Tag: Philadelphia

What Is It About Gardens?

I love parks and gardens, although I’m not patient enough to grow flowers or vegetables myself. I gave up on indoor plants years ago, saying I had enough living things to take care of. I didn’t need another one.

The rowhouses in Philadelphia sit in the shadow of the skyscrapers, yet window boxes and potted plants abound.

These displays take over most of the sidewalk.

I’m not sure what to make of the mismatched tall plants flanking this door.

In Philadelphia, they don’t need to plant in special containers. These pictures of alleyways show what happens naturally. But no one wants greenery to take over like this. Instead they turn vegetation into works of art.

All the homes with potted gardens are an easy walk from a city greenbelt. But no matter how many trees and flowers live in nature or how close a city park is, people want to tend their own plants.

Why is that?

Perhaps it’s something primal. A faint echo of the hunter-gatherer mentality. Growing up, I spent summers on my grandmother’s farm. Each morning we weeded the garden and picked the vegetables for the day. I would eat plumbs and apples straight from the trees in the orchard.

But most of the gardens I see don’t grow food. They are decorative. And, why aren’t vegetables decorative? Last year, something sprouted in my garden that looked like corn. Curious, I let it grow.

Sure enough. Corn.

One of my Facebook friends speculated that a squirrel pooped out a corn kernel in the garden. A distinct possibility.

Not only do we plant gardens outside. Indoor gardens exist as well. I visited the fanciest hotel ever, and the common areas resembled a “fake outside.” Carefully tended vegetation filled the space. Not a bug to be found and no dirt out of place.

I wondered about the purpose of “fake outside” until I stepped into “real outside” on a sweltering August day in Nashville. I went right back into the artificial (comfortable) environment.

Less fancy hotels decorate with large potted plants.

And smaller ones grace homes. My daughter received a plant as a gift, and her attitude is like mine. Too much work. She put it in the window and waited for it to die. After several months when it didn’t die, she found out her husband was watering it.

I guess I shouldn’t comment on other’s people’s gardens. I live in a desert, yet roses and non-native plants grace my patio, creating an oasis for bees and birds. I don’t tend it, but my husband does.

And recently, I filled my home with silk greenery and metal plants.

I don’t know why they make me happy, but they do. I suppose the same thing is true for the owners of the sidewalk gardens in the shadows of the skyscrapers.

Living Large at the Laundromat

Due to unexpected circumstances, I spent a day at the laundromat near my daughter’s apartment in Philadelphia. Not in the suburbs, but in the city. I would say inner-city, but she assures me that her neighborhood isn’t sketchy, and it seemed alright to me.

As a writer, I took pictures of everything. Someone checking the security camera footage would have found me suspicious. But the camera only served as a canvas for graffiti and place to drape extension cords.

Nothing on the outside tipped me off to the treasure trove of oddities that awaited inside. The door was purple. Nothing better than a purple door.

A young woman, who seemed quite normal, sat outside on the steps. I soon discovered why. On this hot August day, the two fans and air conditioning unit appeared to be inoperable. Good thing I live in New Mexico and know how to dress for the weather.

The walls were covered with seventies vintage posters about keeping the laundromat clean. The cartoon character looked like the guy who explained to school children about the four food groups and how library catalogs worked.

An eclectic assemblage of thrift store art work, dusty artificial greenery, and trophies from days gone by decorated the space.

And a rug covered a piece of plywood on the floor. A trapdoor perhaps?

There were normal things too, like magazines and books for people who had forgotten to bring their phone to entertain them while they waited. And change and laundry supply machines.

While there, I had a conversation with an odd man who told me how much he paid for his house (a row house, apparently without a washing machine) and how property values were rising. I kept him talking, because I might write him into a story someday.

Apparently the latest trend in laundry bags are big, over-the-shoulder IKEA bags. Had people stolen them from IKEA? The cute young women with the bags didn’t seem the type. So, I checked IKEA’s website and found them for sale, even listing laundry as a possible use.

I, however, didn’t have one of the handy blue bags. I had a roller cart I’d given my daughter to schlep her groceries from the car to her apartment. A roller cart which sat awfully close to the ground. I had just washed everything. Did I want to roll it for four blocks only inches from the grimy city sidewalks? I lined it with what I had readily available—the giant plastic bag from a Costco sized package of paper towels.

I looked like a bag lady as I pulled it down the street, even if I fit in with the décor of the laundromat.

Finally, I arrived at my daughter’s apartment with the clean cart of clothes. Mission success.

If the washing machine in her new apartment weren’t broken,

and, if she hadn’t gotten the stomach flu while I was visiting,

I never would have had a laundromat adventure.

I take my adventures where I can find them. You never know what will trigger the idea for a story.

I Refuse to Conform

Happy Thanksgiving. I couldn’t think of any fun Thanksgiving themed topics, so I’ve written this blog instead. Besides, sometimes you need a break from the hoopla and the family . . .

and the expectations.

In our orderly industrialized society, it is easiest to put everyone in the same little box. The assembly line forces conformity. I can’t tell you the number of times my son has had to scrape the cheese off of his hamburger because we left the drive-thru without checking the order.

No one wants to be a carbon copy of their neighbor. My daughter lives in a row house in Philadelphia, where all the homes look alike, for blocks . . . and blocks . . . and blocks. They go on forever on streets that are so narrow, it is hard to take a photograph. Don’t get me wrong, her apartment is lovely. It might be called a townhome in the west.

The easiest way for people to express their individuality is to decorate their doors. Red doors. Purple doors. Green doors.

Wreaths are popular way for city folks to express individuality.

My visit turned into a door hunt, like a scavenger hunt in search of the most interesting door. Luckily no one came out of their home to accuse me of being a stalker.

Porch gardens and planter boxes provide variety in an otherwise uniform world.

This reminded me of a time when I was an expert witness at a federal hearing in Washington, D.C. Back in my financial analyst days. Each morning before going on record, Judge Silverstein held a necktie contest for the men. He would select the most unique tie and, at his sole discretion, declare a winner.

The judge told me that men expressed their individuality in the courtroom through their tie choices. Suits are a kind of uniform. Women have more options of color, style, and accessories.

Some of the men tried to win, bringing their craziest Father’s Day gifts to the hearing. Others simply wore the tie their wife packed in their suitcase.

One morning, an attorney from California wore a yellow submarine tie. Judge Silverstein said he would win if he sang Yellow Submarine. He started singing and everyone in the courtroom joined in.

I’ve heard that the young men express themselves through crazy socks.  Here is a picture of my son-in-law with his goomsmen at my daughter’s wedding. And this is one of the formal wedding photos! All of their suits matched when they stood up at the ceremony, but they were very proud of the socks.

Wouldn’t life be dull if we all conformed? We may all come off the same assembly line, like black-and-white photos. But our uniqueness allows our color to pop.

At Thanksgiving when your relatives make you a little crazy with their odd habits and unusual food preferences, remember to be thankful for non-conformity. I guess I touched on the holiday theme after all.

As for me, I’ll find ways to stand out, whether intentional or not.