The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

April 28, 2012

The Simple Joy of Playing in the Dirt

Filed under: Bellevue, Random Stuff — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 11:42 pm

As I’m sure is the case for a lot of people, my list of Facebook friends includes quite a few people with whom I made acquaintance over the years in the course of participation in various organizations, many of whom have gone off in various directions, mostly in the directions of getting married and starting families of their own.  This means that quite a few photos of their young children find their way onto Facebook, and even though I don’t think I’ve talked to some of these people in years, I still get to (sort of) watch their children grow up from afar.  Today on Facebook, one of these people posted a picture of their young son, who had apparently run off while on a walk in the park, and by the time they found him, he had waded knee-deep into a nearby pond, and left to his own devices probably would have managed to cover himself in mud.  Although I have no experience with being the parent of such a child, I suspect this is one of those things that seems pretty terrible at the time, but over the course of a few years manages to end up being funny.

Somehow, I get the sneaking suspicion that whenever the time comes that I have children of my own (a time that somehow seems a lot less distant than it used to)  it’s inevitable that I’ll find myself dealing with a similar situation somewhere along the line, and I’ll probably be just as horrified when it happens, only to think it’s funny later on.  Playing in the mud seems to be one of those thing’s that’s just buried somewhere in the Y chromosome, probably somewhere in the brain between the cooties and the disdain for vegetables.  Eventually most of  these traits manage to fade away.  At some point around puberty or so the whole Cooties thing manages to be conveniently forgotten, and eventually the combination of nutritional propaganda and the need to maintain some semblance of a figure manage to talk and/or guilt most people into eating their veggies.  In theory, as we grow older and become responsible adults we’re supposed to regard dirt as a necessary evil at best and something that should be avoided whenever possible.  And yet, regardless of where we end up and what happens along the way, this one never quite seems to go away completely.

Ominous, isn't it?

The place where I live in Downtown Bellevue could accurately be described as a reasonably high-end location.  After all, with neighbors with names like Louis Vuitton, Jimmy Choo and Tory Burch, it’s to be expected that the neighborhood should be reasonably nice.  And yet, in spite of the location, Downtown Bellevue also has a surprising number of empty spaces as well.  In fact, even the Bravern has a big empty hole between itself and Meydenbauer Center, space reserved for future construction.  I’m sure some ambitious developer envisioned another tower or two worth of high-end condos here at some point, but given the fact that it is highly unlikely such things could be built in a profitable manner at any time in the immediate future, what we have for the time being is a big empty field of gravel surrounded by chains on two sides and ominously large concrete walls on the others.  A couple of blocks away across from the Library, a 5,300 square foot lot smaller than some Downtown penthouses which still holds remnants of the foundation for a long since demolished single-family home was at one point earmarked for a 17-story residential tower where each story would be an individual residence.  The signs for that particular development came down months ago, and the lot now sits as another vacant hole in the ground, with no sign of the ambitious plans once laid out for the site.  Even Bellevue City Hall sits next to a vacant field which, for the time being, sits fallow.  For being a thriving urban area, Downtown Bellevue actually has quite a few holes.

And one of those holes happens to be right behind my building, in a vacant lot adjacent to the busiest street in Downtown Bellevue.  If I recall correctly, this lot used to hold a couple of single-family houses that had been converted at some point to businesses, and then eventually demolished in preparation for construction that never happened.  A couple of driveways to nowhere remain on the site, and currently the lot serves mostly as an impromptu parking lot presumably used by workers in the office building next door and retail customers for the various businesses downstairs in my building.  Because of the cars, only part of the lot is overgrown by whatever seeds happen to find their way onto this particular patch of ground.  A spurious footpath cuts across the lot, leading to the area where the cars are found parked during the day.  In recent days a sign has gone up announcing the impending construction of some sort of unremarkable mixed-use commercial/retail building starting at some unspecified point in the near future.  Aside from taking the occasional shortcut through the field while walking home from work at my previous employer, I’ve never had reason to pay much attention to this particular field.

As noted in my previous post, I have recently begun to take interest in my RC cars again after a lengthy hiatus resulting mostly from lack of suitable places to use them.  Now that the weather is getting better, I’ve been working on making a few upgrades to my E-Revo VXL to swap out some of the weaker stock suspension parts and replace them with more durable alternatives.  In the course of doing this, I found that it would be useful to have a location that I could test in, and it occurred to me that this field would be a decent spot to at least try things out and get a feel for how well things are working.  Trying not to look too suspicious carrying around an RC car in the elevators, I headed down to the field as it started to get dark one evening a few days ago and went for a bit of a test run… And immediately started kicking up a surprisingly satisfying cloud of dirt and gravel.  Not having had the space to properly run the thing for quite a while, I immediately wondered why it had never occurred to me to run it out here.  It also turns out that a small RC car blasting along in the dirt and kicking up big dust clouds is a surprisingly good way to attract attention from the neighbors.  I was actually surprised how many people stopped to watch, and how many “Where do you get one of those?” queries I have gotten while driving it in the dirt or doing some speed runs in the alley.

If there’s one thing I’ve gotten out of this experience, it’s something that I’ve known all along but largely forgotten:  There’s just something inherently satisfying about kicking up a nice cloud of dust or a big rooster-tail of mud.  Back in my younger days, I can recall a certain fascination with dirt, often scooping up handfuls of the stuff and throwing it up in the air just to watch the dust clouds drift along on the wind.  I can also recall finding clumped-up sand in the sandbox after a rainstorm and throwing it on the ground to watch the little “explosions” of flying sand resulting from the impact.  When I think back on those habits now it sounds kind of silly, but in the mind of a slightly precocious and easily distracted first grader I suppose it made sense in context.  Although I’m pretty sure I was never big on playing in the mud (my mother can correct me on this if necessary)  I can definitely see the appeal there too.  As responsible adults we’re presumably supposed to leave these things behind for the kids to deal with, but somehow the temptation remains, just waiting for some convenient excuse to indulge it in the messiest way possible.

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