The joys of a boy and his toys

The Hall of Justice crashed down and Batman and Black Widow fell into the abyss; all were the victims of a single push that accomplished more than a thousand assaults by the Legion of Doom.

The Batmobile was overturned and Robin lay twisted beside the wreckage.

All manner of cars — from Scooby-Doo’s Mystery Machine to a G.I. Joe jeep — coagulated into a traffic calamity for the ages.

It seemed nothing could slow the rolling disaster embodied by a real, live human toddler except the magic elixir of chocolate milk in a sippy cup.

Otis visited Camp Daniel with his father and my friend, Andrew, on a recent evening.

Andrew’s wife had been exposed to COVID-19 and was isolating pending a test.

I invited he and the boy to hang out while she rested.

I haven’t been around small children in many years.

When I was younger, my cousin’s children were toddlers. Many of those “kids” are in college or married with children of their own now.

Otis is a sweet-natured boy, like his parents. He likes “trucks,” which is his catch-all phrase for cars of any kind. He pushes them around on the floor. He loves the turn of their wheels. He loves their crashes more.

My house is a sort of monument to pop culture past and present. Otis cased the apartment, guided by his dad, for cars and gathered up as many as he could find.

He was found of the A-Team van, Ecto-1 from “Ghostbusters,” and “The Transformers” Optimus Prime, but only in truck mode. I transformed Optimus into his robot mode. Otis lost all interest. He is a wheels man, not a robot man.

Andrew asked me if there was anything that was off limits; He would steer Otis away.

I am a collector, but I also believe comic books are meant to be read and toys are meant to be played with. Aside from a few pricier statues, everything was fair game.

I never married or had children.

There are a lot of reasons for that, but that’s the way it is.

But there is something about a child with a toy that touches me in a deep place.

The visit was inspired a week or so back. Andrew came by to help me with a project. I’ve struggled with some basic tasks since knee surgery, arthritis, and obesity have limited my mobility.

I decided to tidy up my desk, both inside and out, and pulled three large trash bags of detritus from the big, gray steel World War II surplus desk.

Andrew dropped by for a beer or two and carried out my trash. I gave Andrew a big bucket of old cars, some newer, but many that dated back to my childhood.

He said he should bring Otis by. It was a joke, I think, because he worried, I think, that I would be overprotective of my collectibles.

But I said sure. So when the opportunity presented, Andrew texted an offer of a visit and pizza.

I enjoy my pop culture menagerie.

I look at a Darth Vader action figure or a Transformer and remember happy moments fueled by imagination as the forces of good and evil did battle on shag carpet in the house on Lynner Drive.

That pales in comparison to watch in a relatively new human explore those same adventures for the first time.

On occasion, Otis would come to the edge of my recliner and say, “Up! Up!” I would heft the boy onto the arm of my chair. He would delight in rolling cars off the side of my belly.

I thought back many years ago, when my dad would stretch out on the living room floor after dinner for a nap. I would jump on his belly. We would wrestle for a while before we both fell asleep.

Otis’ bedtime approached and he and his dad helped clean up the disaster area that my living room floor had become.

The Hall of Justice returned to its perch, with Batman overlooking. The Batmobile parked in its usual spot and Robin was none the worse for the crash.

All the toys went back to the shelves and boxes.

Otis and his dad went home.

I rarely have company, much less such energetic company. I was exhausted. I texted Andrew.

“How do you keep up with that much energy?” I asked.

“You don’t,” he replied. “You just get used to being tired.”

That I believe.

Daniel P. Finney writes columns for, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification.
Post: 1217 24th St., Apt. 36, Des Moines, 50311.

5-sentence review of ‘Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings’


Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” is just OK, about the same level of “OK” that “Black Widow” was earlier this year — good enough to watch, not spectacular enough to inspire me to buy the associated Funko Pops.


I recognize the cultural significance of having an Asian hero and lead cast in a Marvel movie if for no other reason than every professional reviewer, news story, and the mighty Disney’s publicity machine pushed that narrative hard for months leading up to the release of the film..


To what degree this is a successful realization of the aspirations of Asian-Americans or Asians worldwide who always wanted to see someone who looked like them in a superhero movie, I cannot say because I am white and most of the superhero movies have had white guys in them.


I think — and I’m being wishy-washy on purpose here, because I really don’t know — Marvel did a good job because there’s loads of Far East folklore characters in several scenes that I’ve scarcely scene, but I get the sense that people from that cultural tradition would recognize the way Blacks and Africans saw pieces of African traditions throughout “Black Panther.”


As to the movie itself, it’s a martial arts picture with Marvel trimmings — lots of mostly bloodless violence, a big CGI blob monster at the end, a new hero who just begins to realize his worth, and two post-credit scenes with cameos from the other Marvel films — so if you like kung-fu flicks and Marvel movies, this is a fine night’s entertainment, but if you’re worried about the Delta variant, I’m not sure this is the pic to break your quarantine for because it’ll be on Disney+ soon.

Daniel P. Finney writes columns for, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification.
Post: 1217 24th St., Apt. 36, Des Moines, 50311.

Where I’m from

Graduate school at Drake University starts Monday. These days the professors issue assignments before a first class is held. I’ve got to read some executive summaries about climate volatility for a contemporary American literature class focused on post-apocolyptic novels. One of my education professors assigned a poem for our education methods class. The poem is supposed to be autobiographical in the style of Georgia Ella Lyon’sWhere I’m From.”

I thought I’d take a break from knee surgery and recovery updates and share with you my homework.

Where I’m From

By Daniel P. Finney

I come from

Secrets and mistakes

Heavy burdens chosen to carry,

Then given away to the

Crackling hellfire of good intentions.

I come from adoption by

A woman addicted to babies

With no use for children

And a man who just wanted sanity

For the bride whose joy faded decades before.

I come from madness

Innocence stolen by orange and white pills

Spilled from translucent bottles that

Wiped Mother’s memories of

Her constant cruel words and actions.

I come from escape from harsh reality with

Trips to Korea to serve with the 4077th,

On Rescue 51 with Roy and Johnny, and in

The TARDIS, with the Doctor, who

Saved the universe with a pretty girl and robot dog.

I come from a wire worm-infested red-brick ranch in

Madison County that smelled of what

Farmers call “money,” but is really

Hog shit or chicken shit depending

On which way the wind blew.

I come from weekdays

Construction paper cuts with

Betty Lou at the “House with the Magic Window;”

Learned why the man put the car in the oven

From a balsa wood puppet named Floppy.

I knew how to get, how to get t0

“Sesame Street” and walked

“Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood”

With peanut butter and grape jelly

On both breath and fingertips.

I come from Saturday mornings,

I ran with Road Runner,

Punched with Popeye and

Foiled the Legion of Doom

With the Super Friends.

I’m from Friday dinners at Knox Café

Fried chicken and and rainbow sherbet

Nervously devoured while desperately

Hoping to get home to in time to

See somebody make David Banner angry.

I come from comic books and movies where

Adventure awaits in every four-color panel

Onomatopoeia is defined in colorful splashes

Things blow up and Han shoots first, but

The good guys always win in the end.

I come from battles against the forces of evil

Fought with plastic heroes and villains

On the blue shag carpet of my bedroom.

Toys served as talismans meant to say

“I love you” when the adults could not.

I come from checkers games with

My Dad as his dying heart turned his

Skin gray and he warmed his hands on a

Cup of coffee while we talked about

Hawkeyes, history, and the promise of heaven.

I come from Little League baseball diamond

Dirt rubbed into bare hands, step into the box

And pray for a walk because I was

Afraid of the ball and only in it for

The free cap, comradery, and concessions.

I come from funerals

Parents gone before I was 15;

Dad from a sick heart and Mother from a fall downstairs.

Sometimes the good guys don’t win and

Nobody gets out alive.

I come from romances that fail

When the chemistry of lust and love fades and

The negotiations and compromises begin.

Still, I remember a gentle kiss at the door after the dance,

And misty eyes whenever “Lady in Red” plays on the radio.

I come from second chances made

Corporal by an east-side hairdresser and

Her husband, the printer, who

Couldn’t have their own children,

But chose to love a second-hand son.

I come from mental health care;

Two salmon colored pills in the morning with

Three whites at night and a

cocktail of behavioral therapy to

help me be me despite brain chemistry malfunctions.

I come from feelings projected onto food and

Devoured in great gulps, wearing trauma in

Pounds of flesh hanging from my body for all to

See, judge, point, whisper, and mock while

I manage with my doctors, therapist, and cane.

I come from newspapers.

Box scores, agate type, Sunday color comics,

Picas, pixels, paragraphs, and inverted pyramids.

To seek and publish truth and

Defend democracy.

I come from timid knocks on the

Doors of strangers who

Suffered terrible loss and stumbled into the news

And I stood on their stoop begging them

To tell me their stories.

I come from short sentences with

Specific nouns and action verbs,

Creativity and accuracy with the

Clock running, racing toward deadline

before those mighty presses rolled.

I come from the end days of journalism like

Living in a hospice without a morphine drip.

A middle-aged veteran reporter runs like an

Endangered species actively hunted, finally skewered

By layoffs served by greedy corporate hustlers.

I come resilience and hope that

I can rebuild my life and purpose to

Trade the pilcrow blues for the head of the class.

Help the young find their voices, sling their sentences

Stack their paragraphs, keep moving forward.

Daniel P. Finney writes columns for, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification.
Post: 1217 24th St., Apt. 36, Des Moines, 50311.