Toys in the attic: Carmine remembers what it was like when he was a Little Screecher!

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I’m madder than the dad who practically had a heart attack when he was forced to pay top-dollar for his kid’s latest electronic gizmo, survived, then actually had a heart attack when he got his phone bill because the toy somehow connected to his cellphone line and ate up and inordinate amount of minutes (and when I say inordinate, I mean a lot!) over the fact that kids today don’t know how good they have it when it comes to figuring out ways to pass the time.

Look, you all know that the ol’Screecher had about as tough a childhood one could possibly have, having been born in the Depression to a sainted mother who didn’t speak English and worried way to much about my ability to keep on weight (boy, did she have it wrong). And I remember a time when all we had to play with growing up were things kids today would cry over if they unwrapped one on Christmas morning.

Take for instance my favorite toy as a kid: that thing that’s left over when you’re done with the toilet paper. We had a grand old time with those, putting our mouths to them and screaming “Dooot-dee-doooooo!” or using them as spyglasses without the glass! I can’t count the hours we’d spend running around the house like crazy people with a toy that was actually a piece of cardboard. Now imagine how kids today would react if Santa plopped one of those under the tree!

Instead, kids want their Z-Boxes and Mario Wees and iPadPhones that cost hundreds of dollars before tax — not to mention the incidentals that kick in — especially when they start contacting each other over these things that act like some sort of “Star Trek” communication device.

I discovered this new-age phenomena last weekend when we visited our grandchildren that live on Long Island about 10 minutes away from each other. My son Carl has one daughter and two sons, my daughter Dana has two daughters and one son; most very close in age. We came in from the garage to find my grandson wearing his hi-tech cellular blue star earphones in his video chair playing his Z-Box game on the 50-inch TV that makes my 27-inch Zenith in the living room look a transistor radio. But the funny thing was he wasn’t playing the computer or some other kid in the room, but against my other grandson who lives three towns away!

So I quickly calculated the cost of the “cyber playdate” (as is my wont) and figured it would be cheaper to actually get them in the same room together — even if we got them together by hiring a limousine, helicopter, or jet!

Not to mention the fact that the stereophonic sound coming out of the headphones was so loud it had my eardrums pounding.

To save what’s left of my hearing, I went upstairs (which was a story in and of itself) to have coffee. We stayed for a while and then proceeded to get to my son’s house, passing my grandson that was deeply involved playing with my granddaughter who took over from her brother. Twenty minutes later, we arrived at my son’s house to find his daughter still playing Z-Box with my grandson’s whose house we just left. And through the five-hour visits the Z-Box games played on and on and on and Con Ed, Verizon, Best Buy, and Toys ’R’ Us cash registers went clank, clank, clank.

Thankfully, my daughter cooked up one of those newfangled “Must-go dinners.” You know, the kind where all the food in the refrigerator must go into it so it doesn’t go bad? My lovely wife Sharon has used the same technique to empty our refrigerator, always using my stomach as the food processor.

Now’s the point in the column where I once again try to clean up my editor’s mess and, in doing so, make a request for final edit.

You’ll remember I’ve written about Marcia Robins retirement party in the past two columns. Mistakenly, I said that Olgo Fiore presented Marcia with a “New Y Assembly Citation.” Now, I know Diane Savino is the state senator of the 23rd senatorial district and has a office in Coney Island one block from Gargiulio’s, and obviously it wasn’t an assembly citation but one from the state senate. So I’m correcting the boo boo.

Screech at you next week!

Read Carmine's screech first every Sunday on E-mail him at Then, you can read it in other places.
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