“Hold your breath, make a wish, count to three”: Recalling Sentimental 1980s Toys

“Hold your breath, make a wish, count to three”: Recalling Sentimental 1980s Toys

Woody: All right, that’s enough! Look, we’re all very impressed with Andy’s new toy. / Buzz: Toy?/ Woody: T-O-Y, Toy! / Buzz: Excuse me, I think the word you’re searching for is ‘Space Ranger’. / Woody: The word I’m searching for – I can’t say, because there’s preschool toys present.

– Tom Hanks (Woody) & Tim Allen (Buzz) from Toy Story (1995)

The other day, I watched a YouTube channel, and the two hosts visited the Funko shop on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles, CA. Now, that might not sound like anything special, but it is for two reasons. One, I love those small Funko POP! figurines, and I wish I had more than the two I currently own. Two, the hosts made custom Funko POP! figures as part of the “POP! Yourself!” experience at the Hollywood location. That seemed incredible. Not only does Funko have an actual store, but people can make a toy/figure that looks like them. As a child of the 80s, I would have loved these custom creations, both then and, yes, now. At least I know one place I will be going when it’s safe to travel! Get ready, LA; I am coming.

The most cherished item in those early years of growing up was my toys. Sure, that might be odd to think of as an adult nearing forty, but as I have defined myself as a reflective person, someone who regularly ponders nostalgic thoughts, this adds up. For the last couple of months, I have found, one could say, somewhat of a groove with my weekly posts. One week I post about travel, one week movies/POP! Culture, one week half marathons, and another week nostalgia/memories. While it does not always turn out this way, nor are weeks confined to such a rigid structure, January and February proved the rule. To close out this cold and snowy New England month, I thought, why not dive into one of my oldest and purest enjoyments; toys. I no longer seek them out, except of course, for the occasional adult LEGO build of a Haunted Mansion or the Statue of Liberty, or the Nathan Drake Uncharted and John F. Kennedy Presidential Funko POP!. Still, I have the fondest memories of those days, nights, and Saturday afternoons when toys were the center of an imaginary world, of my invention.

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“Good Food, Good Times”: Nourishment in Nostalgia and Vice Versa

“Good Food, Good Times”: Nourishment in Nostalgia and Vice Versa

“Anyone who’s a chef, who loves food, ultimately knows that all that matters is: ‘Is it good? Does it give pleasure?’”

– Anthony Bourdain

Do you ever think about the things you think about? Sure, that has nothing to do with this week’s post, but it does make you ponder. Well, the other day I was thinking about food. Ok, I get it, doesn’t everyone think about food. Yes, of course, but recently I started to think about those foods that defined my past. Honestly, this topic came to me after watching a recent vlog on a YouTube channel called Dani.702. The host, Dani, was at Disney Springs and purchased a substantial glazed donut from Everglazed Donuts and a giant chocolate chip cookie from Gideon’s cookie shop. After sampling both, she selected the one she thought was best. Her decision ultimately rested on which one made her feel most nostalgic. She then mentioned a favorite memory of getting a similar donut when she was younger. Dani.702’s reaction made me ponder about the types, and flavors, of foods I enjoyed when I was younger and produced a similar response. Stuffed quahogs, linguica pizza, sour cream and onion dip, and malasadas are a few foods that always transport me back in time.

In an old post, Traveling to Familiar Surroundings, I discussed my journey back, after many years, to where I grew up, going to a few eateries, and finding comfort in familiar surroundings. My parents no longer reside in the area, and my siblings and extended family have since moved away and on for the most part. My ability to connect to the past is, well, not as easy as I wish. That was why, as I discussed in that post, my wife and I went to my home town. I was able to deal with my anxiety and depression with a nostalgic trip that included hometown food. I have since moved closer, even if slightly, to the area, but the pandemic has, of course, made revisiting eateries challenging. Today, join me as I travel to coastal Massachusetts, the area of my childhood, and explore those foods and meals, either home-cooked or takeout, that stand out to me today, and if given an opportunity, I would order right now.

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What a Difference a Year Makes: New Year’s Eve 2019 & a “Musical Reckoning” about Moby Dick

What a Difference a Year Makes: New Year’s Eve 2019 & a “Musical Reckoning” about Moby Dick

“There’s only now, there’s only here
Give in to love or live in fear
No other path, No other way
No day but today”

– “No Day But Today” – Vocals by Idina Menzel and Lyrics by Jonathan D. Larson

One year ago, for New Year’s Eve, my wife and I drove into Cambridge, MA, for a live performance of Moby-Dick, A Musical Reckoning at the American Repertory Theater. We had bought these tickets a couple of months before, mainly because on the one hand we wanted to see more live performances in the new year and, on the other hand, I love everything related to Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick. It was a fantastic night, and the play was brilliant, unique, and the songs were memorable. What we didn’t expect was that this performance would be our last live event of the year. With the pandemic shuttering the doors of Broadway theaters and theaters around the country, we had that previous event as a powerful reminder of the things we lost out on in 2020.

Today’s post is my 30th since mid-July, which was when I started this blog. Next week, my post will explore a travel adventure in Central America, so this week, and since tomorrow is New Year’s Eve, I decided to reflect on that Moby-Dick musical and think back to those times I took in a play either on Broadway or closer to home. Each live theater experience provided a wonderful experience that I deeply miss. I know these theaters will open their doors again. Still, in the meantime, l am going to get my memory ticket punched and head back in time to reflect on those amazing musical performances.

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My No Good, Horrible, Very Bad Travel Adventure & “Planes, Trains and Automobiles”

My No Good, Horrible, Very Bad Travel Adventure & “Planes, Trains and Automobiles”

“Neal: What’s the flight situation? / Del: Simple. There’s no way on earth we’re going to get out of here tonight. We’d have more luck playing pickup sticks with our butt-cheeks than we will getting a flight out of here before daybreak. / Neal: I guess we’ll find out soon enough. / Del: Yeah, but by the time the airline cancels this flight, which they will sooner or later, you’d have more of a chance to find a three-legged ballerina than you would a hotel room. / Neal: Are you saying I could be stuck in Wichita? Del: I’m saying you are stuck in Wichita.”

– John Candy (Del) & Steve Martin (Neal) in Planes, Trains and Automobiles

In previous posts, I have discussed how my brother Jeff and I do a movie rewatch and chat each week. It started on ZOOM when things locked down at the start of the pandemic, and we have since continued doing it socially distanced in either his or my backyard. One week, what started as a discussion of our favorite John Hughes’ film, morphed into a conversation about bad travel experiences. As brothers do, we each told our own bad travel stories, competing to see who had the worst experience. In the end, we both agreed our worst travel experience was one we shared.

Many years ago, 16-years to be exact, my brother Jeff and I lived our version of the film Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Well, maybe it wasn’t that bad, but I remember it being terrible. In our attempt to go to Florida to celebrate Christmas and the dawning of a New Year at Walt Disney World with my sister Becky and mother, we experienced what can only be described as an awful travel adventure. To circumvent lousy weather, limited plane space, and a semi-strike by our airline, we did whatever we could to make it Florida, from Providence, RI. We went through insanity, yet it is one of the funniest stories to tell because, well, sometimes bad experiences make for great stories.

The end of the story will be as strange as the beginning. But, to better understand it, I want to add in a comparison take on John Candy and Steve Martin’s incredible buddy-comedy adventure, Planes, Trains and Automobiles. A film with sharp comedic timing, uncomfortable travel commentary, and touching dramatic elements, the movie always makes me think of what my brother Jeff and I went through and the paths we took to get to Florida that Christmas in 2004. Join me as I explore that travel adventure, study an incredibly nostalgic film, and partially spoil the story’s ending. It ends pretty well.

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A Brief Hawaii Moment: “A’a i ka hula, waiho i ka maka’u i ka hale”

A Brief Hawaii Moment: “A’a i ka hula, waiho i ka maka’u i ka hale”

“You like spaghetti, George? I like spaghetti. I like board games. I like grabbing a trifecta with that long shot on top… that ozone smell you get from air purifiers… and I like knowing the space between my ears is immeasurable… Mahler’s first, Bernstein conducting. You’ve got to think about all the things you like and decide whether they’re worth sticking around for. And if they are, you’ll find a way to do this.”

– Mandy Patinkin in Dead Like Me

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving in America. When I think of Thanksgiving, I often recall day trips to Plymouth historical sites, visits on the Mayflower II, high school football in Massachusetts, and, of course, the family get-together. The thing is, a couple of the best November’s I have had were spent, with my wife, on the island of Oahu, where we lived for a short time. That first year in Hawaii, Thanksgiving was with my mother and brother, who visited us. Together, we celebrated in a way we didn’t in Massachusetts, on a lanai with views of the Pacific Ocean. The second was with our friends Colleen and Don at their Mililani home. Our last was on a cruise ship voyaging around the Hawaiian Islands, with the actual day celebrated with amazing views of the Napali Coast. Three unique Thanksgivings in a place I genuinely consider home.

I often think of those three years living in Hawaii with my wife and dog, Mr. Tuttles. Thanksgiving always makes me reflect on the past, so it makes sense that, after several years away, I use this holiday as an opportunity to look towards Hawaii with a reflective gaze. Those may be, when all is said and done, three of the most rewarding years of my life. Born and raised near the ocean on the South Coast of Massachusetts, I never dreamed my journey would bring me to the Hawaiian Islands. This disbelief is valid for travel, let alone relocating, meeting new friends, and becoming filled with feelings of Aloha. The title of this post is a Hawaiian saying that translates as, “Dare to dance, leave shame at home,” loosely meaning, “Just be you.” I am thankful to Hawaii for teaching me to, well, just be me.

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Good Morning America: Election Day 2020

Good Morning America: Election Day 2020

“Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you.”

– Pericles

Well, it’s November 3, 2020… Election Day in America! I usually submit my weekly blog post on Wednesday of each week, but I thought I would move it up one day to coincide with Election Day since this post is all about the importance of voting. So, let’s get started!

The other day, I read an opinion piece written by Mandy Patinkin, whose acting credits include Dead Like MeHomeland, and my favorite, The Princess Bride. In this article, he talked about his path to greater political consciousness, and it made me think of my journey to greater political understanding. No, this blog post will not discuss politics today; that’s not the point of my blog or this post. Instead, this is an opportunity to reflect on my lived past and feelings around current moments, as I often do. Join me as I remember my path to greater civic awareness. It’s Election Day in America; let’s remember what that means. 

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The Travels & Adventures of Mr. Tuttles

The Travels & Adventures of Mr. Tuttles

“A book about me? [gasps] I’m gonna be a star! Steve, you’re the best! Oh, my God, Stan, how upset are you? Seriously, on a scale from one to pissed. Oh, who gives a flying fig? I’m a star!”

– Episode “Star Trek” from American Dad

Mr. Tuttles is a 13-year-old Shih Tzu mix my wife and I adopted from the Boston Animal Rescue League in 2008. We are nearing the anniversary of his adoption day! He has led an incredible life. He has gone everywhere with us. Whether we lived in Boston, Honolulu, city, or suburb, near and far, he has always been with us. He has bad ears and heart, but he is the happiest and most snuggly dog. He loves to eat, be picked up and held, snuggles on the couch both outside and in, and enjoys a good nap, while eagerly awaiting a new adventure. We are lucky to have adopted him so many years ago. Honestly, he is as wicked traveled as me! He has flown more miles than many humans, that’s not too bad.

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🎃 Halloween Delights 🎃: Costumes, October in Salem, MA & Halloween’s Past, Present, and Yet to Come

🎃 Halloween Delights 🎃: Costumes, October in Salem, MA & Halloween’s Past, Present, and Yet to Come

“Believe nothing you hear, and only one half that you see.”

– Edgar Allen Poe

Remember the smell, and feel of those old-school rubber Halloween masks you wore back in the late 1980s and early 1990s? My favorite one was of a werewolf, and I must have worn that costume every single year until it started falling apart. As a child, I remember going up into the attic to retrieve the decorations and seeing the box marked “Halloween” and getting excited to break out that mask. I may have gone eight years in a row with it, but each year changed the outfit, football player werewolf, baseball player werewolf, or werewolf in a plaid shirt. Halloween has always been an entertaining holiday. I mean, you get to dress up as something scary, from POP! Culture, or anything! You get free candy, and you have a valid reason to watch several scary movies, both good ones and terrible ones. Halloween is amusing, and while it was exciting as a child, it can be and has been enjoyable as an adult.

Recently, my wife and I moved away from our home after a lengthy selling process. We wanted to move closer to work, as well as family, so we sold our house in Salem, MA, and with it our time in “Halloween-town.” With September ending and tomorrow we welcome October, I got to thinking about the holiday and what I remember about it and what it has always meant to me. It does not hurt that things are wicked weird with the pandemic, and who knows what October will look like this year. So, as I usually do and as any good historian does, I look to the past, my wicked travels, and find solace, comfort, and possibly a new narrative.

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When Time Stops: Pat McGee, Alanis Morissette, Aslyn & Perfect Moments in Live Music

When Time Stops: Pat McGee, Alanis Morissette, Aslyn & Perfect Moments in Live Music

“It’s like rain on your wedding day
It’s a free ride when you’ve already paid
It’s the good advice that you just didn’t take
And who would’ve thought? It figures”

– Alanis Morissette “Ironic” from Jagged Little Pill

On December 7, 2019, my wife and I went to see Alanis Morissette live at Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut. My wife Corinne is a huge fan, so I bought tickets and excitedly surprised her with really good seats. I had seen Alanis years earlier on August 8, 2004, at the Tweeter Center for the Performing Arts in Mansfield, MA. That was The Au Naturale Tour, and she performed with The Bare Naked Ladies. It was a terrific show, but what I remembered most was Alanis Morissette’s fantastic performance. She rocked, and even though I had always appreciated her music, style, and emotional power, I was musically transformed by her show.

Since my wife had talked of her wish to see Alanis live and the fact that we have connected almost from our very first date through our similar taste in music and musicians, I was excited when the opportunity presented itself. But Alanis Morissette’s show acted as a culmination of years of musical connections between my wife and I. Now, with the COVID pandemic canceling concerts and live events, it seemed a perfect opportunity to think back to that shared appreciation of music. So, break out the record player, dust off the vinyl, and hit play.

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Adventures in Baseball w/ My Dad: One Game at a Time

Adventures in Baseball w/ My Dad: One Game at a Time

“Archie Graham: We just don’t recognize life’s most significant moments while they’re happening. Back then I thought, “Well, there’ll be other days.” I didn’t realize that that was the only day.”

Field of Dreams

In June 2016, I took my dad to the New York Yankees Old-Timers’ Day game. It was the 70th Anniversary of the event, and we were celebrating my dad’s 70th birthday. We decided to make a weekend of it. So, we enjoyed the city, ate good food, and prepared for a full day of baseball. At the game, we saw many of our favorite baseball players from years past. Still, we watched the old-timers’ game and a regular-season game while sitting in Championship seating at the new Yankee Stadium, which my dad had not yet visited. Free food, comfortable seats, close to the field; it was terrific. We’ve seen dozens of games at Fenway Park and the old Yankee Stadium and sat in basic fan seating, but after years of Yankee games, we finally enjoyed this new stadium in luxury seating. We watched baseball in style, even as we reflected on all those games we sat through before.

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