Barry Lewis: Do you know what a ‘sliding pond’ is?
“Did you ever hear of a sliding pond?”
A sliding pond?
I couldn’t remember the last time I heard about a sliding pond. It’s been awhile. But not so long that I didn’t remember what a sliding pond was.
“Sure,” I answered my colleague Steve.
We called it a sliding pond. Or was it a sliding pon? Kids in Brooklyn tawk kinda funny. Hard to say if it was pond or pon.
But I knew what he meant and he knew what I meant.
Steve’s from Bayonne. In Jersey. That’s not something I’d brag about. But it was close enough to Brooklyn so that we both knew the same playground lingo. And we both tawk kinda funny.
He discussed this with his wife, who thought he was making it all up. She just called it a slide. She’s from Verona. That’s also in Jersey. But that part’s so far from Brooklyn she might as well be in Italy.
I asked my wife if she ever heard of a sliding pon. She grew up in Neversink. They associate everything with water.
She asked, “You mean a slip-n-slide?”
“No, I mean like a slide. What you slide down. In a playground.” She looked at me as if I was making the whole thing up. “Is the slide in a pond?”
This was bugging me.
So I’ve spent the last three days walking up to total strangers asking them where they grew up — and if they’ve ever heard of a sliding pond.
Folks from the city smiled, shook their head and said, “Yea” then spent the next 20 minutes talking about schoolyards, old movie theaters and places to get great deli.
Others looked at me strange.
They wondered why someone would put a playground slide in water. Then asked if I said “pond” or “pon?” It was hard for them to understand, given my Southern drawl.
Guess the sliding pond is a city thing. Like playing stoop ball. Punch ball. Red light, green light. Or standing in between moving train cars on a hot day so you can get a breeze.
Our sliding pond in the city was both a form of amusement and mutilation. The fun came from climbing to the top of the tall metal slide, sitting down and with arms raised, whisk our way to the end of the ride.
Because these were metal slides that had been sitting in the hot sun, they were also a conduit for heat, reaching temperatures usually found on the surface of a cookie sheet that had been in the oven for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.
Once we climbed to the top of our tall slide and sat down, our bare skin would immediately stick to the metal and burn. As we’d whisk our way down, we’d leave parts of our melted skin still attached to the top of the slide. When we got to the bottom, the pain from the heat of the slide, intensified by the friction on already scalding skin, had children wishing they could land in something that would ease their suffering. Something cool. Water. A pond.
That was it. Kids at playgrounds throughout the city, screaming out in pain: “Sliding, need pond!!”
You know how fast city folks talk. Soon “sliding, need pond!” became “sliding pond.” Or just “sliding pon.”
It all makes sense.
Barry Lewis is the executive editor of the Times Herald-Record. email@example.com