I'm just going to refer to this literary impromptu as a filler article, or what those in the journalistic field like to call "puff piece". I have no problem with that reference, in fact, that's what the purpose of this series is all about. I intended to just jot some memories down from years long ago just to categorize them for a later date. You know, when I'm old and gray and cannot distinguish the difference between my toothbrush and hairbrush. I'll have RetroJunk to thank in my dying days because of my cataloging of these events.
Just like the first article of the series, I'm just going to recall everything that happened on a specific retro (to me, at least) day. Even though the last day I reviewed was chock-full of retro goodness, my next presentation will completely blow it out of the water. Now pay close attention, this is important....
Really. July 5th, 1997 is the best day of my life. It has left me with so many memories that it accounts as the most thrilling day of my life. This day is full of toys, comics, food, movie (just singular), and fun. I know, that last one is a bit cliche and silly, but it's a perfect representation of how this day progressed. Let's get started, shall we?
If you've glanced at my profile you could deduce that I amâ€”with much prideâ€”from the state of Texas. If you've looked even harder at some of my articles, you could come to the conclusion that I grew up in the Dallas/Fort Worth areaâ€”more predominately on the Dallas side. Like most everyone else, I enjoyed where I grew up and the culture around me. Texas has many things that have grown into customary traditions and occurrences: The Texas State Fair is one and Texas high school football is another. One of the most celebrated events is an outdoor trade market known as First Monday Trade Days in Canton, Texas.
Canton, TX is a small blip on the map that is about halfway between Dallas and Tyler. Every Thursday through Sunday before the first Monday of every month, Canton is home to the world's largest outdoor trade days. The sheer amount of stuff that is sold here is overwhelming. From collectible toys, to hand crafted jewelery, and to your run-of-the-mill antiques; First Monday has a lot to give.
Now, I had never heard of such a thing during the day I intend to recount. I was only 9 years old and had no interest in anything dealing with antiques. My dad loved garage sale shopping and going to flea markets, but I only tagged along because he always promised me something worth my while. Incentives like comics, baseball cards, greasy hamburgers, and trips to the playground were part of his repertoire. I was such a sucker and easy to please. It totally makes sense I was suckered into hunkering down in an hour-long car ride to look at junk.
There were other factors involved, though. My older brother and second oldest sister came down for part of the summer in 1997 from their habitat in Castle Rock, Colorado.
My family would most definitely put the Brady Bunch to shame with how mixed-up the family dynamic is. I have a half brother and and 2 half sisters, but I consider them fulls just because I grew up with them. It's not really unheard of in this day and age. With all of the divorcing that modern couples do just makes the occurrence happenstance.
Anyways, my brother and sister lived with their mother and their step-father up in The Rockies. Every now and then, they'd make the venture down south. It was always a joyous celebration. We'd plan out some fun stuff to do while they were in town. No time was spared doing our family-oriented charades. I hadn't seen my brother in a very long time, so my anticipation was through the roof.
On the day in question, it started in the most usual way for any Saturday in my youth. Saturday morning cartoons were most definitely displayed on the screen of our livingroom TV. Of course, my face was plastered to the glassy surface enveloping as much of the cartoony goodness as possible.
More than likely I was the first one up that morning. My mom probably came in next, with my dad following behind. When everyone was gathered from getting ready in their drowsy states, we set out in my dad's green Plymouth Breeze.
The company of my dad driving, my mom in the passenger seat, and my brother and sister on either side of me in the backseat were all jammed into that tiny car. We were ready to embark.
Our first stop was a local delicatessen known for their greasy breakfast.
Chubby's was a food staple in my family for most of my childhood. It was where the elderly, blue-collar, and family types loved to get their grub on. It was always a mixed bag walking in through those doors, but you knew you were in for a culinary treat once you sat down.
I ordered my customary chocolate milk and started fidgeting with the little jelly packets. I'd love to explain in detail what I ate or what was said at my family's table, but I was in the most stupendous food euphoria at the timeâ€”drunk from the edible goodness plummeting to my small belly.
My dad paid the ticket at the register while my brother and I grabbed some toothpicks. Never used the way they were intended, we just liked to rest them in the corners of our mouths to look cool. It's a habit that transcended to my CapriSun consumptions. After draining the pouch of all its juices, I'd just chew on the straw for countless hours. A person's cool factor only increases ten-fold when a non-nutritional object is chewed... It's science.
Once settled and strapped into our cramped confines in The Breeze, we were off to the hallowed grounds of Canton.
Unlike the Chubby's bliss I had earlier, I do remember much of the car ride. My brother was relentlessly trying to teach me how to flick boogers from my nose with the toothpick still in my mouth. He'd contort the frail splinter with his tongue until it was secure in his schnoz, then proceeded to flick it continuously. It was one of his trademarks which always grossed my sisters and me out, although there was hardly anything being flung out of his nostrils.
I don't know why, but I always think of the guy at the bowling alley hitting on the niece in Uncle Buck when reminiscing about my brother doing this. It's disturbing, but slightly humorous.
After my brother's lesson, we flipped on the radio. There wasn't any of your usual road hymns on this trip; the likes of "99 Bottles" and "Wheels on the Bus" were nowhere near to be heard from our lips. We were listening to a local rock station and belting out Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" and Rage Against the Machine's "Bulls on Parade". It was quite a sight to see my dad tapping on the steering wheel to an anti-establishment song.
As we drove down the highway, we were welcomed by towering east Texas trees on either side of the road. Much like the yellow, red, and lime green Ford Explorer from Jurassic Park, our car made its way through the thicket.
We reached the mecca of all flea markets and the anticipation loomed over me. I had no idea what I would encounter and what kind of goodies I might walk away with. It was almost like Christmas in July.
My brother and sister casually climbed out of the car while I sprang to life in my little 9 year-old body. Of course, I had to sit in between them and wait for one of them to get out. Bursting out into the bright summer day, I was immediately smacked in the face with the smells of turkey legs and funnel cakes. If there were ever an indication of a fun time to be had, those scents were it.
We walked as a group to the entrance of this salvage sanctuary with me swinging from one parent's hand to the other's like a young Tarzan.
Once inside, I noticed thousands of booths, displays, and areas of craftsmanship. Men and women alike were putting on shows to coax your avid shopper to come and take a glimpse of the goods they were selling. It was like watching Billy Mays or Ron Popeil do their magic first-handâ€”you just had to see it. There wasn't just the energetic salesmen, though. The little old ladies were selling their trinkets from under their wide-brimmed straw hats, just sitting in lawn chairs and smiling at the passer-by's.
The showstopper out of everything was the man who carved things out of wood with his trusty chainsaw. He wielded it with much confidence as it snarled and rattled through the coarse wood like butter. Animals like bears, eagles, and wolves were burgeoned from the fabric of the wood. The man was definitely a master of his craft.
We walked around aimlessly looking at anything that caught our eyes as fascinating, though some of us had an idea of what we were searching for. My dad was looking for an antique-looking metal sign to hang up in the garage, preferably one which boasted a 1971 Camaro Z28 (his baby which was sleeping back home under a car cover). My brother was looking for a baseball hat which sported the recently new Milwaukee Brewers "MB" logo. I... Well, I was just looking for anything comic book related, and boy did I find it.
The first things I purchased were a few action figures: The Punisher, Doctor Octopus, and Magneto. I needed a few more figures to play with during my homemade toy adventures that I enjoyed doing so much.
My mom and I walked into this middle-aged man's designated area to see what he had. I instinctively meandered to a table he was selling his toys. It was obvious selling children's play things weren't his specialty. It seemed as though he was just trying to get rid of his son's stuff to make a few extra bucks.
I saw the three aforementioned figures and knew I had to have them. The Punisher action figure came with a gun and a sound box that sounded like it was on its last legs. Doc Ock was just a cheap toy from a McDonald's Happy Meal, and his "bendable" tentacles weren't all that bendable. Magneto garnered no cape, but he had an awesome spark action on his chest.
I palmed the three sculptures and showed my mom. She nodded in a satisfactory manner and paid the man. We probably made it out of that man's booth a few dollars short, but it was worth it.
My mom and I joined up with the rest of our family, who were out looking on their own. The rumblings in my little tummy were too unbearable, so I pleaded my dad for a funnel cake. It was extremely hard to wade through the food enriched air and not feel your gut bursting for just a little taste of the delectables available.
With funnel cake in hand and some plastered around my mouth, I continued to prowl through the numerous stands until I found what I absolutely was searching for.
I stumbled into a toy palace filled to the brim of everything a kid could ask for. From floor to ceiling, the place was packed. I slowly jaunted from one end of the booth to the other. Too many toys to hand pick one worthy of my purchase. Then, as if guided by the headpiece of Ra, I found a toy that left me flabbergasted and pining for its ownership.
Encased in a brand new package lay the superhero Quicksilver, son of Magneto and basically the Marvel Comics equivalent to The Flash. My eyes grew wide in excitement because I had never seen an action figure of one of my favorite heroes, and I sure as hell wasn't going to let this gem slip through my fingers.
He was looking at me with a face that resembled a lost dog, as if he was saying, "Hey, [Cosgrove]. You know you want me... How 'bout you go ask your mom for some money so we can go home and beat that sparkly version of my father you have in your hand to the ground. Bring Punisher along, too. His trigger-finger looks like it's itching to squeeze off a few rounds."
I knew this figure would be a tad more expensive than the last lot I bought since it was a newer piece. I had to play my cards just right if I wanted to win this one out.
I showed my mother, who was my only means of monetary obtainment, the Quicksilver toy. She looked at it in the acquisitive nature that all parents have with modern-day toys. I swear, my dad would look at my Pokemon stuff as if they were from the planet Flaflooga. It never ceases to amaze me the acceptance most parents can give towards their kid's desires.
I put on the performance of a lifetime that day and swooned my mom into buying that useless piece of plastic in today's standards. I stormed out of the booth and headed towards a bench with my mom reminding me not to open the package until we got to the car. Plopped on the hard wood planks, I studied the box meticulously, relishing in the fact that I had the quick tempered speedster in one-tenth of the scale.
Nothing seemed exciting to me after that. We moseyed on through the rest of the grounds that day. I had my ultimate toy, my dad found his metal sign, and my brother had reached the end of his Brewers-hat-quest with cap in-hand.
The sun was reaching closer to the horizon, so we decided to call it a day. Though it was a success on my part, there was still something missing to add to my bag of goodies.
We hit the last stretch of booths near the exit and my mom saw one more place to stop at. My comic book radar went into high gear when I saw two white boxes on top of a table. I bolted to them with the anticipation of adding some comic books to my already comic-related collection.
I thumbed through the rows of books and came across an annual featuring Green Lantern, Hawkman, and The Atom. I didn't have a comic with this triad before and it was fairly old, so I went to my movable ATM machine for some dough.
Texas Tech Sudent Union Building... Wreck 'Em!!!
Alas, I held within my frail hands the indubitably coveted book that rounded out my stash oh-so-sweetly. From the poseable to the readable, I had a decent haul to look forward to playing with at home.
We jumped into our car and hit the dusty trail back to our little corner of the world with the sounds of "How Bizarre" by OMC on the radio.
We got home while there was still a little sun left. I bolted to my room with a bag full of all my goodies from Canton. I took everything out and laid each on the floor, admiring the bountiful novelties.
I played with the action figures for awhile. I introduced Magneto to Quicksilver, then quickly twirled the speedy fellow around Magneto as if he were running circles around him at break-neck speeds. I proudly perched Punisher on top of my bed, with gun in hand, to snipe Doc Ock from below. I had my armory expert for future toy "adventures"; the badass with a deadly shot.
I was just an inch away from grabbing the rest of my action figures from under my bed, when my brother came in and told me we were going to dinner. I asked him where to, and he happily said "El Chico".
In my strongest opinion, every family has that restaurant that is THEIR place. The Matthews' (Boy Meets World) had Chubbie's, the Cunningham's (Happy Days) had Arnold's Drive-In, and the Bobby's (Talladega Nights) had Applebee's. There's a non-stop list of examples that prove this point.
In relation, my family had El Chico. To understand the implications of garnering such a restaurant as your own, you have to understand the importance of the Tex-Mex cuisine in the southwest. Said food is such a staple down here, and it's slowly making its way northern to other parts of the country, that it is often craved and eaten in ravenous portions. Once you've grown up with the stuff, you have to have your fixes as often as possible until you die.
Case in point, my brother. Since his move to Colorado, he hadn't found a good enough place to eat Tex-Mex and fill that empty void. Whenever he and my sister came down, we would have to service their appetite with a meal at any Tex-Mex establishment preferably El Chico.
Anyways, this restaurant has been around the Dallas area since the '50's, but we didn't start going there until I was around 7 years old. I remember my first visit. It was just my dad, mom, and me and I remember eating red Jello which came as a desert with the kid's enchilada meal. I was a little weird kid; I put my mom's leftover black olives from her nachos into the gelatinous blob. That became a tradition of mine until I became too old for the "little kid's food".
Well, they moved locations a few years later to a bigger and newer building, so that's where we were going to get our grub on after the long day sifting through junk we didn't need.
I had conjured a new tradition at this new location. I'd go stark-raving mad and run around El Chico's sidewalk in front of the restaurant. With no inkling to why or for any ambitious limelight, I just started doing it one night and decided to continue it. The meandering sidewalk which went around bushes and overlapped itself always beckoned me to partake in this activity. It always vexed my siblings when I did this, but would just get mere laughs from my parents as they went on without me into the restaurant to put us on the waiting list for a table.
Out-of-breath and sprinkled with a little sweat, I busted through the door and found my family. We were seated soon after by the hostess and handed our menus.
I cordially pushed mine aside and looked at my brother, who was too busy to notice while he fitted his new Brewers cap. We both got the same thing every time we ate there: chicken fajita chimichanga with queso on the side. Those words are forever ingrained in my mind because I said it so many times back then. That dish was definitely my preferred choice when it came to Tex-Mex.
Everyone ordered their food and started scarfing once it was placed in front of their faces. I could not help myself in stuffing my face since the last thing I ate was that sugary funnel-cake hours ago.
Everyone's eating extravaganza was coming to a halt and the ticket was to arrive soon. My mom suggested we walk over to the movie theater next door and catch a flick. I got extremely excited and shouted out the first movie that came to mind the newly released Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones blockbuster, Men in Black.
I had been waiting to see the movie for quite a while. I saw the articles in Wizard magazine about it and how it started out as a comic book. With that ever chugging comic-oriented mind, I just had to immerse myself in the movie's world as much as possible.
The general consensus within my family was in agreement. So we headed out of the restaurant after paying the check, grabbing a couple of toothpicks, of course.
In the still summer darkness, we walked the illuminated path that connected El Chico to the Loews Theater.
Once inside, we bought our ticket and snacks (which were proportionally small since we just ate). I got my usual: a white cherry Icee. I mulled over the option of getting my favorite movie snack at the time, Milk Duds, but decided to reluctantly pass.
My family and I found ourselves inside the theater looking for a seat. It was rather full since the movie had only been out for 4 days opened Wednesday July 2nd but eventually found a group of 5 seats.
After the trailers, the movie started and went through its iconic dragonfly opening.
Throughout the whole movie, I was on the edge of my seat. Though it was comic-related and featured the likable Will Smith, I was scared at some parts or at least nervous. I was still at that tender age when monsters were scary, I still believed in Santa, and thought Pamela Anderson was all natural. Things out of the ordinary frightened me because, to me, they existed.
Despite my blanched face from all of the scary aliens, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. I ran out of the theater mimicking the actions of J and K, like shooting the Noisy Cricket at movie-goers from afar or flashy-thingying my sister with my imaginary neuralizer. More than likely I was annoying the crap out of everyone.
On the way home in the car, I thought about the moment at hand; how that day was absolutely amazing and would be one I'd never forget. Even at that age, I knew the importance that day would have on me. I knew it was a day for the ages.
We got home and I was feeling the effects of the quiet and motionless ride home. I had all these new things to play with and look at waiting in my room, but all I could think about was my warm and comfy bed.
I said goodnight to my family, who were probably watching Saturday Night Live per usual, and thanked my parents for everything I got; I made sure to praise my good graces!
I went to bed and fell into a somnolent slumber, away from the fabulousness that happened in the span of that day. Little did I know, I was traveling away from my favorite day of my life to date.
I'm extremely jealous of my old-self, now. If I could, I would travel back in time to shake myself from that sleep and exclaim, "Stay here!!! Stay as long as you can!"
Unfortunately, all I have is this retelling and that is enough for me. It can't be reiterated enough at how much I loved that day, so I wanna hear what was the best or at least the best childhood day of your life? It has been oodles of fun doing this and I hope you have enjoyed it as much as I have.