POOL PROJECT: September 2, Bronx

by elizabeth | September 9th, 2010

As I approached Claremont Park, I was tempted to buy a mango – so cheap at the B train 170th Street stop! But then I’d have to lug it around to three pools, so I skipped it. I passed teachers in ties heading back to high school inservice days, and climbed the hill into the park. This land was once part of the Morris estate, but the “Black Swamp” (which swallowed up livestock in the 19th century) and the original mansion and apple orchards are gone. Today, it was so quiet: the handball court was empty!

The pool was not empty. The ladies who work there were definitely surprised to see me, and a bit hurt that I didn’t stay a long time. “You leavin’?” one asked, in a worried tone of voice. Was everything OK? Why didn’t I want to stay all day?

But there was only so much father-son dunking I could watch, so it was time to go. As I passed through, the female locker room attendants were discussing how when they were in gangs, it was only fist-fighting… and how much more serious a gang fight is now. Meanwhile, a police car continuously circled the pool’s enclosure…

From there I walked about 10 minutes East to Crotona Park. This land was originally the “Bathgate Woods,” but that family got into a dispute with the Parks Department, and the park was instead named for “Croton,” a Greek colony known for its Olympic athletes. The park is quite large, and when I was there a few baseball games were getting out, so uniformed men and women were streaming down the stone steps.

Approaching the pool, I saw a nice aquatic-themed mural; here’s a detail:

The women’s locker room is clearly a basketball court in the winter – I like that these rooms are used all year round!

I stayed at this pool for a while. It’s a lovely spot – huge and flanked by bleachers on one side and a shaded overhang on the other. Plus, there was plenty of entertainment. A herd of about a dozen boys, ranging in age from 8 to 15, waited until the lifeguard wasn’t looking and dove en masse into the pool. Heaven help you if you were below them when this opportunity arose – even I had one close call, despite my close attention! They also demonstrated what is now my favorite water entrance – I just had to laugh as they ran towards the pool and kept running through the air until gravity dragged them into the pool. It was so Buster Keaton-like!

You can see part of the group, plotting on the deck, to the left of the orange lifeguard umbrella here:

The lifeguards blew their whistles, and it was time to take a break. Pools are closed from 2:45 to 4:00pm every day. That means pool cleaning and a break for the lifeguards; but for me, it meant a long-awaited trip to the Bronx’s Little Italy, Arthur Avenue!

Filled up, I considered just having a swim here:

…but I’d come all this way, and Hurricane Earl was on his way. Time for Mapes, the very last pool!

I waited in line for about 10 minutes before they let people in. There was mayhem in the locker room! I recommend arriving partway through the session, not right at the beginning, for some peace and quiet in there.

I remember this pool from 2004; it was the one at which I began to truly understand that teenagers do not see you if you are older than 18! It is still true – in order to stay alive and unscathed in this pool, you need to be super alert! Even a few teenage girls clung at the side of the pool in order not to “get dunked … by a boy.”

One woman’s bright red hair dye bled into the pool, leaving a pink trail behind her, and I got whistled at by someone outside the rather open fence. This wasn’t the best pool to have as my last for the season…. but oh well. At least it felt great to be swimming on a hot day! An eternal bright side gal am I… and just look at the energy the camera caught here! Water in mid-air!

Happy and … gasp … DONE with the POOL PROJECT, I headed back home via bus and 5 train.

STATUS: 35 down (plus a dumpster and a state park), 0 to go! I did it!

One Response to “POOL PROJECT: September 2, Bronx”

  1. Congratulations! Glad I could participate.

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elizabeth! is a vocalist, trombonist, and songwriter working in NYC and Los Angeles. Originally from Vermont, she studied neuroscience at Harvard before moving to NYC to play, tour, and record with jazz musicians, indie rockers, pop stars and more. Her new album of original jazzy pop tunes was just released on Canopy Jazz!

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