Biff Rambles On About … Backlogs, Playgrounds, and Burning Up On Re-Entry

Biff Hiking #4


You’ll have to forgive me tonight, for I have a huge backlog of rambling to purge from the ol’ mental plumbing.  Not posting for 9 days created something akin to putting nine days worth of leftovers into the garbage disposal without actually turning it on during those nine days.  You can imagine the hullabaloo that would result from finally turning it on after nine days.  There would be fragments of chicken wings, burritos, and Brussels sprouts, and macaroni and cheese spewing out like a geyser and all over the kitchen walls.

In retrospect, that was probably not the best metaphor I could have come up with for not having written in nine days, but it’s too late to go back and change it now.  The moving finger, having writ, can’t be bothered to find the backspace key.  Besides, writing is hard enough without having to RE-write.

So here I sit, listening to one of Crowded House’s lesser known CDs (“After Glow”, if you’re interested) and trying to think where to start with this muddle of grot that is currently clogging my brain.   I would start at the beginning, but there isn’t one.  It is a mobius strip of  codswallop.

In fact, it is such a rabbit hole of folderol that I’m not even sure where to begin.  But I’ll just pick a spot and start.  It’ll be kind of like jumping onto a moving merry-go-round on the playground.  (1/10 don’t recommend.)

That reminds me of a story from my youth.   (Wavy lines indicating a flashback goes here.)

I was around 7 or so.  In the small park of the tiny town we lived in at the moment were several pieces of playground equipment.  It was all made out of steel, cast iron, and hard woods.  It was built to survive the nuclear holocaust that everyone was certain would be happening any day now.  But if it could survive a nuclear blast, just imagine what it could do to a fragile seven year old!

Anyway, one of my favorite pieces of this playground equipment was a merry-go-round.  It didn’t have a floor on it.  It was just a collection of steel bars that arched up from the central hub like the legs of a spider and then joined a ring (for stability).  The idea was to get inside the ring, grab onto a bar, and run as fast as you could.  Then, I suppose the object was to just lift your feet and ride (or get flung off, depending on the magnitude of the centripetal force).

Well, one time several of us kids were running with all our might to get the RPM as high as we possibly could.  As misfortune would have it, I tripped … and stumbled … and a 2 inch thick steel bar hit me right on the back of the head at about 25 MPH.

If we’d had referees officiating the spinning of the merry-go-round, we would have taken an injury time-out and I would have been administered a concussion protocol.  I saw stars, birds, and planets.  I saw Schrodinger’s cat (it was eating some Little Friskies).  I saw the color cyan and Beethoven’s 9th symphony.  I saw the scent of bacon.  I am pretty sure I was knocked unconscious, because there is a slight gap in the story between my being nailed by the speeding steel bar and my much-older-than-me cousin taking me home and explaining to my mother that “I don’t know … I guess he fell down or something.”  Mom was upset that I had gotten the knees of my dungarees dirty.

Playgrounds were full of fun, adventure, and excitement back then. It put being swashbuckling within the reach of every boy.

I remember the swings on the playground of my elementary school when I was in the first grade.  The frame was, again, tempered steel.  The seats were hardwood (and usually splintery).  The chains were steel and, best of all, quite long.  Us boys would get on them and see how high we could swing.  The goal was to try to somehow do a complete loop over the central bar.  Luckily, the laws of physics prevented us from doing that.  So we turned our attentions to going as high as we possibly could and then, when we were about even with the roof of the school, we would (inexplicably) jump out of the swing.  I’m not sure why we would do this.  I think I did it to impress, Rachael, my 1st grade girlfriend (for I was quite the Romeo back then).

So, we would complete our ungraceful arc from about fifteen feet off the ground, achieve terminal velocity, and then fall to earth and touch down with all of the grace and elan of a piece of space junk falling out of orbit.  If we were lucky, we landed on our feet.  Everything from the knees down would suddenly go numb, except for the soles of our feet which tingled and sizzled like they do when waking up after falling asleep.  The unlucky would have their feet slip out from under them and land squarely on their derrieres, temporarily driving their spines up into their skulls (player 2 has left the game).   The extremely, extremely unlucky would even miss their derrieres and land flat on their backs or do an epic face plant.  They often had to go to the nurse’s office … or perhaps to the hospital.  (Player 3 has left the game … and probably won’t be returning.)

It would be easy to say that the point of that story is that “boys are stupid.”  But we weren’t.  We were quite sane.  We were establishing pecking order and dominance.  Wrestling bears, hunting buffalo, and counting coup had quite gone out of style by the time I entered 1st grade, so we were left with playground heroics.  I was as rough and tumble as any of them.  I would jump off of anything.  I would climb to any height.  I would go as fast as I possibly could on anything that would move.  I would stand on the single bar at the top of the steel monkey bars, seemingly unaware that if I fell I would look like a ball in a Pachinko machine before finally landing in a heap at the bottom of the monkey bars.  Honestly, I sometimes marvel that I am still alive.

Crazy?  Perhaps.  But it’s only crazy if something goes wrong.

Later I would learn that Rachael cared more about Viewmaster, Lite-Brite, or the latest antics of Curious George than about me putting myself in jeopardy for her amusement.  My days as a daredevil came to a close.

But I sometimes still think fondly back on my days of concussions, contusions, scraped knees, bloody noses, gory scars, torn clothing, and chipped teeth.  No, I’m not crazy.  I just miss feeling that alive.  I miss being fearless.   I miss acting without overthinking.

It wasn’t until I hesitated that I was lost.




  1. “mobius strip of codswallop”. The rest of the “folderal” would be worth it just for that line, which should be mailed immediately to the local publications to be used as a caption for a picture of just about any political institution.

    But the thing is, the core of the post highlights something that some of the Brits have decided to add back to their playgrounds simply because kids no longer had anything to teach them to manage risk. No folderal there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Dave! I suppose I have “blind squirrel syndrome” sometimes in that even I stumble upon an acorn every now and then.

      I have read of the “risk enhanced” playgrounds pioneered in Britain and I think they are a wonderful idea. Cossetting children and shielding them from risk is itself putting those children at risk by not teaching them to manage risk, which is an inherent part of life. The new playgrounds (which are really just the old playgrounds of my youth) help children recognize risk, how to navigate risks, and how to mitigate them. What can be more important than that? 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. “… I saw stars, birds, and planets. I saw Schrodinger’s cat (it was eating some Little Friskies). I saw the color cyan and Beethoven’s 9th symphony. I saw the scent of bacon… ”

    That got an LOL out of me, this morning. Welcome back!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I was a clumsy kid. I tried the merry-go-round, and threw up. I tried roller skating, and sprained my wrist. I got my tongue frozen to the metal monkey bars in the winter, got hit in the mouth with a swing, and got bumped off the teeter-totter. My playground memories are not that pleasant.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, the truth is, my memories of it weren’t that pleasant, either. Me and my friends were constantly being hurt by our shenanigans. But for some reason we associated the playground with freedom and autonomy (or at least, semi-autonomy) and so were willing to risk a few bumps and bruises.

      Liked by 1 person

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