A Dip in the Pools

A couple of weeks ago Cabinet Magazine hosted a pseudo-secret after-opening party around the corner and across the bridge from their digs on the sunny banks of the Gowanus Canal. At Cabinet we first experienced Nadia Wagner's scent-piece, essentially a white gallery of sheetrock invisibly permeated with the odor of primeval European forests. We were then treated to a presentation involving an array of perfumer's odors, from scatol, reminiscent of the most intestinal moments of John Water's smell-o-vision experience, to pleasant waftings of jasmine and rose, both synthetic and natural.

What is fascinating about scent as an art form seems to me the homogeneity of humanity's reaction to it, across all class, cultural, racial and geographic borders. A concentrated foul odor will cause an instinctive recoil in a Congolese pygmy and a Swiss bureaucrat alike. In contrast, a painting, or a color, a sculpture, or a texture, no matter how loathsome I might personally find it, will have its champions and defenders. There is certainly a spectrum of scents, and we may differ about some smells (for years I found the particular odor of eggs being cooked in butter unsupportably revolting), but generally we are in agreement; there is in smelling a kind of aesthetic universality. Only the self-consciously contrarian or the allergic will claim to dislike the odor of a flowering rose-bush after a spring rain.

After sniffing until the mucus membranes of my ethmoidal labyrinth were begging for relief, a posse of us trundled across the often wiffy Gowanus to the Macro-Sea dumpster pools. My ignorance of this Brooklyn summer experiment should be taken as evidence that I have been doing all manner of productive things other than swanning about the internet reading lots of other blogs, because the pools had already been blogged to death without my having noticed so much as a ripple. On the evening of the Cabinet event even the New York Times got into the act.

All that can be seen of the dumpsters are their ends, painted and stenciled macro-sea. A staircase leads up to decking built flush with the surface of the water. After pouring sand into the bottom for a soft footing, the giant bins were lined with gargantuan polytarps. Presto. Instant pool.

The Gowanus dumpster pools are exactly what their name suggests: swimming pools made out of dumpsters, situated near the banks of the Gowanus. Don't be confused into thinking they are full of water from the canal, however. They are clean and turquoise and inviting and have pumps and floating chlorinators and inflatable toys and decks and deck chairs. We are not talking here about those trapezoidal green oversized garbage cans on wheels, but rather the mammoth multi-cubic yard construction debris dumpsters which so often and so recently used to line Brooklyn's streets before the current global economic unpleasantness put an end to all that eager renovating. In other words, these are twenty or thirty foot long reinforced steel boxes, shallower but much stronger than shipping containers.

A couple of creative folks had the idea that for minimal money it would be possible to turn an underused vacant lot (of the sort rarer and rarer in Brooklyn these days, full of encroaching weeds, abandoned cars and parked construction vehicles of dubious utility) into a summertime destination, an unpretentious and relaxing neighborhood splash. One of them, it turns out, is an old friend, Dave Belt. I had not seen him since very early in this millenium when I visited him and his wife Antonia Wagner (no relation) in the hospital to meet their newborn baby. The woman I was splitting up with at the time won them all in the divorce, or at least that is how I stupidly imagined it at the time. In the long interim Dave has grown a beard, and it took me a moment to recognize him. His daughter is now a ravishing and vivacious eight-year-old with a younger sister. It was a wonderful and unexpected reunion. Dave reminded me that he and Antonia met at a party while I was deejaying, so I take credit for their whole splendid nuclear family situation. No need to thank me, just invite me over for another swim!

Grilling by the macro-sea-side: Dave says he is particularly fond of the matching squadron of red barbecues.

A couple of days ago we dropped by with some shrimp. Some fellow grillers had just finished cooking and they urged us to use their perfectly serviceable coals.

Post swim and post-shrimp: Harmon and Najafi face off on the bocce court.


No comments: