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Fun in Publ1c

September 6, 2009


Infrastructure for public romping is an unsung casualty of today’s ultra-litigious American society.

The tiger trap trampoline trail pictured above, for instance, would never fly.

In my hometown, see-saws, whirly-birds and super-slides went M.I.A from public playgrounds in the mid-1980’s and were replaced by “kid-friendly” jungle gyms. Microsized, plasticized, neutered. No more splinters, no more bone-bending drops, no more kicks.

America’s sons and daughters may be safe at home, but like wild beasts raised in captivity, that false comfort spells D-E-A-T-H for them out in the real world. Case in point:

One morning in Ostkreuz, straddling a particularly perilous play komplex in the proto-dawn light, I stared down into a wide netted crow’s nest before letting myself collapse into it sideways. I expected the supple embrace of an old hammock. My only concern was that it might be too comfortable–so very sleepy after all…


I may as well have swan dived onto a pile of re-bar. My dream hammock was in fact made of rigid steel cables fastened together with egg sized bolts. The impact was distributed exclusively across my pelvis and elbow via two of these bolts. Just as I had feared, getting up was hard.

Maybe we should just let kids take their lumps with the benefit of youthful resilience?

3 Comments leave one →
  1. stiiv permalink
    September 7, 2009 16:12

    I’ve heard this “litigious” trope for many years now. I have an alternate theory.

    Americans are more cheap than they are litigious, particularly where public works are concerned. Not paying for nice playgrounds and blaming it on lawyers is something of a hat trick of your average anarcho-libertarian amateur Randian mash fiction writer.

    • Edward permalink*
      September 7, 2009 23:39

      I see where you’re coming from, except with the last part. Not sure if that’s supposed to be me or what.

      To clarify, the subject was not cheap playgrounds–it was childproof playgrounds. The older, more dangerous and fun gyms I referred to were probably much less expensive than their doohickey laden replacements.

      You’re right that Americans tend to have a hysterical aversion to public investments. Germans not so much. The resulting disparities are dire, but playgrounds don’t happen to be a good example.

      In my view, the “starve the beast” disorder and ultra-litigiousness are actually part of the same perhaps-prevailing American mindset. The so called ownership society tends to cannibalize the public good and the fellow man in pursuit of property rights and liability. Frivolous lawsuits aren’t the problem, it’s the mentality they reflect.

      I’ve been lucky to live in Berlin and witness what I think is a more sensible and nuanced attitude toward public and private responsibility. It’s not libertarian, nor is it socialist:

      You’re free to take your knocks. The industrial strength net will not give out–but it might hurt like hell. This isn’t Disneyland.

  2. Dantondanton permalink
    September 13, 2009 05:09

    Do most people pronounce “anarcho-libertarian” with two syllables, or is it three? It’s a heavy howitzer in any case, even if pointed in the wrong direction. By the way, if this were in French, I would say “un sacré obusier”–a hell of a howitzer. What fun that would be. As much fun as “tiger trap trampoline trail”? Of course not. You write very well and you have found these amazing things to write about. There is a good ambiance–as it seems to me–to the blog, apart from the sheerly funny parts,which are very funny. I liked Ludmilla’s Gin Tonic Manufactur–and what a magical name for a park, Hasenheide. I probably said before how, not knowing German, nouns in particular seem to have a hyper-reality, hyperexpressive. A newness that, at the rate I’m learning German, may last a while. Well, this is a comment, not a letter. Essentially, my comment is: your blog is getting and better.

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