It all began at K-Mart when I spotted the most interesting action figure I'd ever seen, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle! His name was Raphael, his weapon, the Sai. Raphael's empty rubber head sent him floating down the creek one day, never to be seen again.
Like many other kids, I absorbed every detail of the cartoon series and collected a lot of the toys. No matter what reason brought us to the store, I never came back home empty-handed. There was always something: stickers, cereal, fruit snacks, school supplies...hell, what didn't they make?
My mission in the toy isles was to locate the rare items that you just didn't see very often. For me, it was the April O'Neil figure and Krang's Android Body (the big one).
I had a ridiculous collection, but I never had the Technodrome or the Turtle's Lair because they were too expensive. Instead, I built by own turtle lairs out of cardboard boxes and probably had a lot more fun.
Around the time when the movie was released, my imagination could barely be contained. I had become Casey Jones. Yes, after school I would run around the neighborhood outfitted with sporting goods. My turf included a park, a warehouse, and empty parking lots. I was the only kid on my street and I took off my hockey mask when the Jr. High's school bus went by to avoid embarrassment.
My warped reality developed indoors as well. In my bedroom was a "Ninja Turtle Museum" of items that I used to prove their existence below the streets. A wooden handle became half of Michelangelo's nunchucku, a broomstick was Donatello's Bo, and a jar of green shampoo was now Retromutagen Ooze. Sometimes I would just stand there for awhile and look at them. I desperately needed some friends.
I was obsessed but I had every right to be. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had their own brand of everything and I seemed to notice it in a way that others didn't. Fortunately my family was very supportive. My older sister, a cool 16 year old with her first car, took me to Pizza Hut for a very special occasion. I was to eat pizza, buy the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack cassette, and meet one of the Turtles. While we ate I watched a tall, cloth Michelangelo go from table to table saying Hello. Soon he was standing beside me and said, "Want my autograph dude?" He signed my napkin in neat, cursive handwriting. My sister and I looked at each other trying not to laugh and I suddenly felt part of this delusion fade away.
That night I sat on our front steps with my Walkman, listening to the tape. Staring off into the darkness, I couldn't believe that in the song "Turtle Power" the rapper said Raphael is the leader of the group. Everyone knows that Leonardo leads (and Donatello does machines). This error was just unacceptable.
My fantasy was now dissolving at a steady pace. I met some new kids on my street and developed some much needed social skills. I finally beat Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Arcade Game with the help of my friend in two player mode. For my birthday, he gave me a pretty cool Ninja Turtle comic book.
Around the time I entered 7th grade, I decided to call it quits. My interests were turning to popular music and other things that a healthy preteen should be into. I sold every Ninja Turtle item I owned at my sister's garage sale. I still valued them more than they were actually worth on the used market, but that didn't stop me from selling them anyway. I'm certain that I spent the money on tapes or cd's. I think the first cd I ever bought was House of Pain. That was when cd's came packaged in cardboard boxes!