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The Block

Because you wouldn't believe me if I didn't take pictures...
Click on any of the pictures so see larger versions of them.

I love my kids. I also 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 your house, which astronomically speaking equals two kids who never see their father, or at least that's how it seemed to me while walking down Wall Street in an effort to make the Ferry.

As I was walking home from work this fine day (November 14, 2002) with some extra cash in my pocket (an anomaly I assure you), I stopped at the 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 I've really seen vendors selling golf clubs), but then some bright colors caught my eye. Nestled into the books and such on the finely crafted folding card table were sets of brightly colored blocks.

"My kids love blocks!" I thought to myself. "What a perfect gift!".

It should be noticed that this stroke of insight came a full ten minutes before the one where I'd realize that my wife would curse me for the myriad sharp colored squares that would soon litter our house. This second insight would occur roughly seven minutes after tendering my cash for said blocks I might also add...

But I digress...

I asked "how much?" of the shopkeep, who quickly replied "Mlkfjkene!"

"uh... what?"

He held up five fingers to which I reply jubilantly "Five Bucks!"

What price my daughter's happiness? For Five bucks I will surely be her king for the day (Remember now, we're still easily nine minutes pre-second-insite here). I pick up one of the plastic encased sets of blocks and reach for my cash.

As I grab a $20, I realize that having two daughters, I must surely buy two sets of blocks, for the civil war that would surely ensue after doling out only one set of blocks would be unlike any western civilization has yet seen. How two girls under three can fight so adeptly truly astounds me at times. Why this one time...

Well, never mind that now...

I tell the shopkeep that I will take two of his finest sets of blocks, to which he looks hard at me, wondering if perhaps I am the the "Shopping Messiah" told of in street-vendor legend. I assure him that I am not, and that I would only like the two sets of blocks. I beg off the insistence that he be my first apostle and also his offer of a bag, for what father would not want the world to see that he had just purchased his beloved daughters two sets of brightly colored blocks?

I happily pay the man, accept my change, and tuck the two sets of blocks under my arm, happy that I am a good father for the joy that these gifts will no doubt bring my beautiful daughters. Ah the smiles they will shine upon me! The happiness as they run around the house with their blocks building all sorts of towers, cars, perpetual motion machines and particle accelerators. Just as I'm about to cross South Street, I come to the realization that particle accelerators are really big devices, requiring a lot of space which means that the blocks will need to cover a lot of ground, which is not a problem since I thought ahead and bought two sets of blocks! God I'm a smart man thinking ahead like this - knowing that we'll need twice as many blocks as any normal family since we'll need twice as many blocks to cover the entire floor with... sharp... colored... blocks...

Oh oh...

This would be what scholars will surely call "The second insight". The one where I envision my wife making me pick all the brightly colored sharp-edged blocks that comprise the particle accelerator operating in our living room...

Fast-forward to home, some two hours later (I told you Saturn is a long way from your house).

I walk upstairs to happy children and a happy wife who are all happy to see me. I explain that I have surprises! The gasps of delight are what any parent lives for (Well that and brief fleeting getaways without children). As I pull out the first plastic case of blocks, my Eldest daughter (now almost three), draws in a breath of sheer delight. At the very same moment, intuitively, the younger one (now 20 months old) starts to cry because she does not have a set of brightly colored blocks. Of course Daddy planned ahead an Voila! A set for the young one too. The entire family is happy, everyone is happy, and Daddy is king. God, 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.

My wife clearly sees that both girls adore their blocks (and their Daddy who brought them), so she softens a bit, especially after I promise that yes, I will pick them up.

My eldest daughter starts immediatly building the worlds largest single stack of blocks, then gets mad when it falls. This process repeats itself roughly 936 times this evening alone.

My youngest brings every two blocks two me and asks for help first taking them apart, then later putting them together. What could be better? I've made my children happy.

Life is good.

After a couple hours of block-building bliss, it's time for bed, so naturally, and as per our agreement, it's also time to pick up the blocks. I dutifully pick up block after block after block (How many friggen' blocks were in these packs anyway - and what idiot bought TWO?). After what seems like the fourteen millionth seven hundred and third block, something catches my eye. Something oddly familiar, yet strangely out of place. I reach out and grab the block, pick it up, and literally do a double-take. I cannot believe my eyes.

Now a point of history is in order here. For those of you who don't know, I am very conservative, and my wife is 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 what this damn country needed, Bill Clinton was the Anti-Christ, animals make for good eatin', and Guns are what make this country great. Liberals 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 both here in this world and in the very fabric of the universe itself (except when carried by police because they protect us all - even the animals). Again I'm paraphrasing, but then I'm the writer so just live with it for now...

The block is green and on one side has a large "G". On another side is a picture of a Giraffe with the word "Giraffe" under it (These things are educational too you see), on the third side is a small "g", and on the last side is a picture of a handgun.

Now the part that matters is that I like guns and my wife hates 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 decided to look a little deeper. Was this a fluke? One block that somehow got stuck in there? I decided to look at the packaging. Guess what I found? Look closely at the packaging and you will see a block just like the one I found, right there on the top of the pile.

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. Maybe I should look for pictures of hookers and winos too? The truth seems much simpler. The blocks were made in a foreign country of unknown geography (with a retail price of $29.99!) where political correctness has not been a factor in the manufacturing process of children's blocks.

Now I can't decide if it's funny, weird, strange, right or wrong, but I've saved the block for my office as a conversation piece, because frankly, if you didn't see it, you wouldn't believe me.

Would you?