Tim Pratt
SF and Fantasy Writer

Epic! Journey!

Since I’m going to be gone for a week starting Sunday, I decided to give my son a more-than-usually-epic Thursday. Now, Thursday is generally my day off from the day job and my kid’s day off from preschool, our “River-Daddy Day,” but we usually content ourselves with hitting the library and the playground and running some errands — fun enough, but not fun enough to make up for a week of fatherlessness. So!

The boy loves boats. He’s ridden on the ferry from Oakland to San Francisco exactly once, ages ago, and still talks about it. So after a morning spent sculpting with play doh, we got our things together and took the train over to downtown Oakland. From there we strolled down to the waterfront and looked at the water for fifteen minutes or so until the ferry arrived. The kid was an ecstatic bundle of grins.

The boat ride is really too short for his taste, only about half an hour, but he enjoyed it immensely. He’d been asking me that morning, rather randomly, if we could “Go to a playground with a big rocketship,” and — what luck! — the Raygun Gothic Rocket Ship sculpture is in place right near the ferry building, so I took the kid over to check it out. (While he approved of the rocket, he was disappointed that he could not climb inside it or around on top of it.)

From there we wandered through the Farmer’s Market (honey straws!), and over to the Vaillancourt Fountain (which to me always looked like a big giant heap o’ tetanus, but River thought it was magical), where he got to walk on the stepping stones above the water, to his delight.

From there we wandered through a mall in vague search of food (no success — nothing the boy wanted to eat). He tired of vague perambulations and decided we needed more focus in our life, so we walked up to Columbus Ave and started going north, toward a playground and points beyond. We grabbed a couple slices of pizza at the little hole-in-the-wall pizza joint by City Lights Books. River marveled at the TransAmerica pyramid and (slightly less at) Coit Tower.

We dodged tourists for a while (I actually have nothing against tourists, as I am often a tourist myself, but they do tend to stand in bewildered clumps in the middle of sidewalks. Our stroller needs a cowcatcher), then found a playground. River insisted on playing, even though I knew there was a bigger more awesome playground a few blocks farther along — but it worked out, because he quickly bonded with a little girl, and they had a marvelous time running around together.

After he was playgrounded-out, we continued walking another mile or so up to Aquatic Park (not to be confused with the identically-named Aquatic Park in Berkeley, where we also go sometimes). River quickly divested himself of shoes and socks and got his pants rolled up so he could go wade in the bay surf.

Have I mentioned the weather was gorgeous? Temps in the ’70s, gentle breezes, no ice wind, no fog, beautiful sun. I lounged on the steps and watched the kid dabble his toes in the water. (He met a couple of brothers from Seattle just a bit older than him, and they played together wonderfully for an hour.)

I could have stayed for another two hours, honestly, it was so pleasant… but wrestling the giant stroller onto a train in the crush of rush hour didn’t appeal, so around 4 o’clock I changed him into dry clothes and we headed south again for a BART station. It wasn’t too crowded, and we both got seats. River snuggled contentedly against me on the ride home.

Then I made asparagus-potato soup and drank a beer and collapsed and got up again so I could give him a bath and put him to bed and wrote this.

A good day, but wow, I’m tired. Then again, walking 5+ miles (much of it pushing a stroller) will tend to wear one out…

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