This post is brought to you by serendipity.
At least, I hope it is. I’m not totally clear on what “serendipity” means.
See this? It’s a baby dinosaur statue, made by Windstone.
I bought it in 1992. I was thirteen years old.
This poor dinosaur has had it rough. Look close and you’ll see evidence that his head once broke clear off his body. Baby Dino only averted death with the liberal aid of Krazy Glue.
He’s stained, chipped and far from a showpiece, but even after a zillion “collection consolidations” over the past two decades, I’ve never been able to let him go.
It’s not just because he’s a cute baby dinosaur hatching out of an egg, either. That’s one reason, but there’s more to it than that.
You see, I remember buying this dinosaur. I used my own money, and spent a week laboring over the decision to do it.
When you’re a kid, the stuff you use your own money on is held to a different standard. Those things are “yours” in a way most things aren’t.
I’ll never forget the moment I bought him. It was in Las Vegas, of all places.
Which brings me to the serendipity part:
Last night, I was thumbing through one of my old journals.
I’ve written about it before, but I kept diaries for many years. I was especially dedicated to them in middle school and high school. Today, they’re sources of immense personal embarrassment, and were they to fall into professional hands, they might serve as proof that psychoses start early.
This particular journal is from 1992. I started it during the school year, but it mostly covers the summer season.
When I think about everything I was as a child, I think about 1992 pretty specifically. By then, I was old enough to have a set-in-stone personality. As faraway as he seems, I can still relate to the person who wrote this journal. For better and worse.
The entry above is from the next-to-last day of school. I guess I was in the seventh grade?
The last week of school was a total joke. Classes were spent playing board games and watching movies, or in rarer cases, getting bad grades on the condition of my notebooks.
Then began the summer entries. I was uncharacteristically busy in 1992! There were trips, fun times with friends, and apparently, lots and lots of hermit crabs.
Finally, in late August, the journal hit its peak chapter.
THE LAS VEGAS CHRONICLES.
With my parents and grandfather, I spent a week in Las Vegas. We stayed at the Excalibur, which was likely my parents’ concession to me. Excalibur was built to look like a giant medieval castle, and long before Vegas fully embraced a “fun for the whole family” vibe, it was one of the only hotels in town that had legit stuff for kids to do.
I have no idea what the Excalibur is like today, but in 1992, they had EVERYTHING. The casino seemed like an afterthought, but I guess I didn’t pay much attention to that. I was more focused on their ENORMOUS arcade, stuffed with real rides, all kinds of video games, and plenty of ways to rack up points for assorted prizes.
For the whole vacation, I lived in that arcade. I couldn’t get enough of it. It was loud, bright and just so ALIVE. Plus, whenever anyone lost a carnival game, every speaker in the place blasted a sweet cover version of Another One Bites the Dust.
I can still hear it in my head, barely muffled over the sounds of crying children.
I’m too private to scan-and-show the journal entries from that week, but I alternated between being ridiculously happy and being outright miserable. That’s how it goes when you’re thirteen. No matter where you are or what you’re doing, you’re either really happy or not at all.
(Though I suppose that’s how it goes when you’re twenty and thirty, too.)
Like, I was happy when we went to Excalibur’s restaurant, which was Medieval Times in everything but name. I loved eating potatoes with my hands, and watching knights chase each other on horseback.
But I was miserable when we went to the Liberace Museum. Ugh! In the journal, I compared that experience to “walking through Channel.” (Channel was an appliance store that my father always found reasons to spend HOURS at, leaving me with nothing to do but stare at washing machines.)
As usual, my whole week was spent trying to “get stuff.” Whether by racking up points in the arcade or by hitting every gift shop on the Vegas strip, I wanted as many souvenirs as possible.
I went home with plenty of things. Nonsensical things, like a slot machine coin bank, an enormous novelty cigar, and tons of pyrite. I loved pyrite.
Most of that junk was bought with my “daily allowance.” I can’t remember how much it was, but each day, I got a stipend of “hush money” to keep me out of my parents’ hair. It was mine to use as I saw fit. I was happy to blow it on crap.
But I also brought my own money. All of it, which couldn’t have been more than fifty bucks. With my own money, I was much more critical. In fact, I went through most of the vacation spending none of it.
I had a good reason not to!
See, as soon as we got to the hotel, I ran to the assorted gift shops. Excalibur had plenty of them, all with terrific medieval/fantasy themes. Within hours of arriving in Vegas, I spotted the aforementioned baby dinosaur statue in one of those shops. Damn, it was almost forty bucks! I wanted it badly, but I couldn’t bring myself to blow so much of my money that early in the vacation.
So I spent the whole week being super extra careful with my cash, all the while wondering if a silly dinosaur statue was worth it.
As you’ve seen, I judged that it was. Near the end of our vacation, I took the plunge.
That thing was ALL MINE.
I realize that this can’t possibly be interesting to you, but you weren’t there! You didn’t see it go down! You didn’t see me cautiously approach that gift shop 200 times, just to make sure nobody else bought it. You didn’t see the pride on my face when I finally asked Random Woman #7 to take it out of that spinning display case.
They wrapped it up, and to my surprise, the statue even came in its own special box. When we got home from Vegas, I cleaned my whole bedroom just to make the statue’s home more befitting. I was SO HAPPY about that dinosaur.
But as much as I want to say that the high carried me through the rest of the summer, I kind of have proof that it didn’t:
Joy is fleeting, I guess?