Bernie's Birdship

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Meet the People

Yesterday when I went to water my garden, the hose wasn’t in its usual place. It wasn’t coiled in a haphazard pile in the middle of the garden, sitting in a mess of stinky rotten tree berries abuzz with clouds of drunken flies, its very end crimped and held folded down with a chunk of cement so that water wouldn’t be constantly flowing out. Nor was it to be found strewn at the base of the new Snowflake Cherry tree, which is where me and that Chinese lady gardener deposit it after we’re done watering so that the tree can get a drink (those cherries are always so thirsty!).

Instead, I followed the hose over the chain-link fence that separates Turtle Park (my community garden) from the backyard tent church property next door. The hose seemed to be going directly into the tent! I gripped the hose and started to pull it back over to the garden side, getting dirt all over my b-casual skirt and shirt and all over my arms and hands. This was working fine until I felt some resistance and then a sharp counter-tug. I stopped pulling and looked at the hose- someone was on the other end! I jerked the hose back. Another counter-tug!

Looking into the church tent, I noticed a man noticing me holding the hose. I made my usual hand gesture for “what the fuck?” where you hold your fingers all together like you’re gripping a hat brim or something and shake this configuration at someone. It can be accompanied by “que cosa?” I mostly use it for driving fiascos and clusterfucks, but its can pretty much be used in any situation and is universally understood as “what the Hell are you doing?”

Seeing this, the guy made a big production of dropping the hose and holding his hands up, like “OK garden girl, here’s your precious hose” which was totally unnecessary. My hand gesturing was so laconic and lazy that his response was unwarranted. When used in this Italian-mom-amazed-at-the-weirdness-of-kids kind of way, it can imply, “hey, what are you doing/can I help with whatever you're doing that you probably shouldn’t be doing?” Whatever. I pulled the hose in its entirety over the fence and began watering, keeping an eye on the dude across the fence, who I figured to be some sort of construction guy who was using the hose to fill some barrel weights that were holding the church tent up. He went about his business.

I checked my pumpkin, which was making yet another run for through the fence, and yanked it back (mumbling, “I didn’t think so” to it) and tried to maneuver the vine so that its next growth spurt would go into the garden instead of out of it. My tomato plants have begun sprouting tomatoes, and the peppers are also starting to produce. All my watering is beginning to pay off!

Mid-water, the construction guy walks up to me on the other side of the fence, and holds his filthy hands over. “Some water for wash my hands” he says. I go to hand him back the hose, but instead of taking it from me to wash his own hands, he kind of puts his hands into the water stream as the hose approaches him and starts rubbing his hands off, making no attempt to take the hose from me. So there I was, holding the hose for him to wash his hands. Now I really felt Italian-mom. “I am washing your hands,” I thought. “This is community gardening at its best.”

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

The Church and the Garden

Finally some much needed rain after weeks of drought here in Chicago. I imagine my tiny community garden plot is happy to receive a midnight watering.

The pumpkin vine keeps reaching through the chainlink fence that backs the garden, and into the yard of a local community church. Each time I yank the vine (gently) back to the garden side, I feel kind of bad, like I’m stunting my pumpkin’s yearning for the Gospel or something. But if the fruit grows on that side of the fence, I forfeit ownership. My pumpkin could be consigned into a life of no drinking or dancing (I suspect the church is Baptist), eliminating my plans to grow it up on beer and wine and take it to parties.

A few weeks ago I was up early and hungover and went over to water the garden (second only to watching ducks for a hangover cure). A guy in the church building was blasting some inspirational gospel music through his open window, and I could see him straightening up his tie and singing out “Halleluya” and “Amen!” along to the music as he got ready to deliver a sermon in the backyard tent.

Every time I’m watering and there’s a sermon going on, its always like 3 people on folding chairs and a bunch of ROBINS and HOUSE SPARROWS in the tent. Perhaps I should let my pumpkin run free- if it grows to be 200 pounds like its supposed to, it could make up 25 percent of an average church tent audience (maybe more).

Its going to be really heart-breaking when it gets eaten by a jillion mutant rat-tailed squirrels before it even makes it to its 30 pound adolescence….