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Wednesday, 14 May 2008
Stars in the Desert
Topic: Nostalgia

Dana and I were talking about the night sky a while back, and I told him about two "astronomical" experiences I had earlier in the decade, one viewing a lunar eclipse, and a second Total Perspective Vortex moment with myself and the Milky Way.  I think what I wrote about the moon is lost to the ages, but I found the one about the Milky Way.  The date it was composed is lost, but I'm fairly certain it was July 2003.

I wrote this to someone I was once close to, but I'm not going to rewrite it, so here it is, unedited. 

I’m writing this (on my palm pilot) just before bed on Sunday night. I’ll email it to you when I get home.

Tonight I had another "astronomical" experience, one on par with my experience with the moon. I'm here at my mom's, and while I intensely dislike the town and it remoteness, the one thing I love here is the sky. I was disappointed the first two nights here; it was overcast and rainy and at night there was nothing to see. But tonight nature smiled on me and the sky was clear but for a few small, whispy clouds.

I was leaving my friend Vince's house and looked up to see a sight I'd not seen in years: the amazing, incomparable heavens as seen from the high desert. My memory was a pale and shabby substitute for what I saw. Literally THOUSANDS of stars: bright and faint, distinct to barely detectable, and the Milky Way a glowing ribbon of light going right overhead.

I left Vince's and went to my mother's. I parked my car but could not bring myself to going inside. Instead, I walked around the corner into the darkness where no nearby streetlamp reached. There I stayed, walking in small circles, head tilted back and going around and around, marveling at what I saw. It was so clear and there were so many stars out that it was actually somewhat difficult to make out the best known constellations in all this stellar grandeur. I had to squint my eyes to make the dimmer stars vanish so I could find familiar celestial landmarks like Cassiopea and Cygnus.

And, as if this wasn't amazing enough, I saw no less than five shooting stars, two of which were no mere specks, but visibly flaring and fading. The word magical has so many wrong connotations, but it's the best word I can think of at this late hour.

Then, as I looked straight up and the Milky Way directly overhead, I found myself shifting my focus from its glowing parts to its darker patches...and that's when it happened. By shifting my focus I suddenly realized what I was seeing, and that the dark areas were the dust and other material of the interstellar medium, and that the glow was, in many cases, coming from beyond and behind it. In that moment the whole sky became dimensional. There was this sense of things both near and far -- although even "near" is impossibly far. As with the Moon, it became real in a way that stunned me. Its immenseness struck me on a very deep, animal level, and I felt as if I could fall into it. There was a fleeting moment of almost primal fear. I felt overwhelmed, impossibly tiny. And a moment later, exhilarated and awed by what I was seeing and feeling.

As I stared heavenwards I wished you were at my side, holding my hand, and sharing this moment of staggering beauty with me. I know you would have appreciated it at least in some way that I did. I wanted, in that moment, to share that with you. I hope that someday I may.


Posted by molyneaux at 12:58 AM PDT
Updated: Tuesday, 19 May 2009 10:27 PM PDT
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Wednesday, 7 May 2008
Toys! Mk III
Topic: Nostalgia

While doing research on immediate family history and places we lived. I rediscovered the old (and currently shuttered) Huntridge Theater, and other movie places we attended as kids. This made me think of films we saw in those theaters, which fired up some old synapses about things related to it.

One thing that popped to mind was a die cast toy I had from the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I don't recall what happened to mine, but I recalled it was roughly Hot Wheel sized and had wings that would fold out and snap on plastic airfoils at the front and back. My friend Sherri had one back in Fallon.

Out of curiosity, I Googled it to see if I could figure out who made it, and, as with the Sizzlers, it turns out it's being made...again.

Holy Transformers...of the past!

A few bucks to an online toy retailer and here it is. Just like I remember, but less banged up.

I'll make a parking space for it near the Batmobile...

 

 

 


Posted by molyneaux at 12:01 AM PDT
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Friday, 2 May 2008
Toys! Mk II
Topic: Nostalgia

A while ago something else from my childhood popped into my head...it was an architectural construction toy we had. I think Mom got it at a thrift store or from the church or something, because I never knew what it was called.  Anyway, it consisted of white plastic frames, beams, transparent panels and textured plastic panels.  Even as a kid I realized we had what appeared to be an incomplete set.

I did sketch in my notebook to remind me of it.

Tonight I remembered the sketch and decided to search for Architectural Toys via Google. I quickly hit on a page that catalogs many dozens of them. I systematically paged through each one until—eureka!—I found it!

The toy was called Super City by Ideal. Click here for more!

I'd know those yellow plastic domes anywhere...

Another childhood mystery solved.

At this rate, I'll have them all solved about the time I forget them all.


Posted by molyneaux at 2:03 AM PDT
Updated: Tuesday, 19 May 2009 10:28 PM PDT
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Thursday, 24 April 2008
Toys!
Topic: Nostalgia

So, I was telling my friend Robert about my new 1/18th scale Batmobile, and that got us talking about Hot Wheels, which got us talking about other toys we had as kids (we're the same age).

First up were Wiz-z-zers...stringless, high speed tops which would tangle up any unwary sister's hair in 2.2 milliseconds. Apparently, they are in production again by Duncan...

Back to Hot Wheels, we got to discussing Sizzlers...the electric powered racers. Charge 'em up, let 'em go... oh my goodness...they make them again, too!

As we discussed that, I mentioned to Robert that I had a electric train thing that was related to the Sizzlers. He pointed me to a webpage that showed it: the HotLine! It was a train that in in a Hot Wheels style track.

On the same page he pointed me to were toys I'd utterly forgotten having... the short lived HotBirds! Die-cast metal planes with retractable langing gear. You'd race them down a fishing-line—which would invariably tangle like a Wizzzer in your sister's hair—and they'd come to a thunking halt after 3 glorious seconds.

You'd launch them from this Flight Deck thing with a sort of crude speaker in it. The vibration of the plane's guide hooks rubbing against the line as it went along generated a sound that I can still remember. 

Between my brother and I, I think we had all of the HotBirds in this photo. I definitely remember the green prop job (Cloud Hopper) in the upper right. They look cool in a sort of retro way. Too bad they flew like lead balloons on a wire.


Posted by molyneaux at 12:01 AM PDT
Updated: Tuesday, 19 May 2009 10:29 PM PDT
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Monday, 21 April 2008
Hot Wheels
Mood:  celebratory
Topic: Nostalgia

Four words:

Coolest Hot Wheels Everrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!

I wanted a Batmobile since I was a kid...I found a regular 1/64th scale Hot Wheels batmobile a short while ago and bought two, one for me and for another bat-fan (you know who you are). Then I found out they made a 1/18th scale Hot Wheel with working doors and details galore.

I'm in Bat-Heaven.

This will so look bat-good in my bat-office, old chum!

 


Posted by molyneaux at 4:13 PM PDT
Updated: Monday, 21 April 2008 4:15 PM PDT
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Wednesday, 5 December 2007
Oh Brother Where Art Thou?
Topic: Nostalgia

While I was in Vegas over Thanksgiving—and did the obligatory drive-bys of the places we lived, the schools and churches we attended, and even malls were we shopped—it occurred to me to drive down one street where I recalled a friend of mine had lived. He was someone I thought about often when we first moved from Vegas into the BFE of northwestern Nevada, but a memory that gradually faded as life stated anew in a small town, utterly divorced from the only life I remembered before that.

Since I got back home, I’ve found myself really wanting to find that friend. I don’t have a single photo of him, can’t really bring up his face in my memory, and even fuzzy on his last name. But, this has become oddly important to me. I think it’s because, on some level, he's a roadmark to a life I didn’t have because my family packed up and moved away to a smaller town and diminished options. I feel like I was a pretty happy kid around the age I had that friend, and when we moved, I lost that and was stuck in a place where I always felt the alien. I’m certain I’m idealizing that past at the cusp of age nine, but, illogical as it is, that almost forgotten childhood friend is someone I really want to find.

In the modern world, no one’s really that lost to you, if you know how to look for them. It took me about 24 hours, but I have what is, I’m fairly certain, his and his parents’ phone numbers. I could know for sure with one phone call... yet, I hesitate. Were we really good friends, or am I misremembering that? What if he doesn’t remember me at all? I couldn't quite remember his last name, and I still can’t quite recall his face. Can I expect him to remember even that much? How awkward would that be, both for him and me? And how do you call someone up after not seeing them for 35 years? “Hello. We used to be friends in the third grade, and the last time I saw you was your birthday party in 1972. What’s new?” Is that putting someone on the spot? Is there a better way to do it? A letter with photos to jog his memory? Or should I just leave it alone...it’s just someone I knew as a kid, now as alien to me as any stranger on the street.

And so I ponder.


Posted by molyneaux at 12:01 AM PST
Updated: Tuesday, 19 May 2009 10:39 PM PDT
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Saturday, 1 December 2007
Recollections borne of Mortality
Topic: Nostalgia

The recent death of my mother has, perhaps predictably, caused me to realize how much about her life I don’t know, and now will probably never know. I waited too long to ask her questions I should have asked years ago, or waited too long to write down the things she told me while they were fresh in my mind. Now I question the veracity of so much of my recollection of her stories and Italian Terror Tales™.

All of this has set me on a sort of quest to construct a narrative of our family and my own life, to revisit the past, not for the sake of nostalgia necessarily, but to sort of figure out where we come from and where we are, in the geographical, historical, and emotional senses.

As part of this, I have started to create a family story...I started by poring over old photo albums and documenting when the family was where. That done, I asked for input from my brother and my sister in trying to flesh it out. First to fill in the whens and wheres, and then to start filling in the stories and recollections. My brother tells me of the circumstances in which we lost our house is El Paso, and my sister reminds me of stories related to the only time she and I saw one of our grandparents; we, infant and toddler, she, on her deathbed.

One thing I have had some success in is reconnecting with a few people from younger days...a neighbors and friends and schoolmates. Fun, but not necessarily enlightening. It’s from the family where the real gems come.


Posted by molyneaux at 12:01 AM PST
Updated: Tuesday, 19 May 2009 10:40 PM PDT
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Wednesday, 24 August 2005
The Classics!
Topic: Nostalgia
I love old video games. Yeah, many of them sucked, but the great ones were classics, and, heck, I admit it, I loved seeing what engineers could do with hardware so severely limited (by modern standards).

This weekend the annual Classic Game Expo is being held in the area, and, for once, this time I made it to it! Ah, a museum full of 8-bit and 32K RAM antiques and abandoned "next big things". A hall full of vendors selling yesterday's glories and duds and...lo and behold, rows of arcade machines where no quarters are required! Tempest, Black Widow, Warlords...we hardly knew ye!

In addition to the games, I picked up some PAC-MAN merchandise for Kenji's PAC-MAN museum at work, and got a Sean Kelly multicart for my Vectrex (with all the games for that system on it), but couldn't find Sean Kelly, who I was told was at the show. Too bad. I used to chat with him online years ago. I did get to see some familiar faces from the Old BAVE (Bay Area Videogame Enthusiasts) group, including some of the guys who wrote games my brother and I used to play on his Atari VCS.

One thing I wanted to buy, but was denied, was a five foot tall recreation of a PAC-MAN screen made entirely of Lego!


 


Posted by molyneaux at 11:14 PM PDT
Updated: Tuesday, 19 May 2009 11:23 PM PDT
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Wednesday, 26 May 2004
That's My Mama...
Topic: Nostalgia
My sister and I were in the dining room, and mom was telling us something as she walked through the room...and into the hall and vanished into the bathroom, stopping speaking mid-thought as the door closed behind her! My sister and I exchanged a look and burst out laughing. When mom emerged, she didn't recall what she was saying and didn't realize she's stopped midsentence!

That's one of my most vivid memories about my mother, from sometime around my early 20s. And while I haven't thought about it for a long time, the memory strikes home now because mom's in a nursing home and will probably never going back to her own home. A few months shy of 80 she's mentally slipped a rail, and what was a memorable comic moment from 20 years ago is what she lives today.

Memory's a funny thing. These days mom frequently doesn't even recognize her granddaughters, and certainly can't remember when she saw me last. Conversation's almost impossible because she forgets what's she's saying midway through a sentence. It's like she's walking into that bathroom every 30 seconds, but without the comical touch of the door closing and the symbolism one can attach to flushing one's thoughts down the loo.

Mom's a few weeks into a nursing home now. I spent 5 days with her at the beginning of the month and found that the one thing we could converse about were old family photos from Italy that I brought to her. So, while she can't remember my brother's name when she sees his picture, she can recall names and trivia about people seen in sepiaed photographs from before she was born. I treasure these little moments because when I talk to her about these things, those are the only remnants of real conversations I can have with her. One day she told me about the hat shop where her mother worked, and how Mrs. Macola, the owner was called "Americana" because she was born in America. It's humbling that she remembers Mrs. Macola's name but probably not mine.

Admittedly, it can be comical when she insists that "if the air comes from the television, then the fire..." or says that she married my father in 1991 instead of 1961. But it's sad for me look into the eyes of this woman I've known my whole life and realize she's halfway out the door.

Or is it halfway into the bathroom?

Posted by molyneaux at 12:50 AM PDT
Updated: Tuesday, 19 May 2009 11:46 PM PDT
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