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I’m With Stupid – February 12, 2016

by Todd Hartley

Todd Hartley-smallI have seen, in my day, a handful of monuments to people’s obsessions that I think were head and shoulders more impressive than the rest. There are the obvious ones, things like the Brooklyn Bridge, completed in 1883, and the Crazy Horse Memorial, which the Lakota tribe has been sculpting out of a granite mountain in South Dakota since 1948. The ones I really go for, however, are the ones that show how driven one or two motivated people can be.

My all-time favorites are Bishop Castle, a 160-foot-tall fortress that one guy has been building by himself in Colorado since 1969, and the Medieval Mosaic, an unbelievably intricate tapestry made out of millions of tiny metal pieces that a family in Geraldine, New Zealand, worked on for about 25 years. Both are stunning examples of how much people enjoy putting little things together to make bigger things, and they may be unassailable in my personal hierarchy.

I can’t say for certain which of the two is my favorite, but I think I now have a clear-cut third-place finisher after having visited Legoland Florida. That place, if you’ve never been, is insane even if you aren’t a fan of amusement parks or a kid younger than 6. Just seeing the things people have built out of little plastic bricks is worth the price of admission.

There’s an attraction at the park called Miniland that has areas devoted to things like New York, San Francisco and the Kennedy Space Center, where my son and I saw hundreds of Lego recreations (Empire State Building, Golden Gate Bridge, Space Shuttle, etc.) that each must have taken a small group of people hundreds of hours to make.

There were elaborate scenes from every “Star Wars” movie and life-size dinosaurs, elephants, giraffes and a Ford Explorer. There’s even a head of Albert Einstein made of Duplo bricks that must be 20 feet tall.

It’s all completely amazing, but I can’t help but worry somewhat about the mental health of the people who built all that stuff. If I spend two minutes playing Tetris, I spend the next three days watching imaginary bricks fall every time I close my eyes. If I spent all day every day stacking Legos together, I’d never be able to turn it off. I’d just keep building stuff in my mind around the clock.

I don’t know if there’s a cure for that kind of obsession, but if there is, I need to know about it. You see, my son, as I may have mentioned before, has always been heavily afflicted with the building bug and may now have passed the point of no return after finding out that some people get to do it for a living.

While we were at Legoland, he took a master building class, and the instructor, one of five masters builders for the park, pointed to a glass door beyond which lay her office, the authorized-personnel-only master-builder studio. I practically had to peel my son’s eyeballs from the glass. Where I saw bin after bin of little plastic pieces, he saw his ideal future.

The funny thing is, once upon a time, I would have called someone crazy for wanting to spend their life playing with Legos, but now I’m starting to think it wouldn’t be so bad.

There’s a big pit of loose Lego bricks in the lobby of the Legoland Hotel, and it was virtually impossible to drag my son away for things like eating and sleeping, so I eventually gave up and joined him in the pit. I decided to make a Lego sign bearing his name, and halfway through the first letter I thought I’d made a horrible mistake. But then, suddenly, I’d finished the sign and had no idea what happened to the hour and a half it took me to do it. That’s when I realized that building Lego stuff could occupy eight hours a day with ease. It’d be almost like not having a job but getting paid for it anyway. That’s sort of what I’ve always been looking for.

The only problem is that I was right about the possible side effects of long-term Lego stacking. After my foray into the pit, I spent a week envisioning the things I could build if only I had access to all the Legos in the world. But then I just remembered that some happily insane people in Florida already built everything for me, and I was OK.

Todd Hartley would totally build a Lego Bishop Castle, but his son won’t share the Legos.

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