In Brooklyn, Big Dawg is king

Waiting for food
Waiting for Food in Red Hook | Drawing by Todd Berman

As a gravelly, authoritative disembodied voice boomed out over the loudspeakers, the hundreds of Brooklynites swimming at Red Hook public pool fell silent.

“Big Dawg sez yous got two minnits to ged oudda da wuddah.”

With this third-person announcement, so ended the most unrelaxing fifteen minutes ever spent in a pool.

Admittedly, the meager time we had to swim on this muggy, oppressive day was no fault but our own. Todd and I, our friends Tate and Shawna, and their friends Eli (of fame) and Vivian had dallied far too long at the adjacent Red Hook playing fields over a picnic of Latin American truck food including papusas, empanadas, ceviche, and platanos.

Creature, DUMBO, Brooklyn, NY
Creature and Bridge | Photo by Lauren Girardin

Our timing couldn’t have been better – it was the grand reopening of the Red Hook vendors, who had wrangled with the health inspector and won. For 30 years, dozens of mostly women had sold handmade, homemade food to weekend futbol crowds. Finally, bureaucracy took notice and shut down for health code non-compliance what had become a neighborhood institution.

After much political grandstanding and grassroots action, the vendors were back in business. They’d had to replace their tables and coolers with trucks and refrigeration. The reopening attracted the media, media-hungry politicos like Chuck Schumer, and the simply hungry like ourselves.

Though we were enjoying our picnic, once we’d started sweating into our horchatas, we knew it was time to head in for a swim. Before we made it into the water, we’d already violated at least four of the infinite number of pool’s rules.

  1. Tate had asked to borrow a scissor to open the plastic packaging holding our locks for our lockers. The guard didn’t tell Tate “no,” he just stared and slowly shook his head once.
  2. The girls were sent back to take a cold shower before swimming.
  3. The guys were yelled at for wearing non-white shirts onto the pool deck.
  4. We all put our towels down in an area somehow not designated for such things.
Street graffiti by Feral, DUMBO, Brooklyn, NY
Street graffiti by Feral | Photo by Lauren Girardin

After what seemed like the briefest of swims, Big Dawg ended our relief from the heat. As soon as his voice cut out, lifeguards spaced every twenty feet around the four-times-Olympic-sized pool started to blow on their bright orange whistles with every exhalation.

Big Dawg crackled onto the loudspeaker one last time, saying “Big Dawg sez if yous don’ ged oudda da wuddah in one minnit, yous ged a two-hunnit an’ fiddy dollah fine.”

After changing back into street clothes, the girls and guys compared locker room experiences. The ladies’ locker room was a spacious converted basketball court, with just two drawbacks: it was too easy to accidentally drag your clothes through the muck on the floor and there were several uncomfortably mature-looking ten year old boys around where we had to strip down.

The men’s locker room was a much less appealing environment. As Eli put it, “You girls missed out on the opportunity to stand naked in a humid, narrow corridor while hordes of other sweaty, naked men jostled past you.”

“Big Dawg hopes yous have a nice day.”

Photos from Brooklyn, New York

If you can’t see the photo slide show above, view the photo set on Flickr.