Last June, I showed you some of the highlights from my 1993 diary, mostly written during summer vacation between the 8th and 9th grades.
Let’s do that again!
As a refresher, I was at that point as awkward and isolated as I hope I’ll ever be. I hated the loneliness, yet only felt comfortable when I was by myself. That made summer vacation — my last before high school — bittersweet. Having so much “me time” and so little social interaction was the best/worst thing.
That vibe pulsed through the diary more often than these highlights indicate, but it’s important to have that context. It explains why I lavished so much attention on minor details, like what was on television and what I ate for dinner. Each day was only as good as its distractions.
It sounds depressing and it was, but I have no regrets. I think we all try to make our damage work for us, and I’ve had over 25 years’ worth of practice. There’d be no me-of-now without the me-of-then, and while I am curious about any alternate universe versions of me, I feel like they wouldn’t have anywhere near as impressive a collection of promotional bumper stickers. I’d never trade those.
June 12th, 1993:
Given that this was my last summer vacation before high school, it was also my last summer vacation to guiltlessly enjoy Saturday morning cartoons. I had no idea what the popular kids did on Saturday mornings once I got to high school, but it for damn sure had nothing to do with Garfield.
When I was younger, I watched Saturday morning cartoons because I loved them. By 1993, I think it had more to do with the pure activity of it. From the crack of dawn through the early afternoon, I was supposed to be watching television, and had no reason to feel like that was somehow underachieving.
This entry also mentions a certain “Frosty,” who slept in a barrel next to me. Frosty was one of my many hamsters. I can’t explain why I chose that name for him, as Frosty’s fur was bluish gray, and I got him in April.
Frosty died before this journal was finished. On the entry marking his date of death, 3/4ths of the page was just a frowny face. His wake wasn’t well-attended, so I got to eat all of the complimentary Doritos.
June 13th, 1993:
Even for a movie as big as Jurassic Park, it seems preposterous that I’d stop watching a WWF PPV before it concluded. I just looked up the results of the 1993 King of the Ring, and sure enough, the Undertaker wasn’t on the card. No way would I have traded an Undertaker match for any movie, even one with real live dinosaurs.
I remember that night clearly, as I assume anyone old enough to have seen Jurassic Park during its opening weekend does. I went to the theatre with my older sister and her then-boyfriend, and the place was packed. This was long before people routinely bought tickets early, so we had a wait on a winding line that spiraled around half of the building.
Was it worth it? Fuck yes! My review in the diary only confirmed that “it was awesome,” but man, I was glowing after that movie. I think the best part was the associated uplift of All Things Dinosaurs. A documentary for every channel! Dinosaur books peppered across B. Dalton! We all became novice paleontologists that year, whether we aimed to or not.
July 11th, 1993:
Comic book stores ruled my world. Especially in 1993, they were some of the only places where I felt truly comfortable. Even to this day, I get a weird buzz every time I walk into a comic shop.
It was fun-in-the-moment, but the goal was to find stuff that’d take the sting out of those long, lonely nights in my bedroom. On July 11th, I settled on a new comic binder and fifty plastic album pages.
Though cardboard longboxes were more practical, I much preferred stuffing my comics into gaudy albums. I must’ve had four or five of ‘em by that point, but I still had to be selective about which comics could be deemed album-worthy.
Basically, if the comic was polybagged, had foil on the cover or featured the Silver Surfer, it could go in the album. The rest sat in longboxes, collecting what I hope were only cobwebs.
Sliding comics into plastic pages may not seem like much of a to-do, but let me set the scene. It’s 9PM. I’m in my bedroom, flipping between Melrose Place and Home Improvement. I can barely hear Tom Calabro over my oscillating fan. There’s a bag of Wise potato chips on my bed, and an oversized Snapple on the desk.
Pair all of that with the stupid binder, and I think I cobbled together enough of a fun night.
August 10th, 1993:
Oof, well, that’s on-the-nose. You’ll notice that I wrote this entry in the middle of August, over a month into summer vacation. I was thrilled when school ended, but after spending so many weeks playing the same video games and staring at the same posters, yeah, okay, maybe it was getting a little tired.
Looking back, I’m not sure how much of the no-friends thing was because I was “stunted,” and how much of it was just because I was geographically unlucky. I mean, had I lived near people who were into the same bullshit as me, it stands to reason that we would’ve enjoyed some of that bullshit together.
I did occasionally hang out with the neighborhood kids while they played handball or whatever, but I felt like a space alien wearing human skin, hoping nobody would catch on. After a while, it was easier to yap at my diary than walk the tightrope three blocks down.
All that said… this was a pretty on-brand entry for someone who only wore black and named his diary after ankhs.
August 12th, 1993:
Live from the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City!
I went to AC virtually every other weekend that summer, since my parents got free rooms whenever they wanted. (“Free” being relative, because you only got free rooms by losing more than they were worth in the casinos.)
We usually stayed at the Trump Taj Mahal. I was on my own for most of those trips, and that’s how I liked it. Get my hush money from Mom, blow it on junk, and then spend the rest of the day ordering PPVs and room service. Sure beat sticking back issues of Dazzler into comic book binders!
The best thing about the Taj Mahal was its game room, located in such an inconvenient location that you had to literally walk through a takeout chicken joint to get to it. Street Fighter 2 was its biggest draw, but I was more about the awesome crane machines.
Whereas most of today’s cranes will only let you win if it’s “time to win,” the cranes in the Taj Mahal seemed to be genuinely skill-based. Once you got the hang of them, you could make a killing. I turned $20 bills into more Troll dolls than a fourteen-year-old could reasonably carry. Suddenly I had friends, however inanimate.
Thank you for reading about (more) humdrum highlights from my 1993 summer diary. In commemoration, I will spend this weekend eating nothing but fruit snacks while glued to a chair.