Halloween Comes To Cracker Barrel Town

Yeeeeesssssss! Halloween creep!!!

July isn't even over! This is the time that stores are supposed to be putting out back-to-school stuff, so I was dead chuffed (that's British for "I'm the type that sprinkles British slang into my speech, but please still respect my opinions") ... I was super pleased to find a Halloween display so early in the season. Though, I guess Cracker Barrel isn't much known for their "back to school" items, so, unlike other stores, they don't have to give any shelf-service to Trapper Keepers or mechanical pencils and can get right to the good stuff.

For those who don't know what Cracker Barrel is, it's a restaurant that sells cheap food in huge portions. Though, to keep expenses down, everything that comes with your meal is served on its own plate. Oh, you want steak with a side of potatoes and, well, knowing the clientele, MORE potatoes? Here's your plate with a steak. Here's your first potato. And here's your second potato side. Who asked for lemons for their water? Here is the plate for that! Now, can I refill that gallon of sweetened iced tea for you?

But why, if I'm throwing such shade its way, was I at Cracker Barrel at all? Because when you're flying down a highway at 70mph, there's no time to casually peruse what POI food options the GPS is suggesting, because by the time you've browsed, you've passed them. So, with one Cracker Barrel at every exit, it was easy to make the choice of just pulling into the one that is 5 miles ahead (since we just missed the one that was 1.7 miles behind us).

Plus, my parents seem to like it. And it IS a good "value" ... as long as your definition of "value" means "I don't care what it tastes like, just as long as it's cheap and there is plenty of it."

But why am I talking about Halloween decorations on sale if Cracker Barrel is a restaurant? Because part of their "charm" is that they are also an "old country store". See, it's right there on their logo:

...along with an old guy with weird legs. It's quaint. WAIT ... is the old guy wearing a Civil War confederate cap?! Probably not, right? Riiiight?!

Anyway, in this store, they sell all kinds of things from "yester year". Candy (think: B-B-B-Bats and root beer barrels), decorations (replica vintage metal Coca-Cola signs), and toys and novelties (like Yes & Know Invisible Ink books).

In FACT, they sell so much of this other stuff that when I was in college driving back from a road trip somewhere, and before I'd ever eaten in one for realsies, my passengers and I got hungry. Seeing a "food this exit" sign I noticed Cracker Barrel and suggested we go. All of us walked in and saw the store section - and it's a big store section - and assumed I was crazy and that it wasn't a restaurant at all ... and left!

See, they put the hostess stand way in the back, past all the wooden ball-and-cup and golf tee peg games. I know this, now, so I headed right to the back and put my name in. As we were being seated, the hostess shouted (for probably the 300th time that day), "Today we're featuring our Campfire Chicken!!!" Then we passed a rather corpulent man who has a giant mound of aluminum foil in front of him. Inside the mound was a lot of food. I thought to myself, "I don't eat out of nearly enough troughs.

So I ordered the Campfire Chicken!!!

Their website doesn't have a picture of the Campfire Chicken!!!, so you have to use your imagination: Substitute the beef for a half of a chicken

To it's credit, this was the first time I didn't feel horribly sick, after eating at Cracker Barrel (at least not right away), even though there was a suspiciously hair-looking thread on one of my potatoes. I let my beautiful wife convince me that it was a hair from a basting brush and not one from a diseased human scalp, so I was ok and didn't immediately vomit up the Campfire Chicken!!! (It's only now that I realize those brushes are made of horse hair, which is possibly grosser, but it's too late to vomit. The Campfire Chicken!!! is long gone.)

OH! You want pictures of the Halloween stuff?! Right!

Glitzy Halloween Rats! Jazzed up and accessorized for October 31st festivities, these rats are sure to be the most glamorous way to contract Bubonic plague. ASIDE: What is it with holidays and glitter? So many good decorations are ruined by being covered in glitter. Oh, not these rats, no. They'd be a terrible decoration without the glitter. In fact, I might be so bold as to turn hypocritical, within this same paragraph, and say that it's the glitter that puts them above any other, similar, rat decorations. They're the exception that proves the rule!

CatBatWitch Serving Plate! Oooh, and it's signed by the artiste, too! Actuallty, thinking about it, I'm pretty sure I've seen this artist's work, before. And I'm pretty sure that this is a distinct "style". I'm pretty sure people buy it. And I'm pretty sure that as I sit here and mock them, they are pulling in six figures a year drawing CatBatWitches ... and I barely cleared $1 in AdSense revenue on my last 30 posts. I take it all back, mysterious CatBatWitch artist, you are a valuable part of our Halloween tapestry.

Classy Owl! I think he had a lightbulb inside him, but he wasn't turned on. ("Is that an owl in your pocket ... ?") Though, the way the eyes look, he could also have been a fan. I'd cool myself in the summer with Owl Eye Breezes. (Which could also be a good cocktail name. What would be in it? There's at least one liqueur. And fewmets. I'd cool myself in the summer with an Owl Eye Breeze cocktail.) PS - You can tell the "Witchy Wreath" is over-priced, without even seeing it, right?

Where Are They Buried? How Did They Die?! Steve Jobs, Whitney Houston, and Heath Ledger are all included in this grim grimoire. It felt a bit "too soon-y" for my likes. Talk about the long dead, not the recent dead. Fresh corpses just seems so ... prurient. Sometimes we forget that these were real, flesh-and-blood people with hopes and dreams. (Says the guy who recently had a picnic literally on someone's grave ... but that guy'd been dead for almost a century, so it was ok!)

Wooly Willy Wacky Witch and Jack O. Lantern! Now here's the good stuff! Each was only $3.99 and I didn't buy either of them. Nether of them. Argh. This error makes me want to go back to Cracker Barrel to put right this mistake. Dr. Sam Becket, if you are listening, please Quantum Leap into one-week-ago me and correct this mistake. Or, you know, keep preventing wars, or battling the evil leaper, or whatever you do. No biggie, I'll cope. But, jeeze, how good would that look on a Halloween Mood Table?!

Candy Corn and Owl Candles! I couldn't tell, because they were well wrapped, but I don't think these smelled like candy corn. What a disappointment that must be to so many Cracker Barrel Halloween decoration shoppers. On the plus side, though, the owl candle didn't seem to smell like owl, either, and if this is an all-or-nothing candle-smell proposition, I think Cracker Barrel made the right choice.

I wanted to end this post with an Instagram video of a dancing candy corn, but I can't get it to embed.

Overall, it's the perfect start to the Halloween season because 1) it happened so pleasingly early and 2) because there was nothing that awesome on display, so I know my Halloween decoration-seeing has not peeked too soon! It's all uphill from here! (Up a windy, dead-leaf covered hill, headed towards a graveyard. Whawazzat?! Whawazzat?! Was that a noise over in that bush? Eh, it's probably just Snoopy.)

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

Tourist Trapped

Souvenir shops are for tourists and suckers ... and for people who find themselves with a lot of time to kill before a performance of "The Phantom of the Opera".

Disclaimer: I always feel awkward taking pictures in stores. I know for a fact that some proprietors don't like it (like the VERY un-cool grocery store in my neighborhood that hangs "NO PHOTOS" signs at the entrance), so every time I take out my phone to snap a quick pic, I think I'm going to get yelled at. Actually, I often think I'm going to get yelled at. There's a psychological reason for it but I don't know it, and that's not why you're here, anyway! Anyway, that's why this post is not jam-packed with photos, but I'll show you what I was able to get, without having a nervous break-down. I consider each photo a personal triumph.

Have I told you before about how I love seeing lots of the same thing, in one place? Like, piles of all the same thing make me weirdly happy. It's probably some kind of mental disorder (another one!) that a good psychiatrist could rid me of, but I'd rather keep it. So, this display, packed with Statues of Liberty really tickled my pleasure center. But not in a gross way, where the cops had to be called. I'm a weird-o, but I can make it in society.

Then: CAUGHT! A voice from a worker! "HEY!" (Jeff makes a cartoon GULP noise, turns toward employee) "There's a better picture on this side. Bigger statues. Very nice!" Relief.

Two quick things more about this interaction: First: Just to show you how strong my  aversion to photos-in-stores is, even AFTER getting this ersatz "blessing" from an employee, I was STILL cagey about it. SECOND: Stop trying to tell me how to run my blog, souvenir shop owner!

There was a time (my childhood) when it used to be hard to find my name on license plates. I credit the phenomenal celebrity successes of Jeff Daniels. But, seriously... does anyone remember being friends with / knowing a Jeff before going to college? Because that was my case. Not a single one until I matriculated, then it's nothing but "Jeff", "Jeffrey", and "Geoff"s.

Anyway, back to the license plates: Man, I would want one of these so bad if A) I were 7-15 years old or B) had a bike. (NOT mutually inclusive.) It's only now that I'm realizing these are the last-gen version of NYC license plates. What fool is going to buy last year's model?! Looks like I (Heart) NY Gifts is going to be stuck with a lot of unsellable stock for some time.

Speaking of the name: On Official Papers, is the store name spelled out, or is there a heart emoji in the middle? Since business licenses are a matter of public record, I could find out. I could ... MOVING ON!

I "get" most of the personalized license plates (and there were many, many different kinds / shapes / sizes around the store), except a few. Notably, this one for "NO SMOKING". Because ... it's a license plate. It says, "I love cars, New York, AND abstaining from nicotine!" This is a VERY niche product. If you know of someone who whom this gift would be perfect, please don't tell me. I like the mystery.

One thing I've noticed: These tourist-trap shops have gotten much more "adult" since I was a kid.
Pretty sure if any souvenir shop sold a license plate that simply said "BITCH" on it (not pictured), my parents would never have taken us kids into another gift shop, for as long as they could control which shops we went into.

Though, I DO clearly and distinctly remember a gift shop at a cave attraction we went to, once. It was the old school type that was filled with a lot of varnished wood plaques that either has sayings engraved on them ("Bless this mess!") or had an ashtray set into them. One of the items for sale was a lacquered piece of wood with a little round inset, where one could rest their drink. Overtop this was a rubber Pluto (the dog from children's Disney cartoons) with his leg lifted. When a tumbler - like the kind your 1950s dad would drink his Box Car out of - was placed on the indent, it would looks as if Pluto were whizzing into it. I did not point that out to my parents, for fear that I would never be allowed back into a gift shop ever again, but the memory stuck with me.

And here's another display that made my "lots of stuff" nerves tingle. Is there any other single item that screams "city souvenir" more than a snowglobe? And they all seemed to be the correct size to take back home on the plane (larger ones being banned by the TSA, for being "too dangerously nostalgic of your non-home town"). I wanted to stand there and shake every single one and pretend to be the kid at the end of the last episode of "St Elsewhere". (I know what I just said, and I don't care!) I only wound up shaking that hot pink monstrosity on the far right (or "stage left", since we were on our way to "Phantom"). It's pink because it's for girls, right?

And that's it! That's my tour of a tourist trap.
I leave you with this:

"The City That Never Sleeps", "The City So Nice, They Named It Twice", "The Big Apple" ... 

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

My Mom's Glasses

Get excited, everyone, because you're about to have a peek into my mom's glasses cabinet.

Whenever I say things like "my mom's [whatever]", I feel like I'm giving the impression that my parents are divorced. They're not. I just feel like the contents of the cupboard that holds the glasses is strictly under the direction and purview of my mother. My dad could give a fig what's in there, as long as it holds water when he needs it to hold water and tea when he needs it to hold tea. I'll test this by swapping out all of the glasses and mugs with those little ice cream helmets you get at baseball games. His life probably won't change ... except it'll be 100% more awesome, as he drinks water and tea from a Mets hat.

Also: We're all clear that I'm talking about drinking glasses and not "spectacles", right? Otherwise, this post is about to really confuse you.

Now tighten your seat-belt, because here we GO!

Right off the bat we're off-topic, because these first items aren't even glass, but plastic. When will my lies stop?! They are sundae cups so old there's no way they are not 100% BPA. I don't really remember these, from back when I was a kid, so they're probably actually my grandmother's, and are now living with my mom. I've never used them and thanks to a building lactose intolerance, I probably never will. I wouldn't be afraid of the BPAs, though. Pretty sure I've drank enough Bisphenol A - or (CH₃)₂C(C₆H₄OH)₂ - to give me cancer-of-the-something, already, so a little more won't hurt.

Straight outta 1994 is this Aladdin "glass" (yup, another plastic cup) that was sold at Burger King. It's part of a larger series of glasses that featured various Disney movies, so that explains why the glass was on sale two years after the film was in theaters. Nice to see my mom has kept it in it's original box and in such great condition. Does she know she's sitting on a gold mine that could fetch upwards of $100 on eBay? Wait. Typo. I meant to say "$10". Totally worth hanging onto the box and never using the glass for 20 years. We probably paid $5 for the thing in 1994. Guaranteed to appreciate in value.

I mock, but I'm pretty sure it was at my insistence that she never threw away the box, because of "collector's value" or something. I was big into "mint condition", back then.

Since taking this photo, I have seen how other people insert a rolled up piece of white paper into the glass, so you can see the graphic clearly. Too bad I already took all these pictures and I'm not doing it again, the "right" way.

So this is a Welch's jelly jar for 1991. Once filled with jelly, families were encouraged to eat all the pectin-packed grape-spread, then give the container a second life as a glass. A persnickety kid, I swore it always make whatever liquid was poured into it taste "grape-y", so I never used it for it's second purpose. Even though it was probably at my insistence that my mom bought this "glass" in first place.

One other memory: The TV commercial for these had a kid annoying quipping "Tom and JELLY!" It was so annoying, that I have never forgotten it, nor passed up an opportunity to make the same pun, myself.

Here we go! Now we're getting to the good stuff! One of my most cherished childhood memories ... that revolved around glassware (what, you don't have drink-wear-specific memories? You must've had a terrible childhood!) We'd use these as "float" glasses. Exclusively. Oh, what salad-days! It sounds so bourgeois to have glasses just for ice cream sodas, when there are children starving ... somewhere. Anyway, we also had these really looooong, plastic spoons that we'd use with them. With the spoon-y bit of the spoon bent at a 90-degree angle, it would get trapped under the ice cream, so one could pull up on the handle to raise the ice cream to edible height, then dunk it back down to create more foam. Ah, ice cream float foam. It was from these glasses that I first realized I loved the taste of that foam. *Wistful sigh*

There used to be a fourth in the set - a green zebra - but it broke many, many years ago. Probably NOT my fault, but possibly was. History does not record. Anyway, just recently, I saw the entire set in the window of an "antique" (junk) shop in Brooklyn and they were charging $45 for the complete set of four. It was a bit expensive, just to get back a little bit of childhood nostalgia. Plus, the store wasn't open yet. Plus, it was hot out. So, I wasn't going to wait around in the sun, just to overpay for a green zebra, sorry. Nostalgia will nly take me so far. Inconvenience and sun-stroke is too far.

Americanna. This one was also often used as an ice cream dish back in the days before "lactose intolerance" was a diagnoseable thing and kids were constantly fed iced cream, regardless of how many mysterious stomach aches they'd suffer immediately after. Such benighted times. Such great ice cream sundaes.

I never knew the story of this glass until I was taking these pictures. But first, "Why do you want to take pictures of my glasses?" said my mom. "I dunno. For posterity! To document! To remember!" "...eeeeeeeeehhhhhooooooohkaaaaaay" she said. "Where did you get this one?" "You father won that for me at a carnival."

I never knew! He only won her the one, though. Still, it seems to have worked out for them, in the long run, as they're still together. Guess mom's overlooked that single-glass gift. I never could.

Another not-glass, but just thought you should all see this thing. You put cream or milk inside, then, when you want cream or milk, you grab this thing, pretend to make a horrible "vomiting" sound and pour it into your cereal. Then your mom asks you to please stop doing that. THEN you wrap your mouth around the cow's mouth and suck milk from it like a sports bottle. THEN you get another mysterious stomach ache - the doctors are baffled!

NOT pictured are the set of clear Nestle coffee mugs that look like mini globes. I'd totally forgotten about them until the other week when I was visiting an antique (junk) market and saw them being offered for a ridiculous amount. When did junk become something you overcharged for, rather than just something you wanted to just get rid of, and were glad to take a quarter for?! My mom has a set of 'em and she'd probably sell them for 25 cents each ... but I would never let her. They are worth so much more than that!!! THEY HAVE MEMORIES!!!

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

The First Movie I Saw ... With My Sister

I have a ridiculous amount of stuff "stored" at my parents' house. I say " "stored" " (in quotes), because it wasn't a conscious decision to move it all there, it's just what's leftover after a life lived in the same house for my entire childhood - and beyond. It's stuff that never made it's way out of that locale. It's stuff that's a prisoner of my lethargy, laziness, and ... um, another "L" word (but not the one that was on pay cable, a few years back. That'd be weird!)

One day I decided to make an attempt to throw some of it out, so I started going through the gigantic box that included every (and I mean every) note I ever took in college. I think I made the right decision by throwing away all of my notes from college, but one never knows when one is going to have to refer back to an old ECON 101 talk about guns and butter. What if there's a test?!

Among the paperwork was this:

Not part of the approved Syracuse curriculum.

It's a "My Little Pony" flier with creases so worn-in that it must've come as an insert with one of the figures. I never played with "My Little Pony" as a kid, let alone in college. This must've been my sister's, but I have no idea how it ended up in this box. As I threw handfuls of old college-ruled paper away, I set this aside, thinking, "I'll make a blog post out of this, somehow." So here we are.

I don't have much to say about the flyer itself, other than it has two sides....

Frolicking like you only READ about.

... and that there are WAY more non-pony characters than I feel should be in a show called "My Little PONY" (emphasis mine).

BUT! This insert is about "My Little Pony: The Movie" ... and I do have a story AND two sub-stories about that subject! [Should I be working more horse-puns into this piece?]

"My Little Pony: The Movie" was the first movie my sister took me to ... maybe.

A close-up of the text.
(But, really, this image is just to break up what promises to be a rather "text-y" post.)

But first, let's set the clock back a bit to about two months before I found this insert poster. I, all of a sudden, prompted by nothing, remembered that my sister and I had gone to see this film in the theater over by my grandparents' house. The venue was a small affair at Hylan and Ebbitts Street on Staten Island called the Rae Twin Cinema. (The "twin" of the title was a brag about the fact that it had two - yes TWO! - screens! This was the days before giant multiplexes). I remember it smelling vaguely of air conditioned mold and cigarettes. But then again, they all do, don't they? (Both memories and theaters.)

It was strange to think that we would have even been allowed to see a movie - any movie - alone, at that time, because in 1986 I would have been 9 and my sister would have been 12. I dunno about your parents, but my mom was certainly not the type to let her only two kids sit alone, in a dark theater, for almost two hours. Anything could happen to unaccompanied kids in the 80s! STRANGER DANGER!

And we certainly were not the kind of juveniles to be delinquent and sneak off to see a film on our own. (Again: Stranger Danger.) But, ha, just imagine that! Sneaking off to see "My Little Pony: The Movie"?! That's Bad. Ass.

The worst part of it all is that I'll never know how we came to be sitting in an almost-empty, weird-smelling theater, watching ponies run from a giant purple "Smooze", because my sister does not remember the occasion at all!

Which leads to my first sub-story about this story!

Smooze AND lava? These ponies are f&$%ed.

As I told you, this memory struck me from no where. I'm guessing it's similar to the way repressed memories hit people ... but without all the icky stuff that usually goes along with that. In fact, the only traumatizing part about my repressed pony memory was that there were a couple of rambunctious other kids in the theater with us and I was terrified that they were going to talk to us. NOT hit. NOT accost. JUST talk. Terrified little kid, was I! Still, not as icky as most repressed-memory stories, so I count myself lucky. (PS: "rambunctious" is how I would have refereed to them, even as a 9-year old. I was born an old man.)

Anyway, I got the jolt of memory, so I decided to investigate. I asked my parents why they let two young kids see such a terrible movie, alone, but neither one had any recollection of this event, so they were a dead end. Parents always let you down, when it comes to cherished, super-specific, childhood memories, right?! So the next step would have been to contact my sister (who I did not yet know didn't remember this occasion). But, before I could contact her, my father called her and told her that I was asking questions about "the first movie she brought me to". [Please picture a scene like form a mob movie where, under cover of a darkened alley, one person whispers to the other, "Psst! Hey! Heads up, Jeff's been asking about you and "My Little Pony"!", because that's how I'm picturing it.]

That misrepresentation caused my sister to think about the first movie she DROVE me to  - which leads me to the second sub-story of this post:

The first movie she drove me to was "Christmas Vacation". Bad. Ass. My sister had just gotten her license, but that wasn't supposed to be here-nor-there, since I was going to be seeing it with my buddy from school and his brother AND driven there by my buddy's dad. They swung by to pick me up, I hopped in the car, and the dad immediately backed his car into a tree on our property, caving in the entire back of the car. The little brother was in the back-back and got glass all over him. He had curly hair, too, so it got all stuck in there. He was fine, though, so stop worrying.

To the dad's credit, the tree he hit WAS directly in the middle of our driveway, where no normal person would put a tree, so for him not to be on alert for a tree wasn't so off-base. Still, to this day, I double-check for trees, before backing up. you never know where someone has planted one.

With the car in no shape (and the dad in no state) to drive three kids to the flicks, my sister, with her freshly-minted license, was like, "I'LL DRIVE THEM!" And so she did. It was super nice of her to do and I probably never thanked her properly. Will she consider this post a thank you?

"Bushwoolies" sounds like something your grandma still says and it makes you uncomfortable and you mumble "Sorry, she's old".

It was THAT experience that my sister was thinking of when I finally got around to asking her about my new-found memory of "the first movie she took me to". She was kinda like, "But I wasn't old enough to drive, then!" And she was right. The conversation that followed was confusing and not worth repeating (suffice it to say that IMDB was employed, to check on release dates and movie times).

To put a happy ending on this sad tale of mistaken memories and ill-communicated remembrances, there's this:
The theater we saw the movie in (OR DID WE?!) would later be turned into an OTB and then into a Chevy's "restaurant". Later, it would be bulldozed and a CVS now stands there. Next time in the area, I'll make a point to stop in and find the most "My Little Pony"-y thing I can find ... for old time's sake.

Other facts I have learned about "My Little Pony: The Movie" from The Internet:
  1. The Smooze (the purple thing trying to eat the ponies) was voiced by Bowzer from Sha-Na-Na.
  2. Danny DeVito and wife Rhea Perlman both had roles ... AS TROLLS.
  3. Madeline Kahn, Cloris Leachman, and Tony Randall ALSO had roles, making this an all-star cast ... for kids who couldn't give two damns about star-power, really, just show me ponies!!!
  4. It grossed $5,958,456 - which, in today's money, is ... still not impressive. ($12,933,546.37)
Oh, I also remember that neither of us liked the movie very much. Closure.

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

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!