Sunday, October 6, 2013

The magic of vintage Star Wars toys...

Grab a nice beverage, get cozy, and settle in for a post that meanders into odd places a bit more than I thought it would when I began writing it…
I really like documentaries.  I think I first became a fan of documentaries after seeing Ken Burns’ The Civil War many years ago (heck, I even bought the DVD set).  So, not only have I since watched everything I could get my hands on that Mr. Burns has done (thanks, Netflix, for helping me accomplish this!) but I also now love watching all sorts of things by other folks – there’s nothing like watching something that’s both entertaining and educational *cue a cheezy, old Saturday-morning “The More You Know” and “Knowledge is Power” moment*.  Honestly, if I were to ever meet Ken Burns, I’d probably transform from a calm-normal-dude to giggly-teenage-girl-meeting-some-lame-boy-band…I mean, c’mon, he made the fucking Dust Bowl interesting!  But I digress…

I’m a life-long Star Wars nerd.  My earliest childhood memory goes back to the day when I first saw Star Wars at the old Glenwood Theater here in town.  I don’t remember many details (mainly just R2-D2 and C-3PO walking through the desert, and the Jawa’s), but my mom tells me I sat still for the entire 2 hours (which apparently was a first for me), wide-eyed the whole time.  The following year, the amazing Star Wars universe that had only existed on screen and in storybook photos opened up and sucked me in as Kenner released toys(!) from the movie.  With these toys and my imagination, I could now re-create scenes from the movie and create all sorts of my own amazing adventures!
My first Star Wars toys were received on my 4th birthday.  Additionally, my baby-sitter was a wizard cake-maker, and for that birthday she created what is still my all-time favorite cake – a miniature R2-D2!!!  Check out two of my old photos from that glorious day many years ago (along with my added commentary):

From that moment on, and still to this day really, whenever I see the Star Wars logo, I have a Pavlovian reaction in which my heart rate starts to speed up and I start to sweat just a bit with anticipation and excitement.  It’s pretty wild that I still respond in that manner after all these years (although anything Jar-Jar related kills that excitement…stupid, piece of shit Jar-Jar).

So, when I learned of the upcoming documentary that focuses on the history of Star Wars toys and the people who have the same life-long appreciation and affection for them just as I always have – I was just beside myself with anticipation.  The name of the documentary is Plastic Galaxy – The Story of Star WarsToys.  It was supposed to be released at the end of September, but they’re still putting the finishing touches on it.  No hurry or worries fellas, as I like to say – “You don’t rush perfection”…it’ll be ready when it’s ready.  Also, as someone who is still trying to finish the third book in my The Candy Bar Adventures series since 2009 (shameless plug, thank you), I know what it’s like to miss a release date or two…or three…or four.  Anyway, at their website for Plastic Galaxy, you can watch a great 13-minute preview.  So good!  I relate so closely to the stories these folks are telling.  Star Wars toys (though, since I’m a grown man, they’re now “collectibles” *ahem*) were a big part of my childhood and they dredge up both good and bad memories (I will not be sharing any of the bad memories!).
Now, I don’t have any of my stuff in display cases like the folks in this documentary, but, when the urge arises, I can access my stuff from the secured location in which they reside.  One of the things I like to do is actually rather strange – I freely admit this (but can’t believe I’m about to admit).  You see, the original Kenner Star Wars action figures had a unique smell to them that G.I. Joe figures/Transformers/Battlestar Galactica figures/Dukes of Hazzard figures/He-Man figures, etc., didn’t have.  Star Wars figures had this unique warm, sun-baked vinyl scent to them that I found rather addictive – addictive qualities that were on par with the scent of McDonald’s french fries and the scent of pizza wafting through the Showbiz Pizza arcade.  Well, this scent still survives on my old figures – fyi: I find the scent to be strongest on the legs of the figures for some reason – and as I’ve gotten older, it has gained some pretty magical powers. 

So, when the mood strikes me, I like to take out a figure from my ol’ Darth Vader carrying case…put the legs up against my nose…and inhale deeply like some dorky version of Dennis Hopper in the movie Blue Velvet.  Yeah, it would look a little disturbing if anyone ever saw me doing this.  But wait!  Let me explain!  This unique scent has the magical ability of conjuring up old memories and transporting me back in time to various Star Wars-related moments in my childhood – like I mentioned earlier, some good/some bad.  Even weirder though, is how clear I can see some of those memories play out in my “mind’s eye” as if I’m watching myself in a movie; and additional scents from those times will then enter my nose out of nowhere.  For example, one time I took a whiff of a figure, and the next thing I know, I can see my 5-year old self bugging my mom in the checkout line of the grocery store for a pack of Star Wars trading cards and I can even smell the bubble gum that they used to put in those packs of cards.  Pretty wild!
If that sounds weird, well then this next one is just batshit crazy.  Surely this happens to others and I’m not just some weirdo, but who knows?  Ok…there is an old song, that 99% of the time when I hear it, triggers a particular scent in my nose (and accompanying visual memory) so strong that, at times, becomes overwhelming and headache-inducing.

The song in question is Abba’s “Mama Mia” (go ahead and laugh, but I’ve always liked Abba – and yes, I still have a tallywacker and yes, I still like the ladies – so fuck off) – in particular – the opening guitar riff from that song is what sets this whole thing off.  I can hear other parts of the song and the whole scenario I’m about to share won’t always happen, but if I hear that opening guitar riff – watch out!  So, when I hear the opening of the song, my nose will just get flooded with the scent of this old Avon bubble bath we had from the time when I was a little kid (my mom was really into Avon back then, so we had a bunch of their crap).  Anyway, that soapy scent will get super-strong and then I’m transported back in time to about 5/6 years old; it’s Summer time because I can even feel the semi-cool fan-blown air (we didn’t have central AC at that time); I’m in the bathtub to get clean and cool off before bedtime and I’m surrounded by the Avon-scented bubbles.  However, the strongest scent isn’t coming from the bubbles themselves…around that time, whenever I would take a bath, I would take a little wind-up speedboat and a lime-green see-through water pistol into the tub with me.  I would wind up the boat, and as it sped around the tub, I would shoot at it with my water gun (I always found ways to prolong my tub time because I knew it was bedtime right after – haha!).  The plastic water gun would be filled with the Avon-scented bubble bath water, and that mixture (including the plastic) is what really produces the overwhelming scent in my nose that at times becomes so strong that I’ll start to get a headache if I continue listening to the “Mama Mia” song in its entirety.  Very weird. 
I’ve tried to figure out why that song in particular causes the reaction it does, and I’ve got one theory.  After “bath time”, it was normally “bed time”.  Well, a lot of times, when I jumped into bed, I would power up my little 8-track player that had my mom’s “Abba: Greatest Hits Volume One” in it; slap on the big earmuff headphones that swallowed up my head (I sometimes liked to place one of the earmuffs over my face and pretend I was a WWII fighter pilot or Darth Vader in his Tie Fighter…just sayin’) and play some wicked air drums to all the songs on the tape – “Mama Mia” being one of them.  Yeah, we didn’t have a lot of 8-track tapes to choose from – it was either my mom’s Abba or my sister’s Shaun Cassidy tape (coincidently, hearing his “Da Doo Run Run” still makes me nauseous…though I’m sure that would happen to anyone who heard that song.  Haha!).

So…yeah…I just revealed all that.  I think I’ll stop now and get that catscan scheduled.
Anyway, Plastic Galaxy - The Story of Star WarsToys…coming soon to a real galaxy near you!

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