Junior Mints will always be the candy that Kramer accidentally dropped into the open cavity of a body undergoing surgery during an episode of Sinfeld. I have no real ties to them other than that and they seem to be the #3 choice for all movie-goers. Honestly, do people buy Junior Mints outside of the movie theater? I don’t think I have seen anyone walking around eating them in another environment.
Well, regardless if Junior Mints are eaten in a movie theater or over an operating table, the Tootsie Roll Company has painted the deer turd-looking treat a pastel shade of blue and yellow in celebration of Spring and Easter. Whoopie! They have the same texture and minty flavor as the everyday Junior Mint but whether it is psychosomatic or the chemical makeup has changed, they are weird.
To me, I think it is the choice of color. Yes, yellow is the normal Spring color but the blue kind of throws me and I think I know why. That shade of blue and the fact it has a mint taste brings me back to forced visits to my great aunts in Pennsylvania. I hated going there because for whatever reason, I had a fear of old people. And they were old!
I know this sounds like I was a cruel spoiled dick of a kid and maybe so, but sitting on a couch wrapped in plastic as my Mom and Grandmother talked with them about phlegm and bruises that won’t go away just really took a kids appetite and killed it for seven years. From the vaporizers to the electric chairs on stairs, I prayed for these visits to be quick. Also, I hate slippers.
Coming back to the blue mints, my great aunts also had bowls of blue mint candy. From what year, it’s anyones guess but I bet if the mints could talk they would tell you their vote was casted for Dwight Eisenhower. No matter what excuse I made, the aunts would not let me leave unless I had a pocket full of these dreadful pieces of candy. I had to endure this until the Japanese invented the Gameboy. God bless that wonderful country.
So, Pastel Junior Mints taste the same but their ability to unleash suppressed memories is pretty amazing. Congratulations Junior Mints! Now I am thinking of lipstick stained crumpled tissues.
I think I have written this three times and each one was longer than the last. I cropped photos, recounted each toy I could remember and gave extensive detail to what they were and where they came from. It was exhausting and ultimately it came out flat. There are probably thirty thousand blogs devoted to archiving toys from the 1980’s and brother, this ain’t one of them. I never had the knack for specifics when it came to cartoons or branded toys. I take my hat off to those who do and heaven knows, I read these blogs which devote that certain energy but this little space of mine in the internet is more personal.
It was a restless night back in ’87. There is so much anticipation a little kid has on the eve of Christmas. I don’t think it’s about gifts either but rather the culmination of months of excitement all coming to ahead. Everything seemed to be so still and peaceful back then. I have a vivid memory looking out my window on to my street, all the houses decorated and lit with not a single soul to be seen. It was so serene.
I drifted off to sleep trying not to think about Christmas morning. The longer I dwelled the later it got. Instead I would pretend I was an Imperial officer having to prepare navigational charts for a Star Destroyer. (I was a weird kid) That was an instant sleep remedy for me. Boring fantasies make me sleepy even today.
Like any kid at the ripe age of ten, once 5am came around, my internal clock kicked in and I was vertical. I moved slow and deliberate, creeping down the stairs, unsure what time it really was. I made my way to the den and flipped on the lights.
That’s the sight every adult has in their heads when thinking of the magic of Christmas to a child. That moment when you wrestle with yourself how Santa came while you slept and left you something. The smell of Scotch tape, wrapping paper and pine so early in the morning as you shiver with excitement and the fact it’s also 34 degrees outside. Then the long wait since getting the parents up probably wouldn’t be the best idea so you sit in the middle of the gifts, taking it all in and hold out until sunrise.
This was Christmas of 1987. The one that stands out above the rest. It isn’t because of a certain toy although it was the year I got Megatron and broke off one of his legs by going against my Dad’s suggestion of “not forcing it”. I think that year stands tall because Christmas seemed to permeate every aspect of my young life. The Christmas TV specials were amazing, the toys of that era were second to none and it felt as everyone was in the spirit. I have not felt that in years. And I am scared I probably never will.
I have memories. That is what Christmas is really all about, anyway. We come together and share merriment in an event that is logged in our hearts for years to come. Kind of magical, if you ask me.
So Merry Christmas to you. Don’t let this time go by without remembering what it is all about. Tell those around you how much they mean to you, keep the loved ones a little closer and hold out your hand to those who might not have someone. Think of the troops far off, kids who aren’t waking up to piles of gifts and the people who do not have a roof on cold nights.
Peace on Earth, good will toward men.
Good night and thank you for sticking with me this season. Hope everything amazing happens for you. Merry Christmas.
It was a busy Christmas back in 1987. I battled CCD bullies and was humbled by a ceramic log fireplace but each of those unpleasantries were mere flesh wounds because it was approaching the end of December and Christmas Eve had finally arrived. I have always loved this day although as I get older, the thrill has diminished quite a bit thanks to all the adult procrastination leading to mall trips, late night wrapping sessions and annoying family members who suck to shop for.
As a little kid, however, Christmas Eve was the day full of excitement. I actually enjoyed that day over Christmas because anticipation mixed with tradition is…well it’s just tits. I know when you blog about your ten-year old self, “tits” is inappropriate but I have never been able to use that phrase before.
Speaking of tradition, Dad and I started one that year. It’s our annual “run around the mall the day before Christmas and look for a joint present for Mom” tradition. You may think this is a lame one but actually it’s one of my favorites. We get up early and head to over to Hardee’s to get sausage biscuits and cinnamon raison biscuits which came in styrofoam boxes. God I loved those little tandem biscuits in boxes. I would absolutely drive a grass-covered hybrid Smart Car fueled by duck spit if it would balance out the carbon footprint of the Hardee’s cinnamon biscuit boxes and bring them back.
Also, 1987 was the year Hardee’s and the California Raisins teamed up together and every kid had at least four Raisin claymation characters in their pockets at any given time. I didn’t really think about that until I committed to this post. AND A Claymation Christmas featuring the said Raisins also debuted that same year too. Food for thought!
After we ate and Dad finished reading part of the newspaper, we would head out to brave the mall. As a kid, crowded malls during Christmas Eve were as much fun as any amusement venue. Perhaps it was the anticipation of the next morning as we cruised by KB Toys but I think I just really loved this time with Dad. I would always ask him how people build houses and in his engineering way he would tell me the steps salting with laying a foundation. It was my own little weird way of having multiple lines of entertainment. Probably why I have the TV on while blogging and catching up on Twitter all at the same time. But in 1987 I had to rely on mall scenes and Dad’s very detailed step-by-step description on how to build a house and why planes fly.
After a successful mall trip where I am sure we bought Mom earrings and sweaters, we would head home and get ready to go to the Keller’s for Christmas Eve dinner. The Keller’s were family friends who had a dozen kids ranging from 19 to 28. They were all way too old to share anything in common with but I remember all of them treating me really nice. Or like a pet. Actually, now that I think about it, I was more like a puppy to them.
When you are the only child at a dinner party during Christmas Eve, a lot of the attention is on you. I never liked that. Especially when you are a shy kid who HATES when people watch you eat. I have always been weird about that and even today on business trips, I have a real hard time eating alone in a restaurant and usually opt to get food to-go and eat on a strange bed. It was doubly hard that most of the Keller’s kids were pretty college girls.
Mr. Keller was a 747 pilot for United Airlines and a very boisterous fellow, to say the least. He and my Dad (who is a little more reserve) would joke and laugh out loud in audible volumes which made the dog under the table retreat upstairs. I didn’t care for Mr. Keller too much because he was the total opposite of my Dad in every way. I am sure he meant well but his larger than life character didn’t translate to a kid who was the master of the “quiet game”. One time mom forgot to tell me the game was over on a Friday afternoon and I had to write “is it over?” on a piece of paper the next evening. Guess who got a toy for that guilt session?
Where was I? Oh yeah, so Mr. Keller didn’t exactly strike me as “father of the year” but then he asked me a question which changed every negative feeling I had towards him.
“Billy, are you ready for Santa to come? NORAD spotted him somewhere over the Pacific ocean earlier.”
I was at the age when Santa was a possibility but not a probability. I had my sever doubts especially when his letter from last year had the undeniable likeness to my father’s handwriting. But when a 747 pilot says “NORAD”, that puts a different spin on it. And then Mr. Keller really shined it on by telling me back before I was born he was in the Air Force and he had to reroute his squadron because Santa was in the same airspace.
This was like drinking out of a firehouse for an excited ten-year old. I had to know more so I asked him, “What’s NORAD?”
“That’s our line of defense incase the goddamn Russians pull some shit.”
Mrs. Keller didn’t miss a beat when she interjected with “WHO WANTS PIE?”.
Mr. Keller’s well-intentioned thought getting a kid excited about Santa kind of backfired because I most likely asked him 500 times for an updated NORAD report. It must have been a bit ironic for a retired Major to have to give situation status reports to a kid in the twilight of the Cold War but we are talking about Santa. The hope for me finally getting a helicopter was still yet alive!
The evening grew late and soon the thirty minute process of gathering coats, Mrs. Keller forcing us to take leftovers and drawn out tipsy hugs came to an end. And for me, who was ripped on orange soda and chocolate with renewed faith in Santa, I was ready. I was ready because we still had one more Christmas Eve tradition left; the first present!
Last year, you might recall, I got Top Gun on VHS which led to a root beer incident. That was a wound still fresh in the family of three so my parents wisely chose to delay the first gift until late at night.
We came home, plugged in the tree, turned on the new stereo to the Mannheim Steamroller’s Christmas album and I got to choose one of the ten gifts that tortured me for the past month under the tree. It took me approximately 0.0078 seconds to grab the one I absolutely knew what it was. Well, I knew what it was but not which one it was. You’ll see in a second.
Like my buddy, Matt, who runs Dinosaur Dracula states, “Even before I started tearing away the wrapping paper, I knew it was going to be a Nintendo game. Those boxes had a distinct weight, shape and feel.”.
It was absolutely a Nintendo game and when I ripped away the paper it revealed the talk of the playground and the game every kid wanted, Metroid. This Christmas of ’87 was truly one of the best. I begged to play this before promising to be in bed before Santa arrived and with a hesitant yes, I was able to kill that Mannheim Stream roller shit and crank up the Nintendo.
This is the sound that is forever linked to Christmas 1987. It is the sound of heavenly bliss and childhood nostalgia.
As quickly as it began it was over because the folks were getting tired and their work was just beginning. I was rushed up to bed, still on a sugar high and Metroid craze but I had to sleep. Santa was well in our airspace and if I wasn’t in bed, who knows the consequences? I wasn’t about to risk my ridiculous wish list which I wrote to him last summer on a night of insomnia.
I was going to make this a three-part series but in order to avoid a 3890 word post I have decided to add one more part. Stay tuned for the Christmas that put its shadow on the wall and no other Christmas could possibly live up to.
This story is a testament to how much simpler life was back when I was a kid. I had almost completely forgotten about this story until recently when I was talking to Kristen and low and behold, it just popped in there! The brain never ceases to amaze me because this memory has been stored for over twenty years only to randomly fallout like a picture used as a bookmark falling from a Garfield comic. (Because we all have read these in the 80’s) It comes at a good time too because this blog was turning into rubbish with mindless beer reviews and beef jerky. That’s no way to go through life, son.
Saturday nights for a certain period of my life were a special time. For whatever reason, from 7:00 to let’s say 10 or 11:00, my parents hosted a few couples from church for a bible discussion party. Well, I assume that’s what it was though I can’t be sure because my evenings were far better, which you will find out soon. After their bible yap, everyone would mingle and share the desserts each couple brought. I was allowed downstairs for that. Until then I was confined to the parents room with the TV, books of sharks, and whatever else a young seven-year old needed to pass the time. But at 9:00 my attention was devoted to a very special program that sometimes proved to be regretful whether it was later on at night from fears of what lurks under the bed or….well…keep reading.
I didn’t have cable until high school so with five channels (not including PBS because that was like watching school) and four channels on the smaller rotating dial, the selection was limited. But on Saturday nights there was quite the programing on Atlanta 46! The most memorable, of course, was “Tales From the Darkside”. For those not familiar, get out. I kid! I kid! It was a thirty minute program that featured two stories of macabre and strange tales usually starring some middle of the road actor from the time. Not all the shows were great but to a seven-year old, each one was a masterpiece.
One fateful Saturday afternoon my Dad informed me that a couple would be bringing their kids to the bible party and I would have to share my Saturday night of B-rated TV. While I was a little disappointed because as an only child I am a spoiled little dick, I had no say in the matter and began looking for the bright side. I mean, it could be fun.
It wasn’t at all. I knew it the second they arrived as I watched them pull into the driveway. These kids were melvins who brought their own pillows. They brought their own pillows for Christ sake! I sighed and walked limp-armed back to the parents room across the hall, head hung low and waited to hear people walk up the stairs. But instead Mom called for me to greet the un-welcomed guests and walk them to my Saturday sanctuary where no parental guidance was required.
I must have look like a pill giving a limp handshake to…Whats-his-face (let’s call him Jimmy for lack of memory) and his little sister, Rebecca.
Rebecca would be a problem for me.
With their idiotic board games and pillows in hand, we trudged upstairs to ruin my night. I offered to leave them in my room to do their will upon my collection of GI Joe and Legos, but that only appealed to Jimmy; the one kid I thought wouldn’t mind a night of twisted tales of grown up gore. Rebecca was stuck to my side like a rock in tire tread. Looking back as an adult it was pretty cute but to a kid that waited all week to hear the intro to “Tales From The Darkside”, it was an un-welcomed advance and there was no way to give these home schooled kids the slip.
Throughout the evening I tried to be entertaining and cordial. Jimmy wasn’t too bad, partly because he had Castle Greyskull to play house with and could care less about the world around him. Rebecca, however, sat hip-to-hip with me on the floor, eyes fixed on the TV as we watched “Small Wonder” and I nervously counted down the program schedule until “Tales From The Darkside” aired. Only one more “feel-good” show to go!
Dad brought us popcorn and cokes and asked if I was being a good host to which I responded “yeahyeah” without breaking gaze from the TV. He left to rejoin the adults and I could hardly wait because now was the time I had waited for patiently and even though I had to share this moment with these two weirdos, it was happening.
The intro alone distracted Jimmy from battling the forces of Cobra as he joined his sister and me on the floor, soon to witness the macabre and scary tales this glorious show had to offer. And brother, this one was a doozy! It was the first episode and pilot for the show that George Romero himself wrote and produced. The episode was called “Trick or Treat” and had demons, witches, pirate zombies and Satan himself all wrapped into a half an hour. Let’s break it down, shall we?
After the magical introduction we begin the story with a typical Scrooge-like character, Mr. Haggles, played by Bernard Hughes (one of my all time favorite actors). He is having his books balanced by a couple of accountants and we begin to learn what a cheap miser he really is, charging one of them .04 cents for another cup of coffee. But we also learn he has a twisted side too as he scares the two accountants into a bowel evacuation by an animatronic…thing that he uses on children during his favorite “SEASON”, Halloween.
That’s right. Mr. Haggles says what I have always believe and that is Halloween is a season, not a day. Anyway, he goes on to explain how every year he tempts the children in the valley to find the IOU’s of their parents that he holds liens on, hidden somewhere in his house, and if they find them all debt is forgiven. But no one ever has because of the terrifying tricks he has set up around his home.
We see during the afternoon of Halloween the bind he has on the parents as they are so deep in debt to Mr. Haggles that they even have to buy costumes for their children on credit in his general store. He taunts them into sending their children to the Hell house with the chance to have their debts forgiven.
Much like Romero’s style, there is a deep cultural issue hidden behind a cheeky horror story. We see how desperate people in financial distress can be and in some cases, putting their children in harm’s way to get out of their situation. I’m not going as far as saying prostitution but…kind of?
Oh Jimmy, find the IOU’s and get those much need braces or don’t find them and get a beating. The odds aren’t good since Mr. Haggles has a house full of spooky sounds and animatronic ghoulish surprises in store. Jimmy comes close but just couldn’t take the torture of Mr. Haggle’s taunts.
As Jimmy runs out of the house his father picks him up in a nurturing way and walks home defeated. Mr. Haggles laughs at the terrified kid but there is a moment when he has his bubble burst when Mr. Muldoon isn’t angry but rather a caring father. You can almost hear Mr. Haggles sigh a “humbug”. Who is next?
Another potential victim rings his doorbell and from his Wizard of Oz type control room, he looks to see who it is. Another kid? A parent coming to whoop an old man’s ass? Not quite!
In every story when a greedy person meets their fate, there seems to always be this third-party who’s entire being is for punishing the sinner. By far, this is my favorite punishment. He looks into the peephole only to see one of the scariest witches as she cackles a “trick or treat”. He opens the door to shoo away this prankster only to come to the realization that this is a real witch. She flies through the house on her broom and magically finds the hidden IOU’s and blows them in his face. Frantically, Mr. Haggles jumps to catch them all completely overlooking that he HAS A FUCKING WITCH IN HIS DEN and runs through the house shouting “my money!”.
In each room he is met with these type of creatures, who are not animatronic, but real and all over his cash. He is in disbelief that a pirate-zombie is sitting on his check deposits and scurries to salvage the flying cash. Which leads him to….
Ah, Satan himself. The Devil reverses the taunting and repeats “you’re getting warmer” and Mr. Haggles crawls his way down a bright red corridor which is made of what appears to be bubble wrap. While the set design looks to be a mediocre haunted garage that can be found in any suburb on Halloween night, it is a little creepy. Mr. Haggles crawls his way, chasing his blowing cash, to what is perceived to be Hell. Good riddance.
But what about all the poor people who were in debt to Mr. Haggles?
Well, the witch gave it all to Billy. The End.
As we finished this tale of awesome, I came out of my “Tales From The Darkside” trance to the world around me. Only Jimmy was sitting next to me but where was Rebecca? Apparently during the Hell scene she ran from the room and down to the bible study in tears telling her parents that I forced her to watch ‘R’ rated devil shows. Before I could evaluate the situation I heard the familiar sound of my Mom’s fast paced stair climbing gape. There was nowhere to hide. Jimmy looked at me and said, “You’re in a lot of trouble”. Fuck you, Jimmy, you home-schooled melvin.
The credits were still rolling while Mom and her parents breached the door and she yanked me from the floor so fast there was a tiny pop from a sound barrier break. I was escorted to my room by the elbow and Jimmy was taken downstairs to join his traumatized sister and would be given cookies and cake until their parents decided to leave. I cursed them all from my bed having daydreams much like Ralphy from The Christmas Story, thinking how sorry they would be if I was blind or have an affliction that required sympathy. But I wouldn’t give them the satisfaction.
By the next week when bible study came around, the melvins did not join me. I was thankful for this but my Saturday nights had to be spent without TV. But was it worth it?
Well, I guess this was coming. I mean, I post about as regular as Jamie Lee Curtis. (Activia joke) I need to get a different forum and narrow the topic to a specific direction. While Veggiemacabre has been great, I am a different person than 2007. Maybe better or maybe worse but not the same. I loved this place and the people I have met through it.
I know Matt ended X-E and started DinosaurDracula. This is sort of the same thing but going forward you will see more of a media side since I have invested so much into software. I have a vision and as soon as the know-how happens you’ll see. Thank you for a wonderful five years. Watch below to get the skinny.
By the way, Veggiemacabre.tv will still be here. Just leaving this blog.