Category Archives: Things I Like

The Rightful Heir

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It’s time to announce that the rightful heir to my Ninja Turtles collection will be a first-born son. Yep, we found out we’re having a boy. We’re both pretty excited. It makes me want to give God a high five and say good choice.

I can’t wait to one day take him down to the basement, place my hands on his shoulders, and re-enact this scene from The Lion King:

Mufasa: Look, Simba. Everything the light touches is our kingdom.

Young Simba: Wow.

Mufasa: A king’s time as ruler rises and falls like the sun. One day, Simba, the sun will set on my time here, and will rise with you as the new king.

Young Simba: And this’ll all be mine?

Mufasa: Everything.

Meanwhile, we’ve basically been living in a cocoon, which is also why I haven’t been writing often. The wife is still in doctor-advised rest-mode and outside is eleven degrees, so we basically spend all of our time wrapped in blankets, watching movies, and eating cookies.

Specifically these cookies:

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They taste like the root-beer-flavored Dum Dum Pops and Chips Ahoy combined. The combination works better than it has any right to.

Other things that have happened:

- I’m still cooking and preparing all of our meals. I’m actually getting kind of good at it, even if the kitchen remains a perpetual hellscape of dirty dishes.

- We were both vegetarians, but the wife began craving meat and/or having a strong instinct to eat it. In the beginning, she’d started out meekly and healthily with turkey bacon, but she quickly advanced to Philly cheesesteaks and buffalo chicken finger baskets. It’s sort of hilarious. All of her “Your Vegetarian Pregnancy” books have withered away in horror. There is meat-shaming dust in the spot where the books used to be.

- One day the wife was craving cake. So duh, I went to the store and got cake. You’d think this would be easy enough to not screw up, but I did. I bought freezer cake.

“What is that? That’s not cake! That’s freezer cake.”

There was so much disdain dripping from her voice that would you think all the proceeds went to clubbing baby seals.

- We saw Lego Movie. It was great. I was skeptical that it was going to be a clunky-computer-animated gigantic commercial, but it had a lot of heart for a movie about plastic toys.

- Finally, here’s a Pro-tip: Do not text this picture to your pregnant wife.

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New Year, New Old Things

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It’s a new year. I think it’s time for the type of post I haven’t done in a long time. Time to look at all the random crap I’ve collected over the past few months. Given that yard sale season has been long over with, I’ve been mainly finding crap at thrift stores and antique malls. I’ve discovered antique malls are kind of a secret place to find random 1980s toys for cheap(ly enough).

First up is that amazing Nickelodeon alarm clock. Three bucks at the thrift store. It regularly sells eBay for around $100. Wait, what? How is a 1995 alarm clock worth $100? I have no idea why, how or what, except I’ll say that even though I was a teenager and in high school by the mid-nineties, even I feel a tiny nostalgia for the mid-nineties Nick. For the people who were kids in the era— nope, I still have no idea where the hell they get a hundred dollars for an alarm clock.

I also have no idea what is compelling me to keep it instead of cashing in my instant lotto ticket on eBay. Instead, I’ve set it on my bedside end table where I feel oddly comforted by the gaudy purple plastic and neon green slime nightlight. I actually needed an alarm clock anyway, and I just like this one. Bonus points for waking up to the alarm of a rocket ship taking off, followed by a bugle horn, followed by a bouncy spring, followed by the classic nineties Nick jingle.

Next: my favorite action figure in all of my collection.

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These are crappy bootleg figures that are either supposed to be Masters of the Universe or wrestling, or some strange hybrid thereof. All I know is that I have Hulk Hogan on He-Man’s body–and not one, but two of them, albeit with various crappy paint jobs—and you can easily see why it’s my favorite action figure. Found these guys at a thrift store for about a quarter a piece.

Here’s a cool story to get any collector salivating:

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I found this Brooks Robinson-signed baseball at a thrift store. It was inside of big bag of grubby other baseballs. I noticed one of them was signed. Didn’t know by who, know nothing about baseball, but for a buck for the entire bag, I figured it would make a good story if it was in fact signed by somebody cool. In fact, Brooks Robinson is pretty cool. I might get the signature authenticated, but I’m certain it’s legit given comparisons to pictures and just considering the naturalness and fluidity of pen lines on the ball itself.

For now I’ve just been enjoying it on my “collectible balls” shelf.

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Onto my recent antique mall finds.

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I picked up these three puzzles for eight dollars a piece — a little higher in price than what I’d normally pay, but see, collecting is like going out to restaurants. Some people prefer restaurants with white table cloths and mineral water. I collect stuff like I’m going to the Sizzler for the $9.99 steak and lobster night. Eight dollars for a puzzle puts us somewhere in Applebee’s territory.

Still, I dig these puzzles. I’m even doing them. The wife is making fun of me for doing kid’s puzzles, but I’m telling you, a 200-piece DinoRiders puzzle is no joke for someone with latent ADHD.

Let’s have a closer look at the gorgeous artwork:

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Another antique mall find: Sega stuff!

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Strangely enough, I’ve never found any original Sega Master System stuff in all of my years of collecting. We even had a Sega Master System growing up, but it was so obscured by my Nintendo/Genesis/Super Nintendo obsession, that I barely remember playing the SMS for five minutes. No clue what happened to it, but there isn’t a single scrap of evidence that we ever even owned it. I guess it was sold at a yard sale and forgotten.

So I’m excited to finally own some things with that weird graphing-paper background. I paid $20 for the light phaser in the box, which puts me in a restaurant where the utensils are wrapped in gold-lined cloth. Also found two games for a buck each.

One of them had this amazing poster inside:

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Happy New Year everyone. My New Years resolutions are to:

- read more books, write, exercise, go outside and enjoy existing, put together that DinoRiders puzzle and feel satisfied forever

- clean the house (that is, to make our spare storage rooms into actual rooms that you could like, go in)

- make the basement (which is my den of 1980s crap) into more of a family room (right now that vaguely means it’s less of my eight year old self’s dream world and more of a place where the wife might watch TV occasionally or something.)

- maybe organize the shed. maybe.

Christmas Fallout

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With my mother’s recent passing, Christmas was difficult. My mom had started shopping for all of us back in October, so we each had several gifts to open from her. My dad wrapped all the gifts, including the ones that she had bought for him, so that we could open our presents all together, like it would have been if she was there. He decorated the tree the way she would have decorated it, made her famous cheeseball recipe that she made every year, and re-created Christmas just as it always had been — or would have been, or should have been, if she didn’t just randomly die six weeks and four days earlier.

Maybe I’ll be able to look at back this one day with distance and see some sort of healing and closure that this provided, but it was grueling trying to fight back the tears. Everyone says don’t fight back tears, but tears are fine. I’m fine with tears. It’s only the overflowing sinuses, ensuing congestion, chapped face, swollen eyes, and generalized oxygen deprivation I’m trying to fight back. Crying fucking sucks.

I guess it was good on some level. I’d been feeling closed-off and unemotional for the past few weeks, like a sap had hardened over me. This was basically like cutting a little off the bottom of the Christmas tree. I was thirsty for water.

And with that happy introduction, let me continue with the annual post of showing off all my awesome Christmas gifts. I wasn’t going to do this post. It felt dumb. But Mom was big on tradition. And I got a little sign from her.

See, one of the other things I wasn’t going to do anymore was make a big deal out of Halloween. When she was in the hospital, one of the last days I saw her conscious was on Halloween. She wasn’t doing very well that day and I’d left early, partially because I couldn’t take the hospital awfulness, and because I also wanted to get home in time for the trick-or-treaters. It ended up raining and we didn’t even get that many kids. The next day in the hospital, I told her about my Halloween display and the trick-or-treaters we did get, but she was delirious and didn’t even remember that it was Halloween anyway. There’s other gory, sad details. That’s just how it goes with hospital stories.

Stay with me. I promise this story gets better.

Anyway, all of those memories had created a gigantic guilt-depression-bomb in my mind. The obvious solution was to just never deal with any of it again, right? No more big Halloween. No more sitting out front handing out candy and scaring kids. No more decorating and blogging about plastic spider rings. Everything in life is pointless when everyone dies at the end.

This was one of the Christmas gifts she had bought me:

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Light-up skull gloves, which she thought would be fun AND practical for my Halloween traditions. They light up. They have skulls. They keep your hands warm since she was always worried about frostbite. It’s the triple play. I have no choice now but to continue on next October and do all of my Halloween things. It also just feels like a sign. A nudge. An okay.

So on with the rest of the annual Christmas fallout. I did have a nice Christmas, spending it with my wife, her family, and my family. I love exchanging gifts, eating six thousand pounds of cookies, and sitting through A Christmas Story for the eight millionth time.

Here are a few cool things I got:

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Ninja Turtle stuff! From various people. I got the Turtle Van Lego set (okay, it’s called the Shellraiser because kids today are too hip to use the word “van.”) 657 pieces of impatience, fury, frustration, and glory.

Got the official Ninja Turtle trash can (though it’s plastic and a crime against nature that it’s not made of tin.)

I love the Mech Wrekker figure because it combines reissues of figures that were originally released in 1988 and 2003 into one bizarre package. It’s the kind of toy I dream about.

Speaking of the kinds of toys I dream about:

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A Kraang Fishing Game! Whoever came up with idea is a genius. I actually haven’t opened a single package my Nickelodeon-era Turtles collection, but there’s no way I’m not cracking this open and playing it.

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The wife’s parents gave me a massive chocolate Santa. They were really excited about it. It’s almost more of a work of art than it is a piece of candy. And by piece of candy, I mean approximately 200 servings of candy. I’ve got the carving knife ready. I guess this is their way of saying they know their daughter will unconditionally love me, even after I gain three hundred pounds.

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I also got the Wii U from the wife’s parents. I haven’t paid much mind to the Wii U since it came out last year, but curiosity got the best of me. It comes prepackaged with two Mario games, plus there are new versions of Mario Kart, Donkey Kong, and Super Smash Bros coming out in the next six months. It’s really just a Wii in HD, but the more you think about it, the more it seems worth it. And it comes with a Game Gear. (Or a tablet controller. Or whatever that thing is.)

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The wife got me a Transformers Beast Wars figure. I was a little miffed at first, given my lack of a Transformers collection, and absolutely no context or knowledge of this mid-nineties iteration of Transformers. Buy hey, it is a gigantic centipede figure. I think we can all get down with that.

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This was just a stocking stuffer from the wife, but I feel I really need to spread of the Gospel of Takis. Takis are the greatest snackfood there is.

Seek them.

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Also check out this shirt I got. Pac-Man crossing Abbey Road. Perfect.

Finally, a reader sent me pirate Shrinky Dinks:

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I had no idea Shrinky Dinks still existed. Pirate Shrinky Dinks rule, and they uplifted my spirits a little bit on one of these dark days I’ve been having. So thank you. And thank you to lots and lots of you — I’ve received so many thoughtful comments on the blog and touching emails. It has all helped me. Every kind word has been a life raft. It won’t get me back to land right away, but it helps to keep me afloat just a little longer.

Speedball

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Not surprisingly, I didn’t want to do Christmas this year. I mentioned to the wife that maybe we wouldn’t make it a big deal. I was thinking one or two gifts each, and maybe I’d even bother to dig out the three-foot plastic tree that I used to set up on an end table in my apartment. It’s so cheap that it doesn’t even stand on its own without using the wall for support. Maybe I’d even splurge on dollar store tinsel for extra sadness. Fortunately, she didn’t humor me for even a second. “We’re doing it the same as always,” she said, and that was that.

So I jumped to the next logical conclusion: PRESENTS APOCALYPSE. “Fine, let’s get each other like ten gifts each,” I said. Even the dog gets ten gifts. I was suddenly picturing a massive Christmas morning fallout with 30+ presents under the tree, complete with fully loaded stockings.

“Fine,” the wife agreed, with the resolve as though she were signing a blood oath.

Sometimes in order to be happy, you have to be dramatic. You have to tie on the tourniquet and administer a speedball of joy and mistletoe directly into the vein.

So we did it up like usual, and it has been therapeutic:

THE TREE:

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In the past, we’ve made getting the tree an evening affair, going out on a Friday night and staying up late to decorate it. This year I had the compulsion to get it on a Sunday morning, right before a snowstorm hit. The flakes were just starting to stick to the road as we power-walked around the lot looking for that elusive perfectly-shaped tree. It felt like a timebomb race to pick a tree, and it felt good.

We spent the afternoon watching football, eating snacks, making dinner, and decorating the tree while it snowed outside. It was a perfect day.

THE NATIVITY:

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You gotta get the Playmobil Nativity set. It rules. I’ve had it for about three or four years now, and setting it up every year is still as exciting as ever. I love the janky little cardboard backdrop most of all.

THE SNACKS:

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I like my Christmas snacks cheap and nostalgic. That’s how I ended up with cheese balls, kettle corn, Ritz crackers, and dollar store cherry cordials.

SWISS COLONY:

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Why? Why/how did I drop fifty bucks on crap from Swiss Colony? Maybe I had a misplaced nostalgia for weird mailorder food. Maybe I had a secret death wish to end up on their mailing list FOR LIFE. Maybe I was depressed and just wanted to FEEL SOMETHING, even if it was buttercream-spackled regret.

So let me show you what fifty bucks will buy you.

WEIRD OVERPRICED CHEESES:

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Yes, weird cheese that come with a disconcerting sticker that says PERISHABLE REFRIGERATE IMMEDIATELY even though you know they’ve somewhere in transit for the last 10 days on the back on a mail van. The secret is they’re not really cheese so much that they’re cheese-colored saltlicks for humans.

FOREST FRIENDS LOG:

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Mailorder food has that strange dual-nature, where it’s equal parts plastic-looking, disgusting, and yet seductively appetizing.

From the Swiss Colony website (which is poetry), it is “swirls of cake and vanilla butter creme filling, covered with a milk chocolate blanket.”

Which means it’s a gigantic swiss roll. I have no problems with this.

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Moral of the story: buttercream-spackled regret is worth it.

THE DOG:

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I tried to take a happy Christmas picture of the dog, but instead she revealed her true evil nature while barking at me and demanding food.

So yeah, this is how my Christmas season is going. It’s going pretty good.

Things My Mom Saved – Number 2

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This is not just a valentine to Mom — it is a historical relic that was obviously printed on the very first printer in existence. This is also a piece depicting enthrallment and joy — at discovering MS-Paint for the first time — or whatever trip I was on that afternoon. I had also discovered the copy and paste functions, with which I was drunk and smitten. with which I was drunk and smitten. with which I was drunk and smitten. with which I was drunk and smitten.

Okay, now that we’re past the goofy nostalgia of old-timey computer stuff, let’s just face the cold truth here: three-year-olds could make this on a computer. Unfortunately I cannot cop out and say I made this when I was three. Because none of this existed when I was three. Nope, by the time it was reasonably affordable to own a dot matrix printer in one’s home, it was like 1992. People, I WAS TWELVE.

I couldn’t even draw a smiley face circle. Did I really draw that oblong blob, shrug, and think “good enough”? Yep, I did. It’s basically my approach to life to this day. Let’s just paste a few more of these clip art dogs in here, and click print. Done! SHE’LL LOVE IT. And the thing is, she did. I found this tucked into the back of a photo album, behind some old report cards. Maybe she was just impressed with my “mad computer skills.”