Monday, March 24, 2014

Church of Nature

Bugling Spring's arrival

The Church of Nature had just thrown open its doors, and the sidewalk was thronged last Sunday morning with fellow worshippers. I was gob-smacked by this stand of buttery daffodils showing off at the corner across the street from our post office.

Then I crossed the street to discover, in one of the flower beds there, a cluster of hand-sized rocks curving around the historic plaque, inspired no doubt by the dry streambeds of a classic Japanese garden. Fittingly, nearby is a recently planted laceleaf maple with its finely etched leaves just beginning to unfurl--a long-range promise for a vibrant Fall. Newly installed azaleas anchor the other two corners.

All in all, a big upgrade at 2nd and Main. Thanks go, I’m sure, to Debra and her inspired, committed colleagues at Edmonds Parks who create and maintain our city's beautiful flower gardens. Good on y'all!

During the rest of the morning’s pilgrimage, similar new rock arrangements were spotted on the way to the roundabout's flower corners, well sited next to crossed bamboo stakes placed to protect the garden's edge. 

Sweet-scented Daphne blossoms
Around the fountain there was also the sweet scent of previously unnoticed Daphne odoras--three of them, if memory serves. This was one of the rare occasions when I recognized the Daphne’s blossom before I registered its fragrance; my nose has been too occupied with allergens lately to smell much of anything. Even so, as I leaned close to the tiny creamy fuchsia blooms, my olfactory senses rejoiced. 

The Daphne is a tetchy plant; give it well-drained soil and just the right amount of water in filtered sun, and it might--just might--reward you with a few good years of its sweet, early Spring scent.


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Way Late Life Hack

Don't start at this end, instead...
No intention to defame--they’re long gone anyway--but that well-intentioned couple who brought me up failed to clue me in to the best way of peeling a banana. The upshot is that I’ve been flaunting my pig ignorance at tropical gatherings over the past sixty-five years.

After carefully studying internet images of cartoon banana peels, I've also concluded that our popular culture has been abetting this mistake. I offer instructions in this post as a public service. 

Begin here.
You do not begin peeling at the end where the fruit connects to the stalk. You could--sure--but unless you use, and thus dirty, a potentially dangerous knife, you will nearly always risk smushed-up pulp.

Or--before peeling you could bite, instead of slice, the same spot on that perky-looking fruit, but then you have the bitter taste and unpleasant texture of the skin.

Pinch, and peel with natural flair!
Now I know a better way; thanks to recently received wisdom from my knowledgeable spouse, I start at the butt end. Pinch the nipple, peel those cunning flaps back with ease, and look at how securely they gather at the stalk. Top off your accomplishment by tossing that flaccid peel away with a flair and grace that confirms you're finally right with nature!

Call me, “Just Enlightened.”

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Nehi Orange and Pheremonal Funk

Our fiftieth high school reunion is in Tulsa next month, and that’s got me to thinking about an inspiring teacher I had by the name of John Haynes. He taught Social Studies at Wright Junior High and moved on to Edison to teach Freshman English. 

Mr. Haynes was a young guy then, but even with those odd glasses, his bullet-headed buzz cut and sarcastic lips gave him a not-to-be-fucked-with demeanor. I don’t remember much book learning from American History, but stories he told about living depressed, in a New York City walkup, are still around the edges of my mind. 

That such inchoate feelings could be shared and even named, that such a concrete bin of grime and glamor actually exists, and that teachers might have the same tics and appetites as me--these were all revelations that pretty much exploded my pubescent world view.

Mr. Haynes’ class rated high in student involvement. We aped his demonstrations of how to drink Nehi Orange and eat ‘Bama pies like the people he’d met in Georgia. As we eagerly--even if a bit mockingly--acted out its distinctive behaviors, we were learning empathy for an unfamiliar culture.  Mr. Haynes became an exemplar for my own teaching style.

We had other good English teachers at Edison, too, like Ruth Wells. I was a precocious brat and Mrs. Wells indulged me, but she must have done it with good authority, because I still have, and appreciate, some of the perversely obscure work I did for her.

That was the class where a comely blonde sat sweetly in the desk right behind my own, making scholarly concentration impossible. Though never spoken, the feeling I had for her surely oozed from my follicles, joining the rest of the room’s pheromonal funk. 

Even through the wiggling horniness, and my obsessive contemplation of the mysterious reappearing red mark high on our female classmates’ achingly alluring calves, Mrs. Wells persevered. She gave us encouragement to fly with our words, or at least to try. When I study her yearbook picture now, with these 67-year-old eyes--no disrespect intended--but I see serious GILF material. Click on the pic and check out the sensuous mouth, and smoldering gaze behind those cat's-eye glasses. Call the class to attention, Mrs. Wells!

Mrs. Martha Cole appears to be in her late thirties when we were at Edison; she passed on four years ago. I remember meeting with other students at her house--a first for me to go to the home of a teacher! We were working together on a school literary magazine--something right up my pretentious alley. She kept me focused and involved though--a warm, good person and teacher.

I think it must have been Mrs. Cole who encouraged me and Lee Hoevel (AKA Diogenes Brown) to write a play--a political satire--and perform it, if memory serves, in the lunchroom. That kind of tomfoolery kept me engaged for many years in the then-distant future.

If you Google “John Haynes Tulsa,” you’ll find a link to an autobiography you can download from Scribd. His people moved to Oklahoma when it was still Indian Territory and, like my own dad, his father was an elementary school principal for many years in Tulsa. Further search suggests he might still live, or at least own a home, on South Trenton Avenue. 

Good health, Mr. Haynes! What a trip it would be to see you again.