Good golly, do I love ping-pong! I was walking to school last spring, when I noticed a ping-pong table squat in between The Dog Park and the water fountain in Tompkins Square Park that hadn’t been there the night before. In between classes, to relieve some stress, I would find myself meandering to the ping-pong table to play a few games. It wasn’t until the following summer when this humble past time became an all-encompassing state of mind.
I had the privilege to meet and play Alan Good, CEO of Hendge Inc. while playing at the ping-pong table in Tompkins. Alan would come around on his bike to give the players extra ping-pong paddles and balls to keep at the table. His mission was to establish a space for the community; he did this by placing an architectural structure in a part of the park that received heavy foot traffic in addition to providing the necessities to get your game on.
The community ping-pong table brought together many individuals from the neighborhood that summer. I met tons of people that were more-than-willing to teach you how to be proficient at the game; not to mention, that in the beginning of the summer, my style was pretty lousy, yet- by the end of the summer, I too was able to teach others the tricks-and-trades of table tennis.
The ping-pong table in Tompkins taught me an understanding about the Lower East Side that I probably wouldn’t have come across if I didn’t participate someway in the community. Plus, the game itself is an amazing tool to learn about a dialogue between two people.
For instance, my friend Christian used to play ping-pong in Haiti growing up. Christian told me stories of how he would have to pay to play ping-pong in a gym whose admission was most of his wages. Therefore, one had to learn very quickly to stay on the table. Moreover! if you became too efficient at the game, you would have to play the owner of the facility, who Christian said was unbeatable.
Christian taught me how to serve the ball like a pro and how to cut the ball so it goes into a backspin that would be difficult to catch.
My friend Enrique, who has lived in the Lower East Side for over thirty years, and who is a king at the table because his style is in control and concise, taught me how to play defensively and also taught me the necessity to keep focused.
I met a lot of friends last summer who I still keep in contact with today. And because the weather is getting nicer, I’m excited to start playing with again! The city has many places to ping-pong: Bryant Park, Roosevelt Island, Riverside Park, Sara D. Roosevelt Park, and the Luther Gulick Playground in China Town. There are also indoor facilities like Fat Cat and that one place near the Financial District… but quite frankly, there is nothing like playing in the open air with your neighbors.
Usually you have to wait in line to get up to the table, but this is one of the best attributes about playing outdoors with the community; plus, when you finally get up there to play, you play your best.
Katheryn, The Cooper Union
Check out my blog!
Click here to download the Campus Clipper iTunes App!