Since my indoor pool pass is good year-’round, I don’t spring for an extra pass to use the city’s outdoor pool each summer. Instead, I get to go there for free during the final two weeks of the season, when the indoor pool is closed for annual maintenance and upgrades.
The outdoor pool, though, can be a glorious experience. Here are ten points to consider.
Though a Massachusetts native, Jenny Thompson calls Dover her hometown. She’s among the most decorated athletes in Olympic history, having won eight gold medals among her 12 despite numerous setbacks. On top of that, she became an anesthesiologist is Boston and now works as a pediatric anesthesiologist up the road in Portland, Maine.
It’s the only 50-meter swimming pool for miles around. The closest neighbor is the Raco Theodore pool in Manchester, New Hampshire, an hour to our west. The only one to our east is at Colby College in Waterville, Maine, three hours up the Interstate. And to our south, it’s the Beverly, Massachusetts, YMCA on Boston’s North Shore or, further south, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge or at Hanscom in Lincoln. In other words, ain’t many of ’em around.
It feels endless. A half-mile is eight laps, meaning round-trips up and back. I love hearing the rippling banners overhead in the distance, meaning I’m getting close to turning back in the other direction.
It has a 10-foot-high diving board. Kids love it. Insurance companies hate anything so risky.
It’s heated, except on the hottest days. Evaporation cools the water. Somehow, though, it seems to warm enough once I’m in it but still refreshingly brisk. Talk about a fine balance.
Overhead, contrails of jetliners heading into Boston’s Logan airport often come a minute apart. That’s in addition to some gorgeous clouds I love to watch on my backstroke, along with the occasional bald eagles in the distance.
As I just said, keep an eye open for bald eagles soaring in the distance.
The Seacoast Swimming Association, which drew Thompson and her mother to Dover in the first place, is its biggest supporter – as they also do for the city’s smaller indoor pool through the rest of the year.
Big swim meets take place here. Why not? From a distance, it always looks like a mob scene.
The pool is 41 years old and has maintenance issues. Which leads to the next matter. Efforts are under way to replace it with a 10- to 22-lane indoor 50-meter pool. Dr. Thompson is solidly behind the effort and promises to come down often to test its waters.
The more she learns about her great-grandmother in my novel What’s Left, the more reason Cassia has to be curious about her roots.
Romani or Roma: The preferred terms for “Gypsies.” They are ethnically and genealogically different from other Europeans. They originated in northern India and migrated about 1,500 years ago as a group.
Roma subgroups differ in language and variations of customs: These hold social distance from each other.
They are a dispersed population: They have significant concentrations in Egypt, Turkey, Romania, southern France, Spain, and Hungary.
Population in U.S.: Estimated at one million. Largely centered in southern California, the Pacific Northwest, Texas, and the Northeast./
Population in Greece: Between 200,000 and 300,000.
Population in Brazil: 800,000.
Roma slaves: They were shipped with Columbus in 1492. Spain sent Romani slaves to Louisiana, 1762-1800.
Romania: Abolished Roma slavery in 1864.
Marriage: Couples generally wed within their tribe. The parents of the boy customarily select his bride, and a bride price would be paid to compensate her father for his loss.
Community: When a Roma male marries a non-Roma, she may in time be accepted by the community, if she accepts their way of life. For a Roma female to marry a gaje, however, is a serious violation of marime or marimhe code originating in Hindu purity laws.
Brooklyn has long been overshadowed by its more commanding neighbor, but it is undergoing a renaissance among trendsetters.
Here are ten random bits about the borough also known as Kings County.
If New York City were dissolved and the borough became an independent city, it would be the nation’s third largest, after Chicago and Los Angeles. It was merged into New York City in 1898.
Forty-five percent of the population speaks a mother language other than English.
The Brooklyn Museum houses the city’s second-largest public art collection. It is especially renowned for its Asian collection. At least on the days when those galleries are open. There are serious budgetary problems.
The Brooklyn Children’s Museum, founded in 1899, is the oldest such institution in the nation.
Coney Island on the Atlantic has undergone a rebirth an amusement park. It’s also famed for Nathan’s hot dogs.
Prospect Park, 585 acres, was designed by Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux. It includes a zoo and a 60-acre lake.
The Pratt Institute, one of the leading fine arts schools, is situated in Clinton Hill.
Subway stations: 157.
Public schools: 540.
Crime: The acting district attorney declared 2017 the safest year in the borough’s history in terms of homicides, shootings, and shooting victims; 101 homicides occurred in the year. (If Dallas, Texas, were the same size, the figure would have been 332.)
It’s not all Manhattan, you should know. Most of the population sleeps in the other four boroughs. And then for even more bodies we have Long Island to the east, Jersey to the west, and Westchester-Rockland to the north.
By the way, Brooklyn – not Manhattan – is the most populous borough.
Now, for ten more bits.
Ethnic diversity: It’s 44 percent white, 25 percent black, and 12 percent Asian descent. Hispanics claim about 27 percent. The city has the largest number of Italian-Americans in the nation (nearly 700,000), the largest Jewish population outside Israel (1.5 million), and the largest Chinese population of any city outside Asia (573,000). About 800 languages are spoken in the city.
Open spaces: About one-fifth of the Bronx is given over to parkland, including the New York Botanical Garden. Staten Island has thousands of acres of parkland and about 2,000 wild whitetail deer.
Largest borough in size: At 108 square miles, the Queens wraps around more populous Brooklyn. Its population of 2.3 million is the second-largest in the city – nearly half of them foreign-born.
Smallest borough in size: Manhattan. Its 22 square miles are dwarfed by Staten Island’s 58 square miles.
Restaurants: The city has an estimated 24,000 eateries – including delis, pizzerias, and take-outs. As for sit-down-and-be-served, the number’s closer to 8,000. One enterprising guess says that at one a day, you’d need 22½ years to hit them all. By the way, a fourth of them are in Manhattan. As for home cooking? We’ll have to ask a greengrocer.
Runways: You think people fly straight in Manhattan? Think again. Most domestic flights work out of Newark Liberty International in New Jersey, serving nearly 44 million passengers a year. JFK, on the Atlantic shore of Queens, gets the bulk of the international flights, nearly 30 million passengers a year. LaGuardia, in a tight corner of Queens, is the most convenient option and serves nearly 30 million passengers annually. MacArthur in Ronkonkoma, Long Island, serves about two million passengers a year plus commercial traffic.
Housed animals: The Bronx Zoo and Staten Island Zoo, plus Tisch Children’s Zoo in Manhattan’s Central Park, house a world of animals. Brooklyn is also home to the New York Aquarium. Brooklyn Wildlife Center and Queens Wildlife Center also offer displays. That’s in addition to rats, pigeons, and endless humanoid varieties.
Stage life: The celebrated Great White Way on Broadway has 41 theaters as the heart of live American theater. Manhattan’s off-Broadway and off-off-Broadway stages offer more offbeat fare. Not all actors and actresses are working as restaurant wait staff.
Professional sports: Both football teams play in New Jersey’s swampy Meadowlands. The Yankees still play baseball in the Bronx, while the Mets remain in the Queens. The Knicks basketball team and the Rangers hockey team both perform in Manhattan’s Madison Square Garden, but the Brooklyn Nets basketball squad and Islanders hockey team both call Barclays Center in Brooklyn their home. So it’s all over the place, not just Manhattan.
Parking tickets: UPS, FedEx, and other delivery services receive up to 7,000 parking tickets a day, contributing up to $120 million in revenue annually to the city. The tab on unpaid tickets by United Nations diplomats, meanwhile, was put at $16 million, with Egypt as the worst offender, $2 million overdue.
Oh, yes. One out of every 21 New Yorkers is a millionaire. Or so I read. Did they mean just Manhattan? Or the whole shebang? Either way, it’s a lot.
When I say “we” here, I’m acknowledging a widespread sense of loss voiced by friends and neighbors. Some of these places I know by reputation only, though I still see signs where they were. And others are places I valued.
When I first came to New Hampshire more than 30 years ago, Portsmouth still had a funky feel through much of its downtown. But real estate prices have been soaring, and that’s taken a toll. Ouch!
The J.J. Newberry’s store. A real old-fashioned five-and-dime emporium with its classic soda fountain, knickknacks, and distinctive aroma downtown. Its closure meant many items could no longer be purchased within walking distance.
Seavey’s Hardware. This was one of those family-owned hardware stores where you could find just about anything you’d need if you owned an old house. They could find old fixtures in original packaging and offer it to you for a fraction of what you’d have to pay, if you could locate it at all anywhere else. Alas, when a new generation failed to step up, the buildings were sold … for a constantly changing lineup of boutiques.
Ciabatta bakery and café. Yes, real bakers rising way before dawn to create artisanal breads, pastries, and cakes. And great coffee long before Starbucks was anywhere near our corner of New England. Again, owning its own building helped. But the toll of long hours with few breaks finally led its owner to move on. Boo-hoo. I see it as an emblem of many other dearly departed eateries. Sakura, a small Japanese spot, and the inexpensive Stock Pot overlooking the harbor (great pies, by the way) are two I especially miss.
A real downtown grocery. I don’t remember its name, but it was handy, especially if you were about to go out on the water or wanted an impromptu picnic in the park.
The Pick’n Pay. Within walking distance of downtown, this family-run grocery built a loyal following for all of its special little touches and its personal sense of a social gathering spot. Everybody seemed to know everybody, so I’m told. Many still lament its sale in 1999 to the Hannaford chain after five decades of independence.
Funky, cheap stores. The storefronts have almost all gone upscale now. How many pricy clothes do people need, anyway? How many souvenirs and gifts? How many real estate brokers?
The old Prescott Park arts festival. Yes, the programs continue but they just don’t seem the same. Is it the lineups? Or just us?
Community spirit. Something in the laissez-faire bohemian air I recall has turned bourgeois, even puritanical. The children’s museum had outgrown its original space but was rebuffed repeatedly before leaving town altogether for Dover a few years ago (Hallelujah!), but the pattern continues. We hear story after story of sourpusses and grumblers who are upset by the ice skating rink at Strawbery Banke (it’s pure Currier and Ives, for goodness sake) or the self-deputized posse searching brown paper bags at the Prescott Park concerts and calling police. It’s the old “we got ours, now get out” attitude that will soon make the town unwelcoming even to itself.
A small-town scale. One historic neighborhood, just north of downtown, that didn’t escape urban renewal long sat as a bizarre quasi mall in the middle of a big parking lot. The houses it replaced had been, I’ve heard, elaborate Victorians whose craftsmen builders had filled with stone carvings, fantastical woodwork, and fanciful windows. What was left, admittedly, was an eyesore. Initially, nobody seemed to object when plans were announced to redevelop the site. What’s gone up, though, is a few square blocks of relentless four- or five-story rectangular structures befitting a big city but alien to the architectural character it borders. These monoliths with national chain retailers and eateries on the ground floor and residential condos above just don’t fit in. Well, considering that the city also banned buses from downtown – to get one to Boston, for instance, you have to take a “cute” trolley out to the transportation beside Interstate 95 – you just might start wondering how long it will be before someone tries to convert the whole place to a gated compound.
Easy parking. Yes, the parking garage has long been a sanctuary, considering the shortage of street parking downtown, but now even that’s usually overflowing, especially in tourist season.