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Prospect Park Playground

July 23, 2009

bosch chopped
You hear the screams before you see the playground. A general, unknowable din at first but as you near the gate, you can make out a child’s voice shouting “Max!” over and over, punctuated occasionally by an “Oh my God!” or “Rabbit!”

To the left of the entrance stands a six-year-old girl in a string bikini; to the right a monstrous seven-year-old boy is folded into a stroller, bawling. You pass them with caution, and the gate opens heavily onto a scene of chaos. The giant play structures loom before you, infested with running and howling children of all different sizes, shapes and ages – the eyes of each one on fire with madness.

Move along the interior of the fence – here a little girl, her eyes darkened with the weight of her task, guards the portal to a bridge made of wooden planks and chains; she grips the railings, white-knuckled. A smaller boy approaches and the bridge shrieks as the girl shakes it threateningly. The boy appears to think it’s a game and asks permission to pass. She stares blankly into the distance until finally he crawls under her legs.

The same blank stare fills the face of the young boy in a baseball cap who sits intractably at the end of a slide, blocking a group of children who wail and fight amongst themselves at the top.

The sun blasts down. Nannies gather in the meager shade, huddled together like chickens.

A pale jogger, sweating and shirtless, wanders through the scene, dousing himself with a water bottle, oblivious or in shock. He passes a giant eleven-year-old humping a sculpture in mock-ecstacy. Nearby, two blond boys in yarmulkes are attempting to stomp on a butterfly. Another boy looks on in tears, unable to move nor look away.

Some uninitiated parent has irresponsibly raised the stakes and allowed their child to bring toys … Neither parent nor child is anywhere to be seen, but the toys sit in a pile under a chain ladder, a veritable honey pot for the group of mercenary-looking children who circle it, smacking their lips. Finally one pounces; the others immediately lose any inhibition and join the fray.

All the while, ‘tweens the size of 18 year-olds barrel recklessly ‘round and ‘round the playground – the smaller children scatter then reform in their wake.

You walk through the sprinkle fountains where children roll around on the ground, drink and spit the water, their clothes completely soaked, jockeying for position; toddlers roam the periphery, wary of the water and the competition.

Finally, beyond the fountains, the sandbox like a Civil War battlefield, or a Hieronymous Bosch vision of hell. Spilling over with children, some hang their arms limply over the side as others stretch toward the heavens, screaming their terror. Industrious trolls toil, carrying water in, carrying sand out – the sandbox is surrounded by mud and abandoned digging implements.


Walk back toward the gate, past the elderly man, mouth stuffed with cookies, instructing his charge in a garbled language only the infant could perhaps understand, past the nanny who’s been sitting on a slide for the duration, distractedly talking on her phone … There near the gate is the guardian of the bridge, being scolded by a nanny, her mythological status somewhat diminished.

play structures

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Mutterskopf permalink
    July 23, 2009 11:44 am

    Reading this makes me want to perform a vasectomy on myself.

  2. LindaAnn permalink
    August 3, 2009 2:07 pm

    The Bosch illustrations are, um, PERFECT.
    The description is terrific, from the nannies “huddled together like chickens” to the honey pot of toys! Great.

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