Tuesday, June 3, 2014

A Visit to an Adult Playground

The true object of all human life is play. Earth is a task garden; heaven is a playground.
-Gilbert Chesterton

My GPS said it was a mere 2.5 miles away, so we decided to walk. It seemed counterproductive to take a cab or the subway to an adult playground. John Jay Park on New York City’s upper east side is listed as one of the first adult play areas in the city. A handful of similar “playgrounds” have sprung up around the country in the last few years, borrowing the idea from thinner Asian and European nations where people of all ages still actively spend time outside.

I was intrigued. Our journey began on the west side and took us past The Museum of Natural History and through Central Park, where there were street performers, scores of bicyclists, joggers, and chess games. We passed a couple making out on the grass near a family picnic, I asked the man with dreadlocks making giant bubbles for his bubble juice recipe, but he grumbled something about trade secrets and brushed me off. On the other side of the park, we explored a new neighborhood while pretending to be apartment hunting in our dream city. I imagined where we might walk our dog on the upper east side, if we lived on the upper east side, and of course, if we had a dog. We stopped in Urban Outfitters, bought a few books and picked up an early Halloween purchase because one should never pass up a good unicorn mask if one finds one.  We made it to the east river and I could hear the laughter mixed with the muffled sound of balls hitting the pavement. Splashing. Whistling. Horns. I picked up the pace, my enthusiasm and curiosity mounted.

First, we walked past a public pool next to the children’s original playground.There was a baskeball game going on next to tennis courts, where a group of kids were trying to catch air for their kites. Is
this it? It looks like an ordinary park. My husband followed as I pressed on. There in the back, was a quiet corner with some benches and exercise equipment. Unused. Empty. Exercise equipment.

I guess I didn’t know what to expect, but considering how brilliant and engaging the rest of the parks are in New York City, I guess I wanted something more than an outdoor gym. To be fair, it is a gym with a river view.  But seriously, how old were the people who bid this contract? Where were the street performers and guy making giant bubbles? Where were the places to picnic or make out? Not even a hopscotch board. Maybe it’s the concept I have a problem with. How old do you have to be before you figure out the world is the playground?  Adults have cash, and cars. No permission needed to go outside and play. Anywhere.

The trip was not a total waste. We took a few selfies with our new Halloween prop and took our time wandering back.

What would you want in your adult playground?

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