As the downtown offices empty on a windless Tuesday night, the Fens begins to fill with men. A bare-chested runner passes through the Victory Gardens but slows to a walk as he nears the tall reeds. An older man in a pinstriped suit loops back and forth on the paved pathways. A young man in blue scrubs looks at the men looking at him.
It takes only a meaningful glance for some of them to pair up and stroll into the private passageways carved into the mud by the towering reeds. Men disappear and emerge again, flitting through the tall sticks.
But this summer, fear has also seeped along the muddy paths of the Fens. Gay men say there has been a rash of muggings, assaults, and other attacks in the park. And so a group calling itself the Pink Pantha Patrol has begun keeping watch on the park, trying to prevent crimes and stop any that its members see in action. The group’s leader, Donnie Wozniak , has been riding his black mountain bike around the Fens on most nights, and recruiting new members through the Internet.
`Basically, everything’s here," he says. “Sex, drugs, robberies, muggings."
First off shouldn’t he be riding a Brokeback Mountain bike? I do like the idea of a Pink Pantha Patrol though. A bunch of bumbling Inspector Clouseau’s patrolling a park could be quite fun to watch. There are just so many opportunities for pratfalls in a public setting. Unfortunately many of them would probably involve slipping on used condoms in this case.
But not everyone who frequents the Fens wants to be protected. Some, including some of Wozniak’s friends, are skeptical about his mission.
“People don’t like being watched by nobody," says a man from Lawrence who goes by the name Clarita Rodriguez . “He’s going to have some problems with that. I don’t think people need a baby sitter here.
Imagine the nerve of some people not respecting those who don’t want to be watched having sex in a public park. When someone thinks of privacy the first thing they think of is a public park.