"Dear Nintendo, my life is a mess"

November 8th, 2008

I’ve put off cleaning my room for nearly 20 years. There was always some good excuse: Summer camp. Bar mitzvah. Final Fantasy III. The PSATs. Cross-country practice. College. Grad school. Work.

Now, after all those years, I finally ran out of excuses. My plans for a vacation this year—there was talk about going to India, Romania or at least New York—are down the toilet, along with our economy. So instead, I’m using my vacation to clean my room. It’s a lot more interesting than I thought it would be. I’m essentially Indiana Jones, playing archeologist with the last 20 years of my life. There are piles of papers to go through, drawers and boxes I never even knew existed.

With some stuff, like a science lab or a summer camp activity rotation, I have absolutely no clue what possessed me to keep those lying around. But other stuff—postcards from old friends, scripts to comic books I wrote in middle school, photographs—are fascinating. Here are some highlights; stuff I had totally forgotten about and still can’t bring myself to get rid of.

» Letter from Nintendo Power. Nintendo Power, a commercial for Nintendo disguised as a magazine, used to solicit tips and codes from readers. When I was 9, my neighbor Bobby and I discovered a secret way to get some extra lives on “Bart vs. The Space Mutants.” Our tip was never published, but I did get a letter that read, “Thanks for the classified information Agent 456” (Agent “456”? What was I thinking?) “We always enjoy the great secret hints our agents send in! Each week we receive thousands of great tips from readers all over the country…” Then they told me to keep buying Nintendo Power.

» Letters from myself. There were two of these. One was from a time capsule buried at camp in 1988, when I was 7. This was the first summer my camp opened, so everyone contributed to a time capsule that was dug up in 1998. I wrote, “Josh Eiserike. Dear Future, I might be here right now. I was hear first session and second session- pioneer summer. From, Josh E.” The second was a letter I wrote to myself, a couple years later. It’s undated, but judging by the contents, I wrote it just after particularly fun birthday party. The envelope read, “To (Josh) Me. Do not open until the year 1998.” I didn’t open it until 10 years after that. Inside, it read, “My 9th friend party. We went to see ‘Back to the Future part III (3).'” Then there was a list of those who attended versus those who were invited.

» Playboy “Personalities & Profiles” CD. This was probably my biggest disappointment as a kid, and my best find as an adult. I’m sure I did not care one bit for something with the Playboy brand that did not include a single naked woman. But it’s a journalistic godsend. There are more than 100 profiles and interviews, of people like Mel Brooks, Fidel Castro and Martin Luther King, Jr.

» Old sketchbooks. I found these in conjunction with yearbooks and other things people signed, praising my abilities as an artist. In hindsight? These people were being really, really generous. Remember how Napoleon Dynamite thought he was such a great artist? That’s how terrible I was. Thankfully, I stuck with it.

» Letter to a girl I wanted to ask to prom. Apparently I thought it would be a good idea to ask a girl I didn’t even know to prom with a two-page letter. I’m glad I also thought maybe it wasn’t such a good idea and asked a friend—someone I also really liked—instead.

» Letters from old girlfriends. My editor, Katie Dolac, says throw these away. It’s not that easy. I’m not going to keep them on my nightstand, but I think the better idea is to put them in a box, or folder, to be discovered in another few decades. They’ll be much easier to get rid of when I don’t remember who these people were.

» Sketches from famous cartoonists. Including “Zippy the Pinhead” creator Bill Griffith. Neat!

» A fez. I must have really loved They Might Be Giants that I’d buy this piece of tourist kitsch while studying in Israel at 16.

» Ninja Turtle toy. Mona Lisa, the lizard woman (and Raphael, my favorite turtle’s sometime girlfriend) was the only character missing from my collection when I reached middle school and knew it was time to stop with the action figures. But I still wanted it, to the point where I tried to figure out how to get it without a “grow up” lecture from my parents. I ebayed this sucker in college, put it in a drawer, then promptly forgot about it.

» Autographed photo of The Push Stars. Still one of my favorite bands. Very cool.

» College essay. As bad as my writing was at 17, this makes me the happiest, that 10 years later, my goals and dreams are unchanged.

Staff writer Josh Eiserike is still hoping to find his “Back to the Future” Fan Club Membership card while cleaning his room. He can be reached at 703-878-8072.

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