I've spent a few days at our local shopping centre here in Newport Beach. It's called Fashion Island. Though I hear that those of a jaded persuasion refer to it as fascist island. It's not really an Island in the true sense. It is an outdoor marketplace mall that is circled by Newport Center Drive. A development of the omnipresent Irvine Company it is surrounded by some of the most prime business and residential real estate on the coast. A short football pass and you can hit The Four Seasons, the Hyatt Newporter and other high profile destinations. The shopping center is home to Bloomingdales, Neiman Marcus, Macy's Women's Store, Nike Goddess, and a number of other upscale boutiques including one of my favorite, The Apple Store.
I'm not a shopper. Yet Fashion Island is palatable. For the most part it's outdoors. And its layout and landscape design is as appealing as a shopping mall can get. Complete with fountains, a Koi pond, cobblestone walkways and in the season, perhaps the largest Christmas tree on the west coast. Instead of your typical “Food Court”, Fashion Island has Atrium Court. There is a mix of pseudo-fast food and slightly better including a sushi bar, wine bar, gourmet deli and your usual assortment of boutique eateries. THe gelato is especially delicious. Like Fashion Island itself, Atrium Court is circular in design. The various eateries dot the circumference and a large multi-tiered fountain is the center. Nice marble topped tables and chairs provide elegant seating around the fountain. Nearby, a grand piano and live pianist fill the three story Atrium with Carols and sounds of the season.
Each time I've found myself in Fashion Island, the timing has worked that I would enjoy a meal or snack in the Atrium. I try to always grab a seat close to the fountain. Inevitably children are drawn to this fountain. The daring ones climb up on the 3-foot stone wall and teeter precariously while simultaneously eliciting shouts of be careful or get down from there from the parents. The toddlers too short to get their hands wet make googling noises, screams and other non discernable sounds. Those not brave enough to jump on the wall, yet tall enough to get their hands and sleeves wet just smile glaringly back at their parents as they do so. I watch the kids impatiently finish their snack or meal and beg for the go ahead to get to the fountain. I'm amazed at the draw and excitement this fountains brings to these kids. Ages 1+ through 10 years or more. They all are drawn.
I sat their watching the joy, devilishness and boldness of these kids with respect to their fascination and inquiry with the fountain. I couldn't help but think that the fountain represents something new. Something different. And something exciting. It's the youthful exuberance. The raw curiosity. And the infinite desire to sense – touch, feel, smell – that drives these kids to the fountain. The parents? Woofing down tacos, sandwiches, slices of pizza simply monitor the activities of their offspring while satiating their appetites. I truly believe that discovery and the reeling of the senses and the unending curiosity is the key to youth. As people age their senses are numbed and even locked away. I think that if we all take the time to breathe, catch an eyeful and use our olfactory sense more often and more cognizantly we may find the magic in that fountain too. And we may find the secret to youth — regardless what our bodies try to tell us.