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Wednesday, May 09, 2001

On Sunday, Dirk, Rick Camryn, and I went to the Musee Mechanique in the Cliff House on the beach in San Francisco. Initially, it seemed like we were going to have to pass because the entrance was too loud for Camryn (who spent the entire time napping in her stroller). Beyond the front door though the museum was significantly quieter. Basically, it's a museum of old coin operated amusements. After a few minutes of quiet roaming, we broke out the change and started playing. Rick and I played an cast iron table hockey game. Dirk tried a really cool baseball game that was amazingly complex in its scoring mechanism. Rick dropped a dime in nickelodeon that advertised "See inside the Sultan's Harem!" Turns out the dime lit up a doll sitting on a bed in vaguely Middle Eastern garb. Very odd. There was also a table sized carnival where you dropped your quarter into it and the entire carnival comes to life complete with side show freaks and roller coasters. Another similar items was the Toothpick Carnival. It had many of the same elements, but was made entirely of toothpicks. Clearly, someone had too much time on their hands. Perhaps the most odd items were the laughing dolls. These were basically mechanical puppets that came to life and laughed hysterically when you dropped your coin in the slot. Laughing Sal was originally from Playland (which used to be across the street) and she is about 6 feet tall, and laughs for a good three minutes straight on one quarter. I'm not quite sure what to think of it. It didn't make me laugh along, but I think that's mostly because I was slightly shocked at the existence of such a thing. I'd think it would terrify small children. I'm not quite sure what the entertainment value of it was supposed to be. It was really odd. Sure enough though, there was another smaller, this time male laughing doll further back in the arcade. Was the turn of the century such a jolly time that people wanted dolls to laugh along with them? Were people that much simpler then? Were they really entertained by this? I don't know. What I do know is that this is another small gem in San Francisco that I'd never heard about before and that I'm glad we didn't miss.


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