Saturday, December 24, 2011

Toy Wars

Well, I did it. I was able to get my little girl the hottest Christmas toy of the season. The stores were all sold out, it wasn't available on-line, but I was able to get my hands on one with only less than 12 hours to spare. I won't tell you how. All I'll tell you is who needs two kidneys. Just ask comedian George Lopez's wife, who was kind enough to give her loving husband one of hers just before he divorced her. I don't blame George for divorcing her. Who wants to be married to a woman with only one kidney? But I digress...
The toy in question is The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo doll. With removable piercings and changable tattoos. Eyebrows are optional. My little girl is five years-old. She'll love it.
And now that the hustle and bustle of the holidays is over, and all that's left is the pretending to love the gifts you were given, I can sit back, drink a little eggnog, and think back to a simpler time when the toys we played with could kill us.
It wasn't that the toys we played with were necessarily dangerous. It was that, as boys, any toy we played with was dangerous. I'm reminded of the Saturday Night Live skit "Bag-O-Glass" with Dan Ackroyd and Jane Curtain. In it, Dan Ackroyd played a sleazy toy manufacturer who sold such toys as Bag-O-Glass, which was a bag full of broken glass, and a Halloween costume called Johnny Human Torch, which was a bag filled with oily rags and a lighter.
My favorite of the toys we played with when we were young and innocent were Lawn Darts. Today, they're made with Nerf, but back then they were heavy, and had a metal spike at the end that could puncture skin and bone (don't ask). We had a lot of fun throwing them at each other. As well as throwing them up high in the air, and hustling to get out of the way when they fell back down to Earth, spike first.
Speaking of Nerf, it seems like a safe enough toy, but if you soak it with water, it makes for a very painful projectile. Nerf was invented so that kids could play ball indoors without breaking anything, but what's the fun of playing indoors if you've eliminated the possiblity of breaking something?
Another fun toy was something we called Clackers. It was two hard glass balls attached to a string. You would flip the balls up and down so that they would "clack" against each other. That was interesting for about five minutes. Then we'd get bored, and start hitting each other with them. They would leave a nasty bruise wherever they made contact. I think we may have even broken a bone or two, but we could never tell our parents, because then they would take them away, and we'd have nothing to play with. When there was no one around, we'd try to get them to clack against each other so hard they would shatter, glass shards flying everywhere.
One year, when I was about ten years-old, my grandmother bought me some Hot Wheel tracks to race my Hot Wheel cars on. Only I didn't have Hot Wheel cars, and she didn't have the foresight to buy me any. What a boring gift, right? Wrong! I used those plastic tracks to torture my friends and younger brother. It happened like this: I was disappointed when I first opened up the box, and saw all that was inside were these long plastic tracks. I picked up one, and kind of wobbled it in the air. It made a cool whipping noise. A light bulb went off over my head. As my little brother made the mistake of walking in front of me, I gave him a nice whack against the back of his thighs. His skin turned red and started to welt almost immediately. He yelled, and started crying. I laughed like the little jerk I was. It was a good thing my parents had left. They went to take my grandmother home, and I was in charge of my little brother.
"You'd better not tell mom and dad I hit you with my Hot Wheel track," I threatened him. "You'll get grandma in trouble 'cause she gave them to me."
My brother swore he wouldn't tell. He was half my age. He trusted me.
As a kid, everything we got our hands on was either destroyed, or used in a way to hurt each other. Those green plastic Army men? We would douse them in lighter fluid, and light them on fire. That was the one good thing about my dad's nasty smoking habit, we had plenty of access to lighter fluid and matches. If we got our sweaty little hands on a magnifying glass we'd use it to burn leaves, ants, and other insects. Soon, we found that the funniest thing to burn was each other. Our moms could never understand why we'd come home with little black holes in our clothes.
When there was a shortage of toys, we found interesting uses for tacks, rubber bands, stickers from crab grass, rocks, snow balls, and snow balls with rocks hidden inside. Those old wooden tops became something all of the neighborhood kids wanted. I know our parents would have never bought us one, if they knew all we wanted them for was to puncture each other's feet. Sometimes we'd do it by surprise, sometimes as a dare, and sometimes as the test you'd have to go through to join the club. What club? Whatever club one of us wanted to start, just so that we could use joining it to bully our friends into standing still while we tried to get the little metal spike on the bottom of the top to land just right.
The reason I know that our parents--or at least my parents--wouldn't buy us a particular toy if they knew what our plans were for it, is because I remember once getting a Wood Burning Set as a birthday gift from an aunt or uncle, it was basically a little sodering iron that was supposed to be used to burn letters or designs in wood or leather. My eyes lit up at the possibility of what I could carve my initials in. My toys. My furniture. My dog.
A hand came down on my shoulder. I looked. It was my dad. He must have seen the evil gleam in my eyes. It was a bit disappointing that I never saw that Wood Burning Set ever again, but I really couldn't blame him. When I got a chemistry set for Christmas one year, the first thing I tried to do was make explosives. However, I never seemed to get the formula just right.
Besides the explosives, another thing I tried to make was a time machine. I took the metal rack from my mom's oven, wrapped it in tin foil, attached an electrical cord to it, and, in theory at least, once someone "went through" the rack, they would appear on the other side in a different time and/or dimension. As luck would have it, I couldn't talk any of my friends into giving it a whirl. Not even any of their younger, stupider brothers or sisters. I was disappointed at the time, but not so disappointed that I considered traveling through time myself. Worse case scenario: death by electrocution. Best case scenario: actual time travel... but with no way to return. Either way, I guess I would have had to mark the results down in the "lose" column.
One of our greatest disappointments as kids, was that we weren't allowed to buy, use, or be anywhere near fireworks. This was because one of our older brothers had purposely distracted a friend of his who was about to throw a lit cherry bomb. I don't know about his parents, but us kids thought the friend looked pretty cool with only three fingers on one hand. After some time had passed, the poor guy began to think so, too, and really grew to like his new nick-name: Freddy Three-Fingers. He thought it was really tough and mafia-sounding.
Every stick in our hands became a gun or a knife or a rifle or a sword in our imaginations. We made rubber-band guns from the wooden clothes-pins our mothers would hang our clothes with on the backyard clotheslines. We had all heard of potato guns, but neither I nor any of my friends knew how to make one. Maybe if we had an Irish kid on the block.
In a related story, I've heard how dope-smokers can make a bong out of an apple. Besides the waste of a perfectly good apple, I just don't see the point. These dopers could grow up to be engineers or inventers, but, chances are, they'll just continue being dopers. To tell the truth, I don't think anybody really knows how to make a bong out of an apple.
Well... maybe Miley Cyrus.

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