Dear Jack: What I Was Doing During My Own Spring Break 30 Years Ago in 1990

9 years, 4 months.

Dear Jack,

This will most likely be remembered as your strangest Spring Break ever. Instead of being quarantined in our house because of the Coronavirus, you were supposed to be at Nonna and Papa’s house in Alabama this week.

Being forced to stay home during your 3rd grade Spring Break is definitely in major contrast to what I was doing exactly 30 years ago in March 1990 during mine.

That was when our family went to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida for the first time.

I specifically remember it being the first time I ever experienced a water faucet with an automatic sensor. I was amazed how I could wash my hands without having to each touch a knob.

And that was only the beginning of the amazing things I experienced in Disney World.

So yes, Disney World vs. lockdown to due the Coronavirus… quite a difference.

We’ll make the most of this, though.

Love,

Daddy

Throwback Thursday: My “Non-Human” Appearance in 1990

Throwback Thursday: My "Non-Human" Appearance in 1990

Today my sister found an old picture of us when my friend Will Biddle was spending the night, back in the summer of 1990.  Her caption simply read:

“You don’t even look human in this picture! I can’t stop laughing!”

After I saw myself, on the far left, I had to instantly agree. I’m assuming my mom was holding the camera, saying, “Okay, now let’s do a silly picture!”

What you see is the result of that.

I guess I was doing my impression of a Goomba from Super Mario Bros. mixed with Steve Urkel? I’m not really sure.

Standing next to me, in the middle, is my friend Will; who sadly, a few months ago, passed away.

And on the far left is my sister.

In an age where posting current pictures of our own kids on Instagram is the norm, it can also be a lot of fun to do the opposite: To show the world the funny kid-version of ourselves from the 80s or 90s.

This photo is 25 years ago.

I hope this picture brought joy to your life today, as it did mine.

Man, we were some funny kids.

So Maybe I’m Allergic to Peanut Butter… in Large, Consistant Amounts

But not allergic to peanuts themselves.  Noted, I’m no doctor.

One of the darkest places in life for me is when I am throwing up- which only happens a few times each decade.  It’s that feeling of inescapable depression, like being a notches away from a sickly death- a hellish gravity so overwhelming that I tend to wonder if I will wake up as a ghost like Bruce Willis and not realize I’ve been dead the entire movie.  Usually I try to keep things a bit classier when I write, but in this case there is really no way around the fact that over the weekend I spent the hours from midnight until 4:30 AM constantly vomiting, only interrupted with sporadic periods of rest on the bathroom rug.  I understand that some people have never gotten food poisoning.  As for myself, I can easily think of my three worst occasions: The Central Park drive-thru in 1990, the shady Chinese buffet restaurant in 2007 (back when I still ate pork and shellfish), and the apple & peanut butter incident of 2010.

I don’t know; maybe getting food poisoning every couple of years is like getting stuck by lightening more than once in a lifetime.  Or maybe my digestive track is just ultra-sensitive to any food that is slightly less than proper and sanity.  But what I do know is that I am unable to digest slightly massive amounts of anything- even if it hasn’t been setting out in a Chinese buffet for three hours unattended. What clued me into my possible allergy to large, consistent amounts of peanut butter was my Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup overdose of 2003, when I consumed 36 of them in less than 24 hours: I had just came back from spending a summer in Thailand where both peanut butter and rich, American chocolate are rare finds.  I experienced a major depression for the following two days along with a mild rash on my left wrist for the next six months.

Last week my choice snack every day was an apple with three tablespoons of peanut butter. So good- and seemingly healthy.  But I guess by Day 6 of this treat, which I made my lazy dinner Friday night, was just enough peanut butter in a week’s amount of digestion to throw my digestive track into shock.  Because this was the first time that after I puked up all my food from that evening, I puked up a thick yellow substance, then a thick green substance, then blood- and that pattern repeated a few times before I finally fell asleep until late morning. Eventually though, every single trace of peanut butter was erased from my body. Now, a few days later, I was able to eat my first meal with meat (tilapia, okra, and salad), though my voice is raspy from all the ralphing and my ribs hurt any time I cough or sneeze.

To my understanding and according to my self-diagnosis, I have survived yet another case of food poisoning- and surprisingly this time it didn’t involve a restaurant, but instead a good snack.  I’ve eaten a lot of peanuts in a week’s time and never had anything like this happen.  There must be something about the simple process of smashing the peanuts to turn them into butter than makes them slightly toxic to me.  Sure, I didn’t experience any of the typical symptoms of peanut butter allergies like swelling, but I just think it that peanut butter is smart enough of a food to hurt people in its own sneaky ways.

Lesson learned: From now on I’ll go light on the PB.

Classic Home Videos

Where were you on Labor Day of 1990?Before there were reality shows starring idiots for us to pity/make fun of every week, or a phenomenon called YouTube where any fool can upload their tomfoolery for the entire world to see, there were two decades (the ‘80’s and ‘90’s) where we filmed opportune moments of our own lives and kept them to ourselves to laugh at.  And they became classic VHS gold, forever saved in our memories; ready material for reminiscing with those involved, in an instant’s notice.

The most honored tape of cherished memories still at my parents’ house is labeled “Labor Day ‘90”.  It had just been a few months earlier that my parents finally sacrificed a thousand dollars for the behemoth black-and-white-view-finder-equipped video recorder.  On that lazy afternoon at my Italian grandfather’s house with the whole family there, our lazy vacation day became a personal collection of gems. 

So maybe those moments aren’t funny to the rest of the world (not YouTube material), but to our family, the tape is hilarious every time we throw it in the now antique VHS player.  These moments include, but are not limited to the following:

“Is this thing gonna be that thang?”- My sister holds up to the camera in one hand a dandelion in which the wind had blown off the seeds, and in the other hand, a dandelion still with all its seeds in tact.  Then in her (at the time) Southern-fried accent asked the camera operator (my mom), “Is this thing gonna be that thang?”

“Can you figure it out?”-Sitting sideways on a plastic ribbon braided lawn chair with my arms behind my back, I faced the camera while my dad hid behind me, putting his arms out as my own.  As my mom asked me basic questions, none of which I seemed to know the answer, my dad used his arms to make motions to indicate it (he used his arms to scratch my head like I was thinking, etc.). 

It was pretty obvious he was behind me, not only for the fact that his arms were much bigger and darker than mine, but also because his mullet was showing in the shot.  Finally my mom (as the cameraman) asks the viewers at home, “Can you figure it out?”

“Nick and Dana… back up now!”-  My grandfather lived on five acres which he was very proud of and which was prone to appearances of wildlife.  In the front yard that day, he found a baby bird in nest in a small tree (only about five feet tall).  My mom walked the camera over to the tree, attempting to zoom in on the bird.  In the meantime, my sister and I (respectively ages 6 and 9) ran over to see if we could get a closer look at the bird. 

For fear of us scaring the bird away (like a baby bird is going to fly way…), my mom warned us, through clenched teeth (to keeping from scaring the baby bird away) “Nick and Dana… back up now!”  The hilarious part is that the whole time the camera was on the tree, the bird was barely visible up in the top corner of the shot. 

“I’m a winner!”- My dad, who a year later won 2nd place in the Northeast Alabama karate sparring tournament, was “play fighting” me.  Doing my best to ward off his slow-motion kicks and punches, he finally got me in a headlock.  He growled to me, “Say ‘I’m a winner’!  Say it!  Say it!”  I struggled to escape as he took me to the ground.  I gave in, with a clever twist.  I declared, “I’m a winner!” in a wimpy, Southern, nine year-old voice that in no way indicated what I was saying was true. 

We were the original comedians of comedy in our own worlds.  And even if we never get around to converting those video clips from VHS to digital format and eventually to YouTube, those classic hilarious moments in our minds are still better than any reality TV shows we’ll ever know.

The Most Popular, All-American Summer Activities for Kids

Notice I left out the word “normal”.


Now that summer is here, I realize I keep having flashbacks of my summers as a kid. The ways we all spent our summers as kids were unique in their own weird ways. I don’t know what a normal summer for a kid is supposed to be like. All I know is the version of summer that my sister and I experienced between the summers of 1989 and 1999 to keep ourselves entertained in Fort Payne, Alabama.

 

Mmm... Sharkleberry Fin flavored!

 

In the summer of 1989 our mom was obsessed with making homemade popsicles. She bought blue and red plastic molds into which she poured a random substance and placed in the freezer. Four hours later when it was frozen, my sister and I indulged in the flavor of the day. It started out as an alternative to “all those sugary popsicles they sell in the stores”. So orange juice was the first flavor. Then chocolate milk. Then yogurt. By the end of summer it was Dr. Pepper and eventually my personal favorite flavor of homemade popsicles: sweet tea.

The next summer, in 1990, we discovered water balloons. My sister and I would fill up about 30 water balloons, place them in a bucket, and take them out to the trampoline. One person would jump as the other launched the balloons at them. One point for every hit. Then eventually flashbacks from all that fun with the homemade popsicles gave us a new idea. We put water balloons in the freezer.

Not to throw at each other, but to throw into the air and watch them fall onto the driveway. I think the point was to see how many times the balloon could hit the asphalt before the broken ice inside would cut through the balloon. At one point we ran out of balloons to play with so our mom let us use some medical gloves. We filled them up with water and stuck them in the freezer. The funny thing is, there’s still a frozen glove in our parents’ freezer as of today. One last survivor.

My favorite classic summertime activity would have to be the paper rafts. It all started one day in 1993 when I drew and colored a cartoon man about 4 inches tall. Then I was compelled to grab some scissors and cut him out like a paper doll. My sister liked mine and made one as well. Ultimately we had made our own action figures. So in order for them to live up to their name (“action” figures), we decided to make paper rafts for them. So we drew, colored, and cut out Tom Sawyer style rafts and taped our paper men onto them, folding the men’s backs so that they sit down comfortably on their vehicle.

 

Destined for greatness...

 

Now all we needed was a good river for our men on rafts. No need to looking any further than the nearest bathroom. We dropped the men into the toilet and flushed them away on an adventure. I clearly remember my sister waving and telling her paper man goodbye. Then we did the whole event over again later that day, only with improved, more detailed paper men. And again and again.

In fact, I really, really want to make a paper raft right now.