Monday, February 07, 2005

Making Friends and Influencing Small, Stuffed Green Superheroes trapped in the Death Grip of a Fun Crane Being Operated by a Strange, Friendly Person

The title says it all, really.

This weekend was the big yard sale. My tattered crap sold remarkably well. So did everyone else’s. As usual, I came home with a couple things. A CD and some books. But not the killer PC game, “The Simpsons, Hit and Run.” No, I didn’t come home with that. Tanya wouldn’t give me $5. Besides, someone else bought it for $6.


After the yard sale, as usual, all of us yard-salers went to Norm’s. For you who don’t know and couldn’t guess, Norm’s is a diner. A good diner.

There were seven of us, so we had to wait for a little while for a table. I think that there’s a zoning code here in Los Angeles that states if you’re going to operate a diner of any kind, you must have a crane game in the waiting area. Norm’s, not being one to buck a trend, had one right on the inside of the door. And as usual, there was someone playing it.

I used to play these things when I was a kid, but the stuffed animals and junk inside of those ones were much smaller. It was easier for the claw to get a hold of something. Since the claw is weaker than a Britney Spears live concert performance, the smaller the useless garbage in the crane game, the better.

This crane seemed to be the exception to the “Britney Spears = Weak Ass Crane” rule because no sooner had I walked into Norm’s, the guy playing the game turned to me with a problem. It seems that he had won a medium-sized stuffed Hulk doll, but the crane wouldn’t release it into the tray-thingie. He didn’t know what to do. So I went over and utilizing my own Hulk-like strength, shook the machine with a silent vigor that would release the entrapped plushie and not draw any unwanted attention from the wait staff.

My plan worked! I had saved the day. I felt pretty good about myself.

But here’s the thing. This guy’s one of those overly-friendly types. And we had bonded over sub-standard Marvel Comics merchandise. That’s when we all got to hear all about his wife in the hospital and her new titanium knee. We even got to see a blurry picture of her on his cell phone. And he was also the type of guy who would talk to you, then say goodbye, walk away – and then come back three seconds later and do it all over again.

Now, I liked this guy. I really did. He was a sweet guy. He seemed to love his wife. But he was a bit needy. And, by his own admission, he had an unhealthy obsession with the crane game. He said that he’s won hundreds of toys for his bed-ridden wife. What a lucky girl. I hope she likes Sponge Bob. I’m sure the staff at Cedars Sinai never get tired of his winnings. Her hospital room is probably crammed with stuffed ice cream cones and tiny batting helmets.

The only thing that would distract the guy long enough for me to have any conversation with my chosen friends was the claw game. He had to have pumped about $7 into it while we were sitting there.

But then after a couple minutes, he came back with a big, creepy Sponge-Bobbish looking heart thing with big feet. He wasn’t exaggerating his crane game prowess. He had won again. It was actually kind of impressive. He asked me if I had a sweetheart, I pointed to Tanya – and he gave me his hard-won prize to give to her. Because I helped him get his Hulk.

He was quite a guy. Incapable of being anything but kind. And talkative.

Then he took a picture of Tanya and me with his cell phone to show to his wife who is evidently doing very well with her new titanium knee.

And who, we were promised, is soon to be the proud owned of a stuffed Hulk.

And if anyone is looking for a weird heart shaped thing with crossed eyes and big feet, we’ll probably be having another garage sale in a couple of months. I hate to sell it, because that guy was so nice, but it doesn’t go with my already too huge collection of fuzzy footballs.

Fun Fact: The Superbowl half-time show was a welcomed relief this year for me. Paul McCartney did a fine job. I was getting sick of the halftime “extravaganzas” that were becoming the status quo. You know, an eclectic crew of musicians crammed together on one stage. This time, they only did that at the beginning. But hey, finally The Black Eyed Peas and Charlie Daniels…on the same stage!

Apparently, there has been some grumbling by the younger audience about the half time show though. It wasn’t exciting enough or something. How sad. Kids can’t handle 4 songs in a row by the same guy? That’s the internet for you, downloadable tunes mean that we don’t have to listen to anything but the one song on any given album that Clear Channel Communications has deemed “cool.”

But I have to say that I’m just a little irked that Paul didn’t sing “Band on the Run.” That’s just a kick ass tune there.

Oh, and Tanya and I made boneless Buffalo wings yesterday. They were mighty fine. But I suggest that if you make them for yourself, don’t make them the entire meal. They taste great at the time. They don’t need no celery at the time. Everything’s moving fine – at the time. But you’ll pay for it later.

Trust me.

15 Buffalo wings alone can’t be your dinner, kids.

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