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Monday, June 28, 2010

Today At The Toy Store ...

I'm invited to a kid's birthday party. My friend Stacey's daughter, Taryn, turns six and they're having a cookout. Normally I don't get asked to these type of events, but Stacey thought I could help her husband man the grill and manage the adults while she and her mother kept a lid on the children ... about 10 little tykes if everyone shows.

I agreed ... I was promised a nice Porterhouse (with grilled mushrooms) and all the wine I could guzzle after the kids left. But now I have to buy a gift and I haven't had to purchase something to amuse a six-year-old girl in a very long time.

I have nieces and close female cousins, but they and their parents always had very specific gift ideas ... I guess the picky thing is genetic. Hell, sometimes my sisters and brothers would actually buy a gift for me to give and I'd just write them a check when we got together for the party. So believe me when I say I was a bit overwhelmed when I stopped by a toy store to pick something up.

I decided on a spending limit of $35 ... not crazy-over-the-top but also not like a cheapass. So I wonder up and down aisles with an empty cart and see all kinds of stuff for six-year-old boys ... stuff I would have loved. If I had extra cash, I'd probably get some of it for myself right now. Transfomers ... cool. K'Nex construction sets ... awesome. Kid-size SuperSoakers ... get out of town! 101 Piece Magic Kits ... too much fun. Little Tikes Motor Workshop ... nifty. Charlie Coal the Talking Grill ... I want one for my new place!!

But Taryn is a girl, so I check out girlie stuff. Barbies are everywhere, but center stage are Barbie versions of Bella and Edward from the "Twilight" saga ... torturous love and vampires seem a bit much for a six year old who won't eat broccoli. Then I see a shelf of things called Brats. They look like little plastic prostitutes. Then there are Zhu Zhu Pets ... little hairy things with very animated expressions ... and enough day-glo My Little Ponies to create a lethal stampede ... and their cute little eyes tell me they'd do it in a hoofbeat.

I look at jump ropes with handles that make a variety of electronic noises, pogo sticks, cuddly stuffed animals both real and imaginary, Ribbon Dancer streamers and accessories, and big-headed dolls in fragile looking carriages. I see Dora the Explorer paraphernalia ... is Dora even relevant these days? Same question for Hannah Montana and all the merchandise she's hawking. I also wade through the massive amount of movie tie-in items from Avatar, Iron Man, Shrek, and Toy Story.

Then I consider "classic" gifts like a Play-Doh Fun Factory (Stacey would murder me in my sleep), a Spinner Art set (same outcome), a Lite-Brite, or an Etch-A-Sketch.

After about 40 minutes of careful consideration I walk out of the store with four items and a receipt totaling nearly $55. The big-ticket item is a small inflatable water slide that looks like a friendly sea serpent ... what kid in their right mind is gonna turn up their nose at that. Then, for Stacey and her husband's inclusion of me in this get-together, I found a pair of purple electronic drum sticks that simulate the full range of drum set sounds ... they're pretty wicked ... and loud. And finally, in tribute to "old school" style of play, I got Taryn and "egg" of Silly Putty and a classic metal Slinky.

POINT OF RANT: I'm a pretty damned good friend.

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