Interlude: Just as good

Before I was legitimately old enough to understand the true economic state of my family, I knew we were in no way rich.

I knew by comparing the toys I did have to those of a rude little kid about three houses down. His name was Charlie, and he had every toy you could think of. He would come outside with his toys and play in his fenced in front yard, while the rest of the children on our street rode by on our hand-me-down bikes like gawking construction workers admiring a lady with too short a skirt.

Now, Charlie would on occasion choose one of the many admirers and invite them through the gate to partake of his many wares. The rest were "allowed" to watch them play.

I was never chosen, because I had committed the unforgivable sin of being born a girl.

Charlie did serve somewhat of purpose in my life, though. He served as toy catalog. If he had it, it was available at stores. I just could not for the life of me figure out WHAT store.

Whenever my mother would go shopping, she always took me along. It helped that I was rather well behaved. My mother was a bargain shopper, so generally when shopping we would stop at multiple shops. Among them: Alexanders, Odd Lots, ABC (in Cityline), Woolsworth, and several Oriental market type stores that carried stereotypical Chinatown like wares.

Although I was usually allowed to wander in the toy sections, the toys I found were usually either a few years old (and heavily clearanced) or they kind of looked like the toys I was looking for, or were in foreign packaging (read: knock-offs.)

On the few rare occasions I would find something I wanted, like say Voltron, my mom, smooth salesman that she was, would point out that the Go Lion Force Robot thing that was not diecast, but most probably blow molded was "just-as-good."

Although I never quite fell for this trick, I got the message loud and clear, "We can't afford it, get the knock-off or go home without a toy."

In my imagination, whichever knock-off I happen to be playing with, was of course the real thing. We all had grand adventures, Plastic Lion Robot, Googly-eyed Godzillaish Lizard, Bo and Luke Duke (on clearance from TruValue), their ride, a broken Bespin cloud car I found in the neighbor's trash one day (which I still own), Remco Warlord (instead of He-Man), Decker, and a Rambo lookalike from Remco's GI Joeish line.

Of course all the fun would come to a screeching halt, the day Charlie rode his brand new BMX by my house and loudly made fun of my cheap toys.

I started playing in my backyard more often after that.

Charlie was a jerk.

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