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Penny Foster, 45, is just getting to her orange. She arrived at the park, located at 11th and Monroe Street NW, a half hour ago for lunch, taking a seat at an old chess table. Nearby, a man washes his blue Buick Skylark, his car stereo locked into soul tunes. Foster has been coming to the park, she says, for 20 years. 

Until three months ago, Penny worked as a cashier at the Giant around the corner. Today was so nice she said she decided to commute in from her home in Lincoln Heights taking the X2 and then the 70 up Georgia Ave. “I stop in to eat my lunch and to say hello to some of my co-friends,” she explains. She is surrounded by men. One is wearing a family reunion t-shirt. Another sips from a huge soda. There are a lot of easy jokes.

Foster knew the park when it was just a dirt road. A lot of her park friends she says have passed away. But there are enough friendly faces to keep her coming back. “The trolley car used to come around here,” she adds. “The playground here has been remodeled three times.”

Today, Foster says, she ate an egg-salad sandwich, apple juice, and a regular salad. While she sat with her orange, she and her friends made a big discovery in the park.

Foster and her friends found that the water fountain had been fixed. It had had a leak. Water was getting through the brick foundation and into the alley. Today, “a Spanish guy came up” and tried the fountain. It worked.

“It’s great,” Foster says. “The water is good. Good and cold.”

Foster decided to give her orange away to one of her friends. 

*photo by Darrow Montgomery. Text by Jason Cherkis.