Saturday is for Stomping!

When I was in grade school one of my favorite pastimes was plopping down in front of the television on Saturday afternoons to watch Matinee Monster Mayhem—three hours of rubber-skinned Tokyo stompers, polystyrene insectoids, and tin foil aliens zapping army surplus generals. If you were lucky a giant extraterrestrial cockroach might kick Los Angeles into the sea. The fact that you could see the zipper running down the big bug’s abdomen just made it that much more monstrous.

This would have been the 70s & 80s, but the movies were mostly cinematic sci-fi from the nuke fearin’ 50s & 60s. Think mutated men, monster bugs, and giant floating radiated eyeballs—classics of Western Civilization. And they all shot lasers. From their eyes. There was the odd stinker now and then, maybe a Godzilla beating up some overgrown caveman, but even that was better than mowing the lawn.

After an especially rousing monster-filled afternoon I would head back to my room to reenact the day’s destruction. I had a bucket of plastic army men twisted nearly beyond recognition from countless crashing, smashing, crushing, and melting. (LASERS! FROM MY EYES!) The remnants of an abandoned model train set were my stomping grounds, my favorite artifact being a die cast bridge that always ended up in my mouth. (Lead poisoning? I feel fine.) After an hour or two carefully crafting my own little Tokyo I’d go to town. Stomp! Crunch! Grab! Squeeze! Smash! SMASH!! SMASH!!!

I was a happy kid.

I was also a hungry kid, which brings to mind another Saturday tradition: a bowl of butter-drenched popcorn. Mom would fill up the big yellow dome with oil and corn and let it spin. I even had a special shirt designated for eating popcorn so as not to butter up the living room. I remember concocting my own secret popcorn spice, which I believe was mostly red pepper flakes and chocolate sprinkles. It was delicious. It also separated my friends into two categories: those forever scarred by my youthful culinary daring and those who would one day do well on I’d Eat That for a Dollar!
I’m older now. My taste buds are more sophisticated and my palate more attuned to the subtleties of life’s bitter flavors. The TV is mostly tuned to hour-long dramas and documentaries about underground street art. But on Saturday afternoons, when the wife is in the garden and shades are drawn low, I dig through the DVDs in search of The Creeping Sludge What Ate Cleveland. I still have a few army men in the closet and there’s a button on the microwave that says “popcorn.” Beep.