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Toys of Chinatown-Luke Kingma-Perpetually Swimming Frog-NYC

The children of 2011 have it all. From 3D portable game consoles to fly-able helicopters and advanced toy robots that mystically and magically learn from their surroundings, the modern toy scene is a clinic on how technology continues to radically shape our children and our culture. Still, there remain places in this world, even in America, where the toy scene is still as humble, non-advanced and frightening as it has ever been. I’m referring, of course, to Chinatown, a neighborhood I love to death and spend hours every weekend in.

The toys that stand guard at the entrances to some of New York’s finest and most quality gift stores will look familiar even to the oldest of Chinatown patrons. In fact, chances are good that the toys you see are the very same ones you gawked at when you were 4 or 5 years old… many, many years ago. And I mean literally the same ones. Hooked? Good. Let’s take a moment and meet the most famous of the New York novelties. Enjoy your trip back in time.

1. The Perpetually Swimming Frog

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What it is: Probably the most well known of the “Chinatown 6,” the perpetually swimming frog is also perhaps the most delightful of all of the neighborhood’s novelties. One could spend hours standing in the 100+ degree heat, marveling at the frog’s mechanically deafening attempts to escape the filthy plastic washbasin it’s imprisoned inside.

Why you want to buy it: While most people don’t have the liquid real estate required to realize the full potential of this eager amphibian, it’s hard to look at those adorable eyes and not want to help it escape the kind of living conditions you only find in New York City.

2. The Lifeless Floating Scuba Diver

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What it is: A cousin and neighbor of the perpetually swimming frog (not by blood of course), the lifeless floating scuba diver is known best for its complete lack of mobility. Forever motionless and face down in the murky sink water of Chinatown, this long-since drowned scuba diver is a lesson in improper scuba diving technique.

Why you want to buy it: No childhood bathtub memory is complete without a lifeless plastic man floating eerily among your rubber ducks and washcloths. After all, the best way to teach your children to appreciate life is to regularly expose them to death.

3. The “Ball and Ferret”

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What it is: So determined to hang onto the red and yellow ball that it’s lost all of its limbs, the “ball and ferret” is a parent’s best course of action to take when the inevitable “can I get a pet?” conversation finally comes up. The toy is frequently displayed next to the plastic cages full of Chinatown’s famous pet turtles, also known as your child’s first exposure to Salmonella.

Why you want to buy it: While the other 5 of the Chinatown 6 were programmed to make horrible, inhuman noises, the ball and ferret is surprisingly quiet. Also, cats would probably like it.

4. The Ever-Barking Puppy

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What it is: A thin, scratchy layer of “fur” is all that separates your child’s fragile body from the conspicuously heavy body of the ever-barking puppy. We don’t want to make sweeping, unfair accusations about this thing (possible lead contamination, for instance), but this puppy’s probably full of lead.

Why you want to buy it: The ever-barking puppy has historically been purchased by nice people with big hearts who want to make the shopkeeper, who can’t seem to attract any customers to his store, feel a little bit better about himself.

5. The Twins

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What it is: Programmed to sing the most inhuman version of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” you’ll ever hear into their tiny pink cellphones, the twins are the most popular and prevalent of the Chinatown 6. It’s hard not to see why.

Why you want to buy it: Put the evil twins in your daughters bedroom at night to assure she’ll stay hidden under the covers, which will hopefully help her fall asleep faster, finally giving you that well-deserved full night’s sleep. Just make sure you keep the receipt. It’ll save your psychologist a lot of time when he’s trying to pinpoint how and when the night terrors began.

6. The “Nobody Really Knows”

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What it is: The Nobody Really Knows’s creator, having woken up after a memory-erasing round of opium the night before to discover he’d somehow managed to craft this wonderful piece, must have been surprised when the shopkeepers of Chinatown started demanding that he mass produce it for their gift shops.

Why you want to buy it: We really couldn’t tell you. Our best guess is that you’d hang it outside your front door to ward off neighbors, friends and family that you never want to see again.

Well, you’ve met them all! Next time you’re in the area, be sure to try and spot the “Chinatown 6.” I’d tell you to do it quickly before they disappear forever, but it doesn’t look like these things are going anywhere for a long, long time.

This article originally appeared on Luke Kingma’s website, TwelveBitterPeaches.

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