The Wrong Lilies

The Wrong Lilies

Monday, June 27, 2011

Mediocrity just might be a mortal problem

We all encounter it.  The grocery checker who is careless about scanning, so that sometimes one gets charged extra, which means we either never catch the error, or we catch it after we get home and have to go back or swallow it, or we catch it before we leave the store and have to stand in line at Customer Service for a refund.  And there’s the time we had a plumber come to replace an outside hose bib, and he was so careless that the first time I used the faucet, after turning it on, of course, the faucet came off in my hand and I got thoroughly soaked.  Or what about the produce stand we have stopped frequenting, because first of all they don’t give an itemized receipt and we’ve gotten home more than once to find we were overcharged (six items, seven charges, two of them duplicates, hmmmm).  And since the produce stand can’t keep help, it’s one after another of untrained checkers who can’t make change.

Our most recent disappointment was two fold:  first we went to see a movie at a local mall, and while we enjoyed the movie very much, it is also a movie with a wonderful sound track and we intended to sit through the credits just to hear the music.  Except the projectionist elected to slam in an ad for a current pop singer over the sound track.  A few days later we attended a special limited run of the Stephen Sondheim musical, ‘Company.’   Ah, but this was the same theater location where the sound track had been mismanaged.  This time there was an unexplained delay about even starting the film; the screen simply went blank after all the ads and previews and one of the audience members had to go prompt management.  Then all during the film, the picture kept pixilating, as if it were on a computer, which was very odd.  The performance was wonderful, we had never seen this particular piece of musical theater and the cast was literally all-star, and we managed to grit our teeth through the several instances of pixilation.  And then, wouldn’t you know it, when the film was over, the projectionist didn’t bring up the house lights.  We all had to straggle down the stairs  as best we could, helped by some folks (not us) who had their smart phones and deployed the flashlights on them.  We declared the projectionist AWOL in mind, if not in body.  Obviously so was management.

In the great musical, ‘How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,’ there’s a line, “remember mediocrity is not a mortal sin.”  Well, in our manufacturing, in the way we govern our cities, our states, and our country and ourselves, in so many aspects of our daily lives, we both experience and commit mediocrity, and I’m wondering if it may eventually be mortal.  How disappointing.  How unnecessary.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Two kinds of people

You know the old word game:  “There are two kinds of people…”  As in, “There are two kinds of people, those who like chocolate and those who like vanilla; … those who live life on the edge and those who play it safe; …those who see the glass half full…”, and so it goes.  Well, I would like to suggest that there are also “two kinds of people, those who plan and those who don’t.”  As in most instances, even the planners are caught flat-footed at times, and even the non-planners make an effort when it’s a situation close to their heart.   But planners try to imagine worst case scenarios and anticipate.  

For instance, I’m a list maker.  And a check list maker for trips, so that we have basic remedies along and all the many toiletries that have become necessary so we can appear in public without frightening children and small animals.  When we travel, I always take snacks and water along, just in case there’s no appealing place to eat when we get hungry.  When driving on the freeway, I plan lane changes way ahead of time.  When leaving the house for errands, I try to figure out the simplest, easiest way to head directly for the furthest stop and then line stops up so that there’s minimal backtracking, and I try to avoid the freeway when at all possible.  My spouse, on the other hand, often wants to take a free way route that will definitely be backed up to stopping status, because that’s the way the traffic is around here unless it’s very early on New Years’ Day or the other few holidays when people sleep in.   Why does he want to do that?   Because he delights in driving at freeway speeds and forgets, time after time, that those freeway speeds are meaningless when the traffic is stopped and everyone on the left is trying to cross two lanes to exit, and everyone on the right wants – you guessed it – to move to the left.  Because he truly believes that it is faster to go on the freeway than to go a back way and encounter stop signs and traffic lights.  Uh-huh.

So, I guess the final, ultimate expression of this word game would be:  “There are two kinds of people, men and women.”

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A new season

If you don’t like Woody Allen movies, stop reading right now.   If you only like some Woody Allen movies, you might try continuing for a bit.  We ourselves have Woody Allen movies we love and some we just don’t.

The new Woody Allen movie, ‘Midnight in Paris’, is, in our opinions, a true delight.  It opened to intriguing reviews , but in very limited showings at very limited places, and we thought, “Oh, rats,” although we should know by now that limited openings are a common ploy when a movie is not a blockbuster.  Now, we don’t have a thing against blockbusters; we are devotees of the Harry Potter series and are so looking forward to the new movie in July, and we found the new Spielberg/Abrams movie, ‘Super 8’, to be absolutely smashing, in every sense of the word.  ‘Super 8’ has just about everything – terrific actors, an alien menace, and a layered story about coming of age and the amazing connection gap that occurs between children and parents right at the time (adolescence) when such a gap can cause the most pain.  On the other hand, beware of ‘Thor’; it had a lot of the same components as ‘Super 8’, but as they say in Texas, “It just don’t work too good.”

Now back to Woody’s movie.  This movie stars Owen Wilson, who is not a particular favorite of ours, but who is perfect for the part he plays in this.  In fact everyone seems wonderfully well-cast, including the City of Paris.  This has got to be one of Mr. Allen’s most imaginative films and the story is inventive and the scenes are set so beautifully that if one were impulsive (and rich, and not afraid to fly), one would pack a bag and just go.  Of course, most of us don’t stay in the sort of Parisian hotel that has fresh flowers and lavish breakfast trolleys and all that ‘life of the affluent’ background, but that just makes the movie pretty.  It’s the story and the actors who tell the story that are the true delight.  This movie has everyone, from F. Scott Fitzgerald and his Zelda to a couple of the royal residents of Versailles.  And one particularly funny scene involving the latter.

As for us, we found the ‘limited release’ had expanded to a local theater and we found ourselves seeing places in Paris we had actually been, all the while rooting for the hero to wake up and realize who the heroine should be, and enjoying one of those wonderful Woody Allen soundtracks  all along the way.  A really perfect way to spend a too-hot summer afternoon, if you can’t go to Paris.  Sigh.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Ugly, ugly, ugly

It all goes back so far.  Remember in Los Angeles, when Rodney King was beaten by police and later asked, “Can’t we all get along?”  Or back when the Brits (and I’m an Anglophile) burned the White House for spite.  Or back when the Romans stabbed Caesar.  Then there was probably at least one Cro-Magnon event over a reindeer.

Or flash forward to after the 2008 presidential election.   Two very mature people are in a Walmart parking lot.  They go in to shop, they come out to find that their driver’s side mirror has been smashed, presumably in response to a political decal on the rear car window.  The decal says “We did it.”  Just that.  It is obvious that the damage was done by something like a tire iron; the mirror is neatly smashed, while its holder is not. 

Then there’s Vancouver, where one team won and one team lost.  A hockey game.  As if that weren’t the usual result of any game.  Oh, at least most of the decent Canadian fans presumably didn’t behave badly, and in all likelihood the rioting and car burning and window smashing would have been done by demented thugs even if the Canadian team had won, in a so-called ‘team spirit’ frenzy.

And in Florida outside a courtroom, there were ‘groupies’ who wanted to get into a court so badly to see a sad, painful procedure about a sad, painful child’s death, that they were willing, nay, did commit physical assault, as if that would assure them a place.

The ugly may go back forever, but it doesn’t have to keep going forward forever.  We’d better learn how to stop it.  Fast.  All these millennia, these centuries, these decades, and we still haven’t learned the meaning of one simple word:  COEXIST.  That’s another decal.  Check it out.  Try it out.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Just travelling

A recent trip with family to a Florida beach gave ample opportunity for philosophical thoughts about the whole process of travelling.  First of all, it is apparent that our family is incapable of travelling lightly.  Oh, one starts out planning to do so, but then all the ‘what-if’s’ come along.  What if it rains?   What if it doesn’t?   What if we get hungry and can’t find a place to eat?  That latter concern is somewhat strange since we could each of us last for several days on stored resources, but that statement doesn’t take into account the fact that we’d be hungry, and hungry people get cranky, and who needs cranky people in the confines of a vehicle?  So there ends up being an amazing quantity of material to pack and load and then live with for many, many miles.  We were very fortunate on this particular trip.  This trip was comprised of three generations, with the younger generations (daughter and granddaughter) attached to their smart phones and the attendant beeps and chimes, while the older generation (grandparents) tried to patiently tolerate the attendant beeps and chimes.  And as for the music played in the car along the way, well, of course, there’s always the ‘yours, mine and ours’ factor.  But the group also took with us much good will, all of us excited about our destination.
So we got to the beach and unpacked and immediately set about exploring.  We grandparents had been to the area before, so we were delighted to re-visit; the girls were there for the first time and we were delighted to introduce them to all our favorite places and things.  This is a place that smells like herbs and pines and sea air and we all felt better almost immediately.   Oh, the beauty.  Oh, the interesting things to do and see.

And then there is the other side of it all.  Because there is always another side.  For instance, this is a very popular area, with many visitors.  And regardless of the recession and all its attendant woes, it was impossible not to observe that there were lots and lots of affluent people (not us) who had no requirement for frugality at all.  So the prices of everything were startling, even to us returnees.  Now, there is nothing wrong with those who have the opportunity to enjoy such a place, to do so.  Visitors must bring a tremendous amount of benefit to the local folks.  And for all I know, many or most of the visitors may also be generous contributors to those in need.  But it surely was fascinating to find ourselves strolling and listening to conversations about shopping and getting glimpses into a whole other lifestyle.

As for us, our special souvenir was given to us on our way home.  There is an area where the Atchafalaya River creates an area called the Atchafalaya Basin along I-10 between Baton Rouge and Lafayette, Louisiana.  This area is travelled by twin bridges, one in either direction, and they are each just over 18 miles long.  At a certain time as one is headed west, in the summertime, with the sun growing lower, the sun sends a golden path along the water toward the traveler, and it is magical.  One of the many, many wonders one can encounter, just travelling.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Conspiracy Theory

There’s a conspiracy that no one seems to particularly talk about, at least not in a total way.  Oh, one hears or reads bits and pieces, but no one actually comes right out and says that there’s a conspiracy against gardeners.  Think about it.  Gardeners spend the winter evenings planning orders from seed and bulb catalogs and trying to decide what to put where.  In late winter, they’re out there cleaning up the winter debris, and making more plans.  In early spring, there’s a frenzy of activity of planting and potting and trying to figure out where on earth to plant the seeds and bulbs ordered from those catalogs.  But then, in this part of the world, after those wonderful three days of spring, when daffodils and tulips and viburnum and bridal wreath and quince and such have the beginning of their spring show, there will likely come a snow or an ice storm, what locals call an Easter snap.  Now, just a bit of snow and ice won’t necessarily ruin these spring stalwarts, but what will, will be the unexpected hot spell that quickly follows.  “Oh, well,” the gardener says to their self, “there’s always next year”, and anyway, there’s the next season coming up, planning the warm weather annuals and cosseting the warm weather perennials that are coming along.  So gardeners look wistfully at the spring flower remains, and feed and trim and get ready for the next wave.  And there’s certainly a wave, all right.  Days of drought and unseasonal heat, and wind that sucks moisture out in front of our eyes.  So we water and mulch and take it in stride.  Then we get up early to enjoy the fresh, dewy flowers of the garden, to find that squirrels or moles or voles or foxes or some blasted critter have done damage.  Or, we take a twilight stroll around the garden after the heat of the day, and get chased inside by mosquitoes.  And the gardener mulls over the facts:  in the morning, it’s damage control and do it quickly before it gets too hot, during the middle of the day, only “mad dogs and Englishmen” are out and about, and then in the evening, it’s ‘watch out and swat and run’.  Now, with all of this, does the dedicated gardener get discouraged and frustrated?  Of course.  All that work.  All those plans and dreams.  So what does the dedicated gardener do?  Why, they go inside and find a catalog, and think about next year, when things will be better.  Those catalogs, those are the conspiracy!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

It would be wonderful

It would be wonderful to announce that after years and years of effort, I’ve learned the secrets to gardening.  It would be wonderful, but it wouldn’t be true.  Oh, there have been certain lessons learned and as a result, the garden soil is steadily improving.  Some whole areas are doing very well; some are not, yet.  But the main thing I’ve learned about gardening is that one simply never learns it all.

There are a few special bits I could share with fellow gardeners, some passed along to me from books and magazines, some I figured out all by myself.  First of all, even the best gardeners lose a plant now and then.  If a plant is lost, that means there’s a space to try something else.  Try something new every year.  On the other hand, remember that there are reasons why certain plants are grown all over your area:  they work, so don’t get snobby about ordinary plants like periwinkles and marigolds.   And if you really want to know about one of the best garden tools around, get a dishpan.  Just a plain old plastic dishpan from the least expensive local store.  I prefer white, because that shows up well and you can always find it where you left it and forgot it.  I have two, right now.  We use them for everything.   I put a pot in the dishpan (I call it a tub) when I’m repotting or repotting a plant; it catches the spilled potting soil.  It’s great for filling with mulch or potting soil to carry to a particular place.  If I have several small pots, say the four-inch ones fresh from the plant store, I’ll put them all together to water and to hold until I can get them planted.  One of my tubs is cracked a bit in the bottom.  That means that I can put plants in it and leave it out in the rain and it will drain so the plants don’t drown.  So that cracked tub is just as greatly cherished as the other, uncracked one that I keep upside down on my potting bench to cover an old flowerpot filled with miscellaneous old tools; the pan keeps the rain out of the flowerpot, but is still right there to grab when I need it.

These plain old dishpans are a wonderful example of the common items we all have in our life that are simple, useful, and good to have around.  They could even be considered a metaphor for other aspects of our lives.  So many times it seems as though we look for tricky solutions or special equipment, or think our lives would be happier if we had more glitter and pizzazz from the shops, when in actuality what we need is simple things that we may already have, such as a cracked tub.