Portland's fountain of youthful indiscretion

The old soap in the public fountain prank is pulled, but this time the guy gets caught and is plastered all over the Internet.
Crosscut archive image.

Clockwise from top: The Ira Keller Forecourt Fountain in Portland; the alleged perp as depicted on the Web; and a kid frolicking in suds on YouTube.

The old soap in the public fountain prank is pulled, but this time the guy gets caught and is plastered all over the Internet.

You know what they say: There's nothing like soap in a fountain to bring people together. When a 19-year-old, clearly a few songs short of a full iPod, dumped soap into downtown Portland's popular Ira Keller Forecourt Fountain the other night for fun and got caught, the blogs overflowed as fast as the tiered water attraction. This particularly low-effort vandalism happens a few times a year and costs close to $1,000 a pop to clean up, since the 75,000 gallons of water must be drained, cleaning of the pools done, then refilled. It is a common enough occurrence that some tourism Web sites actually note the soaping as a feature of the fountain. People even entreat their kids to hop in so they can be videoed in the suds for YouTube posterity. This latest citizen outpouring is thanks to Portland Water Bureau's blog (the only utility in the country to have one, and the only one chronicled on Crosscut), which posted a photo of and named the arrested and charged soap-wielding guy, warning others who consider vandalism that they'll be outed the same way. So far, everyone online seems to be united in disdain for the soaper, a minor miracle in a city where contrary commenting online is practically a competitive sport – and where use of surveillance cameras can bring out a bit of anti-Big Brother sentiment. (Prolific local blogger Amanda Fritz did raise the question – on Blogtown PDX on the Portland Mercury's site – of the ethics of showing and naming the bad boy before he was convicted.) Blogtown PDX helpfully tried to balance things out by posting photos of the Water Bureau chief and a city commissioner, too. Oregonian reporter Andy Dworkin wins the Best Tiny History Lesson in a Lead Paragraph Award: In a 21st-century take on the pillory, Portland's Water Bureau used its Web site Monday to post the name and photo of a teen cited for putting soap in the Ira Keller Fountain downtown. The Metroblogging Portland site repeats the soaper's name, as most of the postings do, and asks if anyone knows him. You know that doesn't bode well for the perp. Outside.In is helpfully mapping the stories on the fountain-soaper outing as they pop up. If anyone should have rights to the last word on this, it might be commenter "Patrick" on Blogtown PDX: "It's amazing how badly people treat this fountain," he wrote. "When I was homeless I felt I was very lucky to have it as a place to stay cool in the water during the summer."


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