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Recently I decided to take extensive photographs of a typical Toys R Us store mainly because late last year, just before Christmas, Toys R Us had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. This month Toys R Us is closing a large number of its stores throughout the United States. Nearly three years ago I did an extensive post covering the two-month period that the Kmart in Greenbelt, Maryland conducted its going out of business sale. This time I decided to take a photo of a Toys R Us store that is NOT among the stores that are slated for closure because I wanted to provide sort of a time capsule as to what it was like to visit a Toys R Us store on a typical day when it was in normal operations.

The biggest irony about the upcoming store closings is that this year is Toys R Us’ 70th anniversary. When I looked up Toys R Us’ Wikipedia page I learned one interesting fact—that chain started its first store in the Adams-Morgan section of Washington, DC. That store, which was then-called Children’s Supermart, was operating in a space that is now occupied by the iconic nightclub Madam’s Organ Blues Bar. A few years later the first store with the Toys R Us name was opened in Rockville, Maryland. Toys R Us went from being a local business to a national (then international) store chain when it was sold to Interstate Department Stores, Inc. in 1966.

In a way it’s kind of sad that this is happening to Toys R Us because I grew up watching those commercials on television that featured someone dressed in a Geoffrey Giraffe costume while the ad jingle went “I don’t want to grow up, I’m a Toys R Us kid/There’s a million of toys at Toys R Us that I can play with.”

There was only one Toys R Us store in the town that I grew up in (Glen Burnie, Maryland). Sometimes my mother would buy toys from that store but she also purchased toys from Montgomery Wards and Sears as well. I still have memories of when I used to go to the one in the Glen Burnie Mall and it had a sign that said that children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult. Sometimes I would get permission from my mom to go to either the Record Bar (which sold vinyl records, 8-track tapes, and cassette tapes) or the video arcade (both of which have long since gone out of business) while she and my grandmother went inside of some clothing store. I was somewhere between 12-15 when I did this. (I know that for a fact because I pretty much lost interest in doing this once I reached 16.) I always made an effort to go past the Toys R Us entrance in the mall where I would enter that store without being accompanied by an adult just so I would flout that rule. None of the store employees ever did anything to kick me out for being an unaccompanied minor under 16 but it still filled my juvenile ego to know that I flouted a store rule. I never stayed too long inside Toys R Us because most of the toys were geared towards younger kids and I had pretty much outgrown any interest I had in things like Barbie dolls or Play-Doh. I only went inside because a sign said I couldn’t do it and it was an easy way to rebel against authority without getting into any kind of serious trouble. (LOL!)

Ironically that Glen Burnie Toys R Us is still going strong and it’s among the stores that is being saved from closure for now. The same can’t be said for the rest of the mall and, in fact, that mall had finally closed down for good last year.

When I moved closer to the Washington, DC area as an adult, I was lucky enough to be in an area where there were three different Toys R Us stores all located just a short drive away from my home—in New Carrollton, Laurel, and Langley Park. I used to periodically shop at Toys R Us mainly to purchase presents for my then-husband’s nieces and nephews or to buy baby shower gifts for various friends, relatives, and coworkers. There was a time when my church had a Toys for Tots-like program around the winter holiday season where we purchased toys for the children at this non-profit community center in Washington, DC that strived to provide programs for inner city kids from low-income families that would be an alternative to gangs and I used to shop at Toys R Us for that reason as well.

But then Toys R Us encountered its first problem when the dotcom boom happened and it was very slow in getting an online presence.  Amazon, which sold only books at the time, wanted to start selling toys so Toys R Us entered into a ten-year contract with Amazon to allow that online site to be its exclusive online supplier. It might have sounded like a good idea at the time but, in retrospect, that deal was like having Coca-Cola decide to let Pepsi-Cola handle all of its marketing and distribution of Coke products. Amazon soon allowed other third-party retailers to sell toys on its site, which resulted in a lawsuit.

One-by-one, over the next few years, the Toys R Us stores that were located closer to my home started to close. The one in New Carrollton was located in a building with a flat roof. A major blizzard hit the area where two feet of snow accumulated. The flat roof of the New Carrollton Toys R Us had accumulated so much snow that it literally caved in. I still remember seeing local news reports about that roof collapse along with pictures of stuffed animals floating on top of huge puddles that were created by melting snow. The chain decided to permanently close that store rather than rebuild. The building was razed then rebuilt and a CVS Pharmacy now sits in that location.

As for the one in Laurel I remember that the chain decided to do a remodel of that store while remaining open for business during the remodeling. Once that job was done that store looked really nice with a fresh coat of paint and bright lights. A year or two later the chain decided to close the Laurel store, which had me rolling my eyes since that chain had spent time and money remodeling that store only close it soon afterwards.

At that point the one in Langley Park was the closest Toys R Us store to my home. Compared to the Laurel store or even the New Carrollton store, that Langley Park store was a major hot mess. The floors had scruff marks everywhere and the shelves were totally messy and disorganized. It was almost like no one cared about having that store looked its best so it would encourage customers to return. I don’t know if the clientele had anything to do with the store deciding not to do much to keep up appearances or not. (Many immigrants, mainly from Central America and the Caribbean, started to settle in Langley Park starting in the 1980’s.)

Early one morning the bodies of two men were found in the parking lot of the Langley Park Toys R Us. Each of the men have had their their throats slashed. A third man was also knifed and survived. Naturally this story of three immigrant men being attacked in a Toys R Us parking lot was extensively covered by the local news media. Police found out that these slayings were the result of a drug deal gone bad and a suspect was arrested. That Toys R Us store closed soon after that incident.

As a result of those closures, these days if I want to shop at a Toys R Us, I have to drive at least a half-an-hour in any direction in order to get to a store. As a result, my shopping at Toys R Us has become very rare. These days if I need to buy a toy for whatever reason, I’m more likely to go to the Target store that’s located only three miles from my home and it has a pretty decent toy selection.

At this point there are only two Toys R Us left in my county and they require at least (depending on the traffic) a half-an-hour commute. One is a regular Toys R Us store in Clinton and the other is a Toys R Us outlet store at National Harbor. The Clinton store is the one that is among the stores that Toys R Us plan to close soon. Once that happens, my county will only have the outlet store left and no more regular Toys R Us stores.

At one point Toys R Us had opened a giant flagship store at Times Square in New York City. I went there many times whenever my then-husband and I visited his father and step-mother. I used to be awed by the four floors that not only included toys but I remembered there was a giant life-sized version of Barbie’s dreamhouse that you could walk through while browsing the selection of Barbie dolls that were displayed on shelves inside of that house, an animatronic t-rex robot, a giant candy section, and large 3D displays that were built from LEGOs.  In addition there was this giant indoor ferris wheel that was as tall as the store itself so one could see all four floors of the store while going on that ride. I never went on that ride myself because I still have memories the one and only time I went on a ferris wheel when I was seven years old and it literally made me feeling so dizzy that I never cared to repeat that experience. On top of it, the lines to that ferris wheel were usually long and I wasn’t in the mood to wait in a long line to get on a ride. I last went to New York City in 2011 (just a few months before my hip surgery and my husband’s subsequent sudden walkout) and I walked past that store while seeing the ferris wheel through the glass windows from the outside. I’ve heard that this store is now closed, which is too bad. Here’s a video tour of the Times Square store I found on YouTube that was shot shortly before it closed.

As for the chain itself, it has been going through more troubles in recent years. This article said that Toys R Us has an e-commerce site that’s very clunky to use compared to Amazon while also mentioning that kids these days are more likely to play with computers, smartphones, and tablets than traditional toys like Barbie dolls and Lego. Another article said that Toys R Us’ prices are higher than what Walmart, Amazon, and Target charge for the same toy. There is another factor in Toys R Us’ decline and it has less to do with kids’ playtime, their parents’ shopping habits, or the cost of toys and more with the fact that in 2005 the management decided to sell the company in a leveraged buyout to the real estate investment trust Vornado Realty Trust and the private equity firms KKR and Bain Capital. This trio of companies have focused more on doing a complex financial deal that would leave them richer while drowning Toys R Us in debt. It’s the usual Wall Street financial shenanigans that focus more on extracting huge short-term profits for the very wealthy 1%  class and less on operating a viable profitable store chain in the long run.

In a way one could say that karma had finally struck Toys R Us. When that chain first started opening stores throughout the United States in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, a lot of the smaller toy stores that were locally owned were driven out of business because many of them couldn’t compete with the wide selection of toys or the low prices that Toys R Us provided. Now it’s Toys R Us’ turn to eventually get driven out of business through a combination of increased competition (from the likes of Amazon, Walmart, and Target) and being literally milked heavily for profits by a bunch of Wall Streeters.

Of course it’s the employees who are suffering the most due to increased workplace stress and losing their jobs.

Which led me to my recent visit to a Toys R Us store in Annapolis, Maryland. I wanted to pick a store that isn’t among the stores being closed and I ended up picking the one in Annapolis because I decided to attend the weekly Thursday night meeting of my support group for people who are separated or divorced. The meetings are held in Crofton and Annapolis is just a few miles away on Route 50 so it made sense for me to go to the Annapolis store then head back to Crofton for the meeting.

The next photo shows the outside of the store. Some of the stores in this chain are Toys R Us only while other stores are its Babies R Us subsidiary. (The latter store focuses on items for babies and toddlers such as furniture, formula, and diapers.) This location is a larger store that has both Toys R Us and Babies R Us under the same roof.

Here’s what I first saw when I entered the store.

The next photo shows the Fingerlings, robot toys which were THE Hot Toy of 2017. These critters were sold out everywhere just before Christmas and these toys were sold on eBay for several times the original $15 retail price. As of late January I saw a few of these toys on the store shelves at the original retail price.

There was a section devoted to toys that were based on recent movies, such as Coco and Batman vs. Superman.

The store was nearly empty when I visited it. I know that the fact that I visited it on a Thursday in late January was a major factor. But this particular Toys R Us is located across the street from Annapolis Mall and I noticed that the mall was filling up with cars when I was leaving the area yet Toys R Us was mostly empty.

The store had a few Toys R Us exclusive toys, such as this Funko Pop! vinyl set featuring Mickey and Minnie Mouse.

They had some retro video games based on Space Invaders and the old Sega Genesis console system on the shelves yet they kept the games for the newer console systems kept behind locked cases.

Curiously Toys R Us had a bunch of Sharper Image products that it was selling on its store shelves. (The Sharper Image is a separate store chain that specializes in upscale electronic products.) This store sold mainly robot dinosaurs.

Toys R Us had an entire display devoted to last year’s hot trend, Fidget Spinners. (Remember them? I certainly do.)

Toys R Us carried a few American Girl dolls but they were all of the 14-inch Wellie Wishers.

This next item was among some of the more unusual toys I found on sale. This one is a Bear Surprise, where each bear is a pregnant female who could carry anywhere between 3-5 cubs. (The person wouldn’t know for sure until after he/she purchases a Bear Surprise and take her home.)

The one thing I most remember about Toys R Us is its mascot, Geoffrey Giraffe. I remember when that store used to sell Geoffrey Giraffe stuffed animals where the giraffe wore a sweater with the Toys R Us logo. I didn’t see any stuffed Geoffrey Giraffes on sale. In fact, I didn’t see much of Geoffrey Giraffe anywhere in this store except for this graphic. It’s obvious that they’ve redesigned him but he looks incredibly lame compared with the Geoffrey Giraffe I knew when I was growing up. It was like someone decided to make Geoffrey into this bland forgettable character that would blend in with a corporate environment. I can’t imagine any child being enthusiastic about this Geoffrey Giraffe.

The Journey Girls are 18-inch dolls that are Toys R Us’ answer to the ever-popular American Girl doll. They cost around $40, which is cheaper than American Girl’s $110 dolls.

Curiously Toys R Us had a section devoted to jewelry from Claire’s (which is a separate retail chain that sells jewelry and other accessories).

Here’s another Toys R Us exclusive I found, a Zoomer robot unicorn.

Naturally Toys R Us had a line of Star Wars toys.

They had a whole shelf full of Sharper Image drones.

Here are some more toys I found at Toys R Us, which includes Wonder Woman, Gremlins, and even a stuffed Godzilla plush.

I remember when Teddy Ruxpin first came out back in the 1980s and I saw news stories about this teddy bear. I was amazed by the animatronic technology back then even though this product was aimed at young children and I didn’t have any young children of my own. Teddy Ruxpin has been re-released and he’s compatible with a smartphone app and Bluetooth.

Toys R Us had a section devoted to bikes, small cars that children could ride in, and rollerblades.

Here’s another shot of an empty store aisle.

Toys R Us had an arts and crafts section including a shelf dedicated to nothing but Crayola products.

A quarter of the store was devoted to Babies R Us, which had cribs, blankets, and other products geared towards infants and toddlers.

Here’s a shot of the hall in the Babies R Us section that has the restrooms.

Toys R Us had a couple of STEM-focused high tech toys that are designed to encourage making and coding but they were pretty small compared to what Target and Best Buy offer.

They had a bunch of shelves devoted to board games. Some were the games I knew from my childhood, such as Rock’Em Sock’Em Robots, while others were definitely ones I hadn’t heard of before.

There was an aisle devoted entirely to LEGO products.

This one was another interesting item where you create your own version of a Kinder Surprise Egg.

Toys R Us had toy vacuum cleaners and toy irons for those budding young housewives.

I remember when Zhu Zhu Pets were the big Hot Toy way back in 2009. Like Fingerlings, Zhu Zhu Pets were sold out in stores everywhere just before the holiday season but then they became plentiful once Christmas passed. I haven’t seen Zhu Zhu Pets on sale anywhere in my area in a few years so I was surprised when I found them at Toys R Us.

Toys R Us also had Barbie dolls on sale along with newer dolls, such as the DC Super Hero Girls dolls.

I saw one discount bin full of polar bear Christmas ornaments.

I found a few dolls and plush based on Disney’s Moana movie and Nintendo’s Super Mario Bros. video game series.

I decided to make one purchase. The woman at the cash register offered me a free frequent rewards card. I accepted it even though I rarely shop at Toys R Us these days and I don’t know when I’ll make another trip to any Toys R Us store in my area. (Like I wrote earlier, most of those stores are located at least a 30-minute trip from my home.) I have to admit that the card is pretty colorful.

Here’s the one purchase I made. I bought a $15 Fingerlings monkey for the heck of it. I shot a video of the first time I played with this baby monkey, which I’ll write about in my next post.

UPDATE (March 8, 2018): Toys R Us is now seriously considering liquidating all of its stores in the U.S. That chain had recently started doing the same in the U.K. I’m glad I managed to take these photos of the Annapolis store when I did because I now have a time capsule of what a typical Toys R Us store was like when it was in business.

UPDATE (March 14, 2018): It’s official! After 70 years in business, Toys R Us will close its remaining 800 stores, including the one in Annapolis where I took the photos in this post.


Ever since Donald Trump has gotten into office there have been so many incidents of ICE agents cracking down on immigrants and deporting them along with so many stories about families who have literally been torn apart. To be fair, Barack Obama’s administration did a lot of deportations as well but those flew under the radar because President Obama was the first African American president and there were plenty of people leery about criticizing him although one could easily criticize President Obama’s policies without resorting to racism. Since Donald Trump is an old white guy who ran his campaign based on his racist imagery of Mexican drug dealers and rapists and building a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico, there is now more media attention on those deportations—most of which affect immigrants with black or brown skin. (And that’s not to mention President Trump’s recent descriptions of Haiti and Africa as “shithole countries.”)

Recently a white immigrant was rounded up by ICE agents and they are trying to deport him as well. Lukasz Niec was a guy who was born in Poland and he was brought to the U.S. with his parents back in 1979 when he was only five years old. (At that time Poland was a communist country that was aligned with the Soviet Union and it did the usual communist repression against its own citizens so it was understandable why his parents wanted to leave.) When he was a teenager he got into some minor troubles with the law. He got a green card and he decided to straighten out his life by going to college then to medical school. He became a doctor and he eventually got married and had two children. His most recent offense was an arrest on a domestic violence charge in 2013 but he was later found not guilty by a jury.

Those brief brushes with the law were enough to provide an excuse for ICE agents to round up this guy and begin proceedings to have him deported back to Poland. This is a country that this guy had not even lived in since he was five years old. He has long since forgotten how to speak Polish and he has no immediate family ties in that nation.

When I saw this story blow up on social media I read social media posts from people acting surprised that the Trump Administration would focus on a white man. As I think back to my childhood, I have to say that I’m far less surprised that his ICE agents would pick on a Pole than most people.

Let me give you a brief history lesson here. There was a time prior to the Industrial Revolution where most Americans considered themselves to be WASPs—White Anglo-Saxon Protestants. Beginning with the Industrial Revolution there were plenty of immigrants from many European nations, including Poland. While many Polish immigrants had white skin, they were not Anglo-Saxons so, according to attitudes of the time, they didn’t count as being real white people. On top of it, most Poles were either Roman Catholics or Jews, which made them be seen more as outsiders by the WASPs. Given that attitude, it was no wonder that hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan considered Jews and Roman Catholics to be just as bad as African Americans.

Even though Poles gradually were assimilated into the melting pot, there were stereotypes that still persisted. I was born in Baltimore, where many Polish immigrants settled, and I grew up in nearby Glen Burnie. Even though my family lived next door to a Polish American family and there were plenty of people of Polish descent, I still grew up hearing Poles being described as “Dumb Pollocks.” I heard a lot of Dumb Pollock jokes being told on the playground while I grew up. Here’s one such example, which was among the milder Dumb Pollock jokes I heard:

Q: Take Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, the Smart Pollock, and the Dumb Pollock. Put them all into a single room together. Place a $5 bill in the middle of that room. Who would get that $5 bill?

A: The Dumb Pollock because there is no such thing as Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, or a Smart Pollock.

The Dumb Pollock stereotype didn’t end with just jokes. There was a liquor store that I used to go with my parents when they made an occasional trip there. That was because that store had a shelf that sold novelty gag gifts and I loved looking at them. Among the gag gifts sold was a box marked “Polish Gun.” When you open the lid, you see a gun with the barrel bent backwards making it look like you would get struck with a bullet when you pull the trigger.

But that’s not all. When my family used to make its annual summer vacation to Ocean City, I remember the raunchy t-shirts. Among the t-shirts I remembered was an illustration of a guy looking down his own pants with the slogan “Polish Peeping Tom.” Another shirt had an illustration of a guy in a boat holding a fishing rod where the hook was on the back of the guy’s pants that had the slogan “Polish Fisherman.”

Even though I lived next door to a Polish American family and grew up attending a Roman Catholic parish that had Polish Americans among its membership, I still heard those Dumb Pollock jokes. Given that Donald Trump spent his entire life in New York City, which was another place where Polish Immigrants settled in large numbers during the Industrial Revolution, I’m sure that he heard those Dumb Pollock jokes as well. Except he was more insulated from actually knowing any person of Polish descent than I was because he grew up in a wealthy neighborhood in a WASP family (two of his grandparents were German immigrants and his mother was from Scotland) and his father was arrested back in the 1920s for attending a Ku Klux Klan rally. (Like I wrote a few paragraphs ago, the KKK hated Roman Catholics and Jews just as much as it hated African Americans.)

Growing up I used to love telling Dumb Pollock jokes as much as the other kids on the playground. But it has been many years since I told those jokes because I don’t find them funny anymore. What happened? I can’t say for sure but there were a few factors. First of all I grew up and I became exposed to more sophisticated adult humor (especially from watching TV shows like Monty Python’s Flying Circus and Saturday Night Live) that made those Dumb Pollock jokes seem stupid and childish by comparison. Then I went away to college at the University of Maryland at College Park where I met a variety of people and there was sort of an unsaid social thing against telling ethnic jokes of any kind. (At least that was the case among the groups of people I socialized with.)

What finally got me to quit telling Dumb Pollock jokes for good was when I converted to Unitarian Universalism a year after I graduated from college but shortly before I got married. That faith has seven principles, the first of which is this:

The inherent worth and dignity of every person.

In a nutshell every person is entitled to being respected no matter what that person’s background is. Telling Dumb Pollock jokes—or any other type of ethnic jokes—dehumanizes a certain category of people simply because they were born that way and it’s not something that one can control.

While I managed to let go of the Dumb Pollock stereotype, it’s obvious that President Trump has not. In fact back in the 1980’s it was said that he broke the law by hiring illegal Polish immigrants to work on building his Trump Tower without even providing the proper safety equipment necessary to do the job. He paid them $4 per hour, which is far less than the minimum wage at that time. Of course that was when he even bothered to pay them. Many of these workers weren’t paid at all yet they were forced to continue working on that building project because they were threatened with being reported to authorities and deported. If that weren’t bad enough, here is what one Polish worker said about his time working on the Trump Tower project:

Trump also hired a smaller crew of unionized demolition workers who teased their nonunion Polish counterparts. “They told me and my friends that we are stupid Poles and we are working for such low money,” Adam Mrowiec, one of the Polish workers, later testified.

So here is a man who was probably exposed to the same Dumb Pollock jokes that I was, except he grew up in a more insulated environment than I was so he never learned to consider Polish people as being anything other than Dumb Pollocks to be used and discarded for his own purposes just like inanimate objects. And if these Dumb Pollocks aren’t useful to him, then they should just go away.

With a mindset like that, it’s no wonder the Trump Administration has sent ICE agents after a Polish American man to be deported from the only country he has ever known to a nation that he hasn’t seen since he was five years old.

If you’re a Polish American who voted for Donald Trump back in 2016 expecting that he will—to quote his campaign slogan—Make America Great Again, then the joke’s on you since he’s basically a con artist who could care less for anyone who isn’t a wealthy WASP like he is and who basically looks down on people like you.

I’m old enough to remember Oprah Winfrey back when she started as a local news anchor for WJZ-TV Channel 13 in Baltimore. She eventually went on to co-host a local daytime talk show at that same station called People Are Talking (with Richard Sher), which I used to watch with my grandmother (who watched me during the week while my parents both worked) whenever I was home on summer vacation.

I even saw both Oprah Winfrey and Richard Sher in person once when they made a live appearance at the since-demolished Harundale Mall in Glen Burnie. I happened to be going to the mall that day for a different reason (that I’ve long since forgotten) without knowing about them making a special appearance and I saw them there. (I know it was after I had gotten my drivers license because I remember being at that mall alone.) They were chatting with fans and signing autographs. I still remember Oprah Winfrey with the Afro hairstyle that she wore at the time and wearing some funky mod 1970s chic brown outfit with boots while Richard Sher looked relatively drab in a typical business suit and tie. While I thought it was cool seeing them in the flesh, I didn’t bother with getting an autograph because I felt that they were just a pair of local celebrities who weren’t well-known outside of the Baltimore metropolitan area. If Phil Donahue, who had one of the highest-rated nationwide daytime talk shows at the time, had been there I definitely would’ve made an effort to get an autograph from him.

I regretted that decision years later when Oprah left Baltimore for Chicago, where she began her solo daytime talk show and it was soon syndicated to other TV stations nationwide. She eventually became a bigger phenomenon than Phil Donahue (whom she would ultimately beat in the ratings for having the highest-rated nationwide talk show in the US). She also built her media empire (which includes her own cable channel and monthly magazine) and has appeared in a few movies.

A few nights ago Oprah Winfrey gave this rousing speech at the Golden Globe Awards.

I generally avoid award shows like the plague (because I personally find them to be exercises in boredom and tedium) so I didn’t hear about it until I was checking Facebook the next day. As the day went on I started seeing some of my Facebook friends posting “Oprah Winfrey for President in 2020” and “Oprah 2020.”

I’ll admit that, in some ways, Oprah would make a better president than Donald Trump. She grew up in poverty and had to overcome a lot of hurdles in her life and career as being both African American and a woman so she has more direct knowledge of what it’s like to grow up poor without white male privilege than Trump (who was born into a wealthy white family). She doesn’t openly throw tantrums on Twitter nor has she ever publicly resorted to name calling, unlike Trump. She would be less likely to engage in a childish pissing contest with nuclear weapons than Trump (who has bragged on Twitter about how his nuclear button is bigger and works better than North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s). She’s more well-spoken than Trump and I’d doubt she’d make up nonsensical English words like “covfefe” and “bigly.” While I’ve heard that Trump doesn’t even read books, Oprah Winfrey has not only read books but she used to have an ongoing book club on her old talk show where she would pick a book for people to read and she would devote episodes to discussing that book. And I think she would have a better work ethic because I don’t see her taking golfing trips every single weekend unlike Trump (who has taken more golfing trips in his first year of office than his predecessor, Barack Obama, did in his entire eight years in office).

I’ll also admit that it would be cool if someone whom I knew as a local Baltimore-area personality and saw once in person years ago would ultimately become President of the United States.

However, despite my past memories of Oprah Winfrey and my personal opinion about how she would be a step up from the orange-skinned buffoon who currently occupies the White House, I really can’t get behind the “Oprah 2020” movement at all. That’s because of the fact that she has the same problem that Donald Trump has: She has never held any kind of elected office before. That’s a serious handicap when it comes to the highest office in the land. Look at how Trump’s presidency has been adversely affected by his lack of previous experience as an elected official.

The only television talk show host who could even remotely be qualified for the White House that I could think of would be Jerry Springer and that’s because he once served as the mayor of Cincinnati before he began his television career. (However, that doesn’t mean I think he should run. Not only is there his less-than-stellar reputation stemming from his controversial talk show but he hasn’t held elected office since 1977.)

If Oprah Winfrey really wants to become president, she should start by getting elected to a lower office (such as a seat on the Chicago city council or as a representative in the Illinois state legislature) then moving up to a seat on the national level in either the Senate or the House of Representatives. If she does that, and if I like how she voted on the issues, I would definitely vote for her as the first female African American President of the United States.

Otherwise I would prefer someone with actual experience as an elected official. There are other African American women who would be more qualified for the White House than Oprah Winfrey simply because they are currently serving as elected officials, such as Maxine Waters and Nina Turner.

After all, just because someone gives a rousing speech at the Golden Globe Awards doesn’t mean that she is capable of being President of the United States. Giving great speeches and being able to run this country on a day-to-day basis (including dealing with Congress, signing bills into law, and trying to maintain relationships with different countries) are two different things.

Besides, haven’t this country learned from Donald Trump’s crazy first year in office about the pitfalls of electing a television personality with no previous elected political experience to the nation’s highest office?

UPDATE (January 10, 2018): The Washington Post has a list of some of the less savory things in Oprah’s past that could possibly haunt her on the campaign trail (such as her past friendship with Harvey Weinstein, who has been accused of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape) should she decide to run for president.

Santa Claus

December 28 was the anniversary of the day that my husband suddenly came home from work, announced that he was moving out, then bolted out the door. This came three months after I had hip surgery and just three days after we celebrated a lovely Christmas together. He never indicated that he was the slightest bit unhappy.

So what’s a better way of observing that anniversary than going to the annual post-Christmas holiday party that was put on by my support group for people who are separated or divorced. This party is usually put on instead of the usual Thursday night group meeting and it happened to fall on December 28 this year.

Part of the festivities involved a White Elephant gift exchange where we are supposed to bring a gift that we didn’t want and exchange it for a different surprise. For people who are satisfied with their gifts, they can buy new gifts for this gift exchange as long as they don’t spend more than around $20-30.

I ended up needing to buy new presents for this gift exchange. I walked around Target where an idea jumped out at me. I found this DVD of The Sound of Music that was on sale for only $5.

As I walked around Target I found this special Hot Wheels car based on The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. I figured I could couple this car with the DVD to create a 1960’s gift package.

I originally intended to just give the DVD and Hot Wheels car. But, a few hours before the party began, I decided to drive to nearby Annapolis so I could check out Third Eye Comics. I was floored when I found a comic book series based on this animated stop motion series I watched on TV when I was a very young child back in the 1960s: Gumby.

I used to be so devoted to Gumby back in the day that I had Gumby and Poky rubber toys and I even named the first dog we ever had after Gumby. I thought it would make a perfect last-minute addition to my 1960s gift themed package. The back cover was an ad for the DVD sets of the original 1960s TV series.

So I went to the party, socialized and had a good time. Here is the gift I got in exchange. It’s a tube of this stuff that’s only sold at Bath & Body Works known as Rose Cosmic Cream. I’ve had rose-scented perfumes and hand lotions in the past so I didn’t know what was so “cosmic” about it.

The back of the tube was campy sounding with words like “The Fragrance Experiment,” “alluring,” “feminine,” “blushing,” “modern,” and “playful.”

The next day I put some of this stuff on my hands. I have to admit that it has a nice scent but I didn’t know what was so “cosmic” about it. But then I held my hands to direct sunlight and I saw that my hands were literally sparkly. It reminded me of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight book series about the vampires whose skins tend to glitter when exposed to direct sunlight. I looked in the ingredients and found that mica was listed. So the mica was what made this rose-scented lotion so “cosmic.” LOL!

By the way, you can buy mica at various arts and crafts supply stores, mix it into your own lotion, and come up with your own brand of “cosmic cream.” LOL!

Santa Claus

My birthday is on December 15 and I usually like to do something fun. Last year I spent my birthday last slogging through Baltimore in very bitter cold temperature and frantically trying to contact someone in authority about a homeless man who was sleeping on the steps of the Baltimore Convention Center despite the fact that the Polar Vortex had come through the area plunging the temperature below 20 degrees.

I don’t know if I reached anyone and I was stymied by the fact that I don’t live in Baltimore so I didn’t know who to turn to. I spent the next couple of days doing Google searches to see if anyone had frozen to death on the steps of the Convention Center only to turn up empty. I guess the man survived that bitter cold night but I’ll never know for sure.

This year I decided to go to Tyson’s Corner Mall in Virginia because I had spent some fun birthdays there in previous years and I also wanted to avoid any more drama about homeless people in cold weather. December 15 fell on a Friday this year so I was looking forward to it.

Except it rained that day then the temperature plunged to below freezing so all that rain on the ground turned into ice. I still have memories of when I slipped on ice in Annapolis back in 2011, which resulted in my hip replacement being knocked out of position so I had to undergo hip revision surgery later that year in order to put it back into place. I just wasn’t willing to risk falling and having my hip replacement messed up.

So I decided to postpone that trip a couple of days. December 18 fell on a Monday, which is usually a relatively quiet night at that mall. Except it was just a few days before Christmas so there were more people shopping there on a Monday night than usual. But it still wasn’t bad. Here are the photos I shot that night.

I took the Metro to the mall, where I was greeted with this cool rainbow Christmas tree and some lovely twinkling lights when I arrived.

Some people were resting at one of the many fire pits that are set up outside this time of the year.

People could be found skating on a temporary ice skating rink, which is also usually set up this time of the year.

The first store I hit was American Girl Place. I was on a mission. Here’s the backstory: This year American Girl decided on an African American character for its Girl of the Year named Gabriela McBride. She was the first girl of color to be given such an honor since since 2005. She’s described as being an artist, which I find personally cool since I’m an artist myself. Earlier this year I was having camera problems so when I arrived at American Girl Place back in June, I was unable to shoot any photos while I was there. A few weeks later it was July and I decided to return to American Girl Place with my Canon DSLR in tow. I was able to shoot a few pictures until the battery ran out of juice. So I got pictures of the new contemporary doll Tenney Grant and her friend, Logan Everett, who’s known as the first boy doll that American Girl has ever released. I also got a picture of a case displaying what was the newest BeForever doll at the time—Melody Ellison, who’s supposed to represent the 1960s. But those were the only pictures I got before my camera battery died on me.

Ironically  I came close to arriving at American Girl Place without a camera this time around. I had left my Canon PowerShot camera in the car and I didn’t realize it until after I had gone on the Metro train at the Greenbelt station. I managed to dart out of the train before the doors closed and walked outside the station and back to the parking lot so I could retrieve my camera.

It was worth the effort to retrieve my camera and arrive at the mall a little bit later because, at long last, I was finally able to take pictures of the 2017 Girl of the Year, Gabriela McBride. On top of it, this doll was scheduled to retire after New Year’s Eve and be replaced by the 2018 Girl of the Year (which means that this doll will be retired by the time you read this). Here’s the standee where people can take selfies with Gabriela and a brick backdrop.

Here’s Gabriela herself. I think she’s a cute doll and I love her art accessories, especially the miniature replicas of a paint set and a sketchbook pad.

I was also able to take pictures of another doll on this trip. American Girl has been releasing a new line of contemporary characters who are growing up in today’s era. I took pictures of would-be country musician Tenney Grant and her male friend Everett Logan on the last trip. American Girl released another character who have nothing to do with Tenney or Everett and she has her own separate story. Her name is Z Yang, she is a Korean American, and she is passionate about photography and videography. Like Gabriela McBride, Z Yang also shares my interest. (To be fair, Tenney Grant shares my interest in playing the guitar except I prefer rock and folk music over country.) Z Yang’s miniature photography and video equipment are absolutely adorable (even if they are expensive).

They even have a human version of Z Yang’s meet outfit, which I personally find adorable. Sadly they are only available in children’s sizes.

Since my last visit to American Girl place back in July, American Girl have released a new BeForever historical doll. Her name is Nanea Mitchell and she has a white American father and a Hawaiian mother. She is described as growing up in the then-U.S. territory of Hawaii in 1941. Anyone who knows history will know what major event happened in Hawaii back in 1941.

I found Nanea to be gorgeous in person. I loved her meet outfit and her shell necklace.

They offer a variety of Hawaiian clothes for Nanea that are sold separately.

American Girl offers Nanea’s Family Market, which can be yours for only $250. (LOL!) I have to admit that I’m really impressed by the details on that furniture, including the tiny replicas of vintage World War II-era posters.


Here’s a photo of the 1960s BeForever character, Melody Ellison, wearing this gorgeous yellow outfit.

American Girl had this good sale on Melody’s Hairstyling Set, which was only priced at $5. That’s a pretty good deal compared to the high prices that this store usually charges. If I had a Melody doll, I definitely would’ve purchased it.

American Girl had a really cute new outfit for Julie Albright, who represents the 1970s. I remember people actually wore embroidered peasant blouses and blue jeans skirts back when I was a kid so her outfit definitely brought back memories for me.

Since another BeForever character, Rebecca Rubin (who represents the 1910s), is Jewish, there was a Hanukkah display featuring this doll.

The next two photos show a display of the Wellie Wishers dolls. They are pretty cute and I like their outfits.

American Girl had a display touting this one new service that they offer called Create Your Own. The idea is that if you don’t find a doll and/or an outfit that you want, you can always create a customized product. The idea of a customized doll isn’t new. The Japanese ball-jointed doll company Volks has long offered something called a Full Choice System which, from what I heard, can run into hundreds of dollars. The now-defunct Makies dolls had a similar service where you can get a 3D printed doll for far less. (I still miss that company. Sigh! If you’re curious, you can check out my posts about my one and only Makies doll, Victoria.)

So American Girl is now trying its hand at a similar customized service. There are two caveats about this new service: 1) You can only order the doll and/or outfit online since the store don’t offer any facilities to allow anyone to design something in-store and 2) Your customized doll and/or outfit will cost way more than an off-the-shelf product. According to this link, a Create Your Own doll costs $200 versus an off-the-shelf doll for $115.

I saw these American Girl Mega Construx kits featuring characters who were previous Girls of the Year, including Mia St. Clair, Kanani Akina, Isabelle Palmer, Lea Clark, and Saige Copeland.


Here’s a case full of the 9-inch mini doll versions of the historical 18-inch BeForever characters.

Here are a few more miscellaneous photos I took inside of American Girl place, including the  store’s Christmas tree.

I went to Build-A-Bear Workshop where I checked out these Star Wars plushes and some Christmas reindeers.

I checked out this temporary Christmas shop that will be in business until after New Year’s Day.

Strangely that store had some Day of the Dead-themed ornaments and decorations even though that holiday had long since passed.

This is the first time I’ve ever seen a Beatles Christmas ornament available for sale.

I went to The Disney Store, where I saw a lot of tie-ins to the new Disney/Pixar movie Coco (which I actually saw on Christmas Day) and the latest Star Wars movie, The Last Jedi (which I saw on the day after Christmas)

I went to the LEGO store where I saw some cool things on display.

I ate my belated birthday dinner at Wasabi, the Japanese sushi place that delivers its food on conveyor belts. I really love the food, which is why I keep on returning to that place. If my finances weren’t so tight, I would be eating there more often than once or twice a year.

I went to Lolli and Pops where I purchased some gummy bears made from champaign and took these pictures.

That store sold two teddy bears named—what else?—Lolli and Pops.

Here are a few miscellaneous photos I took during my time at that mall.

Santa Claus

Since today is Christmas Day, I figured that it would be very appropriate to blog about The Doll and Teddy Bear Show that took place at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds in Gaithersburg, Maryland earlier this month.

I used to go to that show frequently. While the show, which is held about two or three times a year, has always had a huge emphasis on vintage dolls prior to 1960, I remember that the show had tables that were devoted to more recent dolls from my own childhood (such as Beautiful Crissy, Barbie, and Dawn) as well as newer dolls from recent years. I even remember seeing a table or two selling Asian ball jointed dolls.

I have lots of memories of going to those shows, starting with the couple of times I attended doll meet-ups at the Gaithersburg show that were organized through the Den of Angels forum where we all carried our Asian ball-jointed dolls around the show as we browsed the various vendor tables.

It was at one of these shows in September, 2005 where I found a vintage Velvet doll that was partially clad and had eye mold. I purchased her for only $10 then went to another table that sold vintage doll clothes and purchased Velvet’s original dress with a pair of shoes in her size for another $10. I managed to get rid of the eye mold and restored Velvet to her original glory. I took photos of what I did at the time. I later wrote a post about what I did back in 2010 and that post still remains among my more popular posts of all time.

At another show I found two vintage circa-1940s dolls that were totally disheveled and they were on sale for only $3 each. I purchased both of them and I turned one of them into a Little Red Riding Hood doll that I later sold on Etsy. (I’ve since misplaced the other doll but I’m hoping that she’ll eventually turn up once I get really serious of decluttering my home once and for all.) It was at that same show where I had unfortunate encounters with vendors whose hearts weren’t clearly into their profession of selling dolls.

The last time I went to a show was in 2011, when I purchased a couple of adorable outfits that were perfect for this doll that I had recently purchased. But then my hip problem became so acute that I had to have surgery followed by my husband leaving me abruptly just three months after my surgery. Then I spent the next few years dealing with the fallout from the hip surgery and divorce while adjusting to my new reality. (And that’s not to mention the crappy economy and the crazy politics that have gone on since an African American was elected to the White House for the first time followed by unlikely election of Donald Trump. But that’s a whole different series of blog posts that have nothing to do with the topic of this post.)

So it was 2017 and I found out online that another doll and teddy bear show was being held in Gaithersburg in early December. I hadn’t gone in six years so I was ready to visit again. I remember that the December show was usually the biggest one. The show’s organizers would rent more space than usual and it would be filled with lots of vendors and lots of dolls and teddy bears. I was looking forward to seeing some eye candy. My attitude was that I would purchase a new doll and/or doll clothes only if such items fit in with my tight budget but, otherwise, I was only there for window shopping with no anticipation of buying anything new for myself. I wasn’t disappointed because there were tons of eye candy and I took tons of photographs to prove it.

There were plenty of Christmas-related dolls and teddy bears for sale but I found one vendor table that had a Hanukkah menorah on display.

The most memorable booth was the one that sold Lenci dolls. The most notable thing about these dolls is that Dare Wright used her own Lenci doll in The Lonely Doll book series. I found them to be very lovely to see in person.

I really loved the expressive look on their faces.

Lenci even made a Madonna and Child doll.

Many of the outfits on these dolls are very exquisite.

The only thing about Lenci dolls is that the original company went out of business in 2002. As a result many of these dolls are collector items and they are definitely not cheap. Many of the ones I saw on sale cost thousands of dollars. The cheapest Lenci doll I found was a tiny doll that was less than one inch tall and that was on sale for a whopping $75.

The show had plenty of miniatures on sale that were made for dollhouses.

I even saw hand-painted clothespin dolls at that show.

I saw American Girl dolls on sale that were even cheaper than buying a new doll at the American Girl Place store.

I found two Barbie dolls that were made to resemble Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance from the famous “Job Switching” episode of the TV sitcom I Love Lucy. (That’s the one where Lucy and Ethel get jobs working in a chocolate factory only to have their stint be short-lived.)

One table had a variety of doll parts in a variety of sizes available for sale. It would be great for anyone who was looking for a part for an old doll.

Since the show was known as The Doll and Teddy Bear Show, it was natural that there were plenty of bears there, as well as other types of stuffed animals (such as rabbits, and dogs).

There were plenty of Santa Claus dolls available in a variety of shapes and sizes.

Some vendors had those reborn baby dolls which look very lifelike.

I found some odd things on sale at that show, such as this vintage children’s book called Beloved Belindy. It was written by Johnny Gruelle, who was the original creator of Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy. With the Aunt Jemima/Mammy-style illustration on the front cover, I can see why Beloved Belindy is more obscure today than Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy.

I saw a couple of Native American kachina dolls on sale at one table.

I vaguely remembered when I was a very young child, there was a TV show called Julia, which starred Diahann Carroll. That show is remembered today as the first TV show to depict an African American woman in a non-stereotypical role. (The main character worked as a nurse.) I remember some kids in my elementary school had Julia lunch boxes but I never realized that a Barbie-sized doll was also released until I went to that show.

I saw a couple of other dolls based on the main characters in the TV shows The Flying Nun and I Dream of Jeannie.

I saw this one vintage Mickey Mouse doll.

There were plenty of vintage Barbie dolls but the ones that still had their original boxes were expensive.

I saw some vintage dolls that were based on Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.

I saw a set of vintage Dionne Quintuplets baby dolls. I have to admit that they are adorable to behold as long as you’re willing to overlook the sad real-life story of what happened to those girls behind the dolls.

I found these bottles of dollhouse-sized perfume and cologne to be totally cute.

I found this sign announcing that a family-owned business will close down in a few months after being in business for 72 years.

Most of the dolls and stuffed animals on sale were very expensive. I found one vendor table that sold something called Bling Dolls, which measure around six inches tall.

They cost $6 each but if you bought two or more, they would cost only $5 each. I might have considered buying two if it weren’t for the fact that all of the dolls had the same hairstyle, hair color, eye color, and skin color. That one doll type was cute but I wasn’t into buying the same doll with different outfits.

I basically bought only one Bling Doll. It was an impulse buy but she costs $6 and I found her to be quite cute.

There’s a keychain attached to her head, which means that she can either be attached to a few keys or clipped to a backpack.

Here’s a closeup of her face.

I took those last three pictures while I was eating lunch that I had purchased from the food stand at the show. A woman sat down near me and we started talking. Like me she had also attended previous doll shows and she mentioned that she felt it was smaller than she remembered.

As I was walking around the show I noticed that too. I remember the Christmas doll shows used to fill at least six large rooms. It would literally take me at least two or three hours to visit them all and I would be exhausted from visiting every single vendor table. This time I basically finished the entire show in less than 90 minutes. On top of it, I saw no Asian ball jointed dolls or even recent modern dolls from the 1970’s onwards. The vast majority of dolls on sale were made before 1960. The older dolls looked nice but they were very expensive. (It was common to see such dolls being on sale for over $100.) I still remember the day when I bought a wrecked Velvet doll for under $20 and I rehabilitated her. Or the times when I found some cool fabric that would be perfect for a doll outfit or a really neat doll clothes pattern that I wanted to try or a really interesting doll book that I decided that I wanted to read.

I don’t know for sure why it had changed so much. Maybe it’s the rise of sites like eBay and Etsy where people prefer to sell online than to actually transport their wares to a doll and teddy bear show. Maybe it’s the rotten economy where too many people have finances so tight that purchasing an expensive doll would be considered a frivolous luxury that they literally can’t afford. Whatever the reason, this show didn’t really have the little surprises that used to amaze me so much and were so relatively affordable that I ended up making impulse buys. The only surprise that really came close was that $6 Bling Doll I purchased. She’s a cute find but I still remember the show’s better days in the past.

The only fringe benefit of going to a smaller show is that I still had time in the afternoon to check out a flea market that was also held on the grounds of the Montgomery County Fairgrounds but it was located on the other side from where The Doll and Teddy Bear Show was held. I ended the day by checking out a show that was held closer to my home and it was also where I ran into a lot of my friends. I’ll write about those two events in a separate post.

Birthday Cake

Okay I’ll admit that the it may sound strange to buy your own birthday presents. But I’m divorced with no children, I’m currently not in any kind of romantic relationships, I don’t have any siblings, my father is dead, and my mother is too sick and busy battling multiple sclerosis to do any kind of shopping (either online or in real life) so what else can I do? I purchased a couple of things for myself last night, starting with this cute snowman cake that I found at Giant for only $6.

I also found this unusual looking nutcracker on sale at Target for only $9.99. He not only looks pretty in pink but he’s fully covered in glitter. He looks more like he’s ready to dance to Madonna or Britney Spears than to Tchaikovsky’s more traditional “Nutcracker Suite.” Here’s the front of the nutcracker.

Here’s a closeup of the baseplate, which has the year 2017 etched on it.

Here’s the back of the nutcracker.

And, finally, here’s a closeup of the nutcracker where you can really get a good view of how much glitter he’s covered in.

I have to admit that it’s not everyday where you see a male nutcracker wearing a pink glitter outfit. The one thing about having a birthday that’s only 10 days before Christmas is that I used to frequently get Christmas-related stuff, such as the time I got a wooden Christmas ornament kit for my birthday as a child. The ornaments were in plywood but were perforated so you could simply punch them out. Then you had to take the included sandpaper and sand the edges down. After that you used the included paints to paint on the ornaments.

Well, anyway, I carried on that lifelong tradition of getting Christmas stuff for my birthday by buying that nutcracker. I’ll probably go out somewhere and live it up today, weather permitting. (It has not only been below freezing for the past few days but there are currently weather forecasts of possible snow showers on top of the below freezing temperatures. Yeah, it sucks since I’m really not used to weather this extremely cold.) Happy birthday to me!

One Saturday I decided to attend a networking event that was held in the Roland Park section of Baltimore. Roland Park is one area of Baltimore I had never set foot in before but I had long heard about it. My mother once worked as the office manager of a now-defunct life insurance company and she had a coworker who was a divorced secretary and a single parent of a girl who was born the same year that I was.

The coworker eventually got remarried to a doctor with a thriving practice and they settled in a row house that was located on the edge of Roland Park. By most standards they would be considered upper middle class. But by Roland Park standards, they were “working class” or “poor.” The coworker’s daughter attended the exclusive Roland Park Country School (which is among the ritziest private schools in that area) but I remember hearing about how the coworker told my mother that her daughter used to envy her classmates who vacationed in Europe each summer while she had to settle with spending a week in Ocean City with her family because they weren’t as wealthy as the other Roland Park Country School parents.

My mother used to tell me stories about that coworker when I was growing up so I heard a lot about Roland Park. I only recall meeting that coworker’s daughter a couple of times, mainly at company picnics where the employees could bring their families. I think we may have said “Hi” then walked away from each other. That was the extent of our interaction together. She was growing up in Roland Park attending an exclusive private school while I was growing up outside of the city in Glen Burnie (which is way more downscale than Roland Park) attending less-exclusive public schools so we really had nothing in common beyond the fact that we were white girls who were born in the same year and our mothers worked for the same life insurance company.

I went for many years without even thinking about Roland Park until I found out about this networking event. I’m still looking for a new day job and I finally had a reason to actually travel to Roland Park to see what that area is about. I decided to arrive in Roland Park before the networking event began so I could at least get a glimpse of the neighborhood.

Roland Park has an interesting history as being a planned suburban-style community that was still located inside of the city limits. Parts of the area were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., the son of famed architect Frederick Law Ohmsted, who has gained posthumous fame in recent years thanks to Erik Larson’s bestselling book The Devil in the White City. Many of the homes in Roland Park are standalone houses, which contrasts with the rowhouses and apartment buildings that predominate the rest of the city. The homes are also where the wealthiest elites of Baltimore live, which you can tell by these pictures I shot.

The one feature of Roland Park is that there is a network of nature trails that are open to the general public. I found this self-guided walking tour on the Baltimore City Paper website that shows the highlights of these nature trails. These nature trails were marked with signs that had bucolic names like Squirrel Path and Laurel Path.

I only had enough time to walk through a small portion of the nature trail system but it was a lovely walk. I walked through the nature trails during the fall so I was treated to a constant array of fall foliage in a variety of brown, green, red, and yellow. As you can see in the photos, it was a cloudy day and it drizzled a few times while I was driving to Roland Park. Luckily for me the rain stopped by the time I reached the nature trails. The gloomy day still didn’t detract from the lovely fall foliage that I saw everywhere. There were times when I found it hard to believe that I was still in the inner city as I was walking on these trails.

At one point I was able to see some television antennas over the horizon marking the location of Television Hill, where all of the local Baltimore television stations broadcast from.

The networking event was held at a community center, which is located inside of a church.

The church has a really nice looking steeple that has an interesting stained glass design at the base.

Here’s a closeup of the stained glass base of the steeple.

I’ve been watching with dismay over how the Hollywood sexual predator scandal has been unfolding over the past few weeks. Initially it was just Harvey Weinstein, whom I decided to lampoon in an ink drawing since that scandal originally broke during Inktober.

But then some of Weinstein’s accusers collaborated on this Google Doc (I have to insert a trigger warning here since it provides the gory details about Weinstein’s alleged sexual predatory behavior ranging from sexual harassment to rape) and his reputation is pretty much toast at this point. On top of it, Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., and a whole bunch of other Hollywood people have been accused of similar disgusting actions.

I saw this post on the Uncustomary blog titled Fuck You, Louis C.K. where she expresses disgust and disappointment to someone whom she had long admired and had even attended a few of his shows. I can understand her feelings, especially since I recently had to take a hard look at a different famous person whom I had long admired. In a way I wasn’t too surprised about Louis C.K. since I had long heard rumors that he had a nasty, misogynous streak. However, the person I’m writing about is different because he had been a part of my life since childhood and he seemed to be the opposite of Louis C.K. in terms of temperament and personality. His name is George Takei.

I spent a large portion of my childhood watching reruns of the original 1960’s Star Trek series, which included George Takei playing the role of Sulu alongside a multi-racial and multi-ethnic cast. As an adult I watched an older George Takei reprise his role as Sulu in a few of the Star Trek feature films. I’ll admit that I mainly saw his acting work in Star Trek. (The only non-Star Trek movie I ever saw George Takei in was The Green Berets, which starred John Wayne. I saw part of that film on TV once and I have to say that it didn’t impress me all that much, which was why I either changed the channel or turned the TV off so I didn’t see the whole thing.) Like many of the other Star Trek actors, George Takei had a difficult time finding work after the series ended because he not only had to deal with typecasting as being capable of doing only science fiction space epics but he also had to deal with being an Asian American actor in a field that tends to heavily favor white men.

I began to see George Takei in a different, more positive light when he started to speak out about his past. He was born to a Japanese American family that was sent to an interment camp soon after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. He talked about what it was like being forced to grow up in a place like that and how it affected his family. It wasn’t too long ago that there was a Broadway show called Allegiance, which was loosely based on Takei’s childhood in that internment camp.

But then he came out as gay a few years ago. I never held it against him that he waited until he became a senior citizen before he came out because I knew that had he come out in the 1960s or 1970s, there was a strong chance that his acting career would’ve been ended prematurely. (Despite the start of the gay rights movement in the late 1960s, homophobia was still very rampant in those days. In some ways homophobia is still strong in this country but that’s another story altogether.) He began to use his celebrity to fight for marriage equality and he publicly married his longtime partner, Brad, back when it was uncertain as to whether same-sex marriage would even be legally recognized in the long-run. I began to really admire him for doing that.

In a way his coming out had renewed his career in the public eye. I began to follow him on social media and I enjoyed his posts. I purchased this ebook, Oh Myyy! There Goes the Internet, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

I even shot this picture of a faded poster featuring George Takei, which was hung in the window of the local Social Security office back in 2013 when I was there filling out forms notifying them of my recent name change (which came about as a result of my divorce).

George Takei Poster

When George Takei and his husband, Brad, did a short-lived YouTube series called It Takeis Two, I watched it and enjoyed it. I thought it was totally hilarious yet it was every endearing, especially in the scenes that focused on just George and Brad. (Due to recent circumstances, I refuse to link to this series so you’ll have to do your own Google search if you’re curious.)

It all came crashing down just a few days ago when a onetime male model gave an interview where he claimed that George Takei sexually assaulted him while he was drunk back in 1981. (I have to insert a trigger warning here since it contains a graphic description of that assault.) I felt dismay at first. I found myself wishing that this alleged victim was just a crazy fan who was unusually obsessed with Takei and he was taking that obsession way too far. I know that celebrities have to frequently deal with such crazy fans. I’m old enough to remember when John Lennon was murdered by an obsessed fan outside his own home and Selena was murdered by the president of her own fan club.

But then I had to take another look at this story when this interview George Takei did on Howard Stern’s show last month surfaced and, to be blunt, it didn’t make him look good at all. I heard that interview and I found it to be too reminiscent of Donald Trump’s infamous “grab them by the pussy” Access Hollywood bus recording in that Takei sounded more like a sexually predatory creep.

He dug an even deeper hole for himself when he then claimed on Twitter that Russian bots are behind the sexual assault allegations. He deleted that tweet but not before so many people had made screenshots and they simply re-uploaded that screenshot online.

Now he’s saying that he was just playing the role of the “naughty gay grandpa” on Howard Stern’s show and he really didn’t mean what he said on that show. Had Howard Stern’s show been a TV network situation comedy that is scripted by writers, this explanation would’ve been very plausible. However, Howard Stern’s show is basically a talk show (albeit one that’s emceed by a shock jock who will say anything outrageous on the air just for pure shock value). People who appear on talk shows tend to tell true-life stories about themselves—including the ones who only make such appearances in order to promote their latest book/movie/TV show/website/etc. Howard Stern’s show is no different. Stern may be more raunchy than a typical media interviewer but he is still basically a talk show host.

Given what has happened over the past few days, I wouldn’t be surprised if Takei’s response to the sexual assault allegation will one day be discussed in a college-level public relations class as a case study on how NOT to respond to a potential career-ending scandal.

But seriously I’m pissed off at him. I used to think he was basically a good guy who was willing to use his celebrity for a good cause (marriage equality). Now I know better. George Takei is no better than the other Hollywood public figures who have been named in this scandal.

The only silver lining is that a couple of years ago I had a chance to actually see George Takei in person when he and fellow Star Trek alum William Shatner made an appearance at Awesome Con in Washington, DC. I knew I would never be able to afford the extra fees required (in addition to the basic admission fee to enter the convention itself) so I could get an autograph and have my picture taken with him. I had hoped to be able to see him from afar and maybe check out any panel that he was participating in. It turned out that I didn’t go to Awesome Con at all that year because my finances were too tight to even afford the basic admission. I used to regret missing out on the chance to see George Takei in person. Now I’m no longer regretting it. I’m just glad I wasn’t among the throng of people who paid extra money for that autograph and photo because I can only imagine trying to decide what to do with these expensive items in light of that scandal.

The good thing about this scandal is that it is separating the wheat from the chaff in terms of how it is bringing out both the best and the worst in people. I was heartened when Gal Gadot announced that she would not do any more Wonder Woman films unless an accused sexual harasser was permanently removed from that project. While I enjoyed Gadot’s role in Wonder Woman, I really respect her stance. It would be a disgusting irony if a film franchise featuring a strong woman superhero that champions female empowerment would continue to employ an accused sexual harasser. One of that accused sexual harasser’s victims, Ellen Page, wrote an eloquent yet harrowing Facebook post about how he tried to force her out of the closet before she was ready to do so. (While Page eventually came out as a lesbian, at least she did it of her own volition when she did this. I have LGBTQ friends who told me that coming out is such a long process that requires a lot of mental and emotional preparation. Forcing someone out of the closet before he/she is fully ready to come out have led to major trauma and sometimes that person will attempt suicide as a result.)

Last weekend I pulled out my DVD copy of Clerks, which is the only Miramax movie I currently own, and watched it. I still enjoyed the movie as much as I enjoyed it the previous times. I only flinched when I saw the closing credits where the director, Kevin Smith, thanked Harvey Weinstein for introducing him to the best potato skins he had ever eaten. Recently Kevin Smith announced that he will donate all future royalties from the movies he made for both Miramax and The Weinstein Company—including Clerks—to the non-profit organization Women in Film.

While Gal Gadot and Kevin Smith are trying to do what they can to rectify the ongoing Hollywood sexual pervert scandal, unfortunately there are still people like George Takei who will eventually end up on the wrong side of history. As for me, I’m done with George Takei. I plan on unfollowing him on all social media and I will never again purchase any more ebooks with his byline. I will follow suit with any other famous person whom I had previously admire because sexual harassment/sexual assault/rape against any woman, man, or child has no place in this society. It is not cool or awesome and I don’t want my money to support something like this.


UPDATE (November 17, 2017): In the midst of writing and uploading this rant late at night, I forgot to include something. If you’re a man or a woman who has survived sexual assault and/or rape and you’re having a hard time dealing with it, there is help for you. Contact RAINN either through its hotline (which is open 24 hours a day) at 1-800-656-4673 or online at

By the way, check out my sequel to this post: Fuck You Too, Al Franken!

UPDATE (November 24, 2017): The one fringe benefit of unfollowing George Takei on social media is that I’m no longer exposed to his links to news stories that he shared not because he found them interesting but because some website or news outlet paid him to do so. The Guardian has a story about how George Takei and other celebrities are frequently paid to share certain links on social media without disclosing those links as paid advertising. Takei lost some of his deals with these sites when his sexual abuse allegations surfaced but other celebrities are still going strong with those deals as they share links they are paid to share.

I learned via Facebook that Third Eye Comics was having a Halloween ComicFest right in its store. Not only were there really cool sales but they had some free sample comic books to give away as well. (It’s almost like the annual Free Comic Book Day except it’s in October instead of May.) So I went down to Annapolis where I took these photos.

The one thing I’ve noticed is that there seems to be more comic books based on cartoons that I used to watch on television when I was a child.

I laughed at these comic books taking jabs at Donald Trump. I just wasn’t in the mood to buy them though because I’ve had more than my fill of Donald Trump and his constant need for attention. (I feel this way after he’s only been in office for 10 months.)

I’d never thought I would ever see Stan Lee action figures. (LOL!)

They have cloth dolls based on The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl comic book series.

I laughed at seeing this set of Batman action figures all patterned after the rainbow flag. I wonder how many of my LGBTQ friends would be interested in that one? (LOL!)

A culinary-minded person can do some superhero-themed cooking.

I took advantage of the sales to purchase the three-volume graphic novel series Batgirl of Burnside. I checked the first and third volumes out of the public library a few months ago and I liked them really well. (My library frequently have this situation where, in the case of book series, it might have some volumes of a certain series but not all of them. Part of the reason is because people check them out but I’ve never seen the second volume of Batgirl of Burnside in my library ever. I looked for months and I’ve only seen the first and third volumes. I can only guess that some jerk checked out volume 2 and never returned it.)

I decided to check out the Spirit of Halloween as well. I originally was going to go to the one in Bowie since that was the one place where I knew such as store was operating until I did a quick search on Google Maps. I found that there was another Spirit of Halloween store that was just located one mile away from Third Eye Comics so I decided to go there instead.

The same shopping center had a lighthouse that was located next to a movie theater. The biggest irony is that the nearest body of water was located at least three miles away from where both the lighthouse and shopping center were located.

I arrived at the Spirit of Halloween where I took these photos, starting with the ways in which one could come dressed as either Donald Trump, Melania Trump, or Vladimir Putin.

I know that some of the Disney Moana-themed costumes have been controversial so I’m amazed that any store is still carrying them.

I purchased only one item from that Spirit of Halloween store. It’s a small gargoyle where, if you pressed its belly, its eyes light up and it says one of four phrases (such as “You are doomed!”). This gargoyle was perfect for decorating my car trunk for the Trunk or Treat event that took place at my church on the following day.

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