Just like the end of Katy Perry’s marriage to Russell Brand, it began with a text. “Help,” a friend wrote to a chain I’m in. “Katy Perry left trash in a park.” Above that was a link to a page on Perry’s website that informed me that there was a disco ball chained to a bench somewhere in McCarren Park, a large patch of green grass and tan bulldogs on the north side of Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood.
“I wanna gooooo,” I responded. So I did.
Journeying to the park required me to get off the subway at one of Brooklyn’s most insufferable train stations, where I was forced to spill into an area many people believe to be the epicenter of hipster culture. Though that may have been true in the past, it is now a place where Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts locations share street corners, and $16 cocktails are served in the roof bars of high rise hotels that overlook the construction sites of even higher ones. What I’m saying is, gentrification has caused Williamsburg to become the exact opposite of its long-time reputation—a place that has just enough residual caché to give the illusion of being hip (maybe even alt), despite the fact that it’s become a neighborhood desperate for broad appeal. A place for the masses, not for the messes. Or, you know, anyone who can afford the sky-high rents. This makes it the perfect place for Perry to chain one of her disco balls. All I had to do was find it.
The southwest entrance to McCarren Park is across the street from a charming dump called Turkey’s Nest, one of the few remaining dive bars in the neighborhood known for its unparalleled stickiness and enormous margaritas—they’re sold for cheap and thoughtfully served in styrofoam cups that bartenders all but expect you to exit the building with. Not exactly the place you’d find a disco ball, but oh well. I walked into the park and began my hunt for Perry’s sparkly promo.
For reasons better left explained by a therapist, I took a right at the fork and decided to hunt in a counter-clockwise direction. The lap would take only a few minutes and I was in no rush to get to work (this detour was approved by my editors in advance), but a desire to pay tribute to the ball before all the Brooklyn area Katycats inspired me to increase my speed. While circling the park’s west block, however, I saw only twenty-somethings jogging in fancy athleisure and thirty-somethings pushing strollers while wearing earbuds I assumed were blasting “Reply All.” No balls, just the normal bullshit.
So I crossed the street and entered the park’s east side, where a soccer field is bordered by a running track that’s surrounded by a walking path that leads to a park bench on which I found a regulation-sized disco ball chained with a Master Lock to its front-right leg. I’ll be damned, I thought. I made it.
As I approached, two young women were taking photographs of the ball while holding a sign. The crowd I’d expected to find wasn’t actually a crowd until I, Katycat number three, arrived. “Finally,” I said with a sigh upon arriving. “I found it.” The two laughed politely and immediately sat down on the bench.
“The song is really great. You should listen.” The more talkative Katycat (let’s call her Katycat A) pointed at a small hole in the ball that I assumed was a teeny omnidirectional speaker—like the ones in museums that narrowly focus sound waves (or something) so they can only be heard when directly beneath them. I put my ear to the hole and heard nothing. “No,” Katycat A said as my left ear was pressed against the cold symbol of Perry’s newest era. “Plug your headphones in.”
So I, a true moron, added a third link to a chain that began with a New York City park bench, extended to Katy Perry’s ridiculous disco ball, and then, finally, my own stupid head. The song I heard was fun—a bop, some might say. After listening to a handful of lyrics being repeated over and over again (I honestly don’t remember any of it now), I realized that it wasn’t a full song, but rather a snippet. The chorus, I assumed, repeated over and over so listeners could be efficiently satiated by a revealing sliver of Katy’s new era.
“That was good,” I said to Katycats A and B after removing the headphone jack.
“Want me to take your picture with it?” Katycat A asked.
“Really? Sure,” I said. So I handed the friendly woman my phone, squatted down next to the mirrored piece of social-driven promo, and allowed myself to be photographed beside it by a complete stranger.
“Wanna check? I can take it again.”
“I’m sure it’s fine.”
One thing I learned from this 25-ish minute adventure is that if a celebrity I like (though, to be fair, even one I don’t) asks fans to bolt to a place that is reasonably nearby for the sake of mutually beneficial Instagram-worthy promo, I will go there. The other thing I learned is that if I ever see another big disco ball chained to the ground, I should not gently place my ear to its surface. I should plug my headphones in and listen to a Katy Perry song.