Daddy and the G-Block
I love my kids. I also used to work on Wall Street which, for those of you who don’t know, is approximately the same distance from my home that Saturn is from yours. Astronomically speaking, that equals two kids who never got to see their father. Or at least that’s how it seemed to me one day in 2002 while rushing down Wall Street in an effort to catch the Ferry.
As I was walking home from work with some extra cash in my pocket (an anomaly I assure you), I stopped at a street vendor to see what wares he was purveying. Mostly I spied the usual books, incense, imitation leather phone holsters, absolutely real Rolex watches and golf clubs (yes, really). As I was about to continue on my way, some bright colors caught my eye. Resting on the finely crafted folding card table, nestled between the books and the incense, were packaged sets of brightly colored blocks.
“My kids love blocks!”, I thought to myself. “What a perfect gift!”
I should mention that this first insight came a full ten minutes before the realization that my wife would curse me for the many sharp, colored, cubes soon to be littering our floors. This second insight would likely have prevented me from buying the blocks had it occurred pre-purchase. Lacking a sense of prescience, and giddy with the thought of happy children, I started down the path of curbside commerce.
I asked “how much?” of the weathered shopkeep, who quickly replied “Mlkfjkene!”
He held up five fingers. Five Bucks! There is a time honored tradition of price gouging by street vendors. This is usually met with the similarly ancient tradition of haggling, in which the buyer attempts to negotiate his price down as much as possible. The natural next step should have been for me to bark, “One dollar!”, while holding up one finger in an effort to transcend the limitations of spoken language. Still, I was in a hurry.
And what price my daughter’s happiness? For five bucks I would surely be her king for the day. I imagined myself walking into my home, my wife resplendent in her red and black polka-dot swing dress as she cooked a delicious meal while mixing me the perfect martini. As I entered the house in my vision, my daughters ran up to me, shrieking my name, blissfully unaware of the bounty that they soon would receive. Remember, I was still a good nine minutes pre-second-insight here, so this all made perfect sense to me. I picked up one of the plastic wrapped sets of blocks and reached for my cash.
Distracted by the vision of petticoats and polka dots, I was jerked back to reality by the realization that having two daughters, I surely had to buy two sets of blocks. Bringing home one toy to a home populated by two little girls could only end with one result: global thermonuclear war. Worse, there would be no delighted shrieks, no martinis, and no polka dots for Daddy. Clearly, I needed to buy two sets of blocks. There was no way I was going to mix my own martini!
I told the shopkeep that I would take two of his finest sets of blocks, without even a hint of haggling. He replied, in what sounded to me like a perfect blend of Zombie and Goa’uld, ”hjeush’bwck?”
I held up two cases of blocks, and handed him the twenty. His eyes widened a bit, perhaps wondering if I was the the “Shopping Messiah” told of in street-vendor lore. I politely refused his offer of a bag, further increasing his profit margin, opting instead to let the world see that I just purchased my beloved daughters two sets of brightly colored blocks. I could already taste the martini.
Our exchange complete, I tucked the blocks under my arm, knowing that I was a good father for the joy that these gifts would bring to my beautiful daughters. Ah, the smiles they would shine upon me! I basked in their future happiness as they built towers, cars, robots, perpetual motion machines, and particle accelerators in my mind. Just as I was about to cross South Street, I came to the obvious conclusion that particle accelerators are really big devices, requiring a lot of space, which meant that the blocks would need to cover a lot of ground. Good thing I thought ahead and bought two sets of blocks! God I’m a smart man thinking ahead like that – knowing that we’ll need twice as many blocks as any normal family since we’ll need to cover the entire floor with hundreds of sharp, brightly colored, foot puncturing blocks.
At this point I arrived at “The second insight”. This would be the one where I envisioned my wife making me pick all the brightly colored sharp-edged blocks while dismantling the particle accelerator in our living room. In this insight, there were no polka dots, no gleeful children, and definitely no martini, though honestly, the very thought of my wife’s wrath did make me consider stopping for one. At this point I already had the blocks, so I would have to take my licks and hope for the best. I continued on to the ferry, and began my long trek home.
Some two hours later (I told you Saturn was far away), I walked upstairs to happy children and a happy wife who was surprisingly devoid of polka-dots. I exclaimed that I had surprises! The gasps of delight from my children were expected music to my ears. As I pulled out the first plastic case of blocks, my eldest daughter, Meghan (almost three at the time), drew in a breath of sheer delight. At the very same moment, the younger one, Colleen (20 months old), started to cry because she did not have a set of brightly colored Daddy blocks. Of course Daddy planned ahead , and like a conquering hero, pulled out a set for the young one too. The clouds parted, trumpets blasted, the children were happy, and Daddy was king. God, I thought, I am such a smart man.
“You brought more blocks home? Are you insane? Are you going to pick them up? What were you thinking?”
I’m paraphrasing of course, but you get the idea. And all of this before I could even ask about my martini!
My wife clearly saw that both girls adored their blocks and their Daddy who brought them, so she softened a bit, especially after I promised that yes, I would pick them up. This of course is the oldest man-trick in the book, since all women and all men know that it’s a lie. Still, the promise of future labor eased the tensions enough that I could go see how my daughters were enjoying their presents.
Meghan immediately proceeded to build the world’s largest single stack of blocks, until her lack of engineering prowess caused it to collapse. Not yet possessing the ability to consider alternate design paradigms, she repeated this process roughly 936 times over the course of the next two weeks. Colleen proceeded to bring every two blocks two me, first asking for help taking them apart, then later for help putting them together.
Life was good, even without the polka-dots.
After a few hours of block-building bliss, it was time for bed. As per our agreement, I dutifully picked up block after block after block (how many friggin’ blocks were in these packs?) After stepping on, and picking up, the fourteen millionth seven hundred and thirty third block (seriously, what idiot bought TWO sets?), something oddly familiar, yet strangely out of place captured my attention. I reached out, picked up a cheerfully adorned green block, and literally did a double-take. I could not believe my eyes.
A point of history is in order here. For those of you who don’t know, I tend to be very conservative, and my wife tends to be very liberal. For those of you who don’t watch the news, pick up a newspaper, or paid attention in high school history, Conservatives generally believe that Ronald Reagan was a god, Bill Clinton was the Anti-Christ, animals make for good eatin’, and guns are what make this country great. Liberals, on the other hand, think that Bill Clinton was a God, Ronald Reagan was the Anti-Christ, animals should eat humans (provided we don’t hurt them in the process), and guns are the root of all evil, except when carried by police because they protect us all – even the animals. Again I’m paraphrasing, but my sweeping generalizations are germane to the story, so bear with me.
The block in question was green and on one side had a small letter, “g”. On the next side was a picture of a Giraffe with the word “Giraffe” under it. During my purchase, the clever use of pictures with words further enamored me of the blocks, since not only do they aim to teach spacial reasoning and engineering skills, but reading too. On the third side of the block was a large letter, “G”, and on the last side, a picture of what appeared to be a Colt 1911 semiautomatic handgun.
Now the part that matters in my earlier political history lesson, is that I liked guns and my wife hated them. A lot. I mean a whole lot. So imagine my surprise upon finding that the gift that made my daughters entire world fill with joy and happiness was decorated with images of firearms. It’s a little weird – especially in this politically correct time, nestled deep in the ultra-liberal piece of the country that is the NJ/NY area. I was starting to think that there would be no polka dots this night.
Was this a fluke? One block that somehow got stuck in there? Perhaps a joke levied upon me by my otherwise trustworthy street vendor? I decided to look at the packaging for clarification. Looking closely for the first time, I saw a picture containing the block I found, right there on the top of the pile of other green blocks.
Now the easy joke is that I bought children’s blocks from a street vendor in New York City and the blocks have pictures of handguns on them. Maybe I should have looked for pictures of hookers and winos too. The truth seems much simpler. I posit that the blocks were made in a foreign country of unknown geography (with a retail price of $29.99!) where political correctness had not been a factor in the manufacturing process of children’s blocks. Or maybe the blocks were made in a country where a girl of three is already packing heat. Perhaps the street-side toy vendors of New York City are secretly subsidized by the gun industry. Whatever the reason, I can tell you that I never did get a martini.
I can’t decide if the whole affair was funny, weird, strange, right, or wrong, but I saved the block in my office as a conversation piece. In fact, I took the close up pictures of the block this week, some ten years after the original event occurred. A lot has changed in that time: Meghan and Colleen are now 12 and 10 respectively, to this day I have never had a martini, and as of yet, my wife has never worn a 50s era rockabilly halter-top swing dress. She has, on occasion, gone shooting with me though, so I still maintain that anything is possible. Even polka dots.
To buy your own sexy red polka dot swing dress, visit Vivien of Holloway at www.vivienofholloway.com.