I was going over my various papers and uncovered a small plastic bag containing three plastic gemstones.  A big square blue “sapphire”, a medium-sized yellow oval “topaz”, and a small red circular “ruby”.  I did a double take, because I hadn’t seen these things since I bought them at a bead store ten years ago.

It was a whim kind of thing.  Some friends and me were looking over the various cool little beads and buying some just because they looked cool.  Who doesn’t like little prizes?  I bought that combo of fake gemstones because they reminded me of some accessories I used to have even way farther back.  What the heck, I must have been stashing a message for myself down the line.

In the seventies, one of the hot toys to have was the foot-high doll known as GI Joe (with Kung Fu grip), from the Adventure Team.  Basically GI Joe was a character part of an international (as in, American-dominated) troubleshooting force.  He went around with cool vehicles and accessories to all corners of the earth doing stuff like rescuing important diplomats, blowing up evil spy headquarters, and recovering stolen treasures.

A serious candidate for the holy grail of GI Joe play sets was the Mummy’s Tomb set.  It came with a cool yellow all-terrain vehicle to put your GI Joe in, tools like pick and shovel, a pith helmet, and best of all a super cool turquoise green, highly detailed sarcophagus you could open with detachable mummy inside.  Totally cool!  It also came with three small plastic gemstones – the sapphire, topaz and ruby in the colors and shapes described above.

I don’t get how GI Joe was supposed to preserve international peace by digging up an Egyptian mummy and artifacts in the desert in a setup heavily suggestive of western looting of foreign artifacts.  But to a kid in the seventies such nitpicking details are irrelevant to finding treasure and digging it up!  If only there was a giant scorpion or something to guard the treasure.  Other packs had a giant cobra guarding a sacred idol or a giant clam guarding a treasure chest.

There was a 45 record put out by Peter Pan Records that came with a comic.  You would listen to the record while reading the comic and imagine you were part of a GI Joe adventure.  It was called “GI Joe and the Secret of the Mummy’s Tomb.”  In this story, GI Joe goes to a tomb looking to recover jewels stolen from a museum by a thief/con-man named Mummy Barka, who holes up in an old tomb with booby traps and mirrors.

Barka dresses as a mummy and tries to scare GI Joe away, but Joe isn’t having any of that!  He captures the bad guy, rescues the jewels (all the other artifacts are not important I guess), and escapes before an earthquake destroys the entire area.

As is often the case with toys, most of that stuff ended up lost, broken, or in some cases stolen by neighborhood kids when you weren’t looking.  I still have the record and book, but no player.

I’m looking at the gemstones I bought a ways back, and decide the Internets are the place to go!  I uncover a wealth of GI Joe Adventure Team nostalgia sites and get to see pictures of stuff I’d forgotten about.  I also find sound files of the original record and listen to the past come crawling back to my brain stem from the distant past.

I wouldn’t play the same kinds of scenarios now.  I identified with GI Joe then, but I wouldn’t now.  I’d be some other character opposing Joe’s colonialism and uncovering the truth behind the one-sided scenarios you’re expected to accept without question.  I’d uncover another story and make that my fun.  Looting artifacts from other countries?  No way, I’d be digging for psychological treasures with a close watch on my own shadow.

Maybe that’s why the secrets of the Mummy’s Tomb came back to me.  I’m ready now to have the real adventure, and guard the secrets against square-jawed, dull thuds looking to plunder antiquity for cocktail parties at duh-buddy headquarters.

My folks have had many nicknames for me, and because they had to listen to my records all the time, they nicknamed me “Mummy Barka”.  I got mad then because I thought they were teasing me.  But now I see they were calling me who I should have been.  Recovery and protection of sacred treasure using trickery and cunning!  It’s a new thought I never had before, and I’m going with it.