Now, obviously, if you've seen the photos, you know I had more sod than just edges -- we had about a 5'x10' square, which was perfect for the hammock and some sitting space. I covered the rest of the pavement with rugs and sturdy, beautiful blankets, which led one of our board members, stopping by in the morning, to comment that we really needed a hookah to complete the atmosphere.
As we were setting up, lots of people walked by, most on their way to work. One of the only naysayers of the day asked what we were doing and, after we explained, why. As he walked away, he muttered in a stage whisper, "Some people have too much time on their hands." By about 9, my setup volunteers had left and I was on my own for a little while before my intern arrived. It felt very weird to be sitting around in comfy chairs by myself at the side of the road, and most of the people walking by were doing that, "I'm a sophisticated city person, and nothing can phase me," thing as they walked by. That was the low point of the day.
Soon, intern Josh showed up and things got more lively. We made some finishing touches, the sun came out, we put on sunscreen and just relaxed. Pretty soon, random people were actually stopping to ask what we were doing, and a couple of people asked if they could sit down, too. Volunteer Seth (whose efforts acquired the sod!) showed up with his extremely friendly dog and it was suddenly a lot like an extremely weird mixer, with everyone having a pretty good time.
Before I knew it, it was lunchtime, and we had a big crowd! Thanks to everyone who came to visit and had lunch or hung out. Just like hosting a party, I feel like I didn't really get a chance to sit and talk to anyone during this 2-hour stretch, although there was lots of lazing about during other parts of the day. It was around this time that a woman came from city hall and asked my boss (who was there for lunch) who was in charge. She pointed to me, and the woman, who was accompanied by a police officer, explained that she was with the city hall property management and that she was very concerned for our safety, just sitting in a parking spot like that, and could we please move onto the sidewalk? No, I explained, it's called PARK(ing) Day for a reason and the whole point is to be in a parking space. She fretted some more and then said that if we wouldn't move, she was going to send some guys out with barriers to put between us and traffic. I told her that would be fine. The cop then stepped in and suggested that in the mean time, we should move our chairs closer to the sidewalk. Fine, I said, and they left, and I went back to sitting in the grass. Perhaps not my most professional moment, what with the bare feet and the lounging, but it worked out. Later, a couple of guys from the city brought blue police sawhorses and set them up, ignoring us the whole time. Clearly, the city was not enthusiastic about this.
The notable exception to that was the meter readers on our block, who were at first baffled and later charmed and enthusiastic, which was great.
We caused great confusion to a number of cars that, from afar, thought the lack of car meant a space they could park in. But at no point did I fear a car was actually going to pull in accidentally. It's not like cars that are getting ready to park are going full speed, after all!
At the end of the day, we packed up, and then qwrrty and I toured around to the four other spots to pick up their sod. The BU spot and Porter Square spots were still going strong and I was so happy to see them in full swing; I figured I wouldn't get to see any of the other spots! Harvard Square and Alston-Brighton had mostly or completely packed up by the time we got there, but reports of the day were glowing. I expect more spots next year!
I didn't go to Burning Man this year, for a whole bunch of good reasons. Still, I was super sad and nostalgic not to be there. Curiously, PARK(ing) Day was, wonderfully, a lot like a little mini-burn:
We took an ordinary space and made it weird, full of familiar objects (chairs, hammock) and settings (grass, rugs) in an unfamiliar and combinations. We talked to strangers, and they talked to us. We'd had lunch donated, and though we didn't have enough to give away to everyone, we did have food to give to everyone who asked us for it. We turned down payment, but we did accept gifts, including several bottles of juice and a box of Now & Laters. People who didn't know each other traded stories and hung out. People who did know each other did the same. Over the course of the day, the weird little space started to feel totally normal, so those of us who were there all day really got into the relaxed, mellow groove of it.
It was a little vacation from the ordinary, in a very ordinary place, and what made it special was what we put into it, and the people who joined in. It was really great.
I'm already thinking about what to do next year, and how to make it better. A hammock tree? More grass. Music? Lots of comfy seating. Food, activities, maybe a kiddie pool full of water or pillows.
I left my house a bit before 7am, got home a bit after 7:30, unloaded the truck (donated by the ever-awesome Zipcar!), returned it to its spot in Harvard Square, had spike's help delivering the remaining items to LivableStreets (my partner in
I can't help thinking: what if next year I get more crazy creative types on board? Just imagine!