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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Monroe Park Diary: Sunday In the Park

I have been known to take advantage of the charity of others myself sometimes. Having been banished from home by a power failure, this past Sunday offered a number of opportunities, including a cheap breakfast at Karen's City Diner, hash browns and coffee, a spin through the gym and an opportunity to make a Sunday morning visit to the park. I hadn't taken in the Sunday buffet at Monroe Park in sometime and considering the various claims being made by opponents and proponents of closing and renovating the park, I thought it was high time I did. I came to the party a little late, about 11:00. Most of the good stuff comes early, including a true buffet with bacon, eggs, sausage, donuts, coffee,... the whole works. When I got there, the crowds had dispersed or disappeared. This was a pattern I had previously observed. The action usually picks up later in the day to be capped off by a vegan feast by Food Not Bombs.

I went there with the express purpose of observing and taking pictures. As I expected, except for the resident population, there was almost no one else in the park, this despite near perfect weather. Here's a sample of what I did and did not see.

It's a big park. You can hide a lot of people in it. I've seen crowds materialize out of nowhere when a couple vans pull up and start setting up tables, but I think it's clear there was little recreation going on this Sunday morning. Student lifestyles partially explain that, but not everybody is a student and they weren't there either.

Seeing pretty much what I expected, I decided to take a walk and sure enough, on the south side of the park along Main Street, a crowd was gathering and a line was forming . I'm not above a free sandwich, so I got in line about 30 people back. The line moved quickly and I got my sandwich, ginger ale and thanked the kid from Goochland for coming.

All this is extraordinarily ordinary and in some ways so was what happened next. While sorting through the bags of cloths set out, someone took offense with someone else and a full fledged melee ensued. It was over pretty quickly, but is an example of the unreported scuffles and fights that take place in the park. It's not the first one I've seen, but it's the first one I recorded.

The following is my best imitation of a "Blair Witch Project" camera technique. Almost no faces are visible and there is a cameo by my thumb, but you'll get the idea from the angry voices and commotion. I certainly didn't expect to witness this, but I'm glad I did and got it documented. It's not all sunshine and rainbows in the park on Sunday morning and the reputation it has gotten is not entirely undeserved. That's the end of my sermon. I plan on going back and doing a study so that when I speak, it is from 1st hand, recent experience. I, like a lot of other people, have stopped going to Monroe Park and hardly notice it anymore. Anybody who says different is well, wrong. Expect more here in coming days.

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