Category Archives: Nostalgia

I’ll Always be a Toys R Us Kid


toys r us


I’ve been working for my present employer for twenty four years now, but prior to that I had a pretty varied work history. I unloaded trucks for a landscaping company, spent a lot of nights bagging groceries, and spent about a month each at Caldor and Ames, large regional department store chains that fell victim to the Wal Mart juggernaut in the late 90’s.

The last non-medical entry on that long discarded resume was some time spent at Kids R Us, the clothing arm of one of the most magical places in the world.

Toys R Us was more than just the store your parents took you to redeem your birthday and Christmas gift cards. It was enormous, a vast building holding more cool stuff than a young child had ever seen in one place before. More than that, it had different stuff, toys that you wouldn’t find anywhere else. Not just three or four aisles of what some grown up thought was going to be the most popular, this was an entire store, entire rows dedicated to Transformers or GI Joe. This was where you came to find the lesser known character action figures, the vehicles and play sets that would take up too much shelf space anywhere else. This is where you got the toys and games that your friends didn’t have yet.

It was those types of toys that I shopped for this week, the ones not available at Target or Wal Mart. It was a bittersweet trip, everything in the store 10-30% off after the company announced on March 15th that they were going out of business, all stores scheduled to close. What I had intended to be a short trip instead turning into several hours and more money spent than I can reasonably defend. An expensive walk down memory lane and hopes that come Christmas time my daughter still likes the same things that she does now.

I’ve come to terms with the idea that my grandchildren will never hold a book in their hands, never walk over to a shelf to search for a movie to watch or music to listen to, never turn the pages of a photo album to reminisce about a particular day or vacation. Will they also never walk into an actual store? Never browse the aisles, nothing particular in mind, waiting for something to catch their attention?

That seems a shame. Some of my favorite books I picked up based on the cover, some of my favorite albums bought on a whim. As I wandered around Toys R Us I filled my cart with things that I didn’t remember seeing anywhere else and I have a feeling those are going to be the ones that my daughter likes the most. Of the things that I’m only pretending are actually for her, these will be my new favorites.

Book and record stores have been disappearing for a while now, joining video rental places and Fotomat film kiosks as nostalgic reminders of a time when people actually had to leave their house for stuff. Somehow I just didn’t think that toy stores would ever join them.



Come Play With Me


If you are anything like me, or have kids that eat anything like mine, chances are that you also hit several different stores over the course of an average week. Target, Wal Mart, Aldis, Dollar General, Stop and Shop, somehow I seem to be in one or the other just about every other day.

If you are a fanboy like me, or have somebody in your household that is, you probably made sure that stop this weekend was a store participating in “Force Friday”, the annual unveiling of new Star Wars toys and merchandise. You may have been getting a start on Christmas shopping, using the new toys to find clues about the new movie, or simply picking up some cool stuff to play with. I saw you, I was there doing all three.



I had a lot of Star Wars toys as a kid, as well as a ton of GI Joes. They each has their own base in opposite corners of the room, the Joes augmented by some Marvel super hero help, Autobot and Decepticon Transformers adding their power to the fight between the Empire and the Rebel Alliance. Like many others I kick myself for how few of those were kept over the years but feel fortunate to be able recreate those battles now, my daughter constantly amazing me with her imagination and story telling. So much else has changed in the world in the thirty six years since I was her age, there is something comforting about the sight of her running around the house with a Stormtrooper in one hand, Optimus Prime in the other.



Next weekend we will be totally immersed in GI Joe and Transformers, as well as Star Wars, Marvel, My Little Pony, Littlest Pet Shop and all the other great Hasbro brands at the first ever HASCON at the Rhode Island Convention Center and the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.  Creator panels, hands on toy demonstrations, character meet and greets, autograph sessions with celebrities like Mark Wahlberg and David Ortiz, live performances by Daya and Flo Rida, the amount of coolness they are offering over three days is staggering and too much to list here. The full schedule can be found here. It has to be seen to be believed.

Tickets are available here as well as through the Groupon banner at the bottom of this page.



Being able to share our favorite things of our youth, to be able to recapture some of that magic, is a pretty cool part of parenthood, but let’s face it, many of us never really stopped acting like kids. Like many dads I know, I still read comic books, play video games and know the release dates for all the upcoming Marvel and Star Wars movies.

All of these things are acceptable to do without our kids, what about playing with toys? Nobody thinks much of it when we go to the movies or get together to game, what would happen if I asked another dad to come over and play while our kids were at school? I’m not sure I’ll ever have the nerve to find out, but if anybody is interested, I just picked up some pretty neat new stuff.


Disclaimers: We were provided tickets to HasCon in exchange for promotion and review. Any products or services bought through Groupon via the link on this site result in a percentage compensation


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That Can’t Be Classic Rock


I remember how excited I was when Santa Claus brought me my very own “boom box”, complete with cassette player. In the years to come much of my allowance was spent on cassette tapes but the real revelation that first day was how many different stations there were, how much of a variety of music was now available to me. When we were in the car my father controlled the dial. That Christmas morning, sometime around 1979 I’m guessing, was quite possibly the first time that I had heard a song recorded that decade.

I try and be conscious of the music that I play when the kids are riding with me. The teenager hates country but won’t complain about most everything else. The little just wants something that she can sing along with. Actual knowledge of the lyrics or what they might mean is completely unnecessary.

I’m conscious, but like my father before me believe that my car = my tunes. Also like him, more often than not that means classic rock.

It’s a station that I was reluctant to embrace, a denial about the songs of my youth fitting that description. Classic rock means The Kinks, The Who, The Animals. It means Led Zeppelin, one of Kayla’s favorite bands, and The Rolling Stones, a band that Alaina can often be heard singing around the house.


Thats Not Classic Rock
I did something right


I was OK with ZZ Top, Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen, artists that had success in the ’70s and carried that over into the ’80s and beyond.  U2 and Journey seemed to be pushing it, but I could be reasonable. Motorhead, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, fine. When “Sweet Child O’ Mine” from Gun’s and Roses started getting regular airplay I called for the firing of the programming director.  There obviously had been a terrible mistake about that being an old enough song to qualify. Nobody replied.

It took some time, but eventually I got over it. The music of my youth was now “classic.” It was bound to happen.

Today marked a crossing of lines, another e-mail to the station forthcoming. Today I heard “3 AM”, a song from Matchbox Twenty’s debut album. It was released in 1996, four years after I graduated high school.

I understand the math, recognize how many years ago that was. It’s the implications I have a problem with, the precedent being set. This is no longer the music of my childhood, not even of my teenage years. This song came out when I was a legitimate ( somewhat ) adult. Does this mean that Pearl Jam is now classic rock? Nirvana, Green Day,  Rage Against The Machine?

That just can’t be right.




The Good Old Days


I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few weeks thinking and talking about “the good old days”, years gone by when everything seemed so much simpler, so much happier.  A mythic period in time that I’ve realized isn’t as static as it used to be.

My friend Chris is in the process of moving his family overseas, a military posting in Europe doubling the already large distance between us and leading to a number of phone calls that we both wish we’d been making all along. We’ve over thirty years of memories together but our “good old days” are the mid 1980s. Days of tree forts, Little League and all day bicycle rides. We listened to Def Leppard and Run DMC, watched Top Gun and played RBI baseball. I traded him my baseball cards for his comic books. We shoveled horse shit and hauled hay bales at our friend’s horse farm for Big League Chew money and loved every minute of it.

I was fortunate enough to be able to spend some time with my other friend Chris this past weekend, also living in another part of the country now but in town for a few days visiting family. It didn’t take more than a few beers before conversation turned to the early 1990’s. Nights spent driving around, looking for girls, Ozzy’s “No More Tears” album on regular rotation. We had our first loves, our first heartbreaks and our first tattoos but had yet to get our first clue about what life was really about. We bagged groceries and stocked shelves for beer and gas money but somehow still spent our weekends shoveling horse shit and hauling hay at our friend’s horse farm on weekends. We loved every minute of it.


no idea why I”m wearing a Michigan hat


My wife’s birthday was also this past week. I’m smart enough not to tell you how old she is, but we had a nice night out at a restaurant/bar that we hadn’t been to in quite a few years. Its far from our current home, closer to the house that I owned when we first met. She worked nights then, her mother watching the daughter I’d yet to meet, and often would choose to spend the night there instead of driving back to  her own home, a five minute drive as opposed to forty five. This was done purely to save on gasoline of course.

They were late nights. We’d tape Nip/Tuck and South Park on VHS tapes to watch after work or play pool in my basement until the sun came up. More often than not we’d just sit outside on a rickety picnic table, talking under the stars and playing Kenny Chesney and Keith Urban loud enough for the whole neighborhood to enjoy. We hadn’t met each other’s friends or family, co-workers had no idea that we were together. It was illusion, a shared fantasy that there was no outside world to bother us, but it was a moment in time over a decade ago that I sometimes miss and I know that she does too.


The Good Old Days
both a lifetime and a minute ago


It’s not just something that us adults feel. A few mornings ago my daughter asked if I could make her a chocolate milk and sit on the couch with her as I drank my coffee, like “we used to do.” When she’s overtired and emotional she tells me that she misses the days before school when we could play together all day long. Six years old and she already has her own version of “the good old days.”

It’s easy to understand how we fall into this trap, this romanticizing of the past. Memories can be malleable, molded into whatever we want them to be. Bits and pieces can be chosen, others tossed aside. The future is scary, unknowable. We tell ourselves to “stay in the moment” but that moment is slippery, a part of our past before we’re able to firmly grasp and appreciate it.

There’s a balance that needs to be found, one that isn’t always easy to find. An ability to look back and smile at where we’ve been, appreciate where we are, and look forward to what’s to come. In 1983 Billy Joel sang that “the good old days weren’t always good, tomorrow ain’t as bad as it seems.” I listen to these lyrics as I sit in my backyard, enjoying my home and loving all those that inhabit it. I’m drinking a Zima and remembering when this was my drink of choice, something that wouldn’t be smelt on my breath when I returned home, hopefully before curfew. Like most things nostalgic it’s nowhere near as good as I recalled it being.

I think about “the good old days” and am thankful that there are so many different times in my life that this term can now apply to. I hope that I’m blessed with many more.





T Shirts and Tattoos


Last month I went out and bought myself two brand new pair of jeans, one Levi, one Wrangler, relaxed fit and straight legged.  This may not seem like an interesting event, but is noteworthy because these two brought my new total to three that I’m now able to wear in public without samaritans handing me their spare change.

My T-shirt section of the closet is slightly fuller, augmented by the Avengers and Red Sox additions that my wife bought this past Valentine’s Day. With a gaudy eight now at my disposal, my wardrobe should be all set for most of the next decade.

The Avengers shirt, along with the matching socks, was picked out by my daughter, a point that my wife was quick to make.  She also was pretty intent on making sure I was aware that she still held the receipt and could return any of it that I wasn’t prepared to wear.

She shouldn’t have worried. Not only did I not mind either shirt, ( or the socks ) I thought it was cool that Alaina wanted me to have clothes that matched her assorted superhero wear. Even more importantly, I no longer give too much of a rat’s ass what people think about how I’m dressed. My days of trying to be stylish, trying to be cool, are way beyond me and it’s a liberating feeling.

It hasn’t always been that way.  Your dress and overall appearance is a representation of how you want people to view you.  In high school that meant long hair, dagger earrings hanging from my left lobe, a denim jacket, and a heavy metal T shirt.  I was one of the “smart kids”, but I was determined to be a rebel, whatever the hell I thought that meant.  As soon as I turned eighteen I got Yosemite Sam tattooed on my left arm, followed soon after by a heart, crossbones behind it and flames surrounding the whole thing. I didn’t want to be a smart kid, I wanted to be a badass. More importantly, I wanted other people to think I was a badass.


tattos and t shirts


I wasn’t and I don’t think anybody was fooled, but I went with the look for a while.

Eventually adulthood, or at least my version of it, forced me to abandon the mullet ( RIP you glorious bastard ) and replace the ripped skull shirts with beer logos and sports merchandise.  A pair of dragons and a back tattoo of an angel and a devil arm wresting over a table of people shaped game pieces help to keep my bad boy credentials intact, as did a young, hot wife who didn’t mind hanging out in biker bars.

Now my kid picks out my clothes. More than that, she draws my tattoos, my newest addition being her representation of how we will look joining forces to fight the forces of evil when she’s a bit older and “better in control of her powers.”


tattos and t shirts


People change a lot over the course of a life. Tastes change, trends come and go, priorities shift.  We spend a lot time learning to become comfortable with who we are.  Some people take longer than others and there are some that just never seem to figure it out.

Besides the Avengers shirt, my wife was also worried that I wasn’t going to like the Red Sox one that she had purchased either. Instead of the name of a player across the back, this one had another three letters, a name spelled out that I feel does a pretty good job of explaining exactly who it is that I am now.

Just might be my favorite shirt yet.