Thursday, September 24, 2009

Inside Out

I've been working a survival job in the Flatiron District for almost a dozen years now and the emerald island of Madison Square Park is a particular pleasure. Whenever I walk to or from work, I do my best to always take a stroll through its newly-restored paths part of the journey. The park hosts concerts every Wednesday evening during the summer and a couple of times a year they bring in a site-specific art work: one of my favorites was a series of bare trees of stainless steel that were installed during the winter, which contrasted very nicely with the black, leafless trees around them. In many ways, it's one of my favorite parks in New York.

So imagine my disappointment on Tuesday, when I saw this as I walked around the northern reflecting pool:

Now, I don't necessarily have a problem with corporations setting up booths in the park; it happens a few times a year in Madison Square. One of the better corporate events in the past has been during the U.S. Open when American Express has set up a large projection screen television (well-branded, of course) and bleachers so that people can hang out in the park during the day to watch the matches; I always think it would be, in some ways, better than going to the Open in Flushing Meadows since here you're actually sitting outside in a beautiful park instead of in a stadium (I know it's not at all better, of course!).

But what is this? The tent on the right has a play area with toys and games on the floor and it has a ol' big plasma television on the wall—a wall, mind you—that completely obscures any view of the park. What was Huggies thinking? Put this thing in a mall, outside a shopping center, inside Macys, even in a poorer neighborhood where this sort of play area would be a novelty (yeah, they're gonna do that!). But what moron marketing executive thought, "You know what affluent people really want when they go to the park with their kids? To find an enclosed play area just like the one they left at home!"

More disappointing to me, though, is the number of people who parked their kids inside this monstrosity on Tuesday and Wednesday (it was gone today). I understand that children are naturally attracted to television—hey: most of us are, whether we like or not*. How many times have I been in a bar and found myself checking the score on a game every few minutes... and I never watch sports at home. But the weather was beautiful both days and right across the reflecting pool from Huggies' tents is one of the coolest play areas in the city:

When I was a kid, I would have loved to have had access to a playground like this one! How hard can it be to say to little Jimmy or Sarah, "Why don't we go swing or climb or play on the merry-go-round instead? We can watch t.v. at home..."? Maybe, not being a parent, I'm missing something... because I really don't get it.

*My favorite quote on the subject is from the great Orson Welles: "I hate television; I hate it as much as I hate peanuts. But I can't stop eating peanuts."

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