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I'm far from being a shopaholic, but I definitely have a weak spot for electronic toys.  I've made quite a number of dumb purchases in my life (most often electronics), but these particular ones reverberate in my wistful memories.  Thank God for Ebay!

The Cotton Candy Machine
I once beheld a home cotton candy machine for sale in a catalog specializing mostly in useless, single-purpose home appliances.  I just had to have it.  This purchase would change my entire life--friends would flock to my lively cotton candy parties, and princess-like model-esque girls would swoon at the sugary goodness served by yours truly.

My ultimate goal was to put my arm into the machine and encase it in cotton candy.  Unknown at the time was the exact science involved in making cotton candy.  Sugar is melted inside a spinning wheel and shot out tiny holes.  These hot liquid sugar threads stick to whatever is placed in the path of the spinning wheel.  Most often this is the familiar narrow paper cone.  I wanted to use my own arm.  I would become a superhero of sorts--one with arms made of cotton candy.  My road to fame and fortune was clear.

Unfortunately, melted sugar is hot--like really freakin' hot.  It wasn't exactly compatible with human flesh, and smoking blisters oozing puss weren't exactly compatible with cotton candy.  My dreams now shattered, I regretted my purchase.

The machine collected dust in my closet for months, until I finally got around to posting it on Ebay.  I ended up selling it for more than I paid new.  Goddamn, I love Ebay.

The Fog Machine
Concurrent with my cotton candy obsession came an even stranger obsession with fog.  When I discovered that DJ music stores sold otherworldly machines that could fill rooms with eerie fog within seconds, the fog machine shot to the top of my list of must-haves.  My bedroom would finally have the ambiance I so spryly sought, and the melodic rock band I performed with would finally have the edge needed to "make it" in LA's competitive music scene.  Everything looks better with fog, and this machine would take me there.  I got lucky, very lucky: I bought a semi-used model via the "Recycler" newspaper.  The retiring DJ even threw in a half-filled bottle of fog juice.

Upon returning home, I fired up my revered purchase.  Using the cabled remote, I filled my bedroom with a heavy, but even foggy mist.  This stuff smells odd, I thought.  Is that maple syrup?

Thinking I was cooking a truckload of pancakes in my bedroom, my younger sister came in enchanted by my latest toy.  This was going to change our lives forever.  She did share my sentiments about the maple syrup smell, but maple syrup's not so bad.  At least the fog didn't smell like dog shit or decaying rat corpses.

The fog machine made its first public debut at a house party I threw (in its honor) when my parents were out of town.  As my band was about to begin the evening's performance, I handed the fog machine remote to a trusted friend and told him, "In your hand you hold the key to the success of this fine event."  He took my words to heart and fogged the shit out of the place.  In fact, he went a little ape-shit with it.  Despite playing in a relatively cozy family room, no one could actually see us performing.  No one could see their hand in front of their face.  No one could see jack shit.  Party attendants complained of irritated, watery eyes and that unmistakably pervasive maple syrup smell.  The smoke detectors in my house all went off.  Who knew that fog sets off smoke detectors?  You learn something everyday, and that day I learned about fog machines and smoke detectors.

All the house windows open, the fog soon cleared and the party continued.  My fog party was legendary.  People talked about it for years afterwards.  The fog machine had become my best friend.

Regrettably, the fog machine's awe-inspiring beginnings proved a mere flash in the pan.  Something burned-out inside the sleek box, and all it did furthermore was leak maple syrup-smelling fog juice on carpets and hardwood floors.  No more fog flowed from its glimmering silver nozzle.  As repair cost more than the entire fog machine, I trashed it.  My heart broken and my soul scorched, I went to band practice that day and shared a deep and fervent cry with my band mates.

Not surprisingly, our band never did make it.  We had lost our most important band member, and without him we were forever lost in obscurity.

The Car PA System
A great friend of mine shares in my obsession for ridiculous electronics.  This is why we're such great friends.  One day his car pulled into my parents' driveway, and a distorted bullhorn voice belted: "Dave!  Come out with your hands up!  You're surrounded!"  He had purchased and installed a car PA system similar to those found in cop cars.  The road to my next purchase was brightly lit.

I went to Radio Shack the very next day and bought my own car PA system.  With my friend's help, we now both had fully-functioning, semi-illegal car noisemakers.  We patrolled the Santa Monica Promenade, Westwood, and other LA areas abundant with pedestrian traffic causing havoc and confusion.  I can't believe we were never arrested.

I later upgraded my system.  The Radio Shack system was a mere 10 watts (cops use well over 50 watts or so), so I connected a 50-watt inline amplifier and swapped the Radio Shack CB radio out in favor of an ice cream truck-like PA complete with animal noises, sirens, and of course ice cream truck music.

The upgraded system was insanely cool.  The cacophony traveled miles and audibly echoed off tall buildings.  Cars pulled over thinking a firetruck was approaching, and pedestrians scampered out of the way.  Little kids ran from their homes--money in hand to buy fresh ice cream.  Since the bullhorn speaker was hidden under the car hood, few knew who the culprit was.  It's a miracle I was never arrested.  God Himself had blessed my contraption.

After I moved to Japan, I no longer owned a car.  My PA system sat boxed in storage for years and years, until I finally decided to trash it.  I had considered ebaying it, but decided against it after seeing similar systems cheap and plentiful on Ebay.  My dirty dated system would barely command enough to cover the shipping.  If I ever moved back to the States, I could readily rebuild the glory of my former car PA system.  Thank you, Ebay.

You'd think I would've learned something from these experiences and not make such purchases going forward.  I'm not ashamed to admit that I still do.  But thanks to sites like Ebay and Yahoo Auctions, the cost of my vacuous obsessions are kept in check.  The world is full of bidders far worse than I, so no matter how stupid the purchase, there somewhere exists a fanatical market ready to take it off my hands.

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