Friday, November 19, 2004

Buy a rose near the Dupont fountain (but don't wet your feet!)

LOCATION: Fountain in Dupont Circle, intersection of 19th and Massachusetts EQUIPMENT: Yourself, $2, knowledge that urine is sterile

Anyone living in the Dupont Circle area quickly comes to have fond memories of the Dupont fountain, that bread & butter rendezvous point. It's kind of nice to think that if you sat in the middle of the circle, you'd see everyone who lives in the area walk past, eventually. It's a focus point for businessmen reading on their lunch break, bums playing chess, movie-going yuppies, Christian proselytizers with microphones, field trips for folk-dancers from Scandinavian high schools, capoeira groups, break-dancers, performance artists with feather boas and polaroid cameras, hippies passing out philosophical tracts, kiosks selling political bumper stickers, yoga teachers from the Tranquil Space studio taking a fresh-squeezed veggie juice break, Rock Creek Park runners, people with guitars playing Radiohead songs, activists passing out free food, slam poets, Sunday drum circles (although much more anemic than those at Meridian Hill Park), nervous people meeting for blind internet dates, chalk artists, Friday night fire jugglers, and more.

I was there late one evening with Rik, sitting on the rim of the fountain and having the kind of charming and engaging conversation that's inevitable with him, and maybe holding hands, and we must have looked snoogy romantic. A man rushed up to hand me a rose. He turned to Rik. "Ah ha, you're here! I was so worried that you weren't going to show - but look, I waited, and everything's perfect." He looked at me. "Your boyfriend is so romantic!" he said with a wink. "He arranged with me beforehand that he was going to take you to sit under the stars right here at 10:20 tonight, and I would meet you with a rose."

Unfortunately for our enterprising bum, Rik is very definitely gay. We smiled at each other, and then Rik handed the man some money and bought me a rose anyway.* "Points for effort," Rik told him. "That was a pretty good story." The man grinned, and it seemed like he was sizing us up. "Yeah, well, enjoy that rose!" he said. "I stole all these roses off the White House lawn this afternoon."**

Another time I was sitting near the fountain on a hot summer evening with a date. We were having a very romantic conversation about nuclear proliferation, and I was dangling my feet in the water of the fountain. A man ran up to interrupt us. "Excuse me," he said, "You haven't lived here long, have you?" "Uhh...two years," I replied. (I had a pretty good idea what he was about to say.) "Well, you just don't want to touch the water in the fountain," he said, with a disgusted expression. "Bums piss in there! I know it for a fact."

I have to admit that the thought had actually crossed my mind, and I'd dunked my feet anyway. It was a hot night, and it felt so good, and urine is sterile, and after all we swim in the ocean and where do you think whales pee? And anyway the damage was already done! But in front of the combined disgust of this man, and now my date, I sort of shrugged bashfully, and pulled out my feet.

But I still wade in the fountain all the time.

*So I've had spur-of-the-moment roses three times in my life: once from my best friend, once from Rik, and once from my brother. Sigh.
**Which, I'm sure, if the foaming-mouth Dobermans hadn't got him, the snipers would have - but I'm sure it was a crowd-pleasing story around Dupont. That man was a good entrepeneur.


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