The End of My BMX Career

Being male, there were many times throughout my first 10 years when my brain was just... out to lunch. It happens. But the biggest brain shut down I ever experienced (even bigger than the time I learned just how funny 'man pain' isonce again involved me and my bike, but this time some concrete stairs as well. It was a red Huffy like the one seen in the picture, and it survived the fall fine. Unfortunately, I'm not a bicycle. Now I can't fathom what was going through my mind when I attempted to ride my bike down the concrete stairs at the age of 9 (nor remember it, like many things I did before this incident), but it probably had to do with a vision of performing an awesome trick I'd seen, coupled with the thought "it looked so easy on TV."

So without a functioning brain, or a helmet, I came to the edge of the staircase on my bike, a full six steps to the concrete path below, and decided to take the plunge. I backed up a few feet and then peddled toward the edge again, thinking only of how rad it was going to be, even if I had to deal with a couple mere "bumps" on the way down. A second later, and my front tire had left the top step. It bounced down one, skid to another, and sent the back of the bike up in the air and down on itself. I was thrown clear of the seat, and landed head first on the concrete after a brief tumble down the stairs myself. In a another second's time, I made the passage from breathing to bleeding, and then to screaming, and my BMX career was over just like that.

My mom happened to be in the garden and came running over. It was one of those times where the pain was so intense that I didn't even feel it for the first couple seconds, and then all of a sudden the real burn started setting in as blood just poured down my forehead. She picked my whole body off the ground and ran me inside to drop me in the kitchen sink, where she started spraying me with the sink hose as "squirts" of blood seeped out of my head. It may have been why I never learned the times tables, or why this site even exists, but there was definitely some head trauma going on...

Now I must have a very thick skull (well, duh!), because I didn't need stitches or anything more than a wrapping of towels and gauze for the rest of the day. It took years for the small "dent" in my forehead to heal up and even now there's a few ridges there. Luckily, my head was temporarily alright so I could continue to jeopardize it in the future to even more brain-dead stunts, which I did, but I actually did learn a valuable lesson here: It helps to keep the brain fully functioning at all times; and if you're going to ride your bike down a flight of concrete steps, trying to flaunt skills you don't yet have, at least wear a helmet! Trust me, this kind of pain isn't funny.

Lego Island Vacation

Lego Island was and continues to be one of the coolest PC games I ever played, second only to Myst. It was the first video game Lego ever put out and it's still the best in my opinion. For the 8yo Me, this small island was like heaven, packed with everything I loved and all in one spot. As soon as that computer animation kicked on in the opening with the bricks falling from the sky, I was seeing race cars taking off at the speedway, an ambulance collision with decapitation jokes making me laugh, and a cop on his motorbike jettisoning himself out over the police station and into the ocean where a jet ski dude was trying to outrun a shark... and I was very much pleased to say the least.

With all that in just the first two minutes, the Lego universe had finally come so completely to life all around me that I was just in utter bliss being submersed in it. Screw vacationing there, I could've lived there and been perfectly happy the rest of my 8yo life. But if any summer was going to be vacation-less (like this current one), then Lego Island was without a doubt going to be my default destination, and likely will be again very soon... 

The main character you can play is "Pepper" ("the dude with the food"), a skateboarding pizza delivery boy on an island where all they eat is pizza, and you basically just ride him around from place to place, building the jet ski, the race car, the regular car, and racing around on all these awesome side quests and mini-games, like the jet ski race, or the race track, or helping people out with their dilemmas. On the way, you can't go two feet without bumping into hilarious skits and a whole cast of characters, all of which you have power over. I used to walk around transforming all the flowers into trees, and all the Lego people's hats into cups and kittens!

Life's a beach.
Even the actual main-game was fun. You had to deliver a pizza to "the Brickster," the island's criminal mastermind, so hot it melts the bars on his jailhouse! He ends up escaping in the helicopter (oddly parked right next to the jail, to make it easy for him I guess), and he basically wreaks havoc on the island, sucking up people and buildings. You have to steal back the helicopter to launch an all-out aerial pizza assault on him, shooting down pizzas to lure him toward the cops. Oh, and the cops "Nick and Laura" are so unmotivated to catch this guy that you have to shoot down donuts just to lure them toward the Brickster. "Thanks Pepper, I really needed that." You can't make up brilliance this brilliant!

There were a few cool locations around the island, like the lagoon, the pizzeria (where Pepper's stereotype Italian parents work), the beach with the lifeguard dude that kept dropping "totally dude dude!" into casual speech, the police station where the cops always came away with two donuts in hand (or claw), the jail, the hospital, the race track, and the gas station where the cowgal always greeted you with a "well hey there honey!" There was also the mountain park and the houses in the residential area that you could literally "flip" and renovate with just a click of the mouse. The information center had an elevator that allowed you to both go under water and up in the sky.

Computer animation this detailed was just coming around in 1997, so this entire game all seemed like one epic movie that you'd get to play a part in. Yeah, the jokes are 80% "brick puns" and more decapitation and dismemberment than you could shake an arm at, and the actual gameplay was not as epic as that opening fly-over animation of the island (in fact it was downright choppy on those slow computers of yore), but hell, I got to ride a Lego motorcycle, build a jet ski, and race around the island hopping ramps. I got to go down in a submarine with the Lego sharks, build a race car, and race it through a trippy underground race track. Hell, I got to build and fly a Lego helicopter! Add to that a lot of pizza, and this was just about as good as it could get for me. My brother and I used to get up at 3 and 4am and fire up the computer just so we could spend a few precious hours of freedom on Lego Island before the rigors of our daily life took over. All in all, pretty good for a "staycation."

Here's some shots from the catalog/manual that I poured over so much the pages wore out.

Stride Rite Slimers

At the risk of further betraying the laws of gender, I'm writing another post about shoes. But be sure, these were pretty awesome. It took me quite a while to find the right ones because all I could remember about the "Nickelodeon Stride Rite Slimers" was that they had this plush goo at the toes that you could touch and squish around into different colors. It was like something bionic, as if slipping on a pair would plug me into that battery acid... or like something aquatic or alien.

Everything in the 90s became 90% more cool with slime (Gak, Flubber, Creepy Crawlers, Nickelodeon Studios...etc.), so it was only a matter of time before the universal snot found its way into our footwear. And mine kind of looked like snot too, with a green/teal-colored slime pack at the toes and sides of otherwise white sneakers. I think after a while of smooshing it around it started getting rather bland though, but kind of like the Sketchers Hot Lights, these were pretty cool to flash around while they lasted. And if wearing the Hot Lights could get me aboard the Starship Enterprise, these were probably more Borg-ish. Resistance is Futile!

Skipping the Skip-It

Ah, the cause of many an ankle bruise growing up can be traced back to this summertime contraption. The Skip-It. I think worse than getting whacked on the skipping leg was the fine ring of red that quickly developed around the anchor leg. But the very best thing of all, there was a COUNTER on that ball!

Maybe it was a girl's toy, and that's why I couldn't do it. It's not like you only need two legs to make it work or anything, but I could never master the hula-hoop either. The principle of hurling objects around on my body just never clicked for me. I probably looked like a dork though, skipping it on the grass.

It's "roaring good fun??"