Nostalgia Reality Check: The Public Pool

Will the public pool be as awesome as I remember?
Publish date:
August 30, 2011
fun, public pool, nostalgia reality check

Last month my crew and I discovered the local rec center has a completely free outdoor pool that’s open late and on weekends. According to the coffee shop chatter, the hipsters had already gentrified the pool nearest us, so it’d been our mission as the “Don’t call me a gentrifier even though I too pay thousands to live next to a malt liquor store” gentrifiers to find something authentic.

Authentic here, of course, refers to the percentage of people wearing Toms to wearing anything not-Toms ratio. Also, please be advised that Toms is an amazing char-pany that provides millions of the world’s children with the opportunity to walk to school and avoid disease. I plan on buying a pair and will be more than proud to wear them. Just not to the public pool.

Anyway, finding the Harry Thomas Sr. Community Center just one block east of North Capitol Street, one of the dividing lines between the many Washingtons of the nation’s capital, was like taking a swig of Mountain Dew with Pop Rocks in your mouth. Explosion!

Upon arrival we were skeptical, but our pre-req. complaints soon turned to praise. “Um, whose kids are those?” became, “Of course, I’ll teach you how to float!” And after a week “Where are the damn lifeguards?” blurred into, “Quick, pour the vodka into my Arizona Iced Tea before he gets back!” The “No Food or Drink” sign was total bullshit. We shouted, “Deep End. Deep End. Deeeeep End!” with the best of them when Quincy, the oldest lifeguard I’ve ever met, didn’t open the 9 Ft. zone fast enough.

I traded in happy hours with Brooks Brothers and the like for hanging out in my bikini with Ray Ray and ‘Nem. I’ve judged diving contests. I’ve received relationship advice from a woman who treaded water for three hours -- with no hands. I’ve been hit on by a sixth-grader with more swagger than men three times his age. I’ve watched young girls poke their stomachs out in a two-piece and not give a damn.

Even a perfectly executed canon ball still really hurts your butt. Chlorine will always tinge your eyes crackhead red. The deep end remains the depth of cool. The neighborhood pool is just as awesome as you remembered.

And when the public pool’s doors get padlocked for the summer, something inside you dies. My summer at the pool was a revelation and now that it's closed it's a requiem. But I won’t forget how fun it was (is) to dive back into the time when nothing was more important than getting your feet wet.