Monday, July 16, 2012
Only in New York does going to a public pool feel like entering a maximum security prison, but that is the fun to be had on an adventurous outing to our brand spanking renewed McCarren pool in the edges of Williamsburg and Greenpoint. Those who are dying to splash around in a sea of hipsters should probably relegate themselves to weekends. I went on a tranquil Tuesday morning and although hipsters were in attendance (to their credit, you can still tell them apart in a bathing suit), so was everybody else. Old Polish men, Hispanic families, Black families, non-descript white people and everything in between. It was a breeze to get in and the pool was relatively empty. There is a lap swimming section that is delightfully devoid of splashers, but you have to swim laps.
I strongly recommend to visit on a weekday, unless you are a type A personality or you love milling about in interminable lines.
As you approach the entrance, which is peppered with policemen, park rangers and security personnel, you are asked to show the contents of your bag and to produce a sturdy lock. If you have no sturdy lock (none of that wee luggage bullshit), you will be turned away, because the city will not countenance anyone whining about stolen property.
The list of rules is what I assume you have to sign in to when you are welcomed into Alcatraz and short of a cavity search: you can't bring anything with you. No bags, no valuables, no electronics, no arms, no food, no beach chairs, no radio, no nothing. You can bring a hat, a book and sunscreen inside your towel, which you are asked to shake out in front of guards as you exit towards the pool area, after you shower. I loved feeling like a convicted felon as I went for a swim. I'm not kidding. It's what makes this place great.
My eyes get moist at a benevolent administration that spends 50 million dollars in a pool and recreation center that gives FREE access to ALL people. They also give free lunches to kids during the Summer. They have free swim lessons. They have free exercise programs. This is democracy in action. Of course this is also where things may get a tad hairy, but I support cities taking these kinds of gambles and showing people that everybody can enjoy these kinds of programs by consenting to adhere to civilized behavior. Mexico City now has a bike program. I'm sure everybody thought the bikes wouldn't last a day, but if I'm not mistaken, the incidence of bike looting has been negligible if not nil. Our beloved paternalistic mayor Bloomberg and the parks commissioner are betting that with enough police to surround Sing Sing, New Yorkers will be able to enjoy a splash at McCarren pool in peace. I think it will happen. It did the day I went.
So there I was, parking my ass in the hot, hard concrete, another lovely nod to the urban outdoors, swimming in the brisk blue waters and looking at all that humanity, thinking "this is truly delightful".
After my swim, I walked many blocks until I found Pies'n Thighs and I ate three pieces of heavenly fried chicken and cheese grits with a biscuit and I was extremely happy, bordering on ecstatic. I regret foregoing the banana cream pie. When I got home, I read that a floating turd had been found bobbing around in the pool day before and the pool was evacuated for a couple of hours. Was this the reason for the absence of mobs? Perhaps. Oh, well. Let's have some faith.