I Break You Because I Love You: Christmas Toys That Couldn’t Survive Me

Since the Christmas season is upon us, I’ve been looking through some photos from my childhood of my family celebrating Christmas and opening presents.  I can’t help but look at these pictures all squinty-eyed to try and figure out what gift each person is holding up.  I find myself yelling at my four-year old self for not holding a present up at an appropriate angle or at my mother for not compensating for the glare off the plastic packaging in certain photos.

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And I still didn’t learn through my awkward long hair phase

If we are all honest with ourselves, our childhoods were nothing special.  Very few of us were prodigies making a significant impression on the world.  Heck, many of us struggled to master tying our shoes and putting the lid back on the glue bottle once we’re done tasting it our arts & crafts.  For the most part, I identify my childhood by the games I played and the toys I played with.  When did I get most of these items?  Christmas, of course!

Not every present I ever received has a nice story attached to it, but when I get to one that does, that story often ends with that toy becoming virtually unusable.  Unfortunately, there was no plastic surgeon at my disposal to reverse the signs of aging on my toy collection.  Try as he might, my dad was often helpless in restoring broken toys to their former glory.  Once, he glued a Geordi La Forge action figure’s visor on upside down after it snapped off of him.  How could you not see the indent where the nose was intended to rest?  Could you imagine La Forge’s embarrassment if he went out on an away mission looking like that?  He could try blaming it on a transporter malfunction, but I think that as Chief Engineer, that falls under his jurisdiction.

I’d blame dad for further ruining the figure, but it was entirely my fault. The visor was intended to be detachable. Nonetheless, I still bemoan my lack of inventiveness, and should have made the most out of what I thought was damaged goods by drawing pupils on Geordi’s eyes and claim he was cured.

I don’t think that I was very rough on my toys growing up.  Sure, if I was lucky enough to have received a Wrestling Buddy, I would have given him a few pile-drivers, but that’s what a twin brother is for.  For the most part, there was no stretching of Armstrongs, and there was hardly ever any crash-testing of my Incredible Crash Dummies.  Still, there were some gifts that, while not exactly asking to be broken, couldn’t hold up for one reason or another.  The following are among them.

Note:  All the items I mention below were actual gifts I received as a child.  However, not all of them were given to me on Christmas.  I felt my blog was lacking a Christmas-themed entry, so if that doesn’t sit well with you, to quote George Bailey, you must be a warped, frustrated old man.

Larry Bird Basketball Net

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I believe it’s very important to teach children how to live a physically active lifestyle.  It should take more effort than supplying them with a sugar high just to get them out of the house and running around the backyard, especially when your children inevitably upchuck those empty calories on your prize-winning magnolias.  Toy manufacturers Lil’ Tyke knew the grief this caused, and launched a brand called Lil’ Sport.

Having seen our appreciation of Lil’ Tyke toys like the slide (used for our favorite summer activity of splashing into our ankle-shattering kiddie pool) and see-saw (used as a human catapult long after outgrowing it), ma and pa found it fitting to slide head first into their sporting goods line.  That is why I received the Lil’ Sport Larry Bird Basketball net.  My brother received their tee-ball set, but is not worth focusing on because of their failure to lock down an endorsement deal with one of those leading tee-ball professionals that we read so much about.

A quick Google search revealed that an alternate version of this toy featuring the likeness of Julius “Dr. J” Erving.  I want to say that the company wanted to give parents two options depending on your preference of player, but they don’t seem to do that type of thing any more.  If this toy was released today, they most likely would just take their pick of Lebron James or Steph Curry and be done with it.  No one might want to admit it, but a part of me thinks they wanted to market one to black kids and one to white kids.  Why wouldn’t it be?  Companies, to this day, want to cast as wide a net as possible to tap into the wallets of everyone.  Larry Legend (basketball skills aside) was included along side Dr. J to include the rare consumer with backwards attitudes towards players that weren’t from the mid-west and didn’t look like one of their father’s drinking buddies.  Similarly, Grandmama (again, basketball skills aside) was later featured in Converse ads to include the rare elderly woman consumer way into bodybuilding and upper-lip hair pride.

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That curly straw tho

Here’s that exception to the rule that I warned about.  This was a birthday present, and not a Christmas gift.  I know that there is no way of you knowing when the above photo of me was taken, but I take pride in my honesty.  My brother and I have a June birthday, so our mom should have known better than to dress us in long sleeves and thick corduroy pants (I’ll let the white bowtie slide for now).  You’d also probably expect to see a plethora of Christmas decorations in this photo, but what my grandmother does with her living room in December is none of your business.

Notice that the pole shows a variety of athletes and balls used in different sports.  It could be a method of reminding us that the company sell a variety of sporting goods for children, but I think I’m a little jaded over the invasive nature of internet advertising these days that I’ll seek out product placement in just about anything.

How did this net come crashing down?  In spite of the fact that Larry Bird was more known for his shooting and fundamentals, my brother and I no doubt had ourselves a bit of a dunk contest.  Our natural sibling rivalry led to us busting out all the classics as we pushed each other to greater heights (literally!!).  We’d dunk from the free-throw line (a.k.a. the edge of our toy car playmat), slam it tomahawk style (standard dunk performed wearing a culturally insensitive headdress), and the no-look dunk (telling the spectator to close his eyes, then enthusiastically brag about how epic our jam was) among other feats of glory that would make Dominique Wilkins look like a stark amateur.

The exact dunk that broke this toy I cannot recall, but there’s a strong chance it was with my patented kiss-the-rim dunk. Since I had grown to the point where the net was on an even plane with my lips while standing, executing it should have been a “slam dunk” (I kill me!).  I must have been overly anxious to pucker up with that round piece of plastic because the next thing I know, I’m flat on my ass, and surrounded by a cardboard pole that had split and unravelled.  I can only wonder if the Dr. J version was built to withstand a two-handed throwdown, or something else more of Doc’s style.  I’d rather not have to hit up eBay to put this to the test.

I also remember a Michael Jordan variant, but it must have been made years later since he was not in the NBA at the time the other two were initially released (1983).  I saw it in an episode of Saved By The Bell where Zack Morris was principal of Bayside for some reason.  I’m too lazy to read the plot, so I’m guessing he took a “time out” to run off to the printing shop and forge the proper credentials while the store employees were too busy being frozen to notice.  He had the net in the corner of what used to be Mr. Belding’s office.  I can’t remember the other contents of the revamped room, but it surely included other essential 90s mementos like a Pearl Jam poster, a desk drawer filled with nothing but Koosh balls and slap bracelets, and the obligatory wall mural of a scantily-clad Kelly Kapowski riding bareback on a dragon.

The Real Ghostbusters action figures

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Boy, did I love all things Ghostbusters as a child!  Everyone loves the movies (My first lasting memory of the franchise? Catching a glimpse Siguorney Weaver in her bra in the sequel.), but some of the younger people out there might not realize that there was a cartoon show based off the movies.  It was titled The Real Ghostbusters because there was already another cartoon show titled Ghostbusters.  I will simply refer to the show hereon out as Ghostbusters without further explanation since a) I don’t know a single person who’s ever watched the other show, and b) I don’t want to be accused of needlessly padding my word count when a concise Wikipedia entry exists.

Naturally, a toy line was launched by Kenner to cash in on the cartoon’s popularity, and the collection seemed virtually endless to me.  We wouldn’t get their Fire House Headquarters, but we had a large enough share of the vehicles to keep us happy.  Kenner was certainly inventive when it came to including ghost figures to antagonize the Ghostbusters.  There were figures based off classic monsters such as Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, and the Wolfman.  There were figures of seemingly ordinary citizens, such as an old lady and a garbage man, who could transform into their true ghost identities.  I remember one of us had a scary toilet (possibly acquired from a giveaway at Taco Bell), and there were also these creatures called Mini Traps that would clamp down hard when you placed a figure on their tongues.  I can’t recall getting those traps to work without having to sacrifice a finger.

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Real good gift or Real disappointment?

It seemed that it was the Ghostbusters themselves that were more prone to destruction than any other character.  I had a “Fright Feature” Winston Zedmore figure whose head spun around 360-degrees while his jaw gradually opened if you lowered his arm.  The arm eventually broke off, meaning I would have to spin his head by pinching it between my fingers.  It would still work as a plausible fright feature if Winston was caught in a giant, haunted cewtrwetw game.  My brother’s Egon Spengler figure also had fragile parts, with the necktie snapping of relatively quickly.  The logos applied to the shoulders of each ghostbuster wore of with relatively little effort, as did some of other paint.  A couple years later, our sister had to deal with a similar problem with the face on one of her Polly Pocket figurines in what may have been the most traumatizing toy mishap any of us had ever experienced.

For the most part, the remainder of the toys held up fairly well.  One of the most robust figures I received was arguably the most marketable character, Slimer.  I made certain to get him one year by writing directly to the big fella, and demanding it be the one toy he’d schlep across the world to place under my tree.  Little did I know that by 1991, there was a good chance my parents grabbed this toy out of a clearance bin.  It just goes to show you that it sometimes pays to cheap out on your children when they are too young to know better.  I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and say Santa placed it in there as a Christmas miracle.

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Believe me, ignorance was bliss!

Even though that toy was the one sure-thing I’d receive get that year, I was excited enough to bring him along with me to Christmas mass.  For some reason, when we were younger, my siblings and I were allowed to each bring one toy to church.  Apparently, the idea of God watching over us wasn’t enough to captivate our imaginations and scare us out of gloating about how, in our minds, we got better presents than Jesus on his own birthday.

Larvell Jones (from Police Academy) action figure

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Here we have another toy designed around a cartoon that was based off a movie. I’ve always been curious about watching old cartoons I grew up watching to see if they hold up with me to this day.  Rocko’s Modern Life certainly does.  TaleSpin doesn’t.  The jury’s still out on the Police Academy animated series because I can’t seem to remember a damned thing about.  I watched it, and my brother and I had quite a few of the toys.  That’s all that’s important for the sake of this story.

The first figure I received from this series was Larvell Jones, a character known for his ability to mimic an assortment of sounds with his mouth in the movie series.  I also received a second figure that day, Zed, whose action feature was that his pants dropped around his ankles.  I find this a bizarre feature for a toy series aimed at children, but the adorable heart-patterned boxers that hid his shame made it fun for the whole family.  Furthermore, he had an annoying, spring-loaded bobble-head, legs that didn’t bend, and a pair of comedic handcuffs that were unusable since they were attached to his chest.  He sported a goofy, tongue-wagging facial expression as if to further torment me for the lack of practicality in his design or to dare me to lock him in the toy chest (which I did).

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A stripper pole on a skateboard? Now the pants thing makes sense.

Jones was the figure that I was excited about.  As you can see from the packaging, he came with two accessories.  The bullhorn functioned as a working kazoo, so I could save the comb and wax paper for my personal hygiene and sack lunches, respectively.  If kazoo noises are considered to be “crazy sounds” (as listed on the packaging), then that radio must have been a real hoot.  I’ll hazard a guess and say it either produced static or it was stuck on an obscure 24-hour yodelling station.  It looks familiar, but I have no recollection of using that accessory.  It was probably confiscated by one of the less zany police officer toys in my collection.

Sadly, this figure didn’t last very long.  His left arm, the one that activated the opening and closing of his jaw, eventually broke off.  The “action” limb seemed to be the most common breaking point on a variety of figures I owned.  I can’t recount an origin story of this break because I’m certain it was just from using the toy as it was intended.

If only there was more protection for consumers from faulty manufacturing with toys.  I know that toy companies would lose their shirts if they offered warranties on action figures, but it would make some sense in a modern world where adults seem to be the primary purchasers.  Many keep theirs MOC (Mint On Card, for non-collectors), but I like to pose mine on a book shelf.  If I want to impress a visiting lady-friend by showing her a Stone Protectors figure, I should at least have the piece of mind that I won’t have to send him to the scrap bin if he should bald prematurely after a couple loving strokes.  Of the doll’s hair, I should clarify.  I know my evening would end before I get halfway through my original Star Wars figures.

This toy is unique to this list because I eventually received a second toy.  We visited our grandparents, and I remember my grandma handing me a fresh one soon after our arrival.  How she learned of my misfortune I never learned. It was probably the subtle hints I was giving my mother.  Temper tantrums, hunger strikes, insisting on bringing broken toys to Show and Tell to hint at my family’s lower class status to my impressionable classmates, etc.

This is not a just world, so Larvell Jones II met a similar fate to that of his predecessor.  Coincidentally, the scene of this accident took place when trying to place him in the back of the ECTO car from the Ghostbuster line of toys I previously mentioned.  I don’t know why we were trying to do this, but that’s the power that imagination has in a child’s playtime.

Crossover was huge with our toy collection, and I’m sure that was common for lots of children.  Jones, being the master of sound effects, was surely along for the ride due to a malfunctioning siren that needed to be substituted in the least practical way.  An off-duty police officer must have better ways to spend his time than riding around with men mere weeks away from tin-foil helmet territory, but that’s what it was.

The good news is that his arm was still intact.  Jones could flap his gums in the amusing manner we are accustomed to, but don’t blame him for not laughing along with us.  Jones’ groin / buttocks region split right down the middle, causing both legs to be separated from the body.  Playtime abruptly ended after this unfortunate injury, but I’m upset I didn’t play on a little longer to allow the Ghostbusters to make an effort to help him out.  Taking him to all the way to the hospital may have been a lost cause, but at least he can fit more compactly in the back now.  In fact, there was probably room to spare, so if they ran over Zed somewhere along the journey, they can dispose of all my bad Police Academy memories in one single trip to the fireplace.

Exploding Beetlejuice action figure

Yet again, a toy based off a movie with a corresponding cartoon show.  Unlike my Ghostbusters and Police Academy toys, the Beetlejuice line was actually modelled after the film.  The majority of the action figures were of the titular character, and the rest of the choices were questionable.  I owned the Adam Maitland figure (Alec Baldwin’s character), and there was also one based off Otho, the interior designer with the ghost fascination.  To some people’s surprise, there were no figures for Lydia Deetz (Winona Ryder) or Barbara Maitland (Geena Davis). If you are familiar enough with action figures that were released before the mid-90s like I am, this may be sort of a blessing. Toy manufacturers seemed to be particularly lazy when it came to constructing moulds for bodies.  Anybody who has ever owned a Masters of the Universe figure (or their generic dollar store wrestler equivalent) can attest to this.  Whenever they’d create toys of the female characters, they’d more than likely look like your high school gym teacher or, at best, her slightly-more feminine life partner.

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For some reason, I still remember this action figure being called Break-Dancing Beetlejuice.  I may have derived that name as a precocious six-year old, acutely noting that his hands at his waist made him look like he’s dancing a jig and that he… you know… breaks.  More likely, though, I lifted the phrase from a commercial.  My brother suggested this recently when talking about this toy, and it would make a lot of sense.  We each got a Mighty Max playset one year, and though it would be clever to write our own Mighty Max adventures on an old typewriter.  Dialog (and plots, for that matter) was straight out of commercials and off the packaging, leading nobody to believe this pair had a future in any creative endeavour whatsoever.

Being big into the Beetlejuice movie and cartoon series, you’d expect me be delighted when I received the Phantom Flyer accessory from my uncle one Christmas.  Take this as a note to expect less from me.  I was an emotional wreck, but there is a perfectly good explanation as to why that was the case.

My brother and I had a natural understanding when it came to toys.  We’d hover over fliers and catalogs, archiving each item in our brains as if we were cramming for exams.  We’d each pick which ones we wanted in civil fashion, delighted in the fact that we would get all that we wished for and be mutually satisfied.  When it came to this particular series of figures, I staked my claim on the Exploding Beetlejuice, and with Alex settled on a different one, world peace was within grasp as long as nobody messed with our agreement.

If you’re looking for a photo from when we received these presents, you won’t find one.  I ran off to my grandparent’s guest bedroom and sulked like a teenager who was stood up at prom.  Either way, my take-off velocity would have been so great that:

a) you’d only see streaks/blurs in the photograph

b) the camera would’ve been forced out of my mother’s hand from the resulting gust of wind, or

c) I would’ve smashed face-first into the dark turn in the adjacent hallway, making for an even less-flattering picture.

My uncle was alerted of my lapse in composure, and was able to help negotiate a trade between us.  I never asked my brother what his true feelings were on this transaction, and I quite frankly didn’t care.  Balance was restored.  That’s all that mattered.  My envy over Alex’s receiving my rightful present didn’t leave easily, yet I grew to feel bad about any ugliness that transpired on my behalf, so the two of us soon drafted up a“Bros Before (G.I.) Joes” pact.  Given that this particular toy line was outlawed from the house, it showed that our sense of irony was already in full bloom.

All this was for nothing, as this toy lasted little more than a couple of months.  Some part of his exploding body was damaged, meaning I could never put Beetlejuice back together again.  I was stuck with the head on the beetle’s body, and a pile of worthless body parts.  I never once asked Alex if he’d re-consider the trade.

Years have passed, and the scars have healed, so this year I decided to embrace all things Beetlejuice.  On Halloween, I dressed up as “The Ghost With The Most”.   Like I always do, I wore the costume to work.  I didn’t dare mention this Christmas-related fiasco to any of my co-workers.

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A healthy man

I also purchased a Hallmark Beetlejuice ornament, and grabbed the movie on Blu-Ray all in the same week.  I’m totally over this.  What else do I need to buy to convince you?

Fisher-Price Space Tops

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I won’t waste precious space explaining every detail about Space Tops, but here’s a video tutorial showing one in action.  I don’t even have that great a story about this toy.  I’m mainly surprised that they were able to successfully market a toy as old-fashioned as a top.  It reminds me of when my grandfather tried to get us all interested in yo-yos.  I wouldn’t so much as crack a smile unless he let me get the one with a picture of Batman on it.  If he told me that yo-yos were commonly used as weapons at one time, that would have helped too.  Walking the dog and rocking the cradle were okay, but I would’ve gave anything to see a man beg for mercy at the hands of my grandpa after threatening to use the sleeper on him.  Then he’d take a nap himself, because that’s how he rolled.

Smartly, they threw the word space into the title, and appealed to those kids optimistic enough to believe that intergalactic travel is well within our grasp.  We rightly believed these tops would have the ability to take off in flight even though our universe would be bound by the basement ceiling.  These tops didn’t exactly lift off. In fact, there was no upward trajectory at all.  The tops simply behaved like tops.  Fisher-Price, you duped me again!  First you sell me non-functioning telephones and vacuum cleaners, and now this?  Not to mention that because of you, I’ve ruined three perfectly good lawnmowers by filling them with bubble blow.

It’s kind of cool that the launcher is shaped like a rocket ship, but what would a rocket ship be doing carrying three flying saucers?  Was NASA behind the whole U.F.O. conspiracy or were they jettisoning giant clay discs for when the Death Ray wanted some target practice?  It doesn’t make much sense.  They may as well have called this Farm Tops and had it launch spinning milk bottles out of a cow’s utters.  There was no need for them to geek up an already niche product, so they could have taken it in any direction.

I can’t find photos of myself or any of my siblings playing with this toy even though it was a playroom staple for years after I received it. I read somewhere that the recommended age for Space Tops was between 3 and 7, and I remember being nearer the max age than I was the minimum.  However, that didn’t stop me from having some fun with it, though I took my use of it with the utmost level of seriousness.  I’d cringe whenever someone jammed the launcher, sending as intimidating a stare as a kid can make towards the guilty party.

With the nature of how this toy worked, it was inevitably going to break sooner or later. I know the tops themselves were always in working condition.  They seemed pretty sturdy to me as a kid.  My often eagle-eyed parental supervision had a few advantages, one of which was having no access to power tools.  This contributed significantly to increasing the lifespans of even the most fragile plaything.  So we couldn’t shoot them towards the table saw or drill through them in hopes of finding a sweet chocolate center, but I guess letting us dance them around our little sister when she was in her rolling baby walker made for a decent consolation prize (sigh..).

It was all about the speed for this toy, and, yes, I had the need (for speed).  I don’t have the exact numbers on what velocity it takes for a space shuttle to break through the earth’s atmosphere, but I’m pretty sure it’s faster than my arm could push against the resistance of the launcher.  Like the legendary Icarus, I flew too close to the sun, or the moon, or whatever space thing could cause the most destruction to my toys.  An asteroid belt, perhaps, but that’s irrelevant.  One overzealous push led to the teeth that gripped the tops onto the launch track breaking off, meaning any further space missions were grounded indefinitely. This was a good thing, as it allowed more time for some toys I had been neglecting, such as….

My First Guitar!

As a hobbyist musician, I get a bizarre kick out of turning to the musical instruments page in the Sears Wish Book catalog.  This isn’t out of looking for the next instrument to add to my collection, but only to see what low-end brand of guitars are being offered.  Even before I actively listened to music, guitars always appealed to me aesthetically, almost as if the person holding one had some sort of magical power.  Whenever a person would bust out an acoustic at social gathering, all eyes would turn towards the player.  Admittedly, I was too young to spot the rolling of eyes as the audience suffers through the same fifteen minute rendition of “If I Had A Hammer”, complete with their own ad-libbed verses, that they’d always play at parties.

The strange thing is that I’m not sure how I went about asking for the guitar.  Being a man without children, I forget how a toddler who could barely speak would ask their parents for anything.  Did I have to use my older sister as a translator?  Could my brother and I use the combined power of our twin minds to get the message across to our parents?  I’m guessing my parents would buy us anything, and hoped that we’d take a shining to it.  If we didn’t, I know my dad always had his eye on my Tonka trucks.

Anyway, my first “guitar”(quotes to be explained later) came to me on my third Christmas. I don’t remember the exact manufacturer of it, and I don’t think there were any markings on the exterior of the body or on the head stock. The only photo I can find of me playing it is below, in what is no doubt the first jam session between my brother and I.

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Which Sharon, Lois & Bram song should we butcher this time?

The Christmas in which I received this guitar, I wasn’t so into the opening up my presents aspect.  I really wasn’t into the receiving gifts aspect either.  No, I wasn’t one of those kids who’d just play with the box either.  I was a catalog kid.  Turning through the pages of Christmas catalogs may be one of my first memories.  Two and a half may seem a bit old for a first memory, but I don’t go in for those “I remember when I was in the womb” stories. Yeah, it was wet in there.  I would never have guessed.  If you can remember back that far, I’d think your circumcision would have made the more lasting impression, but that’s just me.

I’d have a pile of gifts appear all around me, and maybe it was all so overwhelming to me that I had to mentally escape and collect my thoughts.  I look at old Christmas photos from that year (1987), and I have distinct memories of playing with most of these toys for several years in my early childhood, so it was a great haul.  From that perspective, it seems like I would have a great Christmas, but I can only find one photo of myself from that day with a smile on my face.  I don’t know, but does it look a bit forced to you (I’m on the right)?

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I soon reverted back to a pout that would make Kanye West proud

By the time I got to my grandparent’s house that afternoon, I looked absolutely fed up. My head was buried so deep in that catalog that I must have thought it was the gateway to Narnia or something equally feeble.  Was I trying to crack some secret code that Sears placed within to be read only by the most gifted of children?  Was I using it as an instruction manual, looking at the kids modeling the toys as a form of guidance in order to maximize my future enjoyment? Who knows!

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I know this is last year’s edition, but I’ll make due.

I remember having my prized guitar sitting next to me, but I couldn’t help but keep staring at the photo in the catalog. With a little luck, I was able to track down the original ad for the guitar from the 1987 Sears Wish Book.

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A couple things shock me from seeing this clipping.  First, I want to thank my parents for providing me with a present that was recommended for someone double my age.  I tend to tease them both on occasion, but they knew I could handle the challenge.  I delayed that challenge by about fourteen years when I got my first proper musical instrument, but it’s the thought that counts.

Second, the guitar was only $11.99.  Even when you account for inflation, you cannot buy a suitable starter guitar with that little money.  Over the years of strumming it half-heartedly in between Lego sessions, I’d learn why it doesn’t pay to cheap out on a musical instrument.

One of the first things you do when you pick up a guitar is to make sure that it is in tune.  I never concerned myself with what the tuning pegs were even for.  I assumed their only purpose was to keep the strings from falling off.  I thought the guitar came tuned, and that was that.  I don’t think I moved a tuning peg until around five years later, and the darned thing snapped right off.

That wasn’t the only problem with this guitar.  I had misplaced the wooden saddle that kept the strings in proper position, which had a habit of sliding out of position when it mattered most (always).  Also, the glue which held the neck to the top of the body gradually weakened and pulled apart.  Not much of a loss really, considering the guitar never really did function as a guitar in the first place.  I had little to do with it now but using it as a percussion instrument by dropping found objects in the sound hole and rattling it around, or as a tool of violence on my siblings when I’d catch them cheating during a game of Ready! Set! Spaghetti!

Whenever I have doubts about my abilities as a musician, I think back and wonder if my playing would be further along if they splurged on the $31.99 guitar with proper machine-head tuning capability.  Probably not.  A $20 price differential on a gift I received twenty eight years ago isn’t a valid excuse for not practicing enough.

The Chipmunks tour van / David Seville doll

The main reason I was excited about this gift is that I never even knew it existed.  Alvin and The Chipmunks was one of my favourite cartoons at the time, so receiving such a sizeable present based around these characters made me feel like celebrating.  My screams of joy hit those platinum selling/ear-bleeding frequencies of my beloved trio without all the studio trickery.  I was only five years old, mind you, so I could strike that tone for as little as being served chocolate milk with dinner.

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Not shown: Shame for wearing the same pajamas two Christmases in a row

The van came with a record with a Chipmunks song or two on it.  My parents put it up in a high shelf that I could not reach along with any action figure accessories my mother deemed too violent for use.  Hidden messages in music was making front-page news at the time, and my parents heard a rumour that if you played this record backwards, you’d hear them ritually sacrificing Josie and the Pussycats to appease their dark overlord.  It didn’t come with any of the Chipmunk figurines, but Kentucky Fried Chicken already solved this dilemma for me with their promotion around that time.  Those little Chipmunks couldn’t move their arms or legs, but you know who could?  David Seville.

The Seville doll that was packaged with the van was constructed with a number of degrees of freedom.  They even went as far as give him ankles that rotated up and down on a hinge.  Why this was the case I’m not sure.  It must have been for him to operate the gas pedal, which was either non-existent or a non-functioning detail on the interior framework of the van.  He shouldn’t be driving the van anyway.  He has three chipmunks capable of singing and playing their own instruments.  I think the guy could give up a few of his duties (bus driver, tour manager, choreographer, songwriter, father) as he should be able to afford some hired help to schlep the band across the country.

Actually, it would make lots of sense that the Chipmunks would have a one-man crew. PETA would be all over his ass for profiting of these virtuoso rodents.  The media would be hard-hitting, explaining the need for the collapse-able stage built into the van since this would lead to several venues refusing to book them. That leaves them making impromptu gigs at trailer parks for gas money, with the lion’s share of their shows being at retirement communities since the audience is too busy struggling with cataracts to notice the oddities that stand before them.

Anyway, this is about broken toys, so what happened?  The tour van held up pretty well. I truly did enjoy that toy.  I liked the Dave Seville doll, too, but I found a way to break him.  It happened when I was trying to take his clothes off.  Sue me for being curious.  Looking at the guy, can you blame me?

davidsevilledoll

Drink him in. DRINK HIM!!

This pose is exactly how I remember him.  His arms were permanently away from his body like Randy in A Christmas Story.  Don’t think of me as some young little pervert.  I probably wanted to see what would make his arms bend so unnaturally.  He also looks like a man whose mother dresses him, so I’d technically be doing him a real solid if I changed him.

As I recall it, the clothing removal was pretty standard fare.  This is from a guy who had undressed many a Barbie in his day in hopes of applying this skill on a real, live woman one day.  If only women’s wear came standard issue with a Velcro stripe going halfway down the back, and plastic bras that are a quick latch away from accessing the nipple-less goods beneath.  When the shirt and pants came off him, I got what I expected, which is also what I feared.

From the moment I saw him, I was hoping David Seville would be able to hang with the Barbies.  Unfortunately, I had learned earlier that he was much shorter than those dolls. Barbie stand at 11.5 inches tall, whereas Mr. Seville stood around 8 inches in height.  Though the height ratio is a bit off, it let me adjust to the idea that I will encounter many women in my adult life that are taller than me.  With David as my plastic avatar, I could gain confidence to approach these gorgeous giantesses without feeling somehow inferior.  It was actually easier than I thought it would be.  Controlling what the Barbies said and thought may have helped a little.

If the height difference wasn’t giving me enough body image issues, staring at his naked form certainly did.  He was a mess of ugly, visible joints, and large gaps existed between each limb.  It in no way represented my body then or what it would become, but how was I to know?  The much-taller Ken didn’t have to worry about this.  Plus, his underwear came printed on, so Barbie could at least imagine he’s impressively packaged.  Seville had no such secret.  He was packing as much as Barbie.

Remember those ankles I mentioned?  Needless to say, I found a way to break them.  I couldn’t just leave the man with all but his shoes on.  That’s plain weird!  Not only did David have his eye on Ken’s girl, Barbie, but he also had his eye on his footwear.  In spite of the notable difference in height, David Seville could squeeze his way into many of Barbie’s outfits with little trouble.  Still, there was a snowball’s chance in hell that he’d be able to pull off her stilettos (not that he looked all that special in anything else of her’s).  He saw Ken’s impressive sneaker collection, and had to give a pair a test run.

To accomplish this, I first needed to take Dave’s shoes off.  I attempted to do this like how I’d take off my own shoes, I’d pull my heel out through the back.  I hated undoing my shoes, and Dave’s laces weren’t real anyway.  When I was first learning to tie laces, I always left them tied up.  I think the prospect of memorizing the lyrics to whatever shoe-tying song I learned (the rabbit pokes his head up and ties his ears together??) was too daunting a task.  To date, I only vaguely memorize lyrics and give more attention to the musical content of a song.  I’ll place blame on the writer of that song for not giving it a distinct melody.

Before I can see if they gave Dave an acceptable number of toes, off came his foot.  I must have pushed too hard on the joint that held his foot to the ankle.  This only accounts for one of the ankles, but I most likely finished the job for symmetry purposes.  I’m almost 100 percent certain that I did do that.  He was already thinking about buying a ramp to help load gear onto the stage, so this “accident” would just about clinch such a purchase.

If my David Seville doll had a Toy Story level of sentience, he’d hate me with a passion.  I don’t even want to get into how the Barbies would feel.

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One thought on “I Break You Because I Love You: Christmas Toys That Couldn’t Survive Me

  1. Pingback: Writer? We’re Talking About a Sitcom! | Looks Bad, Feels Good

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