What not to say

Should be posted everywhere.
Should be posted everywhere.

In the afternoon we went to Home Depot, where Dave struggled against his recent overwhelming desire to buy more plants. “Let’s come up with a plan first,” I said, reminding him of his earlier plan to come up with a plan.

By the time we got home with firewood and mulch and landscape bags, I was so hungry I almost didn’t help carry any of it into the yard. But then I saw Dave walk out to the sidewalk to talk to the neighbors, and I didn’t have keys to get inside, so I started hoisting bags from the trunk, hoping it would speed things up once he was done consulting about the bare spot on the parkway that used to be a tree.

“I’ve got a bag of grass seed from last year,” I heard him offer. I lifted out the last bag and tried to slam the trunk in such a way that would make him notice me and want to let me inside. I know I should carry my keys but sometimes I don’t know where they are or I think they’re in my purse but actually they’re in a different purse or sometimes I just don’t feel like it.

The trunk slamming didn’t work. He was still talking with the neighbors, a pleasant woman and man, and gesturing at the bare spot on the parkway. They all seemed to agree that nothing seemed to be growing there. I ventured a few steps toward them and announced, “I’m sorry but I need to get inside.”

“Oh, sorry,” said Dave immediately; and then, “this is why you should have your keys.”

“Yep.” Dave started to follow me inside, but then made the error of saying to the neighbors, “Oh, by the way, I wanted to ask you about these.” He pointed to some flattened plants peeking out from under the tangled coil of the neighbor’s water hose.

“Yes?” They walked up to look.

“These day lilies.”

“Oh, the day lilies,” said the neighbor woman. “Those grow like weeds.”

“Yes, well, I was thinking maybe I could move them.”

“…What?”

“So they can grow,” Dave explained.

“Oh.” Suddenly the temperature seemed to go down. “Well, where would you move them?”

“I’d find a place for them, “ Dave said.

The neighbor couple looked at each other and then back at Dave. “I don’t know about that,” said the neighbor woman.

“I could move them closer to the front of your house,” Dave offered. “I’ve moved a bunch of ours.”

The four of us stood in silence.

“Or not,” said Dave. “I just thought, so they could grow.”

“I’m going to have to think about that one,” said the neighbor.

“Dave, I’ve got to get inside and eat something,” said I.

We got inside and I ate something. Heather stopped by and we went to Gene’s Sausage Shop for a rooftop beer. “Look under that hose,” I said as we exited, “but don’t look like you’re looking.”

“Got it,” she said.

At Gene’s, she told us how her father had planted a whole fence-worth of day lilies, dividing them season after season until they spanned the length of the yard. “But then we got new neighbors,” she said, “and it turned out the day lilies were over their property line. So they dug them up and put in a fence.”

“Oh no,” I said, “your poor dad.”

Heather shrugged, “They grow like weeds.”

Beautiful thoughts

a bay of new blooms
Almost literally.

I went to get my hair cut. While my color was setting I looked at some magazines. I read about People’s Most Beautiful and looked at pictures of Scarlett Johansson and Mark Ruffalo in Vogue or maybe it was Vanity Fair. And I thought about Sherry, the second wife in a play I’m working on, and wondered if she hates her husband’s first son because he reminds her how beautiful the first wife was.

How hard it must be to feel ugly in a world where beauty is pictured all around you. I think this Sherry character feels ugly. I see her surrounded by nail salons, tanning salons, walk-in spas, women’s magazines, hundreds of headlines about best-ever sex and perfect skin now and fashion must-haves for the coming season. How do you combat that?

While my stylist was chopping off all the hair I’d been carefully growing out for months, another stylist put down a magazine and said, “I cannot believe Kim Kardashian is having another baby shower. Didn’t she already have one?”

“I am very careful not to know anything about Kim Kardashian,” replied my stylist.

“I know, but isn’t the custom like, you have one and that’s it? Having another one is so tacky.”

“I don’t know anything about her,” said my stylist in her calm, steady voice.

“Me neither, but they are everywhere. I hate the Kardashians.”

“I ignore them completely,” said my stylist.

“Me too.”

I considered asking, “How can you simultaneously ignore them and know when one of them is having a baby shower?” But that’s the thing about salons. The magazines are everywhere. There’s no getting away from gorgeous women. If they weren’t stacked on every side table, convenient to every fingertip, displaying the latest in hair and makeup and health and celebrities and relationships and fashion, I’d feel shortchanged. I choose the first magazine carefully, page through it rapidly, and then choose the next not quite as carefully. They begin to run together, but I need to get through as many as possible.

It reminds me of being at Urhausen the other day with Syd. It was the largest single greenhouse I’ve ever been in, rows and rows of flowers, literally—well not literally, even David Sedaris isn’t safe these daysalmost literally, as far as the eye could see. I had to walk it twice before I could even begin to think about what I wanted to buy. Okay, not exactly twice. I walked it once and then started again, and then got a cart and started again. Does that count as twice?

The abundance of flowers was mesmerizing. Row upon row of zinnias and begonias and petunias and snapdragons and vinca and phlox and delphinium. I saw a man in the distance, watering things. On my second pass through I came across him and a younger man, setting up hoses at one of the million (I exaggerate) rows of flowers, each in its own long bay, with just enough room for a person and a cart in between. Many in the further bays, like the ones pictured, weren’t for sale yet. I guess they were still growing, or still in reserve. It was sobering, to see how systematically these huge flats of blooms are started and tended. I tried to meet the eye of the older man, first to smile sycophantically and tell him how beautiful everything was, and then to get to my point, finding out whether they carry lilac bushes, but he didn’t meet my eye. He was all business, and his business apparently was to tend the fledgling flowers. Like so many beautiful perfect women in magazines, the flowers were unique and fresh and yet strangely uniform.

It turned out to be a good thing I didn’t find a lilac bush at Urhausen, because my stylist recommended that I don’t buy just any lilac bush. She recommended a Miss Kim.  “They don’t get leggy like a lot of lilacs, and the blooms are very dense,” she said as she snipped away.

“I love the name,” I said. “Miss Kim.”

“Me too,” she said. “Like an Asian Southern belle.” Not too leggy, deliriously scented, mint julip with a lychee twist. Top that, Kim Kardashian.