Thursday, November 15, 2007


There are times in one's life that occasionally stand out more than others. For me, that time usually happens every Sunday morning at 3:00 a.m.

That's when the club that I DJ at shuts down for the weekend. At 3, we herd the spirited masses out the doors and close up shop. My role in this process is to sit around and wait to get paid, which can't happen until the tills are meticulously counted. That's when it flashes back to junior high.

The bartenders gather at one table to count out and swap stories. The burly security guys sit at another. Me? I usually plop down with one or two of the club's sound engineers, where we debate such things as the merits of speaker wire or the ideal mp3 compression rate. It's the cool kids vs. the jocks vs. the nerds all over again, just with a slightly smaller personal fear of getting a wedgie. I'm cool with it, though -- for the most part, sitting at the nerd table is a time-honored and comfortable position in my book.

This week, though, my ears perked up. The security guys, who incidentally are all great and I'm glad they've got my back every weekend, usually converse on a myriad of topics -- provided those topics include cute girls or not-so-cute football players. This usually excludes me, as I'm (a) woefully lacking when it comes to cute girl stories, and (b) still for the life of me clueless as to just what a "Big Ten" is. Last night, though, the conversation turned in a direction that made my nerd hairs stand on end.

It turns out that one of our security guys recently went shopping and stumbled upon a remote-controlled toy helicopter that you can actually fly around your apartment. And that is, as we nerds say, pretty sweet. Suddenly I wanted the scoop. How is it powered? (Lithium battery.) Can it hover? (Yep, if you're good enough with the controller.) How much? (Only TWENTY BUCKS!!)

Oh, miniature toy helicopter, you WILL soon be mine. Let's hear it for modern technology, for continually coming up with new and exciting ways for me to torture my cats. If my feline friends think a laser pointer is captivating fun, wait 'til they get an aerial fly-by from Chopper Shane. Finally I will have something to guard the perimeter of my entertainment center next time Bez (also known as "Baaaad Kitty, Down Kitty!") decides to jump on the speaker.

But as much as I'm obsessed about picking up one of these bad boys, it really got me thinking as to a part of my adolescence that I just never got into: I was NOT a big toy-lover.

My folks sure bought a lot of 'em for me. I had the Evil Knievel bike that you wound up and sent spiralling across the kitchen floor. I had an armada of Hot Wheels. And thanks to my construction-minded father, I had enough Legos and blocks and bricks to build -- and potentially power -- my own Death Star. But on the whole, toys didn't exactly cut it for me.

I always thought Silly Putty was kinda gross. Stretch Armstrong was, and shall always be, creepy. I lived in perpetual fear of putting a kink in my Slinky. And those dumb plastic action figures? I always thought they were kinda, well, dumb and plastic. I was already into stereos (true fact: I could change a record at 18 months old) and books and computers. And the toys that I DID really enjoy weren't really toys at all.

Case in point: the Green Thing. I don't even know how to describe it. I don't even know what it was. My mom doesn't even know its given purpose to this day. It resembled a tiny green plastic briefcase, handle and all, but with tiny interior egg-shaped compartments. If I had to guess, the Green Thing was created to hold and carry six small eggs. Like possibly for camping or, well, any other reason you may have to stylishly transport six eggs. Why it exists? Beyond me. How it came into my possession? A mystery. All I know is that I loved that thing. I would put marbles in it, Hot Wheels in it, any toy with a general egg-like physiology, I would cart around in the Green Thing.

But not even that holds a candle to my all-time favorite childhood toy: a run-of-the-mill tire pressure gauge. I could play with one of those things for hours. To a kid, it's a multi-purpose fun zone. Stand it on end -- presto, it becomes a satellite dish for my Martian Hot Wheels outpost. And with one swift flick of the wrist? Instant lightsaber. Happily, I just called my mom to find out if she ever discovered the purpose of the Green Thing (no.) But in our conversation, she fessed up to having had a drawer full of contraband tire pressure gauges when SHE was a kid. Therefore, this one I'm writing off to genetics.

That's when it hit me. I like toys, sure, but I equally like non-toy weird things. Which makes me? A cat. I buy my cats every toy under the sun, but invariably they end up far more taken by the boxes and packages that the toys come in. Maybe we should all take a cue from my cats and try to find the fun in everyday living instead of seeking out the toys. Don't get me wrong; I'm still gonna go buy that helicopter. But maybe I'll pick up a tire pressure gauge, too.

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