What “No Waterslide” Says About The State Of Philly, And Why It’s A Good Thing
BY JOEY SWEENEY
Earlier this month, “news” “broke” — I know we run a lot of them, too, but are servicey events heads-up's ever “news?” — that the traveling waterslide company that wanted to (but didn’t) run a waterslide on the Parkway last year was now setting its sights on Fairmount park. And who knows what it was — the cold I was laid up with, the stir crazy of Philly’s new permanent grey London vibe — but the very idea of all this sent me into a kind of rage about the callous use of this city as a playground for the types of people who need playgrounds the least.
I wasn’t alone — whether you're talking about Budweiser's Made In America or the Chinese Lantern Festival, these are days when the city government is really playing fast and loose with public spaces — but I wasn’t in the majority either. As it turned out, though, philosophical perspective the uses of open city spaces was the least of the Olive Garden Water Slide people’s problems: In a twist so classically “Philly” as to be a kind of sad cliché, the slide was not exactly approved by all relevant city authorities and, in fact, could have even been an instrument of political graft/sidedealing/whateveryouwannacallit. And so it came to pass that the slide is not happening, again. Not in Fairmount Park, not on the Parkway, and maybe not anywhere in Philly ever.
As you might surmise, I feel okay about this. But I also wonder: Am I a little nuts? Because when I looked at the info about the slide in Fairmount Park, my mind flashed to the mugshot triptych of the Center City gaybashers, and to the alt-rock concerts that broke the Piazza, and the awful vibe out there on the streets of NoLibs and Fishtown on weekend nights now. Philly is becoming a privilege playground, and while the factors in the way this is all playing out are too many to list here, how the city allows for the use of public space is a big one. That the new mayoral administration eyeballed the waterslide and thought, hmm, “not a good partner,” shows that this is on their minds, too — at least a little.