Thursday, September 24, 2009


As my parents tell the story, I was three years old at the time, and I was watching the news with my mother and father. The lead article of this evening broadcast was a feature about the numerous unlicensed vendors that were opening shop out of the back of large trucks, wide moving vans, and trailers selling an assorted variety of objects from rebel flags, sun glasses, to the objects pictured below.

My parents had been watching these fly-by-night flea markets of illegal wares come and go for a number of months, this news really wasn't news at all. It was just a common feature of Union Avenue and Sandy Boulevard. However, my reaction at the sight of cinder block squirrels was unexpected.

"WOODTOOTS!" I declared.

My parents looked at me wondering what this mysterious new word was. "What's a Woodtoot?" they asked as I became more and more excited pointing at the television screen as image after image of concrete deer, stone frog, and cement bunny looked back at me. 

I pointed at the television screen again, "A Woodtoot! That's what I want!" As I continued to chant this mystery word over and over, my parents realized tthat I had just witnessed the equivalent of a concrete child-size Disneyland right about two miles or so near their house figured this small amount of kitsch. To two young parents raising their only child, chasing concrete gnomes was acceptable pursuit. A concrete lawn ornament could be a three-year-old's play toy. I was overjoyed. I was going to get a woodtoot. 

The next day we set forth for the wide spot on Union to find the trucks and pulled up anchor. Next stop a stretch of Sandy Boulevard dotted dotted with prostitutes, johns, peepshows, and the tell-tale clotheslines that once held tiger-print rugs, pirate flags, and airbrushed pictures of pot leaves. But lines hung bare. And only litter and cigarette butts remained from the former vendors. Even on 82nd, between the used car lots, nothing remained. 

I sat in my car seat, tightly bundled in, as tears dropped down my face. Alas, I didn't get my woodtoot. And to my mother I declared, "My little heart is cracking."

As an adult, it is hard for me to not stop and admire concrete lawn ornaments when I see them. I can't quite explain it. Just as I can't explain how I came up with the word "Woodtoot." So don't question why there is a concrete squirrel in my bedroom. Seriously, don't.

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