Thursday, April 12, 2012

Fountains make everything better

There's one word that best describes my running over the last few weeks... it starts with S-U-C-K, and ends with an exclamation point.

Anyone who's been lucky enough to run a run of a lifetime, as I did almost a month ago (read about it here) (no, really, if you haven't read the post about my amazing run in the English countryside, you really should... it'll make you want to go run... outside... in the countryside... in England) knows that the bigger, more epicy the run, the bigger the let down after.

I know I should be running more. Hell, I'm 2 weeks away from a marathon for crying out loud. Ironically, I will be doing a lot of crying out loud, right around mile 22. But it's hard to get up for a training run on the same boring routes that won't remotely compare to what I experienced just a few weeks ago except that both included me, running, on the planet Earth. So instead, I pout and make excuses.

The good news is that this mope too shall pass.

In the meantime, let's talk fountains!

Those who read to the end of the English countryside post, well, good going! Probably took you almost as long to read it as it took me to run it. Sorry about that. But you also know about the new international flair of the fountain defilation campaign.

In fact, the defiling campaign has taken a decidedly "Go big, or keep your shoes on" character. And by big, I mean friggin' HUGE. And audacious.

Take for example the fountain outside Buckingham Palace.

Buckingham Fountain

That's right, Buckingham F'in Palace. Big enough? I thought so.

This was big, really big. And deep. And right in the middle of a huge-ass round about. You might recognize it if you've wasted several hours of your life watching any royal wedding. The carriage with the newlywed royals negotiates the round about just before passing though the palace gates on their way to their rumored ritualistic bath in the tears of the poor. Separate baths, or course... they may be married, but they aren't common.

The fountain is beautiful, but it also has the vibe that at any moment a gaggle of not-very-amused palace guards are about to march, in perfect ranks and step, around the bend and drag me off to Tower of London, which, turns out isn't a tower at all. More like a compound.

I hadn't been so nervous before a defiling since, well maybe ever. The GF and I scoped the photo angles and planned our escapes route, just in case. I took a little extra time to secure my rolled up pants, since the water looked pretty deep. Let me say that it's hard to look like you aren't about to desecrate a fountain when you're barefoot and lingering around a fountain with your jeans rolled up to your knees.

With the coast more or less clear, it was go time. As I approached the wall, a young boy holding his mother's hand walked by. The mother didn't even notice me, but the boy did and he seemed to know instinctively what I was about to do. I gave him a "yep, it's going down" wink, and put a "don't tell your mom or she'll wig out because she's all British uptight and won't understand that this is harmless flouting of societal boundaries" finger to my lips.

As the little boy looked over his shoulder with an anticipatory smile of disbelief and excitement, I swung my legs over the edge and knew immediately that the water was significantly deeper than I'd thought. Above my knees deep.

Four or five pictures, just to be sure, and I was out. No one batted an eye.

On a side note, if by chance you find yourself walking around London with jeans that are dripping wet above the knees, might I suggest the blissfully low humidity of the British Museum... dries them out in a jiffy.

Buckingham, alternate view

What do you do after you've soiled the Queen of England's fountain?

Smoke a cigarette?

Uh, I was being literal. That wasn't a euphemism, but I like what you did there.

The correct answer is head to Trafalgar Square. There are some incredible fountains in Trafalgar Square.

We walked Trafalgar Square to find it bustling with people, tourists and locals. And cops. Bobbies, I guess. Lots of bobbies. Undaunted, we scouted a round a bit to find a good angle for the photo. And then, it went quiet. A bad quiet. The unmistakable quiet of fountains being shut off.

If I remember correctly, I said something like "Oh golly, that is most unfortunate timing.", except way more vulgar.

Like any good runner, I refused to quit. After I finished pouting, and after being assured by one of the 397 security personnel that they were doing maintenance on the fountains and that they would be back on in 20 minutes or so, we retired to a nearby pub.

The Two Chairmen

After a proper pint and some sausages and mashed, we went back to the square, finding the fountains again sprouting forth, and picked the perfect spot. I disrobed, well just my feet, so I guess I dis-shoed and dis-socked, and started to the edge when I saw one of London's Finest walking directly toward me... me, the guy who's standing next to an internationally famous fountain barefoot with his jeans rolled up.

What did I do? The only thing I could do.

I used an old Jedi mind trick to persuade him to just walk on by. I wasn't the fountain defiler he was looking for.

Once the the fuzz was well on his way, in I went. Easy peasy. And not very deep. But still, epic.

Fountain in Trafalgar Square

That was it for London. But really, what more could I have asked for.

Well, I'll tell you what I could ask for... how about a few days with my boys in the greatest city in the world not even 2 weeks later. Sure, that'll do.

I took my boys to New York City over Spring Break. We did the Empire State Building, Central Park Zoo, Guggenheim, National September 11 Memorial, and the American Museum of Natural History, the one from the Night at the Museum movie, but not quite enough like the Night at the Museum movie to meet the expectations of an 11-yr old who really loves Night at the Museum. But that's another story...

Anyway... I have a few fountains on my hit list, and one of them is in Central Park. If you guessed Bethesda Fountain, you're today's big winner.

The boys and I were making our second visit to Central Park, and I pulled rank and put the fountain at the top of the agenda. When we arrived on the plaza, we noticed a bunch of cameras and microphone booms and people standing around like only union workers can stand around. Sure enough, they were part of a crew shooting a TV pilot. Those who weren't standing around were shooing people away from their shots. Undaunted, I forged ahead.

My youngest is the most adventurous of the lot, and always up for a fountain defiling. He even defiled a fountain with me in Milwaukee, but that's also another story, one you'll have to get from me in person. When his big brother's around, he plays it cool, but I knew he'd be up for being my photographer. And as much as they groaned about it, they were all smiles when I got in.

Bethesda Fountain, Central Park, NYC

I was glad to finally get that beauty in the books. I was glad it wasn't very deep because it was quite cold. The older boy was glad I hadn't been arrested.

We spent a good part of the rest of the day playing on the rocks in Central Park. It was a great day.

The next day was our last day in the city, but it was chock full of fun. One thing the boys insisted on was hitting the Lego store at Rockefeller Center. This day would be our second visit to "The Rock". The first was late one afternoon on a mistaken hope that the NBC tours weren't sold out.

On that first visit, I pointed out the lovely, but upon investigation seemingly unattainable fountain down by the ice rink. You know the one... in front of the golden flying guy, right below where the Christmas tree is. Not all the time, just around Christmas. We'd even scoped out the lower level, but there just was no getting to the fountain. Unless...

This day, the youngest, again the adventurous one, said, "Hey Dad, let's go skating." I knew what he really meant. And so, apparently, did his older bother, who opted out of skating. The deal is, there's a rest area for skaters, only for skaters, that is just to the left of the fountain.

In the fountain defiling racket, we call that an opportunity.

Incredibly there was no line to skate, so we bellied up to the cashier. I paid $34 dollars. We got into our rental skates, and there we were, skating at Rockefeller Center.

I'd always wanted to skate at Rockefeller Center. I even got in line once, but half way through the line, my less enthused travel partner (at the time) changed our mind. This time, The Duke and I were cutting it up.

After a few laps, and a fall for the little man, he gave me the look.

"You ok with taking my picture for this?", I asked.

"Sure", he said, trying not to act excited.

I faked the need for a rest, took off my skates, gave the boy a nod, and got in. He took a most excellent picture.

Fountain at Rockefeller Center

This, boys and girls, is a huge get. It took a trip to New York City, imagination, planning, execution, $34, a willing assistant, and a patient assistant's brother. I feel a little guilty for making the young one an accomplice. No I don't. He was more than willing. I'm very proud.

These fountain adventures have buoyed my spirits. I'm getting back on the roads and trails. The marathon? Oh, I've already booked my airfare, so I'm going. And I'm scared shitless. Those hills are going to kick my ass right up around my neck. But that's cool.

It's going to be a beautiful course, a run of a lifetime, and I bet there's a really nice fountain somewhere in Monterey.

Good running,

PS - Those new to this musty corner of the internet might enjoy browsing my interactive Google map of fountains I've defiled.