Posts Tagged ‘Prospect Park’

Prospect Park . . .

The kids are out in force. Or rather, their parents are out in force, dragging pushing them along . . .

In the Barnes and Noble on 7th Ave, the SUV sized baby carriages are parked twenty deep by the door, as parents drag, carry tiheir kids along the shelves, position them in Starbucks in the back. The kid’s section downstairs is a hive of nannies – black, Asian – with young white children in tow . . .

There just seem to be more and more kids in Park Slope. All around the same age as well, between 1 and 5. This is a whole generation that will grow up together, all the same age. Ironically, for a neighborhood that got so solidly behind America’s first black President, the kids are almost all white – even on Prospect Park’s East Side, you see hardly any black kids now.

While I was sitting at one of the tables, a guy came up trailing a little boy and a little girl. He had one of those effete voices, vaguely ironic in an inoffensive way and he coaxed his kids up a hill, carrying a soccer ball.

“Mommy’s waiting . . . we’ll get something to eat.”

Behind him, the kids sat down at a table. “I want to sit here!” the boy said. The girl started crying, then the boy jumped up and ran away, screaming because he saw a spider. The father came back, coaxing the boy back to the table.

“Oh, I’m sure it’s alright. But Mommy’s waiting for us.”

“Maybe Mommy will come down here!” The boy said, the spider forgotten about.

“I don’t think so.”

Ten minutes later, they were still making their way up the small incline. “Come on, people!” the father actually said, in his mincing nasal voice while the kids paid him no attention, standing behind trees, falling down, wandering back down the hill.

I wonder how it will be for these kids. On Vancouver’s East Side, where I lived for awhile when I was young, a whole generation came up after the war. Their fathers had served long and hard in the Canadian forces in WWII,  and were given one of rows of  identical houses in Vancouver’s East Side for their efforts. The men came back battered and tough, with all the usual problems of men brutalized by war, and many passed that on their kids, who grew up tough, and feared throughout the city, since they were all the same age, grew up fighting, formed gangs.

Or I think of the kids I up in Lillooet, BC, a remote logging town in the middle of British Columbia. A  couple dozen American draft dodgers and hippies settled in the valley north of town in the 70’s, fleeing the Vietnam war,  building homesteads and raising their kids. Beautiful country, but tough country too, with long winters and few amenities, and the Americans were true to their principles, carving farms, ranches, homes and community out of nothing. But they had one blind spot: they named their kids  ‘Flower’ and ‘Juniper’, silly hippy names that guaranteed that when these kids went to school with the other kids in the tough logging town . . . well, you can imagine. So these kids too grew up tough and by the time I came around in the late 90’s, they were roaring around town in little pick-ups, blaring AC-DC and drinking a lot of beer, so tough from fighting all through school that no one would fuck with them at all. Some, to their parent’s dismay, even became loggers.

And the kids in Park Slope?

Their parents are professionals, well-off, liberal. Many of the women probably gave all to their careers until the biological clock went off and they realized they had to have kids soon or that was it and suddenly they have to juggle kids and career. The kids don’t look happy – even in the park, on this very warm and sunny day, you hear them screaming, crying, pushing their parent’s boundaries as far as they can. 

I don’t quite understand the modern parenting thing of setting no boundaries for your kids. It’s definitely an Anglo-Saxon thing – in non-British Europe, or French Canada, kids are kids and parents are parents – and both groups are happier for it. In the more liberal, upwardly mobile circles, there sometime seem to be no barriers at all. A few weeks ago, in another Starbucks, I witnessed a kid actually punching his father in the face because he didn’t like the sandwich selection. Having grown up in a violent home, I’m no fan of corporal punishment, but if that were my kid . . . let’s just say on certain occasions reasoning with junior is not quite enough.

Who thinks of the kids and how they’ll grow up? How they’ll feel as teenagers? 

In West Van, a tony, very English suburb of Vancouver where I moved when I was fiftten, the kids ran riot. Their parents were professionals, worked long hours, and tended to give them money instead of affection – and often set no boundaries at all. The first party I went to, some kid had invited twenty of his friends and two hundred people showed up, and methodically trashed his house for him, throwing the stove off the balcony, dog food into all the beds, ripping out the wainscotting, the cabinets and smashing beer bottles on the shag rug until the glass was six inches deep. The kid wasn’t even unpopular – it was just an excuse to trash a house. Later, when the cops showed up, the kids barricaded themselves in, hurling beer bottles at the cops in a pitched battle that lasted an hour or more. 

Sons and daughters of lawyers, doctors, what have you. I’d just moved down from a mining town where if you did that kind of thing, you’d be dead. The kids had spirit, I guess, but they virtually guaranteed no more house parities after a couple more such incidents. 

Generational change is hard to predict. But I sit in the park and wonder how these kids will turn out in ten, twenty years time.

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Prospect Park Pt. 2

Prospect Park Boathouse by Sly2112 Back in the park. Color coming out in the trees – pink and yellow blossoms, startling red and orange fringes where the buds are coming out. Behind me some unfortunate welfare recipients are earning their two hundred a month plus food stamps or whatever it is by picking up trash and putting it into plastic bags. Big black women mostly, fed on a junk food diet, wearing bandanas, baseball caps over their heads, leather jackets and leather purses and jeans with spangles on the pockets.

   Ghetto fabulous, the low-rent version. Nice enough though, apologizing for disturbing while I was writing at the table because they had to stab at the potato chip bags and other refuse some cretins threw on the grass, stopping to give directions to some lady pushing a baby carriage and trailing two small kids, pointing with their sticks and debating amongst themselves – four of them got involved at one point – about the best way to go in that way New Yorkers do.

   Prospect Park has to be one of the most beautiful parks I’ve ever seen. Designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, who also designed Central Park, Mont Royal in Montreal and some big park in Chicago. The man knew his stuff. In Prospect Park, you really feel the change in landscape – open green, bridges over rivers, small ponds where herons, ducks, and even eagles gather depending on the season. Horses traipse through the park, carrying either mounted police, or somebody who has rented one for an hour or two from one of the stables, while in the mornings you see odd things like a couple dozen kids going through a judo class underneath one of the big trees, or twelve people, black and white and obviously American, in a circle, going through the motions of Falun Dong. Olmstead thought of everything, even the heavily wooded area with the fountain in the middle where the gay men gather – I wonder if he thought of that back when he designed it? Down by the boathouse, there is a small garden where the kids can go up and look at different insects and butterflies, and in front that a little pond. In the mornings you can walk through one of the paths that wind through the wooded areas and imagine for a few moments you are in the country somewhere instead of the middle of Brooklyn. 

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Prospect Park – Pt. 1

Boathouse Interior - Prospect Park

   Prospect Park, the picnic tables.

   Sun, warmth – up in the high 70’s. Park full of women with baby carriages, hundreds of kids on the green playing baseball. White women, mostly white kids on the green then dozens of black schoolkids traipsing in behind their teacher from Crown Heights on the other side of the park.

   Some big white woman admonishing her child somewhere in the background: “It is NOT cool to be naked in the park . . .” That nasal American voice.

   Hard to believe I’ve been away for a year and a half and I really don’t know what I’ll find. This city can change so much in a few months, never mind a year and a half. Of course a part of me expects to find it just as I left it – but it’s changed, and I’ve changed as well.

   So quiet here. Maybe it just seems that way after a year and a half in London, which has become an impossibly noisy city, but I don’t remember anywhere in Brooklyn being this quiet. Even on the 7th Ave, the main shopping street through this gentrified burg, the congestion is like nothing you’d seen in the equivalent  – East Dulwich say – in London.

   People so much more pleasant than in London. The little kindnesses in the stores – the Korean woman tying up the bag of miso soup so it won’t spill. Sense of a calmer culture, despite everything.

   Trees hardly budding yet. Everything grey, even in the sunshine. Like so many times I’ve come back to New York, it takes a couple of weeks to get back into the flow of the city, for the city to come alive in me and me to come alive in the city. 


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