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Blizzard in the Big Apple

This day has been such a series of adventures, it’s hard to think straight. When we woke up this morning, the snow was already piling up, drifting and blowing all around. We ignored the mayor’s pleas to stay off the road, and we borrowed a four-wheel drive car to make the slippery, icy trek downtown to the Javits center. We made excellent time, considering visibility was approximately 4 feet and the snow was coming down so fast that people were stopping in the middle of the highway to manually clear their windshields.

We arrived at the Javits center just in time to hear Malcolm Gladwell deliver his keynote address. He didn’t stray far from the subject of his latest bestseller, Blink, but he was eloquent, energetic and engaging, and it was interesting to contemplate decision-making and snap-judgements, then immediately embark on the decision marathon that is Toy Fair.

Wrapping up the keynote, a band of otherworldly costumed creatures seranaded the crowd before leading a chaotic and surreal processional into the exhibit hall. Even more incredible, several of them attempted, either on purpose or not, to run up the down escalator, ill advised in costumes that clearly afforded poor peripheral vision.

But Toy Fair is filled with uncommon and questionable sights. And lots of toys. My pick of the day today is actually a software product. We don’t carry any computer software right now, but I really liked Giggles Computer Funtime for Baby. It’s a very simple, nicely executed program for infants and toddlers, ages 6-24 months. Basically, it’s all cause and effect. As long as the program is running, the keyboard and mouse will just create interactions with the shapes on the screen. You don’t need to worry about your toddler banging on your keyboard and resetting or deleting anything. There are 14 different games to choose from, and each game offers a choice of several soundtracks. They offer both Windows and Mac platforms. This is the best early computer software I’ve seen.

We wrapped up the day at the legendary FAO Schwarz store in midtown, where we enjoyed a private party for ASTRA, the American Specialty Toy Retailers Association. Thanks to the record-breaking snow, our trip from the Javits included a bus, a subway and a harrowing trip up an unshoveled flight of subway stairs. But it was all worthwhile, as my sister and I got to live out a long-standing childhood dream and play the “Heart and Soul” duet on the giant floor piano, following in the footsteps of Tom Hanks in that famous scene from “Big.”

That’s all for now, but tomorrow is another day.

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