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Friday, September 25, 2015

Getting Wacky Again

Occasionally, a friend from elementary school would invite me to spend the weekend with him. My parents generally granted such invitations, provided the friend's family went to church on Sunday mornings. While staying with one friend, his family stopped by a store, and he introduced me to a pack of trading cards he collected. They were called Wacky Packages, and the cards sported stickers with fun takes on existing products. I loved the humor and imagery, and soon was using all my spending money to buy packs wherever I found them.

One store that always had them for sale was a little local market near my grandparents' house. So every time I went to visit my grandparents, I visited the store, which I called the Wacky Store, and added more stickers to my collection. I have no idea if I ever assembled a complete collection. That wasn't the point. I merely collected them because they made me smile and laugh. My grandfather was also a collector, and his chief love was collecting stamps. During one summer vacation, I spent several days in his den, working beside him on my collection. While he busied himself with arranging his stamps in books, I ordered all my Wacky cards into neat rows and columns, and then affixed the stickers to a poster board. This I taped to the wall of my room when I returned home, and for many years gained great pleasure in looking up at that poster board, and enjoying the wit and whimsy of the authors and artists who had created my beloved Wacky stickers.

Wash'n Fly
Little Towels Ghosts Use to Wash their Sheets
Approved by Gravediggers
Scares Dirt Away!
Fightens as it Whitens!

After awhile, my stickers began curling off the poster board, and you can only use so much tape to keep stickers on a board before the poster begins to look tacky, and in need of retirement. By then, Wacky Packs had long disappeared from market shelves, and I went on to spending my money on and collecting other things (such as, surprise surprise, books). Little sign of this once great collection of mine exists today, beyond this lone sticker affixed to the cover of my Sonatina Album for the Piano. But stories about how I collected Wacky Packages stuck to my family history, and were repeatedly recalled amongst family members. Unsurprisingly, these stories generated smiles and laughter among those who recounted them, as well as those who listened.

Imagine my surprise when, on a recent trip to the store, I saw a box of these:

Unlike those packs of yore, which probably cost me fifteen cents or a quarter, these new Wacky Packages, produced by Topps, and dated 2015, cost a dollar. As the package stated that it contained four cards, this meant each Wacky Sticker was now a quarter. Given how much we spend on such luxury items as books, DVDs, and comics, and considering the not insignificant sums we spend on travel to such exotic locales as Florida, Hawaii, and England, I pointed these out to my wife, but hesitated to pick up a pack. But my wife, who has long heard such tales recounted by myself and other family members, didn't hesitate. She immediately announced that we must pick up two: one for me, and one for her. 

2 Musketeers
Make Do with Two
33% Less Secure
Includes Pink Slip
Hey, it's a tough economy...

Hair Strand Bugs
No Trans Gnats
Flea Free

Bake Like Ape-Rofessional!
Great Fur Cookies. Fur Cakes. Fur Pies.

Hairy Margarine

Finally, a fast food that's GOOD for you!
onions not included

(Packages straight from John's body, fresh to your plate).

Doubtless many will not appreciate the humor of these new Wacky Packages. But the stories they tell still resonate with me. The 2 Musketeers bar speaks to current issues in the economy. The Pik-Nits and Chimperial remind me of my great love for the Planet of the Apes movies, as well as the original novel by Pierre Boulle. The Long John's Liver seems tailor-made for me, as my mother often served me liver when I was growing up, and my favorite fish restaurant today remains Long John Silver's. 

In addition to awakening a host of pleasant memories about the food and household products from my youth, the Wacky stickers also remind me of the great stories I've read recently. The Pik-Nits reminds me of a scene from False Dawn by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, in which Thea, despite her fear of proximity and being touched, finally allows Evan to cut her hair after it has grown so long, thick, and straggly that she finds it impossible to run a comb through it without breaking off the teeth. And the old sticker, as I look at it (and smile), reminds me of Death Warmed Over, the humorous horror/detective novel by Kevin J. Anderson. I can definitely picture Dan Shambles, the famous zombie private investigator, using a product like Wash'n Fly to clean his clothes and trench coat. (Or perhaps he would use it to wash any linens his girlfriend needs, as she was murdered before the events depicted in the novel, and now works as a ghost-receptionist in his office).

Despite all the fun these new Wacky Packages have given me, I think I'm going to have to be careful about how often I visit that store. After all, it's not like I need to be spending money on yet another hobby. 

Celebrating National Talk Like A Pirate Day
at Long John Silver's

And hey, it's not like I'm all that wacky a guy. Right?

Dragon Dave

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