Friday, December 2, 2011

What December 1st and 2nd Mean To Me: Holiday Toys!

A recent Grantland article concerning bad 80's toys got me waxing nostalgic about my own childhood and, more importantly, about gifts I either wanted and/or received as a kid.  Growing up Jewish in a predominantly Catholic neighborhood had one distinct advantage:  Hannukah generally fell a couple of weeks before Christmas, so who was consistently the first kid on the block with the cool shit?  This guy.  And because I was a materialistic kid raised in a materialistic world, I wore this privledge like a badge of honor.  If I could have affixed a chain to my Nintendo console and wore it like a necklace to taunt my friends, I would have.  "Oh, did you get up to level 5 in Kung Fu yet? No?  Oh, that's funny, because I did.  Sucks to be Christian!"

In fact, one of my fondest childhood memories was entering my living room to find a large wrapped box, with 4 smaller, similarly wrapped boxes on top of it.  Clearly, it was the aforementioned Nintendo and four games.  My brother and I ripped that shit open much like the famous Nintendo 64 Boy and played it for the rest of the night.  My parents were great about fulfilling our wishlists (and I can't imagine how much trouble they went through to get these gifts), but even though they always got us the gifts we wanted, it doesn't mean the 80's toys were as cool as advertisers and companies promised.  Below is the List O Fail!

1) Rob The Robot:

I was put on this Earth as a Marketing ploy...and to waste your time

Ahhh, well, just as I praised my Nintendo as, perhaps, my most memorable childhood gift, allow me to hate on it for a second.  For those that do not remember, all first generation Nintendos came with the above robot.  Looks cool and futuristic, right?  Only if the future is complete shit.  Here's a bit of a history lesson:  In the early 1980's, several companies and toy makers invested in video game systems (like Intellivision and Coleco) only to watch them crash and burn.  When Nintendo created their system, they knew they would not be able to sell it to stores if it was just a video game.  So they had to market it as a "toy."  Enter Rob the Robot.  Rob was created to "help" the user navigate certain games, but all he did was 1) not work and 2) confuse.  I still have no clue what his purpose actually was, but his mere presence fed into the future obsessed culture that made movies like Back To The Future so popular.  We were so idealistic then, weren't we?  Now he just exists as a fun relic with a purpose no greater than a paperweight.

2) Robotix

"The Motorized Modular Building System"

3) Bingo The Bear

While You Sleep!

I'm not sure why I ever wanted this toy, but I was in second grade, and for some reason a talking bear that wasn't Teddy Ruxpin appealed to me.  Bingo was a puppet that said a few pre-programmed phrases that, if anything, just proved that Bingo had zero confidence and was an attention whore.  For example, his musings included "Are you my friend?," "Can I have a hug?," and "I don't understand" (which was said in a sad tone, as if you just rejected his offer of friendship).  But although Bingo seemed friendly and affable, my personal memory of him is one of terror.  Because simply touching his mouth would cause him to speak, I was often woken up by one of his exclamations or questions when I rolled over him in my sleep.  Imagine being woken up, time and time again, to questions like "Why don't you have paws like me?" or the demand "Give me a hug, will ya." 

4) Rubiks Race

I sincerely wonder if anyone, in the history of the world, the creators included, ever figured out how to play this.

5) Cabbage Patch Kids

The IT toy of the mid 1980's.  Dolls that were "babies" grown in a cabbage patch.  We are a weird culture.  Anyway, because I hated being left out of ANYTHING, I wanted one of these toys.  And for anyone that read my book, (My Sweet Saga!  Now only 2.99 for your Kindle!!), they know its fate.  But for those who haven't read (shame on you!), I received a Cabbage Patck Kid, hated it because it had freckles (I still don't know why), and relegated it to the closet for years.  It eventually became the mummy in a 6th grade history project on Ancient I suppose it served its purpose.  I remember some classmates of mine collected up to 10 of these dolls, for reasons unknown...I wonder where most are now. 


As for unexpected toys that I DID enjoy...anyone remember the game Dark Tower?

I have ZERO recollection of how to play this game, or the objective, but it did feature a mechanical rotating tower that was somehow integral to the experience.  I'm not even sure how many times I played this game, but I remember it being teh awzum.  Though I bet if I tried playing it today, I'd get bored in about five minutes and check my email sixty-five thousand times instead. 

Have a great weekend, all!


  1. Had you lived just a short distance away, in New City, you would have grown up in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood. I often forget you grew up in Congers, I'm not sure why.

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