Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Awkward Mom vs. Marvelous Machines

I really can't explain why they do things sometimes. Who decides to go to the unholy marriage of a sideshow and a penny arcade that is housed in a suburban strip-mall, with 3 children under the age of 4 on a Saturday St. Patrick's Day? Yes, you guessed it; Awkward Mom!

Awkward Dad is an explorer by nature. He is fascinated by the new, the old, the exciting, and, quite possibly, even the dull. There isn't much that he doesn't want to do, see, or taste. (He is also a collector that wants to bring home "treasures" from his explorations and adventures. This causes untold issues, but that is another post.) Needless to say, if you suggest it, Awkward Dad is up for it.

Now, it is pretty clear that the Awkwards are not the Starks. Really, Readers? The Waynes? OK....how about the Rockefellers? With me now, eh? OK, clearly, we aren't in a position for Awkward Dad to be jetting off to Europe or joining a safari. No, his adventures are currently of the smaller variety. Hence, his greeting me at the door with, "How do you feel about machines?"

"As in, do I like having the ability to access movies on Netflix or operate a stove? Or am I afraid that evil Transformers walk among us, hold secret meetings when we sleep, and are going to take over someday?"

"Neither. Wanna go here?" Except he doesn't show me the website. He reads to me out of his current adventure tome, Fun with the Family in Michigan, seventh edition. "Come to Marvin's Marvelous Mechanical Museum! It's a great name for one of the most interesting and peculiar collections of things that whir, click, toot and tick!"

He has Super Preschooler at whir. Super Toddler at click, and Super Baby seems to like the sound of toot. No telling him, but he had me with that magical, melodious M alliteration. But, because someone has to be sane in this family, I stall.

"But it might be expensive to get in."

"It's free."

"What about the machines?"

"I have a ton of quarters."

"But it's close to nap time."

"They'll sleep in the car."

"But I haven't fed them."

"They'll eat in the car."

"But it might be crowded."

"We'll hold hands."

"But it might be scary for them."

"I doubt it." He gestures to both Super Boys, who are beaning each other with lightsabers, while their baby sister laughs.

"But it's St. Patrick's day."

"We'll wear green."

And with that, I am won over. I guess the idea of us matching does that to me. Super Preshooler runs off to find us all green necklaces and we head for Marvin's Marvelous Machines.

We park in an unassuming parking lot in a busy suburban shopping area. Our destination appears to be between a California Pizza Kitchen and a Radio Shack. At least, I am assuming it is our destination. If the enormous clock with its numbers on backwards wasn't enough, there is the paneled truck proclaiming "Wonders of the World! Come see the World's Tallest Man! Bonnie and Clyde's Bullet-riddled Car! Flea Circus! The Bearded Lady! Come one, Come all!" Of course, if you miss that, the garish sign proclaiming Marvelous Machines: This Way is a pretty big clue.

We walk in to be greeted by this:

Holy P.T. Barnum.

Readers, I could not explain this place if I tried. It is a sideshow. It is an amusement park. It is a carnival. It is a hot dog stand. It is a circus. It is a state fair. It is an arcade. And it is jammed into a space the size of the neighboring Radio Shack.

My senses are on overload and I can't quite take it all in. Super Preschooler and Awkward Dad share a brain, so they are off and running; shoving quarters into anything with a slot and delighting in the whirs, toots, and clicks. Super Toddler is standing shock still in the middle of the room, tripping numerous adults and teens, while he stares at the ceiling and the arsenal of airplanes that fly through the room, as if powered by tiny little pilots. I have turned into a sideshow of my own: Awkward-looking Woman with Adorable Baby strapped to her chest. Many a Grandmother stops to ooh and aah....but no quarters so far. Super Baby starts to tire of the attention, so I turn to calm her and we come face to face with this:

Yes, this is exactly what it looks like: A naked photo of Burt Reynolds. And no, I did not lift the fig leaf.

Burt must be the keeper of the perv section of the museum because he heralds an entire wall of peep show posters. I am called to sample the exotic pleasures of the lovely Lydia, the Beauty from Barbados, and Tantalizing Tatiana. Thankfully, no actual peep show accompanies these posters and they are high on the wall, out of children's eye sight. Burt and his leaf are not, leaving one with the first of many unanswered questions about Marvin.

I leave "Peepland" and spy Super Preschool:

Yep, a personal Ferris Wheel.

Now, I have a deep fear of clowns (More on that some other time), so I busy myself while Awkward Dad loads Super P. in and out of this individual Ferris Wheel. It becomes his favorite thing in the museum. Meanwhile, Super Toddler has found this:

Oh My Goodness...well, not goodness at all. really. Yes, that is a Inquisition coin-operated scene. We did not play it. I don't even want to think about what it does.

I lead Super Toddler to some more sedate scenes. A baker that gives toy balls. A crane machine that gives candy. A group of puppets that don't give anything but mirth: I am pretty sure he spent all his quarters on these guys.

I try to get him and Super P. into these monkeys: but with the frantic banging, the hellish red light, and the eerie similarities to the monkey from Toy Story 3, they are not having it.

Oh, Readers. There is so much more. I have no idea how much time we spend here; I am pretty sure the door is actually a magic portal and you know what those do to time and space. I do know that we spent $5 dollars in quarters. I think that is a fair trade for an afternoon of magic, 6 bouncing balls, 2 plastic eggs with prizes, a pound of candy, and my favorite Awkward Dad moment of the week.

We are standing in utter chaos near the Skeeball machines, when he gazes up and reads this off the wall: "This way to the Egress." He turns to me and, in all sincerity, says "Hey, wanna go see this egress?"

Awkward Mom may have laughed at Awkward Dad the whole way home. This may have caused serious pouting. The Supers may have all fallen asleep at 4pm, wearing potential choking-hazard-green-necklaces, with Tootsie rolls smeared all over their faces. This may have caused serious bedtime riots and foiled Awkward Mom's mother-of-the-year chances, yet again. They may be nuts and ridiculous and careless and spontaneous and reckless. But you can bet, that almost always causes adventure. See ya later; Marvelous, Magical, Magnificent Readers!


  1. Haha! Reminds me of when I was on a train through Germany with a friend. The train had stopped and she looked out the window and said, "Where are we? Oh, Ausgang."

    Love your blog! :)

    1. Thanks for reading! I love to hear about awkwardness! Abroad awkwardness is even better!