Flashback66: G.I. JOE turned me into a stone cold lunch killer

The year was 1985 and I was in my toy-obsessed prime.

"Imagine our white babies, Fraulein!"
I was mostly a science fiction kid due to STAR WARS and my burgeoning interest in STAR TREK, but alongside this began my (unhealthy) obsession with counter-terrorism through the military-industrial behemoth known as task force "G.I. Joe" as depicted in the comic book and contemporary television program, each named "G.I. JOE." What did "G.I." stand for? Who was "Joe?" What is a "weather dominator" and why should we fear it? My mind was filled with wonder at this new world of laser-powered weaponry and 0 death count. I thought the top "Joe" Conrad "Duke" Hauser (RA 213-75-7793) was a competent fellow, perhaps alarmingly Aryan for my 8-year old taste, but nonetheless a pleasant alternative to the likes of "Flint" or the foolish drunkard "Ship-wreck." And I also found his romantic tension with Master Sergeant Shana "Scarlett" O'Hara a refreshing break from the sexless robot adventures of a certain program which shall not be named.  Oh, the drama of protecting the free world!

Anyway, my obsession with G.I.JOE was expressed through my bloodthristy drive to obtain 3 & 3/4" totems (action figures) representing the various ethnic and religious stereotypes that composed our great American identity (according to Hasbro, Inc.). Insofar as toy marketing through cartoons controlled the children of that time, I was a complete Manchurian Candidate. I didn't just want all of the Joes, I wanted to live among them. Out of love (and some degree of fear, I imagine) my mother brought me to the toy store regularly to keep me from chewing her beloved furniture with my toy-rabid teeth.  One of my early and most beloved G.I. JOE toys was the COBRA Moray Skiff, which was a "hydro-foil" boat that skied on the water's surface in a manner that confused the ever-living fuck out of my adolescent brain. Here is a picture, I still don't know what is happening:
It's a boat that goes above water. Why?
The Moray skiff came with an exclusive pilot, called Lamprey.  Lamprey is a funny name, but who cares, he's cool looking and I was the only kid in my class to have this dude. Naturally, I couldn't wait to show him off at school the next day. And here is where my nostalgic tale of innocence takes a dark turn:

Before lunch recess, I had taken my Lamprey figure out of my jacket (hung on the back wall of the classroom) to show my fellow Joe-loving buddies. They all presented enthusiastic admiration for my acquisition (no doubt wondering how I was able to swindle my mother into buying me this much-lauded toy set). Satisfied with their approval, I put Lamprey back in my jacket pocket and went about my multiplication tables and doodling activities.

When lunchtime arrived, I retrieved my jacket and walked along with my buddies to go outside and play a light round of "Joes vs. Cobra" before the inevitable meatball hoagie sitdown that would follow. As I walked out the doors to the playground, I felt inside my pockets for Lamprey and noticed that he was gone. "Where is Lamprey?" I asked my pals as if they should know him like he's a real person. They all said they didn't know. Worried that I lost him, I wanted to go back into the classroom to check if he fell out of my jacket, but instead I continued walking with my friends. It was then that I suddenly heard something drop to the ground behind me. I turned to see my friend Matt looking down at my Lamprey which had fallen out of his jacket sleeve.  Why you son of a-

This is a moment I will never forget. I picked up Lamprey and examined it in front of Matt's face. "This is mine and it fell out of your sleeve," I said, growing angrier at the truth I spoke between us. The other kids moved back as I waited for Matt to say something- anything- to explain away this situation. Matt said nothing, he just looked down at the ground, defeated. Not waiting any longer for a response, I continued "You stole from me, don't you ever steal from me again." I then ripped Matt's EMPIRE STRIKES BACK tin lunchbox from his hand and unleashed all of my anger in a discus-twisting spin, throwing it violently into the air.
When Matt's lunchbox came down, it cracked open spreading his Wonder bread sandwich and snacks across the paved playground. It was like I cracked open his skull and his white bread brains were spilling out. I was shocked by the moment, almost not in my own head, just observing the matter from an emotional distance. "What is your mom feeding you?" I asked Matt in my head.  Meanwhile, he raced to gather his "brains" and I resumed socializing with my friends.  I was no longer angry at Matt because I felt ruining his lunch was a final, fair punishment. He, and no one else who witnessed that moment, ever stole from me again.

Even though the matter was quickly closed on that playground, the memory remains vivid with me to this day. I didn't doubt the importance of sticking up for myself, but I realized that being on the "good" side of a fight doesn't make the fight any less difficult.  I felt deeply bad for Matt as I watched him scrape up his lunch in solitude.  Suddenly the toy in my jacket pocket seemed a lot less valuable because of the bitter feelings it stirred up.  While Matt was wrong for stealing, I felt some responsibility for flashing my shiny, new toy with boastful pride. I think we each learned a valuable lesson from that incident. Our friendship resumed the next day because we knew what was more important to us, and knowing is half the battle.

Yo Joe!


  1. So, are you guys still friends?

  2. Oh yeah, and Matt turned out to be an awesome guy who saved two people who drove off the road into an icy river ten years ago. That's a real hero.

  3. That's awesome man! Great read Adam, more please.

  4. Damn, Adam that was a fantastic story. Well written and just amazing all around man. I pictured every word in my head. Good stuff.

  5. Thanks guys! I'll write more Flashback66 posts soon.

  6. Damn I love this podcast and everyone on it!

  7. This was indeed an excellent tale Jacksack, reminded me of a slightly similar incident of my own involving a Rock Lord named Crackpot & a large back-playground, but sadly the culprit and transforming plastic stone were never found. :(