Dinosaur Dracula!

Boys’ Life Magazine Ads.

Boys’ Life is the official magazine of the Boy Scouts of America. It ruled my childhood.

I was in the Scouts, but that had nothing to do with it. All of my grade school buddies were in the Scouts. It was just kind of a given that we would be.

For us, it was essentially an afterschool “latchkey” program, held at a nearby church, with a few of our mothers rotating in and out of “den leader” roles. We wore the uniforms and we had the books, but it was more or less just playtime. Actual scout-like activities were few and far between. I didn’t mind going and neither did my friends, but we’d have just as soon stayed home.

Only one of my friends stayed in for the long haul. He seemed embarrassed whenever we brought it up, but his bedroom was full of Boy Scout things, including the fabled Webelos uniform that none of the rest of us achieved.

He’s the one who introduced me to Boys’ Life Magazine. In his room was a pile of them, nearly half as tall as I was. I don’t know what compelled me to begin thumbing through them, but once I did, something magical happened.

The articles in each issue were what you’d expect. Sugary stories about being a better person, or about making things out of egg cartons, or maybe about the logistics of rain.

I wasn’t enthralled until I got to the last few pages. The “GIFTS & GIMMICKS” section. At that moment, something clicked, and nothing would ever be the same. Read More…

Snowmonster.

I don’t like to waste a good snowfall. When we got that blizzard last night, I knew I’d spend today turning snow into icy hot Dino Drac content. And I did.

I’d preemptively Googled for “things to do with snow” (that was literally my search string), ultimately locating an eHow tutorial about changing snow’s colors. I know this is reading as it’s fiction, but I swear, I really am that interesting.

Fast forward to this morning. I was armed. Using a spray bottle that once held glass cleaner and another that once held spot remover, I marched into that tundra with full tanks of green and blue Snow Paint™.

(Snow Paint™ is just water mixed with food coloring. Tell no one.) Read More…

Polly-O Pizzeria String Cheese.

Today’s youth may take string cheese for granted, but me? No way. Never. I knew a world without string cheese, and it was as black as tar.

Polly-O String Cheese came out when I was still in elementary school, and while I’m not motivated enough to do the math, that was, suffice to say, a very long freakin’ time ago. It was immediately popular, and the only kids who went a day without string cheese were the ones who couldn’t eat dairy without it turning their guts into a fireworks show.

…and it’s those memories that made Polly-O’s new “Pizzeria” string cheese such a big deal for me. I see this, and I’m back in the second grade. There are other “odd” flavors available these days, from jalapeno to black pepper, but this one – the one that tastes like a pizzeria – is the string cheese that makes me want to eat from within a hut fashioned out of couch cushions.

Formally, the flavor title is Italian Style Pizzeria Twisted String Cheese. It should not take ELEVEN syllables to describe cheese, and so we will never mention the formal title again. Read More…

Mad Mascots: Clanky Syrup Spaceman!

Kids of the ‘60s loved astronauts arguably more than anything else, thanks largely to the Space Race. A quick browse through any photo collection of ‘60s toys will show an unmistakable lean on spacemen and rocket ships, and really, the old cliche of kids “wanting to become astronauts” found its foothold more in the ‘60s than any other decade.

If I’m wrong about that, give me a pass. I wasn’t alive.

The point is, if you were targeting children in the 1960s, giving your product a “space theme” was the smartest way to go. So, when you look at this astronaut-shaped syrup bottle, just know that its existence made perfect sense.

His name was Clanky. He divided his time between exploring the cosmos and peddling chocolate syrup.

Was Clanky popular? I’m guessing he was. Hell, I still go ballistic for bottles shaped like Mrs. Butterworth, and that’s just Mrs. Butterworth. This was a cool ass astronaut with sci-fi trappings and accordion legs. How could kids of any decade – let alone the space-crazed ‘60s – not be into Clanky? Read More…

Nintendo Trophy Figures.

This is a Nintendo Trophy Figure, from 1988. I know it doesn’t look like much, but remember, there weren’t many Nintendo toys at all at that time. These things were gold-by-default.

It was a surprisingly large collection, with characters representing three of the era’s biggest games: Super Mario, Zelda and Punch-Out. (I’m going with the abbreviated titles, because the full versions are stuffed with periods and exclamation points and other things that make grammar checks nightmares.) Read More…

The Best Chest.

Today is my birthday. The last few minutes of it, anyway. I’m 34. It feels outrageously old.

As some of you know, I’m weird about birthdays. Actually, I’m much weirder about birthdays than I’ve ever let on. When it’s time to sing the birthday song to someone, I hide in the back and pretend to be distracted. When it’s time for other people to sing it to me, it’s sheer torment. Those twenty seconds feel like two hours. Of being on fire.

It’s been this way since my late teens. One year, I spent an entire night out with my closest friends, never once mentioning that it was my birthday. I’ve gone to tremendous lengths to keep it a secret. It isn’t just because I hate getting older, because even if I do, I’ve been an idiot about birthdays since I was practically still a child.

In more recent years, I’ve even gotten weird about birthday presents. The people who gotta give them to me “by law” will always struggle, because I will never even hint at what I might want. I don’t know where this comes from; it’s not like I have these issues at Christmastime.

Anyway, for the past few weeks, my might-as-well-be-wife was pushing me for gift ideas. My answers ranged from “I don’t know” to “I don’t need anything” to “I hate my birthday don’t you dare get me a present.” Even when she’d suggest totally practical things that I could totally use, I’d weasel my way out. “Nah, I’ll just use it once and forget about it.”

As a cake topper, I have a terrible poker face, and I’m the worst person to ever try to surprise. So if you think she should’ve just picked something on her own without any semblance of “permission,” trust me, she’s learned not to from experience.

A few nights back, she grilled me again. This time, she was serious. Maybe even teary. It finally hit the point where I could no longer be a cold jerk in good conscience. I hate it when things hit that point. I had to fess up.

“Well, there was this weird storage chest on Craigslist…”

Not the response she was expecting, I guarantee you that.

Behold, my birthday present. That weird chest from Craigslist. THE BEST CHEST.

We’d never bought or sold anything on Craigslist before. I’d heard too many horror stories about it. Even when I’ve seen listings for amazing things at unreal prices, I could never pull the trigger.

But this… this was different. That chest SPOKE to me. Each side has a different piece of art, and the whole thing is just so incredible and bizarre and perfectly up my alley. I had to have it.

Since this was my birthday present, she wanted to pick it up alone. That was a no-go for me. I’ve been brought up to believe that everyone on Craigslist is a psychopathic murderer with a secret torture chamber. So I went along for the ride. Turns out, the owner/artist was a perfectly nice and normal guy, with a cool car to boot. He even gave us a severe discount.

He’d worked on the chest bit by bit for more than a year. Bless his heart: It was even more incredible in person. This thing is just so insanely me.

Below is a closer look at the various scenes, and if you don’t come out of this believing that this really is the best chest, leave Dino Drac and never come back. Read More…

Vintage Vending #9: Las Vegas!

In today’s video, the Vintage Vending series continues with a trip to Las Vegas:

Though you might expect a “Las Vegas” prize assortment to have everything to do with casinos and vacations, this one doesn’t. No, this one comes with a plastic machine gun.

…but it’s not like such deviations were uncommon with vending machine sets, which so often established a theme and then did very little to support it. In this case, I’m fine with that. I’m not going to complain about guns and robots when the alternative was some lame temporary tattoo that said “JACKPOT.” I play the fool, but I ain’t one.