Silly Therapy

Archie McPhee

Today while running errands in Seattle, I decided to visit the Archie McPhee store at its new location in Wallingford. They moved to 45th and Stone Way from Ballard in mid-2009.

I dooon’t liiikkkeee being in Seattle for long. There’s only a few places I ever go to in Seattle on purpose. I can’t stand the traffic, the crowdedness, the busyness, the lack of parking, and a number of other things. Unless I’m going there for a concert, special event, or particular store, I avoid it.

But Archie McPhee is one of those places you have to visit at least once as you can never leave there in a bad mood. Today I decided that some “silly therapy” would be a good thing, so I made my once a year or so trip to the Kingdom of Kitsch.

When I walked in the front door I came close to yelling, “Honey, I’m home!!” The instant goofiness that envelops you as you go inside erases the massive irritation you just had trying to find parking within a reasonable hiking distance.

The absolute silliness of this store is refreshing. You don’t need a thing in it, but you want to buy just about everything because it makes you feel good. It’s a happy place that gives you all kinds of party planning and practical joke ideas.

At Archie’s you’re greeted at the front door by a tall centurion with a heart-shaped eye patch, as if his nurse fell for him after he got his eye gouged out. Around the corner, I found a full body polar bear costume and a “Dramatic Rodent” tote (surely readers have seen the YouTube video of the same name).

On the next shelf over was an electronic yodeling pickle, with a pile of question mark-emblazoned Monopoly finger towels nearby. Further down the aisle I was intrigued by an anatomy frog, which could save generations of helpless amphibians from high school science class scalpels. Behind those I noticed the ultimate business in front, party in back ‘80s fashion accessory—a fiber optic mullet wig.

In the meantime, a guy next to me was trying on a plush horse head mask in front of the glow chamber. The glow chamber’s sign instructed me to insert five cents and flip a switch to see an amazing show, but I just had a dime and a bunch of pennies. I peeked into it anyway and saw a plethora of hanging glow in the dark objects that must move when turned on.

Personally I’m tired of seeing Elvis used as a home décor theme, but was cracked up by the fleece Elvis blankets around the corner. Behind those were rolls of bright, sparkly vinyl (for… making your own Slip ‘n Slide??). On the back wall I saw a sign: “Large Zip Ties 75 Cents” with a footnote “Please no zipping the zip ties.”

Suddenly I was gripped by a compulsion to zip the large zip ties. If the sign had just said what they were and the price, I could have just walked by. But since they were saying “don’t zip the zip ties”, what’s the first thing I want to do? Zip the zip ties. Must… resist… zip tie zipping…

Somehow I was able to shift my focus to a bin selling “black plastic bottle—with lid!” A lid is a good thing. Otherwise you’d be putting your salad dressing or shampoo in the bottle and having to rubber band Saran Wrap over it or something. That never works. Everything in your suitcase oozes when you open it.

Zip ties… almost as tempting as bubble wrap (which I keep a pile of at my desk at work). On the next row, I found reusable grocery totes, those standard dark green cloth ones. One stack of them read, “My Reusable Bag Makes Me Better Than You.”

It was nice to see this kind of blatant honesty on a tote, because Seattle is not only a land at war over what constitutes an acceptable grocery bag, but it is known for a vocal subculture of environmental elitism. There are those who believe in taking care of the earth and I am among them. Throw your greasy McDonald’s bag out the window in my hood and I will find you.

But there are also those who live in crowded, polluted concrete meccas on the weekdays who try to dictate what happens to the semi-rural lands they recreate in on the weekends. It’s like some people believe that urban residents have the right to tell everyone else how to live. Hey, I don’t go to Belltown on Sundays and yell at people to plant more trees.

Frowning at an obnoxious clock made out of silverware, I noticed the familiar “Nunzilla” toys (sparks come from their mouths) near a rack of personal hygiene items. Some of those would work great as stocking stuffers, such as ranch-flavored dental floss, pickle soap, and enchanted unicorn bandages.

The nose pencil sharpener and water eel are surely popular Christmas prizes as well. Have you ever picked a water eel up? You’ll never be able to put it down. It squishes through your hands… and squishes through your hands… and squishes through your hands… you can’t really hold onto it, but find a weird pleasure in letting it… squish through your hands.

Advertised as being the ideal topper for your hot sauce bottle, I found a bin of GI Joe doll heads. Wow, you could use those for all sorts of weird things. But if you did mount a bunch on drinking straws and stick them in your houseplants, you’d feel like someone is looking at you all the time.

The Stickman reflective stickers were great. Stickman is featured on shiny yellow caution signs in a variety of sticky situations. Past this display of Stickman’s mishaps were a variety of historical action figures, some bordering on sacrilege.

The Carl Jung action figure was one of the most interesting because of the subtitle on its packaging: “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” Hey, I don’t go to Belltown on Sundays and yell at people to plant more trees.

To the left of the action figures is an entire section devoted to bacon. Here you can score a bacon placemat, bacon board game, bacon belt (for the ham in your life), and the Mr. Bacon Vs. Monsieur Tofu play figure set.

I was pleased to see the Bacon Tuxedo gag gift box there, as well as the Musical Tie of the Month Club and Gravy Fountain boxes. I recently bought the former to wrap a wedding present in, positive that the box will reappear at this year’s white elephant gift exchange.

At long last, I reached a bathtub full of Archie McPhee’s signature item, the devil duckies. These are rubber duckies with a dark side in a rainbow of colors. They have horns and even come in various patterns. According to the store’s website, it takes 518 of them to fill up the tub.

After browsing the store twice (and once again staring at the “do not zip the zip ties” sign), I purchased a couple of glow in the dark mini-blowfish and a “What Would a Ninja Do?” spin folder/decision making tool. I’ve wanted that for years. They have different versions as well, and one even helps you decide how to do your hair.

When I got home and took the folder out of its plastic wrap, I realized that I’d wound up with a rigid ninja. He wouldn’t spin. No matter what I asked him, he told me to “Escape on a Motorcycle.” I tried to loosen the metal fastener so the ninja pointer would spin more easily, but wound up tearing a hole in the folder and almost broke my scissors.

I’ve now repaired the spinner with a red tack, heavy paper, and some scotch tape due to the lack of JUST ONE STUPID BRAD in my extensive office supply collection. But I think I need to exchange it anyway. When I asked the ninja what to do, he told me to “Unleash Fury” or “Turn Invisible”, so I called the store hoping for a more peaceful solution.

The store said they’d exchange it. So if you buy a spinner folder, you might want to check to see if it works before you exit the store. Escaping on a motorcycle is not always a good option, especially when you don’t own a motorcycle. That implies you may have to steal someone else’s motorcycle. That’s not cool. That puts you in the same class as the slobs who throw their McDonald’s bags out the window.

Well, it’s off to the post office to mail a few Archie McPhee postcards out since I didn’t go somewhere exotic for Labor Day weekend. Maybe that will get my mind off of the big bag of white zip ties I have squirreled away somewhere, normally reserved for gardening use and burglars.

Next time you’re in Seattle, check out Archie McPhee’s. You may spend $5 on something you really don’t need, but it’s worth it. I’m sure my cats will find those little glowing blowfish tonight, and those will provide hours of feline martial arts agility training that Sang Kim DVDs just can’t match.


If the Vikings were around today, they would probably be amazed at how much glow-in-the-dark stuff we have, and how we take so much of it for granted. –Jack Handey

©2010 H. Hiatt/ All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/

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