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Legos in Times Square

Started: 2013-06-15 20:50:17

Submitted: 2013-06-16 20:25:01

Visibility: World-readable

In which the intrepid narrator explores Manhattan with his preschooler and finds a giant X-Wing built entirely in Lego

Calvin and I awoke on Saturday morning, 25 May, in my sister Bethany's apartment in midtown Manhattan, on our first full day of our trip to New York City. We ate breakfast (while I tried not to compare her tiny kitchen to the size and shape of an airplane galley) and prepared for the day ahead. Getting caffeine was an adventure without even leaving the apartment: Bethany dusted off her espresso machine, found some aging ground coffee somewhere in her cabinet, and managed to make a reasonable latte.

Advent Hope Church
Advent Hope Church

Our first excursion in Manhattan was to Bethany's church, Advent Hope, on the upper east side. The easiest way to get there, from Bethany's apartment in the north-east corner of midtown, was to take a taxi. I did not feel compelled to carry around Calvin's booster seat; it'd worked well enough for the cab ride from the airport, and it seemed to give Calvin a bit more height so he could see out the windows, but it was still too bulky for me to want to drag it along with me, especially since I already had a backpack full with spare clothing, snacks, the iPad, and other essential hardware for the modern preschooler.

Advent Hope was in a small building on a quiet street. I was amused by the German on the facade; it'd been built for a German-speaking Adventist congregation. During the church service Yanthor texted me trying to find my quotes archive and I used an Android ssh client on my phone to connect to my server and e-mail the text file to Yanthor -- all without leaving the church.

After church, Bethany introduced Calvin to the other kids present, introduced me to a few of the adults. We joined the potluck in the basement, which featured a brief introduction to the meal in the form of a young woman of South Asian descent talking about the health benefits of lentils and the benefits of buying your lentils from South Asian grocery stores. The lentils were cooked into something that resembled a falafel ball, but was flavored with Indian spices and tasted like dal. (I might not have noticed the connection if I hadn't been looking for it.)

With our meal complete, we took a taxi to Times Square and found the large Lego X-Wing sitting in the middle of the square, as an ad for an upcoming Lego Star Wars tv show. This was a strictly-time-limited event; it was only on display for three days, and this was the last day. There were people everywhere, and it was hard to get a good view of the life-sized X-Wing, so we found the end of the line leading into the display and waited for the next two hours. While we waited, in the intermittent rain, I looked out at Times Square: every available surface seemed to have been turned into a giant display advertising something or another. Many were advertising phones, most of which ran my code. I was fascinated to see a giant Xinuha News Agency display toward the top of the giant stack of displays at the north side of the square, and wondered what sequence of events led the Chinese state news agency to advertise in the center of American commercial capitalism, and exactly what slant they were placing on their news for the American market.

Uncle Josh, Calvin, and Aunt Bethany with a Lego X-Wing in Times Square
Uncle Josh, Calvin, and Aunt Bethany with a Lego X-Wing in Times Square

As the line wore on, and we got closer to the X-Wing, I saw that it was a scaled-up version of a smaller Lego set, but it was built in Lego at that larger scale. The studs on the original model were built, using regular 2x4 Lego blocks, as foot-long approximations of the real studs. The scale, the attention to detail, and the shear audacity of the whole exercise was dizzying.

Underside of Lego X-Wing in Times Square
Underside of Lego X-Wing in Times Square

At length, we found ourselves at the front of the queue, we saw a human-sized X-Wing fighter pilot minifig and astromech droid, both rendered in Lego. We went up and sat in the cockpit of the human-scale X-Wing, and got our picture taken. My brother-in-law Josh and I thought it was great (having an appreciation for both Star Wars and Lego). Calvin didn't seem to know quite what to make of it; it clearly wasn't something that he could play with himself, and he didn't seem to grasp the idea that the whole thing was built out of tiny Lego bricks.

Calvin, Aunt Bethany, Uncle Josh, Jaeger, and Lego friends
Calvin, Aunt Bethany, Uncle Josh, Jaeger, and Lego friends
I Lego-Heart NY with Calvin, Jaeger, Aunt Bethany, and Uncle Josh
I Lego-Heart NY with Calvin, Jaeger, Aunt Bethany, and Uncle Josh

We passed another photo opportunity with a Lego Yoda (whose t-shirt read "NY I (heart)", with the "heart" being rendered in Lego), and the various other life-sized Star Wars characters rendered in Lego, and headed to the build-and-take Lego section. The rain had picked up again, but we were able to build tiny-scale Lego X-Wings of our very own. Calvin finally understood this part, and got to take his very own Lego model, which he flew around when I didn't set it aside for safe keeping.

Calvin and Aunt Bethany build Lego X-Wings
Calvin and Aunt Bethany build Lego X-Wings
Calvin, Jaeger, and Lego Boba Fett
Calvin, Jaeger, and Lego Boba Fett

By the time we finished the Lego exhibit, we didn't have enough time to hit the next item on our potential agenda, the American Museum of Natural History, so we ducked into Starbucks to replan, then headed to went across the street to the giant M&M store. Calvin was bemused by the M&M-themed merchandise but really wanted "M&Ms I can eat". We went up one level and found a giant array of hoppers with M&Ms in every possible color. Calvin convinced Aunt Bethany to take him down the line and pick up the colors he wanted. (Josh also bought some coconut-flavored M&Ms, which were good.)

For dinner, we caught a cab to V-Note, a vegan restaurant back on the upper east side. Bethany, Josh, and I all ended up eating the same thing, an excellent dish featuring fried seitan with pine nuts. Calvin liked the braised tofu I ordered for him, though he tried to pick off one of the ends, and wouldn't touch the grilled asparagus until I bribed him with M&Ms. (He'll often eat asparagus, and most other green vegetables, but he didn't like the grill marks on this one.)

We caught a cab back to Bethany's apartment, disappointing Calvin; he was hoping for a train ride. I promised him that we'd ride the subway the next day. I gave up on trying to get him to sleep on a schedule resembling his normal 20:00 bedtime translated into local time, which would have been inconvenient anyway, and instead tried to get him to sleep a little later, with mixed results.

Minature Lego X-Wing fighters
Minature Lego X-Wing fighters
For more photos, see Photos on 2013-05-25.
"minor logic error" .. funny.. that reminded me of how my
mom describes her third child.
- Scott J. Galvin, 14 January 2002