Cornfield Meet

Things collide here.

My Favorite Present

Awhile back, I was reading a flier for a Church Family Fun Day or something like that. Activities for said day were listed like this:

  • Food!
  • Games!
  • Balloon Animals!
  • Bouncy Castle!
  • Face Painting!
  • Chip Richter!

And for a moment, that last one really puzzled me, because I didn’t know what sort of chips fit in with the kind of event I was envisioning, nor could I imagine what “richting” them would involve. Does one study to become a richter, or is it a piece of equipment for processing these particular chips?

Yes, a few blinks later, I read the fine print identifying Chip Richter as a musician who’d be performing that day. Still, the absolutely complete confusion in my head for those few seconds was really funny, and at some point not long after, I told Jenn & Kelsey about it, and they immediately latched onto it as a running joke. You know, like we’re watching a movie or something, and I’ll get up to get a drink, and ask if they want anything from the kitchen, and one of them will say, “Yeah, do you mind richting us some chips while you’re out there?” Because that’s the kind of family we are.

Come this past Christmas morning, there’s one present left, in a gift bag behind the tree, and Jenn & Kelsey are adamant about me opening it last. When the time comes, they are extremely goofy and giggly as I reach in, grab the first of two tissue-paper-wrapped bundles, and open it to reveal this:


And while you can see it coming now, at the time, I was very much “Um….OK?” as I looked at this bag while Jenn & Kelsey were just quaking with barely-contained laughter.

So I open the second package.


And I – I just don’t – it’s a kitchen thing…attached to a hardware thing – but…?

Yes, it is painful how slow on the uptake I am on this, and it’s not helping that Jenn and Kelsey have now completely erupted in hysterics, and I look at these objects in my hands, these things that make no sense together; these chips and this –

Oh God They’ve Built Me A Chip Richter.

And the pair of them: They can actually see the comprehension dawn on my face, and it just kills them and breaks them into explosions of joy and laughter, which in turn destroys me, and before I know it I am laughing so hard I can barely breathe and tears are running down my face because I love these two people so much and so absolutely, and this moment is fantastic and permanent and mine and ours forever.

Now, where are the instructions for this thing? These chips aren’t going to richt themselves!

December 31, 2014 Posted by | Family history | | 2 Comments

This is Me in ’83 – December

Postcards from Christmas vacation, 1983:

A Christmas Story came out in November, but I know it had been out for awhile by the time I saw it at the Gold Circle Cinemas. My parents had seen it already, as had this kid at school who told me how it ended after I asked him about it. Seems likely I went to see it over the winter break.

I was a big Bloom County fan This is my best “Bill the Cat” face:

So, if you recall, Return of the Jedi had come out earlier that year. This meant Star Wars gifts were pretty popular at Christmas. My brothers got a a bunch of Jedi toys and stuff: Speeder Bikes, the Ewok Village, action figures, big Presto Magix kits. It was really the last big Star Wars Christmas of the original trilogy era.

As a newly-minted teenager, I had pretty much taken Star Wars toys off my wish list. The last Kenner Star Wars toy I specifically asked for was the Y-Wing. As I wrote in Collect All 21! –

Couldn’t help it. This thing was light years ahead of the old X-Wing, armed with not only that squealing laser cannon, but a rotating top turret and a plastic bomb to drop from its underbelly. And it had a socket behind the cockpit for Artoo units. I may not have actually role-played with my figures anymore, but I did send that ship on many a run over card houses in our living room, and somewhere in our family albums there’s a snapshot of me using the ship to dive bomb my little brother and his Knight Rider-inspired remote-control black Camaro.

Now, for years, I remembered that Y-Wing as a 13th birthday request: But this picture was clearly taken on Christmas, judging by my sweet striped sweater and cool brown corduroy pants – the same outfit as in that first shot. And the Y-Wing box is in the background of another Christmas picture, so while I may have asked for it in November, the evidence suggests I got it on Christmas. I think the only other Star Wars toy I got that year was the Vehicle Maintenance Energizer, which paired up nicely with the ship.

I still have my Y-Wing. You can see it in this shot from Plastic Galaxy: The Story of Star Wars Toys:


And with that flash-forward, I wrap up This is Me in ’83.

Big thanks to my mom, who kept and organized shelves full of photo albums that held a lot of these pictures.

I’ve really enjoyed this project. I didn’t wind up writing as much as I thought I would when I started, but I also dug up and rediscovered things I didn’t have in mind a year ago. I also found some other pictures and photos and memories that I want to share and write about.

I hope you’ve had a good year. Thanks for visiting 1983 with me.

December 24, 2013 Posted by | 1980s, geek, Ohio | , , , | 1 Comment

Snow and lights.

I love when snow piles up on the Christmas lights.

Snow on the porch rail and Christmas lights

One of my favorite things in winter.

…and from a slightly different angle:

It almost makes me forget I'm going to have to shovel the drive.

December 29, 2009 Posted by | Ohio, photos | , , , | Leave a comment


December 15, 2009 Posted by | Ohio | | Leave a comment

Thirty-four Christmases.

One of my favorite things about our family’s Christmas trees has always been the great collection of ornaments we put on them: There’s never been much order to it – sure, there were a few sets of the standard round glass bulbs over the years, and, when I was little, some strangely-shaped string-and-styrofoam things, but the best ones have always been the homemade kind, or the kitschy ones, or the ones made in school, or the personalized ones labeled with names and years.

The lack of a unified theme or appearance has always, to me, given the tree kind of a wonderland-to-explore kind of feel.

Kelsey & Jenn & I decorated our tree last night, and here, making its 34th annual appearance, is my Favorite. Ornament. Ever. :

I swear, it was green once.

I made this in preschool not long after my fifth birthday. It’s a holly leaf made of a sort of homemade Play-Doh stuff, and you can hardly tell that it was ever green, or that those misshapen nubs on the side were once a bit more pointy.

Every year, when I unwrap the newspaper we pack it in, I’m a little scared that I’ll find just this worn loop of red yarn and a pile of pale green powder and some three-decade-old glitter.

There’s also a tiny crack near the hole the yarn is threaded through that gives me a bit of worry, too.

It’s not the ornament to which I’m most sentimentally attached: There are others more meaningful to me.

And it’s not the oldest decoration to grace our tree, since both Jenn and I have a few antique glass pieces that go back a few generations and decades of Christmases.

But none of them strike the chords that this holly leaf does every December when I hang it on the tree and look at the traces of powder it leaves on my fingertips.

Nineteen seventy-five.

December 5, 2009 Posted by | Ohio | , , , , | 3 Comments

Welcome to the Toy Store of the Real.

Between the two most recent Penny Arcade strips – “Retales,” Part 1 and Part 2, both of which are hilarious and ring true – and Adam’s Black Friday blog entry, I’ve been thinking about the old days at Children’s Palace.

Yes, it’s true, kids: Once upon a time, Toys ‘R’ Us wasn’t the only big-time massively-awesome-to-a-kid all-toys-all-the-time store. Hell, Geoffrey Giraffe didn’t even have turrets on his building, unlike the Fortress of Toyitude that was Children’s Palace. When we got a Children’s Palace in Canton – years before TRU invaded the Belden Village area – it became a freaking destination. Toys and games and bikes and crap just piled to the ceiling. You’d see employees on these towering ladders up among the haze, mining through boxes and descending with treasures.

I think it was the Christmas of 1988 when I started working there, and my perception forever changed.

I remember only bits and pieces from the newspaper ads and the TV commercials, but what I know for certain is that at some point in the early 1980s, all mankind was united in Rubik’s Cubes, Ataris and Star Wars toys. G.I. Joes; Transformers; Barbie’s perpetual tidal wave of pink. We marveled at our own magnificence as we gave birth to animation and cinematic tie-ins and toy property empires.

There were piles, endless piles, where Cabbage Patch Kids were no longer sold but ripped from red-vested clerks by bloody-toothed moms. For the longest time, I wouldn’t believe it, and then I saw the towering stacks of The Real Ghostbusters figures brought low in frenzy. Watched shoppers shred the Pee Wee’s Playhouse shelves to reach the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles endcaps where they found no Heroes in a Half-Shell, but only row upon row of April O’Neils mocking their ambition.

Standing there, facing the pure horrifying precision, I came to realize the obviousness of the truth. Children’s Palace was a plastic-generated dream world built to keep us under control in order to change a human being into this:

(Apologies to the Wachowskis. Yes, I still love Christmas and no, Children’s Palace wasn’t always that bad. I just couldn’t resist.)

November 30, 2009 Posted by | 1980s, Current Affairs, eighties, geek, Ohio | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Something fishy.

I took five rolls of film (Yes, film. I dug them out from beneath the abacus and stacks of papyrus on my desk.) to the drugstore yesterday, just for fun. Had a vague idea of what would be on a couple of them, but there was still enough mystery that I was excited to get the CDs home – Prints, you say? When I don’t even KNOW what’s on there? How quaint. – and pop them into the computer for some family photoarchaeology.

Digression: I wish Walgreen’s had mentioned that their CDs aren’t straight data storage. They have the photos locked up within an editing/sharing software program that you have to run. At least you don’t have to install the software – although if you’re not careful, you will because the check box defaults to that setting upon exiting – and it’s easy enough to copy the files onto a desktop, but only after I got home did I see the fine print that this particular software requires (of course) Windows. Well, crap. Look, I get that by switching to Ubuntu, we’ve limited some of our software options, but come on: I’m ordering only digital photos, and nobody thinks to ask if I’m maybe running a Mac? >sigh.< I’m sure if I’d earned a higher Ubuntu-Fu belt by now, I could’ve given a shot at trying to run the disc in Wine or something, but I resorted to just using our one remaining Windows machine to read the discs, copy the photos onto a flash drive, and get the hell out of MS-Dodge.

So, what was on the film? A fairly significant time span, given that it was only five rolls – and two of those were filled with shots from the point-and-shoot fisheye camera Jim got for my daughter. One 24-picture roll even had pictures from two successive Christmases  – between which , oddly enough, we’d had the family room re-carpeted,  so our photos look like a Hollywood continuity error.

Mostly they were just family snapshots, but there were a couple of the fisheye shots that came out neat:

This is our backyard, snow-globe style. (Here’s a bigger version.)

And this is my daughter’s shot of me working amidst the glorious sugar chaos of our annual Christmas Cookie decorating day. (Big version here.) We had black-and-white film in the camera for this one, and I like the effect. The graininess and the offset shadow kind of remind me of those M.C. Escher “world reflected in a silver globe” drawings.

April 30, 2009 Posted by | geek, Ohio, Web/Tech | , , , , , , | 2 Comments


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