Montrose Blvd @ Main St
Houston, TX 77005
April 2004–I felt as if I was looking on at a mirage or perhaps dreaming. The fountain seemed to glow against the dark cityscape in the background. Protestors of the war on Iraq marched about the Mecom fountain and stretched their arms into the sky, waving their signs proudly. Candles decorated the base of the Mecom fountain and those held in hand lit the passionate faces of the protestors for all the passers-by. The fountain waters fell softly into its base and flecks of candlelight reflected off the droplets creating an image of a starry night sky.
That Friday’s escapade was meant to be a simple and peaceful outing, just a moment to escape the problems at home and relax for once. Simply going off into my room and turning up the radio was not effective anymore, and my mother had listened to all the relaxing music and books on tape that she could stand. After that Friday in the summer of 2003, I would never think about the issues disrupting my life the same again.
We drove for what seemed like an eternity down Westheimer. The both of us sat in silence for nearly an hour, just riding, no doubt contemplating the very problems we were to have left at home. I was so wrapped up in thought that I neglected to notice that we had gone passed the Galleria and Chili’s. Before I knew it we had even gone on past “Buffalo Exchange” and “Taxi Taxi”. All these appeared to be interesting getaways, but now I was in unfamiliar territory and had no suggestions for attractions in the Montrose area. Time was not on our side as we realized it would soon get dark and that meant we had been gone quite a while. We had ventured beyond the Museum of Fine Arts and decided to turnaround and take Westheimer back home.
It was when we had come to the Montrose Blvd and Main Street intersection that I could see the Mecom fountain a few feet away. Protestors were bustling around, a majority of them young white kids, most likely college and high school students. A few were older but my suspicions lead me to believe they were the coordinators of the event. The held posters with slogans boldly painted across them that read “No blood for oil” and “Honk if you hate war.” I tapped on my mother’s horn instinctively to show support but my effort went unnoticed since our horn failed to do more than squeal. The Houston Coalition for Justice Not War was holding a candlelight vigil in protest of America ’s declaration of war on Iraq and had been doing so every Friday evening since October of 2002. Their mission is to support and promote public policies that are based in the interest of “true social justice, pacifism, respect of human life, and world peace” through a democratic peaceful protest. What better a place to enable the H.C.F.J.N.W. to get their message out to the masses than on the banks of one of Houston ’s most memorable landmarks?
The Mecom fountain came about in 1964, thanks to the oil industry superstar John W. Mecom. As a child John W. Mecom had grown fond of the Warwick Hotel in Houston , having stayed there for some time with his mother while his father was out on business. Once Mecom learned the Warwick was up for auction in 1962 he bought it out for $1.4 million dollars and began renovation for one of the most well known Houston landmarks of all time. In this process Mecom paid for the construction of three fountains around the hotel. A fountain of a “sea nymph” standing on a fish sprouting water from its mouth, three cherubs that “frolic” as six jets rain water atop of them, and the oblong pools of the Mecom in the traffic circle near Hermann Park.
Since its construction the Mecom fountain has been featured in countless tourist photos, wedding pictures, and even in the filming of the 1980’s movie, “My Best Friend is a Vampire.” Amazingly the fountains ran with its original equipment for some forty years, but in 2003 a speculated $300,000 worth of repairs was needed to keep it up and running. The pipes of the fountain had been leaking 600,000 of its 6 million gallons of water pumped per year for some time and should have been attended to a long time ago. However, the leak was not discovered until the year 2000 or 2001 so the only option was to shut down the fountain for repairs, an estimated 45 days. Joe Weikerth, an executive board member of the Friends of Hermann Park, commented “This is small potatoes money for something that means so much to the city of Houston .” The Mecom is not only “one of the most photographed sites in Houston ” but now it had transformed into from a city project into an icon for sentiment and remembrance.
Noticing that the protestors out there on the Mecom fountain were my peers, if not older or younger by a small margin, I began to see life in a new light. I was so concerned with problems that seemed trivial compared to trying to educate the public about the war on Iraq . Suddenly I was overthrown with emotion and memories of all the issues concerning the world outside myself. I began to think of the Palestinian and Israeli war that I had just recently been reading about and shuddered to think how many important things like this I had too soon forgotten. A new sense of hope and enthusiasm came over me as I realized “It could be worse!” I felt guilty for not being involved in movements that dealt with tackling global issues, like the protest, and decided that my contribution would be to never forget.
My experience at the Mecom fountain revealed to me that you should let your everyday behavior be a testament to what you would believe in and take life head on. The memory of that Friday night when time seemed to stand still reminds me of the life lesson communicated to me in that simple glance over at the Mecom fountain.