Bite the Dog that Feeds you, Patrick Cruz, Yactac, 2014
photograph by Dennis Ha
Bite The Dog That Feeds You
The playground had a gravel base. As grade’s got higher, marks got lower. The playground was redeveloped, but recess stayed the same. Carousels were banned citywide. The geodesic dome climber disappeared, and of all things to stay put, they chose the gravel.
There were rumors that the neighboring school’s playground had been repaved with wooden mulch. We heard it smelled like what our parents called ‘manure,’ what we called ‘poop.’ We were jealous of the ones with mounds of ground up tire. Even more envious of the compressed rubber tiles we’d witnessed in new districts—a texture that echoed the same inert rubberized puddles that caulked the city asphalt; a consistency malleable enough to make our small hands feel empowered, smearing the streets that adults needed, the surface’s that we hated, the bisected black strips we were inexorably reminded to be weary of.
What had been rock shipped from an unknown quarry, was now gravel paired with metal dipped in vibrant color. It differed from the playground that was in the photograph depicting my sibling’s childhood, where vast slopes of undulating sand moored unassuming wood structures, painted brown, and were made merely of axes. But sand had since been banned due to repeated findings of profuse cat piss. Those seemed like the days, when playgrounds were simple and play hadn’t yet been fastened to fixed use. Those kids had been inventors.
The current playground was a stand in for our instructors, our lunch-lady supervisors, and our daycare leaders. The strict sparseness of it was monument to its kidnapped casualties: bushes pruned to shrubs, and a dusty pit where our geodesic climber had once stood stoic. Soon the precautionary consequences of ‘bad behavior’ no longer manifested in physical results. Lunch-ladies were appointed as mainstay instigators. Though their rules were nearly hearsay, we averted from transgressing them.
Grade 5 commenced. Boycotting the playground came too. On principle, we opted for the unmarked regions of our flaxen grass field. We made up our own games to accommodate for the absent props. Playing house felt carnal, the dog in the family was the utmost debasing role. Somehow I bypassed it. Summer came and ‘coed’ entered our vernaculars. Playing games became symbolic. We defied the school we loved to hate without destruction. Facing gripping challenges like ‘Kick the Can’ and ‘Grounders’ soon became boring. Older kids anointed us with ‘Triple Dog Dare’s’ and we engaged, thinking this new system was better, as the stakes of these new rules were foreseeable, less institutional. School fields sought the freedom we needed, before there were such things as vices. Midnight streaking in trainer bras brought solace. Before responsibility superseded ‘chores’ imitation was our crutch. Allowances were compiled, lunch was traded, and before long we couldn’t sit on the carpet.
By Kara Hansen
Bite the dog that feeds you, Patrick Cruz, Yactac, 2014
direct involvement through the web, acrylic on canvas, 24x24, 2014