When the Dinosaurs Roamed the Earth This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

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The only toy that completely survived my childhood is a dinosaur.
He has no name, not much of a story, and was clearly made in some Chinese workhouse.

The thing is, most of my toys (which upon turning 10, I held no sentimental value in) ended up being donated or thrown out, but the only creative ending was toward the end of eighth grade when we dragged some of them behind a school bus. The dinosaur is all I have left, spared from these fates because it was wedged underneath and behind a stack of old, tacky, elementary school yearbooks that I was rooting around in trying to find something meaningful.

There was a time when the dinosaur and his fallen comrades in prehistory were joined with many others: Batman, robots, John Cena (yes, I had a John Cena action figure,) Darth Vader, G.I. Joe…the list could go on. They used to have countless adventures running around cities of boxes and books, chasing each other around in Hot Wheels and Hess trucks. Now, I realize what a toll it took on the playroom carpet, as it has more than a fair amount of stains and torn-up patches.

I remember attaching grocery bag parachutes to everyone’s arms and having them float down from my bedroom window to the patio 3 stories below, rushing down 2 flights of stairs to watch them land safely. One time I dropped something without looking and it landed, quite hard, on the detached hardtop of my dad’s Porsche. He was furious, although probably not as furious as the day he gave up the lease.

Sports car-sour grapes aside, all the fun eventually dissolved. Other than the Napoleon Dynamite inspired bus trawling, the only specific ending I can remember was when John Cena snapped in half during some complex episode. I gave both halves a proper burial in the backyard and I have often thought of digging them up, but what stops me is the fact I can’t remember where they got buried. At the time, I was actually sad. These days it seems weird that a whole bunch of inanimate, universally neutral pieces of plastic could evoke that sort of emotion in me. But hey, I was 7.

When I was that young, imagination was what made all of those little things into something real (to an extent.) I don’t mean to sound condescending, but nowadays when lots of guys have a phone, an Xbox, and a female courtship when they’re 9, there’s got to be less of that imaginative thinking going on. For my example I look at the marauding gang of 5th grade-and-under ruffians that ride their motorbikes up the street at 10 o’clock at night, and then rove through yards shirtless during the daytime, relieving themselves on whichever shrub looks appropriate. I wasn’t like this when I was a kid, and neither were any of the other kids my age in the neighborhood. I guess it doesn’t matter where that sort of mindset came from, or it matters less than the fact that it’s going on. Whenever those kids had lemonade stands, they would shove their youngest brother into the street to force cars to stop. Several years ago, I can remember one of them who didn’t know me being obsessed with Dora the Explorer. One night as a joke I called out to him that I was “Bob Stupidbutt” (I couldn’t have been more than 8, therefore that was the silliest name I could think of) and I was the creator of Dora the Explorer. On impulse he vaulted out an open window and onto the slate below. He sprinted across the yard and was quickly nabbed by his mom, who was mostly aggravated that his momentary breach had interrupted her session of alcoholism. When you’re ambushing cars for lemonade stands and jumping at the mere mention of Dora there probably isn’t that much mental development (logic, reason, choices, etc.) going on, especially when a lot of people (peers, the media, tells you how to be cool, how to form yourself. And those kids probably don’t care, it’s the way they’re growing up and they know no other way.

How do we avoid that? Is there a way? The most common method is to artistically nourish the brain, playing Mozart in the crib and watching shows about vocabulary. Your child will grow up to be bright and imaginative, but is that really important? Thanks to childhood of playing pretend, I am creative when need be, but otherwise completely inartistic in every way. After a pastime writing stories in my head constantly, I do have an imagination…but where does that get me in today’s world?

I supposed we are all dinosaurs in a way, only we are dinosaurs to tomorrow. Things outpace us and eventually replace us, a form of social evolution that eventually phases the older stuff out.





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