Category Archives: playing with toys

Toy Time Again…

Kids like me need to play with toys.

Really.

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…”.

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Not all the toys are new.  In fact, only the double-headed dragon is actually new to the over-all collection.

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It’s good that the dragon can so easily make itself at home in the cardboard castle.

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It would be good if it didn’t decide to eat the cardboard castle.

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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.

 

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Filed under feeling sorry for myself, humor, photo paffoonies, playing with toys, toystore quests

NPC’s (Non-Player Characters)

In Dungeons and Dragons games you are trying to bring characters to imaginary life by getting into their deformed, powerful, or magic-filled heads and walking around in a very dangerous imaginary world.  You have to be them.  You have to think like them and talk like them.  You have to love what they love, decide what they do, and live and die for them.  They become real people to you.  Well… as real as imaginary people can ever become.

But there are actually two distinct types of characters.

These, remember, are the Player Characters.  My two sons and my daughter provide them with their persona, personality, and personhood.   They are the primary actors in the stage play in the theater of the mind which is D & D.

But there are other characters too.  In fact, a whole complex magical world full of other characters.  And as the Dungeon Master, I am the one who steps into their weird and wacky imaginary skins to walk around and be them at least until the Player Characters decide to fireball them, abandon them to hungry trolls, or bonk them on the top of their little horned heads.  I get to inhabit an entire zoo of strange and wonderful creatures and people.

Besides the fact that these Non-Player Characters can easily lead you to develop multiple personality disorder, they are useful in telling the story in many different ways.  Some are friendly characters that may even become trusted travel companions for the Player Characters.

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D & D has a battle system based on controlling the outcomes of the roll of the dice with complex math and gained experience.  In simpler terms, there is a lot of bloody whacking with swords and axes that has to take place.  You need characters like that both to help you whack your enemies and to be the enemies you get to whack.  There is a certain joy to solving your problems with mindless whacking with a sword.  And yet, the story is helped when the sword-whackers begin to develop personalities.

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Crazy Mervin, for example, began life as a whackable monster that could easily have been murdered by the Player Characters in passing while they were battling the evil shape-changing Emerald Claw leader, Brother Garrow.

But Gandy befriended him and turned him from the evil side by feeding him and sparing him when it really counted.  He became a massively powerful ax-whacker for good because Gandy got on his good side.  And stupid creatures like Mervin possess simple loyalties.  He helped the players escape the Dark Continent of Xendrick with their lives and is now relied upon heavily to help with combat.  He was one of the leaders of the charge on the gate when the Players conquered the enthralled Castle Evernight.

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Not every NPC is a whackable monster, however.  In the early stages of the campaign the Players needed a magic-user who could read magic writing, use detection spells and shielding spells and magic missiles, and eventually lob fireballs on the bigger problems… like dragons.

Druaelia was the wizard I chose to give the group of heroes to fulfill these magical tasks.  Every D & D campaign requires wizarding somewhere along the way.  And Dru was a complex character from the start.  Her fire spells often went awry.  When Fate used a magic flaming crossbow bolt to sink a ship he was defending, killing the good guys right along with the bad guys, it was with a magic crossbow bolt crafted by Druaelia.  Her fire spells went nuclear-bad more than once.  She had to learn along the way that her magical abilities tended more towards ice and snow than fire.  She learned to become a powerful wielder of cold powers.  And while she was comfortable in a bikini-like dress that drove the boys wild because she grew to love the cold, she didn’t particularly like the attentions of men and male creatures that went along with that.  More than one random bandit or bad guy learned the hard way not leer at Dru.  There are just certain parts of the anatomy you really don’t want frozen.

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The Player Characters will need all sorts of help along the way, through travels and adventures and dangerous situations.  They will meet and need to make use of many different people and creatures.  And as Dungeon Master I try hard to make the stories lean more towards solving the problems of the story with means other than mere whacking with swords.   Sometimes that need for help from others can even lead you into more trouble.

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But as I am now nearing the 800 word mark on a 500 word essay, I  will have to draw it all to a close.  There is a lot more to say about NPC’s from our game.  They are all me and probably are proof of impending insanity.  But maybe I will tell you about that the next time we sit down together at the D & D table.

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Filed under characters, Dungeons and Dragons, family, goofy thoughts, heroes, humor, Paffooney, photo paffoonies, playing with toys

Dutiful Dad

Today I go to pick up the family at the airport before noon. They have been visiting my oldest son in Virginia since last Wednesday.  Not exactly a larkish vacation in the middle of the school year, they went there to be with him while he had surgery on Thursday.  The trip caught me at a time when I am simply not well enough to travel, even by airplane.  My arthritic back problem doesn’t allow for long periods of sitting.  So I got to stay at home and take care of the dog and do what housework I could…  You know, the stuff dads are expected to do when they get left out of a family vacation… again.  So, I washed some dishes… but not all of them.  I laundered some bedding… but only my own.  I cut some grass… but only the tall stuff behind the house.  I did enough work that the boss shouldn’t be too mad at me when she returns home.  I did get her car’s oil changed, though I don’t do that myself any more.

But while the cat’s away…

It’s not what you are thinking…

And why are you thinking THAT?

I broke out the paints and HO Model train stuff that needed painting, updating, and repair.

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Fun for me may be defined differently than it is for you.

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I put snow on buildings with white puff paint where there was never snow before.

A real whee of a time, I know.  But it’s not like I could go out dancing… or singing in the rain.  My life and my jollies are a bit slower and more sedate than they used to be.

I also wrote a bit more of my werewolf novel re-write.  And soon I must go to the airport, so enough of fast and silly Paffooney-making for me.

(**Note**  Paffooney is artwork made by my hand and connected to writing.  It’s not what you were thinking.  And why were you thinking THAT?)

 

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Filed under autobiography, battling depression, being alone, feeling sorry for myself, horror writing, humor, illness, photo paffoonies, playing with toys, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Rescuing Rolling Stock

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Welcome to Toonerville’s Mountain Station atop lovely, snowy Church Mountain.  The Snowball Express is just pulling out.

I believe I may have mentioned in recent posts that part of the joy of cleaning the garage after a long illness left it in a nightmare shambles of boxes and old toys and stuff we really need to throw out, is that I found the boxes with the remnants of my old HO model train layout.  Now I am busy rescuing, repairing, and photographing the pieces of Toonerville that I have dug out of the trash piles.

In the picture from Mountain Station, you see the billboard boxcar and the old caboose I managed to pluck out of one of the boxes that heavy stuff had been tossed on top of.

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Smokey Joe, the engine number 99, is pulling the 1890’s Pullman passenger car and mail car that will soon pull into Mountain Station.

The two Pullman train cars that I rescued from the same box as the billboard boxcar are both built from kits back when I was in college and had my train set in the basement at home in Iowa.

You may have noticed the mysterious mansion up the mountainside from the Methodist Church that gives the mountain its name.  No one knows for sure what the two weird, big-nosed men currently living up there are up to, but lately there has been a lot of barking filling the air.  The lights are on in the mansion currently.  Maybe someone brave should go up there and investigate.

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Here’s a better look at the side of the Pullman Passenger car as it zooms past the church.

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The Super Chief is pulling its passenger observation car and its gondola car toward the station also.  Santa Fe’s finest passenger service also goes fast.

I bought the Super Chief engine at a train show in San Antonio in the middle 90’s.  The passenger cars I have had since I was in high school, circa 1974.

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The F-9 diesel freight hauler is pulling a lumber car and the old caboose.

The blue F-9 is the same kind of engine as the Super Chief.  It was originally part of the set my father bought for himself when he retired.  He intended to build a layout in the basement at the farmhouse when he moved back to Iowa.  He finally gave it up, though, and gave it to my sons and me as a gift.  I found it in the box in the garage.  It looks like it probably still runs.  The Union Carbide lumber car was on the back porch in the mess left behind when my father-in-law’s house burned down and he piled the salvaged stuff there.  It was in a box with old salvaged kitchen goods that managed not to burn.  It still needs serious cleaning.  My caboose is missing its back wheels and the trucks the wheels ride on is broken.

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Cruella DeVille’s roadster was spotted near the mysterious old mansion.  It is very possible something bad is going on up there.  

Of all the many things I have to get done before I schlepp off this mortal coil stage right, rescuing my HO rolling stock is probably not the most important, but it is definitely one of the most satisfying.

 

 

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Filed under autobiography, cleaning genii, healing, humor, nostalgia, photo paffoonies, playing with toys, Trains

Troll Time at the Local Doll House

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You know that old doll house that my wife rescued for me?  You don’t?  Well, about six or seven years ago she spotted it on the sidewalk with a pile of other trash waiting for the city garbage collectors.  She asked the homeowner about it.  It was a kit they had bought at Michael’s but never finished, so my wife immediately thought, “My goofy old husband collects dolls all the time, so he will love this.”

“Take it,” said the homeowner, “It’s a shame to have to throw it out.”

So she brought it home and gave it to me.  I of course, collect twelve inch dolls and action figures, none of which fit in a doll house of this particular scale.  So it had to sit practically empty for a space of about four years.  Then my daughter got tired of some of the small Happy Meal dolls that she had gotten from McDonald’s when she was a wee gamin.  (Yes, that’s a real thing… you can look it up.)  I acquired two mostly naked Mini-Barbies, and four other doll-house size dolls, two baseball players and a Lullaby League Girl from Oz, along with a small Winkie Soldier.  Then Dreamworks did the Trolls movie.

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They began moving in by two different routes, these trolls.  Teacher Troll and Baby Troll and Big Troll, whose hair in the back is the only visible part of him… or possibly her, moved in from where I found them in kids’ bedrooms and the garage while cleaning.  I used to keep a stash of them to give out as classroom prizes back in the 90’s.  I bought the movie Trolls from Walmart at $5 a shot over a bunch of weeks between Thanksgiving and last weekend.  The empty spaces where I didn’t even have appropriate doll furniture were now being filled by Trolls.

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In the downstairs bedroom you can see the little yellow Troll has joined Naked Mini-Barbie, the Lullaby-Leaguer, Ceramic Book-Lovin’ Bear and the Angel who used to hold my wedding ring.  (I could never wear it due to arthritis, and it eventually got lost in the move from South Texas to Dallas.)  (Yes, I know it is not a good thing to lose your wedding ring, but it is possible my wife sold it so she could shop for a better husband.  At least, that’s what she told me while she was really angry.)  (And yes, I know I’m supposed to be talking about Trolls taking over my doll house, but I actually like bird-walking while telling such stories.  It lends such every-day Mickey-ness to the story.)

c360_2017-02-24-13-18-52-533The baseball player in the upstairs sitting room where nobody sits, once spent an entire winter at the bottom of the swimming pool.  That’s why his blue uniform turned a bit putrid green.  He stays in this room with my Wish-nik Troll from 1967 and the Winkie Soldier from Oz, who is naturally green in the face and never took a swim.

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Also upstairs are my Troll-topped Pez dispensers, two more movie Trolls, and the former Teacher Troll who lost her apple and my daughter gave a modelling clay diaper to for modesty’s sake which has long since melted a bit (the diaper, not the modesty).

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And at the top of it all, in the attic, are the two movie Trolls that I bought first and started this whole Troll-collection nonsense.  So now the doll house is no longer empty.  But the Trolls are beginning to complain that there is no paint on the walls, and I really ought to do something about that before they take matters into their own hands.  You never know what they might do in the middle of the night when nobody is looking.

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Filed under action figures, doll collecting, goofiness, humor, playing with toys

Artsy Fartsy Endeavors

As I get older… losing my hair… well, okay… growing my hair long to cover psoriasis sores… I don’t get to actually use Beatles’ lyrics in this post except for the opening of the misleading lead sentence.  But as my life and movement is limited more and more to one room of the house (okay two rooms, the bathroom is practically an equal partner in my life story) I have expanded outward by turning inward.  I look inside at all that is creative in me and commit acts of gaseous art.  “Art farts” is the term pointed to in the title.  I spend some of my more difficult sick days making art out of the clutter and doll collections that surround me in my bedroom.

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This is what the clutter of old “Art Farts” looks like lingering at my bedroom door at the moment.

Small bits and pieces when I am in too much pain to draw can make interesting still lifes or collection-clutter documentation.

The bustling city that has grown up on my upstairs bookshelves is also fascinating.

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And it isn’t a matter of always being in bed and never getting out.  I managed to get several pictures of Anselmo the cattle egret that lives in the park. He has gotten used to me taking his picture as I walk the dog five times a day so she can load the park with poop (which I do pick up in plastic bags, by the way).

And why do I call him Anselmo?  Well, look at him, that pointy beak, that staring eye… He just looks like an Anselmo.   I taught three Anselmos in 31 years of teaching, so I ought to know one when I see one.

So, what exactly is an “Art Fart”?  Well, making artwork out of the things you see every day around you.  Like fart gas, it is a natural outcome of digesting stuff.  And why am I surrounded by so many toys and weird things?  Well, I am a Mickey after all.  And this is my second childhood… or third… or tenth… of three-hundred and thirty-fifth… but who’s counting?

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Filed under artwork, goofiness, humor, photo paffoonies, playing with toys

The View From My Little Town

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An aerial view of Toonerville in Winter 

As immigration officers round up school children and their families blocks from a school in North Carolina, Trump minion Flynn is being accused of violating the Logan Act over discussions with the Russians before Trump took office, and DeVos is being chased away from a Washington middle school by angry protesters who don’t want her sucking the intelligence out the students, I am reminded there are quieter places to go and get away from all the insane noise that is trying to kill us.  Thus I head back to Toonerville, my HO scale model train town that has been packed away since we moved to Dallas in 2004.  I have laid the downtown and part of the residential area out on a snowfield on the spare bed in my bedroom.

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I am reminded, as I revisit Toonerville (with the Toonerville Trolley waiting down front from the train station), that I am a humor writer that writes about small town experiences and the teaching of children.  I am imaginative and creative, and I have working strategies for dealing with the stress and insanity caused by all the political baboons doing the politically-charged things that political baboons do baboonishly every baboon day.  There are places to go to get away from the Trump Circus’s endless monkey-house of horror.

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In Toonerville, none of the clocks keep the correct time and none of them agree what time it is.  Certain things are timeless.  The village works together to solve its problems.  What the wits and twits who chew Red Man tobacco down at Al’s General Store think about politics never leaves the checkerboards in front of the fire place.  Mayor Moosewinkle at City Hall has no plans to run for State or Federal office.  (Thank God for that, he’s a nut.)  And officer Billy Bob Wortle, formerly from Texas, has never shot anybody of any color.  The County Sheriff doesn’t even trust him to own bullets for that big old gun of his.  As far as executive orders from Washington go, we mostly don’t give a damn.

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Down at the Post Office, Mr. Murdoch the postman has never “gone postal” and wouldn’t hurt a fly.  He loves to gossip, though.  And Mr. Santucci, the hot-headed Italian owner-operator of the Farmer’s Market (who looks just like Santa Claus in the Coke ads, but is one very foul-mouthed Santa at Christmas time) secretly believes that it is the many differences between the various residents of town that keep life interesting.  And old Ben Johnson, the town’s only black man, is his very best friend.

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It’s a truly good feeling to live in a small town where all the people bicker and throw fits, but no one would every want to throw anyone out of town.  People belong together, working for the common good.  And it is a rather sad thing if the only place such a town can exist is inside my goofy old head.  But if we bicker a little less and throw fits less often on the inside, won’t we be better people on the outside too?

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Filed under artwork, commentary, compassion, goofy thoughts, humor, imagination, insight, inspiration, Paffooney, photo paffoonies, playing with toys, satire, strange and wonderful ideas about life, the road ahead