Fish out of water in the park

We spent Labor Day afternoon in the shade of a newly planted tree, upwind from a gargantuan new fountain/sculpture at the center of Confluence Park, rechristened post-9/11 as America the Beautiful Park. Perhaps our city councilmen were thinking that Katharine Lee Bates, looking down from Pikes Peak, might have been describing just the spot where Fountain Creek meets the Platte, before the city spread out. Now this land sits in the lee of our coal-fired power plant, until recently a lowland neighborhood of unpaved streets and homes with sofas on their porches. If the rest of Colorado Springs residents dared to drive into this white 9th Ward, before it was razed, we would have noticed the bare feet of the unemployed I’m sure.

Our city’s perfect dry high altitude protects our homes from Orkin pests. The lone exception is the area surrounding the steaming cooling towers. It is notoriously roach infested. Perhaps it’s best that the humidity now feeds a vast public lawn between a riverfront trail and railroad tracks.

(We receive two coal trains a day along this track, and when Ft Carson deploys its heavy armor, this is the place to see it. You feel the gravitational pull of the endless procession of Abrams tanks, as impressive as the now-interminable first tracking shots of the Star Wars battlecruisers.)

We stared up into the cloudless sky and thought about our city’s ideal environment, unmarred today by its poor crackers and poorly educated nuts. The park was none-too-crowded, regulated by its access and limited parking. Plenty of adults and children were playing in the fountain, but not too many so as to crowd our blanket. The park seemed a perfect example of successful gentrification of the wrong side of the tracks, but for one point.

There’s something about animated water sculptures that gets in my craw, and today I caught a glimpse of what it is. The Julie Penrose fountain in ATB Park, which resembles a large Hotwheels loop-de-loop, and the downtown Uncle Wilber Fountain, are two popular public works which draw children in the summer days, to splash about in the heat. They’re public art with a practical application I suppose. Squinting into the watery mist, I recognized that application: the hijacked city fire-hydrant.

Middle class America left the jacking of hydrants to the land-locked urban neighborhoods, preferring to build public pools for their children. Swimming pools could provide respite and recreation, plus physical exercise and jobs. The fire-hydrant, as I saw today, is a throwback to not much for your money. It’s running through the sprinkler for cement bound fat kids. Exuberant, elated, screeching with glee, none-the-less fat children acquiring no aquatic experience, their energies taxed for nothing, offered poor prospects and a poor excuse for an afternoon.

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Eric Verlo

About Eric Verlo

On sabbatical
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