Saturday, January 15, 2011
I much prefer being at the park with Hambones when the prevailing activity around us is other young families with children playing on the equipment ... rather than transactional sex!
Visiting the local parks for a daily play on the equipment is new to me; as a kid, my parents were all, "You must not go to the park by yourself or with your friends ... only with us".
"OK", I would nod uncertainly, understanding the instruction, but not the sentiment behind it. "Can we go to the park?"
So there was pretty much no park at all for young Donkey, but we lived in the outer 'burbs anyway, and compared with the postage stamp that Hambones has to run around in today, our backyard when we were growing up was as big as any park going. Still, one always wants what one can't have, so I continued to nag.
But to be honest, compared with today's facilities, the park in those days wasn't really that fantastic; just a couple of metal-coloured, metal bars and a metal slide baking in the harsh midday sun (and guaranteed to cook my young, supple Donkey butt into a couple of toasty-burnt muffins).
So while I could appreciate that the park was pretty boring, and a little bit painful, I didn't really understand what my parents had against it. When I was a bit older, I suppose in an effort to put an end to years of incessant nagging, I was told that the park was to be avoided because, "it was a dangerous place where strange people went and did dirty things". Unfortunately for my folks, this off-hand explanation ended up causing a bit of a social scandal within the local primary school community and had to be publically retracted after our driving past the park one day and me seeing Sam D'Mond (one of our neighbours' kids) playing there on his own. I went to school the very next day and told everyone that my Mum had said that Sam D'Mond (already a bit of a social outcast due to a penchant for the taste of his own snot) was "a weird little twerp who did dirty things at the park!".
Still, despite the red-faced retraction, I remained unaware of the dangers of the park. As nearly as I could ascertain, apart from a burnt ring, boredom and Johnny Butler and his gang alternating between dishing-out common, schoolyard, Chinese-burn-style bullying and experimenting with cigarettes and soft porn magazines in the bushes in the back corner, there was not really all that much to fear from the park. Besides, Mrs D'Mond didn't seem to mind old 'Snot Muncher' playing there on his own!
But as I mentioned, the facilities and surroundings in today's parks are another thing altogether, and especially here in the high-density, inner city, it's no surprise that families turn out in droves to play on the colourful, non-heat-conducting plastic slides, rubber swings, flying foxes, non-splintering wooden beams and airborne-child-cushioning, bouncy-floors, all situated beneath wonderful, shady oaks and gum trees, and surrounded by well-manicured, grassy lawns.
In most of our parks, there are also free gas barbeques and picnic chairs and tables for the public to use, as well as necessary, disability-accessible public lavatories. Our friend Mr Belfast still can't believe the barbeques, "If this was in England or Ireland, people would piss and shit all over them - there's no way I would use one of those things!". "Ha Ha", we laugh, humouring his European naivety. He clearly doesn't understand that such things don't happen here in Australia – no, Australians would never shit on a public barbeque in a park when there is well-moulded, designer play equipment easily on hand!
Recently, while playing at the park, we were approached by a gentleman whose firm had been contracted by the local council to survey park users about the facilities. T'was an interesting experience to be approached by this supposedly impartial surveyor, and to watch him get increasingly animated and agitated as the survey unfolded;
Surveyor: How would you rank [1-5] the cleanliness and tidiness of the park?
Donkey: Yeah good. It's pretty clean. I'd say 4.
Surveyor: A 4? Are you kidding me? What do you call that over there?
Donkey: Oh yeah ... there's some rubbish. OK, a 3.
Surveyor: You don't think a 2?...
Surveyor: How would you rank [1-5] the state of the play equipment?
Donkey: Oh. Really great. 4-5, I reckon.
Surveyor: Were you aware that a child broke her arm here last week?
Donkey: Um ... no. Maybe a 3?
Surveyor: [smiles and nods].
And on it went for about half an hour. He said that this was his first day of surveying, and that he was going to be there all week (obviously I stayed away for the rest of the week), but no doubt he was, through his Woody Allen-esque neuroses and generally judgemental disposition, single-handedly responsible for the play equipment upgrade just a few weeks later, which included a quaint little cubby house with chairs and a little table ... just perfect for little kids to sit in and share a picnic and, as it happens, also a pretty tidy place for young people to start experimenting with each other's bodies.
Look, I'm all for a bit of experimental teenage safe sex, but it might be nice if they could deposit these 'Agents of Protection' in one of the nearby bins when vacating the premises – after all, what we don't know won't hurt us ... or our tea-partying toddlers.
So maybe these were the kinds of goings-on at the park that our parents were trying to protect us from all those years ago ... or maybe it was something else again ... maybe it was what Hambones and I were exposed to yesterday afternoon.
As we approached the empty park, I noticed a couple of people about fifty metres ahead of us wandering towards the recently established disability-accessible public lavatories. I wasn't really taking much notice, but only became aware that something was not right when, on arrival at the play equipment, neither person was in sight, and the only sign of life was the urgent blinking of the red "occupied" light on the lavatory door, silently screaming out like an emergency distress beacon pleading for assistance, "Danger! Warning! There are too many people in the loo! Please assist. Danger!".
But you know how you get all irrational when you're scared? I thought to myself, "Oh look, Donkey. I am sure it's all legit. He's probably a man with end-stage colonic cancer and she's his carer, and they've gone into the disability-accessible lav so that she can help him to change his colostomy bag".
Time dragged on and on, and still no one emerged from the toilet. While others may have viewed this as suspicious, I took it as further confirmation of my very plausible scenario. "You're onto it, Donkey," my delusions continued, "Those bags can be pretty tricky to get off ... and sometimes they leak and have to be cleaned-up. It's all good."
After about half an hour, by which time another couple had arrived at the play ground with their infant son, the carer emerged from the toilet looking every bit the qualified health worker that she obviously was; a big-haired, gum-chewing "lady" in a professional ensemble of dirty white crop-top above (which showed-off her massive falsies) and low-slung black tracksuit pants with matching runners below.
Seeing the park occupied by playing children and wholesome young families, she immediately turned to go back inside, only to find the door locked. "Can ya hear me?" she shrieked to her patient within, "We better get going".
About five minutes later, out stepped the tumour-ridden gentleman; a dirty, lanky and very skanky dude in jeans (no belt), runners and a long pony-tail, and would you believe, he was actually scratching his [no doubt, greasy] nuts! "What the fuck are ya yellin at me for?", he politely enquired of his carer, and off they took themselves (walking along the fence-line, rather than on the designated path), conversing (read: arguing) loudly to each other.
"I guess those anti-cancer drugs can make you pretty narky", I thought to myself.
Within moments of their departure, the park was full of oblivious families, laughing and playing with their children on the wonderful equipment, in the shade of the swaying oaks. That's Park Life, inner-Melbourne style!
Breaking Bad's Wendy the Crackwhore demonstrating her new career caring for terminal cancer-sufferer's in Donkey's local park yesterday. Pic: http://remotelyinterested.blogspot.com