Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Reservoir in Central Park

Right in the middle of Central Park is a body of water commonly called "the reservoir." Officially it is known as the Jacqueline Kennedy Onanssis Reservoir, named after the late First Lady, and it supplied the city with lots of its drinking water until 1991.

It really is a sight to behold. The reservoir covers 106 acres and stretches from 85th to 96th streets, more than half a mile. At whatever angle you view it from, you see a gorgeous lake with a forest of trees behind it, then the buildings of the city rising behind them. It really is the ultimate meeting of Mother Nature and Mankind, the best that both can produce. An amazing site.

So why is it, every time I see the reservoir, I get scared? What is it about the reservoir that almost fills me with dread?

Simple. In high school, during gym class, we were sometimes forced to run around the reservoir as part of the "President's Physical Fitness" program. We would go out there dressed in our sweats and sweatpants, usually in cold weather, and have to run for thirty minutes around the damn thing THREE TIMES A WEEK! By the end of each "session", I would be so tired that I was practically falling down. Our gym teacher would run ahead of us, yelling at us to keep up, yelling at us if we flagged or started walking, and yelling at us at the end of each class that our running times were lousy and we should be embarrassed. Oh, it was fun.

Those are my personal conscious reasons for finding the reservoir a little scary. But another has to do with the movies.

See, I recently saw two movies where nasty things happen at the Central Park reservoir. One is the 1997 movie The Devil's Advocate where a character is running around the reservoir and gets beaten to death by two thugs who turn out to literally be demons from hell. Then last night I finally saw Marathon Man, the 1976 thriller about international intrigue. As the title indicates, it is about a young man (in this case, a very young Dustin Hoffman) who is training for a marathon while also pursuing his PhD at Columbia. He gets caught up in all sorts of nasty stuff involving a scary Nazi war criminal played by Laurence Olivier, and the climatic scene between them occurs in the boathouse (although no real boats dock there) on the reservoir. It's a hell of a scary movie and the reservoir has never seemed so frightening.

So now, thanks to my exhausting high school experience and these two freaky films, I have a Pavlovian fear of the reservoir: I see it -- and get scared for no reason. I see what so many New Yorkers see and think "ahh" and instead think "AHHHH!"

Sometimes life just isn't fair.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please keep it civil, intelligent, and expletive-free. Otherwise, opine away.