I am obsessed with toys.
Not the toys that my toddler leaves strewn about the house. Those haberdasheryspawned contraptions of plastic and plush and cacophony without cease are the stuff of my nightmares, and I’m convinced that, when I have shrugged off this mortal coil, if hell is waiting for me, then at least one level of it will be a simple living room floor covered with toys that, much like the severed heads of the hydra, only spawn more toys when I try to clean them up. An ever-growing, inescapable bramble patch of sharp-edged Legos waiting for my tender underfoot, a never-flagging symphony of bells and xylophones and singing woodland creatures.
Ahem. Not those toys.
I’m talking about adult toys. NO NOT THOSE ADULT TOYS. Toys for grown folks.
The problem is, they don’t really make toys for grown folks. There’s a toy section at Target (Yeah, Target, because FARGO WAL-MART), but it’s for kids. Toys for grown folks underwent some serious branding a long time back and are now known as “accessories” or “programs” or “electronics” or whatever other title the little odds and ends are for whatever fascinating little squirrel-hole of a hobby you find yourself falling down. My holes are reserved for things like running and writing and watching movies and maybe I should rethink the phrasing of this sentence.
I should make something clear at the outset here. I’m a packrat. It’s awful. I love stuff. I really do. The American credo of getting as much as you can (that’s a thing, right?) has found a happy little home in my brain and I feed it at every opportunity I get. I find a hobby, or a thing that I love, and I buy all kinds of little useless crap that has anything to do with it. I’ve got a storage tub full of decks of cards from when I went through a card tricks phase a few years back. I’ve got boxes in the garage filled with little action figures (THEY’RE NOT DOLLS, SHUT UP) from cartoons (okay, anime) I watched in college. I’ve got dusty plaques and trophies from when I was less than ten years old. No less than four sets of serious-ANTZ darts (because, yeah, darts were a thing for me for a while) — the ones that come with their own little carrying case and you have to screw the whole shebang together, feathers and all. A personalized goldfingered bowling ball from when I was in a bowling league at the age of fifteen. It’s not memorabilia. There’s no sentimental value. It’s my STUFF, man, and I’m a-keepin it.
So I hoard stuff. And my wife hoards stuff, too. Like opposite ends of two magnets, we attracted one another, except that like magnets would repel each other, and we’re the same, so the metaphor kind of falls apart at this stage, but sharknado, I’m on a roll here. Our garage is not a place we like to show off to people. It’s a repository of our shames.
Because, make no mistake, there is bountiful shame. I know that, on many levels, it’s ridiculous to have all this stuff. Who the haberdashery needs thirty decks of playing cards? And yet, I can’t get rid of it. Even as I profess to strive for minimalism and simplification in my more recent years, the demons of my past keep working behind my back. Organizers to decrease desk clutter? Yes, I’ll take two, and try them for a week, and then put them on the pile of clothes that I keep meaning to donate out in the garage. A fancy new bag to keep my job stuff organized as I go back and forth from home to work and back? I’ll take one in blue AND black. One will live in the back of my car; I will call him Tim, and feed him empty tin cans and drive-thru receipts. BECAUSE I KEEP THOSE TOO.
New hobbies? New toys. With running, it was new shoes, the soles lined with the down of angels to comfort my delicate feet, new socks made of synthetic fibers to absorb shock and sweat (socks that actually care which foot you put them on – seriously, I had never seen socks emblazoned with tiny L’s and R’s before I took up running), a fancy watch which can triangulate my position and tell the government (I mean me) how fast I ran that mile, what neighborhood I ran it in, and how long I was meeting with the terrorist operatives in the woods (wait, what?), new shirts woven of mystical threads to provide legendary comfort and style, hats, gloves, shoes, headphones, all of which are covered with little reflecty bits to ensure that I am not struck by oncoming traffic whilst I’m out pounding pavement when the rest of the world slumbers. They say running is cheap — all you need is your shoes and you can head out the door. The romanticism of that idea drew me in. I shudder to think how much money I’ve “saved” by taking up running rather than or instance shelling out for a gym (which I would not have gone to, that’s off topic, STAY ON TOPIC).
Now, writing! I am new to Serious Writing (about as new as this blog is, which is to say, not quite a month in), so my list of purchases is still rather short. BUT NOT NONEXISTENT. I am typing these very words on a spiffy new bluetooth keyboard with my tablet (the bluetooth keyboard actually makes the tablet totally decent to write on). I bought some e-books, which DON’T COUNT because they don’t take up space, but yeah they still count because they are still representative of my inner slobbering consumerist packrat self. A new bag, to facilitate carrying the tablet and keyboard as well as my other stuff going back and forth between work and home (yes, I got a new bag a couple paragraphs ago, just… okay?)
And apps! Holy schlamoly, there are so many apps out there for writers, it’s a wonder that writers haven’t buried the world in the pages produced by all the productivity they’ve gotten out of all these apps. (Because a thing that writers definitely do NOT do is buy all these toys, read all these things, download all these apps, and proceed NOT to write anything of value, right? Right??) Dictionary apps and thesaurus apps and blogging apps and word count apps and timer apps to make sure you work undisturbed until time is up and apps that shut down the Internet while you’re working and apps that do all of these and also pour you a nice cup of coffee, just kidding, unless you’re reading this from the year 2020 because surely by then there will be an app for that, right?
My favorite at the moment is a little word processor called WriteMonkey, a stripped-down plain text editor which aims to eliminate distractions and allow you to focus on your writing without the urge to check e-mails, surf the web, watch an hour’s worth of Mental Floss videos… to be fair, the urges are still there, but the program blacks out everything else on your screen, theoretically making it more difficult for you to indulge your urges. Out of sight, out of mind, and all that. It operates pretty well as advertised. But the big dumb draw of it for a distractable donut like me is that you can toggle on these little keyboard clicks to make it sound (and, if you’re really into it, look) like you’re typing on an old-school typewriter, complete with a cheerful ding when you hit return. I know, it’s dumb. But it sucks me in, man, like a brand-new Dyson.
I punched out a solid 1400 words today to the soft ratatat of classic typewriter keys today, and left myself well-poised to jump right into Tomorrow’s writing (getting started is the toughest part). Who knows how long these new toys will hold my focus, but I’m gonna keep working them as long as they’re working.
So. Many. Things.