Category Archives: playing with toys
They came in the mail every November in the 1960’s. Particularly important was the Monkey Ward’s catalog because there was a Montgomery Ward Catalog Store in Belmond on Main Street. Mom and Dad could order, pay for, and pick up things there, particularly Christmas and birthday gifts. The four of us; my little brother, my two younger sisters, and I would argue about who would get to look at it next for hours at a time (the catalog, not the store… although the man who ran the store sold tropical fish in the back, so I could look at that for hours).
I, of course, dog-eared different pages than my sisters Nancy and Mary did. And David was eight years younger than me and was into baby toys, blocks, and books.
I am amazed at how cheap things were back then compared to now. Of course, things were more easily destroyed because of the cheaper plastics and simpler ingredients and materials common in the 1960’s. So, it is truly amazing how many of those toys I still have. And how many survived me only to be destroyed by my own children.
And it often wasn’t enough to look at just the Monkey Ward’s catalog. (Grandpa Aldrich always called it “Monkey” instead of “Montgomery”, a pretty standard old-farmer joke in the 60’s). Grandpa and Grandma Aldrich always got a copy of the Sears catalog. And we would pour over that to find treasures that Monkey Ward’s didn’t have. That was inconvenient for Mom and Dad. The nearest Sears store was in Mason City, 50 miles northeast.
Just the mention of Christmas catalogs of old when discussing with sisters flashes me back to the time when I was in grade school and Christmas time was all about being good for Santa because… well, toys.
And old Christmas catalogs still fascinate me. I love to look back through ten-year-old Mickey-eyes at a simpler, kinder time. Although, if I’m honest with myself, it probably wasn’t really any better than now. I just choose to believe that it was.
There is so much I need to get done. I need to finish mending my yard’s retaining wall before the city decides they can no longer put up with my old-man, do-it-yourself stubbornness.
I need to do my taxes. My wife insists we do them separately now because Trump’s new tax policy costs retired people so much more than previous years that she can no longer put up with my crippling tax burden. I need to know how much Uber-slavery I will have to do to make the IRS less miserly.
My status as a wizard is called into question. A wizard should be able to solve problems and overcome anything.
A dragon is ravaging the suburbs? No problem. I can imprison it in a fire-proof giant soap bubble. Aliens invading the DFW metroplex? No problem. I just show them my psoriasis sores and they will worry about getting infected from eating Earth people so they will run back to Zeta Reticuli as fast as their spaceships can fold space.
The problem is, it is raining. My old diabetic and arthritic bones are aching from the cold Texas rain. I can’t Uber-drive today. I can’t work on the wall, or let my son work on it either (wet bricks are too easy to drop). I can’t even eat pretzels and write blog posts. My pretzel jar is mysteriously empty. So, you can see, I have no choice but to stay in the nice warm bedroom and play with my dolls… er, action figures. They like posing for photographs and are really good at holding still while I snap the pictures.
You cannot cleave a ghost in twain with a cast-iron fireplace poker. Throwing snowballs at vampires will not keep your blood from being drained. And bugbears don’t really have an aversion to little girls in pink dresses (except for little Tessie Trueheart of the Green Dale; that little booger has a temper as large as her love for the color pink).
To go adventuring in Mickey the Dungeonmaster’s dungeons, you need the right equipment. Of course, whole books full of weapons and armor and adventuring doodads have been published. Some of the stuff we use in the family games comes from the game books, as exemplified by the items pictured above. The Blue Wood Armor of the Forest Guardian is a collection of items put together from the books published for D&D by Wizards of the Coast Publishing.
My daughter’s favorite weapon is a sentient throwing knife that always flies back to its current master after being thrown. It also never misses, adjusting its own flight to always strike the target for the greatest possible damage. It has a mind and intelligence of its own. It became sentient and alive in the middle of an epic combat with a magical giant golem who hit it with a spell that went disastrously wrong for the caster. This item was created on the spur of the moment in the midst of a published adventure, based on a disasterously low roll of the dice for the monster side of the combat.
Some items in the game are actually treasures from the published adventure scenarios I like to use. Instead of simply selling off items when they are discovered in the cold, dead hands of defeated evil druids whose dreams of conquest and tyrannical rule you have thwarted, you can take them for your own personal use. I have a tendency to embellish what is described in the pages of the adventure with both really good powers and effects, and really insidious concealed curses. The Legendary Black Blades are both demon-laced and deadly. And both, though fatal to your enemies, will eventually darken your own heart and possibly shorten your adventuring life the hard way.
Not all equipment is made of swords and armor. The Evil Heads of Dr. Zorgo are a collection of living zombie heads that can impart wisdom and information (allowing characters to add skills) and can also direct you to places of adventure and great treasure. Of course, they are evil. There is always that little factor to consider. But come on, how can you not be tempted by treasures talked about by the Ghost Elf’s head when you tried to ask her for the time of day in her native land?
So the point of this post is that I am really proud of my drawings of D&D equipment and wanted to show them off. This post is merely an excuse for doing that. I have one more to show you, though I must confess, while I drew this one, it was designed by number one son to be used for his character, though as soon as he got it made, he sold it for lots of gold to use on the next project.
My family Dungeons and Dragons game has always been enhanced by my vast collection of miniature figures that I have collected and even painted over the course of almost forty years. But I am always ready to collect more. I even still have a large number of unpainted minis to finish. But Walmart recently started selling collectible metal minis in box sets for $5 apiece. So, that has brought Harry Potter to the Cardboard Castle.
These metal miniatures are a little larger than the usual scale, so Ron doesn’t quite fit through the tower door on his right. And I don’t have character game statistics on these particular wizards, but that won’t take me long.
So this week’s D & D post is about metal miniatures. It shows you how bad this old man has gotten when it comes to playing with his toys.
Being retired for health reasons and unable to work, I would be dead already without my writing and art endeavors to fill my time and keep me sane. I can do some work, as proven by my attempts to patch and repair the swimming pool this summer. But my limitations drive me crazy, as proven by the fact that I did about half of the work on the pool wearing only sunscreen and a hat. My kids are not married yet, and two of them are still in high school, but they are not much interested in toys any more. And I don’t yet have grandkids to spoil. So when I go the Resale Store or Goodwill to shop for old toys, I am basically buying them for myself.
The Princess of the Korean Court Barbie was lying on the bargain shelf for $3.49. I bought the ceramic wishing well behind her for $5.00. So the bargain-hunting gene I inherited from Scotch ancestors was duly satisfied. But I had to do more with things like these than merely own them. Toys are for playing. And what does a 60-year-old man do with dolls when he is playing? Besides being a bit creepy, I mean? Well, this photo is the answer. I use my toys to create pictures and artwork.
Here’s a creation using the ceramic wishing well again. It is apparently, on closer inspection, actually a candle holder. But it serves to make my Walmart Clearance Sale Disney toys happy. Here you see the pony-brushing party held by Minnie Mouse with Daisy Duck and the gay snowman from Frozen.
Here you see the metal miniatures I got in a pack from Walmart as they visit the cardboard castle. Two of the lead figures on the ground are hand painted by me in days long ago. The entire cardboard castle was printed and glued on cardboard, cut out and put together entirely by me. Mickey, Minnie, Alice, Stitch, and Kermit are the metal miniatures not painted by me.
So, my days have not been overwhelmed by boredom and frustration and problems with city pool inspectors (he doesn’t even know about doing the repair work in the nude, so he can’t give me a ticket for that.) I have been filling my time with toys and creative play. I have been mostly a good boy… err… old man.
Kids like me need to play with toys.
Even though I am sixty-plus-years-old, I am stressed enough by everyday life that I need to take some time to get the toys out of the toy box and play with them, making up fantastical stories in my head and pretending the world is the way I want it to be.
I mean, why can’t fire-fighter Barbie fall in love with the Black Panther?
The two of them are so very different. One is a vivacious young working girl ready to put out fires, while the other is a dark and moody superhero dead set on bringing justice to villains, no matter how powerful they might seem. Shouldn’t they be able to find happiness together despite what the drummer bear may think about the appropriateness of two such different plastic people being in love?
And money woes, deteriorating health, recent car accidents and ratcheted-up premiums on car insurance melt into the background. Especially if you hum to yourself as you pretend to make them kiss. “Love is a Many Splendored Thing…”.
Not all the toys are new. In fact, only the double-headed dragon is actually new to the over-all collection.
It’s good that the dragon can so easily make itself at home in the cardboard castle.
It would be good if it didn’t decide to eat the cardboard castle.
Wonder woman, sitting on my underwear drawer is also new. Maybe I am buying too many toys. But in my defense, I am in my second childhood, and sometimes I just need to play with toys. It solves a lot of problems that I am too old and tired to make go away otherwise. And it also makes a good short post when the idea bag is short on short topics and the time for writing is limited.