Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Van Cortlandt Swimming Pool... Not as Free as You Think

Cousin Tommy is back on the scene, and he'd like to give the BD readers a few pointers for enjoying your time at the Van Cortlandt pool...

We've decided to include a full-length swimsuit shot of Tommy Boy for all our lucky female readers... hubba hubba!

Here's what Tommy has to say:

For those of you not acquainted with the public swimming pool system of the NYC Dept. of Parks & Recreation, let me hit you with some knowledge: “Y’all gotta have a lock.”

Those were the words that struck the sweaty and desperate-for-a-dip faces of my friend Greg and I in the middle of July at the gates of the
Van Cortlandt swimming pool in the Bronx, NY.

After a long hot day of scouring the borough for a cool dip on the taxpayers' dime, we finally found this place tucked away inside of the legendary Van Cortlandt Park. At the gates, we were turned away because we didn’t have the necessary combination locks for the locker room inside.

“Y’all gotta have locks.” The women security guard repeated.

“What?” I asked like a boy who didn’t believe the news his puppy had been shipped to a farm in Missouri.

“Y’all gottta have locks.” The heat had gotten to our heads, we were confused. In bewilderment I looked behind us in the long line to the pool and saw everyone from grandma to toddlers clutching shiny silver locks in their hands.

“Where can we buy these locks?” asked my friend Greg, not wasting any time. We were then given some pretty damn good directions to the nearest 99 cent store.

First lesson in NYC Public Pool swimming, “Y’all gotta have locks.”

By the time we made it back to the pool’s gates, the lines were gone but the heat still hung in the air. We proudly showed our shiny new locks to the two females of pool security. We smiled and waved. They did not.

“You got swimming trunks?” they questioned.

“Sure do,” I said as I pulled down the waistband of my shorts to reveal my bathing suit underneath. I felt good, and this was a victory to me, 1 point Laverty, 1 point NYC Parks & Rec, I counted in my head.

We walked past the first gate guards, about 10 paces closer to the pool, and were stopped again by a large female dressed in the Parks & Rec. signature Forest Green collared tee. The shirts seem to be made of a heavy cotton not suitable for such a hot summer day. She padded my bag down quickly. “Nothing in there,” I said to myself. She said "Enjoy" and stepped aside so that we could pass.

One step closer to our long awaited dip.

The locker rooms were less than impressive, but they got the job done. We haphazardly threw our wares, which consisted of a couple of cigarettes, two IDs, and about 12 singles, in locker #159. It was all that was left of two men who had been accepting defeat all day long. As I closed the lock on the latch, I thought to myself how the $2.17 combination lock purchase was a good investment.

“Bring the camera!” my friend said and I threw it in my pocket. We trotted through the locker room like a couple of boys do in the summertime.
We reached the exit and turned the corner out into sunlight.

Just then a scowling short man dressed in a large forest green collared shirt stepped quickly into our path. We both met eyes with him, confused once again and with a hint of anger this time.
“Shower, Papi, shower!” he said quickly without a smile. We stared him down for a brief moment. He did not like us, and we did not like him.

“I guess we have to shower first, “ one of us said to the other. I wetted the two hairs hanging over my forehead and walked back. We passed the man whilst exchanging cold glances, not knowing we’d soon meet again.

With some cries of excitement, we were now only one more gate outside the blue lagoon. The aqua water shone in the sun, kids laughed, lifeguards yelled, the concrete felt cool beneath my feet. “Picture time!” I said, and handed the camera to my friend. I hopped on the ledge overlooking the pool and struck a classic “cool-guy” pose with my towel. I wish this photo had been taken as proof of this day, but it had not.

As soon as my friend geared up the camera for the shot, we heard a commotion. It was yelling and scampering. We were rushed upon by two men in forest green collared tee shirts, one of them being the short scowling man who had called me “Papi” only moments ago.

We once again stood confused, this time with a touch a fear in our eyes.

“No! No! No! No cameras!” the short man in large shirt said aggressively.

“Why not?” Greg said, fighting back at the authority figures. They mumbled an incoherent answer with the word “Internet” attached at the end.

“Oh, Internet…” I said softly. But Greg wouldn’t let this go. He just graduated from the Navy and maybe some feelings of serving the country came into play. He proceeded to try and persuade them to take one photo.

The two guards assumed the classic “Good Cop-Bad Cop” role.

“I tried to tell you…” the other guard said.

“No, No, No!” were the only words that came from the short guard, and with each “no” he grew more aggressive. Greg was not backing down.

“I would let you if I could…” the other said meaninglessly.

Things were heating up, and I knew that I had to cool Greg down before we got the NYC P&R Department's "boot" up our sweaty asses and out of the pool and out to 210th and Broadway.

“We’ll get one outside, Greg,” I said patting Greg’s sweaty shoulders. He looked at the gates.

At that I ran the camera back to locker #159. The vision of a scoreboard flashed in my mind, and it read, Home Team: 2, Visitors: 1. Moments passed.

The cards were stacked against us all day long, but there we finally stood...poolside. Two young men looking proudly down at this pool which represented to us, the mighty Mt. Everest.

There was nothing left to do but jump in. Greg took a step back and sprinted towards the water, yelling “Cannonball!” as soon as he was airborne. I watched, laughed and took a moment to soak in the scene.

Out of the corner of my eyes I noticed a short man dressed in a large forest green shirt peering through the inner gates of the pool complex entranced by Greg’s jump. He seemed to be following us with his eyes all the while. As Greg flew into the cool blue water of the Van Cortlandt Pool, a funny thing happened. Me and the man met eyes just as I was preparing for my own grand entrance. In a moment up pure childhood innocence, I smiled and waved at the guard. He smiled and waved back.

~Cousin Tommy


Anonymous said...

That was an awesome story! I for one appreciate the info because I had been eying going to a public pool all summer but am not as brave as these guys against disgruntled parks and recreation workers. It can be intimidating if you have not tried to ever go in. The "rules" are not all easily accessed and the "workers" are not pleasantly forthcoming with the information, they act more like corrections officers than parks and recreation workers. Don't get me wrong I know why they need to be defensive when it comes to crowd control but a kind gesture goes a long way. I guess if I want exclusive treatment I should pay for exclusive facilities. I try to live by the old phrase "Do unto others as..." you know the rest but it's hard to do in the inner city sometimes. Score for the pool guys, in the end they won!

jacob said...

This pool is not in the "inner city," nor is it at 210th st.

Thanks for the story. I grew up 2 blocks away and only went to that pool once.

Anonymous said...

I went there once with my son and will never go back again.

Barbara said...

great story. a little dramatic, but a great read.

Mario said...

wow that was very funny ... i work there ... this was awesome!