Christmas 1975

L-R: Tommy, Dad, Bobby, Me (just barely visible to the right)

The loud, fussy stripes of post-QEFTSG pr’t-‘-porter men’s fashion didn’t come out of a vacuum, you know.

In spite of Lucas Samaras, I fucking hate instant cameras. Every ’70’s image our family took with them looks dismal, especially compared to the still-vibrant shots taken by less faddish cameras. Thanks to those big honking flashes the subjects are overlit and everything else is dark and shadowy, so everyone ends up looking like astronauts floating in an infinite void of black space. And the colors are almost universally pallid (doesn’t matter whether that’s from age or the shittiness of the original film, it’s still reason to hate) so once again I had to fiddle with the colors of the original to show that we opening presents in the afternoon of an overcast day rather than the middle of the night. The end-result is probably now a little over-saturated when it comes to the reds and you all sorts of scratches and damage to the photo, plus, I admit, the futz on a dirty scanner glass. The big empty space on the corner is courtesy of a very hungry family parrot, Pablo.

Speaking of cameras, that’s what Tommy has in his hand as he gurns in mock-aggression for my mom. (He always looks natural and unflustered in ’70’s photos, whereas I tend to cower in front of cameras as I think they make me unrecognizably unMichael-like.) A Ready Ranger Tele-photo Camera Gun it was called, and since he’s aiming straight for my mom, you can’t tell from the photo that it was rather long and looked something like a bazooka. This info comes from eBay ’cause I don’t actually remember it. What I do remember is Bobby’s gift, the box for which you can just barely see between him and my Dad — something called Electric Skittle Bingo. I was confused by what you were supposed to do with it then, and remain confused by it now, but as with Tommy’s gift I was mightily impressed by it the hugeness of the thing (plus Maxwell Smart was on the box) and yet another, even bigger Bobby gift that came in a box seemingly as big as me without any color photography on it. It’s hazy to me just what it was, other than it was sports-related and “not the right one” and thus destined to returned to the store. I almost never did that as a kid. If a gift was wrong I felt obliged to keep so as not to hurt the toy’s feelings. There was one Christmas toy, maybe a Micronauts thing, that once I unwrapped it I started bawling uncontrollably because it was so utterly wrong for me, something too weird or boyish or violent, can’t remember. To my surprise I end up loving it the hell out of it. The one time I insisted on getting a gift returned was when I got a plastic typewriter for Christmas. I don’t know what the nature of my rejection was (maybe it wasn’t frivolous enough) but soon after I felt such HORRIBLE CRUSHING guilt over rejecting the poor defenseless gift that six months later I insisted on getting same thing again, maybe for my birthday. I never used the damned thing anyway as I end up preferring my mom’s bigger (and beautiful) manual typewriter.

I like my toys (particularly the Playskool Village) but as Tommy and Bobby are getting the big gifts I am acutely feeling my smallness this day. It’s like when Tommy and Bobby have their birthdays back in October, and since I’m four-and-a-half I can’t go on any of the cool rides at Adventureland plus I sense I’m being something of a drag, somebody you monitor and humor rather than engage. On the other hand, there is the bizarre moment that day in the den, where in reaction to a gift, I affect adulthood by saying something in a funny-gruff way — in imitation of those commercials where for comic effect kids lip-synch to deep, obviously adult voices — and feel really weird and shameful afterwards.

A moment of remembrance for our den. Until I got my own color TV as a present for my sixth grade graduation, the den was where the action was. If you could call it that. I spent much of my childhood in the den, with the TV on, not actually watching it so much as doing things in front of it and soaking whatever was on with varying degrees of attentiveness. My grandmother disturbing dust motes in the midday light as The Lucy Show played; crayons, blocks, Lego, construction paper and the late afternoon cartoon shift; drinking a whole six-pack of 7-UPs with Space Giants on WTCG; a passerby kissing David Bowie in “DJ”; Foul Play and then Animal House in a male-bonding moment with my oldest brother and his friends; Canadian shows about the metric system and modern media while being sick for weeks on end; playing the Atari a couple years after its peak; MTV and bad movies, alone, deep into many Friday nights. OK, yes, I was watching the TV a lot.