When I was in elementary school, I had obsessions. No, I'm not talking about my assorted action figures this time, I'm talking about other, far more evil obsessions. Looking back, I'd swear that someone else lived in my body. I can only presume that someone else was the world's biggest idiot.
See, kids are weird. My obsessive nature lasts to this very day, but I like to pretend not everyone is like that. Kids are different though. They don't know how to just get into something a little....they have to become so obsessed with it that it encompasses their whole life. And with my old obsessions? Looks like my life sucked!
Here's five of 'em...
#1 - Baseball Cards: Yep, I collected baseball cards. Me, a guy who blows trumpets when he finds out that an Ab Fab marathon is being shown on Comedy Central. Yes, I collected sports cards.
But I didn't just collect them here and there - I collected them to the point where I'd scrounge for change under the couch cushions in the living room just so I could run back to the ice cream store in the hopes that I could get the 1989 Bill Ripken error card with 'fuckface' written on his bat, as pictured above. But there was one small problem with all this..
Yep, it's true. I had no interest in any sport, much less one where the guys would ruin perfectly good uniforms by letting tobacco juice spill on them. Unless you count pro-wrestling, the closest I came to being remotely interested in sports was when I somehow got a crush on Nancy Kerrigan during those Olympic skating/Tonya Harding years. Other than that, absolutely nothing.
Still, I pined on to complete my collections. I remember associating landing a Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr. rookie along the same lines as finding a cure for cancer. But I never watched the fucking game. I mean, reading the backs of the cards, I gathered than players who got 'RBI's were doing something good, but I'd be fucked if someone asked me to explain what that actually meant. Hell, I thought the term 'doubleheader' referred to the coin toss at the beginning of the game to see what team batted first.
My friends knew I was a fake. You can't suggest 'arts and crafts' as an alternative to playing stickball and get away with collecting baseball cards. People knew better. Eventually, they called me on it, and the convo went along these lines, circa 1986:
Billy: Hey Matt! You little girl, we know you don't like baseball!
Thank God comic books became so popular in the early 90s, otherwise this site might be a tribute to Nolan Ryan. ::shudders::
#2 - Choose Your Own Adventure Books: Ah! Remember these? Books that let you dictate the story's direction! In theory, these were kinda fun. No other book gave us the option between door number one or door number two. It was usually door number one or to hell with you. These books were like literary video games.
Choose Your Own Adventures came with a lot of different plots. My personal favorite was the one pictured above - Golga The Space Monster. If you didn't make the right choice, Golga would start eating trains and shit.
Of course, you did run into a problem with these. The eternal struggle between reading the books like you were supposed to, or simply skipping to all the 'The End' pages, picking which one you liked best, and working backwards like you were Theo from The Cobsy Show or some other misbegotten dyslexic 80s sitcom celebrity. In any event, I could never resist the temptation. I never read the books the way they were meant to be read. Hey, they may have given us options, but I wanted more.
Another thing that was pretty interesting was the morbid ways they'd end the adventures. If you made the wrong choice, it wasn't a simple 'try again' message at the end of the story. Sometimes you'd die, or they'd make it perfectly clear that you were about to die. Talk about negative reinforcement. I'd labor on my decisions for about six hours before turning the page in fear of the horrible, scary ending that surely awaited. It's no wonder I eventually started reading these things backwards.
All in all though, it was a pretty cool idea. I wish they made these things in adult versions. Think about it...you could kill someone, but it'd be your decision whether to strangle 'em, stab 'em, or force them to watch The Facts of Life Goes To Paris tv movie! Decisions!
#3 - Paula Abdul: Yep! Back in elementary school, all the girls liked New Kids, but all us guys liked Paula. The first poster I ever actually bought was Paula sporting her 'squatting' pose. I loved her. It all started with my evil older sister puppeteering me to dance whenever the Straight Up video came on. I'd protest and fight like the devil himself was trying to make me dance. But oddly, through my torment, I grew quite an affinity for the girl.
In school, every guy had taped a picture of Paula to his desk. It got pretty sickening. It was like this big contest...whomever had the most Paula pictures was certainly the coolest kid in class. While we all loved Paula, we weren't really that into her. It was more of a block to all the girls' New Kids obsessions. That is, until...
Yep, the Opposites Attract video. Now we were diehard loyalists and worshippers who'd carve her name on our foreheads with glass just to hear two notes of her sweet, angelic voice. Listen, Paula's cool...but once you incorporate a cartoon cat into the mix? Fuck, the whole deal became a modern day babylon.
Shrines were erected. Virgin girls sacrificed. I became so infactuated with Paula that I was actually able to convince myself that there was nothing wrong with singing along to Cold Hearted Snake, a narrative about the bad dating habits of men. Cute, huh?
#4 - Trolls: Ugh, fucking benevolent TROLLS. I fucking HATE these things. They're not cute, they're fucking scary. Have you ever looked at one? Tell me these demons don't look like they're staring a hole right through you. They've got evil intentions, I don't care how 'lucky' the companies claimed they were.
But, back in the day, they were mighty popular. I think the deal here was that you were supposed to make a wish and blow on it's ridiculously exaggerated hair. Of course, your wishes never came true, but the 'cuteness' of the trolls was supposed to subsidize the blow. NO. These things are not cute. Just because someone tells you something's cute, doesn't make it true. Look at poodles! Have you every actually inspected a poodle? It's the only dog I've ever seen that has teeth that age. The inside of their mouths look like a sewage plant. They're always scabby and fat, too. In other words - not cute. And neither are these frigging Trolls.
Plus, the desire to rip the hair off to find out if they were really hollow was impossible to resist. Every Troll I had lasted about three hours before the hair came off. Fucking demons.
#5 - Jolt Cola: Ohhhhh Jolt. The first drug I ever had. And the only one that didn't get me in trouble at home. Theoretically, Jolt Cola was a godsend. A soda so packed with caffiene and additives that drinking it cause you to be sent into the happy happy world of sugar rush confusion for at least a half hour.
Okay, I'm exaggerating a little bit, but Jolt had a few things going for it. Firstly, it came in the cool glass bottle. I have this thing for drinking soda out of a glass bottle. Actually, it's drinking anything out of a glass bottle. I'd sample horse urine if you put it in a pretty enough container. But aside from that, Jolt's somewhat-placebo effects made me feel like Superman as a kid. I'd drink it and force myself into a state of hypnosis for 15 minutes, waiting for the 'effects' to kick in. Hey, it might not have actually worked, but if any kid downs that much soda that fast and remains perfectly still for a good amount of time, something's gotta give. So while Jolt Cola might not have given us the power of flight or super-speed like we had hoped, we might be able to giggle a little more at Growing Pains than we did previously. And anything that can do that? It's got to have a little magic.
And now? I'm obsessed with Pokemon dolls and Beast Wars. The more things change, the more they stay the same.