Growing up in the South Bronx conveys and evokes some universal meanings and images to many. There is the image of the “Bronx is burning”. There are the little casitas of the neighborhoods-the huts that looked like the rural parts of Puerto Rico. There were also the ubiquitous handball courts. Which were basically every wall of the abandoned buildings that dotted the landscape. Oh handball. Just thinking about the game makes my palms red and itchy. People in the suburbs were lucky that they got rackets. We had our hands. Made us tough.
The toughness often meant we were running hot. There were no swimming pools to go to. There were just fire hydrants. We would open them up and run through the streams. Kids and adults, alike, would take turns holding a cup in the fire hydrant’s water stream so that one could have the water go up high. It was literally our fountain of youth. At some point, the fire trucks would come and turn off the hydrants. We would all wait a bit and then someone, somehow was able to turn the hydrant back on. Cars would pass under the stream as well as a proxy car wash. We did what we had to do. I remember so well the screams of laughter and joy as people went under our so-called fountain.
I do not think I would ever do that again. I am older and I do not think I live in areas now that would tolerate such water waste. I mean we get reminded on the LA freeways that there is a drought.
I left the fire hydrants behind. However, I never left behind the dream of running through fountains. When I first watched the grand Fellini film “La Dolce Vita” , I knew it was a true cinematic film. What caught my eye and interest, however, was that scene of Anita Ekberg gliding through the Trevi Fountain. It was glamorous, grand and glitzy. I wanted to one day be there and throw coins into the fountain wishing for the biggest wish. I wanted to one day run through the waters of a true fountain.
I did find myself there years ago. Rome is a city one must walk and experience in the moment while remembering all the old movies that glamorized it. You never forget history while there. Even cinematic history. The Trevi fountain in real life, was crowded, small and inaccessible.
It was inaccessible when contrasted with that Ekberg scene. I was there at midday instead of at night. However, I doubt it would have been any more accessible. One thing that was cool was that the kids there were just as happy ad joyful as the kids in the fire hydrant in the South Bronx.
A fountain, regardless of where and how it is construed brings hope and laughter to kids.