Archive - May 2012
Here you have it folks, fundamentalist Christian love in action. Isn't it just hilarious?
They are not nice people. And they're all over.
And sometimes their faith just ain't enough. I wonder what sort of twisted explanations will be doled out at that funeral? I suspect "we were really stupid," won't be one of them.
Here are 11 guys, 7 of whom are riding bikes from International Falls to Key West, FL in order to raise $175,000 for Alzheimer's research. Two of the guys are driving vehicles and two just came for the first leg of the ride today and will be going back to Kentucky. Their website is here.
The eleven are fraternity brothers at the Western Kentucky University. I met four of them at the Alzheimer's Advocacy Day in Washington, D. C. a few weeks ago.
What a decent and enterprising crew. I had the fun of playing host to them in Bemidji this afternoon.
They called me "sir."
Hey, that doesn't happen very often! A little Southern graciousness is a good thing.
The bunch spent five days in International Falls getting ready for their trip and seems to have had some fun there. Some 50 locals sent them off this morning.
Will Garcia, second from the left, is in charge of making the arrangements for places to stay. He Googles for churches in the towns where they are headed and calls to see if they can stay in the church. So far, so good. They were treated well in International Falls and spent several days camping at the United Church of Christ.
If they get rejected in the first call, Will just calls another church. I told him that is about as excellent a training for life as you can get, calling and asking people for things, and dealing with the inevitable rejection without becoming homicidal.
I was especially impressed that they are visiting nursing homes and memory care units in the towns they visit. I am going to ask them at the end to give a comparative rundown of what they have seen. They really were impressed by the place in International Falls.
I was unable to round up a crowd in Bemidji as my connections are limited and it is a holiday--but I hope to write up an article about their trip pretty soon.
I agree with this article about the loss of communal singing ability in this country. I notice we still have some left up here where choral traditions are strong, but singing is under attack.
When Gabby Giffords was shot in AZ a year-and-a-half ago, I was in Tucson and attended a vigil at the hospital where she was taken. I didn't say so at the time, but the singing at that vigil was awful.
It came fast this year, despite the long, drawn out spring. Just today, things calmed down a great deal at the nursery. It has been a crazy four weeks of intense business.
I am a little laid up with tonsil swelling, and I shared as much with Aunt Olla on the phone (as I mentioned below)--but now I get a call from somebody at the Hilton who announced, "I hear you're having throat surgery!"
I think I need to issue a clarification. Something got lost in translation.
Actually, I would love to have my tonsils removed, but nobody does that to middle aged people any more. They're worried you'll bleed to death.
I haven't written about the Twins this year due to their pitiful state, but I have enjoyed watching a few games before they got out of hand. Their descent into mediocrity started with the decay of their starting pitching. Everything starts and ends with starting pitching, and the Twins haven't got it.
The upcoming week is always one of the most challenging of the year. The week before Memorial Day almost outranks Christmas as my least favorite time of the year.
The weather turns towards summer. That means there is suddenly unlimited outside work to do. I don't take a large part in the outside work at the nursery, but I do have a couple of projects in town that I am slated to complete. And my yard needs some attention. A person could trim and mow for weeks and not get it all done.
The drama of the build-up for the nursery season is simply over. Although there is still part of the season left, we made it. The plants didn't die, the people still came, everything went fine. At this point in the year, we already know that we'll be okay. It is a huge sense of relief, one we haven't felt for two years.
So, the adrenaline stops flowing at just the time you could use a boost.
At about the 80% point in the season, which we have just passed, the average customer IQ takes a bit of a dip, to be frank. Although 98% of the people are still wonderful, some real slackers start to show up with problems or expectations that make your jaw drop. It really takes effort to restrain my smart-aleck impulses.
Yesterday, I sat on the phone for a long spell with a woman who was debating with her husband in the background over who should come and get her 12 geraniums. I didn't particularly care who came to get them, but there was no polite way of excusing myself from the debate. Finally, she asked me if I could keep an eye out for her sister-in-law and send the geraniums home with her. I didn't know her sister-in-law from Eve. I said that would be pretty difficult. Well, couldn't you have the people at the till watch for her check? No, I don't think that will work, I said. We just have too many people coming through. Finally, it was resolved that they would drive over themselves, but oh what a difficult decision. It was all the more comical because they live less than five minutes away!
Then there are the "could you set aside a six pac of tomatoes?" requests. We have plenty of tomatoes. But people think it best to call ahead and have some "set aside." Well, that is a problem. You can't just bring them up to the till because they deteriorate within two days and they need water. You have to take them back to the set-aside greenhouse and you have to put a tag in them. Then you have to write it all down on a clipboard up by the till. What usually happens is people come, see there are plenty of tomatoes and pick them out without asking for the ones which were set aside. At the end of the season, we end up with a bunch of set-aside plants that are orphaned. We call the people. Are you coming? "Oh, I got those a long time ago!" they answer--and we have to throw the six pac they set aside which is now overgrown. Multiply that by several dozen and you get a real drain on time and resources, to say nothing of morale.
So, I have to try to delicately refuse to set aside things and tell people if it is here when you get here, you get one, if it is not, you are out of luck. Get here soon!
I think the powers that be at the nursery (which still include myself, nominally) would be upset if they knew how many times I answer a request for an obscure plant by saying, "No, we don't carry those" just to avoid having to sprint back to the greenhouse and actually find out. When you have 500 or more items, it is impossible to remember them all. And I only care about the best 200 of the 500. That's how much of a horticulturist I am. So, when they start with the obscure stuff, my eyes glaze over and I long to take a nap or at least get of the phone.
"Do you have Empress Tree of China?"
Nope, doesn't grow here. Sorry.
Chances are pretty good I am right.
Anyway, the other things which make this time of year somewhat trying are graduations and weddings. You have these hugely overblown life celebrations which cause people to want everything to be perfect so that they can present their lives as perfect. It is all an illusion, and an unhealthy one, but the rest of us are obliged to go along with the charade and at least send a card or show up in a suit on a hot day, or help them get the perfect flowers that won't wilt before Saturday.
I regard most such celebrations as a narcissistic indulgence in pure myth.
Memorial Day is a salubrious holiday, but even that has an element to it that makes me cranky: We get calls from people who have us put planters on graves of their loved ones. Well, that's fine. However, some of them want to go all out and have their parents' grave be the nicest looking in the graveyard, covered in all kinds of plants that don't grow here--oh, and the plants have to be deer-proof! And they have to last all summer and provide color! I don't care how much it costs!
Not only are such requests impractical, they are infuriatingly vain. The real goal is to one-up everybody at the cemetery. Or to make up for the guilt of not visiting the parents when they were alive.
So, this week has always been one where my cynical outlook has to be repressed even as it is faced with a torrent of human stupidity. Some days the world seems so unredeemably crazy you just want to go home and chew on the corner of the sofa like a dog.
Because I am a little under the weather, I decided to call Aunt Olla today instead of stopping by the Hilton. She was in great spirits. She was still savoring a bus trip yesterday.
"Of course, my brain is completely shot," she said. We both sat on the phone and quietly laughed after she said it. It is only partly true, of course, but there is no denying that in the past months it is simply getting more difficult for her to find the words. Her memory for visits and days of the week and activities is impeccable, but when it comes time to tell a story, she gets the general feeling, but the specifics are hard to come by. This is a bit frustrating for her, but Olla's attitude remains positive and happy.
We had a great time a week ago going over some pictures drawn by a Head Start class run by the grand-daughter of one of Olla's students at District 29. The kids are so sweet and draw pictures of what they think Olive looks like and write in kid language how much they love her. Showing Olla those cards was fun--Olla shook with laughter. Very sweet. The kids have never met Olla, yet they send cards at every major holiday and those cards are so heartfelt.
"I couldn't have it better," she says over and over. She is enjoying the gold finches which have settled on the feeder outside her window.
Contentment is a great gift, especially when you are 100 years old and in a nursing home.
With the death of Fertile stalwart Alf Eide, I can't think of any of the old mid-century Main Street businessmen who are left. Alf and his brothers ran Eide's Store in their own inimitable fashion, with a stoic philosophical detachment. If you were in a hurry, best go elsewhere, for the Eide boys took...their...time. A solid citizen of the kind they don't make any more, Alf could be relied upon for droll observations on the passing scene––if you could hear them.
"Ah, the joys of old age," he mumbled to me last fall as he struggled into a booth at the cafe.
Alf will be missed. He really was one of the last remaining pillars of Fertile's old Main Street. Given his tremendous reserve, at least in public, it was always fun to see him smile or laugh and betray what I suspect was a deep sense of humor about the absurdities of existence.