1. Water Parks
If naiveté could be summed up in one description it would be the ability to enjoy water parks. I remember the last time I visited one; it wasn’t the same and that’s why I never went back. You see, it takes a severe ignorance of hygiene, human decency, and the precise color of human snot to be able to frequent a water park and enjoy it to your fullest potential. For instance—wave pools. They used to be my jam. I’d pick up the first tube in sight—never mind that a 400 lb. lumberjack had just released the tube from the tight and warm grip of his armpit. I’d run into the water joyously and actually seek out those warm spots/patches. I felt lucky if I happened to rub feet with a jagged-toothed, inbred-looking boy. I was young, naive, and hopelessly slow. That all changed the day I stepped into a wave pool and swallowed someone else’s scab. I may have been only 12 years old, but I knew a scab when I saw one. I lost a piece of myself that day and though I did gain a piece of dead skin from a stranger, I was still never the same. From there on out, the wave pool looked a little more yellow, the bare feet stomping around the park looked a little more athletes foot-y, and those cute, jagged-toothed boys looked a tad more rapier.
2. Jeremy’s Place
Everyone had one of these growing up—a party space where almost all of the kids would have their 4- and 5-year-old birthday parties, with the same clowny hosts and mundane activities. For kids who grew up in NYC, that place was Jeremy’s Place, and it was the shit. I hardly remember the particulars of the place, but I know there were definitely multiple disco balls, a black light, and a toy hula dancer that carried the fate of the night in her swaying hips. And yet, to look back on Jeremy’s Place feels like going to a rave, abruptly turning off the music and then switching on the lights. What used to be bathed in magic and fantasy now looks really bleak. Looking back, there were no windows in Jeremy’s Place to—I don’t know—escape should we be kidnapped. There were no parents either, and it was in the basement room of a Lower East Side decrepit-looking building. And, oh yeah, WHO THE FUCK IS JEREMY? He’s so obviously a delinquent, that nobody questioned him—kind of like the sign language interpreter at Mandela’s funeral. I shudder when I think back to the times I’d wait 20 minutes in line just to sit on Jeremy’s lap.
3. The Dentist
I think it’d be supremely helpful and it might even prevent eternal, detrimental damage to our psyches, if, as kids, we were warned that our dentist is an anomaly and nothing like the one we will be seeing when we graduate to the big kid’s dentist. I mean it is the truth, so a little heads up would’ve been nice. At the dentist I went to as a kid, we each got our own personal TV, we got to choose between Novocain flavors such as chocolate and cotton candy, and I never once felt anything. So why is it that now I can not only feel the 5-inch-long needle that my callous dentist stabs into my gum, but I can also feel every bit of the drilling too? Was it that you were using stronger drugs on me as a kid? I tend to think not. Which leave us with only one other possibility: all adult dentists are evil.
4. Your Parent’s Bed
When you were a child, your parents had a better bed than you. It tended to be larger, more jump-able, and exceedingly more conducive to bringing in trays of bacon. It was a world unto itself that I’d crawl into any chance I got. I’d actually revel in it, wallow in it, and fully bask in it when I wasn’t feeling well. Now, I’d really do a whole lot of life-threatening things before jumping into my parent’s bed again. For, with age, we soon discover that our parents are also human, full of human urges and foul human odors. Reality creeps in, their bedroom starts to kind of smell, and you want nothing to do with any piece of furniture that comes into contact with your dad’s boxer briefs.
5. FAO Schwarz
There is absolutely nothing about FAO Schwarz that isn’t creepy. I can’t even think of it without the image of Cheri O’Teri as a creepy nanny on Curb Your Enthusiasm sneaking into my head.
It used to be fun in a Home Alone 2: Lost In New York kind-of-way. But, seeing as I’m no longer 9, the prospect of a toddler getting lost in New York no longer makes me giddy. Instead, I get really anxious. And then there’s the whole pedophilia thing, which I frankly didn’t even know about during my heyday with FAO. What I used to see as a toy mecca, access to endless fun, I now see as a superb child trap for pedophiles—and nothing else! Pessimistic outlook? Maybe so, but then I ask you: why should I blindly trust a 3-story-tall singing clock? My point exactly.
6. El Paso Taco Mix
I have a hunch there is some MSG, addictive-like substance in El Paso mix because my addiction to it as a child was out of control. I even started making the ground beef and preparing the entire taco meals for my family by the time I was 8. There was just something about watching the orange powder sprinkle onto sizzling ground beef, turning it a deep mahogany, artificial color, and filling the house with El Paso fumes that I found titillating. If you were watching me from afar, you could easily mistake me for a hoodlum cooking up crack. Somehow I managed to extricate myself from this addiction and it’s a good thing I did because, as a human who has hit puberty, I am now physically incapable of eating El Paso without subsequently peeing out of my butt.
Perhaps it’s just me, but there was something about living in a capacious west village apartment—with a massive balcony no less—on the earnings of a barista or a guitar-playing street performer that I found believable as a child. And it’s the same thing that makes me loathe Friends with all of my heart now. Delusions of grandeur is what this inspires in its viewers and, call me crazy, but I like it just fine over here in reality. Also, watch the show now and you’ll probably notice its odd aversion to being unoffensive or prejudiced. For instance, the mere word “lesbian” usually elicits a boisterous laugh from their audience and a far-fetched assumption (usually on Joey’s part), that all lesbians are looking to have a threesome.
8. The Overly Festive Halloween House
There’s just something about an old couple who, without the help of children, adorn their backyard in graves and zombies and their front yard in decapitated heads and booby traps that screams CULT. Which, as we all know, is just a shorter way of saying kidnapper and murderer.
Such behavior prompts questions like: why is your devotion to Halloween so strong? What are your jobs, and where are your children?
9. Jekyll and Hyde Restaurant
There exists a restaurant, in the depths of NYC’s midtown, called Jekyll and Hyde. As a child, I wanted nothing more than to eat dinner ever night there; I had my birthday party there 8 years in a row and as a result my parents worried whether id ever develop “class.” It’s disturbing to think that all my of childhood dreams could be found in Times Square, but you live and you learn.
10. Madame Tussauds Wax Museum
Some gawk at the MET and MOMA. I say to hell with them! The Wax Museum is all one could ever want out of a museum, not to mention the entire canon of American art. I have an entire album filled with solo photos of me with each and every one of Madame Tussauds wax figures. Flying with Clark Kent, cheesing with Oprah, contemplating with the Dalai Lama, rocking out with the Beatles.
By now, this should come as no surprise to you all—after all, Madame Tussauds Wax Museum also resides in Times Square. I think I really overdid it with this one though, because now I cant even look at Bruce Jenner’s waxy forehead without feeling like I’m suffering from PTSD.
Why on earth Lunchables were synonymous with being cool I’ll never know. I DO, however, understand why these kids always had lenient parents—serving your child Lunchables as a meal is just a roundabout way of trying to kill them, and so leaving them alone at home for a couple hours is obviously the least of your worries. Even more baffling was how skewed the cool point system was. If you played with your Lunchables food—cut out the holes in a slice of ham for your eyes and nose, say, and then put it on your face—you were granted extra cool points. I say we bring this point system back. I saw we revive it and incorporate it into our young adult lives.
If I see my child playing tetherball I will try really hard to remember that I did this too and, despite all the evidence pointing to the contrary, this is not incontrovertible evidence of a slowly developing brain. I will scold them, you can bet on that. I will scold them till kingdom come over how empty their minds must be that they can play this game for hours on end, but that’s about as far as I’ll go.
13. Bar And Bat Mitzvahs
I do still remember the first bar/bat mitzvah I attended: it was my older cousin Pam’s, and ever since I saw her being carried out onto the dance floor by two burly, greased-up, hired dancers, I was hooked. Give me a Maraca and a glow stick and I could lead an entire party in the electric slide. Give me a Rod Stewart song and a 3-minute-long montage and I’d be in tears faster than you could say “mazel tov.” Give me a karaoke booth, a magician, and one of those photo booths where your head gets superimposed into the Clueless poster, and I will be—you get it. Now I’m lucky if I can stay awake throughout the entire candle lighting ceremony.
And speaking of bar and bar mitzvahs, give me an updo and I will breathe life into the hora. I don’t know what it was with updos but they had this kryptonite-like effect on me. And it’s odd because now I have a strong urge to fart on every updo I see.