STORAGE LOCKER DAYS, Pt. 1

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I got to talking on this week's podcast a lot about "Jurassic Park" -- not the movie, specifically, but all those memories about what it was like to take in the science of DNA, bio-engineering and paleontology through massive bursts of pop culture in the 1990's.

"Jurassic Park" wasn't just a movie for me, it was a lifestyle. I carried Michael Crichton's book around with me like a bible for nearly two years, from just after the movie came out when I was eleven (my parents wouldn't take me to see it, so it was the closest I could come) to about the middle of the seventh grade, long after I had rented it on the first night it came to Movie Gallery. My obsession with blending real, cutting edge science with page-turning fiction led me to write my first and only novel when I was 14 on my Tandy desktop.

The plot of "Moonglow" doesn't really matter for the purposes of this blog, although if you want to know more about it, just splice together the DNA scenes from "Jurassic Park", the book "Relic", and the OJ Simpson trial and there you go. What DOES matter is the search I undertook Sunday afternoon for this long-lost junior high masterpiece of mine. My parents had invited me over to their house to watch the Super Bowl, but instead of doing that -- while they were perched in their cozy quarters in front of a roaring February fire -- I sat hunched over in a cold, damp storage locker, rifling through years of my crumpled papers.

I feel sorry for the poor guy on "Storage Wars" who puts a bid on this locker one day after I die or skip town -- unless by that time, there's a big market for little league baseball trophies, T-Rex toys with no arms, and violent pencil sketches of stick figures running amok. I never did find "Moonglow", but what I did find was some amazing time travel. It's hard to believe that all these thoughts below once passed through my head and into my hand.

EXHIBIT A -- "Jarasic PLAYGROUND" (circa 1993)

I had to rush so quickly to satiate my dino sci-fi obsessions that I didn't have time to check the spelling of "Jurassic" in the dictionary, or at least on my VHS tape of the movie that inspired me.

It was clear that the idea of a "Jurassic Playground" was my attempt to bring the story to my backyard. Little did I know that the "Lost World" a couple years later would do this very thing, and validate my feelings that people would relate to it. I'm not really sure what that guy on the far right is doing sky-diving into the scene. Pretty dumb plan he has.

EXHIBIT B -- "SAM AND HAM" (1994)

I found A LOT of writing -- so much so that I'm totally being shown up as an adult in terms of quantity and seeing projects through to the end. I guess I was more confident back then with my ideas, or maybe just not very self aware. 

"Sam and Ham" is an animal novel about a dog and cat who are best friends and must make a somewhat, er, "Incredible" journey through America to meet up with their family. I know, slightly derivative, but it did make me the only kid at the Young Author's Conference that year with a novella -- AND I had a scene where Sam and Ham went parasailing. So, there's that.

EXHIBIT C -- "THICK AND KIRBY" (1994-1997)

I dabbled a little bit in early web comics, without the web. 

A lot like taking a cue from Michael Crichton and writing my own sci-fi novel, I became inspired by my obsession with Bill Watterson and wrote "Thick and Kirby", which was about the misadventures of two stick figures (they're sticks under their clothes!) who live in a snowy mountain town. "Thick and Kirby" was an intermittent staple of my life throughout middle school. I went through long periods where I drew a new comic every night after I read "Calvin and Hobbes" in the newspaper. I'm pretty sure I quit because I became discouraged at my drawing talent. Had I only known at that time about "American Splendor", I probably would've kept at writing the stories, and just focused on befriending an artist who could draw them.

I'm I'm 

I'm pretty sure I traced this.

exhibit d -- "Access" (circa 1996)

Ah, yes, who could ever forget the Rob Oxny-directed masterpiece, "Access"?

I don't think I ever wrote the story for "Access", but it's clear that this was me following the techno-paranoia trend of the mid-90's, as seen in movies like "Hackers" and "The Net". The tagline is cut off here, but it reads: 

"All that stood between 
him and a deadly 
high-tech conspiracy
was a password. 
 
He found it."

Whatever happened to David Liddy and Katie Fliming, by the way?

exhibit e -- richard's client (1996)

Following that, here's another poster for a story I never wrote, "Richard's Client".

Following my sci-fi and funnies obsession, I went through the complete John Grisham collection. Books like "The Firm", "The Pelican Brief" and "The Client" convinced me I had what it took to create a stirring courtroom drama. 

exhibit f -- parodies

I don't want you to think that I was ALWAYS button-down serious with my ideas. Below are some of my parody ideas, demonstrating how amazing it is I didn't turn out a real-life Michael Scott.

Yes, that is a hunchback quarterback playing for the Notre Dame football team. Also, not sure why I had to change "hand" to the "'Sand' that Rocks the Dradel". Geez, this is embarrassing.

exhibit g -- "The Munsters Movie"

I watched "The Munsters" on Nick-at-Nite every night during the summer of 1995, and I guess I made a movie about it -- probably taking a cue from "The Brady Bunch Movie."

Keeping with the title of this week's episode, it's hard to believe that that same kid who did all this was me -- and that it all happened just thirty minutes from where I live today. It seems so long ago, and in another world.

There's a kind-of movement that's been made out of rifling through all your old cringe-inducing nostalgia called "Mortified", where folks get together at craft breweries and read their old diary entries and show off their ill-informed artwork from when they were younger. I wouldn't say anything I found in this storage locker today mortified me. It pleased me to see that I clearly had an overactive mind that skewed in so many directions, and I was constantly rushing to transcribe all these thoughts so as not to lose them. It's definitely not like that any more, when original thoughts linger in my brain and often die before they can be manifested. Even writing this blog took a near act-of-congress for me to get off my lazy Sunday afternoon ass.

While I'm disappointed I didn't find what I came for, I was reminded how important it is to preserve your creative output. I can't tell you how many of the above exhibits I had completely forgotten about in the intervening 20 years. It really was a kind of time travel, bringing me close to my younger self in a way I never can by looking at old yearbooks or watching old VHS tapes I used to love.

I'll continue to look for "Moonglow", so I'm sure more installments of this blog will follow. In the meantime, feel free to send along your own storage locker horrors in the comments section below, or e-mail to mike@midnightcitizen.com.