Saturday, July 30, 2011

Build and Destroy

Actor and writer Robert Benchley famously observed, "There are two kinds of people in the world: those who believe there are two kinds of people in the world and those who don't." If you're in the first group, you probably also have your favorite way of dividing the populace: people who read instructions and people who don't, those who follow the rules and those who make the rules, or those who hang the roll of toilet paper over and those who hang it under. Or as defined in "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" with Clint Eastwood, "those with loaded guns and those who dig. You dig."

Another way is look at it is those who like to build and those who like to destroy. When you're little, there is ample opportunity to do both. In the first category are Legos, sand castles and blocks. Come to think of it, in the second category are Legos, sand castles and blocks. And that's half the fun: you get to have one fantasy as you create something from nothing, still another as you reduce it back to its elemental nature.

Once you're grown up, however, the chance to do either one diminishes. You spend more time fixing stuff than conjuring it up, more time disposing of things than reducing them to rubble. And somehow replacing a washer in the bathroom faucet or taking down the kids' old swing set doesn't have the same psychic satisfaction as building a tinkertoy tower, then smashing it to smithereens.

Thankfully, others have seen this conundrum, and stepped into the void. This spring saw the opening in of "Dig This" in Las Vegas. "Dig This" is best described as an adult sized sand box with real trucks. The idea came to New Zealander Ed Mumm while he was operating heavy equipment to construct his home in Steamboat Springs, CO. He had so much fun clearing trees, constructing a road, building a pond and digging foundations that he wondered if others would as well, and if they would pay for the privilege.

That led him to create the first "Dig This" near his home. After a year of operation and tweaking his model, he closed the original and moved to a more accessible location, the mecca of adult entertainment. There, on the site of an of an old amusement park a few minutes off the Strip, his 5 acre fun zone is now open for business.

The most popular offering on the menu is "The Big Dig." This three hour experience starts with an equipment and safety orientation. An in-cab orientation follows, where you get buckled in and your instructor goes over the controls. You then warm up as your instructor gives you directions via a 2-way head set, after which you're unleashed on a major dirt excavation exercise. It all gives credence to the old saying that only difference between men and boys is the size of their toys: guests operate either a Caterpillar D5 track-type 10 ton bulldozer or a Caterpillar 315CL hydraulic 15 ton excavator. Of course, women are welcome as well.

But if you're more a tear-down kind of person than a build-up one, you might want to ask around and see if you can score an introduction to "The Destruction Club." To join this members-only New Jersey group you have to be invited in by a current member. An interview is required, along with an annual fee, the signing of a waiver and agreement to abide by the rules of the group: no use of firearms, no living things or paperwork can be destroyed and no alcohol or drugs can be used during the destruction session. If that all works for you, then the menu is open.

You first pick your object of scorn: maybe china plates or a vase, an LCD TV, even a car if you're so inclined (per session charges are a sliding scale based on the object to be pummeled). Then choose your weapon from their arsenal: baseball bats, golf clubs, axes, swords and even chainsaws are all available. You put on protective gear and are led to a rooftop location where the cameras are rolling. And off you go: chop, batter, smash, splinter and destroy to your heart's content. And again, lest you think it's a "guy" thing, club representatives say 40% of its members are women.

Build or destroy: take your pick. Whatever your state of mind, there's something out there to help you soothe it. Of course, unfortunately, as with most things in life, in this case you do have to choose. As an adult, you can't necessarily have your cake and eat it too; if you could, you would be Congress.


Marc Wollin of Bedford like to build things, but usually they look like they should be destroyed. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, the Scarsdale Inquirer and online at

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