Look at these two knuckleheads. Typical teenagers with typical naive teenage dreams and typical teenage hygiene. Hell, one of them (admittedly, me) has the nerve of trying to pass a Fruit of the Loom undershirt as a proper t-shirt. Those smiles aren’t just out of appreciation for the Crocodile Hunter-themed birthday cake in front of us. Those smiles read like those belonging to guys who have a secret between them. That’s my retrospective interpretation anyway, since I remember some of our presents very fondly from that day.
So what did these two wish for as they entered into manhood on their 18th birthday? Some girlfriends? A brand-new car to impress these girls? Some fresh Simoniz to impress the car? No, our demands were much easier to satisfy. At least we thought they would be.
My dad had finally purchased a DVD player for our family earlier in the year. In 2003, I’d say that it was late to the game, but Alex and I nonetheless saw an opportunity as our birthday approached. The days of adjusting the tracking while attempting to watch Korn’s Who Then Now? or Metallica’s A Year and a Half in the Life of Metallica would be in the rear-view. It was time to bring our love of music to a fresh format.
But how to do so? It wasn’t too hard to think about at all.
From age 17 to 18, my brother and I were absolutely Iron Maiden obsessed. It started with Alex’s purchase of Killers at a local pawn shop (Trader Joe’s, not to be confused with the American grocery chain of the same name) and steadily growing afterwards. In fact, my first Maiden purchases (The Number of The Beast, No Prayer for the Dying, and a VHS copy of their Raising Hell concert) came from the same store around a month later. We were also two months away from seeing the band perform on their Give Me Ed.. ‘Til I’m Dead tour. There were still gaps in my Maiden collection, so one of the gems of my collection was their career-spanning (at the time) Rock in Rio live album. Wanting to get the visual experience to complement it, the DVD of the concert was quickly added to my birthday wishlist.
Another album that my brother owned that helped our musical evolution greatly was Sepultura’s Arise. Although this album is closer to thrash metal than their earlier death metal sound, this helped point the way to our eventual embracing of death metal (I purchased Obituary’s World Demise on the same day). This album would be followed up that year with the acquisitions of Chaos A.D., Beneath The Remains, and the Morbid Visions / Bestial Devastation reissue. At this stage in their career, Sepultura had released three home videos (Under Siege: Live in Barcelona, Third World Chaos, and We Are What We Are), and each had been re-released on one convenient DVD with Chaos DVD. Upon spotting this at a trip to the no-longer-with-us CD Plus store at the mall, Alex took note (literally!!) as he put it on his birthday list.
Normally, we weren’t the type to go around searching for our presents before we’d receive them, but there had been a couple times where we came across them accidentally. I remember one where around five or six years earlier, we were ‘spoiled’ on one gift (a Starting Lineup hockey figure set of Wayne Gretzky and Pavel Bure) that was noticed sitting slightly above the Christmas decorations we were retrieving from the storage space beneath the basement stairs. That was cool and all, but I really didn’t want to find my gifts in advanced since I liked the element of surprise when I see a gift fresh out of the wrapping paper. That being said, there was usually around a 75 to 80-percent certainty of what we’d be receiving as gifts, but that left some room for potential screw-ups in misidentifying what we wanted.
A few weeks prior to this birthday, one of us was looking for something (probably school supplies) in our parent’s room when a plastic shopping bag was spotted in the corner. As it isn’t very difficult to see through semi-transparent material, the cover for Rock in Rio was instantly identified. Funny enough, it was the exact size of the CD case I owned. Any laughter at the coincidence subsided when a closer inspection revealed it to actually be the CD I already owned. So much for my present! Furthermore, behind that CD set was another CD, Sepultura’s Chaos A.D.. My brother did not own that album, but at the time we never kept any overlap between our music collections due to our limited financial capital. His receiving of Chaos A.D., in his mind, was as good as getting a duplicate (ignoring the fact this version had a few bonus tracks that mine did not). Things weren’t looking promising.
Now before I go any further, I’ve got to defend my parents. It very well could have been that my mom or dad did not realize the difference between a CD and a DVD since I don’t believe either of them had bought a DVD in spite of acquiring the device to play them on, or at best had only a few DVDs. By now, everybody would recognize the distinct ‘DVD Video’ logo that appears on the packaging in most cases, but my parents may never have thought to look for it. Another possibility could have been that they were misled by a store salesperson when making the purchase. If only the names of the releases were checked in the store inventory system and not the format, that could explain things. Or it’s possible that the penmanship on our respective birthday lists may have simply been so poor that we should have quit sulking and been amazed at how close their actual purchases were to what was requested. Still, no matter how the errors arose, we were going to be 0-for-2 on our most anticipated gifts unless we acted quickly.
Our older sister, Rachel, was tasked with bringing it up with our mother. How she pulled it off I’ll never know. I thought about asking her to contribute a quote or two for this piece, but I know that Alex and I are the only ones who found this event important enough to remember this any further than the year that it occurred. You only remember the gifts you get, largely, and I can’t apologize enough for spoiling her Barbie and the Rockers surprise before her 6th birthday.
The bottom line is that if I’m going to be directly asked what I want, it only makes sense to expect what I asked for. However, while slight disappointment would be natural if an error occurs, it’s hardly worth complaining about. These days I’ll let a mistake of this nature slide because I’m no longer a broke teenager and have the means of obtaining the item(s) in question. Even to this day, my mom might ask my brother and I for some albums to put on a list for our birthday or Christmas. She asks what I’m interested in because she doesn’t know even one-percent of what is in my collection and simply wants to make me happy. Her making an effort at all goes beyond what I need at this stage in my life, and I get more happiness out of having an excuse to get my immediate family together, share some laughs, and create memories.
And, perhaps most importantly, I’d prefer it if those memories didn’t have me coming across as a good-for-nothing snoop.