Monday, August 17, 2009

Central Park, Yesterday

Yesterday I had brunch with some friends on the upper west side. It was kind of a perfect afternoon. The night before I had had a dinner party at my apartment, which meant the entire day was spent cooking or cleaning or trying to figure out how to seat eight people to dinner with an apartment that sorely lacks the required furnishings. By Sunday afternoon I was more than ready to be served by someone else. What made it better was that one of the group had juice with the waitstaff and we evidently had free refills on Prosecco.

Leaving brunch at five in the afternoon, I decided to walk through the park, and try to catch something in bloom to blog about. Or at least find a nice specimen of tree that caught my imagination. I wasn't finding much I hadn't already covered, and then, at the pond I saw this:

Yep, he was swimming in the pond. At first, he was doing a breast stroke in the water, and I had to watch 'cause I was curious how deep the water was. When he stopped and stood up, you could see that either he was very, very tall or the water was a mere 3' deep.

Perhaps most amusing though, were the reactions among the people in the park, as well as those gawking from Central Park South. A lot of them were mad. Energetically mad. The woman near me called 311 to complain, and others began to speculate on whether or not he was crazy (granted, that was my first thought too, though watching him for even a moment made it clear he was simply enjoying a cold dip on a hot August day).

The whole spectacle also illustrated something about how city dwellers understand (or don't) the idea of nature. As 'natural' as Central Park may seem, it's still - evidently to many - a museum, or a set piece. As if this man was going to 'mess up' the pond -- sort of like the pond is that parlor room that no one ever uses. I understand, of course, that the Central Park Conservancy can't *let* people swim in the pond, but it was a little bit sad that people didn't connect this pond to a 'real' pond that people can and do swim in. I suppose it illustrates that even people who don't know a thing about landscape architecture or Olmsted still know that this park is not natural, not 'real.'

...Or they're all just busybodies stuck in the city on a summer weekend!


Tina said...

I agree with you that it is a bit odd that people would be so pissed at this guy. It's also interesting that so many people see Central Park as a set piece, instead of just a park. Or see the pond as some sort of painting that should not be touched instead of just a pond.

Art D. said...

It is a bit odd, and perhaps even unhealthy, but if it isn't prohibited, why not?

Sally said...

Why in movies, like the producers, or three coins in a fountain, or any number of films is it adorable to see people in the city waters, remember Kramer in the East River. People need to lighten up a bit. We are mere humans, lets have some fun.