Wednesday, March 24, 2004

mccarren park pool

Think of how creepy that scene is in Pinocchio, right before he is turned into a jackass, and he is in that half-abandoned amusement park. I believe there is also a Simpsons episode that involved a creepy abandoned amusment park. And then of course, there are all those creepy scenes of general ghost towns in countless films. There is something very discomfiting about being in a physical space that used to contain so much energy, used to be filled with so many people as the remaining structures attest to - but now, it is deserted. The people are gone, possibly dead, and to see how lives, populations can shift just as easily as weather patterns, how nothing is really that stable, is a pretty disturbing sight. Another apt analogy to me seems to be the fiction of W.G. Sebald where some continental wanderer finds himself at places of his youth, only to find that they have been completely transformed by the shockwaves of change Europe experienced over the last century.

And while, I had never been to McCarren Park Pool while it was in operation, I know that at one time it was a bustling huge outdoor pool with a capacity of 7000. It was built in 1936 as a WPA project and closed in 1983 for silly reasons, and now it is fenced off in the NE corner of McCarren Park. Last night, I went for a long walk with Peter, and we found ourselves circling the fence peeking in, and eventually ignoring the "No Trespassing" and "Do Not Enter" signs and hopping the fence. The fence was high and I did not land so good, and once on the inside of the fence, it felt like we were in a haunted house. Slowly and quietly we walked around the site, walking inside the pool, knowing that at one time, it was filled with not only water but crowds and crowds of people in outdated bathing suits probably saying lots of outdated slang. You know, the type of people you see in black and white photos of Coney Island or Muscle Beach. And now there was graffiti all over the pool, weeds sprouting up, random clothes and blankets of people who have probably made this their home, and we were wary of encountering one of these people, worried that someone would kill us in this dark, spooky place.

We slowly, looking carefully around corners and behind us to make us there were no killers lurking in the dark, slowly climbed up the tower that stands over the entrance. At the top of the tower, there is a gorgeous view of Williamsburg and the Manhattan skyline, and also a view of how huge this pool is, how many bodies were probably splashing around down there. There were two stray shoes up in the tower that freaked me out, thinking that some serial killer had killed or tried to kill someone here and they lost a shoe in the scuffle. You know, the type of thinking that you do in the dark, in the woods, maybe even on lonely streets, but the exaggerated type of thinking that makes little kids so cool. We climbed down the tower and walked past the huge circular entrance underneath the tower where there is still a ticket-booth in the middle, albeit aged a lot by time and petty vandalism. And there was a flash where I was able to envision the crowds streaming through there, and then the shocking contrast with what I was also seeing, the current state of the place, wondering how change happens, or more correctly since I did not know how to formulate the question or what I would even want to ask, I was simply astounded by how much things change, all the time. The place is a total ghost town and it is so weird because it is in the middle of a really nice well-kept park in a nice neighborhood.

We hopped back over the fence. This time, I fell even harder. My hands still hurt today. I lost a button on my jacket. But man, the sights that I witnessed were so worth it, so beautiful, and man, I live for these experiences of beauty and adrenaline. I seek out things that somehow combine the two. Booze, loud rock, heights, drugs, trespassing, naked boys, ecstatic words, the good things in life.

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