Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

Here's how Chicka Chicka Boom Boom sent me to Jupiter. If you don't know, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom was probably the first book most 90s kids learned to read. The whole thing was one big song about the alphabet letters climbing a coconut tree, falling down, and then climbing it again. What made it even more fun was that it often came with a cassette with narrations of the book by Ray Charles and the author on one side, and then a second side of all songs by the author. As much as I liked to read (I know, odd), I enjoyed reading more when it was read for me on tape in cutesy song form, complete with steel drums and goofy flutes.

"But chicka chicka boom boom, look there's a full moon..." is probably the funniest line in any book ever. Funnier was side two of the tape, where the author says that he came up with the idea based on the following children's chant, which I have memorized to this day: "Chigga chigga whole potatah, half-passed alligator, bim bam boligator, give three cheers for the dippy dappy happy sappy readers!" Chanting nonsense has got to be the best way to get kids to read. It taught us how rhythm can change what the story sounds like in our heads, whether we slow it down or speed it up, make it happy or sad, even if the words all stay the same. That's what makes it a great book.

Also on side two of the tape came this chant:
"My mother, your mother, live across the street,
18, 19 Mulberry Street.
When they get to talking, this is what they say:
Boys go to Jupiter to get more stupider!
Girls go to college to get more knowledge!"
Well, I thought. At least I get to go to Jupiter.

Old 90s Playgrounds

It's been a while since they made playgrounds that could injure a kid. This one? "I feel I need a Tetanus shot just from looking at it!" (You know the reference).

Was it fun to climb on? Moreso than any plastic contraption with side rails a-plenty like they have these days. What didn't kill us, made us stronger!

Hop on, and hang ten. Your best bet is to sit down once it starts spinning and move to the middle. It wasn't long before someone flew off.

Oh, and never mind the rust.

School Recorders

Music class in elementary school was about keeping us as far away from actual instruments as possible. The schools were cheap and they knew we couldn't play real instruments anyways, so anything wooden or plastic was good enough. Why else did we always seem to end up with things like "maracas," "tambourines," "rain sticks" and those "cheese grater" things you had to run a stick on?

When it came to teaching us how to make a clatter similar to the sound of falling down in a janitor's closet, it was a grand ole time. We had so much fun, half the girls were almost tempted to put down their Tamagotchis! So you'd think a rambunctious runt like me should've fit in perfectly, but such was sadly untrue. Apparently I took clatter to a whole other level, and how was I punished? With a recorder.

"Recorders" is what they called them. They're some kind of flute-like instrument that makes an ear-piercing "tone" by default when blown into, and while they told me it was adjustable by placing my fingers over the holes and whatnot, I never figured that part out. The typical ones they handed out in droves came tan and pre-slobbered on by a thousand other kids over the years, but if you were lucky enough to have them run out they'd give you the black one to take home instead, and all of a sudden that shat got classy! Even if you were lucky to get a black one though, there was no escaping the fact that it was probably the dorkiest instrument ever made. That may be why I was so crushed to be the last kid in class without one.

You see, the music teacher didn't let the rambunctious "music makers" like me at the back of the class have one until we cleaned up our act and stopped playing with all the instruments, and that fact just took a few weeks too many to sink in. Suddenly everyone else in the class had their own, and that was okay until it basically came down to me, and only then did I start feeling like the odd one out. She upped the ante too when she started handing out cool blue suede slip cases for them, so I finally decided to stifle myself, and tame that wild urge to compulsively spin the rain sticks. What did I care about that those recorders? It was the rad slip cases I wanted!

Designer Trapper Keepers

It's "Back To School" season once again (and has been since mid-July in advertising world), which means, if you were an 80s or 90s kid, showing off your new "designer" Trapper Keeper (you spent an hour picking out) was part of the first day reality. Because who said school supplies can't be fashion statements? What you wrap your studies in said a lot about how cool you were to sit next to, because there was a big difference between coming in with the cutesy sunbathing penguin and coming in with the radical pinball machine-like design.

When you get right down to it, the Trapper Keeper (whatever that was supposed to mean), was just a binder. What made it special were those ultra-radical designs on the covers, those computer generated floating polygons with neon, purple, and turquoise sea and sky scenes like something from another planet. The girls had their Harper seals, pastel rain forests, rainbows, horses, and butterflies, and the boys had their racing Ferrari V8 designs, neon laser-lighted spaceships, and this awesome Sonic the Hedgehog merchandise. Thanks to Mead, I had one of those Wyland-esque masterpieces of leaping dolphins to drag out in my day. It didn't really matter what the design was supposed to be, so long as it was colorful, it was pretty sweet. And dolphins were rad.

Open them up and you might find compartments for your equally awesome multi-colored folders, or decked-out arty ones (always with the times tables, weight conversions, music notes, and "timezone map of the world"... none of which you ever needed for reference but at least made you feel smart). It might also come with a clipboard on the back, and my clipboard even had a built-in calculator that worked for two minutes! By the end of the year the Trapper Keeper was always jammed packed with a hundred crinkled papers in a grabasstic disorganized mess, but at least it was all sealed up in an artful package.

These were ubiquitous in my elementary school, because back in the times before smartphones and tablets took over the world and all that is cool, we actually liked "stuff." It didn't need to be touch-activated and loaded with games about sling-shotting angry pigeons or whatever, it just had to be solid, like a wall. Case in point, if we were taking a test at our tables, the teacher would have us stand our Trapper Keepers and binders up as dividers to make sure we kept our eyes on our own papers. The move never stopped us from launching pencils and erasers over the barricades at each other. "Missile launch countdown: 3, 2, 1..."! "Ready the catapult!"