Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Nostalgia Files: Dinosaurs

I've written often about my nostalgic streak, especially for games, toys, books, sports and music from my youth. Some of this is stuff I never actually owned as a kid -- music for example -- but much of it is things I once owned and discarded, not thinking I would miss these things or that they were obsolete. And as an adult, I've tried to recapture the tangible and intangible nostalgia that lives on the edge of my memories.

For example, as I type this, I'm editing out commercials of a classic "American Top 40" (which are rerun in syndication) that I recorded off an radio Internet stream. I have collected at least 20 of these since I figured out how to record them off my computer and my smartphone.

The AT40s notwithstanding, I've mostly exhausted the music quest. Sure, I do occasionally hear old songs that I forgot existed, but over the past 20 years, between record store searches (especially in the compilation section in Circuit City years ago), Napster, iTunes and eMusic, I've managed to get almost every song I want in my collection.

I approaching my threshold on board games as well. In the past few years, I've found Bonkers, Gambler, Trust Me, the original Pay Day, a really old version of Life, Score Four, Word Yahtzee, Careers and, most recently, Ruffhouse. Just yesterday, I found Stay Alive at a resale store (minus the marbles, but I can buy some easily enough).

Still, there is plenty of stuff I hope to find again (including board games -- anyone remember Star Wars: Escape from the Death Star?). Most of it I know I want. Some of it I don't need right away, so if I see it on eBay but it's expensive, I wait (thankfully, this is how I stumbled into Ruffhouse). But then, there are other things that surprise me and jump into my recollection when I least expect it.

I co-oped at the boys' school today, and I went into another classroom with Michael to help with Math. His teacher for Math has many old books and games (possibly her own kids' stuff from years ago?). There on the book rack was a dinosaur book I bet I haven't seen in more than three decades.

 "Album of Dinosaurs" was a book I took out from the Oriole Park Library in 1978 or 1979. I remember it because it was a bigger hardcover book (unlike the softcover dinosaur book I knew inside-out -- more on that in a little while) that featured a color picture every few pages introducing the dinosaur being featured. The book also featured plenty of black and white illustrations, some of which I remembered all these years later (including one of a T-Rex vanquishing an ankylosaurus by flipping it over -- I know now the ankylosaur pictured was way too small in comparison to the carnivore).

I think my grade school's library might have carried this book as well, because I'm sure I had this book more than once. See, I was a big dinosaur enthusiast before dinosaurs were generally universally cool. This book fed that interest. My other memory of the book was taking it with me when my family went to Columbia National Bank, in the Harlem-Foster Mall, I think while my parents were finalizing a loan to build an addition on my house. Thank God I brought the book -- I can remember we were at the bank for a little while and I would have been so bored.

Naturally, I was stunned to see this book today in a classroom. I started browsing it before realizing I probably should help with class. I enthusiastically told the teacher I loved this book as a kid, then I took a picture. What else was I going to do: Ask her if I could take a children's book? Now that I remember the book, and have proof of title and author, I can find it again, whether on eBay or Amazon.

I mentioned before how much I loved dinosaurs before dinosaurs became so popular. The book pictured to the right is what got me so gung-ho on the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous period. My mom let me order it from the Scholastic book forms (maybe Firefly?) at school when I was in second grade. I read this book so much that even today, I might be able to tell you what dinosaurs are within and what their illustrations looked like (that's a Ceratosaurus on the cover). But I didn't save it when I was younger, and though I took a lot of books with me when my mom was cleaning out the old house about 15 years ago (including the Reader's Digest Almanacs my grandfather gave me), this one was either not there or I didn't think to take it with.

And I could never find "Dinosaurs and More Dinosaurs" online because I didn't remember the specific title and author. However, after seeing the other dinosaur book today, I gave it another shot. Amazon now offers an advanced search that narrowed my parameters leading me to the book. Rather easily, the new search led me to this book. I plugged in the title on eBay and not only found the book, but also found the mid-'70s edition I likely owned (the book was from the 1960s originally). There was a Buy It Now option, the book and shipping weren't expensive ($5.60 total) and quite suddenly, I owned "Dinosaurs and More Dinosaurs" for the second time.

I should add, I owned the book for the second time, 35 years after the first time. Today, nostalgia was smiling.


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