Monday, July 18, 2005

KidPOWER! (SF Playground Review #1)

First in what may or may not become a series, I offer a review of our closest and favorite playground:


"KidPOWER PARK"--so the sign reads-- is located on the backside of the 16th/17th and Mission block, which locals will recognize as one of the rowdiest in town. Nevermind that, once you're inside the playground you're a world away. Well, pretty much; more on that later.

You'll find it on Hoff Street, the half-block between Mission and Valencia, or, if you prefer, between the dignified twin security guards who never fail to wave back at Sabra as we pass. Twin A guards the Wells Fargo ATMs on the corner, and Twin B has held the more frightening station at the door of Pancho Villa's Taqueria ever since someone was shot there in the late '90s. But again I say: Nevermind that. Feel free to drop in on Pancho Villa. Sabra loves to drink horchata there and watch the cleaver-weilding meat man chopchopchop.

KidPOWER Park is evidently relatively new as Sofia, the four-year-old who is present and ready to dote on Sabra most afternoons, informed me that she attended the "gwand opening" herself. It's modern and clean, with one of those squishy turfs made of recycled tires. The adolescent palm trees do little to block the midday sun, so it's a little lacking in shade, but mornings and late afternoons are great for slacking at the picnic tables with ice-creams purchased from the inevitable helados guys.

As is requisite for any good toddler playground, the baby and big kid areas are clearly distinct. A "community garden" and the picnic area with a three tiered fountain separate the two. Sabra adores the fountain and I'm happy to say that I've seen no dead birds in it for more than a month now. Sofia says don't throw pennies in there; city ordinance.

The community garden is apparently always locked unless a certain dark-haired woman and her very cute and spunky sixish-year-old daughter happen to be there. They evidently maintain the garden and no one else has access. They may also have the keys to the front gate which is occasionally padlocked, especially on Sundays. But note that the two other doors open from the inside, and it is standard procedure to scale the 8 foot fence and prop open the doors if you find the park locked during the day.

garden lilkidsside
The community garden and toddler play structure

The big kids' side has some of the most appealing play structures I've seen. I once saw a two year old stop in her tracks under the flowered archway entrance, stare dumbstruck at the jungle gym and repeat in a quiet, incredulous voice: "It yooks yike a 'pider web.... It yooks yike a 'pider web." And it does. There are hammocks under the spider web of which my hub Michael is particularly fond. Another city ordinance discourages the lounging on of hammocks by adults if you are not accompanied by a child in the immediate vicinity.

piderweb whirlmachine
The Spider Web and the Morgan-and-Sabra-Go-Round

It's a veritable oasis on the underside of one of SF's most colorful blocks and for the most part the gritty side of urbia stops at the gate. You may still get the occasional soundbite, though. Example: Overheard as I pushed Sabra on the baby swings on a recent warm summer afternoon:

CITIZEN STREET-INHABITANT OF THE MISSION, FEMALE: (Barely audible proposition, along the lines of:) "Buy me a burrito. What's wrong, you don't have the money? Asshole!"


CSI o'the M, F: (more inaudible harrassment)

CW o'2D, M: "Shut the fuck up! Crack whore! I'm gonna call the police!"

CSI o'the M, F: "You're gonna call a five-oh? I'M a fucking five-oh, motherfucker! Yeah, that's right! I'm a fucking five-oh, and you better get those dogs on a leash!"

Something tells me she wasn't a cop. But remember that the security guards Hekyl and Jekyl are always right up there on the corner, armed and wishing to god something would happen.

Come on over, you'll likely find us there on Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons and Sofia will be happy to give you a tour and read you the rules. And don't forget to bring two bucks a head for helados.


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