Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Christmas Memories

Well, I did it. I was able to get my little girl the hottest Christmas toy du jour of the season. The stores were all sold out, it wasn't available online, but I was kind of able to get my hands on one.
     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 generous enough to lovingly give her husband one of hers just before he dumped her. I don't blame George for divorcing her. Who wants to be married to a woman with only one kidney? But I digress...
     No, the toy in question wasn't Sesame Street's new Tickle-My-Tonsils Elmo doll, that would be in poor taste. No, I got the The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo doll, with removable piercings and changeable 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 are over, and all that's left is pretending to love the gifts you were given, I can sit back, drink a little spiked 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 could be turned into something dangerous. I don't know why hurting each other was so much fun.
     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. Man, what we would have given for a Johnny Human Torch costume back then.
     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. I don't think the statute of limitations is up yet.). We had a lot of fun throwing them at each other, as well as throwing them up high in the air, and then hustling to get out of the way when they fell back to Earth, spike first.
     Speaking of Nerf, it seems 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 safely, but kids were invented to find ways to turn something safe into something dangerous. With Nerf, you could play indoors without breaking anything, but what's the fun of playing indoors if you've eliminated the possibility of breaking something?
     Another fun toy we had was something we called "clackers." I don't know if that was the actual toy name, but that's what we called them. Clackers were two hard glass balls attached to some some strong twine that was attached to a handle, usually made of wood. 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 wouldn't be able to have a contest to see who could be first to clack them together so hard that they would shatter.
     One year, when I was about ten years-old, my grandmother bought me some Hot Wheels tracks to race my Hot Wheels cars on. Only I didn't have any Hot Wheel cars, the track set didn't come with any, and my grandmother didn't have the foresight to buy me any (I still love her, however, God rest her soul). 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 unwrapped my present and saw all that was inside were these long plastic tracks. I picked one up, and kind of wobbled it in the air. It made a cool whipping noise. A light bulb went off over my head as my younger brother made the unfortunate decision to walk in front of me just then. I gave him a nice whack against the back of his thighs. He was wearing shorts. Another unfortunate decision on his part. 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 gone out. They went to take my grandmother home, and left me in charge of my little brother.Unfortunate decisions all around.
     "You'd better not tell mom and dad I hit you with my Hot Wheels track," I threatened him. "You'll get grandma in trouble 'cause she gave them to me.
     My kid 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 as a Weapon of Mass Destruction against 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 access to plenty of lighter fluid, lighters, 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, snow balls, rocks, and snow balls with rocks hidden inside. Those old wooden tops became something all of the neighborhood kids wanted (well, the boys of the neighborhood, that is). I know our parents would never have bought us one if they knew all we wanted them for was to terrorize our pets and puncture each other's feet. Sometimes we'd puncture each other's feet by surprise, sometimes on a dare, and sometimes as a test you'd have to go through to join the club. What club? Whatever club one of us wanted to start, just so we could 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 who undoubtedly wanted to stick it to my parents for one reason or another. It was basically a little soldering 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 wire 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 (Um... not mine. By the way, does anyone know when the statutes of limitations is up on that kind of thing? Just asking.) 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 nickname: Freddy Three-Fingers. His name wasn't really Freddy, but he didn't mind. He thought it was really tough and mafia-sounding.
     Every stick in our hands became a gun or rifle in our imaginations. We made rubber-band guns with 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 inventors, 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 Cheech & Chong.
 
 


Fifty Shades of Funny
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