The quest began as a simple interest in economics. I saw a Star Wars action figure collection featured on The Antiques Road show. The appraiser pointed to a figure of interest and explained that it was worth over one hundred dollars. The figure was Blue Snaggletooth, which was a Kenner prototype made in 1978. The actual figure (and character in the film) was red; an inch shorter, had clawed feet and was mass-produced to be sold in stores. The Blue Snaggletooth was only sold in a Sears play set of the Mos Eisley cantina scene. The set contained; four figures, Snaggletooth, Hammerhead, Walrus man and Greedo, a cardboard backdrop of crazy colorful folks and a plastic base with peg stands for the figures. These were all minor characters and the cardboard backdrop was pretty lame compared to an X-wing fighter. Not many were sold and the prototype figure snafu in the play set was eventually remedied.
I have the Blue Snaggletooth. I just don't know where it is.
My mom is a pack rat and has lived in the same house for nearly thirty years. She has saved virtually every thing and keeps it all in moldy cardboard boxes in the basement, heaped into corners, settling in. Most of my toys are there; my old craft projects from kindergarten even some of my old clothes. My whole childhood is in that musty, cobweb garden of flaking lead paint. My whole childhood and I wanted to find Blue Snaggletooth. Not to sell, just to have. I phoned my mom and asked her if she knew where my Star Wars stuff was and that I wanted all the figures she could find for Christmas. I was twenty-eight at the time. I received many, but not all and was brought back to the disappointment of my youth. Now, each time I come home, I discover a few more figures mom has found and placed on the piano. Still no Blue Snaggletooth. I decided to take a look myself .
My mom is protective of her junk. She gets a weird look in her eye whenever my sister or I suggest throwing something out. She only has to remind me of the Schwinn banana seat five speed I never rode and sold at a garage sale for five dollars to get me to shut up. I found my old boxes and systematically started to sort through them. I was elbow deep in a box of old Matchbox cars, legos, pennies, and army men… when my girlfriend came down the basement stairs.
"What're doing?" She asked.
"Looking for Blue Snaggletooth." I answered
For the previous three months I had taken her to comic book shows and shops, on ebay and asked her to "play" Star Wars with me. She never swayed and found humor in my obsession. She even started to refer to our relationship as "Team Yoda". But I think I went too far. I had been searching through my childhood for well over four hours and was covered in dank dust. We had a wedding to go to and she was fed up.
"You're a fucking OCD psycho sometimes." She stomped up the stairs into our kitchen and I could hear her footsteps creaking the boards above.
Now she's all into Stiffel Lamps and blue Ball jars with glass lids. I find her plenty at thrift shops and estate sales. We have a problem finding intact torcheire and shades, but the jars are reasonable collectibles. She loves to refinish old wood junk and my vain attempts try to dissuade her from unfinishable projects generally get me the silent treatment. This started when we were at a police auction her dad was working for. They had plenty of bikes and Dawn had a twenty-dollar limit and her heart set on an old broken down Schwinn Breeze. I asked her if she thought I was capable of fixing it up. She replied heartily that she didn't need my help. Bikes were going last, so she gave her pops the money and we went out for dinner. We returned to find an old geezer wheeling the bike out with a big smile on his face.
"He was a collector," Said Dawn's dad, "Whispered to me that he got a steal."
"How much?" I asked.
I shook my head.
I went to my favorite hood thrift store the other day and was met with a shiny red Schwinn parked in the entry way. My heart skipped. Here was a way to woo the girl and I had plenty of cash. I asked at the counter.
"No," stuttered the man with cp, turning his torso, his face contorting to sputter the words,
"That is a cust-om-ers." smiling, knowing.
I was disappointed and shuffled through the store.
"Don't feel bad, everyone asks.
" I turned around to find a gray bearded, fatigue wearing, cat with a tilted hat and a rolled put out cigarette in his mouth.
"That your bike?
" I asked.
He told me he was a collector and rebuilt bikes. I told him about the auction and the bike we never got. He told me about his ex-wife and how she threw out
some of his bikes when he was away. Then I told him the real kicker about my Shwinn five speed sting ray. He almost fell over and sorrow sighed from his hat. He grabbed the brim and looked at me with his white eyes.
"That's worth fifteen.
" He said, leaning on the mothball smelling garment rack, shaking his head.
I believed it and I hated myself. Not for selling it, but because I sold it. It was my second bike. My first was a twelve incher I was a daredevil on. I would ride it down stairs and cruise the neighborhood. When I actually started to grow a bit, my mom took me and our limited funds to a classified ad. I remember an old man with a cane answered the door and we went down into his basement that smelled of oil. Endless racks of bikes hung from the ceiling in neat rows, he chatted it up with my mom as he felt his way around our price range. His cataracts were a milky blue and a bichon frise followed him around, its' nails clicking the concrete floor as we walked. He sold us the bike for twenty bucks. I abhorred it. I felt that I would be teased the instant I sat on the heavy behemoth. The banana seat was speckled silver and the frame was white. It had a nonfunctioning light and a gear shift in the middle of the cross bar made to look like a stick shift. I wanted a BMX.
I whined and bitched till I got it. I was relentless as a child and my parents had too much patience and not enough time to fight with me. The Schwinn sat in the basement until we sold it. Regrets, I've had a few.
Going through the boxes, searching for one thing, I found so much. I didn't want to tell anyone, but I found old love letters my father had written home during his stay in Vietnam. We had heard the old reel to reel tapes when we were kids, mortars screeching, choppers thwacking out words to my mom. The letters were wonderful. I found a Walter Payton rookie card, my trains and my dad's "O" scale, three rail, puffing engine train. Anything I found was met with a warm rush of nostalgia. Finding G.I. Joe figures and parts to vehicles sparked the time of change for me, when I stopped playing with toys. I found Transformers, and plastic figures and all the parts to my Millennium Falcon, even the radar. I still haven't found Blue Snaggletooth.
Dawn and my mom want to know why it means so much to me to find it. They think me neurotic and compulsive about a tiny figure. I am. Dawn asked me the other day if I was looking for my lost childhood.
"I didn't lose my childhood, my childhood lost me." I said.