A wise old friend of mine has a theory that whatever happened to you when you were eleven or twelve years old sticks with you forever. Everything that brought you joy at that wide-eyed age, be it a camping trip or a pair of pants, is guaranteed to provide you pangs of nostalgia for the rest of your life. Think about it for a second and you'll agree it's absolutely true.
I was eleven in 1977. Which explains, for better or worse, why I sigh and melt into mush whenever I think of the Waltons, James at 15, or Shields & Yarnell. I drew Jawas on my homework while the transistor radio demanded that I shake, shake, shake - shake my booty. The relentless grasp these fragments of pop-culture have on my heart strings remains more powerful than even Lindsay Wagner's bionic hearing.
One other thing that happened during that most impressionable year: Walt Disney Productions released an animated film called The Rescuers. I was completely and totally obsessed with it. Just ask my beaten-down parents who lovingly endured trips to Pizza Hut seven weeks in a row for a Pepsi in a "take home" Rescuers glass. (I still have the whole set, and I swear on my life Pepsi tastes better when consumed from one.)
My favorite character was Evinrude, the turtle-neck-sweatered dragonfly who pushes a leaf boat through the swampy waterways and, like me, was prone to asthma attacks. (It actually took years before I caught on to the joke of his name.) For my birthday that year, my mom made a chocolate cake in the shape of a tree stump with a tiny Evinrude perched on top. She pressed foil wings into a blob of green frosting, and I made his paper face.
Years have flown by, and I can still summon up alarming enthusiasm for Jawas and The Man From Atlantis - and Evinrude.
For instance, yesterday I celebrated another birthday (do the math and you'll find I'm now eleven several times over). My birthday cake, courtesy of Jody and The Alcove Cafe and Bakery in Silverlake, had a faintly familiar thing going on...and I instantly fell into that dreamlike state...