After three weeks of clearing brush and poison ivy, scrounging up plywood and green paint, digging holes and pouring concrete, Vincent, Justin and about a dozen friends did manage to build it — a tree-shaded Wiffle ball version of Fenway Park complete with a 12-foot-tall green monster in center field, American flag by the left-field foul pole and colorful signs for Taco Bell Frutista Freezes.I've been a part of things like this (both as a kid and as a hired gun) and I know how it will end: the field will go down because land use laws in places like Greenwich are pretty draconian, and if script holds, the next thing that will happen is (a) sympathetic news coverage; (b) donations or pledges of some sort; leading to (c) a local park building a dedicated Whiffle ball field.
But, alas, they had no idea just who would come — youthful Wiffle ball players, yes, but also angry neighbors and their lawyer, the police, the town nuisance officer and tree warden and other officials in all shapes and sizes. It turns out that one kid’s field of dreams is an adult’s dangerous nuisance, liability nightmare, inappropriate usurpation of green space, unpermitted special use or drag on property values, and their Wiffle-ball Fenway has become the talk of Greenwich and a suburban Rorschach test about youthful summers past and present.
Except it will suck, because anything kids make themselves -- forts, fields, half-pipes, etc. -- are always ten times better than the government-approved, safety-inspected, sanitized replacements. I once built a fort out of jagged plywood with nails underneath it to keep out intruders (my brother and his friends, mostly, but I think I was concerned about Imperial Stormtroopers as well). That obviously didn't last much past the time my dad got home from work. When I relocated Fort Awesome to the neighborhood playground, the surrounding softwood mulch and padded corners made the place far less foreboding than I hoped it would be. So basically, enjoy your Faux Fenway, kids, but don't count on it lasting.
I'm actually glad to see this story, however. Despite everything written above (and everything I believed in when I was a kid), I somehow find myself living in a suburb that is about as close as you can get to Greenwich, Connecticut in the State of Ohio. While it's pretty and the people are generally friendly, it's very restricted and very uptight. I'm not going to say that they would prevent me from having a garage sale, putting up provocative political signs, or letting my lawn grow long in the first instance; I'm just sayin' that you may not hear from me ever again in the event that I did. I can't protest though, because I'm pretty sure I signed away my right to do so as part of the neighborhood association agreement. The things we do for a nice school district.
But I can move, and the more stories like these I read, the less I want my kids to grow up in Stepford, Ohio. The market sucks now, but don't be surprised if, sometime in the next year or two, this blog starts being transmitted to you from a fortified compound in the West Virginia hills.