Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Mean Grownups

We called them the Alley-Oops. They were named after the Alley-Oops of my childhood which were named by a friend of my older brother after the 50s novelty song. And now they are gone.

The Alley-Oops were a set of bmx-style jumps and ramps and dips that were about a mile east on the River Greenway off North Anthony. Often it would be a destination on bike trips with my kids, though we didn't dare try the more impressive set where the top of the ramp to the bottom of the gulch would be six feet or more with ten feet between the massive dirt mounds. Rather we would take the easier circuit where you could easily coast over one foot mounds without getting air or even chicken out and take the trail to either side of the small training mounds.

But the big circuits... they were impressive! Often we would watch as greasy biker kids would take turns tempting fate on this frightening jumps... usually without helmets or pads. The most impressive thing, however, is that these incredible interloping circuits were created by these kids, or possibly generations of pre-teen and teens. I'd see them out there with shovels, repairing a mound or making a new one. I wish we had the foresight to take pictures. Seriously, these would easily rank in the Seven Wonders of the Kid-dom World.

And now, like I said, they are gone. We hadn't visited them this summer because that part of the River Greenway was closed off due to construction further down the line. Now the "entrance" is chained off, the ramps bulldozed to fill the gulches, and nasty little shrubberies have been planted all over. It's sad, really. These kids, who would normally be written off as losers or wastoids or slackers put in sweat and time to create sometime truly impressive, something that was theirs. Until some bureaucrat decided that it was a legal risk continuing to turn a blind eye. Yes, I blame the lawyers. Now what are these "at-risk" kids to do? Go play some more video games? Loiter outside the Quickie-Mart? Train for the Olympics?

It reminds me of something I read in an old Reader's Digest. It seems in this town there was a pipe that went over a creek. The problem was that the kids kept walking over the pipe and breaking it, causing no end of problems. The town tried many things to keep the kids off the pipe but those pesky kids continued to play on the pipe. At one town meeting the various methods were being discussed on how to keep the kids away from the pipe until some old geezer stood up and said "Why don't we support the pipe so it won't break?" Sure, that wouldn't fly in todays world, which is a sad shame, but really, how much of a grumpy old gus do you need to be to take away a kids playground?

'Tis truly a sad day.

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