Humdrum Highlights from the Summer of ’93.

Remember last year when I showed you some pages from my 1992 diary?

Well, here’s the 1993 version:

That’s the diary, right there. Or “journal,” because diaries were for girls, I guess?

I kept this one during the summer of ’93. I was 14, though the book reads like it was written by someone younger. (That isn’t terribly surprising, given how altogether stunted I was.)

I’d just finished middle school and was on my final summer break before high school, which I was utterly unprepared for. Knowing how that went, it’s perversely humorous to see fourteen-year-old me be so unwilling and unable to evolve.

High school ended up being a bizarre experience, and reading these pages, I don’t know how it could’ve went any other way. It was like preparing for war by eating potato chips, almost literally.

If I had to describe the me-of-then, I wouldn’t choose too many nice adjectives. Goofy, depressed, alone — an ironically-round square peg. Yet I was still so completely me, in a way that you can only be when you’re that young… for better and for worse.

Below are several “highlights” from this diary. Honestly, even after so many years, they’re some of the only entries that I can bear sharing. The rest still seem too embarrassing, if not outright incriminating. Scars don’t bleed, but we still try to hide them.


The journal began with this needlessly melodramatic foreword, which for the sake of my pride needed to be trimmed to its least-embarrassing passages. (I cropped out the part about my “many and various” enemies.)

The big news was that I now lived downstairs, in a larger bedroom that wasn’t right next to my parents’ room. That bedroom was a huge part of my life, which was only natural given that I spent more than 80% of my summer vacation hiding in it.

Oh, and as for that “Journal Ankh” thing…

I used to give my diaries names. The one I covered last year was called Journal Stellix, with “Stellix” being my made-up “cool-sounding” surname. This one was Journal Ankh, with a tip of the hat to Neil Gaiman’s Death: The High Cost of Living.

In that comic, Death lived among us for one day each century, so as to better understand the souls she reaped. She’s portrayed as a happy-go-lucky teen with goth stylings. Back in ‘93, I was obsessed with her.

…like, obsessed enough to chase down an ankh similar to the one she wore in the book. It was this big, gaudy thing that turned green in a week, but I wouldn’t leave home without it. Even if I was just going to the bank.

June 14th, 1993:

I wasn’t quite done with school by this point, but like most kids in late June, I’d already checked out. (The misspelled “buon giorno” thing was because I took Italian. It was the only class I ever put much effort into.)

On June 14th, I was excited to catch a Roseanne rerun that featured Darlene during her “depression” phase. I didn’t name it in the journal, but that must’ve been the Season 4 episode, Darlene Fades to Black. (The one where Darlene atrophies on purpose while building an all-black wardrobe.)

I can’t overstate how much that storyline — which carried through much of Season 4 and even beyond — meant to me. At the time, I felt exactly like Darlene did. I was lonely, yet unable to connect with anyone. I felt like I had a brain, but I looked and acted so goofy and awkward that I was easy to dismiss, if not outright dunk on.

To me, it was like Darlene took all of the terrible shit she was feeling and weaponized it into something that helped her cope. Being an outcast sure seemed easier when you were doing it on purpose. So began my long habit of wearing nothing but black, and using silence to play defense. It didn’t help me fit in, but it made not fitting in a little less painful. Thanks, Dar.

July 11th, 1993:

I was knee-deep into summer vacation by this point, which was both totally awesome and totally terrible. I still occasionally hung out with the neighborhood kids, but by then I was so obviously the odd man out that I had to be at my breaking point to even try reaching out to them.

There was also tension between me and my parents, which was normal enough for an eighth-grader. (It wasn’t always major tension — just a thing where I wanted separation from them. I think there comes a point where most kids are instinctually driven to seek that out.)

For those reasons and more, I spent most of my time in my bedroom. It was big, oddly-shaped and on the first floor. I saturated the walls with posters and comic covers and all sorts of bullshit, and then had endless shelves lined with everything from old toys to celestial-themed statues. My prized possession was a fake palm tree from the 1970s, covered in chili pepper lights that only ever half-worked.

The “tiki god party lights” referenced in this entry were purchased from Archie McPhee. I still had them hanging in my bedroom in 1995, when that scanned photo was taken. (Look close and you’ll see ’em.)

“Living” in my bedroom wasn’t me being avoidant for the sake of it. It’s just that I only ever felt like the good version of me when I was in there, all alone. Outside of that bedroom, my self-worth was shaded by others’ perceptions of me. Since I was such a goofy kid, that was never a plus.

PS: I meant salvation, not salvage.

July 12th, 1993:

My obsession with getting mail is all over this diary. Looking back, I guess it was a way for me to always have something to look forward to.

When it came to getting mail, I didn’t discriminate. I ordered nonsense as often as I could afford to, but I’d happily settle for free travel brochures and/or detergent samples.

In this entry, I alluded to a bunch of fan letters sent out to various artists and companies, which actually did provide a return. (In a later entry, I beamed over a packet of freebies sent to me by Malibu Comics.)

Looks like I ended the day by renting Pryde of the X-Men from the local video store. It wasn’t the first time I rented that video, nor the last. I’d only realize in the internet age that Pryde of the X-Men — a sort of prototype episode for the eventual X-Men cartoon — wasn’t universally beloved. Geez, I couldn’t get enough of that tape!

July 14th, 1993:

It’s weird, but when I think of “summertime food,” microwave pizza is near the top of the list. I used to live on those during the summer. The proof is in this entry, where I casually mention eating one for breakfast.

Actually, eating those pizzas at non-traditional times was a big part of the draw. I most often devoured them late at night, after everyone else had gone to sleep. I’d sneak into the kitchen and was always sure to stop the microwave just before it beeped. Then I’d slink back to my bedroom and have a tiny-sized party — cardboard pizza in one hand, remote control in the other.

July 28th, 1993:

Now a month into summer vacation, you can see that the endless boredom was starting to get to me. (Yet I still find myself romanticizing this period of my life, and envying Young Matt for existing in a complete bubble.)

Back then, I spent a lot of time in comic book stores. This was during the 1990s comic book boom, when new stores were popping up constantly. Even stores that had nothing to do with comics often sold them. (I’ll never forget the spinning rack in that one store that otherwise sold nothing but bagels, milk and lotto tickets.)

I spent countless hours in those shops, always trying to make the most of my teensy budgets. In reality, there were only a few titles that I voraciously read. The rest were purchased either because they were cheap or because they had limited edition holofoil covers. Gimmickry ruled the industry at the time, and customers like me were part of the problem.

At home, I wasted entire days bagging and boarding even the most worthless issues. I used to write lists of every comic book I owned on yellow legal pads, for literally no other reason than it being a Thing To Do.

July 29th, 1993:

Oh man. 1001 Things Free. That book ruled my world.

I mentioned my obsession with getting mail. Thanks to 1001 Things Free, I never had to worry about not getting mail. The book (most commonly sold by Johnson-Smith) was filled with offers for free samples, brochures, how-to guides and other inane nonsense. Just endless opportunities for more and more mail.

Some of the offers were purely free, but most required you to at least chip in for postage and handling. I’d raid the house for spare change and then spend whole afternoons sending out requests for shampoo samples and ugly bumper stickers.

For a person with my inclinations and lifestyle, 1001 Things Free was a godsend. If you think about what it must be like to get mail when you’re on assignment at some wickedly off-grid station near the South Pole, for me this was fundamentally no different. They weren’t love letters, but in a pinch, vacation brochures for Mount Rushmore would do.

July 30th, 1993:

My parents were way into Atlantic City during the early ‘90s. They went often enough to get room and meal comps, so discounting whatever they dropped in the casinos, the trips were technically free.

I usually went with them, though by 1993, I certainly could’ve stayed home had I chosen to. That didn’t stop me from complaining in this entry, which was totally unfair. Hey, kids can be dicks, too!

We most often stayed at the Taj Mahal, but this time we were at TropWorld — a temporary rebrand of the Tropicana Casino, whose owners spent untold fortunes to transform it into a Vegas-style entertainment complex. (Complete with an indoor roller coaster!)

At TropWorld, there were plenty of ways for kids to entertain themselves. Still, despite the pool, rides and arcades, my favorite thing was to hole up in the hotel room and order PPV movies while waiting for comped cheeseburgers. The funny thing is that that’s still so incredibly me.

Thank you for reading about my diary from 1993, when I was weird and insulated and full of saturated fat.