Archive | Toys RSS feed for this section

Of OCD and Toilet Paper and Rubber Donkeys. Nik Nik.

30 Jan

by Roger White

 

How does one know if one’s quirks and little idiosyncrasies are just mildly neurotic tendencies or behaviors that qualify as borderline OCD leanings—or perhaps even activities that could be viewed as sliding down the scale to full-blown dementia? Nik nik nik nik nik.

ocd me

I understand that we are all creatures of habit and that regular routines and daily patterns bring a sense of structure and comfort into our lives. Nik. But taking a half-hour every morning before I can begin work to make sure that my original redline Hot Wheels on my desk are all facing the same direction, at precisely the same angle, and in the same order (by date of manufacture, beginning with the earliest first—from my aqua Beatnik Bandit on down the line) may be a bit excessive, I’m beginning to think. Nik nik nik.

 

Around the house, I find that the needle on my anxiety meter begins to bounce if I don’t adhere stringently to certain customs, such as the following:

 

  • Folding the dishtowel that hangs on the oven handle just right so that one side of the towel hangs precisely even with the other.
  • sil vous plaitTurning the little ceramic French waiter who stands on our stove to the wall so he can’t beseech me with his little ceramic eyes to glue his lost, broken hand back on.
  • Religiously rescrewing the cap on the toothpaste tube in my daughter’s bathroom every time I’m in there. Little slob.
  • Making sure when I refill the TP rollers throughout the casa that the paper flows under the roll and not over. It’s an aesthetic thing. I’ve always been an under man, even though I know that hotels prefer the over position so they can make those fanciful folds in the paper. Pshaw. That’s just pretentious snobbery. It’s gotta be under. Nik.
  • Or zealously remembering every time that I pet either Ralph the dog or Max the cat to immediately seek out the other, un-petted pet if he’s in the room to give him the exact same amount of strokes so that neither of them feel inferior or somehow less loved.

 

Is this behavior normal, a tad askew, or downright wack?

 

There’s a little green, guitar-playing rubber turtle I keep next to my computer, the turtlesand he tells me, in his sing-song voice, that this is all quite ordinary and that I should remain calm. This turtle, Larry, is the sole surviving member of The Animals. This may be changing subjects in the middle of a column—or it may not, considering the topic at hand—but here is the story of Larry the turtle:

 

When I was a kid, I created a tiny rock and roll band out of my gumball-toy animals. I called them The Animals. I fashioned tiny, little instruments—guitars, a standup bass, a full drum kit, piano, and amplifiers—out of index card paper for them to play. I even made tiny, little cardstock albums with sleeves. Their manager, Irving, was a tiny gray plastic gorilla, and he drove them all around to their gigs in a little blue plastic VW bus. Nik nik. Their opening song for every gig was “Get Ready” by Rare Earth because that was my favorite 45-rpm record at the time. My friend Gary and I would set them on their shoebox stage, I’d put on the Rare Earth record and hit the black light, and the crowd (my stuffed animals and other toy creatures) would go wild. The Animals were big. They even had a yacht—a red plastic boat I’d float them around in during my nightly bath.

 

Now, at the time our family had an actual boat—a small, used four-seat outboard we would take to Lake Benbrook on the weekends. On one outing I decided to take The Animals to the lake for a high-seas adventure. For the trip home, I left them in their little craft in a seat of our family boat. When we got back home, they were gone. Somewhere along the way, they’d blown out—a tiny, little gumball-animal version of Lynyrd Skynyrd. I was inconsolable. So distraught was I that my dad actually drove me all the way to the lake, and we slowly retraced our path from the water onto the road back home. Can you believe we the survivorsactually found their little red boat in the grass on the side of the road? Nik. I recovered a few of the boys, but the rest were hopelessly lost. The band gamely tried to go on, but it was never the same. Some retired or went on to everyday gumball-animal life with the other toys. Some descended into a downward spiral of alcohol and drug abuse. The little rubber donkeys were the worst. Little rubber donkeys cannot handle their toy liquor.

 

My counselor says I have to stop now. I feel better. Thanks for listening. Wait, where is everybody? Nik. Nik nik.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a nik nik nik self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

This Year, Santa’s from the Seventies, Like, Man

16 Dec

by Roger White

I must have fallen and hit my head again. Do you hear those mountains? Listen to all that purple. Ding! Ooh, time for cocoa! I swear, from looking at the little calendar icon on my computer, that it is December 2014. That’s what it says, right there on my screen. Yes? No? But as I run down the list of Christmas presents requested by our two offspring types I realize that it must be approximately December 1974, give or take a decade.

Do you know what our oldest daughter, a college freshman, wants for Christmas? A record player. That’s right. An actual turntable with an actual needle that plays actual albums. I had to ask her again to make sure I was hearing correctly. I didn’t think she grasped what a record player was. Or a record, for that matter. Apparently, they’re all the rage with the college kids now. Who knew? I never crank itshould have gotten rid of my old Magnavox solid state stereophonic hi-fi phonograph with diamond stylus. Ah, those were the days. Put on a little “Seasons in the Sun” by Terry Jacks, slap on some Hai Karate cologne, slide on my polyester bell botto—OK, never mind.

Our oldest kiddo, who has Pink Floyd and Hendrix posters in her room by the way, also requested headphones. Not those microscopic little earbuds that can get lost in the inner canals of your cranium, mind you. No, she wants the mammoth vintage-style phones that cover half your head, like those awesome KLH monsters that looked more like heart defibrillators than musical accessories. Remember those things? Your mom could be screaming at you not two feet away that the house was on fire, and all you could hear was Edgar Winter. Yeah, man. Rock on.

awe. some.

Anyway, those giant ear-suffocating mufflers are back, too. Retro is in, apparently. Going down the list, I see that our youngest daughter—she of the Smartphone Taylor Swift Maroon 5 Instagram generation—wants, get this, a Polaroid Land Camera. Seriously. If you need a memory jog, the Polaroid Land Camera was that behemoth box of an instant camera that would spit the photo out right then and there immediately after you snapped it. You stood there and shook and waved and shimmied the photo as it developed in front of your eyes. Remember that? A technological marvel! Instead of waiting a week and having to run to your pharmacy to see that your thumb was over the lens, you got to see your stupid mistake instantly. By the way, Polaroid didn’t call it the Land Camera because you could use it only on land. The guy who invented it was named Edwin Land, who was cofounder of the Polaroid Company. Just so you’ll know.

Oh, and let’s not forget about shoes. Sneakers, to be more precise. Do you know what sneakers our youngest runs around in nowadays? Keds. Old-style, high-top, Johnny Unitas-looking Keds! Except they don’t call them Keds now. And they dang sure don’t sell them for $10 anymore, to be certain. Holy mother of johnny umackerel, they’re high fashion now, produced by hoity-toity outfits with names like Maison Martin Margiela or Steve Madden or some Nordstrom-sounding company called Giuseppe Zanotti—and for only $759.99 they come in gold lamé or day-glo lace or faux snakeskin. I’m thinking if I snag a pair of original Keds from Goodwill and spray-paint them gold leaf, she’ll never know the diff.

So all this retro rage got me thinking about my Christmas list. I might as well go with the flow, I reasoned. Why not? OK, Santa, this year I’d like: 1. Soap on a rope (preferably English Leather or Irish Spring); 2. A Sony Walkman (in lemon yellow or groovy grape color); 3. A Rock ’em Sock ’em Robot set; and 4. A Man from U.N.C.L.E. lunchbox with thermos. If you don’t have Man from U.N.C.L.E., I’ll take Green Hornet, but please try. Thanks, Santa dude.

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

They’ll Take My Lawn Darts When They Pry Them from My Cold, Dead Hands

26 Nov

by Roger White

Every Christmas season, right on cue, under the guise of “the public interest,” some Grinch-worshiping cults masquerading as nonprofit research groups publish their annual lists of the most dangerous, evil, and malicious child-eating toys of the year. I have a toy bone to pick with these guys—not a large toy bone, just a small one. In fact, it’s small enough to lodge in the throat and necessitate a trip to the emergency room. But nevertheless…

Don’t misunderstand, I acknowledge the need for watchdogs in our society, especially when it comes to the safety and well-being of our tiniest community members. There is surely no call for manufacturing and marketing such items as Mister Mickey’s Mini-Molotov Cocktail Set or Captain Smiley’s Fun with Asbestos Removal. But some of the selections for the naughty toy list are a bit nitpicky, if you ask me.

Take this year’s U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) survey of toy safety, for example. The PIRG Nerds spent all of their time from September through November hanging out in toy stores and malls playing with all the toys, games, and gadgets. (Side note: I want a job at PIRG.) According to the PIRG report, “Our investigation focused on toys that posed a potential toxic, choking, strangulation, or noise hazard.” The report mentioned nothing about all the obnoxious, overly-sexed, street-walker-dressed dolls aimed at the preteen set—but then, maybe I’m being a prude.

 

No, PIRG’s pet peeves involved amounts of lead, tiny magnets in toys, little toy pieces that kids could swallow, loud toys, and toys that contained something called phthalates. Not only do I not have the foggiest idea what phthalates are, I don’t even know how to pronounce them. Trying to pronounce phthalates produces enough spittle as to discourage me from even investigating them, and I recommend the same for you. This is the “if you can’t pronounce it, it can’t hurt you” school of consumer protection. I will note that the PIRG study reported that the state of Washington had the toughest phthalate protection laws on the books—they went as far as making toy manufacturers that used phthalates spell out the amount of phthalates on the toy. This, I’m sure, caused toy manufacturers in Washington to increase the size of their toys just so the word phthalates could appear on the toy.

As for the rest of the hazards on the list, come on. We’ve become a nation of coddlers. As far as lead goes, I found out after the fact that all of my beloved Hot Wheels cars of the late 1960s were slathered in lead paint. I never ate one of my Hot Wheels cars. I crashed them a lot, maybe even burned one or two to see how neat it would look, but I don’t recall ever licking or munching my toy cars. And I turned out fine. No, really, I did. The dangers of magnets, choking, poking, burning, toxins, all that? Let me just say that when I was a tyke, we had Creepy Crawlers (basically an open hot plate used to cook plastic goo); giant lawn darts, which my pals and I would use as WWII bombs on our toy tanks and soldiers (we wore makeshift helmets on the battlefield); BB guns, which we would fire at each other to reenact famous battles throughout history; stingray bikes with no safety helmets or silly pads; and junior chemistry sets complete with instructions on what to do if you caught fire. And we all somehow made it through to adulthood with nary a scratch.

Well, I wouldn’t say nary a scratch. There was that incident with Jimmy Peterson’s left eye. And, oh, yeah, Bobby Scoggins never could catch a ball again after that one time—and jeez, I forgot all about poor Stevie Blackwell. He was a fun guy, rest his soul. OK, OK, never mind. I suppose some of the old toys are best left in the old days. Who’s up for some Slip ’n’ Slide?!

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.