It was a day a bit like today—mostly sunny, bright, albeit at least 10 degrees warmer—only a decade ago. I was taking a stroll through D.C.’s Franklin Square. It must have been around lunchtime, or thereabouts. A few scattered park benches were occupied with folks taking their midday meal al fresco. Back then, the park was a much different place. It was not the mecca of mobile vendors you see parked along the periphery today. The food truck thing was still years away.
At the time, I was working as an editorial intern for this very same newspaper. Those were heady days, indeed. The internship was a paid gig, if only minimally. And this was years before the blog thing happened, so an enterprising cub reporter on a weekly deadline could actually escape the clutches of the computer screen from time to time. You had ample opportunity to pound the pavement in search of stories and even absorb some much needed Vitamin D in the process.
And that’s what I was doing. Or trying to. I vividly remember cutting through the park’s diagonal walkway when I noticed a guy lying in the grass to the far right. One arm was tucked casually behind his head. His eyes were closed as the sunshine lit up his face. I watched him let out a big yawn. The man was wearing no shirt, his pants were pulled down around his ankles, and his right hand, well, it was very busy. If a police report had ever been filed on the incident, I’m certain the language would have chronicled the nether-region action very mechanically.
Am I seeing things? I wondered. Perhaps this was the manifestation of some sort of heat-stroke-induced mirage or something. Nope. Sitting on a nearby park bench, a middle-aged African-American gentleman in shades and a baseball cap was also taking in the unseemly action while chowing down on a Big Mac, fries and soda. I walked over and asked the guy if what I was seeing was really happening. He took a big bite of his fast-food lunch, looked up at me and shot a wide grin.
“It’s the PCP, man,” he told me. “Makes everybody wanna get naked.”
Read my final Young & Hungry column at Washington City Paper.