Sunday was my second outing with Little. At the end of the previous visit, I asked him if he knew what he wanted to do the next time we got together and he said he wanted “to go to the lake”. There’s only one lake in the immediate area that I’m aware of, so I figured he must’ve meant Lake Merritt.
Lake Merritt, is a large, man made lake in the middle of Oakland with, as far as I can tell, not a whole lot to offer. There’s a walking trail around it that if you walk the entire thing is 3.4 miles. I walked it once… Only once… After a really exceptionally shitty morning at work… In the wrong shoes. It’s a long walk and I didn’t really think that was the thing for us to do.
There are boats of various types to rent by the hour, including peddle boats that may be something of interest at a later date, but to be honest, I don’t know how to swim and the idea of renting a boat scares me a little. Plus, we’re still getting to know each other and until there’s more trust built between us, it didn’t seem like a good idea.
And then I remembered the Children’s Fairyland and I thought, “That’s perfect!”
I arrived at Little’s apartment at our usual time to pick him up. The children were still eating so I waited a few minutes while he finished lunch before we headed out. It was about a 15 minute drive to the park and we talked a little bit on the way. I asked him about school, he just started the second grade last week, he said, “We learned about bees.” (I understand the birds come later.) I asked him what he learned about bees and he said, “I don’t know.” I asked him what else he learned and he said, “When we’re done with bees were going to learn about ants.” OK… Not what I asked but, good for you.
We arrived at the park and I parked my SUV in the first available parking space I could find. Neither of us had ever been to the Children’s Fairyland before but we could see it from where we parked. There were obvious Children’s Fairyland attractions directly ahead of us… on the other side of a fence. But the entrance was nowhere in sight. So we walked… in the wrong direction as it turned out, but ended up accidentally circling back around and stumbled across the entrance.
I’m always amused and fascinated by how children can make a game out of just about anything. As we walked around outside the Fairyland looking for the entrance, we saw a number of birds of various types in the grass. We were walking on a paved path that had dark spots all over. The spots were clearly old and not transferable and who knows what they were, but Little started chanting, “Don’t step on the poop. Don’t step on the poop.” and skipping along on the tips of his toes.
Once inside we began seeing the sites. I handed him the map and asked him if he saw anything he wanted to do.
The first thing he saw was a big slide that looked like a lot of fun, so we went in search of the stairs leading up to it. It looked like great fun and I couldn’t wait to slide down it. There was a sign that said, “No Adults”. Damn! I told him I’d meet him at the bottom, but since the stairs leading up to the the slide were on one side and the outlet of the slide was on the other, he was down the slide and running around to find me before I got to the bottom of the stairs.
We wandered around the park for a while looking at the sites and the animals. We saw Donkeys,
We also saw the G-Force, but they were under cover.
There was a show. A guy named Jean Paul Valjean who does magic tricks and juggling/balance acts. (In his spare time, he leads french revolutions… Mmm. That might be someone else.) I wasn’t sure Little would be interested, but we found ourselves next to the amphitheater where Jean Paul Valjean was performing a few minutes after the show had started and I asked Little if he wanted to watch. Before I even had the words out of my mouth he darted over and plopped right down on the ground next to all the other kids.
<– By the way, that is not a cigarette in his hand, he is holding a “magic key”. There are little stations throughout the park with boxes. You put your key in a slot on the front of the box and it plays a recording about the animal or site you are standing in front of. You pay $2.00 for the key when you enter and you can use it all over the park. I handed Little the key and said, “You hold on to this, but don’t loose it.” and he did a great job of keeping that key. He only dropped it once and he snatched it up so fast you coulda missed it. He used the key exactly two times and was completely disinterested in what happened. I must say I don’t really blame him.
I must also say Jean Paul was actually pretty entertaining, even for us big kids and we all got a lot of laughs.
As I said there were balance tricks
and he did tricks with a Chinese yo yo.
For the finale he balanced a spinning bowl on a stick held in his mouth, with balls rolling around inside the spinning bowl, while he blew air into party favors on his head and juggled balls with his hands while spinning a ring around one foot. It really was rather impressive…
When the show was over we were off and running again, there was more to see and do and we were losing light (not really it was only about 3:00, but the park closes at 4:00 so we only had so much time.)
We made our way to the back of the park where we found a miniature old timey town.
Then we saw a small train circling behind the town so, we had to go ride it!
And because nothing is ever truly virtuous, the designers of this park positioned the train “depot” next to the snack bar. Isn’t it interesting how little boys who never mentioned food before are suddenly starving when they know there’s over priced theme park food around?
Little insisted he was starving. I reminded him that he had just eaten, I saw him, and asked what he had for lunch and he said, “I don’t know.” Then he remembered he had eggs. I went along with it and bought him some ice cream… ’cause I wanted ice cream too.
Time was nearly up and we stopped off in the gift shop on the way out… My idea… STUPIIIIID!!! He kept picking up stuff and talking about how cool it was. I knew it was coming and finally it did, “Can you buy me this?”
It was a plastic sword and I could just imagine him showing up at home with this thing, whacking his brother on the arm and having his mother hate me. I told him, no. But I would have said no whatever it was. I don’t want to set too high expectations too early on. He was disappointed but he got over it pretty quickly.
We got back to his apartment shortly after, and no sooner had we walked up to the court yard then we heard his year older brother shouting, “Bang, bang. Pow, pow.” I looked up and saw the older brother standing on stairs that faced away from us, holding a clearly plastic, toy shot gun (looked vaguely like a sawed-off) and pointing it at Little.
Almost as quickly, Little’s younger sister, currently 5 years old, came running up to Little, clucking away in Spanish, too quickly for me to pick anything up. In her hands were a plastic knife with a theoretical sharp edge on one side and a theoretical serrated edge on the other. It immediately evoked images of Rambo, or Harry Tasker, sneaking up behind some sort of bad-guy and slitting their throats. She also had a toy gun, pistol, in her hand. It was black, and for a moment, from a distance, I just wasn’t sure it wasn’t the real thing… I hoped, but I wasn’t sure. I approached with caution. It was only as I got closer that I saw the plastic packaging on the ground with the fluorescent orange suction cup darts in it. Little’s sister handed him the gun and as he was pulling on the upper casing I saw the rubber band stretched between two posts within. It was only then that I realized, Little’s sister must have asked for some sort of assistance making the toy function properly.
What concerns me so greatly is that Little’s demeanor changed so much, so instantly. Alone with me, he’d been a little boy. He’d played and run around the park like a child enticed by child like-things. The moment we entered the gate of his apartment building and his siblings had approached with these toy versions of deadly games, he was immediately enthralled. No longer was he an innocent boy, but rather a guilty, experienced handler of such deadly devices. I hope I’m making mountains out of mole hills, but something in me bristled in that moment.
I want to serve that little boy better. I want to show him a world where peace and benevolence win over violence and mayhem. I want to show him a world were guns are not toys. Guns are weapons. Used improperly they are offensive weapons. Young and mislead men use guns to destroy their lives and those of other, innocent people. Wise young men respect guns. They’re not afraid to own guns, if they so desire, but they understand that guns are defensive weapons only and not something to be taken lightly.
“Boys will make guns out of anything,” K told me, and I know she’s right. I played at guns when I was a boy. Using my thumb and my index finger, I shot at many an imaginary bad guy, though to be honest, I preferred to defend the bad guys bullets with my wrist cuffs, stop the bad guys with my boomerang crown, and capture them with my lasso of truth. As a boy, my ultimate desire was to grow up to become, Wonderman. Only I much preferred this visage, over that of the comic book era:
Anyway, the gun play disturbs me. Perhaps I’m making too much out of a minor issue. Perhaps I’m not. Perhaps it’s too soon to tell, but I’d like to show him a better world. Meanwhile, when asked what he wants to do this Sunday, he said he wants to go to the movies. I asked him what he wanted to see and he said, “Meatballs.” A quick search on my handy-dandy iPhone revealed that “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” won’t be out until the following Friday and when I told him that, he said, “GI Joe.”
I suppose I’m actually glad that he was more interested in seeing a childrens cartoon than he was in a “war movie”, and yet, the “war movie” was next on his mind. I don’t know anything about GI Joe. I’m not necessarily opposed to seeing it, thought it wasn’t a high priority to me, but now I’m more concerned about reinforcing the violence angle, than I am about the movie itself. I told him, I’d only take him to see it if his mother said it was OK, (It is rated PG-13) but she said fine.
So Sunday, we go to GI Joe. We shall see. I’m deliberating if there’s a way I can have a chat with him about how guns should be handled, after we see the movie. Anyone have any suggestions for me?