Tuesday, December 16, 2008

All I Want For Christmas Is...(Part Three)

“We are spirits in the material world” – The Police
“Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz” – Janis Joplin
“All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth” – Spike Jones
“Gimme Gimme Gimme” – ABBA

Everybody wants something – it’s just human nature. Even Gandhi wanted a robe. With the economy at the mercy of the Incredible Hulk in an extra-poopy mood and Mr. Burns taking over the body of a real, live old guy (Bernard Madoff), it’s hard to ask for that one special present when so many may go without. However, most of us will be getting something and I don’t think it’s too out of line for those of us who are going to get gifts to have the gumption to request something we really want. Not any of that “world peace”, “universal harmony” or “stop polluting mother earth” jargon – I’m talking about stuff. Tangible, yummy, feel good about yourself stuff. As we get older, we tend to ask for less and get that indispensable gift which looks perfect next to the Chia-Pet at next summer’s garage sale. It isn’t the gift-giver’s fault that they gave you a George Foreman Grill, a Ginsu Knife set or a DVD of the worst movie of the year (“The Love Guru” – it’s what I always wanted!). The fault lies solely with our humility. If we do not ask, we are doomed to receive what our family and friends think we want. Geez, have we forgotten what it’s like to be a kid at Christmas?

It’s time to channel that “inner Linus” again and remember what Christmas was all about. Who doesn’t remember the arrival of the J.C. Penny Christmas Catalog and the Sears Wishbook in the mailbox? These sacred documents contained everything you could possibly desire, accompanied by full color pictures showcasing material enlightenment. I would peruse these catalogs endlessly, folding pages and marking toys that would make my Christmas day. Obviously, many expectations were unrealistic. Nobody really expects to get a Lionel train, a track-racing set, TOPPS baseball cards and a Nintendo. But it was a wonderful feeling to dream of the possibility. Santa would usually make some of our dreams come true – with a little help from Mom and Dad.

Somewhere in the process of growing up, many of us lost this fantasy, preferring to receive monetary gifts to spend as we please. For two decades, I subscribed to this philosophy. I liked money (who doesn’t) and enjoyed getting the opportunity to buy things myself. However, as time went by, I realized I had lost something. I no longer had the feeling that my family knew me well enough to give me anything besides the cash I’d been requesting since I was 12. I forgot how great the feeling was of someone knowing you well enough that they could get you a cool gift without incessant prodding. Instead, I began an annual holiday purchase known as “the Christmas gift to myself.” After all, at least I knew what I wanted. Last year, my gift was “the Von Erich Family Board Game”, which combined the excitement of pro-wrestling with a cribbage board. Sound fun? Hey, at least it looks good on display. Don’t get all “distorting the vision of Linus” on me, I know many of you do this too. I decided to suspend my “Christmas gift to myself” this year with hope someone will actually find it in their hearts to tell dear old Santa what good little Adam wants for Christmas. That said, I’ve made my list and checked it twice. I know I’m a little bit naughty, but I hope I’ve been a little bit nice. Family, the choice is yours.

Muppet memorabilia made before Jim Henson’s death. I’m a huge fan of the “Muppet Show.” One of my fondest childhood memories was being taken to an exhibit of the Muppets by my aunt. I must have been five or so at the time but I still remember being in awe of the world Jim Henson created. I’d like anything from glasses to actual muppets. I have a copy of the “Muppet Show” board game. Other than that, my collection is pretty empty. I had a colorform set once, but it’s long since gone. There was plenty of Muppet product in the 1970’s and any relic of this magic time would be a joy. Beware, the EBay listings are longer than this year’s housing foreclosures.

Literary plates/etchings. When I was going to college in St. Cloud, a bookstore in town had an 80-year old book of Dante’s Inferno with illustrated plates. I didn’t have the money to buy it then (20 bucks!) and regret it still. I also would like a nice, old copy of William Blake’s “Songs of Innocence and Experience” with full depictions of Blake’s plates that accompanied the poems. The older, the better.

A stuffed “Bill the Cat”. Made about twenty years ago with a disclaimer that Bill would fall apart if touched. I’ve always been a big “Bloom County” fan and a stuffed “Bill” would complete my collection. If I get it, I’ll put Bill on top of the Christmas tree instead of the star. Seriously, I promise.

A U.S. Senate Seat. I know this is reaching, but a guy’s gotta dream. An action figure of “The Stay-Puft Marshmellow Man” would be a good substitute.

The Millennium Falcon. This is the one item I would have bought for myself, but I refuse to purchase it. I’ve wanted a Millennium Falcon for 28 years now but Santa passes me by. Everyone has that one present they never received. Be it an Easy Bake Oven, a Malibu Barbie or an Exorcist Elmo, there is one gift for everyone that has yet to be received. Without doubt or exception, this is mine. My parents tried very hard to get me a Falcon when I was young. In 1980, it was all I asked for, but it was the hottest toy in the world. In a time before Amazon and EBay, parents had to find a toy at a store in order to buy it for their children. My parents assumed they didn’t need to order from a catalog, which was usually used for specialty items like the aforementioned baseball cards and train sets. As Christmas came closer, they couldn’t find a Millennium Falcon at any local store. The fastest ship in the galaxy was a hot item and the most desirable toy in the “Star Wars” universe. Money wasn’t an issue, but locating the Falcon was. My parents left one night in pursuit of it, only to come home from several suburban toy stores tired and discouraged. Being good parents, they broke the news to me that Han Solo’s ship was nowhere to be found. But they had every intention of making their little boy happy on Christmas. Under the tree, there was a gigantic, rectangular box. When it came time, I unwrapped it with anticipation. It had to be something from “Star Wars.” They were they only toys I wanted. What could it be? An AT-AT? An X-Wing Fighter? A Wompa? I tore apart the wrapping paper like a carnivore, my heart beating and mind flashing maybe – just maybe – there was a Millennium Falcon. As the paper was torn apart, I saw a gigantic “Star Wars” logo. As the wrapping was removed, I held in my hands the coveted “Rebel Transport” ship.

What? What is this? It’s big but it looks like a giant torpedo. The obviously expensive toy in my hands made me cold. This wasn’t what I wanted and I was pretty sure I didn’t ask for it. The “Rebel Transport?” The ship the rebel alliance used to flee Darth Vader on the planet Hoth, it didn’t exactly inspire imaginative play. Let’s create one of the saddest scenes in “Empire!” You, too can flee the evil empire with your rag-tag group of action figures that don’t figure into the plot. Luke and R2? They took off to Dagobah to find Yoda. Han, Leia, Chewie and C3PO? They were on the Millennium Falcon. Not much left to play with. Just an over-expensive case for action figures. I knew my parents had the best of loving intentions with their gift and I played with it the best I could. One day later, my sole enjoyment from the Rebel Transport was miraculously being able to put the front and back panels back together. Fly, white turd, fly! If only it was that enjoyable.

Decades later, Hasbro has released several commemorative “Star Wars” toys. Last year, I bought my son, Shane a TIE-Fighter with detachable wings. Similar to the classic 80’s toy down to the inability to open the cockpit without breaking it, Shane and I had hours of fun staging battles. Surprisingly, it’s still intact and ready for another fight. In 2008, Hasbro released their most ambitious “retro” toy: you guessed it – a Millennium Falcon! Not just a replica of the classic toy nor a copy of the Falcon released just three years ago, this Millennium Falcon has everything! It talks, it lights up and even includes Han and Chewie! What more could a boy ask for?

A comparison: the Millennium Falcon in action:

The Rebel Transport on its final voyage:

I realize the Millennium Falcon is expensive, selling for as much as $160 at Toys R’ Us and as low as $100 on Amazon. Unlike the 1980’s, however, this time it is readily available. A casualty of our shaky economy, many stores such as Wal-Mart and Target ordered many of these toys in anticipation of another blockbuster-shopping season. Sadly, many Falcons remain in stores, indicative of the lack of the “Generation X” market willing to spend on itself. It’s possible the toy will reach as low as $80 before year’s end, reminiscent of the endless SUV’s discounted at car dealerships. Maybe someone will find it in their heart to rescue the Falcon from its department store prison and deliver it safely to the rebel base at the Adam Koeppe household. I promise that it will be removed from its protective box and played with by loving, enthusiastic children young and old. Help me, Santa. You’re my only hope.


Santa, can you hear me?

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