Jewish World Review March 6, 2003 / 2 Adar II, 5763

Jeff Kramer

Jeff Kramer
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Embedding with
our toy troops | With my esteemed fellow-columnist Gordon Dillow at my home paper positioned in Kuwait City to cover the looming war, it would be easy to assume that I've been left off the "A" list.


This past Sunday, I kissed my tearful wife and two baby girls goodbye and embedded with the West Coaster Toy Soldier & Miniature Figure Show, aka Camp Super Geek.

Just minutes after my arrival in the Bore Zone, I faced my first chemical attack - an authentically funky Union Army uniform worn by a Civil War re-enactor. He introduced himself as 6th U.S. Calvary.

"We were stationed in San Diego prior to the Civil War,'' the man said as if he were an actual Civil War combatant. "Once Sumter was fired on, we were moved east."

Presumably without our medication.

Opportunities to engage the enemy - maturity - abounded at the Irvine Marriott show.

Should I "Relive history at the Battle of Churubusco with Robert E. Lee and General Santa Ana in THE WAR WITH MEXICO!" board game?

Or would my heroism be better suited for the "Famous World War II Battles of Navarone Giant Play Set"?

So much death, so little time.

The main focus of the show, of course, was toy soldiers - both the pricey collectibles that catch dust in cabinets until the estate sale and the cheaper combat-ready miniatures that get scuffed up in "battle."

One guy told me he makes his own "casualty figures" - miniature dead guys in various states of horrific repose, while another Ivy League historian enthused, "Hey, you get to make your own story (with miniatures). You can make the Germans win if you want to. Even the French." OK, maybe not the French, but you get the idea. There was even a brochure promoting replicas of "the Warrior Irish" - fifth of Jameson not included. It struck me that the assembled generals might view an outside journalist with suspicion, so I tried to circulate unobtrusively through the room to capture candid snippets of strategy. Here's the best I could come up with:

"I'll take a grenade thrower."

"The three-pound barrel that I got, I intended to put on a field carriage. But it was just too expensive."

"We're talking about a horse-drawn field kitchen!"

"You need the American to kill the German."

"I'm a bus driver."

The message that comes through here is that war is hell. So is love with this bunch.

Sharon Vause said she broke up with her future husband when she discovered his home was a repository for thousands of toy soldiers.

"It wasn't macho,'' she said, recalling her reaction at the time. "It wasn't hip and cool. But I was being shallow."

Or prescient.

She wound up marrying the guy - and his collection - and they get along swell but she draws the line at sharing the hobby. "I can't get into little lead men," she said.

One can only feel for our nation's miniature military spouses - waiting, forever waiting, for their men to come home safe and sound. From the basement.

JWR contributor Jeff Kramer is a humor columnist based at the Orange County Register. Comment by clicking here.

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