NYC Life · writing

Poor Donatello

Sunday night. Low key. Four late-twentysomethings sit in a self-proclaimed “New Zealand” bar in the Financial District.

We muse about growing up in the 90s… Nerf guns, Creepy Crawlers, Doug and Patty Mayonnaise.

Someone holds a candle up to their face and starts reciting the Midnight Society speech from Are You Afraid of the Dark? only to have it blown out by our unbridled laughter.

“The Ninja Turtles. Did any of you guys watch the Ninja Turtles?”

I was brought back to the early 90s. Four colorful Ninja Turtle masks, half bandana, half odd-smelling plastic turtle-face prosthetic. Red. Orange. Blue…Purple. No one wanted to be purple.

There were four of us running around: my three brothers and I. We were avid fans and spent many hours jumping from tall buildings (our couch) and laying waste to the infamous Shredder and his Foot Clan (portrayed by a lumpy pile of blankets and cushions that were kicked, karate-chopped, and battered with both frequency and vigor).

Zach, the oldest, and no more than eight years old was Michaelangelo (‘Mikey’), the free-spirited goofy prankster with the ‘surfer dude’ vernacular. Cowabunga.

At four years, and wielding two katanas, Leonardo (brother Nathan) was our sworn leader: courageous, dependable, and fiercely devoted to Master Splinter.

Caleb wore the red mask as Raphael. Since he was barely two years old he mostly wandered in and out of the kitchen in his diaper, drooling and chewing on his plastic prong-shaped sai. 

So, that left me. Donatello: scientist, inventor, engineer and techno-wizard…

I snap back to the conversation in the bar.

“Donatello is so lame,” someone says. “He’s not even athletic.”  We all laugh. Witty, roguish comments skitter back and forth across the table like water bugs. We’re still laughing at his statement. Not athletic? How American. As if the only merited ‘skill’ for an oversized turtle to possess is athleticism.

I drift  away again…


A straight-banged, one-dimpled six-year-old picks up the discarded, pudgy plastic Donatello mask. I don’t yet know it will foreshadow my demeanour and typecast me for years to come. It’s like my brothers already knew. Yep, this one’s a classic Donatello.

At ten years old my Donatello-ism would lead to an obsessive inclination for being early. As a teenager? Years of voluntarily not breaking the curfew. ‘A pluses’ in the margins of life. Various useless accolades…but few stories. Where are my stories?

It’s strange when you feel like you can’t remember yourself. Like it’s someone else’s life you’re trying to recall and the facts just aren’t there. You reach, strain your eyes down the retrospective corridor of your youth, but it’s as blurry as looking through a fat droplet of water.

For years I accepted my inner Donatello. He’s goal-oriented… Geeky? Sure. But he gets stuff done. The years sped by and I had a great job, and acquired lots of things like teapots and cooking pans and houseplants and a Santoku knife that costs more than a flight from New York to Chicago. Those things make you an adult, right? Yet somehow it didn’t settle right in me: a stomach-moiling, indigestible disappointment rolling around inside like some rabid, acid-slinging avocado pit.

It’s hard to lure out stories when you have teapots to shine, plants to water, vegetables to chop…Donatello is so lame. 

One day, just over three months ago, I woke up and told the world I was moving to New York.

Now, I have stories. So many stories. 

This is where I write them down.

(Cowabunga.)

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