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Toy Vending Machine Memories

Among my earliest memories is going to the store with my mom and seeing this machine that was a clear box filled with plastic eggs and it had a mechanical chicken inside. At the time my favorite show was Mork and Mindy, and my mom used to give me the plastic eggs her pantyhose came in as toys and I would pretend they were Mork's spaceship. So when I saw this machine that dispensed toys inside plastic eggs, in my mind I saw myself getting 2 toys for the price of 1. Every time we went to the store I would ask for a quarter, but more often than not I was told no. But when I was allowed to have the coin, it was always a banner day. First, I got to see the chicken spin and cluck before my treasure was deposited in the slot. Then I got to open the egg and see the toy I got. It was usually a lump of silly putty or a plastic army man. Then lastly I had another egg to add to my growing Orkian space armada. After we moved and started going to a different store, the toy vending machines becam

Playing My Roles

I don't really remember a time when I wasn't aware of Dungeons and Dragons. Beside the fact that it was firmly entrenched in pop culture by the time I was old enough to be aware of pop culture, I grew up in one of the inner notches of the Bible belt. I was always hearing about how the game was "Satanic" and would lead players into the world of animal sacrifices and orgies with demons. Then on Saturday morning I would watch the cartoon with the team of heroic teenagers and the cute little unicorn. When I would go to the book store I would see the books there and look at all the awesome fantasy art. I really wanted to play that game. But my parents wouldn't buy it for me and I went to a Christian school and appeared to be the only heretic on campus. Therefor it fell to me to take matters into my own hands. I made up my own version of D&D that I could play by myself. Of course there was a conflict of interest with me being my own dungeon master, but I didn't

My Heavy Metal Journey

With most kids, the first music they become familiar with is the music their parents listen to. For me this meant mainly country music and 50's era rock and roll. I knew about KISS as they were the biggest band around when I was a little kid. I had heard Nazareth and Queen, but not much. My musical world was mostly Waylon Jennings and Elvis Presley.  Then my parents got me my own radio. I was about 9. Up to that point I had mostly listened to their record collection. But now I had access to all the things being played on local radio stations. Now, this was a small town so that didn't mean as much as it might have in a more urban area. R&B was not getting played on the radio where I grew up. But among the religious stations and country stations there were one Top 40 station and one rock station. I can still remember finding the rock station. I was dialing across and heard the beginning of a song. It was something different than anything I had really heard before. Even the KI

A Tribute to My Local Library

I love the library. I always have. Some of my first memories are of my mom taking me to the library. My sister taught me to read when I was 3 years old. So when my mom would take me to the library on a weekday, I would have the kids section to myself. There was a little clubhouse I would climb into with a stack of books and read the morning away. At the time I was reading things like The Little Tugboat and Danny and the Dinosaur, so I was able to read several books during the course of a morning. When I started going to school my parents sent me to a Christian school in the next town over. I was a poor kid who was given a scholarship to go to this private school. I didn't fit in well with the more well off kids there, and back at home I didn't know any of the kids in my neighborhood. As a result I spent a lot of time alone, and books became a close friend. My school would take us to the library and we could check out 5 books a week. The library in the town my school was in date

The Summer of Dwight Yoakum and Janis Joplin

 I don't know about you, but pinning down the year something happened when I was a kid can be tricky for me sometimes. Take for instance the summer I went to California with my dad. In my memory I was about 13 years old. But one of the things I remember about that trip was that we picked up a copy of Dwight Yoakum's Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc. Etc. and Janis Joplin's Greatest Hits at the beginning of the trip. That Dwight album came out in August of 1986, which would have been too late in that year for the trip to have taken place as I would have about to go back to school. But even if it was the summer of 1987, I would have been 11. My dad was a truck driver, and I spent many summers riding the roads of America with him. This particular trip stands out, even if the timing is a bit fuzzy. Dad and I did not have very similar taste in music at that time. He liked country music, the cornier the better, and I was into hard rock and heavy metal. So when we agreed on music it was a

Adventures in Trying to Watch Theatrical Movies on Network Television

This may be hard to believe in the age of streaming and digital media, but there was a time when you pretty much had to watch movies in the theater. They would occasionally show them on television. Then cable t.v. and home video changed the whole game. My family was poor, so even though home video and cable were both around when I was a young kid, we didn't have either. This led to some frustrations on my part in trying to see movies. I already wrote some about going to the home of some friends of the family to watch movies on HBO. But of course we couldn't be there every night. So there were times when I would have to wait for a movie to get broadcast on network television. This may seem strange now, but the 3 networks used to have movie nights, where they would show a movie that had finished it's theatrical run a year or two earlier. Sometimes they would show made for t.v. movies as well. Those were fun, but the ones that usually generated excitement were the big blockbu

When Toys Were For Playing With

 I am about to share an opinion that I believe may be highly unpopular. I feel that the 80's are highly over-mythologized, romanticized, even fetishized. Let's face it, music was better in the 70's, movies were better in the 90's, and television was better in the 2010's. One area where the 80's did excel however, was toys. My family didn't have much money, so I didn't have an overabundance of toys, but they still managed to factor into a few memories. The first toys I remember really being crazy about were these sets with a cardboard background that would be printed to look like New York or Metropolis, and they had these vinyl cutout figures that you could stick on it. I would spend hours just creating little scenes. I would make an entire story around the one action scene I had created. I loved toys that allowed you to be creative. I remember I wanted a Lite Brite so badly for years. For Christmas when I was 9 I finally got one. I made so many pictures