Let It Grow Organic Gardens

And I resumed the struggle. -Vladimir

Thursday, December 30, 2004


The Thais used to refer to the resorts around Phuket by the number of their toilets.
"That one's 5,000," they'd say. "That one's only 2,000. And that one, 3,000 toilets flushing into the ocean."
The pipes went way out to sea, kind of too way out to see.
I never went there, Phuket. It didn't interest me. I was close by, once. A little town called Phi Phi. It was famous for some limestone outcroppings that were used in a James Bond movie once. In fact, someone told me that James Bond movie started the tourist boom in Thailand. I don't know. Maybe. That, and Robert MacNamara.
There were some prehistoric cave drawings near Phi Phi, and that's why I went. I somehow or another had developed an obsessive interest in prehistoric cave drawings and traveled all over to see them. Even ended up in Borneo.
Now, years, decades, maybe, later, I've forgotten why they held such interest for me. And I've forgotten why I traveled around so looking at them. I'm sure I explained it all very tidily to myself in whatever journal I was keeping at the time.
It's in a cardboard box, probably, in one of the closets. Along with the photos I took. Photos of the paintings, and of the temples that the Thais and the Chinese build around them, much later.
Phuket is off the west coast. That's why it got slammed. It faces India and Sri Lanka. And the Maldives, and all the other places that have been mentioned in the news the past few days.
I stayed mainly on the east coast. Mostly at one of Buddhadasa's temples, in the early days, and, then, down in Sungai Golok, where I studied with Uttamo.
Someone had told me of a cave near Charong, about half way between the two. I found the cave, but never any paintings. The cave was a crack in a limestone formation that stood maybe two hundred feet above the rice fields. Stairs had been built in and out of the cave, and on to the top of the formation. I went up there with the monk who caretook the site. It was late evening when we got to the top, and we sat down on a bench and rested. The sun was real low, and everything was cool and calm. I can't describe the green of the rice fields before us, or the green of the jungle behind us. I just remember thinking to myself, You don't know what green is until you've seen this.
The Thais had mixed feelings about Phuket. Most were proud that their country had a place that people traveled around the world to see. But they also kept count of the toilets. And the prostitutes. And they knew they couldn't afford to stay there, themselves. That's what bothered me most about the place. The economic disparity. I just stayed away.
News of the tidal wave first came for me on CNN, in a truck stop diner. Their reporter was calling from a cell phone on Phuket. My first reaction was, and I type this with great shame: God is wiping out tourists. First Florida, and now this. Insurance rates are skyrocketing in Acapulco....
Okay, that was when I first heard about it. When the death toll was, like, a thousand. A horrible number, but something you can wrap your mind around. Especially on an Asian scale. By the time I stopped for my next tank of gas, the estimate has risen ten-fold. And it keeps going up. Everytime I turn on the computer or listen to the radio or look at a newspaper, it seems to have doubled. The numbers are now incomprehensible. And then, incomprehensibly, another twenty thousand are tacked to the grand total. These are numbers that can no longer be grasped by mere mortals. A hundred thousand members of humanity.... How do you understand that figure? Yankee Stadium times two? All the cars that passed me between here and Little Rock? Most of Woodstock? An entire city of World Trade Centers? The numbers have lost their meaning and it's time to stop counting.
I've lost contact with the people I knew in Thailand. I don't know why and, when I look back, I don't even know when. Over the years, I stopped writing letters and they stopped writing letters. And, sometimes, the whole experience seems completely unreal to me. Like I was never even there. Like it was a movie I saw that I imagined myself into.
Was that really me, sitting on top of a hill looking out at a green that I couldn't understand? Is this really me, unable to process memories of a place I'm sure I lived in? And, is this me, sitting safely at home, trying to understand an imaginably large number of people no longer a part of this world?

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Let It Grow Organic Gardens Seeks Corporate Sponsorship

Let It Grow Organic Gardens is now accepting applications for a corporate sponsor for the 2005 growing season. When your corporation agrees to underwrite all operating expenses for the coming season, your logo will appear prominantly on all Let It Grow products, vending stands, and vehicles. We will also mention your brand name to all customers during each transaction. Our favorite examples are:

"Coke adds life to organic carrots!"
"The Xerox Corporation is proud to bring you these green beans!"
"Read more about organic radishes at Amazon.com."

Act now! Supporting an organic farm is a great way to trick your customers into thinking that you give a shit. We promise profit-motivated farming techniques, global homogeny, a complete disregard for local economies, and, most of all, money.

***This advertisement was written on a Dell computer, perched on a table bought at Sears. Farmer's wardrobe: Liberty overalls and Hanes T-shirts. Hair: Nature's Gate Herbal Shampoo. Transportation provided by General Motors. Catering by Whattaburger. Special thanks to our friends at Microsoft.***

I've Been Putting This Off ...

Walter Cronkite's maid fixed me Thanksgiving dinner.
And it was damned good. All the usuals, of course: turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, pumpkin pie.
The details of the whole thing are now hazy. I should have written everything down right away, but I stop short of name dropping.
It had something to do with the Today show, Walter's new yacht, Joseph Stalin's ass, and some kind of cure for polio. In that order.
I was stuck on my Christmas tree lot on Thanksgiving, and Big Papa dropped by to say hi on his way to Walter's house. Big Papa goes way back with Walter, apparently. Perhaps not as far back as the rooftops of London during the blitz, but, pretty far back. (Or, was that Edward R. Murrow?) And Big Papa stopped back by the lot about midnight with left-overs.
(I can't say enough about Big Papa. And it's not just because he brought me some left-over turkey that Walter Cronkite's maid cooked. But because I genuinely believe him to be a quality individual.)
So, I microwaved Walter Cronkite's leftovers.
I didn't know what to do with the plate. (You're right. I wanted to keep it. Put it on the shelf at home. Bring it our for special guests. "That's Walter Cronkite's maid's plate.") This weighed on my mind. A week later, Walter's daughter came and got a Christmas tree from me. I gave her the plate.

There. I said it.
I succumbed to my temptation to name drop.
And, here, for the record, is my complete list of close encounters with celebrities:
When I was 5, I opened a department store door on Vince Lombardi's face.
When I was 12, I shook hands with Sammy Davis, Jr.
When I was 15, Sid Viscious threw up on me.
(Actually, he threw up on this girl named Cassie who I was with. But I think the story sounds better if he threw up on me, don't you?)
When I was 16, I passed a basketball to my friend Mark Katz. He lunged for it, missed, and slammed into Carly Simon, who was walking past on the sidewalk.
When I was 19, I slept under a bridge with Steamtrain Maury, who was once elected "King of the Hobos."
When I was 23, I was given an amulet by Ajahn Yantra Amaro, who was reputed to be an enlightened being.
My life then went through a dry spell, as far as contact with the paparazzi is concerned.
Then, Walter Cronkite's maid fixed me Thanksgiving dinner.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Home Sweet Home

I'm unpacking.
Stuff is spread out all over the floor - socks and wrenches and stuffed animals and books and pots and pans and spray paint and chocolate and socks and cabbages and bread and socks and notebooks and socks and colored pencils and sandpaper and socks. But, rest assured, each object has its own special significance to me. Especially the socks.
There's something about the way things are draped over the couch ... the juxtaposition of the overalls, the thermos, and the toothpaste ... oh, I don't know - it looks like home.
Everything goes in its own little place now - drawers, cabinets, shelves, toolboxes .... I'm not crammed into a little travel trailer anymore.
There's still kale growing. The clover and the rye look good. The chickens seem like, well, chickens.
The table in the shop is ready to be covered with broken rusty metal stuff - I need to get the equipment ready for next year. The greenhouse is ready to be cleaned out - the weeds have died. Catalogs are drifting in - seeds need to be ordered. The woodshed is half-empty already - more needs to be cut.
The spinach is spinach and the strawberries are strawberries - they survived the solstice. The hoes and rakes are hung on their appropriate little nails - like stockings over the fireplace. Weeds have died in the back field - you can see the hayrake and, more importantly, the Toyota Corona.
Tonka trucks are scattered all over the place. Half eaten crackers are under the sofa. Tricycles are up on blocks in the front yard.
The school bus is parked just where I left it. It leads me to places I don't expect, teaches me things I didn't know.
I walk around the farm and take stock. There's old pieces of irrigation hose and parts of a table that need to be taken to the dump. Old Chevy hoods that need to be put away. Everything needs a coat of paint.
I need to build a greenhouse and a new fenceline. Work on the chicken coop. Maybe build a swing set.
Fortunately, the days are getting longer.

Monday, December 13, 2004


A day off.
I went out to breakfast, then went to the laundrymat, then to a bookstore. I'm on my way to our Oak Hill lot to hang out a bit with my friends there, then, who knows. A park?
I stopped in at the library meaning to post, meaning to fill out some blog notes I scribbled down over the weekend, but I'm not seated in front of the terminal five minutes before a Papa Noel supervisor shows up.
Good. I'm not the only one goofing off.
We're both typing away for a few minutes when our other supervisor shows up ....
So here we are, all typing away at a public library, the ol' blue Chevy parked outside between their company trucks with the Papa Noel emblems pasted on the side.
The randomness and unexpectedness of the encounters leaves me at a loss for words - yeah, the universe has managed to rattle my brain once again - and I am unable to post the stuff I originally had in mind.
No matter. It feels good, all of us being in here together.
Last time we were all together it was in a bar.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Porshe Makes A What?

The West Lake Hills Fitness Center proved to be something of a disappointment.
It wasn't just the absence of debutantes in cute little tennis outfits or the complete failure of the staff to point me toward the jacuzzi. Rather, it was the tastelessness of the lobby decor that turned me off. That, and the friendliness of the sweaty moneyed bastards who are so obviously the backbone of the establishment.
I showed up at 5 this morning, lured in by the promise of an internet cafe. I had high expectations, for the lot I run is in West Lake Hills, and West Lake Hills falls somewhere between Palm Beach and the Hamptons on the social strata.
Good place for a Christmas tree lot, however. Good place to sell a $300 tree.
I've had as much as $700,00 worth of automobiles outside my tent at any one moment. $200,000 in Chevy Suburbans alone, at one moment. Plus the Lexuses (Lexi?) and the Land Rovers and, as though this can posssibly make sense, the Porshe SUVs.
It's a good ol' family outing, Christmas tree buying. Sometimes they bring their Mexicans with them, but, more often than not, they come alone and leave the staff at home to unravel the lights.
They're fit, though. I'll give them that. Having the groundskeeper mow the lawn and the maid take out the garbage leaves them plenty of time for exercise, and they take full advantage of the Austin climate. Joggers and cyclists pass my lot all the time. Then there's the Fitness Center.
Big Papa himself finagled a membership - traded a tree or something - and I was elected to deliver the tree. Somewhere in the paperwork shuffle an extra guest pass ended up in my hands and that's how I got to the Center at 5 this morning.
I had it all worked out. I'd sit in the cafe, sip some coffee, and take full advantage of their high speed wireless. I'd lay low, though. Wouldn't draw too much attention to myself. Keep my back turned to the elite and wait for the tap on the shoulder .... Who am I trying to kid? I never thought they'd even let me through the door, guest pass or no.
They not only let me through the door, they greeted me with smiles and open arms and gave me a grand tour of everything but the ladies locker room.
"So you really just camp out with the trees?"
"You came all the way from North Carolina?"
"How many trees will you sell? Will you sell out? What kinds of trees are they?"
In other words, everyone was perfectly normal, and, despite my preconcieved notions, dirty hands and pine pitch all over your clothes doesn't land you on death row around here.
And the place wasn't as swanky as I had imagined. In fact, I've been in multi-plexes with better carpets. And the lobby needed a facelift and paint was peeling off the emergency exit doors. Still, though, a nice place.
I made my way to the cafe, which wasn't open though the brochure promised it would be. The premium coffee I imagined myself sipping came from an aluminum urn and was no better than gas station swill. And I couldn't even get on the internet.
I long ago lost the illusion that justice is blind or that America is the land of opportunity. All my experiences lead me to the inescapable conclusion that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. All that Horatio Alger stuff is a bunch of baloney. Honest, hard works gets you nothing but blisters. But I learned something important today: your imported sports car and your stock portfolio ain't worth shit when your server is down.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Greetings from Austin II

The question of gender identity gets more and more confusing here in Texas.
First, I saw a pink Hummer with a Barbie painted on the side. Then I learned that the Spurger County School District would not allow cross dressing for nine year olds this year.
"It's a Homecoming Week tradition," the grade school's attorney said. "They've been having it for years, maybe generations."
He was referring to a Sadie Hawkins type of an event, when girls dress like boys and boys dress like, well, you get it. The girls then ask the boys out for sodas or malteds or whatever kids do today.
But, this year, someone complained. A concerned parent views the day not as a silly annual event but as an attempt to push a homosexual agenda in public schools. Officials then decided to cancel the annual rite.
There's a happy ending to the story, though. The divergent sides were able to come together and agree upon a compromise. On Homecoming Day, students of both genders will be asked to wear camoflage clothing.


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