In 1986, Mattel released a toy for their He-Man and She-Ra lines: Dragstor. Dragstor was a member of the Evil Horde, a cyborg who “transformed” into a vehicle (although they were clearly trying to compete with the Transformers, Dragstor’s entire transformation was raising his arms and putting him face-down on the floor. He had a wheel built into his chest and his elbows were extremely smooth, so that he could roll along flat, smooth surfaces).
Dragstor had a ripcord that you pushed through a slot at about belt-level. When you pulled it through, it turned gears that started the wheel turning, and as long as you then set him down on the floor pretty quickly, he’d go shooting across the room.
He had virtually no backstory and I don’t specifically remember him appearing in any cartoons, but when you’re nine years old you’re not as concerned with that as with how cool the toy is. I thought Dragstor was pretty cool, at the time.
Unfortunately, like many Mattel toys of the era, he didn’t stay in good shape (even though I was usually pretty careful with my He-Man toys). Specifically, the ripcord — which was plastic — had a tendency to get bent and warped, so that it couldn’t make a smooth pull on the gear that triggered the wheel. Eventually, the ripcord was more trouble than it was worth.
Being a nine-year-old, of course, I wasn’t about to give up on this way cool toy. It took barely a minute of playing to realize that I didn’t need the ripcord. If I could hold my knuckles out of the way, I could “rev him up” by pushing him down and forward on the hard wooden floor of our playroom, forcing the wheel (which didn’t turn completely freely) to rotate faster and faster with each push, until I could let him go and watch him reach speeds almost as fast as he previously had with the ripcord.
Right now, I feel like something must be wrong with my ripcord.
I’m handling life just fine, and in fact I haven’t been feeling the oncoming creep of seasonal affective disorder as intensely as I usually did in prior years, nor is it approaching exactly the same way. Instead, I’m having odd spikes of anxiety and panic that pass quickly; weird moments of desperation and hopelessness that vanish within minutes; haunting nightmares that dissipate with the morning, and twisty daymares when my attention wanders — that disappear instantly when my focus returns.
In other words, I feel like I’m being smacked, hard and repeatedly, against a wooden floor.
But when I’m let go, I’m still almost as good as I ever was.