Thursday, April 13, 2006

BETHESDA PARABLE

I'm going to post on Hamlet soon. But here's another story I've been trying to figure out ...

Tuesday before last, I was meeting up with long lost best friend Dan Stroeh and his dad for dinner. Dan was back in town briefly to see Hamlet and go through some routine NIH checkups. For anyone tracking Dan’s story: he’s doing better and better. He’s also feeling restless and eager to return to NYC as soon as he can. As we ambled around looking for a restaurant, the storm clouds started barreling in. Flocks of well-starched Bethsda-ites (wtf do you call them?) were scurrying inside to dodge the rain. We had a lovely Thai meal and then went our separate ways.

I was going to meet up with Ben Hill (of Revolutions Workshop fame – also producer of this summer’s fringe-within-a-fringe festival at DCAC) since he was back in town from Iowa City. So I walked across the street to Barnes&Noble to kill time. I got my coffee and went outside to try and catch him on the phone. The rain was still pouring down hard, so I couched myself underneath the B&N overhang next to that fountain they have in front. And then I saw the following:

In the rain, a homeless guy, black, stepped knee-deep into the fountain to scoop up the coins.

My thoughts and feelings in the order I remember them:

One: Holy fuck.

Two: That breaks my heart.

Three: What sent Nietzsche into the sanitarium?

Four: Holy fuck.

Five: There has to be a book/painting/play/poem/film that has used this image. I’m standing in front of a massive bookstore, for god’s sake. Tell me there’s a story inside the store to help me understand the story outside the store.

Six: What do Bethesdanians wish for anyway? I’d really like to know what would make their concrete-and-mirrored-glass playground better.

Seven: I’ve lived in South African townships and I’ve never seen anything this sad.

Eight: Holy fuck.

A couple minutes later, three 20-something guys tumbled out of the B&N. I don’t know if they were military or not, but a) they had matching haircuts and b) they were exactly two inches shorter than me. Anyway, here’s the conversation:

DUDE#1: Hey. Ya see the guy stealin’ wishes?

(Pause.)

ME: Uwuzzawuzza? What? Is that what you call it?

DUDE#1: Why? What do you call it? “Borrowing wishes”?

ME: No. I look at that and I think of the fool that would throw money into water, expecting to buy a wish for a quarter … and how the same fool would probably begrudge this guy that same quarter when that’s all he’s wishing for in the first place.

Dude#1 blinked. Then he and his buddies walked over to the homeless guy. One of them (Dudes#2 or 3, I can’t be sure) pulled out a fistful of change, looked the homeless guy right in the eye, and then threw the money into the fountain. They walked away, chuckling. And the homeless guy muttered after: “Bless you, thank you, bless you.”

I. Shit. You. Not.

Okay, kids. Someone in the blogworld has to have seen this before. Somewhere. Maybe that night. Maybe in art. Maybe at another fountain. I'm horribly under-read, so it'll probably be a scene from some embarrassingly obvious source like ... erm ... Finnegans Wake. The precedent won't provide comfort, but I have to know. Cause if I don't get that, I'm gonna need the names and addresses of the three musketeers.