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The Essential Geek #29: Toys

The Essential Geek #29: Toys

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There's two kinds of geeks.

There's the geeks who open their toys, and the geeks who don't.

"Open your toys?!" Geek A will say. "But...but...then it is...it is no longer a collectible!"

"Piss off," Geek B will retort, whilst giving Geek A a cosmic wedgie.

It is sad, but it is true: The popular image of the Opener is far cooler than that of the Carder. The Opener is carefree, bold, looking for fun in every opportunity. He sees a carded action figure, pristine in its mint packaging, and BAMF! He teleports to God knows where!

Actually, it's more like, BAM! He tears it open! The figure is out! He's got the accessories in play and he's posing like a maniac! Perhaps his apartment or home is decked out with posed and displayed open figures, the geek equivalent of the panties on the radiator that you just can't place.

Whereas the Carder has all his MOC figs in boxes in his basement...just like a serial killer stores his victims.

For the longest time, I was an Opener. I never kept toys sealed in the packaging. They were to be played with, and once I grew out of playing (just a few months ago), they were to be displayed proudly, on a desk or mantle or shelf.
Then, I became a collector. I am a Carder.
How did this transformation happen? Sadly, I cannot say. I wish I could offer up my case as some kind of pioneering study on the evolution of the devil-may-care, swashbuckling geek into the anal-retentive, card-fondling geek. But I simply have no idea what went down. All I know for sure is that I walked into a Toys R Us in Orland Park, IL at midnight on April 23, 2002 as a "Star Wars" fan, and I walked out a rabid, obsessive, let's-run-out-to-K-Mart-at-midnight-for-toys "Star Wars" collector.

What can I say? Call me tiny of mind, call me foolish of heart, call me empty of pocketbook. But just being around toys is...intoxicating. And just like creepmeister Anakin Skywalker, I have thought about toys every day for the past ten years, or maybe fifteen.

Can you remember that far back? Can you see the piles of wrapped Christmas presents under the tree, just waiting to be ripped open? I see them now, and the birthday presents, and the random trips to Toys R Us and Child World that I probably didn't deserve. And in each present, and with each trip, I see a toy, and most of those toys were "Star Wars" action figures.

It was like taking home a piece of the movie. It was landmark for marketing and toys and all that serious analytical cultural mumbo-jumbo, but it was a landmark for kids too. It's still hard to imagine the impact of that kick the first time, yet there's no denying a kick was there. Everyone from Luke Skywalker to Hammerhead could be hanging out in your living room. And at a couple bucks a pop, it was easy to persuade Mom or Dad into constantly adding a new character to your collection.

Sure, they didn't always line up in perfect Rebellion vs. Empire combinations. In fact, as I grew older and characters like He-Man and Captain America (ah, those bad-ass Secret Wars figures...*drool*) entered the fray, a rogue like Han Solo might actually find himself part of an intergalactic team of heroic crimefighters, desperately battling against an ultrapowerful consort of the universe's toughest villains. The bad guys would raid the fortress of the good guys, usually a space statoin for some ungodly reason, and an all-out battle for the future of existence would bust up, with characters pairing off in brutal combat accompanied by choice gems of dialogue from my already overactive imagination. (I can't remember any of those gems now, and trust me, that's a blessing.)

Of course, that was better for lil' ol' me, because instead of restricting my mind to the admittedly fertile universe of "Star Wars," my imagination exploded. And action figures may not get me off in that way anymore (there are no more living room wars to fight), but the imagination journeys onward.

So I guess my precious unopened "Star Wars" toys are no surprise, even if it means I must shut down the geek bachelor pad in my mind and settle in for a long, tough marriage to my collection. I sold many of my items this past summer as part of a cross-country move, but the collection endures, tiny and precious and growing. Though I can't afford to buy like I used to, I never leave a store before checking the toy aisle.

Like so much about my attraction to all things geekly, it boils down to an intense, almost tactile nostalgia. Every time I hit the check-out aisle at Target, I'm not 28-year-old Matt Springer, maxing out his credit card just to make sure he doesn't miss his chance at picking up Orn Free Taa or Bespin Vader. I'm an eight-year-old kid in my jammies on Christmas, cradling a tiny piece of a dream in my stubby little hands.

(And the panties are still on the radiator, thanks for asking.)

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