Park Slope isn’t a perfect neighborhood. It’s expensive, there are WAY too many strollers (people bring their babies to bars around here), and a lot of its residents are those kind of white people who are self-conscious about their lives to the point of self-righteousness–and don’t mind telling you that you should be living your life the same way. (A sub-species of human that’s indigenous to both Brooklyn and Berkeley.)
With all that said, the Slope has a bunch of good bars, even more good restaurants, and, best of all, Prospect Park, an expanse of urban greenery so nice that Frederick Law Olmsted said it was superior to Central Park. He should know: He designed both of them.
I probably don’t take quite as much advantage of the park as I should, given that I live two blocks away from it, but it is my main outlet for exercise: I hate running, but the park makes it bearable, and I go running an average of three or four days a week, except in winter. If the temperature creeps below 40, I ain’t running. Because nobody gives a fuck about a 40 degree day–right String?
Anyway, the best part of going running in the park isn’t losing yourself on the wooded trails (though that is nice); it’s the weird, sometimes hilarious things you see people doing. Here are five random cool things that I’ve seen.
1) People driving in the bike lane. If you look at the picture above, you’ll notice that the paved road that rings the edge of the park has four lanes. Two are for runners/pedestrians, one is for bikes, and one is for cars, which are allowed in the park for a narrow window of time at rush hour. Now, at some point during this time, some driver always decides, for some reason or another, to pull into the bike lane (usually because he missed a turn or something). Now, if there’s anyone in the world who’s more self-righteous than a Brooklyn resident, it’s a Brooklyn resident on a bicycle. (Cyclists, in general, are the most obnoxiously self-righteous people on the planet. Oh, you make the wheels of your vehicle turn with your legs? What, you want a cookie? Sorry to my cyclist friends–I still love you guys, in spite of your shortcomings.) Truly, the invective you hear directed at the drivers of these cars is something to behold. In fact, I won’t even describe it; I’ll just let you imagine it.
2) I’m not the most physically fit guy in the world–I’m really more of a jogger than a runner–but it’s not like I’m a fatass. Still, even when I’m putting up my best pace, other runners often blow past me like I’m standing still. One time I got passed by a little girl who was probably ten years old; she wore a cute little pink and purple jogging outfit, had her hair up in a braid, and she sprinted past me effortlessly. It was adorable–and I wanted to kill her. Another time, a guy blasted by me while he was skipping rope. I would have killed him right there, but he was probably a boxer, so my attack would surely have had the reverse of the desired effect.
3) One time, as I jogged past a family standing at the side of the running lane, a kid who couldn’t have been more than three or four years old threw a rock at me. He had the coordination of a toddler, so the rock, which was really more of a pebble, went about two feet, nowhere close to hitting me, but still, he was looking right at me; there was no doubt of the rock’s intended target. I looked at the kid incredulously, and he returned my gaze with a What da fuck you looking at? glare that could not possibly have been more Old School Brooklyn.
4) Some people rig ghetto blasters to their bikes so they have driving music while they’re going around or across the park (this subset of bike rider is awesome and exempt from my previous anti-cyclist rant). By far my favorite instance of this was the time a middle-aged black dude rolled past me absolutely blaring Mariah Carey. This would have been hilarious under any circumstance, but there was an added layer because it was this song:
A disclosure I probably shouldn’t make, but here goes anyway: That song came out shortly after I turned twelve, and it was a huge hit, with the music video on TV pretty much all the time. At least I remember it being on TV all the time, because Mariah Carey rolling around in that tall grass? Yeah … that changed some things for twelve-year-old Justin. We should probably move on.
5) This last one’s not so much funny as just purely awesome: There is a bandshell in Prospect Park, right at the point where my run starts, that hosts concerts. A few weeks, none other than Robert Plant, the lead singer from pretty much my all-time favorite band, performed there. I didn’t go to the show that night, but I did go for my usual run earlier that afternoon, and what was happening but Robert Plant’s soundcheck. Could anything cooler happen while you’re jogging than hearing Robert fucking Plant sing “Baby, baby, baby, I’m gonna leave you”?
The answer to that question is, of course, NO. Prospect Park makes everything awesome–even jogging.