Toys became us
By Christopher P. Winner
t the epochal 34th-Street Toy Conference of 1964 (regrettably under-reported at the time), Byrne and I — Byrne lived next door — made groundbreaking decisions. The Conference came about when we decided that other kids along the block were taking far too many liberties with our toys, including staring at them, wishing they had them, and even threatening to steal them. One boy, Tony, had even tried to strike a deal whereby he could use our Sears three-wheeled go-cart in exchange for telling our parents he had no idea we were (when we'd be conquering trees, spreading boyish ideology, and such). This idea of sharing and collaboration struck us both as inimical to the basic values of personal patriotism, in which you stood up for what was yours and never let anyone else to share with you even if they started sobbing (an old trick). In fact, you made it a point to suspect everyone of working against you.
At the conference, held in Byrne's garage (strictly speaking owned by his parents, an incidental detail at best), we reached the following decisions, swearing to uphold them no matter what.
First, our toys were our toys, even if they weren't quite toys, including the ladder, and no one else beside us had any right to be near them, even if some of the toys had been presents from other parents along the street. Ownership was irrelevant. So was any partnership except ours. Sharing was for weaklings. Residents of a planet that shared things enjoyed themselves less, and we wanted only to enjoy ourselves more.
Our values — of fraternity and toy-coveting — would be the only values we took seriously, because they were ours, and therefore the best. We came first. Everyone else came somewhere else. We were the future. Anyone else was a hostile – at least when it came to toys.
We would keep our toys together in Byrne's garage and in mind to keep them safe from intruders, especially Hossam, the son of the Iranian ambassador who loved our go-kart and lived a few doors down. We considered him a threat to our security and a menace me-firstness. He would only be allowed to gaze at our toys under strict supervision (one of us).
If anyone were found prowling near either garage (especially crawling on the roof, a favorite spot), they'd be officially sanctioned if not punished or exiled or made to step on mud or tar we'd laid down for the occasion.
If we did let anyone else use our toys this act would be considered a favor, and we'd expect compensation for our good will and munificence. Whatever we did, we expected double in return, and on our terms only. (As in, we give you the go-kart, you let us in to watch TV for an hour — or else).
The Toy Conference also called for severe reprimands (being chased) to those who spoke ill of the measures drawn up at the Conference. Critics should shut up or risk being made into permanent enemies, or PEMS. If you were a PEM we'd call you names and even break your toys, since our laws didn't cover your stupid toys.
Finally, the Conference stipulated that, in all things regarding toys and mischief, Byrne and I were unmistakable, the word we agreed on since we didn't know infallible. We would always support each other, lie for each other, blame others when we were at fault — but couldn't really be, since we were after all unmistakable. We ratified the 34th-Street Toy Conference in the presence of Byrne's collie Casey (the witness), and then took an oath containing the line "Byrne and Christopher first and best."
It's rewarding to know that the new governors of America feel the same way about first-ness, having finally come around to the unmistakable 10-year-old's visionary worldview — though they'd do well to keep in mind that the three-wheeled Sears go-kart remains ours until further notice.
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