Great article in this morning's Chronicle about the last remaining local Adventure Playground, located in Berkeley at the Berkeley Marina. Oddly enough, I've never heard of such a thing before, and had no clue that there was one in Berkeley, which is not altogether that surprising given that my Cal years were spent doing things other than hanging out at a kids' playground, which would have been kind of strange and creepy. Anyhow, despite my apparent ignorance at its existence, the Adventure Playground concept sounds pretty cool. Essentially, it's a 1-acre lot full of junk like old boats, telephone poles, tires, and pianos, as well as structures such as forts, slides, and rope swings. Kids can run wild and play, build, paint, and get filthy. How cool!
As my older child, now 3, has gained more and more awareness of the world around him, I'm constantly reminded of how many things in popular media are "too scary", which is to say, a lot of things. When they're babies and don't really understand what's going on you can sit around watching House of 1000 Corpses on DVD in the living room and it doesn't really faze them. Not that we ever did that or anything... really. But give it a year or two, and that'll change. The first time I noticed it is when on a visit to the grandparents my dad and I thought it would be a swell idea to watch Master and Commanderon the big screen TV. Bad idea. At the first cannonball smashing through the Surprise's gun deck we hear a shriek that's not part of the soundtrack, that of a small child behind us: "TOO SCARY!" Off went the TV. From then on it's been a series of surprises in learning what exactly is too scary. An episode of The Simpsons, for example. Then there was the Three Little Pigs.He insisted on reading that story every night. This was fine for about two days, but eventually he started waking up in the middle of the night terrified of, not unsuprisingly, the Big Bad Wolf. Thus began our love-hate relationship with ol' Big Bad. Screams in the middle of the night would be followed by my wife asking "Did you read him that book again?"
At first I thought that he was being a bit oversensitive, but then when I thought back to what scared me when I was a kid, and how silly these things seem now, then I manage to understand a little more. Things that still exist with me to this day include something my parents were watching that I'm pretty sure at this point—we're going way back into the memory banks here—was an episode of the Avengers. Then there was this movie I saw on the airplane when I was maybe six or seven, and to this day I have no idea why my parents actually paid for the headset and all for me, really, that involved James Coburn and a bunch of commandos flying hang gliders to rescue a kidnapped family. I don't know what freaked me out more; the kidnapping by terrorists or all that orangey-red 70s-movie blood. That movie's stayed with me for thirty years. Amazingly, I ran across it on TV last week, totally by chance. I turned the thing on while I was getting ready for work and there it was, on AMC: Sky Riders with James Coburn, Robert Culp, and a bunch of Greek actors. And it was awful. I was scared by this?
Last story: When I was about 3, my dad and I watched the old 50s Harryhausen giant octopus flick It Came from Beneath the Sea. My mom, of course, being a mom, tried to dissuade us from watching on the grounds that it was, potentially, Too Scary. "No, it's fine" my dad said as we settled down in his easy chair to watch. And indeed we watched the whole thing, including the famous scene of the Golden Gate Bridge being pulled down of the octopus, without incident. Now, fast forward to several months later. We're cruising along in the family Volvo on our way to an outing in San Francisco. This of course involves crossing the Golden Gate Bridge (see above), since we lived in Marin. About mid span my parents here a shriek from the back seat, which (and I'm sure you've already guessed what it was about) went something like "THE OCTOPUS!!! THE OCTOPUS!!! TURN THE CAR AROUND!!! IT'S GOING TO GET US!!!" or something to that effect. Boy was my dad in trouble.
Our three-old has been computer literate—and a Mac user, to boot—since he was, oh, 18 months, probably. While the preschool he attends doesn't advocate "Screen Time" for children (we're talking the evil TV and its demonic cousin the computer here), it's hard to keep him off, and we do carefully monitor what he sees online. Since he's been watching insidious Baby Einstein videos from the time he could sit up on his own, we figure it's pretty much a moot point, anyway.
Recently, we somehow stumbled upon the BBC's preschool web site, called CBeebies. I hate to admit it, but it's loads better than it's stateside counterparts at PBS Kids, Disney, and Nick Jr. (the latter two of which have copious amounts of advertising, so we really try to limit exposure to them). Perhaps it's my imagination, but the Beeb's site seems to have content with a lot more depth than what I've seen previously... involved and involving games, stories, etc. Plus, you get the added bonus of hearing the original British voices of all the characters for shows that play over here like Bob the Builderand the Teletubbies. Then there are the oddball (to us) shows that haven't made it over here yet. (Or perhaps they have, as we only get basic cable and don't get those 24-hour toddler channels that I know are out there, since I've seen them in the homes of friends who have better TV than us). Regardless, it's worth a look for some quality "Screen Time".
For my first-ever inaugural Marin Daddy blog post, I though I'd write about subject that's near and dear to the hearts of most dads—beer, and of course, spending quality time with the wee ones. At a recent after-work function I was with some colleagues at the Park Chalet in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. The Park Chalet is the slightly less touristy, downstairs sibling to the popular Beach Chalet brewery and restaurant in the historic building of the same name, located on the Great Highway at John F. Kennedy Drive, across from Ocean Beach.
So I'm here on a Monday afternoon, and I couldn't help but notice a steady stream of parents with small children entering the place. Most of them were headed toward the expansive lawn area in back, where they lounged in adirondack chairs, ate appetizers, drank beer, and watched their kids go nuts running around on the lawn. Did I also mention that it was $1 draft night? The Park/Beach Chalet makes a variety of tasty brews, all named after San Francisco landmarks past and present, such as Presidio IPA, Playland Pale Ale, and Fleischhacker Stout, all (or at least what I've sampled) quite tasty. They even make their own root beer, since you're bringing your kids and all. And they have food, too, including your standard pub-grub like sandwiches, burgers, pizza, etc.
Does life get any better than $1 beer and a place where you don't have to worry about the kids tearing around like crazy? Not if you're just one of those idle people who can go hang out at a brewpub on Monday afternoons and evenings, or if you can swing a Monday off, ("Hello, boss? Yeah, I'm feeling pretty awful today, I don't think I'm gonna make it in...").