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Featured Article

A Yuletide Yakking

By: vkimo

    


Christmas for me was never very conventional, and I think the jingle above represents that. It wasn't a cookie cutter event that followed established rules, protocols and guidelines. It was more of an ad libbed improv. I don't want to bore you with a generic rehash of X Mas past, but treat this as more of a ESPN highlight reel of my experiences decking the halls with boughs of Holly. Enjoy.


              A copy of 50 Shades of Gray and a Snuggie sounds good right about now.


My family was somewhat poor growing up.  We didn't live in abject poverty, but the idea of getting SEVEN kids (That's right 7, count 'em)  all a Nintendo Gameboy didn't exactly fit into the checkbook balance. To be honest aside from my little brother, all my other siblings were well into their teens and twenties and didn't need to be showered like children. There was this program in town at a place called The RITTER House, which was a community services type deal for low income people. They had a tree there with cards on it, and every year around Christmas you could put a card on the tree listing what you wanted for Christmas with the idea being that a generous stranger could take your card off the tree and buy you a gift from your list!! Sounds awesome right?


  Christmas Rule #34: Never let kids think moolah is expendable.

The concept sounded incredible to my little brother and I. Our parents told us how the program worked and gave us some cards to write down a wishlist. After several revisions from our ridiculously exorbitant demands, we managed to submit our cards. I forget now, but at this point you usually waited. Lo and behold, my parents got a phone call one day and they went down and picked up a little box with some gifts! I remember getting my first Timex wristwatch which was amazing to me because up until that point all I ever had were cheap toy watches. This one was water resistant and had Indiglo!
                           

Some of the best presents are usually the unexpected ones. These usually come from distant relatives. One in particular I still have and cherish to this day. It was a large framed poster...of course to a 9 year old this equates to getting a pair of wool slacks 2 sizes too small. However we hung it on my wall and before bed every night I would just look at it and get lost in its awesome majesty. It's a 1930's painting by an artist named Jaro Hess titled, "Adventure in Story Land" and it's a huge painting of all the major fairy tales taking place in one setting.


I got a lot of laughs teasing my brother because he couldn't "find" Waldo.

There were also presents I was very adamant about getting and begged continually for that once I got just plain sucked. One in particular was Toy Biz' 1993   Voice activated robot! It looked Suh-Weet in the commercials. It transformed from a vehicle to a battle ready robot and fired missiles, all at the command of your voice. I remember when we got it my brother and I put it on the floor and told it some commands, the machine didn't recognize the commands most of the time and it only traveled in forward and reverse which made terrorizing our cat exceedingly difficult.


Best enjoyed with New Coke and some Bugles

One of my all time favorite toys I got on Christmas was the Nerf Bow 'N' Arrow. I remember seeing it on Nickelodeon's GUTS  TV show where kids had to grab them off a rack and shoot them at a huge dart board while being suspended by cables. Plus the fact that I had a huge crush on Mo the ref made it alllll the better..


Ahem...excuse me, I got ahead of myself for a minute


Another thing I looked forward to around the Holidays was family. It was always fun as a kid seeing my distant cousins and aunts n' uncles blah blah blah... What I really looked forward to was seeing the more interesting vkimo clansmen. There were only a handful and no one kept in touch with them or really knew just how they were related to anyone else. Two in particular came to mind. Christmas as my great grandmother's house was one of them. You could count on seeing Auntie Hazel who sported the same moo moo dress since the 70s, and little June with her pet rabbit who bit everyone. Then there was a mountain of a man who everyone called "Big John" and this dude was enormous. He must have weighed 400 pounds easy and wore a pair of overalls he must have got second hand from Paul Bunyan. I remember my mom saying he lived in a shack and didn't own a telephone. He just sat there and ate, and ate, and ate. Another interesting relative I encountered at my Uncle's place. He was around 40 and autistic, name was Dallas. We had to drive him home after Christmas dinner every year because he couldn't drive. I remember he was always picking at his teeth and a little fidgety. My dad would always mess (All in good fun...I think) with him on the drive, saying things like, "Hey Dallas, I need to rest come take the wheel" or "Pass me a beer out of the glove box would ya?" It was kind of amusing. The most incredible thing though was that Dallas had an encyclopedic knowledge of 80s music. He could tell you the producer, album year, title and anything you wanted to know. Sadly it's been years since I've seen Dallas or Big John but the memories are always there to make me smile. 


Until I can track down Dallas and Big John, these pics will have to do



I grew up about 30 minutes outside of San Francisco which was great for holiday atmosphere. The large hotels were all decked out, the huge decorated Christmas tree in Union Square, really swallowed a young kid up into the grandeur of Christmas. I felt like Kevin Mcallister in Home Alone 2 when he was wondering around New York City. My favorite place was a magical toy store called FAO Schwarz. It was located right in the heart of downtown, and it was amazing. They had guards who stood outside you could take pictures with, and when you walked inside you were instantly transported to a child paradise. They had animatronic faces singing a catchy tune, and even the elevator was like a ride at Disneyland. Every toy you could imagine was there. Huge structures were on display, and they had employees showing off the latest gizmos, and even performing magic tricks! I highly recommend you watch the video below, it's taken during 1995 and really captures the essence of the place. 

Please install the Flash Plugin




People would kill for this in 93', but now you can get in on eBay for 25 bucks. Bob Dylan was right.

Obviously one of the less...Merry themes to come about from Christmas time is the shopping induced mayhem. I'm out of the loop now (Haven't left the basement in years) but I remember one Holiday season that  Power Rangers were the must have toy. Of course Jason was at the top of the hierarchical plastic pyramid and come November they were a rare commodity. Now this was before the internet and online shopping. As a parent you had to contact a manage at your local toy store and confirm if a shipment was coming. I remember watching on the news as people lined up to get the popular toys, and even heard rumors of people selling them outside for triple the price! Looking back, it was a precursor to the modern madness of Black Friday, except now it's a bunch of adults trampling each other for electronics, not even stuff for toys for their kids!


A Go-Bot? The receipt better be taped on the bottom of the box.

One of the drawbacks to getting gifts....is getting gifts. To this day I really don't enjoy opening up presents in front of people. I feel like I need to act amazed and stunned even if I opened up a box of pajamas. Which I will do, if you buy me a pair of flannel PJs I will act like they were the keys to a Delorean. Distant relatives as I said before get unique gifts but there's just as much stuff you'd rather forget. No kid likes grabbing a present and feeling the paper crease and bend as they pick it up, a sure sign of clothing.



TV programming around the holidays is always a treat. Just like decorations, they seem to be stashed away in the attic til December. As a kid I always enjoyed watching the holiday themed TV shows. Married with Children, Fresh Prince, and Home Improvement were must see events. Movies like Groundhogs Day, A Christmas Story and Planes, Trains and Automobiles always set the proper ambiance. Or popping in a old VHS of the us opening presents from X Mas past was a option.



I think I've rambled on long enough. If you made it this far, I pity your soul, kidding. Christmas is an evolutionary experience. Thanksgiving is always turkey, Halloween is always costumes. But Christmas changes with time. You go from being an impressionable kid tallying off the days to opening your loot to being a dysfunctional teen cringing at the thought of having to wear the sweater your Aunt Helen made you as a gift to finally being a parent and enjoying your own kids going nuts. For me I will always cherish the memory of lying sleepily on the couch, exhausted from the present opening frenzy. Fresh new GI Joes and Nintendo games lying on the floor, the room being stuffy from the fireplace and the smell of pine permeating the house...thanks for reading!







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echidna64 Posted on Dec 30, 2013 at 08:22 PM

Thanks vkimo for this stocking full of treats! Each year you set the new standard for article writing!

SegaFanatic Posted on Dec 19, 2013 at 02:51 AM

Great work with all of the photoshopped images, writing, everything. It's so good.

SegaFanatic Posted on Dec 19, 2013 at 02:48 AM

I already lost the contest. Man, you are amazing at writing articles. Great work.

Ruespieler Posted on Dec 16, 2013 at 06:56 PM

I haven't had the time to write the article I boasted about in that PM. I'm glad I didn't, this would have been tough to beat. "T.U." #6

vkimo Posted on Dec 13, 2013 at 05:27 PM

Glad you guys are enjoying this!

Fulton4V Posted on Dec 13, 2013 at 03:07 PM

I loved FAO Schwartz growing up, it was such an awesome store and I have alot of memories from there. I grew up outside a city and would have my parents take me into the city sometimes to see the lights and stuff. It was fun

Benjanime Posted on Dec 12, 2013 at 02:56 PM

vkimo, why are all of your articles masterpieces?

Vaporman87 Posted on Dec 12, 2013 at 02:52 PM

WOW! This is a really well done article, and it's obvious you spent a great deal of time putting it together. So thank you for that vkimo.

One thing I picked up on right away is that, although our Christmas experiences were so different growing up, the spirit of it and the magic feeling of the season can be felt regardless.

Having grown up and lived my entire life in an ultra small community, I can't relate to the splendor and awe of a place like San Fran during Christmas. Even so, I recognize that feeling from my own memories. It's something that transcends your environment and circumstances.

I laughed at the insertion of Rain Man and the generic fat guy as stand ins for your relatives. LOL. Hilarious.

Thanks for this vkimo. A great read!

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