My childhood hobbies included watching cartoons and superhero shows, with a side of horror movies during weekends. When feeling energetic, I’d hit my oldest brother up for rides to Bob Sidebottom’s Comic Collector Shop where I’d stock up for what I was doing when not watching cartoons, superhero shows, or horror movies – reading comics. Sports? Boy Scouts? Models? LEGO? Had I been I born a decade and a half later, I would have been Arnold Schwarzenegger’s worst nightmare: the lazy kid who couldn’t give a thin runny stool sample about fitness campaigns. My attitude toward hobbies almost mirrored Say Anything protagonist Lloyd Dobler’s attitude toward choosing a career — almost since even if I never sold, repaired, or processed comics, I did buy them:
I don’t want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don’t want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don’t want to do that.
At 56, however, I’m more industrious, well-traveled, and loving new pursuits. I’ve grown curious about LEGO, for example, a phenomenon that has evolved over decades from boxes of odd bricks haunting toy closets into elaborately designed sets, reality-television competitions, and theme parks. Hell, yes, online retailer, show me what’s available! I selected a 7380-piece Notre Dame model, not LEGO but developed and marketed by KLMEi, a Chinese outfit that focuses on architectural wonders and cityscapes. Other than Notre Dame, they offer the Taj Mahal, Big Ben, the United States Capitol, the Tokyo Skyline, the San Francisco Skyline, and for a twist, the Titanic. But my empathy for Quasimodo won out, and Notre Dame rang my bells more loudly than all other choices.
Within days, my kit arrived, and upon opening the box I discovered many bags filled with very tiny LEGO-esque bricks, what KLMEi calls “micro-bricks.” I could see that this task would require patience, since I’d be sorting tiny pieces out of these bags step by step, and this what I’ll call a three-dimensional puzzle was laid out in seventy-five steps, so . . . patience. To facilitate that process, I added my first building tool, a measuring cup to help me sift through different blocks of the same color . . . lots of tiny blocks the same color . . . where did I lay my specs?
After sorting out the first few steps, I finally began building, next adding to my crafty arsenal tweezers for positioning blocks into their correct crevices and scissors for prying up said blocks when placed incorrectly. Friends, my hands were made possibly for LEGO, most certainly for DUPLO, but not for micro-bricks. I possess no fine-motor skills. When dining with me, note how I hold cutlery, or maybe observe how I handle writing implements when signing documents. And these micro-bricks are DELICATE, thin entities, lending this process an intricate, ship-in-a-bottle feel. Add precision to the patience to the list of attributes necessary for KLMEi constructions.
So far, I’ve completed five out of seventy-five steps. The instructions are color coded, layer by layer, and once progress occurs the diagrams become slightly confusing. I’m underway, however. Do I feel enthusiastic? Not really. Do I feel dissuaded or defeated? Also, not really. This project is something I’ll pull out when motivated. One serious issue involves ergonomics. After a five-hour session hunched above my dining room table, my back was wrecked. Hello, my screaming latissimus dorsi. I’ll have to formulate a work area that doesn’t challenge my mobility.
It took architects, masons, and laborers 182 years to finish the real Notre Dame. I’d love to feel the accomplishment from completing such a task, albeit on a miniature scale. Indeed, I’m a bit envious of my LEGO-obsessed friends and really any maker who achieves such creative victories. But knowing myself, a reasonable and merciful goal for finishing this KLMEi scale knockoff is any time before I’m headlining séances or pushing Ouija planchettes. I might fail that, so I’ll will it to a deserving heir, the one who decides decorative plates or jam-of-the-month clubs make fabulous holiday gifts. I am taking notes.