Sunday, July 06, 2008

Blasto from El Pas(t)o

My head only has a memory buffer of ten years. Any memory older than that gets written over and that sucks because nothing all that great has happened since about 1989. I have lost most all of my childhood memories from the eighties unless they are extremely memorable historic events in the course of human history, like when the space shuttle exploded in '86 or when Empire Strikes Back came out. When I was a kid these things made an enormous impression on me. Thanks to my crappy brain storage limits these memories are the only surviving remnants of my childhood so I worship them in my head and nothing else since has impressed me as much. That's probably why the Star Wars prequels didn't seem as spectacular or exciting to me, which oddly enough is also how I feel about the more recent space shuttle explosions.


I was born in El Paso, Texas in 1974, which was the time just before the first Star Warses were fought. And I grew up during the toy robots wars of the mid eighties so you would think I have a lot of great memories but I don't. My childhood was a fantastic time but my recollection of it is fuzzy at best. It was like if somebody gave you roofies but instead of raping you they took you to Disneyland, then you woke up the next day feeling like something awesome happened but you couldn't remember what exactly.


I left El Paso 13 years ago because King Zarkon needed to be defeated and those robot lions weren't going to pilot themselves. Last month I went back to El Paso for a week and I found that a lot of the old places my mom used to buy me toy robots from went out of business after I grew up. COINCIDENCE? I THINK NOT. Thankfully a bunch of the places I used to eat at are going strong. I wish a lot of those old toystores were still around today, but just because they died out didn't mean the end of toy robots. By contrast, a lot of the food I love is very much dependent on the survival of the restaurants that make it. I don't care how super rare the latest toy robot of the week is, a well made gordita is way tougher to find. The bottom line is I can buy an Optimus Prime anywhere but there ain't Whataburger in South Dakota.

Just like my brain, El Paso has been busy writing over itself in the name of economic development but I won't let a little thing like going out of business keep me from showing the internet those old toystores I used to love. Although some have died off or relocated I still have my fuzzy half remembered memories of where they used to be. So in total defiance of the march of time and progress I took a picture of the greatest of those old toystores that aren't there anymore. I don't care if I have to photoshop that picture of me standing in front of the building that used to be Lionel Playworld, I will have a picture of it as it used to look.


Unfortunately a lot of my most cherished memories are not so easily photoshopped. Although my mom kept a lot of stuff from when I was a kid, a couple of key pictures from my childhood have been lost. But while I was in El Paso my uncle assured me that he does at least have the negatives of the pictures from the time he took me to Universal Studios to meet the Transformers in '85. I hope he finds them because shaking hands with some guy in a Jazz costume was like the highlight of my life. Little by little through the acquisition of old photographs I will get some more of my past and my memories back. Thankfully my sister said the picture of me peeing myself in front of Darth Vader is still lost. Some things are better left forgotten.


agentmorris said...

Lionel Play World is probably the one store that if I could ever bring back any store from my childhood, it would be that one. Toys 'r Us sucks compared to that place.

Toy stores are nowhere near as cool now as they were when we were kids.

naladahc said...

Yay! You're back!

Weasel said...

I've been saying for the past few years that human brains should have an SD memory card slot. That way we can record all the awesome moments in our lives and keep it all nice and safe. Unfortunately, it would also record all the shitty moments as well. (Yeah, maybe that ain't such a hot idea. I do not want remember the pile of crap that was the 1990s.)

The only toy stores that I can recall from my childhood have to be the local KMart and KayBee toys. I didn't often get to KayBee (it was in a mall) but I haunted the KMart quite often. The KayBee has been shut down for quite some time and I have no idea if the KMart is even still open. I ought to go look that up.

I was in my early teens when Toys R Us opened in my area. I can remeber spending hours wandering that store. Even when I was young I had no life. Some things never change I guess.

Heh, I met Darth Vader once myself. I think I was like 5 when it happened. My experience was mundane compared to yours (he made an appearance at the local college campus) but it was damn cool. My mother has the pictures. I should tell her to send a couple.

....the guy held me in one hand. I'm not kidding you. I was held in one hand by the Dark Lord of the Sith. My mother was terrified he was going to drop me. I thought it was the most awesome thing ever. Mom looked like a shrimp. Good times, good times. XD

Shawn Robare said...

I just recently made a similar run to the family homestead to grab up a bunch of photos of my childhood. Unfortunately, the best of the bunch was me reaching up to hug a guy in a Billy Bob Bear costume at Showbiz Pizza...

Evil King Macrocranios said...

Hey AM, you just gave me an idea for a post. I'm always talking about how Playworld was so great but I haven't really backed it up with good reasons and I think I have enough ad material to do that. One thing I loved about Playworld were all the crazy promotions they would run for just about any occasion. I have a couple ads they ran with mentons of costume contests and birthday celebrations for the store and stuff like that. It was always a party there.

It's funny Nala, but this blog gets more hits when I'm not writing than when I'm putting out four posts a week. I'd almost say the readership feels like, "Oh no, he's back!"

Silvy, if I could store my brain on an SD card I could theoretically erase any parts of my life I regret or am ashamed of. I wonder how it would feel to be 34 and have no regrets or no memory of colossal failure? Probably great and I wouldn't be so crotchety all the time. So sign me up.

Shawn, I wish I had even one picture like that one you have of when you were a kid and your friend and you are sitting in the driveway with your arms on each other's shoulders. It's so classic 80s Americana. I wish I had something similar but that would require me having friends as a kid, though.

Mick said...

What about independent toy stores? I did not know they were independent. In E-town, KY we had the warehouse of toys and then that that became the children's palace. Those toy stores ruled but then Big K became Wal-mart and killed everything.

Evil King Macrocranios said...

I never went to any of those stores, Mick, but Dr. Geektarded has done a buttload of posts about Children's Palace. I grabbed a couple ads from Children's Palace when I was in Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. It looked like it was the Playworld equivalent of the upper midwest. I figure in about five years we'll all be reminiscing about TRU in the same way.

I think it would be totally hot if I could get my wife to dress up in a Playworld employee uniform and give me customer service.

Weasel said...

Silvy, if I could store my brain on an SD card I could theoretically erase any parts of my life I regret or am ashamed of. I wonder how it would feel to be 34 and have no regrets or no memory of colossal failure? Probably great and I wouldn't be so crotchety all the time. So sign me up.

Then I could delete all the Primus-awful memories of my ex? That would be just awesome. Sign me up for that! (Why do you think I want to forget the '90s?)

I figure in about five years we'll all be reminiscing about TRU in the same way.

If Wal-Mart keeps up their current track record, you're probably right. =/


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Evil King Macrocranios was voted king by the evil peoples of the Kingdom of Macrocrania. They listen to Iron Maiden all day and try to take pictures of ghosts with their webcams.