A Writer Reflects on the Strike—From a Fatherly Perspective
Some lost; more gained.
This summer, I became a scholar of parks in the Valley. That’s not an official term, but it has a nice academic ring to it. Looking for a park with tons of shade? I’d recommend Beeman Park. It also has a quarter-mile track to get your steps in. Verdugo Park, on the other hand, is nice and quaint and pairs well with a trip to the aquatic center next door. Woodbridge Park has a wonderful climbing structure but is too low on shade for me. However, Kreation is two blocks away, and you can walk to get a smoothie. See what I mean? Scholar.
This wasn’t on purpose. In May, I got hit with a triple whammy: The WGA went on strike, my wife’s freelance writing career ramped up, and our nanny needed some time off. It was a major shift for our entire family. New priorities emerged. Others took a backseat. It meant our youngest daughter, Lottie, immediately enrolled in Camp Dad. (Luckily, our eldest was in school.) The problem was that Camp Dad had zero itinerary. I went from Zooming and writing stories in my isolated office to 30 hours a week with a 3-year-old who has enough energy to power all the stoplights on Lankershim Boulevard.
I’m not the best at making plans. But with my wife busy with assignments, it was up to me to figure things out. I scoured the internet for ideas. The kids museums were great, but the admissions really started adding up—and don’t get me started on the outrageous snack counters. The weekly trip to the grocery store killed an hour, a third of it spent chasing Lottie while she shrieked, “So many cookies!” Other options like indoor play spaces or amusement parks were not budget-friendly. I was pulling my hair out. But about 10 days into Camp Dad, I went on Google Maps and noticed … all the green. And so I turned to the parks.
Oh, those humble public parks. Those swaths of land we easily ignore on our way to work or while running chores. They sit there quiet and unassuming, waiting for your arrival. And when you do arrive, there’s no ego. “Just come and have fun,” they say.
I could curate each day to her liking. “Lottie, do you want a teeter-totter today? Or a zipline? What about a climbing wall? Oh, look, we have some stale bread—perhaps we feed the ducks at Lake Balboa.” My whole world, and hers, opened up.
In fact, we grew closer than I thought we would. We came up with games, made inside jokes, told weird stories. Life wasn’t just less stressful because I had discovered the parks. It was … beautiful. (That’s pretty dramatic, but I’m a pent-up writer.)
Life will eventually return to normal. But I know this: I’ll never again drive past a park and overlook it. In fact, I’ll probably think to myself, “Hey, one day we should make a visit.”
Richard Lowe lives in Studio City with his wife and two kids. His favorite Valley park is Lake Balboa Park.
The celeb hang-out of the 80s.