The Greatest Birthday Gift

Desk lamps: The birthday present
of champions!
I will not tell you when my birthday is for obvious reasons, but I have video document evidence of myself on my actual 8th birthday tossing aside clothes, games, and then virtually flying into pure elation hysterics over getting a desk lamp. This was the home movie I saw years back where I throw aside a birthday card to get to the present, only to be redirected back to the card. "You got to read the card!" "Read the card first!" 

Of course, who can forget having to be told to stop and "read the card" when you're in the middle of tearing open presents? Your eyes fixate on those words you can barely read and yet still find their way back to the new game or toy sitting on standby, waiting for you to decide when enough "card time" was enough, especially with everyone watching you "stare at it." I was all like "Are they still looking? Screw this... can I just put it down now? What's in that box?"

So once that duty was over it was on to the presents, apparently I had my heart set on a desk lamp that year for some reason because my eyes just blew open wide with amazement at this ordinary white desk lamp and I just couldn't stop talking about it. Even long after, I can be seen very visibly sneaking peaks at this desk lamp. Now if that reveals anything about me, it's that my excitement threshold for the mundane has probably always been exceedingly low.

The major thing I remember about that desk lamp was it was white all over (like the picture) and I ended up putting a green light-bulb in it so that all those late nights would be lit in a green glaze, which I thought was the coolest thing ever. This was the case until the early morning when my milk looked like orange juice (I shouldn't have to explain how eyes work). Red had always been my favorite color, but I think I blasted green into my brain so many nights that green just took over. How groovy was it that I got to spray our bedroom green every night as I crawled into that top bunk (much to my brother's chagrin down below)?

Even today if you saw the way I live, you'd say this guy is all about green. Not only is this time-waster of a site decked out in green, but I even have green sheets and towels (yes, I bought them for college). My walls are green. My desktop is green. I even like green tea. And I guess I have my 8th year of life, and one very funky birthday present, to thank for it. You know what else is green? No, not money. The Klingon Bird of Prey!

The "Soda Bark"

Fun fact:
Sprite cans
don't look like
this anymore.
*Mind blown*
To this day I am addicted to all things fizz. Even plain old water, just put some bubbles in it and I'm good to go. These days I'll usually be in the process of finishing off a can of something or other any given hour of the day and my palette changes a lot (I've switched sides in the Cola War... sorry Pepsi, I still like your diet though), but when I was a kid my thing was Sprite, maybe because it was sweeter than 7up. I lived on the stuff. I drank it like water. You know how when people can't sleep they usually go for a glass of water or a swig from the ol' milk carton at 3am? I was not one of those people. When I was wandering the house in my undignified attire at 3 in the morning looking for fluids, I was gunning for the Sprite, because hey, it's "caffeine free" after all. That means I could have it before bedtime and not have to worry about being up at 3am and unable to sleep... which obviously didn't happen.

And not only did all this carbonation excess from the Sprite never fail to induce a powerful spell of deep-throated and continuous burping, it also made those burps taste their very best. That is, like pure awesome. And I don't care if you're going to hate me for saying it, but if you were ever your 8-year-old self once, you should know what I mean when I say that the second best part of putting soda into you was what it causes to come back out of you! I might polish off one of a can and lay back bobbing my head for minutes as the "rolling thunder" was wrought, or I might go a whole minute, the pressure building like a volcano, and then just release it like a beast! Loud and proud enough to make Simba blush, and especially if there were other maturity-impaired persons in the area. Urrrrrrrrrrrrrrp!

Later I moved on up and outgrew such pursuits. I mean, why practice such an immature pastime as the "soda bark" once you've figured out how to burp on command? At that point, you're just a step away from the full alphabet.

Favorite Chapter Books

I really liked to read as a kid, maybe only because I didn't grow up with a GameBoy for a hand, but I'm sure I'm not the only one. Any book that had a big shiny Newbery Medal embossed on the cover had to be legit, and that was good for me, because how would I have known if a book was good or not without it? When it comes to Newbery medals, there were books like Hatchet. I remember picking up Gary Paulsen's Hatchet in the 4th grade and regarding it like "high literature," like the kind of thing "adults read." Here I was thoguh, I didn't even know what a "hatchet" was (even long into reading the story), but I knew at least that the cover had a howling wolf and teen guy, a giant ax, and a plane. It looked like it was shaping up to be a great outdoors adventure story, so of course I dove into it. "I can read," I figured.

Like most kids, I loved adventure books and had grown up on really obscure book series like The Ladd Family Adventures and Adventures in Odyssey, and so this book really was right up my alley and even looked so much more "mature" about it's adventure, so I knew I had to give it a look. In fact, it may have been the first so-called "adult book" I ever attempted. And I really mean "attempted," because the first time around I never finished it. My un-diagnosed dyslexia that I don't have (I think) was causing me to call the main character "Brain" rather than Brian, and I just remember thinking what a weird name "Brain" was for a guy. Whether Brain or Brian, this book really was a good adventure story of a youth going down in a plane crash and having to survive in the wilderness completely alone and with nothing but his trusty hatchet (which I only later figured out was an ax, since the cover didn't clue me in). I enjoyed it so much that I still find myself calling any weird berry I see in the woods "gut-cherries." Remember kids, red and sweet.

There was another book a teacher read to us about a young graffiti artist's daily romp for survival and his mad dashes to avoid the cops that I just drooled over, but for some reason I can't find any record of this story's existence and don't remember any details about it (even the title or anything) other than a thrilling shopping mall chase scene where he skillfully paints his insignia and manages to avoid security. He goes on to become a famous graffiti artist in the process. Now despite vanishing from existence itself, that story about the besieged graffiti artist may have been the first time I said "I want to WRITE one like that!" in response to a book, and that inspiration has never left. But then there definitely was yet another book that definitely does exist that I didn't so much read but had read to me (the teacher during story time in the 4th grade), but it has come down through the years as one of my all-time favorites and one that I still tell people had a major influence on me wanting to be a novelist and what kinds of novels I wanted to write. This was Dear Mr. Henshaw, by Beverly Cleary. 

I had read Cleary's Ralph S. Mouse books, or maybe had them read to me in story time, throughout the 2nd grade, but when it came to Dear Mr. Henshaw, I just remember being so captivated (even as a kid) by the drama and realism of that book. The story is a compilation of letters written by a boy over the course of several years to an author "Mr. Henshaw" who had visited his class when he was just a tyke. The first letter the kid writes is a class assignment and reads like a small child wrote it, but then for some reason this kid just keeps writing letters to this same author over the course of his life and that's where we get to see him grow up, we get to hear about all the turbulence in his family, his obvious need for a role model, his mood swings, the ups and downs, and his letters even start becoming long and detailed as he gets older. The book was all about growing up at an age when I thought I'd be 9 years old forever. I mean, this was pretty heavy stuff for a kids book, like LMN-heavy stuff, but it was the realism about life that got me, and that's why I said "I want to write books like that." 

The Rescuers Down Under

I had previously said in ages past when I did my reviews of "Great Forgotten Kids Films of the 80s and 90s" that I hadn't seen 1990's The Rescuers Down Under since I was a kid, and since the quality of the film is often cited (Nostalgia Critic hath decreed), I decided to have it added to the Netflix a few weeks back to see if I could rediscover the lost glory that is this film. Dare I say, it actually didn't disapoint. What can I say? This is funny as hell: "These are NOT Joanna eggs!!"

I will admit that the story was a little 'slight' (particularly with the mice), but that was true with the first one too, probably only because there isn't enough story here to support a premise this interesting. But the movie is still a riot and a roller coaster from start to finish. In fact, it may be one of my personal favorite Disney films, maybe because I just love everything about this sumptuous idealized Australian outback landscape we get to go joy-riding through, and I know I did when I saw it as a kid too. I mean, just take a gander at this incredible scene which comes hot off the equally-awesome opening credits sequence which I'm sure we all have burned somewhere in the back of our minds just waiting to be rediscovered. Boy did I want to be having these kinds of exciting wildlife adventures:



They don't make 'em like that anymore.