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Archive for the ‘Notes from the Basement’ Category

I recently took my prized childhood sticker book off the shelf, dusted it off, and flipped through it. There were the shinies, the small scratch ‘n sniffs, the large scratch ‘n sniffs, the fuzzies, the puffies, the googly-eyed puffies, the fuzzy puffies… I remember so carefully organizing them into this archived hierarchy of stickers. When I got to the end of the book, there they were. My pride and joy – the Wacky Pack section. Save the best for last, I always say.

Remember these? My friends and I were totally obsessed with ’em back in the day (the mid-1980s). News would spread around school that a new Wacky Packs set was out. Squeals rang out around the playground. Then, after school, with adrenaline racing through our veins, we’d gather up our sweaty handfuls of change and run to the Husky before they all sold out. We’d tear open the waxy little packages of rectangular stickers, and maybe stuff that cardboardy pink stick of gum in our mouths. We would pour over each and every Wacky Pack sticker. And we were never disappointed.

Here was my absolute, absolute favourite one:

Brilliant, right? Like seriously, how do they come up with this stuff? Black leather diapers for the newborn delinquent? Hardy har har! I imagine a bunch of bored, middle-aged coywriters at the Topps Corporation trying come up with this stuff.

“Okay, People Magazine… what can we do with that… what did you say, Stan? Pimple Magazine? Good, good, let’s brainstorm on that a little…”

Anyway, I found this lil’ Wacky Packs history quite interesting:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wacky_Packages

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Okay, so let’s discuss. Like I mentioned in my first post about my recently rediscovered age fifteen journal, I was a superior, stuck-up little snot who disliked pretty much anything popular or mainstream. I prided myself on being so different from other kids my age, and liking exotic things like Woody Allen movies, e.e. cummings’ poetry and African music while they were all watching Wayne’s World and listening to New Kids on the Block. (I probably would have had more fun if I had just gone with the flow, but alas.)

Inspired by Lois Lowry’s Anastasia Krupnik books, I was a big fan of making these “Things I Like/Things I Dislike” lists. Let’s face it, I still make these lists in my notebook. Lists are so much fun, n’est-ce pas? So, as you can see, the #1 disliked thing is diseases. I am, and have been as long as I can remember (hence the childhood visits to various psychologists), a complete and total hypochondriac. This is followed by two pretty commonly disliked things, spiders and liver. No big surprise. Not sure why I disliked avocados so much (shockingly misspelled on the list… I never wanted to be caught misspelling anything – I was supposed to be a “smart kid” after all!), but I sure do like ’em now!

And then for much of the remainder of the list we see a pattern of what I was so opinionated about back in the day – popular things. “Airheady” and “cheerleadery” things, apparently. Also, “sleazy.” It’s interesting to analyze exactly why I felt this way. I had this need to disassociate myself from the rest of my peer group, but at the same time, I wanted to be pretty, wear Benetton or Esprit clothes, and be cool. I was always too shy and socially awkward, though, so I cultivated a “quirky girl” persona that seemed to work pretty well for me.  In case you’re wondering, the “Jim” mentioned here is my stepdad Jimbo – a very cool guy who for some reason at the time I didn’t like his macho talk. Probably went with the whole dislike of the mainstream thing.

And then on the next page of my “Things I Dislike” list we have the classic pineapples on pizza, more hatred of the mainstream, and also commercialism and materialism. I was clearly on a warpath, wasn’t I? Oh, and then there’s “boys my age” underlined. Hoowee, I wonder what happened that made me feel so strongly about that! Can’t remember.

In case you’re wondering what was on the “Things I Like” list (just a wee bit too embarrassing to print, and too many insider/family details to attempt to explain), here’s a selection: my family, Spud (our now dearly departed, somewhat vicious family dog), Woody Allen movies, folky things, long hair (not on men), country-style houses, Simon & Garfunkel, doggies (I seriously wrote “doggies” – WTF?), acoustic guitars, sandwiches, comfy hand sewn quilts, peaches, naming babies, antiques, Greenwich Village (not that I’d ever been there), bohemian clothes, classical music, the word “groovy,” Diane Keaton and Star Trek: The Next Generation. Was I a fifty-year-old trapped in the body of a fifteen-year-old, or what? Antiques? Quilts? Country houses? Oh, it’s all very, very funny to revisit this stuff. Stay tuned for more!

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The first page of my “Thoughts Book #3” (AKA my journal), 1991, age 15 – gad, what a stuck-up, pretentious, superior little snot I was.


Me, age 15 – this was my extremely cultivated ‘Annie Hall’ look – of course none of the teenyboppers and idiots at my junior high got it.

Am I really going to do this? Am I really going to share parts of what really should be kept locked away in a dusty storage box, or possibly burned? Yes, I am going to share parts of my journal, age 15 (recently unearthed from my childhood stuff in my mum’s basement), cringing all the way, for your reading pleasure and possibly (I hope) just a little flicker of recognition of yourself at this age.

Flipping through the book, I see that I very organized-ly divided it up into sections and articles, including such gems as “Things I Like,” Things I Hate,” “My Favourite Kid’s Names,”  “How I’m Going to Raise My Kids,” “Special Section: All the Songs I Love and Why” (all Simon & Garfunkel, by the way – I was going through a mega S & G obsession at the time), “My Future Family,” “Daydreams,” “My Studio Apartment,” “Another Special Report: Why I Personally Do Not Care for New Kids on the Block Music,” “Pros and Cons of Getting My Hair Cut Short,” “My Wedding,” “Paul Simon’s ‘Graceland’ and ‘The Rhythm of the Saints’ Discussed in Yet Another Special Section” (told you I was obsessed), “Special Section: My Dreams,” along with random thoughts, lists, play ideas, etc.

As I flipped through the book, a few pieces of scrap paper came fluttering out, with this idea for a play written on them (I’m copying this verbatim – no editing):

Setting: a New York City cafe, mid-1970s

It is a small, cozy cafe. No one is inside yet. One waitress sits in a chair, looking bored. There are three round tables.

A very intellectual-looking couple walks in (could be two women). (Hair in a bun, turtlenecks, glasses, art books, et. al.) They are discussing films all the way in. (Intellectual gibberish, difficult to understand.) They order incredibly disgusting-sounding health food.

Then, three Jewish men come in. [This was during my aforementioned Jewish obsession time.] One of the men orders: “Three bagels. Three bagels! And coffee all around.” They are funny.

As the play progresses, the two tables talk (separately, of course), and sometimes interplay subtly with each other without even noticing it. Then, after the characters are well-defined, one of the Jewish men and the intellectual woman at the other table say in unison (but without noticing it): “You know, last night I had the strangest dream. I dreamed that Groucho Marx came into this cafe for lunch one day.” Then, Groucho Marx (Tara could play him!) [Tara’s my sister] comes in. (Complete with cigar, the eyebrows, etc.) No one notices him. As the people describe their dream, he does whatever they say he’s doing.

Very funny play. [end of scrap paper]

Hmmmmmm. Could use a little work, but I think I may have a good idea going there…

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Recipe Thursday will resume next week – I’m having too much fun with this trip down memory lane!

Wow. Epic. Don’t you love the Swatch watch in page 12’s ponytail? And how the book reviews are front and centre – ’cause you gotta have your make-up essentials, but you also gotta have a good book to read, right?

Producing this was the equivalent of Vogue producing their fall issue, I tell ya. I clearly remember when I made this magazine – it was the summer before I went into Grade 8. I was stricken with a horrible case of mono that had me basically sleeping the entire summer. Absolutely no energy whatsoever. In late August when I was starting to come out of it (ie. able to sit up for a while and hold a pencil without falling asleep at the table), I decided to create my masterpiece – my very own fashion magazine.

You can tell what I was doing in between naps that summer – reading Elle, Mademoiselle, Glamour, and the like. Funny how I was totally into those magazines, but I couldn’t apply make-up worth a darn, and really wasn’t at all fashionable. I love how I was so official with listing the brand names and prices, all magazine-style. I didn’t quite get that Max Factor ad finished on the back cover, though – after all that, I couldn’t finish it? Ah well, adds to its charm.

Thanks for indulging me in this trip through my tender teenage years!

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For Part 1 and an explanation, click here.

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‘Notes from the Basement’ is an occasional series featuring bits of nostalgia and memories from my life as a kid/teenager, recently dug up while going through boxes of my childhood stuff in my mum’s – you guessed it – basement.

My love of fashion magazines started when I was about twelve, when I spent my allowance on Glamour, Mademoiselle, Allure and Vogue (sometimes) and then, thankfully, discovered the late, great Sassy magazine. Created, written, drawn, coloured and edited by yours truly, Sunshine Coast Magazine (“A Young Woman’s Guide to Good Looks”) is vintage Christy Goerzen. Enjoy – it’s pretty priceless. (Sorry about the opposite side of the pages bleeding through on the scans… hopefully that’s not too distracting.)

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Class photos. Old journals. (Many, many old journals.) Notes from my junior high best friend. Play scripts that my sisters and I wrote. Tooth fairy pillows. High school I.D. cards. Au Coton and Colors of Benetton catalogues. Childhood combs. My favourite My Little Pony. Boys’ phone numbers. Old zines. E.T. stickers. My prom dress, even.

I dug up all this childhood/teenage memorabilia and more from my mum’s basement recently. My mum and stepdad are selling the family home, and my sisters and I have spent the last couple of months going out to our hometown of Maple Ridge to sort through tons (and I mean tons) of our old crap in the basement. I guess when we all moved out we just hucked our old stuff down in the depths of the basement, thinking, “Oh, I’ll deal with that later.” Well, now is later, and the sifting through has been incredibly embarrassing, hilarious, mortifying, touching, and enlightening. For a nostalgic sap like me, it’s been really hard parting with some of this stuff. For example, check out my childhood collection of stuffed animals:

Like, are you kidding me? Oh, the memories! Muppet Baby Miss Piggy, a Gremlin fuzzy guy, a Yawny dog puppet, Piglet, Pooh and Eeyore (albeit the Disney versions, so maybe not too hard to part with), my Care Bears, my two Snorks (anyone who grew up in the 80s will remember the Saturday morning cartoon, aptly named The Snorks). Then there’s the Chef doll that my mum lovingly handcrafted out of pantyhose – does anyone remember the 1980s trend of making doll faces and bodies out of pantyhose? I remember my mum buying packages of pantyhose, stuffing them with batting, and then hand sewing them to make these crazy scrunched-up-type pruney faces. But anyway. I don’t know what to do with these guys. Do thrift stores even take stuffed animals? Some of these ones are stained and damaged, so I wouldn’t want to donate those ones, anyway. So what to do? You see, I wrote my MA in Children’s Literature thesis about toy fantasy – books and stories for children in which the toys come alive. All my old stuffies have feelings, I believe. I can’t imagine them languishing in the dusty metal bins of a thrift store or worse, in a landfill. I read The Mouse and His Child, for chrissakes. And maybe it’s also because my toys were such a huge part of my childhood, and I want to hang onto my childhood things a little longer. But as my husband so gently reminds me, we just don’t have the room for all of them. So there they sit, in a pile in Keaton’s toy bin, waiting for me to decide their fate. Waaahh!

Some of the stuff that I unearthed in the basement is just way too awesome (and often awesomely embarrassing) not to share. So, welcome to my new, semi-regular feature, “Notes from the Basement,” featuring tidbits from my past. And now, to get my scanner working…

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