Sunday, November 28, 2010

Holding the Fort

During a recent pitched battle in our basement, I was being pummeled by pillow fire from the far side of the room.  In a desperate charge, ignoring my many wounds and hurling my pillow grenades, I heroically advanced upon my dug-in foe.

My enemies had well-prepared defensive positions which proved impossible to break through.  I was so close I could see my enemy’s beady little eyes through the slits in their defensive armament. I heard some giggling too.

Retreat was my only option.  Taking a final look at my antagonists, I blew several raspberries at them to show my warrior spirit, then made my way back to my own, battered fortress.

It was apparent I had taught my kids the fine art of fort building too well. 

I come from a long line of Cushion Masons you know. 

Being an expert, I write articles for Architectural Digest about this pastime.  The magazine doesn’t know I write these articles, and the court order does not permit me to phone them anymore, but I do write them. 

As a gifted pillow architect, and not an ‘immature crank’ as some (many) have suggested, fort building is a combination of structural engineering, logistic planning, and mental obsession.  It is art, science, and a way for grown men to make sound effects like artillery explosions and crashing boulders. 

Fort building is innate in most males, and usually manifests itself while shopping with their wives.

The wife will be using her actual brain while looking at a new sofa, analyzing the size, shape, colour, fabric texture and so on. 

Her husband, on the other hand, will examine the same piece of furniture and only think, “These couch cushions would make a great fort.”  It’s the guy way.

Finding your inner fort builder is easy, once you have clarified the fort’s purpose.  Is it massive, to defend against foreign invaders?  Or is it stealthy, where a good book can be read in secret, or where poisonous intestinal gas bombs can be deposited for your little sister to discover at a later time?  

The actual use of a structure is vitally important for the designer/engineer to understand.

With interior forts, for example, big couch cushions are used primarily as walls, which in turn support roof cushions for overhead protection.  A useful way to hoard your cushion supply is to tip the couch on its side, thus freeing your building materials for other duties like tunnel walls, entrance doors, or nuclear ‘bunker buster’ projectiles. 

Blankets make for excellent doors but are not structurally sound, something I learned by attacking a weak-looking blanketed structure via high-altitude bombing, only to find hidden cushions beneath the blankies, much to my chagrin and my kid’s ‘Nya! Nya!’ delight. 

Most forts carry strict admissions guidelines.  Members of the opposite sex, for example, and their attendant cooties, are not welcome, on pain of a face washing with a snowball in the case of exterior forts. 

Structurally, a simple wall or partial snowman will suffice for a winter fort.  Roofs are rare, since all you need the fort to do is be a hiding place while making or lobbing snowballs.  The fort itself can also be cannibalized into snowballs when desperate, life-saving measures are called for (alien invasions, World War III, etc.)

Summer forts are usually in or behind trees.  My fort (excuse me – my kids’ fort) is in the park behind our house and features many modern conveniences, such as a two by four nailed to a tree.  Sticks are added for decoration and/or camouflage, and an old tarp completes the ensemble. 

This fort currently has an occupancy limit of about six kids for secret meetings.  No adults are allowed, of course, since they carry grown-up cooties.

Oh.  There’s the phone ringing.  It’s probably my editor at Martha Stewart Living magazine.  I write for them too, you know. 

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