A Boy and His TV

Wait... Tails wasn't brown!
All the other boys in my kindergarten class spent most of the year making a 200 piece Ninja Turtles puzzle in a side room, but I opted out of it. Ninja Turtles were the biggest thing around at the time, but they weren't my thing, and the same went for that whole Transformers/ G.I. Joe/ He-Man programming group so intensely marketed to us. Maybe the cars, guns, explosions, and pizza did appeal to me on their own, but the muscles and fighting didn't. I just thought all that chest thumping and general badassed-ness was too intense and not saccharine enough. 

I didn't go hungry though, because the 90's served up so much sugar on TV it's a wonder I still have all my teeth. Let's just say, my brother and I had "less badass" interests on lazy Saturday mornings in 1990, and shows like Maya the Bee, The Littl'bits, Shining Time Station, Fraggle Rock, Eureka's Castle (sadly) and Sonic the Hedgehog made up the bulk of it. Anything clean, colorful, mindless, and utterly devoid of muscles was good enough. These shows didn't activate my urges to break into random sword fighting during commercial breaks, but I guess the world is better off for that. They may have been trying to instead stimulate that seldom-used thing called a brain, but then again probably not. If my brain couldn't be compelled by cars, guns, muscles, and pizza, then it was probably going to be compelled by hedgehogs, stupid dogs, exploding eyes, and pizza, anyways.

I didn't like Ninja Turtles, Street Sharks, Dino-Vengers, Gargoyles, Transformers, or even the dang Cheetahmen. Did I watch them? Well, of course. Who didn't? Who doesn't know their Raphael from their Donatello? Who doesn't love Ripster and Streex? Who can't name T-bone's signature move? Come on. But give me Rocko's Modern Life and Pete and Pete any day. I traded bulging muscles, Kung Fu turtles, and underwear being worn on the outside, for fuzzy puppets, claymation puke, and cartoon animals who don't even wear underwear, let alone pants. No, violence was too intense for this little dork, but I could stomach a good "Sonic Sez Says" whenever required. You want to talk about being tough, well there you go.

In the 80s and early 90s, children's television existed for the sole purpose of selling you toys. That was what it was all about, whether it was a new Transformer or a new Sonic game. And there are just two different types of boys wanting those toys... the "hoo-ra!" ones who dream of driving a jet across a desert at high speeds only to morph into a robot that can shoot lasers from its shoulders, and the "uber dorks" like me who just want a trippy comedy adventure complete with furry animals, toilet jokes, and morals like a sledgehammer. In the end, it was all good, because it was all cheese... worth biting into so long as you held your nose. And if you waited for the commercial breaks, you knew just what to pester your parents for. See? That makes it simple. 

Beyond 2000

Before Discovery turned into the "poor career choice" channel, it had shows like this. The animated opening actually was eye-popping, only because computer animation wasn't used for everything back then. So I got to admit, this show actually had me thinking the future would be cool.

The Truck that Drove All Night

This is probably more for the six-year-old me, but I came across this book one night (on one of my all-nighter web wanderings) and the memory of it was so vivid I knew I had to post it. Having said that, I don't remember at all what this book was about besides what can be gleaned from the cover: a muffineer and his living truck drive all night, and thus we have, The Truck That Drove All Night.

I guess they didn't want to make anything about the night look scary, because nothing ever goes awry in a story about muffins, even if it's also about a late-night trucker burning the midnight oil. I remember the headlights shining out the "eyes" of the truck and the cozy little interior, and that shiny grill. "Just drop those off at my house!" This book made me want a muffin. This book makes me want a muffin.

When I was a kid, staying up all night was some mystical thing. It's almost like you weren't sure day and night were connected, because you'd fall asleep and suddenly it's be day again. What happens if you don't fall asleep? Does night go on forever? Do night people live in the house at night while everyone's asleep? How can you be sure? Well, books like these made the night seem mystical and oddly well lit, but seeing as I've grown into a night owl, I've had plenty experience staying up all night and something about the magic is lost.

Now I can only imagine what mornings look like.

Citronella at the Lake

My grandparents' campground was nestled in a Cape Cod pine grove. It was a rocky, piney land where walking to the pond barefoot was the most hazardous thing you could do to your feet and you couldn't so much as breathe without sucking in a mosquito. Nothing could be done about it either, even with the citronella bucket lit on the picnic table. Seriously, if that was supposed to drive the bugs away, why were there always a few floating in it?

Anyways... we weren't allowed to barge in like we did, seeing as it was a private campground and my parents weren't paying up (we just happened to know people who were--our grandparents), but for a few days each summer, we all got a run on the place. We usually came by to "visit" unannounced and to help ourselves to all the amenities. Needless to say whenever we all rolled up, our grandparents were already dragging out the inflatables to send us off to the lake (in a last ditch effort to have a grandkid-free vacation I guess).

That was okay, because we kids got to have a blast taking turns knocking each other off our balloon perches into the pond's mucky black seaweed scum for hours at a time. If not that, we were hitting the still chop with the paddle boats. I learned how to wear a life jacket at the campground (you had to wear one to get on the paddle boats). One summer my brother and I even paddled all the way out to the other end of the lake to find the even smaller clump of untrodden sand and overgrown brush on the deserted opposite shore. Civilization looked soooo far away from out there in bug-dom.

Coming back from the lake was far more perilous though. My feet were fine in the water, but then I'd have to cross the beach to get to the pavement, and since I didn't want to get my shoes all sandy, there was no choice but to walk back barefoot. Now we're not talking just sand, we're talking gravel roads like shrapnel, sticks like thumb tacs, and stones like Lego bricks, all buried under a thick layer of prickly needles, pine cones, and... oh the hell with it... "I can live with sand in my shoes!"

"Can we go in the camper now?" I'd ask. There was something so cozy and bug-free about that RV... being an enclosed space away from the bugs, that is. They never let us kids in unless we were getting a cookie or something because they were smart, so we had to stick it out under the retractable awning with the multi-colored luau "lantern" Christmas lights on the splintery deck. My brother and I sat there shirtless and dripping, fresh from the pond late into the evening with the mosquitoes.

The filthy plastic tablecloth was clamped down, the blue bug zapper was blitzing, those vintage Noma coach patio stringed lights were glowing, the screen door on the RV was super spring-loaded, and the citronella still wasn't working. The murky black pond water stuck to our skin with the scum as our shorts slowly dried into the late evening. We never had to change our shorts at the lake, we'd dry off by the glow of the citronella candle, and summer was everything summer should be.

Lion King on the Sega

2:30 seconds? Yeah... after you die on level two, three, four...etc.... the first three dozen times, trust me, you'll be doing this level in a minute or less. You'll be doing it in your sleep.


Ah, back when games based on movies were good, and challenging, and weren't just scene-for-scene re-shoots of the movie: exploding bugs, prickly porcupines, and hyenas that jump TWICE after you jump on them (do NOT forget), it's all good.

My brother and I went to our cousin's birthday party sometime in 1994, saw this was on, and plunked ourselves down. From there on out we had the living room commandeered--all day, afternoon, evening... we were probably the last to leave. Screw pool party. Screw presents. Screw birthday cake... this was all we were interested in. Okay, perhaps we breaked for cake.

This game is just damn tough. We never defeated Scar.