The Zeum Playground

Kelly is not really convention ready. She’s at an age when she really likes to pick things up, examine them, restack them (often in a different place), and eat a lot. Many of the booths at Wondercon were remarkably indulgent: the man with the tiny voodoo doll keychains was especially nice, and let Kelly hold the big voodoo doll (with a bandaged head and arm) for a while, as well as examine each and every tiny doll he had for sale. I still have nightmares of Kelly grabbing a rare book while her hands are wet with molten chocolate, so unless I have a reason to be at the show, I was more comfortable being out with her.

Luckily, Yerba Buena Gardens happens to be right on top of Moscone Center. It’s a really neat, artificial park with one of Neil’s favorite science museums (Zeum), a carousel, a bowling alley and a skating rink. One Sunday in mid-July, every corner of the park showcases Bay Area performing arts companies, who give 20-minute tasters of their shows. You can wander between improv comedy routines, hilarious mimes, drama scenes, and musical excerpts all day for free. And, near Zeum, there’s a great playground, with three slides, a sand play area a safe climbing tower, a little brook, and a hedge maze. And all the surfaces a child might bounce on, including walls, are covered with a rubbery foam.

So, whenever Kelly got antsy on Sunday, I took her up to the Zeum playground. She mostly enjoyed the tall tube slides, and often rocketed out of them at scary speeds. But if she flew out to fast, she bounced onto the rubber, and didn’t even complain to me about “boo-boos.”

There always seems to be something that amazes me at Yerba Buena Gardens, but on this day, it was a person, not an event. Around noontime, a man showed up in Yerba Buena Gardens jacket. We left for lunch shortly afterwards, but he was still there later in the afternoon. As best as I can describe it, he was a professional kid wrangler/juggler.

Since it was a particularly beautiful day in San Francisco, children were out in force, and childish rambunctiousness and boisterousness was in full effect. Yet, without ever being overbearing, the man in the Yerba Buena Gardens vest simultaneously managed the safety of children flying down the slides, prevented collisions, and stopped climbers from trying to climb up and into the slides. I guarantee I would have lost my mind after 5 minutes of even trying to exercise quiet authority on 100+ hyped up kids.

And, then, to top it all off, he picked up a plate and a stick. He started spinning the plate on the stick and then balanced it on his nose. When curious children started to gather, he’d hand off the stick and spinning plate and instruct the child on how to keep it going. Soon he had children, in sets of six balancing spinning plates on sticks. Unfortunately, the sun’s angle wasn’t my friend, but here is a picture I took just as he was getting his show going:zeumjuggler.jpg

And he still managed the rest of the playground at the same time.

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