Cane Ball at the 54th-Street Park

My house in San Diego has a large backyard that backs onto a canyon. The canyon has become “the park” for my family. It’s like the hundred-acre wood in Winnie-the-Pooh stories, and it’s discouraged me from taking my kids to city parks as I used to when we lived in Normal Heights.

But about a mile south, on 54th Street, there is a park. It’s just beyond El Cajon Boulevard behind several apartment buildings near Trojan Street. A murder happened within the past year at one of these buildings. I read about it in the paper.

Most of the park is hidden from the street. But I pulled into a driveway, parked my car and walked over the crest of a hill to see the park. I was large, green and hilly, and it had two softball fields. Oddly, for this neighborhood, a small golf course sat next to it on the other side of a tall chain-link fence.

There were no white people in the park; only black and Lao. Typical of low-income kids, they were running with their peers. There were very few hovering parents; the kind you see in parks full of high-income white families. These kids were here with their school friends and older cousins.

Then there was the cane-ball game.

To those who don’t know, cane ball is a game typically played by Lao men. Call it hacky-sack volleyball, if that helps, because a ball of woven cane is headed and kicked back and forth across a low volleyball net. I first saw this game played in Minneapolis, and it’s a marvel to see.

Players retrieve hard shots with their feet, and they’re allowed to kick or head it twice before passing to a teammate or sending it back over the net. Players spike the ball with the head or with acrobatic flying kicks that sometimes involve a back flip.

My son was a ways away, using the play structure, which didn’t thrill me because it was marked with obscene graffiti. I called him over to watch cane ball, assuming he would be as fascinated as I was. He wasn’t, really.

Before we left we tried to fly a kite on park’s highest point, but we had left the string at home. A peewee football team ran its drills and the cane-ball game continued. The name of the park by the way: Colina del Sol. I’ll come here again when the sun is out and we’ll try to fly that kite again.

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2 Comments on “Cane Ball at the 54th-Street Park”

  1. Tom Says:

    What is the name of the ball they use


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