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Posts Tagged ‘80s


Posted on: June 26, 2009

Edit: A bunch of other random memories keep surfacing, and I feel like I want to post them somewhere, so I’m just adding them to the end of this as I think of them.

As someone who 1) writes about pop culture nostalgia, 2) is a fan of Michael Jackson, and 3) keeps promising to write more and then disappearing, I feel the need to post something now. Except this is usually a humorous blog, and Perez Hilton’s stupid ass notwithstanding, this is not an occasion for humor. So I’m a little stuck on how to approach this. But since the loss of a huge pop culture icon certainly lends itself to a lot of nostalgia, I’ll start there. Here’s a smattering of memories of a man who always seemed to be in the background of my life, in odd little ways.

“Dirty Diana” was the first song I can remember hearing. Not just the first pop song, or the first Michael Jackson song  – this is my earliest memory that involves music at all. I must have been just about three or four, and all I remember is hearing the line about “unlock the door because I forgot the key”, and thinking that didn’t sound very safe. I didn’t listen to the rest of the song at all, and I had no idea what song it was until I heard it many years later, as a teenager, and that line sent me hurtling back in time. Up until then I’d figured the line must be from some old country song, because that’s mostly what my parents listened to in the 80s. So that’s one memory, a rare one, from the only time in my life when I didn’t care all that much about music.

By the time I heard “Beat It” a year or so later, I cared a lot. I danced my little preschool ass off to that song every time it came on Alvin and the Chipmunks, which was my main source of music at that time. Together with “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” and “Material Girl”, “Beat It” completed my Holy Trinity of 80s Music. I’d still put it in my top five favorite songs of all time. The first time I actually heard Michael Jackson sing it was on a commercial for one of those “best of the decade” type CDs, so it must have been early 1990, and I remember wondering who the hell was this random black dude singing my favorite Chipmunks song.  To this day that’s probably my favorite “look how silly I was as a kid” story.

In the early 90s I didn’t care so much, because I spent that time immersed in music from when my mom was a kid – the Beatles, Elvis, Stevie Wonder, all that good stuff. But I remember my mom, a die-hard Elvis fan, obsessively collecting all the tabloids about Michael Jackson marrying Lisa Marie Presley. Eventually she started collecting ones that were just about Michael Jackson, hoping they’d mention Lisa Marie too. We had nightstands with cabinets and she had one totally full of these things. I thought this Michael Jackson dude sounded pretty weird, and frankly I was sick of hearing about him, and I made absolutely no connection between this pale man and my beloved “Beat It”, which I knew a black guy sang.

Then came 1997. As a preteen, I had just recently eschewed my mom’s music for more recent stuff, and had started watching MTV, mostly for stupid shit like Beavis and Butthead and Singled Out. Don’t let this fool you into thinking I was in any way hip. I wore sweatpants and tie-dyed Tweety Bird t-shirts to school, I carried a teddy bear backpack, and I made up stories based on the Babysitters Club. I was the dork to end all dorks, and I got into MTV in an effort to impress another dork into being my friend. Yeah.

So anyway, I was trying to watch Singled Out one day, except it was supposed to come on at 7, I think, and 7 passed, and they were still showing videos, which I quickly realized were all Michael Jackson videos. So. Many. Stupid. Michael Jackson. Videos. Finally a veejay came on and said they were playing a marathon of his videos because he had just become a father. “Uh, good for him,” I thought, “now where’s my show?” But I didn’t turn the channel right away, because some of the songs were kinda catchy, and I didn’t have anything better to watch, and… holy shit is that “Beat It”?! It was, and a black guy was singing it, and that black guy was the same as the “white” guy I’d been whining about a few seconds before. That hurt my head a little, but I didn’t care, because hearing that song again was like running into an old friend. And then magic happened, because the video for “Thriller” came on. I had never seen it before, and I loved everything about it. From that point, I was a huge fan.

I was also really, really embarassed about that, because if you were going to become a squeeing MJ fangirl, the late 90s were not such a good time for it. At the time I didn’t know anything about the allegations against him, but I did know that kids at school made fun of him, and I was dorky enough without admitting to being a fan of his. So I kept the whole thing secret – even from my parents, for some reason that existed only in my head, because they never really said anything about him to make me think they’d disapprove. Occasionally other kids would hint at being fans – we were all born in the 80s, after all – but none of us directly admitted it. Being a fan of an extremely popular musician seems a strange thing to have as a dark secret, but peer pressure is weird like that. (Today, I find it much more embarassing to admit that I once watched Singled Out.)

It wasn’t until last year that I started freely admitting to listening to him a lot, even to my own friends. First I posted this, admitting I owned a copy of Thriller on vinyl. And then a couple months later I was at my mom’s cousin’s house in Arizona for a week, and she had Off the Wall on vinyl, and I played it while she was at work. And I was like “this is a fucking good album, and I am gonna fucking buy it, and I’m gonna put it on my computer, and then I’m gonna fucking listen to it.”  And I did, and I put Thriller and Bad on there too, and put some of the songs on my iPod. I don’t know why I thought my friends would care when they saw the songs on my “now playing” message on MSN, but of course they didn’t. That whole ridiculous fear was just in my head. Hell, many of my friends had some of the same songs.

And you know what else? I might not have most of those friends if I hadn’t been a Michael Jackson fan. It was because of him that I started watching music videos and stand-up comedy (because comedians often mentioned him), and those things are what made me who I am. All the humor and knowledge of pop culture I picked up from those sources is what made me actually become a social creature. I became a nostalgia geek because I spent 1997 wanting 1983 back (despite the fact that I hadn’t actually been born then). And without that first big music obsession I wouldn’t have gotten so interested in music or at all interested in dance, and I might not have ever picked up a clarinet or a guitar or a piano. (Okay, I’ve never picked up a piano, but you know.)

I don’t know anything, for sure, about what Jackson did or didn’t do in his personal life, and I don’t especially care. History is full of weirdos with seedy personal lives – Lewis Carroll, also accused of being a pedophile, comes immediately to mind – and that never changes the fact that they were brilliantly creative people who spread immeasurable amounts of joy through their work. I really hope history remembers Michael Jackson that way. I know I will.

A few more random memories:

-Driving home from work, the day after Election Day 2008, and hearing a remix of “Man in the Mirror” with Obama quotes added in. I was extremely emotional that day, and I don’t think anything could have hit me quite like that joyful gospel choir singing “make that change”. It just so perfectly captured everything I was feeling at that moment.

-Watching the “Ghosts” video, with Sabrina, when it first premiered on MTV.  It was pretty bizarre, and we mostly joked about it, but we had a great time.

-Seeing my cousin’s band play “Beat It” on my last night in Arizona. I’d been reluctant to dance all night, but one of my cousin’s friends insisted: “You have to dance to ‘Beat It’!” She was right, and so I did.

-Going to Walmart a lot late at night a couple years back, because I live in BFE and Walmart is the only activity sometimes, and I swear to God every single time I went in the store “Say, Say, Say” came on over the speaker system. It was surreal because I’m pretty sure I’m one of like, five or six people on Earth who even know what song that is. I have literally only ever heard it on Pop-Up Video and in Walmart and Kmart.

-The storm of insanity around 2002 or so when somebody leaked the Freddie Mercury/MJ version of “State of Shock” on the Queenzone forums. This was back when a rare track actually was rare, before you could just go to Youtube and listen to any song in the universe, so collectors were pissed that people were getting it without making any effort to track it down. (For the record – it sucks. I was thinking hearing two of my favorite singers on a song together would be mind-blowing, but really, their voices just sound terrible together.)

-And finally, on Inside Joke Theater, something only Sabrina and I knew: Michael Jackson did not live at Neverland, but in a pineapple under the sea.

You know, reading back over this post again I just realized none – not one single one – of these memories were actually dependent on him being alive. When someone dies the immediate sense is “shit, it’s all over”, but these memories are all based on stuff he did years or decades ago, so it’s not like they’ve come to an end now. I was curious to see what his comeback would’ve been like, and of course it’s still horrible for his friends and family. But the 80s kid within me feels a lot better knowing that Michael Jackson-as-an-icon is pretty much immortal.

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.

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.

September 2022