Toy Story

A DIY Adventure


Speaking both as an incurable outdoors crusty and a consummate artiste, I cannot, for the life of me, think of a more suitable home than Bellingham. From tide pools to tree lines, there is an awesome convergence of energy in this place. It slants down off the mountains. It washes in on the tides. It sprouts and it sings. It raises its wings and goes flapping around all over the place. It nurtures my urge to create.

Meanwhile, back in Minneapolis, my younger brother—a fellow artiste—continues to play the big-city game. From skyscraper to suburbs, his surroundings move faster. And so does his life. 

Fortunately, City Mouse knows how to unwind. Whenever the day-to-day grind of the Upper Midwest starts getting to him, he zips out here to the City of Sublime Inspiration for a quality dose of brotherly Pacific Northwest adventure. 

Mostly, I let him know what he’s in for ahead of time. But sometimes I like to surprise him—and the bigger and weirder the surprise, the better.

Not to toot my own horn, but a few weeks ago, during his most recent visit, I managed to devise an activity that proved to be, in my bro’s own words, a “real shocker.”

We spent four days making our own action figures. 

We didn’t build them from scratch, but we did go rummaging through various local thrift shops looking specifically for whichever secondhand action figures seemed most closely to approximate the general dimensional anatomy of the specific characters we intended to create and scooped those puppies up for a song. 

Then we set up a serious repurposing laboratory—including, but not limited to: scissors, X-Acto knives, bailing wire, modeling clay, paint, markers, sand paper and a flat file—on the dining room table and commenced experimenting zealously and with reckless abandon to our boyish hearts’ content. 

On our first day, doing Michelangelo proud with the clay, my brother managed to flesh out the sleek, futuristic body of a Mighty Morphin Power Ranger we picked up at Value Village into a scruffy, plaid-shirted mountain man he named “12-Foot Davis.” 

And on our second day, exhibiting surgeon-like precision with an X-Acto Knife, he whittled down the hard plastic, swivel grip likeness of pro-wrestler John Cena into a distinctively more plebian-looking yeoman hero named “Meat Fist.” 

Meanwhile, although I did manage to transform a rather plane-Jane-looking plastic horse into a character called “Dynamite Mule,” the effeminate, Barbie Doll-like proportions of the Justin Bieber figurine I scored at Goodwill ultimately proved completely inadequate in my repeated attempts to conjure forth Meat Fist’s yeoman partner—a squat, super-brawny lunkhead named “Gronk.” 

Thus, the lion’s portion of day three was consumed by an extended foray into the deepest depths of Bellingham’s O’Donnell’s Flea Market where, after almost a full hour of studious searching, we considered ourselves fortunate to find an Incredible Hulk.

After working late into the night under a heat lamp on the backyard picnic table, making Gronk out of Hulk, we promptly lit out into the wilds of Whatcom Falls Park for a photo shoot of our newly hatched creations early the fourth morning. 

“Please, don’t take this the wrong way,” my 37-year-old sibling said as he struggled through misting rain to stabilize Gronk in the stump moss. “But this seems like way more fun than we should be having.”

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