We left San Francisco when our daughter was one-and-a-half, but that was plenty of time to get a good sense of the playground culture prevalent among the city's doucheoisie parents (among whom I was certainly a member by default). Papa Wallet Chain or Middle-aged Fauxhawk Dad would tail his toddler named after a Russian novelist or minor Zoroastrian prophet (I know, I know: pot, kettle) around the playground, giving him maybe seven inches of freedom to prevent any fall to the lawyer-vetted recycled-rubber surface two feet below. There was always plenty of parental compunction over one child's unwillingness to share whatever gewgaw had attracted the attention of another (or anxiety over the second child's expressed desire to possess what wasn't his). Conversations ranged from the annoying ("Oh, our Lola just loves kimchi!") to the nauseating ("I'm pretty sure all the Burmese words little Friedrich is learning from the nanny will be a real advantage when he applies to graduate school.") It seemed that every child born to parents of such refined taste was destined for greatness, for here they were: far from the meatloaves and casseroles of the provinces, bilingual, already totally digging good music and cool clothes. . . They were living proof that their parents weren't quite. . .parents.

If you wanted to cause a commotion you could casually mention you weren't that stressed about the 2011 public school lottery. And if you wanted to cause a riot, you could light a cigarette upwind of the NPSI-certified teeter-totter.

When we moved to Detroit, I immediately noticed a curious difference in playground culture among fellow parents. In Detroit, most people didn't even bother getting out of their cars. They just pulled in, turned up the WJLB and let the kids go feral on the climbing structures and swings. I liked this because it meant I never had to engage anyone in small talk, and if I did it certainly wasn't going to be about the advantages of Chinese nannies over their Latina counterparts. But it meant now I was the guy following his kid around making sure she didn't fall.

The other day I took the kids to the biggest playground in the city and let them loose. After a while I glanced up and noticed that all of the eight other parents on the playground were dads. This is not altogether strange in a city where nearly half the working-age population is unemployed or underemployed. I put my book down and sat there admiring these other fathers playing with their kids, indulging myself in a bit of imagined solidarity. I imagined conversations we might have, although I was pretty sure no one wanted to hear me complain about how hard it is for me to get my kids to eat kale & quinoa salad. Like me, some of these guys had two kids with them. It isn't easy doing this no matter who you are. You've got to deal with their crap all day and then deal with all the people who think you should be doing something more. You've got to keep them fed and keep them safe and keep them happy. Look at what good dads these were, bringing their kids to the playground on a Friday morning, what hard work this is, what a deep responsibility.

Then I smelled the weed.

A dad about twenty paces to my right had just lit up a blunt. Normally when you see people smoking weed they're all parsimonious about that shit, doling out tiny little servings in pipes or furtively passing around those wet, limp little joints until some guy who smells like reggae pulls out a clip to smoke the roach. Yeah, this man didn't give any indication that he considered marijuana to be a scarce resource or something that really ought to be enjoyed in private. He ashed his blunt against the stairs of a slide and took a long hit while my son ran right past him and his own daughter ran towards him yelling to watch her do something or other. Alright, Deanna, he breathed without a cough or sputter. It was kind of awesome, but totally burned a hole and burst my sober reverie.

Sure: tough job, this. So tough one of your colleagues sees fit to light up an enormous blunt at 10:30 in the morning. I mean, couldn't he at least have waited until after he made lunch?