The Strange Collecting Habits Of A Young Me: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Trading Cards Edition


I didn't play with toys like other kids. Take, for instance, my Transformers: A satisfying play experience, for me, was pulling the robot out of its original box, transforming it, transforming it back, then putting it all back into its box, neatly, and putting it away.

Why am I like this? I have no idea. I'm sure it's a mixture of respect for the toys, desire to keep things in as "mint" condition as I could, for later resale value, and the fact that I'm farther along the spectrum than the tests have so far revealed. (But don't worry for me, Argentina, I've gotten better! I actually play with my toys now. [I am about to turn 37. So this is not really that much better, I guess?])


ALL THAT just to say: I found my stash of Topps Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Trading Cards the other day, at my parent's house. (All my old stuff is there. I swear, mom and dad, I plan on clearing it out of there soon. That means more blog posts. So it works out for everyone.) It's an assortment of Series 1 and Series 2 packs from 1989 and 1990, respectively.

After telling you about my Transformers "playtime", you will not be shocked to hear that the way I would enjoy trading cards would be to open the pack as carefully as I could, to not tear any of the packaging, remove the cards, look at the cards, then put them back into the packaging and store them away. 

Every time I'd buy more cards, I would open up the new packs and savor the new cards, then re-open all the old packs. I'd combine the cards from all of the packs, then sort them in number order. At this point, I would probably have created a list of cards that I was missing, just to pass the time. Then, one of two things would happen. I would either separate the cards into batches of five and re-insert them, in order back into the wax packs.

Here is a photo of how the cards came out of one of the packs, as arranged by a 25-year-younger me:

I, obviously, did not own card #144.

I have not doctored this image or re-arranged the cards!

The other way I would put the cards away is even more bonkers. I would actually randomize the cards and put them back into the wrappers, so that the next time I opened them, it would be like opening a new pack of random cards!

I know this is a lot of psychosis to wrap your mind around, all at once, so let's take a picture-break here, while you let my crazy childhood sink in.


Some had "25c" printed on, others did not.

Had I noticed this, as a kid, I probably would have gone out of my way to make sure I got one of each, for each Turtle.
These are the Jumbo Packs - actually a better deal to buy the smaller packs! You'd get twice as many stickers and each card would cost slightly less. I was cheated!

Oh, yes, I preserved these even better. No rips, no tears. You can actually get the cards out without fully opening the cellophane pack! Pro-level crazy!

It still bugs me that I didn't get every sticker from series 1.

Especially because I got so MANY of this one.

...and that means I'm missing Michelangelo. (Which I am mostly OK with, he was my least favorite. Even as a kid, i didn't like stoners.)

At least I had card #1. That's HUGE for any collector.

One of my favorite cards from Series 1 - The Foot Clan pick her up like she's an old book case



Not quite, but ALMOST as equally important is the LAST card in the series.
Right? Other crazy collectors, back me up on this!
Pizza Rewards are the best rewards.

And now on to Series 2. Note that I ONLY bought Donatello packs! I must have thought they were "lucky" since he was my favorite. I was SUPER insane as a child. How am I at liberty and not in a loony bin?

Also missing stickers from Series 2.
Splinter looks so sad and left out.

One of my favorite stickers from Series 2, because the thought process is: "What do young boys want on a sticker?" "How about pictures of April interviewing an old man?" "YESSS! Johnson, you're promoted!"

I don't even remember the shows these card series were based on, so I cannot tell you why the turtles are doing the can-can. They must have a very good reason, though.

Bobby FLAY.

No Pizza Rewards this time around. Just sit there, all of you, quietly.
No you can NOT turn on the TV!

Oddly, my preservation techniques only extended so far. For instance, I found these card packs in a silvery Spider-Man bag from a local comic book shop (Jim Hanley's Universe) that I'd tied closed at the top with a knot and shoved into a dusty cubby hole. The bag was tattered and covered in dust or, possibly, fiberglass shards, too, as squirrels had gotten into that cubby hole, shredding their way through the insulation. Honestly, I'm surprised I even touched that gross-looking old bag to find what was inside it. All that to say: For a kid so obsessed with preservation, I certainly let myself down at that last mile.... OR, maybe wasn't as crazy as I thought I was?!

Oh, did I tell you that I also saved the gum?


Yeah. In my kid-head, those of us who saved the gum would have a more complete collection of cards and, thus, command a higher price on the reselling market! This is, sadly, how my kid-brain worked.

See, when I started really collecting, it was in the 90s, right after all those amazing stories (and the amazing Amazing Stories episode with Luke Skywalker in it!) about people selling their old comics and junk for thousands of dollars and getting rich. I thought I was investing. Long story short, everything sold in the 90s is worthless garbage.

And the TMNT cards are not an exception. A quick scan online sees most people practically giving the cards away. So that's what I did, I gave them away to two Twitter buddies who are TMNT collectors. (@CrookedNinja and @TheSewerDen, if you want to follow them!) I felt they could give these things a better home than I could (or wanted to). The joke will be on me when, after the movie hits, these cards start demanding big bucks and they both make a fortune selling them on eBay and take Hawaiian vacations. Dammit. Just bring me back something nice, guys.


I can be followed on Twitter @sommerjam or on Google+. Your choice!

Hollywood Christmas Parade 2013!


For the second year in a row, my beautiful wife and I have watched the weird little pageant that is The Hollywood Christmas Parade. Last year, we stumbled upon it and were transfixed at it's ... awkward, low-rent feel. Isn't Hollywood where all the movie money is? Don't stars love a chance to "shine"? Why isn't Brad Pit in this? The HCP makes the b-string actors and musical acts that begrudgingly agree to appear in The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade look like superstars. 

Now, before I malign it TOO much, I would like to point out that it's done to promote Toys For Tots and that, this year, they were heavily promoting DAV (Disabled American Veterans), too. So it must be said that it's heart is in the right place, it just doesn't pull off the presentation. It's like a 7-year-old's macaroni-mosaic, but in parade form. 

I'll try to keep my chatter down to a minimum, as there are a LOT of photos to get through. Here we go! I present a long-winded photo-play of....


With your hosts...


Eric frickin' Estrada! (And Laura Mckenzie who, according to the Hollywood Christmas Parade (HCP) website, is "the number one television travel expert in the country." Fact!) And, no, this screen-grab isn't catching Erik at a bad angle, he really spent the whole parade delivering his lines with his head tilted back like that.

I remember that Erik co-hosted last year, but I don't remember the other host. It was probably Laura Mckenzie. But when you're co-host is Erik "CHiPs" Estrada, sorry, no one is remembering you year-to-year. I do however, remember who the "alternate location host" was, and was delighted to see him back again this year:


Dean "you know, I was once Superman, too" Cain! His role at this parade is to introduce the musical guests ... who are not performing in the parade, but at another location ... and possibly another time. See, the "Parade" is split into 2 segments: The parade, which passes by Mann's Chinese Theater, and the stage, which showcases a cavalcade of musical acts. It's a bit split-personality, but it works just about as well as everything else in this parade does, so just roll with it.

One last thing I need to mention: This parade wastes NO TIME dallying. People and floats and bands WHISK by, barely stopping to interact with the hosts. One gets the feeling that they parade only had a permit for exactly two hours and that any overages would incur fines / arrests. So they keep it moving.

Let's introduce the Grand Marshal of the 82nd (!) annual HCP:


BUZZ ALDRIN! The car he was in paused for a moment and Buzz started to say something about space. I remember it being really awkward, though I cannot remember the exact words. Before he could finish he was whisked away because there's not time to stop this parade, even for a national hero who WALKED ON THE MOON.

Right behind him was:


A Buzz Aldrin balloon! No, it was not just an "astronaut", they specifically pointed out that this was Buzz Aldrin. That's a cool kind of immortality: Becoming a balloon. It's a goal not many have achieved.

After that, we got to see their other "on the ground" reporter:


Montel Williams! Instead of giving paternity tests, he was there to present a "Lifetime Achievement Award" to the cast of "The Young And The Restless"! They seemed super thrilled to get it, as they all had to put away their phones they were texting on to accept it. There are no small awards, just small actors!



I swear that Laura Mckensie said, "I just started playing this and it's hard!" Then Erik said something about "Normally, I run away from angry birds, but not THESE GUYS!"

These "jokes" reveal that either they didn't have the money to hire Bruce Villanche to write their jokes (last year he did AND he was even IN the parade!) OR, Bruce realized that no one would care if he phoned it in, for this one.  Wait, does he ever NOT?

And then along came these jerks:


No idea who they are, but they would pop up, ostensibly to be funny, but mostly just to do a commercial for something. Though, one shouldn't blame them, they were given awful things to say. But that's not to blame the writer, either, they were told to write awful things. Really, no one is blameless, and yet everyone is.


"John McCook and his Tweeting Assistant, Gary"

And then the best balloon happened:



It's bug-eyed and terrifying and presented by Buca di Beppo (which is, outside of a well-timed "Fudruckers", the funniest name in restaurants).


And this is Cri-Cri! Surely you ALL remember Cri-Cri! The most famous singing cricket in Mexico? I'm sure it's delightful!


Tiny planes! Bet these guys strafe the Shriners in their non-flying cars.

And now, a parade-within-a-parade, as we have a line of Star Cars!



They called this one "The Ghostbuster car". I rolled my eyes and said, "Uh. I think you mean ECTO-1?!" Then I felt silly and I apologized to my wife, for having to hear me be like that.





"And here's the Batman vehicle from nineteen ...." "Uh, nineteen sixty..." "LOOK, THE STARSKY AND HUTCH CAR!"  Firstly, it's the Batmobile! Secondly, it was from 1966. Jesus, it's like Erik and Laura just don't care!


"Two Bumblebees, both old and new!" said Laura. This angered me. Because, really, it's more like "both new and not-as-new", since neither of them is a VW bug. But, upon reflection, the VW version was never in a movie, just the cartoon. Why do I care so much about the accuracy of the co-host's statements in regards to Star Cars?!



And then ... The Expendables truck? I watched both movies and don't' remember a truck being a big deal in either of them. A plane, yes. A truck? No. However, in the parade, the truck is a big deal because, in the back...


ARMED CHILDREN! Look close, that's an assault rifle that 'tween is holding. FOR XMAS!



The Mystery Machine was bouncing up and down, as if it had the hydraulics of a low-rider. Maybe there was a bit of mystery happening in the back? When the van's a-rockin'... jinkies.


African America Pee-wee Herman riding the actual movie bike.

And then were off, to the secret other location for a song performed by ... McCain?


Nope. She was NOT happy to be there.


And then these fools were told to walk around Madame Tussaud's and talk to the wax statues ... for comedy. The above is Justin Bieber. Belieber it. Anyway ... when I first saw this segment, I pretended that he was wearing a shirt that said "LIAM NEESON", but now I realize it says "I'M AWESOME".


A really bad angle on this My Little Pony balloon, as it looks like its foot is some sort of growth or tumor.


The only thing I know about her is what I learned from "One Week": Hot like wasabe when I bust rhymes / Big like Leann Rimes / Because I'm all about value". Now here she is, big as wasabe on the HCP!


Will Claye holding up his Silver and Bronze medal. Facing the other way is DeeDee Trotter, who is holding up her Bronze medal. I almost made a comparison to this parade feeling a little more "bronze" than other parades, but I didn't want to discount these two athlete's achievements. Bronze in the Olympics is quite a feet. Who am I, a couch-sitting, pizza-eating blogger, to decry their physicality as anything less than stellar? Still, it's a crappy parade.


And then this guy comes out to perform some magic. What is it about magicians that they're all so creepy with their "assistants". (And I say " "assistants" " because, really, in most of the tricks, they're the ones doing the hard part of squeezing themselves into tight places while the "magician" just waves his hands about and then thrusts his hips some.)


Archibald Mouse, who is the main character in Archibald's Swiss Cheese Mountain. I have never heard of this. But the author wanted to share some words:


At this point our cable cut out for a few moments, but before that happened, she pronounced it "AWchibald", like a Long Islander. My wife and I have taken to saying "AWchibald on Swiss Cheese Mountain". A lot. We're super fun at parties.


It's a parade of soap stars, I guess? These jokers did NOT get an award from Montel.


The Minions were one of the bigger stars to appear.


The gang from "Leave It to Beaver"! Erik then asked, "Why has the show endured for so long?" knowing full well that Jerry Matthers would not have time to form a complete sentence, before the car sped off. NO TIME, JERRY!


Look past the glaring lights of the convertible and observe the My Little Pony balloon in the back. This image reveals two things: 1) All the balloons are so small because they have to be able to, in some way, get under the street lights along Hollywood Boulevard and 2) they re-edited this parade for TV so that things appeared on-screen in a different order than they walked by in real life! No one likes a parade that lies, HCP!


You know, these guys. From ... uh ...

Now, let's take a moment to see what kind of commercials they were running during this thing:


Real day-time, home-sick-from-school types of things. And this was Prime Time. Is Prime Time on the Hallmark Channel like Day Time everywhere else?


This is the first real-life Tonka Truck. I cannot believe this marketing opportunity sat on the shelf until 2013.


Not a single word was said about Dean Cain, while this balloon flew overhead. "You know, guys, I'd rather put that behind me and focus on my parade hosting ..."


Oh, did I mention the Superman balloon was being escorted by a ROLLER DERBY TEAM?!

And then it was back to Dean Cain, who introduced Kenny Loggins.


"Whatever happened to Messina?" My lovely wife asked. "Who?", said I, being throw from a loop because I know a guy named Chris Messina and thought the segue was a bit jarring. "Messina. Used to be a duet with Loggins?" "I only know Loggins from "Top Gun"..." Then I started singing "Danger Zone".




Frigo Cheese Head. Apparently this is a thing, too!

This whole parade just feels a bit ... off. Like stumbling into a parade in a foreign land and you have no idea who anyone or anything is, nor what anyone is saying, but you smile and wave anyway. Then you go home to America and tell everyone how foreign other countries are, and that makes you sound like an ethnocentric pleb who can't appreciate other cultures. Cultures. Cheese. Frigo Cheese Heads!


Super Grover's head kept dipping down and the people escorting it kept punching him in the nose.


Ho. Lee. Shit. Little Stevie Wonder! Is he doing community service for something?! As always, he was awesome. He sang, "This Christmas" which, many of you won't know, is my all-time favorite. And even though I prefer Donny Hathaway's version, Stevie's version was great, too. It only took 30 minutes for this "parade" to do something awesome and that wasn't cringe-worthy.

And then:


Hooo Boi. Let's all remind people of this racist failure of a movie! That is NOT Armie Hammer up there, but an Armie Hammer look-alike. (That is, they just put the first guy they could find into a Lone Ranger Mask and said, "Good enough!" Later, viewers would see evidence that Silver was, in fact, a real horse, with a fully-functional digestive tract.


No idea.


Beverly Hills High School Marching Band ... led by Caillou? Since I don't have kids, I have no idea who this kid is, but I now know that Google auto-suggests a search for "Caillou Cancer" when typing his name into the search engine.


And then a commercial for Caillou by that unfunny duo.


Oh-ho that WEEEEELLLLLS FARGO WAGON IS A-COMIN' DOWN THE STREET! "Cruickshank and Veal" is a great name for a law firm, investigative team, or meat market.


 MERRY XMAS MORE GUNS! POW POW!


One of the segments of the parade was about the red carpet. (You may have noticed that the entire parade route is covered in "the biggest red carpet in Hollywood?) And that carpet is cleaned by ChemDry. After Silver took a steaming dump on it, I bet the newest ChemDry hire took a moment to evaluate his career choice. Then, from the van, the veteran says, "That ain't nothin! Back in 86, *I* had to clean up after ALF!"


I don't know much about the Lorax, but ... he seems to be gripped in a giant purple hand. And this teaches us about how we should treat nature.


I will take the parade's word that these are real actors in a real show.


???


Kazoo Band! This band is comprised of kids who attend school online through the Connections Academy. So, there is a real chance that this is the first time these kids have ever left their house or met another person in real life.


By this point, I realized that almost everything in this parade is a commercial. This elf, pirate, and kid from "Christmas In Hollywood" is the perfect example. It's an indie film that the pirate said, "We're hoping to get money to bring it to theaters in 2014!" So, this is a "float" for a movie that isn't even out yet. It's the Kickstarter of parader floats.

Now, just to be clear, there are NO floats in this parade. Everyone is riding in a really fancy car ... but since it's a parade, I will call them floats.


Wow. You know how we all make fun of Shatner for releasing terrible albums? Well, someone took that to mean that he should release another. Essentially, he just spoke some lines, while a band played something unconnected behind him. Hipsters will make it go platinum.


Their plasticy faces make the last part of their more accurate than ever.


This one was super awkward because, as her convertible drove by, Laura Mckensie blurted out something about Valerie being courageous and an inspiration. Nothing like bringing up terminal cancer, during a Christmas parade!


It's Santa's little informant, the elf on the shelf. If I were a child and I was told that this thing was going to narc on me, if I did something bad, that would just be bad news for the elf. I'm sent to my room because I "accidentally" hit my sister on the head with a paper bag full of dried beans and I see that elf ... well, that elf is not seeing another sunrise. I can't afford to have it rat me out. That elf is a problem that I'd have to solve. Permanently.


This is an L. Ron Hubbard float. I am not kidding!


It's a float paid for by their publishing are of Scientology! Avast, me hearties, there be thetans about!



Nope. Not ringing any bells.


I dunno ... some joke about "twerking"? God, this parade is super-long. I'm running out of material. They sure pack it in!


Step 1: You cut a hole in a box ... Put your smurf in that box! (This joke courtesy of my hilarious wife.)


The star of "The Neighbors" is texting. Can't be bothered. That about sums up the parade, too.


And then Richie Sambora (who performed earlier, I just didn't get a picture of it) comes back along with Stevie Wonder and Stevie plays this thing:


Space Harp!

And then:


Santa shows up and it's over. Street sweepers are right behind, and riot police turn the hoses on to the crowd. It's Xmas in LA.

 And to show you what kind of respect this parade gets, when they went back to Erik and Laura for their "Thanks for joining us" wrap-up, this happened:


Ooo. That's harsh. "GTFO, parade, we got "The Town Christmas Forgot" on deck!"

I'm not sure I have done this parade justice. It's something you just need to experience for yourself, as the still pictures don't convey the bone-deep awkwardness of the thing. And certainly not the conveyor-belt-like progression of it all, either.

So do yourself a favor and set your DVRs up NOW to tape it next year. You won't regret it.



I can be followed on Twitter @sommerjam or on Google+. Your choice!