Do you remember those Play-Doh Fun Factories? I think of that kid’s toy most every day. Really! You put a big blob of colorful clay in it, smush down the over-sized bright colored leaver and it extrudes long bendy logs of gloppy Play-Doh. The ads claim children will have hours of fun building stuff, but I assume most just wad the tubes back up and squish them out a couple more times until they are bored. Eventually the whole mess ends up on the bottom of the toy box with a stretched out slinkless Slinky, a cracked Etch-A-Sketch and a deformed minimalist Mr. Potato Head missing all its body parts except for one arm and an eyebrow.
When I was a boy, most of my toys were multi hand-me-downs passing first through my four older siblings first. Since I was the end of the line, I had decent amount of stuff to play with but certainly not a Play-Doh Fun Factory. Mom would never buy that. She made her own clay for me out of a nickel’s worth of flour, salt and cornstarch. Unfortunately, that glop got hard fairly quickly and would never have squished through those cheap multi shape stencils anyway.
I vaguely remember something like an Etch-A-Sketch in the house but I have to assume it was a cheaper off-brand version called something like Sketchy Etch. I could see my Mom buying a knock-off Senior Spud Brain if it was under a buck at Alexanders, Mays or Lewis’ Of Woodhaven, but if we ever had one, that Reagan-omics trickle-down theory didn’t work since I never saw any part of it. What I do know for sure is my plastic egg of ‘Putty’ was ‘Fun’ brand versus the more famous ‘Silly’.
Yes, Mom was thrifty… and smart. She told us five kids that if a toy company HAD to advertise something on TV, then it must be crap that they could not sell otherwise. And for many years we believed her. Okay, to be fair, maybe we weren’t the brightest kids but who would have thought in one breath she was teaching us not to lie and scamming us in another. At least that lesson prepared me for politicians. And, oh yeah… Mom would have not used the word ‘crap’ to describe those toys to us. That was supposedly a bad word. Whoever heard of getting in trouble for saying ‘crap’? It made no sense to me.
When I was 10 years-old I got yelled at for saying the word ‘crap’ as we walked across the Mays parking lot. All I was doing was singing the opening line to Paul Simon’s song Kodachrome that I had literally just bought the 45 rpm record of with my own allowance money. Of course, I could not tell Mom that or she might have taken the record away from me before I even got the chance to play it. ‘Crap’ always seemed like a borderline bad word that did not deserve the same punishment as it’s harsher curse-word cousins, yet from Mom it garnered the same light smack or mouth of soap.
I guess my point is, we learned our lessons and never even bothered to ask for stuff we really wanted like a Play-Doh Fun Factory. I finally caught on to that rule when for the holidays I asked for Hot Wheels like every other kid had and ended up with a crazy lame knock-off Johnny Lightning car set. Apparently even that bastard Jewish version of Santa was in cahoots with my Mom.
Around the time I got in trouble for “crapping” outside of Mays, I made friends with a neighborhood kid named Andrew that lived across the street catty-corner to the Myrtle Ave bridge over the Interborough Parkway. He was a couple of years younger than me but had all those cool toys I never had. Even though I was a little too old for them, at his house I was finally able to play with stuff like Legos and a Play-Doh Fun Factory. As usual, it turned out Mom was right; that heavily advertised Play-Doh Fun Factory was really lame.
Even though that was my only experience with one, like I said, the name Play-Doh Fun Factory still pops in my head most every day. It’s like Hot Pockets. I don’t really buy or eat Hot Pockets very much but the name of those frozen stuffed pastry snacks with the metallic microwave-safe burial shroud, is constantly rattling around my brain.
You see back when my buddy Mike’s kids were little, he used to call full diapers Hot Pockets. Since then, any time I am near a baby that has to be changed, the old jingle “what are you going to pick… Hot Pockets !!” plays inside my skull. Also, whenever I walk by the rows of them in the grocery store freezer, I again sing that stupid song to myself but instead of a snack I’m thinking about dirty diapers.
Yeah, that’s how my brain works. So, knowing that, you might wonder what is the twisted reason I think of the Play-Doh Fun Factory most every day. I should first admit, in my head the words “Fun Factory” is always in the style of Bobby Van singing the cheesy lounge singer voiced theme song of the obscure 1976 single-season Gong Show knock-off program The Fun Factory.
But back to my daily Play-Doh Fun Factory thoughts… you see… well… I have a dog. Sometimes my wife and I kid around that he is hollow since for a miniature dachshund he puts out mountains of waste. It really does seem like he empties out double what he consumes.
Now I have been walking dogs for decades. I am pretty practiced at doing the embarrassing poopin’ pup ‘look away’ move while they’re doing doggie doo-doo business. You know what I mean, ignore the ugly obviousness by trying to look at absolutely anything but what is happening right in front of you screaming for your attention. Like when your boss has one of those little boogers that slip in and out of their nostril as they bark an order to you or when Gramps leaves the restroom with liquid drops all over his crotch region or when a young teenage girl really should not have worn white pants.
But it is inevitable that every time I take our little Pup out, I eventually end up looking down to see how he is doing. And… well… pretty much every time I catch sight of him slowly extruding his long bendy gloppy logs, the image of that damn toy pops in my head accompanied by it’s modified jingle and I always think well I finally have my own little red wiener dog shaped Play-Doh Fun Factory… with crap shaded Play-Doh.