked for it anyway. There are two other equally impressive dollhouses on the page, but this one is the most colorful. I came into the world thinking the 80s were totally normal, so I liked my toys as neon and busy as possible. Plus, this house has the always-coveted doll elevator, plus a DISCO BALL! My adult self takes issue with the fact that the bathtub seems to be in the kitchen, but I highly doubt my child self would have given a shit.

#7: Mega Bloks King Arthur Battle Action Castle!

I was never really into castles and knights and princesses and shit, but if I was paying enough attention to notice this was a castle you build yourself, I would have been all over it. There’s also a good chance I would have circled it just because it’s the biggest thing on the page. I’d be more certain that I would have liked this if there wasn’t a boy in the picture. Boys have cooties, especially when you’re seven. Either way, this thing looks pretty awesome.

#8: Lincoln Logs Big L Ranch!

I’m kind of puzzled as to why these two items are combined, because they seem to have nothing to do with one another beyond being building toys. Anyway, I would have circled this because I loved the hell out of Lincoln Logs. We had them in my kindergarten class, and I only got to play with them ONCE. Lousy traumatic childhood.

#9: K’nex Motorized Madness Ball Machine!

SWEET MERCIFUL CRAP THIS THING IS BADASS. I want one now. I have absolutely no idea what this does once it’s built, but I want it anyway.

There’s several pages of Lego sets after this, but the shitty way they’re presented guarantees that there is no way in hell I would have asked for any of them. They’re mostly just pictures of the boxes, and the background is orange. Fuck orange.

#10: Pokemon Electronic Pokeball!

Technically I’m trying to write this about stuff I would have wanted as a kid young enough to still be browsing TRU catalogs without feeling the need to hide them under my mattress in shame, but since Pokemon didn’t come around until I was in middle school, I can’t really apply that here. I did totally love Pokemon when it finally did come out, so I can’t help thinking I would have loved it as a little kid too, especially given my love affair with all things Nintendo. So I’m gonna count this thing as something I would have dug, even though I have absolutely no clue as to what it does.

#11: Hot Wheels Trick Tracks Ultimate Stunt World!

I always wanted an elaborate car set and never had one. I generally suspected that this was because my mom wanted to subtly steer me away from “boyish” stuff, but on closer inspection I think it’s just because the interesting ones cost a bajillion dollars. This set is the mother of them all, including a crazyass loop-the-loop and several things that appear to be on fire. It’s Mouse Trap on steroids.

#12: Barbie Jammin’ Jeep!

This is one thing I KNOW I would have asked for, because I totally did. And instead of a Barbie Jeep I got… another, cheaper Jeep that did exactly the same thing but didn’t have pink flowers plastered all over it. Naturally, I threw a fit. I’m forever impressed that my parents never attempted to kill me. I did eventually grow to love my ugly blue Jeep, which I would happily crash into trees every five seconds because I sucked at steering. I drive better now, I promise.

#13: Moon Shoes!

I always, always wanted a pair of Moon Shoes. Every time I go into a toy store, I stare wistfully at the Moon Shoes, wonder if they would support my adult weight, and then remember that I have a trampoline at home and don’t need them. Still, they look like a shitload of fun.

The next several pages are a bunch of swingsets and trampolines and playhouses. I wasn’t stupid enough to ask for a $900 jungle gym for Christmas, but I sure as hell would have drooled over the page for a solid two minutes before moving on.

#14: Operation: Spongebob Squarepants Edition!

#15: Twister Hopscotch!

Spongebob wasn’t around when I was a kid, but Nicktoons were, and I was addicted to every last one of them. I’m 100% sure that if I were a kid now I’d be making plans to build my own pineapple house. And I always loved Operation, even though it gave me several heart attacks every time I screwed up. If I ever develop an aneurysm I’m totally blaming the combined effects of playing Operation and Perfection in my early years.

And I have no idea what Twister Hopscotch is, but it looks like a good way to get your friends to humiliate themselves. That always makes for a fun Saturday.

#16: FurReal Friends – Biscuit My Lovin’ Pup

I’ve always loved animals, and I doubt I could have passed up a life-size animatronic dog plush. Of course, my parents would have been awfully quick to remind me that I already had an actual dog, one that hadn’t cost $160. Take it from me, parents just don’t understand.

#17: Baby Alive Learns to Potty!

I’ve written about Baby Alive before, and I doubt I would have been able to pass up a variation of this sadistic doll that includes a potty. ‘Course, now that I have a job that involves changing diapers all day, this doll doesn’t seem nearly as cute. But as long as she still includes sugary slime food, I’d be happy.

#18: Little Tikes Deluxe Wooden Kitchen & Laundry Center!

I always loved play kitchens and play food, and would try to hog the little kitchen corner in kindergarten and run all the other kids out. Yet, somehow I grew into a person who would rather eat nasty microwave mystery food than spend 10 minutes cooking something more edible. Go figure. Anyway, this kitchen set is one of the really awesome ones, where “awesome” as defined as “the kind my parents couldn’t have bought without selling me and defeating the purpose of buying toys in the first place.” Plus, it has laundry! As an adult who has to do actual laundry, I have trouble getting excited over this feature, but I’m pretty sure as a little kid I would have wet my pants with joy at the idea. Then I’d have something to wash.

#19: Barbie Diamond Castle Princess Liana!

I always asked for at least one new Barbie for every Christmas and birthday, and this one is SPARKLY. I feel kinda sad for Barbie’s non-Aryan friends in the background though. Usually the “secondary character” Barbies are the same exact doll with a different color outfit, but this time their dresses are actually inferior to Barbie’s fancy hoop skirt number. There’s an eerie subtext to that which I’m not going to explore here. Barbie isn’t supposed to make me think.

After several pages of High School Musical shit I’m losing some steam here, but that’s realistic, because as a kid I probably would have gotten bored by now and wandered off to go watch Roundhouse. Still, I’m going to plod on through, because there’s still plenty more neat stuff in the pages to come.

#20: Project Runway Fashion Design Set!

I don’t give a rat’s ass about Project Runway and would be pretty satisfied if it fell off the earth so that people in all my LJ communities would stop bringing it up. But I’m intrigued by this toy because it’s like an artsier version of Fashion Plates: you get a little poseable anatomy mannequin, and based on that you draw women and then add clothes to them. This is a pretty impressive little kit, and as an adult I like the idea of little kids learning serious art skills from a toy based on a TV show that, as far as I can tell, revolves entirely around bitchfights. As a kid, I would have picked this entirely for the little mannequin thing.

#21: First Act iCarly Musical Instruments!

My executive adult opinion of iCarly is that it sucks, but as I mentioned previously, I always ate up whatever Nickelodeon fed me. Also, I was obsessed with music even as a little kid, and these are the first musical instruments in the catalog that don’t have Miley Cyrus plastered all over them. Plus, I used to love the color blue, until I hated it.

#22: iCarly Digital Camcorder!

I would have been totally convinced that owning this would get me on America’s Funniest Home Videos. Or if I was a kid now, I would have used it to put videos of my cats on Youtube. Either way, camcorders rock.

#23: First Act Electronic Drum Pad!

More music stuff. I should point out that there are several billion musical instruments in the ad and I would have wanted ALL OF THEM. And while I stick to melodic instruments now, as a kid I definitely would have gravitated toward drums, because they combined two things that I loved:

1) Music, and

2) Hitting things with a stick.

I’m pretty sure that second factor is why most real drummers chose the instrument they did.

#24: Guitar Hero World Tour!

Okay, seriously, I want this now. Can’t put it on my wishlist ’cause my mom would destroy Tokyo upon seeing the price, but in a perfect world I’d totally get this, despite already owning two real guitars, and despite the fact that for the price of this game, I could add a real drum kit to that. Christmas isn’t supposed to make sense.

#25: Nintendo R/C Mario Kart 2-Pack! (Embiggen!)

I’m skipping most of the video games because I would have wanted ALL OF THEM and I still do, but my love of Mario wouldn’t have allowed me to pass up on these little guys. Heck, I’d still buy those now, were it not for the little voice telling me all the stuff 30 bucks would buy that I would actually use. I hate that voice.

The incredible part of this little journey through the Big Toy Book is how much it really did make me feel like a kid again. I could picture myself sitting at the kitchen table circling all this stuff with a fat red Magic Marker and praying Santa would really deliver it, and it helped me recapture the spirit in which I begged for this stuff. A child’s request for loads of toys may seem like unbridled, selfish greed, but it’s really a dreamy sort of awe at all the great things there are to have and do in the world. Plus, who cares if a toy is 80 bucks if an old fat guy is supposed to make it with magic? Obviously those are the prices for people who don’t believe. Shun the unbeliever! Shuuuun!

While making the usual mid-week trip to buy milk and other crap we never buy enough of on grocery day, I spied something glorious in the soda cabinet by the checkout line. Something gloriously… blue. Mysterious comb liquid blue.

Could it be? Surely, it couldn’t be. They hadn’t… brought back Pepsi Blue?! My heart leapt at the prospect of a delicious Pepsi Blue float, which was the only reason I really miss the stuff much.

Sadly, it was not to be. What I did find, though, was almost as intriguing. And much weirder.

Not being one to pass up a weird soda flavor, and because they were marked down to 79 cents each, I grabbed all three. Apparently Mountain Dew is running a contest between these three flavors, all of which are user-created. If I was a better journalist I’d investigate the website further, but instead I’ll just tell you that you can vote for your favorite flavor here and skip right along to the fun part: Taste-testing!

Now, before I comment on the flavors, I should make my position on Mountain Dew clear. Original Mountain Dew, to my tongue, is like some combination of urine and stomach acid. It’s nasty, it burns, and it reminds me never to punish myself this way again because no human deserves that. Code Red and LiveWire, on the other hand, I’m okay with. I won’t reach for them first, but when presented with a soda machine that doesn’t have Dr. Pepper, they’re a good second choice. And I loved Pitch Black so much that I would probably lick some off the floor of a movie theater just to taste it again. With that in mind, I begin.

Round One: Mountain Dew Voltage

This is the flavor I had initially mistaken for Pepsi Blue. The description on the bottle says “Dew charged with raspberry citrus flavor and ginseng”. Adding ginseng to soda sounds completely fucking weird to me, and it should to you too. This flavor is actually somewhat reminiscent of Pepsi Blue, enough that if you’re one of the many people who thought PB resembled toilet cleaner in taste as well as color, you’ll want to avoid this. If, on the other hand, you likened Pepsi Blue to the sweet vaginal fluids of Aphrodite, this *might* be a decent replacement. Maybe. The ginseng gives it a weird, almost green tea-like aftertaste, but it’s definitely the closest you’ll get to Pepsi Blue without creating an elaborate basement soda lab.

Score: B-
I’d drink this again, but I ain’t gonna cry if it goes away forever. It would’ve been a C+, but it gets an extra point for coming *this close* to reviving the Crystal Pepsi of the 00’s.

Round Two: Mountain Dew Supernova

This one gets two immediate brownie points from me without even being opened yet. One for reminding me of DDR, and one for being an eerie pinkish-purple color, which my camera didn’t properly capture, that reminds me of what alien slime would look like if it was created by little girls. Description: “Dew with a blast of strawberry melon flavor and ginseng”. Oh okay, I get the gimmick now, they all have ginseng. I should really read before writing. Anyway, this stuff is pretty excellent. It tastes pretty much like your standard strawberry soda, but with a little less bite. Which I’m quite happy about, because I usually think strawberry soda has WAY too much bite.

Score: A-

Still not gonna win any awards, since it’s not terribly unique, but I will definitely be buying more of this stuff.

Round Three: Mountain Dew Revolution

The color of this one is… weird. It looks too watery to be soda, which is misleading since it’s not any healthier than the other two. Remember that “cornflower” crayon everyone hated because no child on Earth knows what the hell a cornflower looks like? And it was this weird off-shade of blue that didn’t remind you of corn *or* flowers? That’s what this reminds me of. The bottle blurb calls it “Dew infused with wild berry fruit flavor and ginseng”. The flavor is something I’m having trouble putting my finger on. It definitely also has a Pepsi Blue-ish flavor, but not as much as the Voltage. Actually, on second thought it tastes more like carbonated Vitamin Water. That makes the color make more sense, but carbonated Vitamin Water is not something I want in my life. Not at all. It’s not a terrible flavor, per se, but I want my junk food to be honest about its identity. If you’re going to be soda, be neon-colored and bad for me. Don’t pretend to be a health food. Mountain Dew Revolution needs to come out of the closet.

Score: C

Not impressed. I’ll finish the bottle I bought, but I’m going to scowl.

So there you have it. My pick of the three, obviously, is Supernova, but since my tastes are wildly unrelatable to anyone else’s, I’d definitely encourage you to try these for yourself, especially if you’re a connoisseur of peculiar sodas. Only one flavor will win, but I personally don’t think any of them are good enough to last. So try them soon or they will die alone.

I’m finally back to blogging! This one will be on the short side, but I’ve got a longer article in the oven, waiting to be born and then frosted. I like mixing up my oven metaphors.

One of the reasons for my non-blogging is I’ve been on a major art kick lately, so I’ve been spending more creative time at my other desk than at this one. My whole life I’ve been a hoarder of art supplies, and I have pretty much every kind under the sun – crayons, colored pencils, gel pens, pastels, watercolors, oil paints, beads, modeling clay, random shiny things I can hot glue to stuff, etc. But the other day when a friend mentioned coloring something with markers, I realized I hadn’t had a good set of those since elementary school. Oh sure, I have more than my share of Sharpies and Expos, but a nice set of markers for actual coloring? That was like a foreign concept. So today I took a random trip to Walmart, and purchased these:

Being the good little sheep that I am, I had to have the same set of markers my friend has. This goes way back to third grade, when my childhood best friend was constantly one-upping my crayon efforts. Oh sure, I had the BIG BOX of 96 crayons with the fancy sharpener in the back, but Stephanie? Had glitter crayons, and glow-in-the-dark crayons, and jewel tone crayons, and crayons that smelled like leather, and god knows what else. She was to crayons what Bubba was to shrimp. Oddly enough, the friend with the markers is also named Stephanie. I am forever having Crayola wars with people named Stephanie.

Anyway, this is a pretty good set of markers. You get 50 markers for about 8 bucks, and if this was QVC I’d do math and tell you how little money that is per marker, but I don’t care that much and neither do you. Some of the colors are pretty repetitive – there’s eleven or twelve shades of green, depending on whether you count teal as a shade of green or a shade of blue. Personally I just call it biracial and count it as both.

The markers are also “supertips”, which is Crayola’s marketing jargon for “you can make thick or thin lines with them”. I really like that, since it means you can color details without having markers that dry out in five seconds, but this is probably not the feature that’s gonna draw the kiddies in.

This is the real moneymaker: Crayola is recycling its old gimmick of convincing small children to shove markers up their noses and inhale. This seems like a dubious marketing technique, but it’s not nearly as bad as what one of my first grade classmates once brought to school: lemon-scented glue. I shit you not. Kid strutted into class all proud of his new glue, and was all “MY GLUE SMELLS LIKE LEMON!” So of course, being first-graders, we all stood around sniffing this kid’s glue until the bell rang. This had been such a hallmark moment in my life that I ran to my mom as soon as I got home from school and excitedly told her about the AWESOME GLUE, and she freaked the fuck out and told me that sniffing glue was VERY BAD and I might DIE. That was pretty much my mom’s default technique for getting me to stop doing stuff as a child. “Don’t climb on that! You’ll fall and DIE! Don’t drink that! You’ll DIE!” It was incredibly effective, but I was totally Chuckie Finster as a kid.

You’d think the ability to inhale marker ink without worrying about the state of your brain cells would be a strictly childhood trait, but you’d be wrong. I felt the need to smell all twelve scented markers, just like I did at age 7. The markers aren’t labeled, leaving you to guess what they’re supposed to smell like. Here’s what I came up with:

Yes, you heard right. Chocolottie. It’s not her exact scent, but it was reminiscent enough to make my brain go “HOLY SHIT IT’S CHOCOLOTTIE!”, which made me all kinds of giddy. I haven’t smelled that smell in years, and this marker will probably be responsible for my eventual brain damage.

So basically these all smell like flowers, food, Christmas, or various cleaning chemicals. I was completely thrown for a loop when the black marker didn’t smell like licorice. I’m still not 100% settled on pudding, but it was definitely something weakly chocolate-scented, and pudding was the first weakly chocolate-scented item I thought of. Also, I’m pretty pissed that there’s no scented purple marker. I want to make a smelly rainbow, dammit!

If you like markers, I’d totally recommend this set. Just don’t shove them too far up your nose. You don’t want to color your brain.

Yeah, it’s been months since I’ve updated. The last few months have kept me either sick or busy, so this took a backburner. But I’m trying to get back on the rickety tricycle that is life, so I should be back to this soon.

Meanwhile, here’s a meme I ganked from Mystie. Consider it a warm-up exercise, if you will.

Here are the rules: 1) Link back to the person who tagged you. 2) Post the rules on your blog. 3) Write six things about yourself. 4) Tag six people at the end of your post by posting links to their blog sites. 5) Let them know they’ve been tagged by leaving a comment on their site. 6) And let your tagger know when your entry is up.

1. My first celebrity crush was Danny Bonaduce.

As I plan to write more about soon, I grew up in a weird fusion of different decades, never knowing the difference between what was current and what was from my mom’s generation.  This resulted in some hilarity, particularly when I got addicted to The Partridge Family and developed a weird crush on the middle son, Danny. Danny Partridge was your standard “lovable brat” character. Think of him as a Dennis the Menace or Bart Simpson for the 70s, but with red hair. I guess I hit my “bad boy” phase at the tender age of seven. How was I supposed to know these were reruns, and by the time I saw them, Danny was a creepy washed-up druggie in his mid-thirties? Lousy confusing childhood. I also once wrote on a Girl Talk card that my future husband would be Don Adams, better known as the original Maxwell Smart. My mom pointed out he was very old by then, but I was all “So? He has a shoe phone!” At least I had my priorities straight.

2. I love small, enclosed spaces.

For some reason, ever since I was a little kid, I’ve loved to crawl up in small spaces and hide out in them. We had, and still have, an entertainment center with a decent-sized cabinet in the side. I’d crawl up in there and pull the door almost closed and just chill. When I got too big for that, I’d drag some Barbies into my grandma’s closet and play there. I always loved the idea of a tiny attic bedroom or even a cupboard bed, and I’d totally love to stay in one of those Japanese capsule hotels. In fact, one summer when I was older than I care to admit here, I thoroughly cleaned out my own closet, dragged a sleeping bag and a radio in there, and used it as my own personal fortress, which I slept in every night. It’s a good thing I have understanding parents, or I’d have ended up on all kinds of interesting medication.

3. I once helped name a Harry Potter shipping.

When I was in high school, I hadn’t read any of the Harry Potter books yet. But a friend dragged me to the first movie when it came out, and being the perverse weirdo that I was, my main reaction was “Dude, Harry and Ron are totally gay for each other”. So, along with a fellow Dodger by the name of Cyclone, I sat down to try and think of a name for this glorious shipping. (For those who are less geeky than I am, a shipping is just a pairing of characters you believe/want to believe are romantically or sexually involved in some way.)  We decided on Candyshipping, since they shared their candy on the train when they first met. Kinda lame, but 5 seconds of Googling tells me it seems to have caught on. I’m not 100% sure this came from us and not from someone else with the same idea, but it’s nice to think I may have made a contribution to what grew to be a scary, scary fandom.

4. I’d go straight (or at least bi) for the Take-Home Chef guy.

Hey, that rhymes!

5. I collect catalogs I’m never going to order anything from.

For reasons I can’t fully explain, I absolutely love catalogs of all kinds. Makeup catalogs, office supply catalogs, those leaflets that come in the newspaper advertising mediocre furniture stores, anything. In my bathroom magazine rack I currently have three different catalogs from Sephora, including one from 2004; one of those ridiculous airline catalogs; a ThinkGeek leaflet that came with a Christmas gift; one of those “Buy 5 items for 40 cents each!” ads from a New Age book club; and most bizarrely, a Montessori school supply catalog. I wish I had some interesting explanation for this, but really I just like to look at all the pictures.

6.  My religious beliefs change almost constantly.

I figured I’d throw in at least one fact that’s not totally frivolous, so here you go. I’ve been everything from Christian to Taoist to Wiccan to wannabe-Jew. I seriously celebrated Chanukah one year with 8 random candles I scrounged up from around my house. That was really weird at the time, but now I’m a Unitarian and can celebrate whatever the hell I want. I don’t think I can convince anyone I need Rosh Hashanah off work, though, unfortunately. But either way, I’m constantly changing my mind about what’s the best way to express my spiritual side, and frankly that’s fine with me. I enjoy the process.

Also, cocks.

Oh yeah, I’m supposed to tag 6 people. Most of my friends have private blogs, so no linkies here, but I’ll tag Roni, Fez, Spiffy, and Terry. I can’t really think of anyone else, but if you read this and it looks like fun, HAVE AT IT.

I follow a lot of different nostalgia sites, and there is one piece of my childhood that always seems to be missing from them. For reasons I don’t fully understand, being obsessed with Care Bears and Goosebumps is still totally acceptable, but there is just not the same love for the Babysitters Club. Looking back, I can sort of see why. The stories were contrived and cheaply written, the characters were unrealistic goody-goods, and major facts were constantly being retconned because the ghostwriters didn’t bother reading what the others had written. Still, these books were a huge fad that spanned over a decade, so I know there are lots of women out there who grew up just as obsessed with Stoneybrook and the BSC as I was.

Here’s my little tribute to the BSC, presented as a countdown of the top ten club members. (Conveniently, there were exactly ten total members of the BSC.) I’m also assigning them each a Spice name, because I’m cheeky like that.

#10: Shannon Kilbourne (Posh Spice)

Remember Shannon? No? Yeah, I’m surprised I do either. Shannon sucked. If you don’t remember, Shannon was Kristy’s snobby-ass neighbor whose main contribution to the series was to give Kristy a goddamn dog. I’m pretty sure “Shannon the puppy” was mentioned 800% more frequently than “Shannon the person”, which makes sense, because I’m sure the dog was 800% more loveable.

The only reason “Shannon the person” was even included in the club was as an associate member, because she was too busy taking French classes at her snooty prep school all the damn time. The best part is, the one or two days a year when enough parents went off to fuck, that they even needed to call an associate member, Shannon was still busy. Why did they even include her in the club? Bitch never did shit. Even her story in “The Babysitters Remember” was lame rich-girl crap, something about hanging out with bitchy girls who had fucking fountains in their houses. Yawn.

#9: Kristy Thomas (Sporty Spice)

Yes, I put Kristy way the hell down at number 9. But she’s *gasp* the PRESIDENT!! How can I not like the PRESIDENT of the club?? I’ll tell you how: she’s an asshat. Yes, she came up with a few “great ideas”, but she also threw a tantrum whenever anyone else came up with one, which actually happened quite frequently. And she always tried to shove BSC advertisements into projects where it was totally inappropriate.

Her only admirable quality was her willingness to fight for anything she believed in – at least, this was admirable sometimes, when she fought for an actual worthy cause. Most of the time she fought for such things as her right to tack up chore charts over pictures of someone’s dead grandma. Yes, this actually happened. You suck, Kristy. The only thing pushing you ahead of Shannon is that you were the most likely character to grow up and become a dyke.

#8: Logan Bruno (Boy Spice)

Logan, famous for being the booooy in the club, was another associate member. However, he actually showed up to help with shit, mostly because he was chasing Mary Anne’s poon. (Yes, I referred to a 13-year-old’s poon. They’re fictional characters, deal with it.) I actually sort of liked Logan. He was a boring character, and a stereotype (a Southern boy who has manners and likes football, how original!), but at least he was helpful most of the time, and unlike Shannon, he actually fucking babysat. Bonus points for putting up with Mary Anne’s constant whimpering and his little brother’s neverending “sidus idfection”. Between the two of them I’m sure Logan spent way too much time wiping snot off his shirts. Poor Logan.

#7: Mary Anne Spier (Baby Spice)

Okay, we get it. Mary Anne’s mom is dead. We got that after the first 80 times it was mentioned in the first, like, five books. This fact is repeated about every five seconds throughout the series, supposedly as an explanation for why Mary Anne is so “sensitive”. Personally, I don’t buy the “sensitive” thing. Yes, sensitive people cry a lot, but crying over everything that ever happens to you ain’t right. Mary Anne was fucking bipolar or something.

That said, she did have redeeming qualities. On the rare occasion that she found her balls and told someone where to shove it, she was awesome. And she rarely acted like a bitch unless someone pushed her pretty far. Still, in the end she was a milquetoast, and milquetoasts are boring. The word milquetoast is awesome though. Milquetoast.

#6: Stacey McGill (Diabeetus Spice)

Depending what point in the series you jump to, Stacey was either “sophisticated” or “the bad girl”, or sometimes just “the unlucky bitch with diabetes who pees the bed”. Apparently in Stoneybrook, wearing a black skirt or going to a rock concert made you a sophisticated badass who was way cooler than everyone else. That’s a sad testament to how fucking lame people were in this town.

Anyway, Stacey was okay. She never interested me much, but she did seem more mature than Mary Anne or Kristy, and smarter than Claudia. Stacey could be pretty damn stuck-up, though. Oh wow, you’re from New York City! You and like, 8 million other people. Shut the fuck up already. Oh yeah, almost forgot, Stacey was the treasurer. That’s pretty boring.

#5: Mallory Pike (Geeky Spice)

Let’s face it: Most of the kids reading this series were quiet, bookish nerds with few friends. Or at least I was. Maybe you weren’t, you lucky bastard. Either way, Mallory appealed directly to nerds, because she was the biggest nerd ever. She wanted to be an author, she wore things like loafers and plaid skirts, and everyone ignored her 98% of the time.

She also had about a million siblings because her parents never stopped fucking. You gotta feel bad for a kid whose parents never stop fucking. Mallory could be a whiny bitch sometimes, but I’d be a whiny bitch too if my parents kept popping out babies and expected me to spend all my free time chasing down their escaped hamsters. She was pretty cool overall, though: Mal was smart as hell, and was one of the first people to not act like a total racist ass to Jessi. She also managed to land herself a hot Australian boyfriend despite only being 11. (He was 11 too, not a pedophile, you pervs.) Score!

#4: Dawn Schafer (Hippie Spice)

A lot of people found Dawn irritating, but I liked her. Like Stacey, Dawn felt the constant need to point out she wasn’t from Stoneybrook, but at least California was more than two hours away. She was a vegetarian hippie, and oh my god, reading about her always made me fucking hungry for health food. (Which was strange, since I’m Southern, so my childhood meals were usually butter, fried in grease and soaked in ham juice.) Fresh-picked veggies with homemade dip? Whole-wheat pancakes with fruit? I have no idea why this stuff always sounded delicious to me, but it did. Now I’m hungry, goddammit.

Anyway, Dawn. She liked ghost stories and shit. Ghost stories are awesome. And her ancient house had a secret passage, which had been part of the Underground Railroad. I never fully understood that. If you were a slave who made it all the way to fucking Connecticut, weren’t you safe by then? That’s pretty far from the Mason-Dixon. Just sayin’.

#3: Jessi Ramsey (Brown Sugar ‘n’ Spice)

I know what you’re thinking: “Boring Jessi, at number 3? Are you on crack?” I actually am, but that has nothing to do with why I liked Jessi. Yes, Jessi was boring, but that’s what made her likeable. She wasn’t a bitch, or a crybaby, or an attention whore, or a bossy dickwad. She was just pretty chill most of the time. Jessi began life as the token black character, and apparently the residents of Stoneybrook had never heard of black people before. (I guess Dawn’s tunnel really didn’t get used much, ha.)

Anyway, I had a lot of respect for Jessi. In addition to putting up with racist bullshit, she was a ballerina (holy shit, the black character dances, didn’t see that one coming!), and would practice all the fucking time. She also always took the shitty long-term sitting jobs for the deaf kid and the kid with cancer and the creepy animal hoarders. Bonus points because she had to put up with that bitch Aunt Cecelia. Extra bonus points because she celebrated fucking Kwanzaa. Kwanzaa rocks. Rock on, Jessi.

#2: Abby Stevenson (Jew Spice)

You may not remember Abby. She showed up very late in the series, because I guess after like 80 books they decided they also needed a token Jew. Abby and her twin sister Anna, who was a music nut, moved into Kristy’s neighborhood after Dawn fucked off back to California. (The black girl dances, the Jews have money, what’s next, an Asian family with a genius kid? Oh wait…) Like Mary Anne, Abby had lost a parent, but unlike Mary Anne, she dealt with it in a mature, non-whiny fashion.

Besides this, Abby just generally had an awesome personality. She acted goofy and cracked jokes all the time, and listened to Elvis and Diana Ross. Hell yes. With my backwards-ass family, where the 80s were more like the 60s, I could totally dig a character who appreciated Elvis. Plus she kept having asthma attacks and almost dying, and she still didn’t take herself too seriously. Bonus points because her handwriting is all fucked up and wobbly like mine. Abby kicks ass.

#1: Claudia Kishi (Scary Spice*)

Yes, her spelling was awful, but that was pretty much the only thing I could find not to like about Claudia. I got obsessed with her because she was Japanese-American, and I was a fucked up weeaboo child. I could relate to so much about Claudia. She was a junk food addict, she hated school, and she just wanted people to get out of her fucking face so she could paint all the time.

Her family were (surprise!) total Asian stereotypes, pressuring her to be a genius like her sister. I hated Claudia’s parents. The fuckers were so controlling they banned Nancy Drew books. I guess they thought their 13-year-old daughter should’ve been reading Leaves of Grass or some shit. However, Claudia’s grandma was the most awesome character in the entire series. I think I got almost as upset when Mimi died as when my own grandparents did. She was that awesome. Ann M. Martin is a bitch.

But I digress. My absolute favorite aspect of Claudia, not surprisingly, was her wacky outfits. Between her, Clarissa Explains it All, and Cyndi Lauper, I grew up with the impression that it was totally normal to wear as many clashing colors and accessories as possible. God, I wish that impression had been accurate. I want the 80s back, dammit.

And there you have it: my totally biased, exaggerated opinions of a bunch of characters from books nobody reads anymore. My next article won’t be in top ten format. Promise.

*Scary was the best Spice Girl and you know it

Most people dread cleaning out storage areas. It’s an annoying chore, especially since these tend to be the places where we throw things we have no clue what to do with. This was certainly true in this case. However, digging through all the ugly shirts my ex left behind and all the random boxes I saved for unclear reasons, I found a lot of stuff I forgot I had. Much of it is really awesome, or at least really amusing. Here are the top 10 most interesting things I found in my closet.

#10: Photomosaic Tiger Puzzle!

This is something I totally forgot I had, and for good reason: I hate puzzles. I’ve hated puzzles ever since I was a kid, for no other reason than I just plain suck at them. The only puzzle I could get into was my kickass TMNT puzzle that showed the inside of the Technodrome, and that was only because my love of Krang was more powerful than my puzzle hatred.

As an adult, I have literally sat on a carpet with a bunch of six year old special ed students, furrowing my brow as we struggled together to try and assemble a 24-piece dinosaur floor puzzle. Usually they figured it out before me. My problem with jigsaw puzzles is mainly that I tend to look at the colors rather than the shapes, because shapes are not my forte. For the same reason, I’ve always preferred painting over drawing, since with paint you can sort of blob on some color and smear it around until it looks vaguely like a tree, or the Virgin Mary, or your Aunt Martha’s psychotic poodle.

For someone who is bad with shapes, Photomosaic puzzles are like a punishment from the 9th circle of Hell. Basically, they’re a bajillion tiny pictures that combine to form one larger picture. As art, they’re brilliant, and fascinating to look at. As puzzles, they’re pure, undiluted evil. Each individual puzzle piece contains several different pictures, meaning you cannot use color to tell where they go. You can’t even refer to the box, since every piece looks exactly the goddamn same. These things make me flip out ninja style.

So, why on earth would someone who loathes puzzles buy one of these in the first place? I blame the zoo. See, every time I go to the zoo, I go with one thing on my mind: TIGERS. I’ve always been fascinated by tigers. They look so loveable and cuddly, yet they will eat your fucking face off. This makes them equally appealing to boys, girls, furries, and fans of homoerotic magic shows alike. The problem is, our zoo rarely has tigers around. For years it lacked tiger awesomeness entirely, until one day they made a big announcement: They had white tigers. White tigers are the cream of the crop when it comes to felines, so of course this was a major event. Major events meant being able to talk my mom into getting me things from gift shops, and that’s how this puzzle came into my life. Maybe one day I’ll actually sit down and work on it for like ten minutes before my cats jump on the dining table and knock the pieces all over the floor.

As a bonus, when I opened the box, I found these doodles I did of eyes in random different colors. I have no more insight than you do as to why I would have drawn a bunch of eyes and tucked the result into a puzzle box. In fact, you probably have more insight into this than I do. Share your insight with me.


#9: Naked Baby Alive Doll!

Why is it that when we discover our old dolls lying around the house, they’re always naked? Baby Alive is an odd shape and size, so I can’t think of any other pressing use I would have had for her clothes. Maybe little girls just go through a phase where they like stripping the clothes off their dolls, perhaps around the same time they start chopping their poor Barbies’ hair into hideous mullets.

In case you’re not familiar with Baby Alive, her claim to fame is being the nastiest doll around. Move over, Betsy Wetsy. Baby Alive does your work and then some: She pees and poops. Even better, she poops runny green diarrhea, because runny green diarrhea is what you feed her. Clearly this is designed to provide a lesson in realistic childcare: babies shit all the goddamn time, and it’s not nice round droppings like the ones your dog plops out. More clever kids than I probably drew the ultimate, awesome conclusion that you could force the doll to eat her own poop. I wish I’d been that clever, because that’s the best use for a baby doll ever.

What I remember most about Baby Alive was the weird little food packets. She came with these little individual pouches of weird powdery mix. Add water, and you get her delicious diarrhea food. The sad thing was the stuff actually smelled pretty good. I always wanted to eat it myself, but I knew I mustn’t. This watery goo had a purpose in life, and that purpose was to drip slowly through a plastic doll and leak out of her crotch. Baby Alive needs to get that fistula checked out.

The dolls have recently made a comeback. I have mixed feelings about that. On the one hand, it’s nice to see that kids are still playing with dolls that highlight the grosser side of parenting. On the other hand, the new dolls creep me the hell out. Either way, Baby Alive is gonna be sticking around for awhile, making poop that is indistinguishable from her food.


#8: Evil Pig Statues!

It wouldn’t be a true closet-cleaning experience without unearthing some bizarre, creepy piece of kitsch. These alarming pig statues fill that quota nicely. Given to me by a coworker who was cleaning out her closet, they were originally intended to be passed on to someone else. It was like a neverending game of Pass the Pigs, except without the potential for making softcore pig dice porn.

See, when I was in high school, I had a close friend who collected pig-related items. The unfortunate fate of anyone who collects something easy to find is that when word gets around of their hobby, they never get a normal gift again for the rest of their natural lives. Never, ever again. If you collect pigs, you can kiss your bath sets and pre-mixed jar recipes goodbye, because every gift you ever get will be pig-related. If, on the other hand, you collect antique Mexican cookware, you’ll keep getting the same cocoa mugs everyone else gets, but at least those have regifting potential.

So I brought these piggies home with the intention of giving them to my friend, but I never got around to it. I also obviously never got around to actually looking at the damn things, because they’re the stuff of nightmares. Now that I’ve released them from their plastic bag prison, I think the two on the left are going to kill me in my sleep. The third one is less disturbing, a fact verified by the fact that it, and only it, tripped my camera’s “face recognition” function. I like to think he’s merely a misguided pig youth, persuaded to join the Cult of Evil Swine by Papa Pork and his false promises of wealth and protection. Perhaps the little guy can still be rehabilitated, and give up the danger of the streets for a life as a spoiled exotic pet.

Or perhaps I’ll dump them all in the garbage tomorrow, since they creep me out. Fuck, that’s gonna be harder to do now that I’ve personified them. Lesson learned: Never personify pig statues.


#7: Ancient Roller Skates!

Roller skating is often thought of as a 70s trend, and it’s true that during my childhood, rollerblades were a lot more hip. But for some reason, between about 4th and 7th grade, kids still develop an insatiable need to go to skating rinks. This probably stems from the raging hormones of puberty paired with a desire to get the hell away from your parents. Skating rinks are one of the few places that are still considered safe to leave kids alone, with only the supervision of a few greasy college students and maybe the old guy who owns the place. They’re also a place where young love tends to blossom, due largely to “couple skates” and the resulting pressure to find someone to hold your hand as you skate along the same oval path, over and over and over.

But the best aspect of skating rinks was undoubtedly lock-ins, special events that caused your parents to become temporarily insane and decide it was acceptable for you, at the tender age of twelve, to stay out all night. Naturally these always turned into a competition for who could stay awake the longest. If you fell asleep, you left yourself open to having all sorts of cruel things drawn on you with highlighter. Nobody wants “I LOVE SCOTT” glowing on their forehead in neon yellow as they fry themselves under a blacklight, especially if Scott was the smelly fat kid who pooped his pants in 5th grade.

I got these skates when I was ten. This turned out to be excellent timing, because that was the age when my feet decided to go on strike and never grow again. These skates are a size 8, which is the same size I wear now. The laces need loosening, but apart from that, they still fit. At some undetermined point in time I attacked them with glitter glue, making them all disco-fabulous with little dots of silver and gold.

Sadly, my local skating rink is gone now. To be honest I was always a terrible skater, and had to suffer the humiliation of losing my balance every time a four-year-old whizzed past me at 80 miles an hour. But it would still be nice to be able to visit there again for the nostalgia. Then again, seeing middle-schoolers engage in the same drama I loved so much when I was their age would probably nauseate me now.

grape escape
#6: Grape Escape!

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a board game nut. There are so many different kinds, and as an only child, board games carried the added bonus of instant parental attention. I couldn’t play them unless my mom would join me, and she couldn’t not join me, because she already shelled out twenty bucks for the damn game, and it would be a waste if I didn’t play it every single day until a vital piece went missing or got eaten by a cat.

The first board game I loved was Mouse Trap. Like most kids, I rarely actually played the game, preferring to spend like two hours setting it up and then making the trap go off until it got boring. Of course, Mouse Trap has 47,000 pieces, and it wasn’t long before they got lost and it became totally useless. So a few years later when I saw a commercial for Grape Escape, I had to have it.

Even just looking at the box, Grape Escape really feels like a Mouse Trap ripoff, right down to the 800-piece assembly line of doom. But in Grape Escape, you weren’t just trying to trap your opponents. In Grape Escape, the stakes are higher: your goal is to maim and kill your enemies. I got this game around third or fourth grade, an age at which kids reach their peak hostility levels and the appeal of senseless violence against peers is at its highest.

Basically, this is how the game works: Your “movers” are grapes that you form out of Play-Doh using an enclosed mold. The game board is an obstacle course filled with various death traps designed to mangle your soft, doughy body. The goal, of course, is to avoid being maimed yourself while simultaneously ensuring the deaths of as many opponents as possible. The myriad ways to die include being stomped by a giant boot, mashed by a roller, sawed in half with a saw, or my personal favorite, snipped in half by a giant pair of scissors.

We never really played the game all that often. It had numerous flaws, the worst being that most of the obstacles were so weakly held together that rather than squeeze the delicious wine out of you, they’d usually just snap off. Also, I can’t shake the feeling that I really would’ve enjoyed this more if I had siblings. Squashing clay grapes is fun no matter who they belong to, but taking your youthful hostilities out on your mom just isn’t as cathartic as doing the same to a little brother.

cabbage patch

#5: Cabbage Patch Kid!

I missed the boat on a lot of the girly toy trends of the 80s. I only had a passing interest in Strawberry Shortcake and Care Bears, and even then I just read the books. I knew nothing of Rainbow Brite. I might have had one or two My Little Ponies, but they also might have been cheap knockoffs, because my childhood was full of those. But Cabbage Patch Kids were another story. I had Cabbage Patch MADNESS. A relative gave me my first CPK, and I was in love. I had some totally awesome Cabbage Patch bedsheets that I used until I was far, far too old for them. Luckily my friends in elementary school were the sort who kept watching Sesame Street until like 6th grade, so it didn’t matter much.

This doll wasn’t my first Cabbage Patch Kid. My first was a redheaded one that I got when I was about three or four. The doll shown above is actually dressed in her clothes, and I have no idea where her own clothes went. Maybe to the same hell Baby Alive’s clothes are burning in. Anyway, this doll was one I begged for when I was in third grade, after my best friend got that awesome one that came with the hair crimper. She always had better toys than me, and I coveted them badly. She had glitter crayons, Quints, Pizza Hut Skipper – pretty much every toy I ever wanted and didn’t have. This was the case with the damn slutty Cabbage Patch with her styling products.

Naturally, I didn’t get the same doll my friend had, but I did get this doll, who for reasons I don’t fully understand, smells like cookies. Even after years at the bottom of my filthy closet. She was my favorite baby doll, and seeing her brings back instant memories of playing house with my friend, who always insisted on being called Isabella. We got in a fight over this every single time, because I thought she should get a new name after being Isabella 17,000 times. I think I got my way one time, and she triumphantly called herself Isabelle instead. I gave up after that.

Incidentally, I have no idea why this doll, who I’ve arbitrarily decided to call Ruby Tuesday since I never bothered to name her before, has acquired such an eerie facial tan. Probably because my mom chain-smokes and everything in our house turns orange, but I prefer to think it’s a result of bad tanning products, because there’s a lesson in that.


#4: Hilarious Emo Song Lyrics!

When I was about 13, I went through what I suppose you could call an emo phase. But we didn’t have emo then, so it was just a goth phase with more whining. Whatever you call it, I had this irritating notion that I was deep and poetic because I wore black nail polish, listened to depressing rock music, and hated “preps”.

During this phase, I happened to read a biography of Kurt Cobain, the ultimate idol for depressed teenagers who think they’re emotionally deep. At least he was until My Chemical Romance came along. Anyway, the biography mentioned that in one of the houses he lived in as a teenager, he used to scribble song lyrics all over the walls. Oh my god! Talk about DEEP, man! I was starstruck by this, hoping that one day when I got famous, people would examine my childhood home and be floored by how awesome my taste in music was.

Naturally I couldn’t write on my bedroom walls, because I had parents. But my parents didn’t go in my closet, so I set to work immediately covering the walls with song lyric scribbles that reflected my tormented, deeply philosophical nature. I even dared to write a few of my own original lyrics, because that would be even more impressive when I got famous. (Ironic that reading a biography of Kurt Cobain made me MORE determined to be famous. Guess I didn’t read the whole thing.)

Most of the scribbles have since been painted over, but since I was stupid enough to write the ones above with Sharpie, you can still easily read them. I’m disturbed by my incorrect use of “your”, as I’ve always been an excellent speller and wouldn’t usually have made such an error, even in 7th grade. Googling the lyrics disturbs me even more though, because apparently they’re from a fucking Limp Bizkit song. Oh yes, 13-year-old me. Limp Bizkit. That’s sooo deep. Almost as deep as the hole in your bleeding heart.

bart doll
#3: Vintage Bart Simpson Doll!

Ah, the infamous Bart Simpson doll. I got this for my 5th birthday, which was in late 1990, so The Simpsons was just taking off as a huge craze. Unfortunately, five-year-old girls are rarely into the sort of craze that involves bright yellow people who burp and ride skateboards. Me, I was into another, girlier craze: Quints.

Quints were basically these little sets of five tiny baby dolls, but that wasn’t what held my interest. The part I was so nuts about was the fact that all their accessories came in fives too. You had five little connected cribs, five potties, five high chairs, even a little pool with five connected inner tubes. I’m not sure if I was witty enough that I would have asked for five dolls for my fifth birthday, but it would have been more interesting if I had been. More likely I just saw the commercials and wanted the damn dolls. Either way, when my dad called to ask what I wanted for my birthday, I jumped at my chance and practically shouted “QUINTS!!” into the phone. My poor dad had no clue what the hell I was talking about, so my mom had to explain it to him.

I could barely contain myself waiting for that birthday, knowing it was going to be damn special, because my dad was coming over with Quints to satisfy my toy lust at long last. Naturally when it came time to open presents, I grabbed for my dad’s first, because it contained the holy, long-awaited, much-anticipated… Bart Simpson doll?? Ohhh fuck. Talk about birthday drama. I don’t remember my exact reaction, but I remember that it wasn’t very nice and that it made my dad feel like ass on a stick. To put it succinctly: I had a cow, man.

Fortunately, I’ve since become a huge Simpsons fan, and consider this doll that came out so early in the show’s history to be a wonderful collector’s item. Or it would be, if he had a shirt and didn’t smell funny from being left in a shed for like six years. Either way, I now appreciate my Bart doll a hell of a lot more than I would appreciate a bunch of freaky clone babies who all shit at the same time.

little people
#2: Little People Dollhouse!

I had literally over 100 dolls of various types when I was a kid, because my mom assumed I was 200% girlier than I actually was, and she just plain liked buying them. I liked dolls, to be sure, but more than the dolls themselves, I loved their little houses and furniture. I’m still obsessed with houses, which in my adult life has naturally translated into an obsession with The Sims. But years before I even knew how to use a computer, I had my Little People house.

This house really has everything you want in a dollhouse. First, it folds open and can be separated into two entirely different houses. The little rooms are easily switched around, there’s a little basketball hoop that you can launch a tethered basketball into with a flipper, and best of all, the trash can is a slide. Your suicidal Little People can throw themselves down a hole in the balcony and pop out of the garbage can, with a smelly, rancid new lease on life. There’s also a little treehouse which contains yet ANOTHER slide.

One of the original appeals of Little People was that they were tiny and portable. The newer ones are larger, presumably so they present less of a choking hazard. This makes sense given that their target age range still eats their own poop, but it also takes away the charm of having dolls who are basically round pegs. I mean, no matter what kind of design skills you have, there is no way to create a house for the new Little People that allows them to hurl themselves down a garbage chute. For me, that’s a dealbreaker.

And now, the absolute best, most awesomely awesome thing I discovered in my closet…

#1: A Bunch of 80s Vinyl!!!

Motherfucking jackpot. I’m sure plenty of people have had the experience of cleaning out a neglected attic/garage/bomb shelter and finding a stack of old records. But they’re usually not records you particularly wanted to find. Nine times out of ten they’re forgotten relics from some long-dead relative, featuring exciting artists like the Ink Spots and the Doodletown Pipers. Since I grew up in the digital age, where everyone has attention deficit disorder and most people don’t even listen to an entire song before they get bored and switch the station, I certainly didn’t expect to find vinyl in my own closet.

Now, anyone who knows me at all knows I have a total hard-on for the 80s. I know what you’re thinking: “Wait a minute. How on earth could you have 80s records and forget about them?” Good question. Apparently I snagged these babies for cheap in an eBay auction, pissed my pants in excitement, realized I didn’t own a record player, and tucked them away for safekeeping. To be perfectly honest I thought I might have some vinyl shoved in a closet somewhere, but it was equally likely I had dreamt it, and in either case I had no idea what albums I had. I certainly wouldn’t have imagined a selection this awesome.

I squealed pretty loud when I pulled out each of these, but I squealed the loudest for 1999, because I’ve been on a huge Prince kick lately. The man is seriously underrated as a musician, too often being thought of as another 80s pop trend, when in fact he’s a really talented multi-instrumentalist who wrote like half the pop music you’ve ever heard. Plus he’s shorter than me, which is a feat not many men accomplish.

I was also super excited for Like A Virgin. This was the golden age of Madonna, back when she was just slutty, instead of slutty and pretentious. Early Madonna is really great stuff, and was some of the first pop music I heard as a kid. I think my first taste of the generation gap came when I was dancing my ass off to “Material Girl” and my mom started complaining about the lyrics being immoral or some shit. “It’s just a song, Mom! Jeez!”

Thriller was made less interesting by the fact that I already own the CD version, which puts me in the awkward position of having to explain to people why I own two copies of a Michael Jackson album. But it’s great music, and if you’re going to own vinyl from the 80s, you can’t do much better than Thriller, which spent years as the undisputed best-selling album of all time. I think it was recently ousted by some piece of crap, but I’m not going to go Googling to verify that. That’s partly because I’m lazy, but also partly because deep inside me there’s still a four-year-old who gets really excited whenever “Beat It” comes on, and I really don’t want to piss her off any further. She’s still seething about the new Chipmunks movie.

This set of albums is also notable for the fact that Madonna, Michael Jackson, and Prince were all born the exact same year as my mom. Years of watching Pop-Up Video burned this sort of information into my brain, and now I can’t get it out. I’m sure if I ever get Alzheimer’s and don’t recognize my own children, I will still remember that Pat Benetar used to be an opera singer and Elton John’s middle name is Hercules.

Oh, and uh, there’s also The Gap Band. They are clearly musicians of some sort and I’m sure their mothers are very proud of them.


Special Bonus: MONEY!

MONEY! Yes, digging through some old bags, I found a grand total of six dollars. Hey, that’ll buy me a cheap lunch, or some cheap liquor. I need to clean more often. Maybe I’m actually rich, and I don’t know it. Maybe you are, too. Go clean something, you slob.

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September 2022