Sea Shells and Shout Outs


We went to the beach this past week. One of my favorite beach traditions is checking out the trinket shops. I’m not talking about the t-shirt shops — but rather the ones where you can get your one-stop souvenir shopping done. You know, a rubber magnet for Mom, a shot glass for Dad, and a collectible thimble for Grandma, like she needs another one. These are the shops that are stuffed with shaky racks of plastic shark teeth, junk jewelry, and coffee mugs — the same old crap — and yet there are also hidden, obscure treasures to be found in the claustrophobic, cluttered aisles for those who are seeking. I have always found the beach a fantastic place for seeking.

These treasures never seem to be part of the main, central stock, but rather seem to have been found in some dark abcess of the back room wherein the employee shrugged, slapped a price sticker on it, and threw it out on the floor. The treasures always seem to be dustier than the rest of merchandise for sale. They’re affecting in a peculiar way—strangely wounding and yet personally touching on a level that you’ll never fully understand and yet you are compelled by it.

Each year I make it a personal mission to find a new treasure. And this year, it was almost this poodle chef toothpick holder:


Almost. But I could feel there was something else in the universe out there for me. And anyway there’s no chance the wife would have let me keep that in the kitchen even though I had the perfect spot in mind for it. So I kept searching. And digging. And mostly walking gingerly through the crampy aisles trying not to knock anything over. Because the teenage clerk at the register doesn’t look like he messes around when it comes to that “you break it you buy it” sign.

Then near a flickery back corner, I saw it. My treasure of 2013 and perhaps of all time. SHAPE CHANGING DINOSAUR ROBOTS caught my eye, each word more glorious than the one before it.


Shape Changing Dinosaur Robots were located on an astray peg hook not even near the other toys. There were only five of them, all of them appearing as though they’d survived a warehouse fire immediately followed by a massive flood immediately followed by the Rapture and mass looting. The one I bought was the “nicest” even though the cardboard is warped and the plastic is barely glued on anymore — but it was also the only one not hastily repaired in gobs of packing tape. But trust me, all of this only adds to the mystique.

Shape Changing Dinosaur Robots are part Jurassic Park, part Transformers, and one hundred percent bootleg hailing from the shores of Shantou, China. The toy possibly converts between dinosaur and knock-off Transformer. The keyword here is possibly. Most likely, it stays jammed in between the two—not really dinosaur or robot—but instead a really crappy toy that breaks the moment after you open it.


So I paid $5.99 for this, which seems like I overpaid by about five dollars for what should be a dollar store toy. But collectors totally pay money for bootleg Transformers, and I was able to find a Shape Changing Dinosaur Robot on eBay that sold for fifteen bucks.

They come in four varieties, none of which are collectible and may or may not actually exist.


Shape Changing Dinosaur Robots. Seek and ye shall find.

Finally, I have some shout outs. Someone’s fiancee recently wrote me and asked if I could give a random shout out to him as a surprise. So hello out there, Brett James!

And another shout out to a friend of mine named Emily — we built a rocking sand castle together at the beach, and by sand castle I mean gigantic pit of doom carefully placed to ensure no one sat on top of us. Because nothing says dear God let’s not sit near those people better than an eleven year old and thirty-two year old wielding plastic shovels.


13 thoughts on “Sea Shells and Shout Outs

  1. Beachside trinket shops are the best! Though the ones near me only get as exciting as lobster-claw grabbers on a stick and plastic squeaky frogs. Maybe I’m just not looking hard enough. And I think I’d really like that shape changing Dilophosaurus robot.

  2. I can’t decide if I am glad you did not post this before I went to the beach last weekend, because I probably would have come home with one of those toothpick holding dogs. Did they have a pug?

  3. This takes me back to my childhood in Cornwall and happy hours spent ferreting in seaside shops. The pen holders encrusted with sea shells, the Cornish pixies, the criminally florid Devon violet soap and ‘perfume’ sets that could wipe out a whole family from 20 feet away..those were the days!

  4. Totally just saw my shout out. I’m playing catch up on the posts. Reading this is like a mirror of the bizarre and awesome that is my life!

  5. I like that huge junk shop all the way at the (almost) end of the boardwalk. The two stories one. That’s where I get my OC back scratchers every season

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