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The Company Slate

I’m not certain about the first time I went to Park Playground, which was just down the hill from my house on Bessica Street. However, I do remember the configurations of my earliest visits to the park, just not the order. A few times with my father, where he would skillfully play some basketball with the neighborhood folks. In my earliest of years, I’d just go to the playground while he played hoops. I remember there were a couple girls, six or so years older than I, that would pick me up and walk me down there. Also, there were neighbors from across the street that would take me there as well.

It wasn’t long before I’d either go with my brother and soon afterwards by myself. I might have been six when I had my first solo trip. There were so many kids in the neighborhood, and there was always something happening at Park Playground. There were a set of full courts and some open space within the playground. I do remember there being some broken glass on the asphalt sections of the playground, so we all had to be careful not to fall. The older folks would drink and hang out at night, so that’s where the glass came from.

There was a 12-foot fence barrier around the court from all sides, so entering from the rear, were several holes as a means to make a shorter journey to get inside. I often entered through the hole next to my good friend Jerome’s grandparents’ house. There were several holes near the actual entrance of the park where I chose to enter through the informal gaps, instead of walking an extra ten feet.

The playground meant a lot to me in my formative years. It was a source of joy and sometimes (more often I’m starting to believe) conflict. The joy was in the early years of basic playground fun, from simple games like chase or swinging high on the rusty swings and jumping off. As I got older, I’d ride my bike through the park where there was a large hump of grass that made a decent ramp to launch my bike a few feet above the ground. The conflict was most times something I created with other kids to rarely getting selected for the pick-up games, especially if the competition was tough… which for me and my skillset, was pretty much anytime there were an odd number of potential players.

As a child, I wasn’t a competent basketball player, so hollering next was the best I could do… or trying to become captain by making the free-throw… which was a challenge. I often missed. Lonely it was on the sidelines waiting for next, where sometimes I’d become impatient and wander somewhere else to do something I might have some semblance of mastery over. Basketball was not it.

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