M. Giant's
Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks

Wednesday, April 26, 2006  

A Walk in the Park

As I've written before, our local salad bar/buffet restaurant, Q. Cumber's, is a little tricky when it's just you and the toddler. Another adult makes it a lot easier. Three's even better. But as I learned this weekend, four grown-ups are ideal.

CorpKitten was in town for the weekend, and we decided to have dinner at Q. Cumber's. Which is perfect for M. Small, because there's a ridiculous variety of food there (even if all he really wants is a big bowl of peas); you don't have to commit him to any one menu item; and, as we discovered on one trip when he was wriggling too much beneath my overcoat, we don't even have to pay for him to eat. Splendid!

So we arrived, and CorpKitten and I immediately went to the salad bar to load up, while Trash got set up to feed M. Small his dinner (amusingly, both CorpKitten and I brought him a bowl of peas, entirely independently of one another). Two members of our party ate while the third fed the fourth, knowing that her turn to eat would come soon. And for once, she wouldn't have to bolt her meal in order to get finished before M. Small ran out of patience with his high chair and tried to turn into his own ejector seat. Because at about the time he was done, I'd be taking him down to the park behind the restaurant, and Trash would eat at her leisure with the newly-arrived Bitter.

"It'll be perfect," I said, "Because I won't have to worry about motor traffic. We'll just have to look out for the piano."

CorpKitten thought I was referring to some imaginary cartoon catastrophe, but I was talking about an actual piano. See, this park is (or was, years ago) frequented by an old guy who'd mounted an upright piano on wheels and attached some bicycle components to the frame so he could pedal around behind it while playing. He did the steering with his ass, I think, and he wasn't all that great at pedaling and playing at the same time. Of our friends, only BuenaOnda and I ever saw him, and when we tried to tell people about him, nobody ever believed us. Which put us into a weird, Snuffalupagusian place for a year or so, until he was profiled in the newspaper. And now I can't find the link, and considering how old he was back then, he's probably dead now. Even disregarding his age; an upright piano's wider than the narrow little bike lanes on the streets downtown, and I can just see him getting clipped by a passing truck and perishing in a mass of crashing chords. M. Small and I didn't see him the other night anyway, so it's not really relevant.

So anyway, this park. It's not your average city park. It looks like a facility that was built by either the malls that Q. Cumber's is part of, or the giant condo complex that would back up to the malls if the park weren't there, but it was in fact built by the city, as a bit of cursory research has told me. It's this over-designed river-walk type arrangement, except the river is not so much a river as a long, narrow pond, and it's not so much a pond as a geometrically irregular concrete tank (which M. Small wanted to hop right into, of course), and it's not lined with shops for fleecing tourists. It's landscaped up the ass, with fancy sidewalks circling around for miles. But easily my favorite part was the "lawn games" area.

Ah, the lawn games area. There's a sign on the edge of it saying its for croquet and lawn bowling only, and no other activities are allowed. And once you step onto the pitch, you can see why. It's about a square mile of the shortest, flattest, greenest, most perfect grass you've ever seen. It could almost be mistaken for really expensive Astroturf, and I decided that the few yellow spots were left there intentionally to prove otherwise. M. Small loved it, of course. I decided to define "no other activities" rather narrowly; specifically, as "tackle football" and "NASCAR." In any case, what damage could a year-and-a-half old toddler do just wandering around on the grass with his dad?

None, actually. I'll just defuse the suspense right now. I quickly realized that this was the ultimate childproof space. Nothing to trip over, nothing to fall on but soft, spongy ground, nothing to steal or break or put in his mouth, no swingable-at-groin-level weapons of any kind. All he could do was try to pry up the heads of the automatic sprinklers, and even that was quickly abandoned as futile. Even though I was the only adult responsible for him, we had the whole vast space to ourselves, and after holding his hand through the whole rest of the park to prevent him from chasing the model boats, I could now let the distance between us stretch to five, ten, even twenty feet. There were no hazards in sight, and visibility was excellent. Even if M. Small were to be approached by an escaped sex offender, or a suddenly-appearing sinkhole, or a chunk of green ice falling from a 747, I'd have plenty of time to react and snatch him to safety. So I just relaxed, hung back, gave him his space, and let him chase after the sparrows. Trash and Bitter took their time eating, while CorpKitten hung out with them at the table and I wouldn't have minded if they'd taken longer. Another bonus: you just know that after all that running around, M. Small slept that night like a dead thing. I'm totally bringing him back there one day soon.

Of course, the place will be completely ruined for both of us the day he catches his first bird.

posted by M. Giant 8:40 PM 6 comments


Wow, I need to find a place like that for us. Every day, our 13-month old son find a new drawer or shelf that he can reach and plunder.

By Blogger Lady M, at April 26, 2006 at 9:03 PM  

I love your way with words, M. Giant.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at April 27, 2006 at 7:32 AM  

You know, you are a great writer. I don't think you have ever told us how you started writing. Have you always been a writer? Who inspired you to start? And most importantly, have you ever considered writing a book about M. Tiny? It's a great story, and you would already have chapters or entries from your blog. Sorry if this sounds to strange.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at April 27, 2006 at 8:03 AM  

Ah, but the day he proudly lays that dead bird at your feet will be the day he become a man. Or a cat. Whatever.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at April 27, 2006 at 10:47 AM  

I can't decide if I'm proud or slightly mortified that I have played bocce on that lawn, paddled a paddleboat (and of course, tried to drive through the big fountain) and played mini-golf there. Wow - what a blast from the past!

By Anonymous Anonymous, at April 27, 2006 at 10:04 PM  

For the strolling pianist, try googling "Jim Shannon" and "Centennial Lakes".

By Anonymous Anonymous, at April 29, 2006 at 3:02 PM  

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