Sunday, August 24, 2008

Sunday Evening at the McCarren Park Pool: Yo La Tengo & Titus Andronicus at the Close of the Last JellyNYC Pool Party

We didn't expect to get into the last JellyNYC pool party today, but at 6:40 p.m. the line to enter the pool dwindled to about thirty people, so we decided to get on line. One couple came after us, and then the black-T-shirted event security guys came back and yelled, "The line is closed! This is the end of the line!"

So we were one of the last three people to enter the last pool party. We thought that for a little while, but then they relented, and a few stragglers came in after us.

We'd been standing outside the front entrance of the pool on Lorimer Street watching the line go in for about an hour, taking notes, thinking that would prove interesting.

At 1:15 p.m. we'd made a pass by the pool, but with 45 minutes to the official opening time, the crowd was longer than any one we'd seen even at 1:50 p.m. so we went home.

We figured we'd report on the people trying to get in. From the time we got there at 5:40 p.m. till just before we hopped into line, the crowd stretched back as far as we could see, an endless sea of mostly young, mostly white people.

(Photo courtesy Williamsburg Is Dead, a blog you should subscribe to that knows a lot more than we do)

The funny thing is, the pool parties have a deserved reputation as a hipster hangout, yet it seemed to us that maybe one of out five people on line were humans we'd see on the street and immediately classify as hipsters.

There were even a good number - maybe one of every forty people - who seemed over 40, and quite a few Latino kids looking like our Southside neighbors. We'd never seen so many people in their twenties without a single one listening to an iPod. A lot of them had food and drink, seemingly unaware that anything but water is verboten in the pool. (They do have to sell stuff there - at least we think that's the reason.)

We were offered unfinished, or in a few cases, totally unstarted, food and drink of every kind: cashews, strawberries, cantaloupe, pitas, shakes, juices. Others were allowed to step to the side and gulp down their beverage or wolf down their food before entering.

But where were the older Asian ladies who go through our block's garbage to hunt for bottles and cans? They could have made a fortune as people were throwing plastic bottles of water and a few cans away. Often people missed when they tossed the bottles, so we decided to be a good citizen and play Phil D. Basket (an old public service cartoon character you're too young to remember). Three people were nice enough to shout, "Thanks!"

When we got there, the MC - whoever he is - was pretty much thanking people and issuing what sounded like a valedictory statement before he introduced Yo La Tengo, a group we've really liked for about two decades. (Embarrassingly, we were introduced to their music in an aerobics class.) Anyway, we were sure we could hear Yo La Tengo just as well as we would have in the pool, so we were content to watch the entering and exiting crowds.

By 6 p.m. people were coming out of the pool at a pretty fast clip. Oddly, it seemed to us, they'd stop the line just as a lot of people were coming out, and they'd speed up the line - weird how some people straggled after presumably waiting so long - as quickly as the laggards who hadn't opened their bags and backpacks could get moving.

(Maybe the security staff should take a page out of the TSA's lines at airports and divide the group into self-identified "expert pool party people" and "casual pool party people" to be more efficient.)

Eventually we figured out that the blue-T-shirted lady with the Parks Department was controlling the flow on the basis of "fifty in, fifty out." We figured this out by asking her.

Anyway, as the line finally dwindled, we got on it and at 6:43 p.m. we were inside the pool. It was more crowded than any time we'd been there. Not only was the pool itself wall-to-wall people, but the concrete walkways were totally jammed.

Photo courtesy the ubiquitous Feast of Music; check out his post, "Parting Blast," on the last pool party)

Somehow we found a space pretty much in the center, right up against the railing so we had a good view. Yo La Tengo was doing their last song. They had just about dismantled the Slip 'n' Slide, but the dodgeball players were going at it just as it started. (As one blogger noted recently, isn't dodgeball associated with the kind of people you don't really expect to end up in Williamsburg at 22?) Lots of people were taking pics around us, holding their cellphones and cameras high.

"Hey, thanks very much," said Ira Kaplan after the song ended. He thanked by name all the guys playing onstage and to raucous cheers, the musicians walked off. Then the pool party MC - we wish we knew his name - came on and said, "I don't know about you, Brooklyn, but I can't think of a better band to end our three years of pool parties than Yo La Tengo." More cheers and applause.

"Borough President Marty Markowitz was here earlier and he said he's looking forward to another summer," the MC said. "We're going to have another fucking summer!" Cheers, although that seemed ambiguous to us.

"Let's hear it for Yo La Tengo!" After enough cheers and applause, the band members come back onstage. It's 6:53 p.m., 11 minutes after we entered.

"Thank you," Ira Kaplan says, and he mentions the Obama tables that were set up (the show as sort of a benefit for the Obama campaign; we got a "Brooklyn for Barack" poster of today's pool party at the end, as did anyone who wanted one - but then we also got a Topshop women's white tank top that someone threw at us that we don't know what to do with). "This next song is dedicated to the Obama/Biden campaign." More cheers, and then the band goes into The Dead C's "Bad Politics":

Bad politics, baby!
Bad politics!
Your face is full of fake today
And now there's nothing I can say. . .
Bad politics, baby!

Then they bring out one of the day's earlier acts, Titus Andronicus, to join them ("I hope they're out there"), and they pass around water bottles. Knowing the venue's future, Ira says, "as a public service, let's start filling up the pool." And the band members pour water down on the crowd in front of them.

A young woman puts herself between us and the railing and with scissors starts cutting the wires holding up the Scion ad banner.

Ira says the final next song will be a tribute to "the great state of New Jersey" (Yo La Tengo is from Hoboken, Titus Andronicus from Glen Rock), kind of "passing the mantle. . . because the end of the pool is pretty much it for Williamsburg and Brooklyn. . . People will move across the Holland Tunnel, move across the Lincoln Tunnel, and then they'll see real misfits."

(Photo courtesy Forklift on Flickr)

And then, as you can see on this video at Prefix Magazine), the two bands go into The Misfits' "Where Eagles Dare":
We walk the streets at night
We go where eagles dare
They pick up every movement
They pick up every loser
With jaded eyes and features
You think they really care

I ain't no goddamn son of a bitch
You better think about it baby
I ain't no goddamn son of a bitch
You better think about it baby, babe

"Thanks a lot, everybody!" And they exit, and so do we, and so does everyone else. No more McCarren pool parties.

You better think about it, baby.

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