By Jim McCloskey
It’s attention-getting, so it’s easy to figure out why it’s done. But in this case, my feeling is that just because it can be done doesn’t mean it should be done.
What I’m agitated about here is the peculiarly popular practice of coloring fountain water to commemorate special dates or events. You know what I mean: Think about all those fountains dyed red for Valentine’s Day, pink for breast-cancer awareness month, green for St. Patrick’s Day. It’s a list that seems to grow year by year, with any of a rainbow of other hues appearing whenever some key decision-maker gets a colorful gesture in mind.
As you can tell by my surname, I’m Irish, and I’ve always celebrated March 17 by hoisting a pint or two of Guinness and feeling entitled to let the blarney flow and think about (and sometimes even listen to) sad songs about the home of my ancestors. This holiday experience isn’t materially improved by knowing there’s a green fountain somewhere.
I also celebrate Valentine’s Day, but my motivation isn’t a fountain; instead, it’s the fact that on the first February 14 after our marriage, my wife pointed out that the date happens to fall exactly six months from our wedding date of August 14 – meaning not only is it Valentine’s Day, but it’s also our hemi-anniversary. No red water required.
Indeed, in neither case is my celebration of these holidays aided or abetted in the slightest by seeing colored water in fountains. In fact, it strikes me as a waste of energy, resources and time, mainly because these aquatic commemorations are almost always about dates or events so well established that they don’t really need this sort of trivial boost.
There’s an aesthetic component to this, too, because of the usual lack of color intensity achieved in these displays: In years of observation, I’ve yet to see a watershape done up in a suitably greenish green or a convincing red. At this point, however, I don’t even think better coloring agents would make a difference: My affections are so alienated from these displays that I object to them, one and all.
(I’m not fond of soap in fountains, either, because it’s a form of vandalism. True, there are many fountains that might actually be improved by veils of suds, but I am nonetheless of the opinion that soap-wielding pranksters should find better ways to express themselves.)
As I’ve mentioned in a couple Travelogues, just about the only fountain-related celebrations I enjoy come when they randomly wrap themselves up in bountiful quantities of ice without any consideration of the date or anyone else’s calendar. Through this fiendishly cold winter, I have been entertained almost daily by photos and videos of ice-encrusted watershapes, left to marvel at their quiescently frozen brilliance.
I guess I’m just a take-it-as-it-comes sort of guy: If Mother Nature makes it happen to a fountain, I’m good with it. But if it’s just some dignitary down at City Hall? Please, I beg you: Give it a rest!