Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Sad Saga of Blockatopia

an essay (mostly) in pictures

One of the toughest feats of juggling I do in life is finding balance between work and family. As a freelance writer who clicks and clacks away on the computers at home most days, the dividing line between when it's time to get down to bidness and when it's time to PLAY can be blurry. I try and remind myself to throw myself as fully as I can into the moments I play or work, and plan ahead to create the space in which I do either.

Ah, what the hell. That's a sort-of wishy-washy preamble to an example of PLAYING. Hanging with my son has meant rediscovering all the goofy fun in me that was never really far from the surface as a graying old adult. Racing cars, rolling balls, tackling and tickling... good stuff. And then there are blocks. I must have spent HOURS as a kid on at least a dozen different block sets -- you, too, huh? Legos, Loc Blocs, Construx, Tinker Toys, Lincoln Logs were among the materials with which we constructed our imaginary worlds. But probably the best ones were the rawest materials: a nice canvas sack of wooden blocks, you know, the leftover bits at the ends of hunks of wood our dads and grandfathers would cut in their shops, sanded and varnished, maybe painted, and turned in the classic shapes: cubes, boards, triangles, half-moons, columns round and square.

A friend with two little boys was kind enough to give us a tin with around 100 blocks in various sizes and from various sets. For Christmas, I bought my son another 100 blocks. Or, as my wife would argue, did I buy them for ME? Well, one of my favorite playtime activities is setting up as many towers I can build while Jonah is distracted, banging the lid of the block tin, or chomping on a stray column or two, and then stepping back and watching him discover them. His usual utterance, when we dump all the blocks on the floor, or he spies a tower across the room is: "WOOOOOOOOOOAAAAOOOW!" One of the best sounds in the world. And then he proceeds to crawl on over and swipe the block with one hand: KABLOOIE. They all come down.

Well, you'll see. I kind of wish they had sound on these blogs so I could add the songs and instrumental soundtracks I hum to myself while building these worlds for Jonah (this may be the foundation, after all, of my own composing as a kid; EVERY thing my brother and I played with -- G.I. Joes, Transformers, blocks -- got jumbled and thrown together, with original storylines, and because of my geeky gift, original music, too...), but maybe you add your own soundtrack. It's OK, too, if you utter a spirited WOOOOOOAAAAOOOOW.



Rest in pieces, Blockatopia. Dec. 31, 2007 -- Jan. 1, 2008.

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