Phoenix Park's dirty secret

2017-01-18 18:28

Papal Cross at Phoenix Park where Pope John Paul II delivered a sermon to over a million people in 1979

Phoenix Park, the largest enclosed urban park in Europe has a nasty secret. Home to fallow deer, President of Ireland, and the US Ambassador, the park has a lot to offer visitors. Families love Dublin Zoo while Dublin fitness enthusiasts run and cycle around the park.

Coming from Cape Town with Table Mountain National Park, Phoenix Park became the only place near the city centre where I could go for a walk. Bray and Wicklow are even better but far from the city centre. So Phoenix Park offered  'proper' nature walks in the city.

I was very surprised to learn about other visitor attractions in the park. One of my friends asked me what I did over the weekend. I told him that I went shopping in the morning and went for my usual walk at Phoenix Park in the afternoon. "Oh you were cruising", he said. I never paid much attention to it until someone else mentioned the word cruising in response to my walk at Phoenix Park. Then I asked what that means because I have heard the word before.

I was shocked to learn that cruising at Phoenix Park means looking for sex with men. As a gay man it probably made more sense to my friends but actually I grew up in a rural village in Mpondoland. Mpondoland is one of the most beautiful parts of South Africa where long walks were a big part of my childhood from walking to  school, walking from village to village, to bird hunting with other boys. And I lived in Cape Town for 14 years exploring Table Mountain National Park. I completed the 50km Cape Times Big walk because I love long walks, even better in nature. So cruising at Phoenix Park? No dear, I went for a walk.

Apparently a lot of men in Dublin enjoy cruising at the park. Married men who want discreet encounters with other   men or prostitutes taking over at night. This explains the condom and lube packaging that can be seen in some trails at the park. I never thought much about it until I learnt about 'cruising'.

Look, sex is a wonderful thing. I wouldn't tell anyone to stop having sex. Especially since I come from a city where a 71 year old man was arrested for having sex on the highway . I am glad people are sensible enough to use condoms but I want to be able to walk in the park without seeing used condoms.  I just wonder how parents who take their kids out for a walk in the park explain the sight of used condoms. Its disgusting. So have sex at Phoenix Park, keep using condoms, and dispose of them properly. The next time I visit the park, if ever, it would be nice not to see traces of your 'cruising'. I hope there is no 'cruising' in Dublin mountains because that is where I'll be walking from now on.

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