Sunday, June 28, 2015

Dateline: My Week, or Plums “Я” Us

Yesterday morning I bought tomatoes at the Farmer’s Market. They were the first locally grown tomatoes I have eaten this summer, so juicy and delicious. The ones in my garden are coming along, but still green. The farmer who sold me the tomatoes asked me cheerily, “So how was your week?” I replied that it was, like everyone else’s, pretty incredible with the historic events happening across the country. He responded, “What historic events?” I forget that some people do not follow the news. Some people are too busy growing vegetables to turn on a computer or read a newspaper. If I was that dedicated to growing vegetables, I’d probably have ripe tomatoes in my yard by now too. As I walked away from his vegetable stand, his question echoed in my head. How was my week?

Dateline Sunday. Father’s Day. Ron and I were in SoCal with my children at a family BBQ at the home of my son Akili’s wife’s family. I enjoyed getting to know my daughter’s boyfriend better. This involved trying to understand his enduring love for his home state of Texas. The best thing Texas ever produced, in my opinion, was Molly Ivins; and he didn’t know who she was, which made me suspect he’s only pretending to be from Texas. Although why anyone would pose as a Texan is incomprehensible, so he must be the real deal. A good guy, all allegiance to Texas aside. By late afternoon, those of us left around the table were Ron and myself, Akili and his wife, her parents, and my son Sudi. We found ourselves telling stories from the years of team sports our children played growing up. Sudi reminded me of the time he fractured a bone in his lower leg playing soccer, and I took the recycling to the recycling center before driving him to the emergency room. That recycling had been sitting in a hot car for nearly an hour by the time he broke his leg. If I had left it in the car until we got out of the ER, the odor would have broken his other leg and both of mine to boot when we opened the door to drive home. Ah yes, good times raising children. Why do they remember this kind of stuff?

Dateline Monday. We drove and drove and drove up the state; through the parched central valley, where we saw acres of dead trees in abandoned orchards. Global warming is for real, folks. I saw a bumper sticker that said, “When you throw it away, where is away?” I love that. I’m constantly amazed at how many people still don’t recycle. When we came upon road work on Highway 5, Ron cleverly figured out a detour on his smartphone that saved us an hour or more of sitting in bumper-to-bumper. Sudi was dutifully impressed. Technology is amazing. When exactly did I get beamed into the Space Age? As we crossed over into Mendocino County, I breathed a sigh of relief, as I always do when I return to the geography I love.

Dateline Tuesday and Wednesday. I was buried in the proverbial avalanche of work that follows a vacation. I had a monster grant parked on my desk. This grant needed a new transmission, a brake system overhaul, and a paint job by July 3 when it was due. While this grant was revving its engine in my office, the plum tree in our yard was attempting to break the world’s record for plum production. In the evening, when it cooled down, I picked buckets of plums. Ron took them around town, left bags of them randomly on people’s porches, rang the bell, and ran away. He took a boatload to the local soup kitchen. Meanwhile, at home, I took a break from my grant project to message my friend Jessica, who was on vacation in Iceland. She reported that she had discovered the Penis Museum down the street from her Airbnb. I made the mistake of telling this to Ron, who started whining about wanting to find a tit museum. I told him to shut up and eat plums.

Dateline Thursday. The Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the subsidies associated with the Affordable Care Act. Not only was the ACA finally secure with this ruling, but as subsequent discussion ensued, it seemed that the American public had come to the realization (screaming and kicking, sheesh) that the ACA works. More folks than not are glad that the ACA is safe. I was moved by the photo of Obama reacting to the news. Job well done. I had no time to celebrate, I was too busy working on my grant project and eating plum sandwiches.

Dateline Friday. I woke up to a house reeking of plums. When I moved the plums aside and turned on my computer, I discovered that the Supreme Court had ruled that all states must allow same-sex marriage. Did someone slip LSD into the Supreme Court’s Kool-Aid or what? I couldn’t believe the week we were having. The first gay marriage in Dallas County, Texas took place – I saw a photo online of the two men who  were married kissing. They have been together for 54 years. Rainbows ran riot in my Facebook world, where my gay and lesbian friends and relatives were jubilant, weepy, eloquent. Speaking of eloquence, Obama delivered a historic eulogy in Charleston, talking on a personal level about race. Perhaps the conversation about institutionalized racism in this country will go mainstream at last and bring about significant change. I kept working on my monster grant, but in the afternoon I learned that a complex political situation had evolved that made it impossible for the woman working on this grant with me for her agency to move forward with it. The project went belly-up. (I will still be paid my fee.) I was in shock. I suddenly had no pressing work. I went on the internet and watched Obama sing “Amazing Grace” at Clementa Pinckney’s funeral and was deeply moved. Afterward, I checked my email and discovered that a clinic I approached about partnering with me for a big nutrition project I invented was interested in talking with me further about it. This was exciting news. I have been working on this for months. To calm down, I went out to the yard to pick plums. I brought several bushels into the dining room. Ron informed me he had eaten two plums. “Yes, great, that will really make a dent in this harvest,” I said. I put a notice on Facebook begging people to come to my house to pick plums on Sunday. How could one tree make that much fruit?

Dateline Saturday. I went to the Farmer’s Market and the tomato farmer asked me about my week. I am still answering his question in my head. It started out as a week of reunion in my family. It evolved into a historic week in my country. It became a week of over-abundance in my garden. It unfolded as a week of surprising twists in my professional life. As a week of community connection, it has plummeted (PLUM – eted, get it?) forward into Sunday when friends and neighbors will accept my invitation to come pick plums from this ridiculously fecund tree. And yes, we are making plum jam. And yes, we are making plum custard. And yes, we are making plum salsa. And yes, pass the Kaopectate, because we are making plum sherbet, plum chili, plum omelets, plum sausages, plum salad, plum gravy, plum cake, plum juice, plum whiskey, plum toothpaste, plum paint, and plum carpet cleaner. Because Plums”Я”Us. How was your week? Just peachy, I hope.

Photo by Ron Reed, taken a couple of weeks ago before they were ripe.
Does not do it justice, this is only one small portion of this enormous tree.

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