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Yesterday I drew the same real-life person for this year’s Inktober as I did for last year’s Inktober. Today I drew a different real-life person whom I also drew for Inktober last year.

Today’s official Inktober prompt word is “precious.” I know a burlesque performer named Reverend Valentine who is the emcee of the Washington, DC chapter of Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School, which is where I first met her. She is into geek culture (you should see the photo of her female Darth Vader costume and, yes, the link is definitely NSFW) and she especially loves dinosaurs. Last year I did this drawing where I imagined her as buying a stuffed blue T-Rex from Build a Bear Workshop while dressed in pasties and a g-string (LOL!).

For today’s prompt I did a drawing of her based on one of her boudoir photos that she has posted online and I paired her with Devil Dinosaur from the Marvel comic book series Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur. To make it more relevant to today’s prompt word, I had her utter the same dialogue that Gollum uttered in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings books. Here’s the drawing I did.

Shortly before I did that drawing I had checked out four volumes of graphic novel reprints of Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur by Amy Reeder, Brandon Montclare, and Natacha Bustos from the local library and I enjoyed reading them.

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Not too long ago I went to Target to buy a loaf of bread and sit in the Starbucks area surfing the Internet. I currently own two Fingerlings, a monkey that I purchased from the now-shuttered Toys R Us and a unicorn that I purchased from the same Target store as my most recent visit. While I was at Target I noticed that the store had gotten a new shipment of Fingerlings. Not only did I see a unicorn in a color scheme I had never seen before but there are now panda bear Fingerlings.

Target, August 14, 2018

I also saw monkey Fingerlings that now come with an even smaller plastic monkey under the Fingerlings BFF label. This small monkey is meant to purchase on the tail of the larger Fingerling monkey. Based on what I saw in person, I don’t think this tiny monkey is electronic at all.

Target, August 14, 2018

Target, August 14, 2018

Target also got these large plush Fingerlings monkeys known as Hugs, which have very long arms (so these monkeys can hug someone). When you press a button they make random chatter noises that are identical to what their smaller electronic robotic counterparts can make.

Target, August 14, 2018

Here is how tall a typical Fingerlings electronic monkey measures against one of these plush hugs.

Target, August 14, 2018

I have a friend who’s totally dinosaur-mad. In fact, she loves it whenever I sent her pictures of some dinosaur products that are on sale. I found this board game that’s based on the Jurassic Park movies.

Target, August 14, 2018

I found something else that my friend would like even better. As I was walking down one of the Target aisles, I heard a strange noise. I turned around and found that Target had got a shipment of FurReal pets that were shaped like baby t-rex dinosaurs and one of them was turned on to make a noise every time someone walked past. I have to admit that this dinosaur was not only totally cute but it was very attractively designed with bright colors.

Target, August 14, 2018

I also shot a short video for my friend so she can get the full idea of how totally awesome this FurReal dinosaur robot really is.

If I wasn’t financially struggling so much, I would’ve bought this critter for myself on impulse.

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I had a pretty busy Sunday on July 15, 2018. I went carpooling with one friend to church where there was a Tye-Dye Sunday scheduled. By the time I got home from church I turned around and went carpooling with a different friend to this meetup that took place in Rockville.

CoderDojo is basically a global network that provides free computer programming clubs to young people. My friend thought it would be good for me to check this out, especially since I worked as an assistant facilitator with the Takoma Park chapter of Girls Who Code over the past year.

The Washington, DC chapter of CoderDojo meets at the Rockville Public Library in Rockville, Maryland. I had never stepped foot inside this building before but I have to admit that it’s very impressive.

There was an art show going on featuring art done by local youths. It brought back memories of the first time my elementary school art teacher had selected one of my art projects to be shown at the Anne Arundel County Art Show that was displayed at the since-demolished Harundale Mall.

The CoderDojo met in a room on the second floor of the library, which is a designated STEM center. That room had an array of all kinds of stuff that one would normally find in a makerspace (such as computers and robots) but there was some pretty cool STEM-themed art as well.

The meeting started off with a presentation about what computing was like back in the 1990s (when the Computer Internet revolution was just beginning). I enjoyed it because I remember those days like they happened yesterday. There was a mention of using modems attached to telephone wires in order to access the Internet at a blistering 9600 bps.

I enjoyed the presentation very much. Once that ended, the kids started to work on their own projects while parents and other adult volunteers went around helping the kids with their latest projects.

By the time that meetup ended it was closing time for the library. My friend and I were heading back towards the parking garage by cutting through Rockville Town Square when I shot this photo of some kids playing in the fountain.

I also discovered that there was an It’s Sugar store located in Rockville. I had previously visited It’s Sugar in Baltimore and Chinatown in Washington, DC and I managed to convince my friend to stop in the Rockville store for a brief visit, where I shot these photos.

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The release of the movie Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom has unleashed a plethora of dinosaur-related stuff in the stores. Some of them are movie tie-ins while others are just generic dinosaurs that are released to take advantage of the film. For the past few years I’ve posted the occasional dinosaur photo on social media while tagging a friend of mine who’s a total dinosaur freak. Generally I’ve sent those photos once in a while. However, thanks to that movie, I found myself constantly taking new photos, uploading them, and tagging my friend more frequently. Here are photos of just a few of the dinosaur stuff I’ve seen in the stores this summer.

Dinosaurs at Five Below

Dinosaurs at Five Below

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Dinosaurs at Five Below

Dinosaurs on Sale at Target

Dinosaurs on Sale at Target

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Dinosaur Stuff on Sale at Giant

Dinosaur Stuff on Sale at Giant

Dinosaur Stuff on Sale at Giant

Dinosaur Stuff on Sale at Giant

Dinosaur Stuff on Sale at Giant

Dinosaur Stuff on Sale at Giant

Dinosaur Stuff on Sale at Giant

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Ramadan

Last month I was browsing through Target where I took these pictures. Later this month the latest installment in the ever-popular Jurassic Park movies, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, will be released. I saw so many LEGO and Duplo sets that one could easily create his/her own Jurassic Park in the privacy of his/her home. I have a friend on Facebook who is mad about dinosaurs so I took a whole slew for her benefit. Knowing her, she has probably purchased at least one or two of these sets by now. (LOL!)

The Jurassic Park/Jurassic World hype isn’t limited to just LEGO and Duplo. I saw this poster book on sale that includes tearaway poster pages that one can hang on a wall.

Soon after our wedding my new husband and I took a trip to the Orlando area where we spent the bulk of our time at Walt Disney World. Throughout our marriage we kept up with Disney and Mickey Mouse and we made a few return trips to Disney World while making a few trips to the original Disneyland theme park in California. I used to be well-versed on when a Disney anniversary was coming. Ever since my husband left and my marriage ended in divorce, I had let my Mickey Mouse fixation slide big time. (The majority of Mickey clothes I still own were ones that I either bought or were given to me while I was still married.) If it weren’t for seeing these special Mickey Mouse edition of Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Crackers on sale at Target, I would have totally missed the fact (which is printed on the back of these packages) that this year is the 90th anniversary of the release of Steamboat Willie, which unleashed both Mickey and his girlfriend, Minnie Mouse, on the world.

Nintendo’s latest video game system is the Switch. (I still have the original Nintendo Wii and Sony Playstation 2, which should give you an idea as to how far behind I am on the latest video games. LOL!) One interesting thing is that Nintedo has come out with the Nintendo Labo, which definitely taps into the current STEM/STEAM/Maker movement.

I also saw another STEM/STEAM/Maker focused product on sale at Target. Google has a line of AIY, which are described as “Do-it-yourself artificial intelligence.” The products I saw on sale that day were an intelligent speaker and an intelligent camera.

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Ramadan

Not too long (April 26, 2018) I decided to check out Third Eye Comics in Annapolis. I took a few photos of some random comic book covers for a Facebook friend who’s into dinosaurs in a very big way. There are issues of a Marvel comic book called Monsters Unleashed which, judging from the cover, seems to focus on a different dragon or dinosaur each issue.

There’s also a Japanese imported kit featuring a robot dinosaur.

That same friend also works in one of the many new cannabis dispensaries that have cropped up in Maryland since medical marijuana was legalized not too long ago. I shot this cover of a comic book called The Gingerbread Man Meets EvilBong. The cover looks hilariously surreal.

Lastly I saw this comic book series that’s a joint publication of DC Comics and Archie which has this improbable scenario: What if Betty and Veronica from Archie meet Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy? I would’ve loved to check these issues out but, at $3.99 per issue, I’m financially struggling too much to afford them. Oh well.

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Passover

The day after St. Patrick’s Day I helped a friend of mine with his booth at the annual Maker Faire NoVa that was held at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. I had attended previous STEM Maker events in Greenbelt, Silver Spring, and Washington, DC but it’s the first time I ever checked the Northern Virginia one. I have to admit that this event was the largest event of its kind that I had ever attended. To give you an idea as to how big it was, here’s a video I shot of this event.

And now it’s time for the still photos. I knew I had come to the right place when I saw this statue of George Mason (whom the university is named after) all dressed up for the occasion.

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

These signs were further giveaways that I was at the right place.

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

The reason why I was there was that I was helping a friend of mine with his table. His name is Phil Shapiro and he frequently hangs out on YouTube and Twitter. He wanted to demonstrate Inkscape, which is the free open source alternative to Adobe Illustrator. He brought a couple of Linux laptops that he made available for people to use. At the last minute he decided to have one of those laptops run Tux Paint, which is a free open source graphics program that is made for kids under 7, which turned out to be a good move because a lot of visitors were kids. The kids seemed to really like Tux Paint so it was all good. In any case, here is what the sign looked like.

Maker Faire NoVa

Here are a few shots of the table that I took before Maker Faire NoVa opened to the general public.

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Here’s Phil Shapiro at one of the laptops setting everything up before the show began.

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And here’s Phil showing off the two laptops with Inkscape and Tux Paint to the general public.

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

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One of the many kids tried his hand at drawing with Tux Paint.

Maker Faire NoVa

Near our table was one that was manned by Bob Coggeshall, who’s famous in the Unix world for inventing the Unix command sudo.

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

There were all kinds of projects that were run off of Raspberry Pi, such as this vintage teletype.

Maker Faire NoVa

There were also all kinds of 3D printed projects that looked amazing.

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

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There was a refurbished gumball machine that dispensed 3D printed charms for only 50 cents.

Maker Faire NoVa

It was at that gumball machine where I made my one and only purchase from Maker Faire NoVa: A tiny 1-inch printed 3D printed Darth Vader who’s seated like a Buddha. I only paid 50 cents for this cool item.

Maker Faire NoVa, March 18, 2018

There were also some vintage bikes that the public can ride.

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

It was at Maker Faire NoVa where I got my first-ever real life glimpse of a Bitcoin mining machine.

Maker Faire NoVa

It was also at Maker Faire NoVa where I got my first glimpse of American Girl’s 2018 Girl of the Year doll. Her name is Luciana Vega, she’s into STEM and her big ambition is to be the first person to explore Mars.

Maker Faire NoVa

This boy was showing his work in progress on his latest project. He was in the process of building his own BB-8 robot from the Star Wars movies.

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

There was just a variety of things I saw at Maker Faire NoVa that were simply astounding.

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George Mason University’s Fairfax campus is pretty big. In fact, I think it may be as big as my own alma mater (University of Maryland at College Park). I briefly went through the campus Barnes & Noble store, which had copies of Michael Wolff’s controversial bestseller about Donald Trump’s first year in the White House called Fire & Fury.

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I really had a blast at Maker Faire NoVa. It helped that the weather was in the 50’s that day so I was able to wear a light jacket instead of my heavy winter coat for a change. I even saw my first robin of the year while I was walking around outside going from building to building while checking out the event. (The entire event was spread over four buildings.) Sadly that warm weather was a short-lived thing because the weather turned really cold and rainy the next day followed by a snowstorm.

The only downside about that event is that for about a couple of days before that event I started to have stuffed sinuses. By the time of that event my throat felt more scratchy as I talked more and more with the general public while I worked at Phil’s booth. My legs had grown stiff and sore by the end of the day due to the huge amount of walking and standing I did throughout the day. The following day I felt extremely tired and sick. I ended up spending most of the next week sleeping (with the exception of the couple of times I went out in the snow where I did some shoveling two days after Maker Faire NoVa). I even ended up skipping the big March for Our Lives on the following Saturday due to being sick. But the video, photos, and fond memories from Maker Faire NoVa made it all worthwhile.

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Easter

Passover

It’s not very often when you have three different holidays (Easter, Passover, and April Fool’s Day) arriving on the same day like this. I can only imagine the Easter or Passover pranks that will happen in conjunction with April Fool’s Day. (LOL!)

Easter is partly derived from the old pagan holiday Ostara and partly derived from the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, which generally signals new beginnings. Passover commemorates Moses leading the Jews out of slavery in Egypt and into what is now Israel, which is another type of new beginning. Plus all of these holidays generally take place in the spring where the trees start to sport new leaves, the flowers start to bloom, and the robins return from their winter home in warmer climates. (Okay, I’ll admit that it’s a stretch to somehow tie in April Fool’s Day with new beginnings. LOL!)

I feel like I’m going through a new beginning of my very own. This past Monday I started a new day job that seems promising. I’m working part-time on a trial basis. If things go well for me, then I may get more hours. Since my new job recently started it’s too early to tell whether it’ll work out for me or not.

In the meantime I took a few spring/Easter themed photos that I’d like to share here today.

Not too long ago the local nursery school was having a fundraising bake sale outside one of the supermarkets. I gave into temptation and purchased a cupcake for $2. This cupcake was topped with three Robin’s Eggs (these are not real robin eggs, they are the chocolate candy with a colorful crunchy shell on the outside that Hershey’s makes each Easter) while the frosting was decorated and swirled in such a way that resembled a bird’s nest. The cupcake was delicious by the way.

I didn’t do much more Easter related photography until a couple of nights ago. I decided to attend the weekly support group meeting for people who are separated or divorced for the first time in a few months. (I don’t go as often as I used to mainly because I have gone through many of those topics several times and I feel like I’m further along in the whole divorce process than someone who’s recently separated.) So I drove down to Crofton once I got off from work where I decided to eat dinner in the Market Cafe that’s located inside of Wegmans. While I was walking around inside of the store, I saw this new limited edition Unicorn cereal from Kellogg’s. Yes, there is now such a thing as Unicorn cereal. Even though I felt tempted to buy it, I decided against it mainly because finances are still pretty tight for me plus I read the Nutritional Label where it listed this cereal as having a whopping 11 grams of sugar per serving. I have to admit that the box is pretty colorful.

I saw that Utz had a special Easter snack known as Cotton Tails. Basically they are cheese balls that are made with white cheddar instead of the usual yellow cheddar.

I have a friend who’s totally crazy about dinosaurs. I took this picture of a dinosaur candy dispenser the uploaded it to Facebook where I tagged her name.

The next three pictures are of a few inflatables that I saw on display at Wegmans.

Then there are the Easter lilies, which are the usual Easter flowers that people buy as gifts for their loved ones.

The same shopping center in Crofton that has a Wegmans also has a Five Below store. I briefly stopped in there where I saw that this particular store had a shipment of some toys known as Talk Back Pets. The idea is that these cute animals repeat everything you say. I’ve seen toys like this before in the past. These Talk Back Pets came in bunny, chick, and lamb (which means that they were definitely Easter toys that one could buy for a child for only $5 each). I tried a couple where I heard them repeat everything I said. Then I got pretty mischievous where I got these cute critters to say stuff like “Hail Satan!” and “piss off.”

I’ll admit that I was inspired by a video that went viral three years ago where a guy managed to line up a bunch of snowmen (which were similar to the Five Below Talk Back Pets except these snowmen not only repeated what you said but they also bobbed up and down while repeating what you said) on a store shelf, switch them on, said “Hail, Satan!” and saw these snowmen bob up and down as they said “Hail, Satan!” I managed to get a chick to swear while I got both the chick and bunny to say positive things about Satan. I shot this short video where you can check it all out. Enjoy!

I shot a few photos during a recent trip to Target. I shot this photo of a sign at the front of the store announcing the fact that this year Easter is scheduled on the same day as April Fool’s Day. This is the first time I’ve ever seen anything like that. I can only imagine how these dual holidays will be observed. (LOL!)

I shot the next few photos of a line of Playskool Chomp Squad toys because I have a friend who’s totally dinosaur mad. I uploaded them on Facebook while tagging her name. She reacted positively to these pictures.

I also uploaded and tagged the same friend on Facebook because they have Target gift cards shaped like a dinosaur.

While I was there I found this cool surprise. I had heard of a Fingerlings toy known as Gigi the Unicorn but I had read that this particular Fingerling was a Toys R Us exclusive. I was surprised when I found Gigi the Unicorn on sale at Target. Of course I decided to buy this one.

I shot a video documenting my first impressions of Gigi the Unicorn, which I’ll get into in a later post.

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.

UPDATE (April 10, 2018): I made a return trip to the Annapolis Toy R Us store where I was able to compare what I saw on that subsequent trip with the photos I took for this blog post.

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