The Gardener Returns, A Dialogue, Part Ten E

Later in the month of September, on the night of the day following the board’s nearly unanimous consent to the President’s wish to convert the garage, where Total Power’s man once kept his cars, into a visitor’s center, where the Institution’s growing sales division could house its shop, the Gardener sees the Porcelain Man for the second time. But before describing his dream ushered in on the first cold front of the season, we need to take a last look at Morning Glory’s jungle garden in the Elevator Shaft. Since the installation back in June countless pages overflowing with words, many of them belonging to Morning Glory, have described it with enthusiasm. Photographs filled local and national newspapers, art journals and garden magazines, not to mention all the cell phone pictures exported from visitors to friends. It caught everyone’s attention. It was the latest thing. The critics said it brought gardens and art at long last into the same arena. I might add that it brought literature into the arena as well. In his book which quickly followed the dissemination of his DVD, Morning Glory laid out the problems he faced and the solutions he utilized. He described his bathroom epiphany before the mirror while shaving which guided him in the creation of his ode to the Great Wall and the River Slang – we heard it all last spring. To apply an ancient metaphor, the book sold like hotcakes. So we know what he thought and all the pundits after him. But what do we think? What did it exactly look like?
Through the summer, hot and dry by all accounts, the jungle grew. By mid July a writer called it a broad leaf version of Monet’s Giverny; by August it was referred to as Rousseau’s Dream. Gradually and imperceptibly the pergola and the palisades disappeared behind it. Morning Glory’s yellow brick road no longer lead to a sunken garden highlighting the palisades but a thicket of overpowering leaves. The kids loved it. The kids literally sank out of sight into another world, where their mothers’ couldn’t find them. It was a pre-historic world of giant ferns and bananas, and what else?
Gardener – Excuse me?
Writer – And what else was growing there?
Gardener – He probably took all the Sansevieria, both the flat leaf and the cylindrical, all the Ficus, especially F. elastica, the Maranta, as well as Calthea, Dracaena, certainly the Alocasia, Calocasia, the list is endless if he actually emptied the Tropical House. I suspect many of the shade lovers got sun burnt during the first few weeks
Writer – By September the gardeners called Morning Glory’s garden, Kong’s Island. No one remembered Morning Glory’s sales pitch, highlighting the Slang River and the Great Wall beyond. Neither Morning Glory nor the Heroes returned again after the Grand Opening. Morning Glory, struck by his discovery of tropicals, took his retinue to the Philippines on a new assignment. There was talk of making a movie, Apocalypso Oley. Meanwhile the garden in the shaft just grew. The gardeners didn’t know what to do with it, they weren’t in charge of Kong’s Island. Horticulture and the Assistant were too busy planning for the upcoming sales event at the annual fund raiser. Besides they didn’t know what to do with it either. As for the President and her managers of the Roundtable, they thought it looked fine. So it grew and grew. From the yellow brick road, the pergola, the river and the palisades disappeared, as if swallowed by an ancient forest. Now the jungle is everything. And the kids love it.
In his treatise Existential Wind: The Story Behind The Shaft: The Contextual Garden: Eden After The Fall: Always Absent Never Present Twice Morning Glory envisioned a return to the Garden of Eden. But as far as the Gardener is concerned the gates to paradise had been irrevocably shut. And it’s not Cherubims with flaming sword that keeps him out. He wants nothing to do with Morning Glory and his shaft. It’s as if the garden had never existed. That is until late Friday afternoon when the Tropical House curator tells him about a fast moving cold front approaching Saturday evening. “I just heard the report on the weather station,” she tells him. “It won’t get down to freezing,” the Gardener replies as he gets ready to leave for home. “But what if it does?” “Then it’s already too late,” he says, resisting her plea. Over the weekend the knowledge he’s duped grows inside of him. He’s taken his anger out on the Tropical House gardener. He’s blaming the plants for Morning Glory’s folly. He remembers the Assistant telling the gardeners that no one should be telling anyone else what to do. Instead of helping a fellow gardener save plants, he’s allowed his selfish anger to get in the way. On Sunday night he goes to bed angry. Even the Gardener’s wife notices. But for some reason he can’t tell her why. Sometime after that, in the quiet of night, with the wind picking up outside, he sees the Porcelain Man coming out of the west, descending on waves of fast moving clouds. His blue grey poncho is wide like the wings of an avenging angel. His voice thunders in the black tumulus of night and his eyes flash, cleaving the sky in two as columns of fire strike the river below. The Gardener is craning his neck unsure of where he is. Then he realizes he is in the empty tropical house looking through the white shading on the west wall of glass where the tillandsia used to hang. They would be here now if it wasn’t for him. The coming of the Porcelain Man is so frightening he doesn’t see the Wizard at first, pacing back and forth on the great lawn south of the Shaft Garden. When he does, he wants to run out and tell the Wizard everything. That would be the natural thing to do, because of the impending chaos, tell him why the tropicals are out there in the first place, but he can’t. He’s lying on one of the gravel benches, unable to move. Strands of porcelain berry and bindweed are looping around his hands and feet, tying him to the bench piping. Even so he feels as if he is in the shaft. He feels the garden above him swaying. He feels the rising wind lacerating his naked body, reeds and broad leaves wiping across his stomach, faster and faster, for now the Porcelain Man is overhead lashing him. In one hand he carries a grub axe, in the other a scythe. A single red leaf banana falls, its roots tearing up the Gardener’s stomach. He writhes in pain. The wizard is pleading with the bird man, “Come down,” he cries, “sit here,” he begs, holding up his arm. But the wild fury is beyond hearing. He’s beside himself. He’s begun his windy assault, descending like a train through a tunnel of darkness. An icy, dry wind presses against the Gardener, pushing him deeper and deeper into the gravel, grinding him with all its might against the sharp edged stones. He shivers. He struggles to cover himself but the creeping vines are binding his arms. When the Porcelain Man swings his scythe in a great arc, folding the jungle in two, sharp pains shoot though the Gardener’s arms and legs. Fragments of color fill the air. When the Porcelain Man strikes the ground with his axe, the earth explodes inside the Gardener’s head, an unbearable pain, leveling his thoughts into a growing sheet of white behind his eyes. He is on the point of screaming when it’s over. The Porcelain Man is moving east with the Wizard running after him. The white bearded man tumbles as he picks up a leaf here, a branch there, disappearing behind a hedge the Gardener has never seen before. The Gardener wakes thirsting for water. His joints are sore, his head aches, his stomach turns. Cold air is blowing through an open window in the bedroom. In the distance thunder rumbles, receding. Not a drop of rain has fallen.
The next day Horticulture and the Assistant and rest of the gardeners survey the damaged Shaft Garden. Most of the Tropical House collection save the lowest growing members, have been mauled and shredded. The red leafed banana. . .
Gardener – Possibly the Abyssinian, Ensete ventricosum Maurellii.
Writer – and one of the tree ferns. . .
Gardener – Probably Dicksonia antarctica, taken from the Palm House.
Writer – have been ripped from the earth as if by a ferocious beast. The cold, dry wind has burned most of the broad leaf plants, the leaves brown and crispy from the edges inward. “The Musas, Canas and Calocasias will come back,” the Gardener consoles the Tropical House gardener, “we might as well dig them out now and store them.” “But the rest is ruined for display,” she answers not wanting consolation. “They’ll start coming back this winter,” he persists. But she walks away unable to look. “How weird,” observes the Assistant, “the plot is what – fifty by fifty feet – yet the Elevator Shaft is the only garden destroyed by the storm.” “Why does this always happen to me,” Horticulture bemoans. “Well, it was a weather event,” explains the Assistant, “maybe a tornado or a freaky downdraft.” One thing’s for sure, thinks the Gardener, you can’t blame the Wizard. When the President drives by on her way to her parking slot in back of the management building, and sees all the gardeners standing around looking into the shaft, she stops her car, rolls down the window with a touch of her index finger and asks Horticulture, “why’s everybody standing around,” He tells her, “the shaft was hit last night.” “By what,” she replies quickly surveying the scene. When he tells her, she says, “No point crying over spilt milk,” and drives on. Later she tells Horticulture, “change is good; Existential Wind will become a collector’s item. It’s important to clean the mess up.” “When the new shop opens,” adds Public Relations, punching her idea into her notebook, “we can loop the soundtrack over the PA, adding to MG’s seminal influence.” “Yeah,” says the President without looking at PA, “and the sooner you fill up that hole, the better.” Only you’ll have to do it with your own budget since there’s no more funding for the Morning Glory show.”
Now the gardeners move heaven and earth. First they move the earth, literally, in fulfilling the President’s command. Heaven will follow. Several days are spent removing the tattered tropicals. Since the steel walls in the Elevator Shaft were welded at the corners, and speed is of the utmost importance, Horticulture and the Assistant decide to leave everything in place, walls, steps, everything and simply fill in the hole. “We’re moving the Captain’s Mountain back where it belongs,” he tells his troops. He dons his baseball cap visor backward, and sallies through the rear door of the Potting Shed, with his gardener knights behind him. He mounts the tractor with its front end loader, instructing his infantry to follow him. “Bring Cushmans,” he cries, “and wheelbarrows, bring shovels and rakes.” Like Durer’s Great Christian Knight or in the least like Thomas Muntzer leading his peasant landsknechts into battle against injustice, he charges out of the garage, nearly taking one of the large double doors off its hinges. The project takes two days but the older gardeners are impressed, “Horticulture must have hated Morning Glory.” On the third day the gardeners roll the bare earth level, scratch rake it, then sow the grass seed by hand. Then they tamp the earth and scatter over the entire plot a shredded paper mulch that comes in plastic bags.
Following this feat of moving earth, they proceed to the next feat, figuratively speaking, of moving heaven. As already planned, a thirty yard dumpster is delivered at the south end of the Long Border, not far from where the Managers of the Roundtable park their cars. The Assistant tells the gardeners it’s permanent. “As soon as it’s filled, we’ll replaced it with another.” He tells the gardeners, “we anticipate future growth in the sales division, so we’re expanding the nursery. This year’s mulch. . .” which is. . . which is!
Gardener – I’m sorry, what do you want to know?
Writer – Define mulch?
Gardener – Come off it.
Writer – Define mulch!
Gardener – You know what mulch is. . , ok, ok, mulch consists of the fallen leaves we collect in large piles at the end of every growing season which, over the coming months, decay renders useful to us gardeners.
Writer – Thanks. This pile of leaves that is rendered useful to you gardeners is how we writers stretch our metaphor of heaven, since leaves fall from trees that stretch high into the sunlit heavens and render the heavenly photon into matter.
Gardener – Who are you kidding?
Writer – So as I was saying, that is, as the Assistant was saying, “this year’s mulch as well as all the other garden matter. . .”
Gardener – Compost!
Writer – will be taken to the dumpster.”
On the morning following the night of the first major frost, with the ground crackling underfoot, the Old Timer with the help of the Tropical House gardener lays sheets of plastic fabric over the lumpy ground once occupied by the compost and mulch piles. They both know that leaf mulch can smother weeds just as effectively and with no extra cost to the Garden. To keep the landscaping fabric in place, they punch plastic stakes through the weave into the crusty soil to hold it. While they’re doing that, The Pruner of Yews splices into a water line feeding a nearby faucet adding a special connection with a shutoff valve. When he finishes, the sun is high enough to melt the ice crystals in the soil. While the Tropical House gardener digs a small hole near the faucet, the Pruner of Yews uncoils one inch black plastic piping, cuts a section off and connects one end of the hose to a new irrigation valve and the other end to the T connector with the shut off valve on main water line to the faucet. In the meantime the Old Timer bolts a solar panel onto a special stand set in the ground nearby. The Tropical House gardener, having quickly dug the hole, stretches a long section of the plastic one inch hose from the hole she’s dug along the entire length of the nursery. The Pruner of Yews attaches the end of the hose near the hole to the irrigation valve which he now places in the hole. Meanwhile the Old Timer, who has mounted the solar panel, hooks two wires to a twelve volt battery set in box at the base of the stand. He then runs another set of wire from the battery to an AC DC converter, then to a timer he straps to the faucet. From the faucet he runs the wire along the one inch plastic piping to the irrigation valve, attaching the wires to the terminals on the electric motor in the new valve. The Tropical House gardener pushes a special plastic box down around the new valve and its connections and covers it with a lid. Off the one inch feeder line which the Tropical House gardener uncoiled the length of the nursery, all three gardeners start connecting a series of half inch hoses, using T connectors spliced into the one inch hose. They run these half inch water lines through the nursery, clamping the last six feet to eight foot 2×4 pressure treated wood which they insert two feet into the ground. On each terminal six feet above the ground they clamp a rotary sprinkler. After testing the system, they unhook the battery, drain the valves and go back to the potting shed. The automated irrigation system is a novelty. To water the display gardens and the grounds which everyone sees, the gardeners still drag hoses with oscillating sprinklers from fixed metal boxes housing water outlets sunk in the ground.
At the next managers meeting, Horticulture describes the reallocation of resources. “From now on,” he says, “garden rubbish will be dumped into the container at the end of the Long Border. This,” he proudly claims, “eliminates our landfill, allowing my department to enlarge the nursery which means increased inventory and sales.” Public Relations, with her sharp ear for nuance, types in her idea book, the word, landfill. In future postings she will refer to the old compost and mulch piles as the landfills of the past. “As for the cost of the dumpster,” continues Horticulture amid the bright countenances of those around him, “roughly five or six hundred dollars, the Institution will be more than compensated by the intake of monies derived from the newly expanded nursery. Not only that,” he boasts, the brimming smiles charging his batteries as he speaks, “cost analysis demonstrates that we will save money by eliminating the time consuming drive the gardeners made down to the landfill because the dumpster will be centrally located.” Finance nods her head in approval. Development claps her hands and emits an uncharacteristic giggle. “This,” he proudly claims, “will not only save time, which we all know is money, but will be nationally beneficial as well since we’ll reduce our dependency on foreign oil. It’s also ecologically prudent since we’ll reduce fuel emissions, and at the same time our carbon footprint.” “I couldn’t care less about the footprint but ecology sounds good and will keep the regulatory extremists off our back,” announces the President dryly. “Not only that,” pipes PR, reading from her digital notebook, “eliminating the long drive down to the landfills of the past provides us with two excellent talking points.”
By the end of December, after months of discussions begun that summer with the famous architectural firm, Wood & Post LLC, noted for making new buildings look like old ones, which Wood, in a sentimental moment, once said reminded him of “the first machine washed jeans I bought in college, same thing,” plans are finalized for converting the garage into a visitors center. An artist’s rendition is posted on a large signage. . .
Gardener – I thought you hated that word.
Writer – It grows on you, don’t you think. Anyway the signage is mounted on wood posts pounded into the ground on the west side of the garage and shows people in late spring wear, a light breeze blowing, walking toward a rustic building somewhat reminiscent of the days when Total Power’s head man kept his cars there. But the colonnade holding up the portico over the double glass doors in front with its attendant shrubberies and flowering pots is vaguely comforting of things contemporary. Everyone feels they’ve seen it before, especially the younger people. The Old Timer says it looks like the front of the Colonial Bank up in Deerfield, Massachusetts, where four hundred years earlier in 1704, the French and their Indian allies attack the white English farmers who had settled in the valley, once the home of the Pocomtuc, who had unwittingly given the land to the English in exchange for other land from the English in a real estate deal favorable to those who could read English. PR likes it because it reminds her of the BuckStopsHere coffee shop, in her childhood home of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. It was once a drug story, where a half century earlier, local high school students from her grandparents era sat at the counter in defiance of integration laws which stated that only white customers would be consumers. It was at the BuckStop, as the kids now call it, where she first learned to love strong coffee with whipped cream. Education of course sees all these positive antecedents as a sign of progress. She encourages everyone to hold hands and sing songs. Not one of the gardeners recognize the surrounding landscape which is illustrated with a forest of billowy trees embracing the building on three sides.
In January two steel cargo containers, six by forty-eight feet, are dropped off end to end near the compost and leaf container. Two thirds of the south end of the Long Border is blocked from view. Leaves and styrofoam cups and crumpled office papers have already been piling up behind the compost container. With the advent of this temporary storage area more leaves and litter collect in the abandoned garden bed behind the containers. The entire northwest corner of the old manor house of Total Power’s man, where once a lovely porch with awning wrapped the west side of the house, cars and cargo containers have created a no-man’s land to which the public bathroom in the basement of the office building, added during the modernization of public facilities following the donation of the property to the city, consolidates the hard truth faced by countless dreamers, who, without possibly realizing it, are hoping to finding a world without flaw.
During the next two weeks as the gardeners collect their tools and store them in the steel containers, they empty the garage of everything. Horticulture and the Assistant award themselves credit for having the foresight of placing a permanent garbage containment system down the road from the garage and right next to the steel containers. The garage holds stuff dating back to the time of Total Power. The amount of stuff baffles the team as they stand there wondering what to keep and what to throw away. But in this moment of doubt an pentecostal fire descends upon everyone from above and the spirit of George Carlin fills them. The Old Timer is the first to speak in the saint’s tongue arguing in favor of some stuff because he remembered seeing this stuff in the basement, which was then full of stuff, in the house where Total Power’s wife still lived when she was an old lady, before she donated the house and lots of its stuff to the city of New Drake back in ’65. But when he sees other stuff he claims that stuff, looks like the same dusty stuff that was falling to pieces, even back then, in an empty room on the second floor above the kitchen in the other house, the North House, where he lived as a boy in ’59 when his parents were the Estate Managers. His father made him sit in this cold room full of old, dusty stuff, because he had stolen candy and stuff from the Five & Dime down on Broadway and hidden the stuff in the unused room under all this dusty stuff. Soon they are all speaking with Carlin tongues, assaying all the people since the beginning of time, who collected stuff and begat children who collected more stuff, which they handed down from generation to generation, everyone generating more stuff, the old giving the best stuff to their children, the worst stuff to their friends, and the siblings fighting over who gets the best of the best stuff while the cagey prefer money so they can buy the stuff they want, for stuff we art and unto stuff we shalt return. So the inspired gardeners work as one spirit pulling out and assessing stuff, and more stuff asking each other what Saint Carlin would call this or that, followed by a pause before the chorus shouts, stuff! everyone in high spirits now as they renounce stuff by throwing the stuff into the dumpster. The only shortfall is when the hauler returns with an empty container and tells Horticulture and the Assistant that the full dumpster can’t be charged at the cheaper rate of hauling organic material but at the higher rate because of all that non-organic stuff.
Later in the month following the first hard freeze, a fencing company arrives. It’s as if Captain Morning Glory’s Mayans have returned. They stand on a flatbed truck and drive on the yellow brown lawn up the hill behind the garage, pounding steel poles at long intervals into the hard ground. On the service road and the on the walkways they drill holes into the macadam and sink their poles. Midway between the steel poles they build wooden braces out of two by fours. Then they unroll and stretch an orange plastic barrier fence, four feet high around the perimeter of the envisioned Visitor’s Center, tying the fence to the poles with wire and stapling the fence to the upright arms of the wooden braces. The footprint for the new building is huge. The Visitors Center will occupy the front of the new building. The gardeners tool shed and plant storage areas will be in a rear smaller building, separated by a courtyard where the machinery will be stored. A courtyard will separate the main public hall from the working areas in the rear. Adding in the areas occupied by the contractor sheds and storage areas the construction site behind the orange barrier fence is over three acres. The north stairway entrance to the High Garden and the Aquatic Garden is eliminated until further notice. Because of the enormity of the project large sections of lawns and gardens as well as sections of the service road are annexed to the site. Because of the availability of land, other adjacent areas are eventually overrun, adding new and unexpected domains for the contractors wanting their cars and trucks in proximity. From this day forward an independent fiefdom exists inside the Institution having rules of its own.
After the fence is raised a week quietly passes without a single machine interrupting the winter idyll. The ice on the river flows up river and then down river depending on the ocean tides. Visitors can look to the Great Wall and almost image the garden as it was during the Wizard’s time. Then the first truck arrives in February and delivers a forty yard dumpster. To set the container inside the fenced off area in front of the garage the driver has to maneuver in the tight area near the old beech tree. To avoid the tree he has to drive up on the lawn west of the greenhouses. In the following days with the sun rising dramatically, the traffic increases significantly. The viburnums on the west side of the garage, on the opposite side of the service road connecting the two houses, suffer when oversized trucks pull into the beds to avoid hitting the construction fence. In the days ahead other trucks will break more branches. After a cold rain the heavy vehicles grind their wheels deep into the beds, leaving ruts in the earth along the road, which remain there until the job is done.
The days are growing longer. Everyone in management is excited. When they walk past the site on the way to the restaurant for lunch they see progress, they see change. The architect is famous and known for bringing the manor life of an older era to life in the modern world. The south wall or front wall is preserved, since it represents an era long gone and missed. Brick masons begin sand blasting the paint off the old wall. For the rest of the month and into the first of March the rest of the building is demolished. A patina of dust a century old of ancient mortar and pulverized brick coats budding limbs and evergreen leaves. Instead of a dormant world returning again, all bright and fresh, everything near the demolition site is grey. For the gardeners a struggle begins with truck drivers pulling semis onto the lawns and into the shrubberies to let other vehicles by. Often the fork lift operators back into the beds breaking branches or they leave their machines idling, the hot exhaust burning the new foliage.
As spring presses forward through March with snow drops and crocus appearing here and there, the gardeners. . .
Gardener – Don’t forget Chionodoxa sardensis.
Writer – What’s that?
Gardener – Glory of the Snow, you can say blue waves of Glory of the Snow.
Writer – As spring presses forward through March with snow drops and crocus appearing here and there, and blue waves of Glory of the Snow drifting down the hill behind the former home of Total Power’s man and wife, the gardeners are hard pressed. When demolition ends, excavation begins on the lawn on the north side of the now demolished garage. A new layer of dust now, reaching back at least a thousand years if not more, covers the more recent centuries of patina. The gardeners argue with the construction managers. They warn them that the driver of the enormous backhoe, who is shaving earth from the northeast corner of the construction site, is getting too close to the large magnolia, growing at the top of the slope.
Gardener – That must be the Magnolia soulangeana, a hybrid, with multiple silver grey trunks, and large purple blossoms with white interiors.
Writer – Remember, Gardener, our story glides over familiar experiences but is still a story. The project managers promise to do their best and the giant yellow machine, which looks nothing like Buck Mulligan’s Steam Shovel, continues its attack on the hill where the magnolia has stood for as long as the Old Timer can remember, its flower buds now swelling.
Gardener – Must be April.
Writer – Some of the Mayans assure the gardeners it will be fine; others of Irish descent are annoyed by this intervention of tribal gardeners who’ve no business interfering with the internal affairs of the construction site. The next day a new team of Italians and Aztecs tears up the service road connecting the two houses and excavates a deep trench. The channel runs from the construction site to the North House. The Gardener finds the High Garden cut off for a week from the other parts of the property. He can walk anywhere he wants but he can’t bring a Cushman up from the storage container to the Aquatic Garden where he would normally park if he wanted to offload material or pile on brush. The north end of the grounds is cut off from the south end. Once the trench is dug a sewer line is laid out in the trench that will connect the bathrooms and water drains in the Visitor’s Center to the sewer line running under the North House to a major line down by the river. The soil is backfilled and a temporary asphalt patch applied so the road can be used again. Even before this work is completed, this trencher unit suddenly attacks the walkway on the south side of the High Garden cutting off all access to south stairway. The asphalt is carted away in a bobcat with a front end loader and the soil is piled up against the wall burying a lovely ground cover.
Gardener – Vinca minor Miss Jekyll with white flowers instead of the usual blue.
Writer – This new trench is where the power lines will be laid in the weeks ahead from a power source on the main road outside the fence to the potting shed basement and eventually from there to the new Visitors Center.
Then the first truck arrives from the big nurseries. The semi backs down past the turnaround where Morning Glory’s home away from home had parked a year ago like an embassy on wheels from Times Square a year ago. The driver stops at the beginning of the gravel Meadow Road leading down to the nursery and the woods beyond. The Assistant, with camera in hand, calls everyone in to unload the plants. The urgency created by the fate of the magnolia is siphoned off to the nursery. The Assistant takes pictures of everyone unloading the truck, later posting them on his MyFace page under the caption, “my guys at work.” That day and the one following the gardeners haul the plants down to the nursery and line them out. Over the next two weeks several more trucks arrive. This concentration on the retail end of the Institution begins to affect the general appearance of the grounds. Weeds pop up in the shadows of the emerging perennials, hoses are left uncoiled in the greenhouses, broken branches from wind storms litter the main lawns, even the necessary deadheading that begins in earnest once the perennials begin blooming and keeps the garden pictures in focus is left undone.
Then one day the Gardener refuses to unload a truck. He’s angry and feels hard pressed without the compost and mulches he depended on to keep the High Garden weed free and moist. The Assistant demands an explanation. He tell the Assistant, “I’ve taken a page from your book, I do what I can do.” He arrives at 8:00, leaves at 4:30. Horticulture frets that other gardeners might follow suit and use Gardener’s excuse. He pleads with the President and she acquiesces. After hours of inquiry he and the Assistant order three 1800 pound bags of recycled shredded brown rubber mulch. The super-sized bags arrive on a flatbed truck shipped out from the national distributor. The three bags are set down south of the containers in the cul-de-sac behind the management office. The bales are never opened. The Gardener refuses to use it and the others follow suit.
The excavation at the northeast corner of the construction site stops short of the Magnolia. A Mayan tells the Gardener that earth will be shoveled back into the area once the foundation is poured. A new team arrives. These surveyors are Eurasian and they shoot their laser beams across the wide open spaces that were once a hill and pound stakes in the ground where the corners of the buildings will be. After them another team of Mayans arrive and among them are Italians who often look Aztec, only they are older. They wire steel re-enforcement rods together and build forms for the foundation walls out of ¾ inch sheet plywood and two by fours of knotty pine, and sometimes any scrap of lumber that fits the need. The first of the big cement trucks arrive, its tumbler rotating. To get the discharge chutes close to the northeast corner of the excavated pit, near the Magnolia soulungiana, the operator in the first cement truck drives up on the lawn under an old elm, swings around and backs up toward the magnolia. The weight of the loaded truck compresses the soil under six massive wheels, leaving a deep calligraphy across the lawn outside the fence, north of the construction site, not unlike a Celtic rune. The Gardener, hearing the diesel rumbling and the gears grinding close to the High Garden, runs down the northwest path between the High Garden and the Water Garden and sees the truck parked not twenty feet from the Magnolia. The driver steps down from the cab and swings the chute toward the tree. The Italian workmen cut the orange plastic fencing and attach the chute to sixty feet of aluminum chutes which the Mayans have extended through the branches into the pit. The Gardener shakes his head. The Mayans smile at him. One of them points to the open Magnolia flowers, purple and white and shouts “Que linda!”
With May a week away the first of dry heat wave settles in. The Mayans and the Italians wire in more steel reinforcement rods across the ground on top of which they lay in panels of metal re-enforcement mesh. The cement trucks return. Each batch is checked by an city inspector with a kit and then the grey slurry is pumped in through a long hose, truck after truck, the tumblers turning, diesels grumbling the entire day. With the concrete slab poured, steel I-beams are delivered on a flatbed truck. A crane much larger than the one hired by Captain Morning Glory for his Elevator Shaft installation arrives on another flatbed truck. Because of its size the flatbed truck must turn around on the public road outside the Institution’s north gate. It backs down through the gate and around the front of the North house, stopping near the turn around where Morning Glory established his home away from home a year ago. For the rest of the day the operator unloads the giant machine. It has massive caterpillar treads like those used in armored tanks. Slowly the monster machine grinds its way up the hill, scaring the macadam on either side of the temporary asphalt patch covering the filled in trench where the sewer line was laid. Once anchored in place near the flatbed truck carrying the steel I-beams, the operator swings the telescoping boom over the truck where the driver of the truck ties in the boom’s cables to a beam. Then the operator of the long boom lifts the beam off the flatbed truck and swings the beam out over the site and sets it upright in an interval in a slot in the foundation wall, where the welders secure it. Once the beams are in place the masons begin raising the cinder block wall in the rear building where the gardeners will keep their tools and store their plants, and the brick layers lay up reinforced brick walls where the Visitor’s Center is imagined. Once the cinder block walls in the back of the building are high enough, they are waterproofed with tar. Then a West African cuts all the orange fencing down, so he can drive a bobcat with a front end push blade attached up the hill and push the soil in behind the wall. Meanwhile the Mayans shovel in the soil near the Magnolia which finished blooming a month ago. When everyone is done someone ties the tattered orange fencing to the Magnolia.
The entire month of June, like the year before, is stellar for vacationers. Yet the weatherfolk on TV and on radio, when they see a cloud on the horizon talk about a threat of rain as if that cloud was a national disaster. For the gardeners pulling hoses out to needy shrubs and trees thirsting for water, the sun looms up every morning like the Egyptian boat of the dead. Instead of bringing the promise of renewal, the sun looms higher and higher, over reaching the entire world with its oppressive rays. Leaves wilt, then prematurely drop. The grass turns yellow. The trees weaken and the youngest shrubs die. And whatever beauty the gardeners have planted out in their beds requires constant attention and not a moment’s distraction.
By the end of June the outer lower shell of the Visitor’s Center in finished. More steel beams arrive. They are laid across the spans and welded to the verticals to support the peaked roof over the Visitors Center. Then the monster crane returns to the flatbed and is taken away. The ground around the new complex is backfilled and leveled. Once the roof is in place most of the work goes inside. The President and her roundtable managers, who work far way in air conditioned rooms up on the second floor of the house where Total Power’s man and his wife lived, see the changes and they are happy. They don’t see the masons at the end of the day washing out the steel mortar boxes with garden hoses, and dumping the grey sandy water into the shrub beds. They don’t register the increased ph. And they don’t see across the grounds, far and wide, the paper bags, coffee containers, plastic bottles and styrofoam packaging from workers’ lunches caught in thickets of holly, yew and viburnum, because they are looking in an entirely different direction with a completely different frame of reference. But the gardeners do. They pick up the garbage, they prune back the dead and broken branches, they yell at the masons, they fight with the truck drivers, the foremen, and the construction managers. When the President learns of these arguments she commands Horticulture to tell them they must use the chain of command. “What chain of command,” the Old Timer asks. The Assistant is indignant. “First you come to me. Then I take it to Horticulture, and he takes it to the President. She takes it to Finance and she takes it to the right construction manager. He will take it to the foreman who will take it to the responsible subcontractor who will then take it up with the employees. Chain of command, it’s that simple.” But the only chain of command the gardeners see is the one that keeps the one in power in place. Meanwhile it’s their fingers that plug every hole in the ragged walls of stability. They are the protectors of the garden. They are doing all they can to prevent widespread botanical death. And they are growing weary. And they know that in the world as it is, the real buck stops with them.
Every afternoon when the gardeners return the hundreds of feet of green garden hoses to the storage containers where they keep their tools, the insides have become as hot as ovens. In the beginning of June the Gardener notices yellow jackets building a hive in one of the hinges on which the big metal end doors swing. The smooth backed creatures, dressed like harlequins in yellow and black, fly in and out ignoring the gardeners. But the Gardener realizes that by the end of August going in and out of the container will be harrowing. Sooner or later someone will be standing in the wrong place blocking the entrance to the nest. He warns the gardeners to be aware. He means to deal with the problem but other problems keep cropping up. One day the Assistant is taking inventory in one of the containers, when he leaps back on seeing “the bees.” He runs back to the potting shed, grabs one of the cans of hornet killer and sprays the nest liberally, leaping back from time to time as he wields his aerosol stream as a knight would a sword or, more appropriately, the valiant tailor in the Grimm’s tale. The yellow jackets caught in the nest fall from the hive and curl hideously, writhing. The Assistant nods his head to an intern standing by, “just saved your ass from those mother fuckers.” The returning yellow jackets, not caught in the attack, fly about in bewilderment. They remain in limbo for days. Then they begin building a new hive in another hinge in the other container. The Gardener must act before the Assistant discovers the new hive and panics again. He’d been stung more times than he can remember, felt that hot prick that sent him running ludicrously flailing the air with his arms. He too has pressed the button on the insecticide canister. But he learned to wait until nightfall or early morning when all the hive residents were inside before spraying. But he hated the process. The cowardly attack of a giant. And if it was no good for the yellow jackets how could it be any good for him? True he possessed more mass than a yellow jacket. What was effective on them would have no observable effect on him. But what if he used it everyday, every other day, once a week or even once in a while for decades? What if ten thousand people in different places used the spray? The Kings’ men in government who were supposed to regulate this material set up charts with allowable amounts. How did one determine the amounts of ten thousand applications in a given area on a given day? This didn’t even account for susceptibility of applicators with less durable defense systems in their bodies. One day many years ago he was watering a newly planted Japanese holly. . .
Gardener – Ilex crenata.
Writer – when he felt that hot bite on his arm, then on his leg. His senses refused to draw on past experience so he went on watering for a few seconds until something struck his neck. He instinctively slapped his neck and saw the tiny yellow bodies whizzing around him. He felt one crawling under his T-shirt. He ran backward waving his free arm like a mad man, brushing the other clinging creatures off his pants and shirt. But they followed him. Without thinking he sprayed them with the hose. They landed bewildered, dazed. They walked around on the ground, confused. Then they rose again so he shot them again with the water with the same results. He walked back and saw the hive hole in the ground, which he must have stepped on, causing them to panic! He aimed the hose at the opening and watched the water soak the ground, fill the hole. They came out of the hive walking, the same confused way as the others. It was obvious they were stunned. The water had the same effect on them as the smoke used by beekeepers to control bees. He marked the hole with a stake and that was that. Days later he returned and the nest was back in operation. He found no fault with them. He had protected himself and that was that. The nest could stay. This time the nest must go. But he’s still not interested in terminating the residents of new hive. He shoots a jet stream of water into the hinge mid morning before the sun gets to hot. The returning yellow jackets circle around, studying the jet stream. But they never follow the stream to its source. He hoses them down, confusing them. It gives him time. He eventually forces the nest out of the hinge with a bamboo stick. Carefully he shovels up the hive with yellow jackets crawling on it and moves it into the woods nearby. Meanwhile the rest of the group begins returning to the hinge where he hoses them down each day to inhibit their ability to regroup. He stands in awe of their persistence, returning to their lost home like survivors on the slopes of Pompeii and wishes they had the good sense to go out and find the nearby hive where their brothers and sisters are prospering. But he knows they won’t, they’re doomed. He is awed by their Sisyphean strength, or is it an incomprehensible stupidity. He wonders where on this graph of these possibilities he stands. Is he strong or is he just stupid? Eventually they disappear. Is that his destiny as well? Are he and the other gardeners doomed to disappear, coming in day after day to a garden no longer here?
Three days before Labor Day, on the morning of the grand opening of the new center, the young partners in the architectural firm of Wood & Post request the use of Horticulture’s potted plants. “We want to enhance the colonnaded portico for our photo shoot this morning and for this afternoon’s event with the Mayor,” one of the young architects assigned to the project explains; “we need something green, flowers would be better. The photographs will go into our yearly catalogue,” he says as if that will be a good thing for the Institution. Horticulture agrees and sends the team over to the Assistant. He too agrees and sends them to the Gardener. The Gardener refuses and sends them back to the Assistant. Instead of going back to the Assistant they go into the Tropical House looking for anything that will enhance the appearance of their building. Unfortunately the Tropical House is still recovering from last fall’s disastrous storm. The Tropical House curator sends them down to the nursery “where there’s plenty of material.” When they get down there, they discover plenty of stuff but nothing in flower. “This will have to do,” says one of the young partners. Now they need a vehicle to bring the shrubs up to the Center. They call the Assistant on his cell phone. The Assistant calls the gardeners on his walkie talkie. The gardeners, busy preparing for the Mayor’s arrival, stop what they’re doing and drive down to the Nursery without the Gardener, who continues doing what he’s doing. In the Nursery they find the partners and their photographers selecting shrubs and small trees that are growing conveniently in black buckets and are ready to go. All this takes a few hours, the partners and their photographers choosing something then putting it back. Up at the new Center, they have the gardeners push plants this way and that way until at last they are satisfied. Now all the entrances to the new building are “dressed” as one of the young partners says, to which the Old Timer adds “like the grand opening of a local supermarket.”
That afternoon, all the Kings men along with their mayor, their state senators and their local representatives gather in front of the new Center. The mayor is standing beside the President who is standing at a microphone congratulating everyone for their valiant work. She turns to the Kings’ men and thanks them for their support. Grants from their various charities have helped carry the Institution toward its goals of self-sufficiency. Before introducing the mayor she thanks each member of her staff for putting this celebration together, forgetting to mention Horticulture in her list of credits. He doesn’t seem to notice. The mayor congratulates the President. He apologizes that city, state and federal funding is at an all time low but feels this loss is more than offset by the generous contributions of the Kings. The mayor then takes a pair of scissors from the President and cuts the ribbon stretched across the entrance between the columns holding up the portico. He christens the new Visitors Center, the Kings’ Interactive Media Center. The Kings’ men standing in the audience clap, then run off to board room meetings down in New Drake where they will more than offset what they have just given away. The mayor and the other government officials, are given a tour of the new Center. They chant, in competing a capella, “Ahh,” when they feast their eyes on the virtual map. “The kids will love it,” the mayor promises.
With the dust from construction barely settled the giant reception tent for the Fall Party is raised on the lower lawn near the balustrade. It’s decided by the majority of the Board at the suggestion of the President that the giant white multi peaked tent will remain permanently in place until further notice. The President thanks the Board, “Our rental concession is bearing fruit,” she says; “the wedding and the corporate parties are a success. By eliminating the periodic installation and removal of the tent we preserve our earnings and increase our profit margin and,” she adds, “minimize damage to our precious plants.” This report doesn’t assuage the one dissenting vote. She has to listen to the Treasurer, who feels the high peaks of the huge tent will permanently obscure the view of the Palisades from the Pergola. “Wasn’t that the original if unsuccessful premise of that TV artist whose net wealth we helped expand,” he asks. She is about to respond but he cuts her off. “I’m a fiscal conservative when it comes to unwise spending, but we represent the public domain. As representatives we should never cut costs nor turn profits at the expense of the Garden’s mission, which I helped craft years before you arrived.” After the meeting, she complains to the Chairman. He shrugs his shoulders. “There’s not much we can do,” he says, “he’s made us all rich.” Later the President confesses to Development through clenched teeth, that “the one cost effective slash I’d like to make would be across the Treasurer’s throat.” Development laughs but sees the President is far from joking. “And he keeps calling the Institution, a Garden!” Later that day she listens to that non-entity Horticulture warn her that the lawn will die under a permanent tent. Luckily that quick study, the Assistant reassures the President that synthetic grass will be easier to maintain. Horticulture bends his head and accepts again the unlucky star under which he was born.
With the giant permanent tent in place, the lower lawn is effectively cut off from public use. Nonetheless PR always seeing the world through rose tinted glasses, unlike this Writer, whose eyes have grown jaundiced with time, types in her idea book that “because of the multi-peaked tent now in place, the Institution has taken on the festive look of a medieval fair. Must tell the Prez about adding pennants to the white peaks!” Far from PR’s decisive meditations regarding the tent, the gardeners, without the Gardener’s help, bring the products up from the nursery to a staging area in front of the Kings’ Media Center, while carpenters continue working inside on a comprehensive punch list of things still needing to be done. Hours later the caterers, who also operate the restaurant in the North House, arrive in their trucks. All access to the Long Border is cut off and once again the statuesque Korean dogwood
Gardener – Cornus kousa, wonderful bark, handsome look.
Writer – is damaged as the fully extended lift gate of a box truck driven by someone new backs into the dogwood’s sweeping lower branches and snaps the largest one in half. After the trucks are unloaded, they are driven down the road and parked near the dumpster, where the portable storage sheds stood recently, before the gardeners moved their tools to their assigned space in the rear of the new complex. As the sun in the western sky above the Palisades sets a trail of fiery globes across the River Slang, the guests arrive. They gather around the bar tables, shaking hands and nodding heads, the ladies with a slight tilt that moves the hair over the shoulder. Everyone then finds their way to the plant sale in front of the Kings’ Interactive Media Center. There the gardeners run around helping the customers choose plants. The guests pay for their purchases inside the gift shop, which is open, having a few items of its own for sale. After that the gardeners take the plants out to cars or store them for later delivery in the courtyard behind the Kings’ Interactive Media Center. With the dinner in full session, waiters running about, the President waxes enthusiastic in her speech about the beauties for sale in front of the Media Center and “don’t forget to look inside our new sales shop. You’ll discover many more wonderful things for sale. In fact I’m wearing a beautiful silk scarf hand crafted by Vietnamese artisans.” She pulls the bright blue scarf gently out in front of her so she can admire the hem. Then absently she lets it flutter down across her breast. She is wondering how she can change the Mission Statement once and for all.

Notes:

The Raid On Deerfield
Raid on Deerfield – 1704

The February 28, 1960 Integration sit-in at Colonial Drug, a West Franklin Street drugstore in Chapel Hill North Carolina.
http://www.lib.unc.edu/mss/exhibits/protests/sitins.html

Shredded Rubber
http://www.nofault.com/images/db_products/19/other1.pdf

Photons and Photosynthesis
http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/biology/antpho.html

Cargo Containers
http://www.cargocontainers.net/containers.htm

The Gardener Returns, A Dialogue, Part Ten D

Writer – The first time the Gardener saw a mobile device in someone’s hand was sometime early in the last decade of the last century of the last millennium. In the moments preceding this vision he heard a loud voice filling the heavens. Later he realized the owner of the device must have been standing on the steps at the south end of the High Garden. He had entered the High Garden voice first. The instant he heard the voice, the Gardener mistook the owner for a small group of visitors dominated by a tour guide leading his group up the stairs. But when the group was passing under the Pearl Bush, is that right?
Gardener – Exochorda racemosa, yes, the Pearl Bush, because it’s racemes of flower buds look like pearls.
Writer – the Gardener realized this was no ordinary garden group; the guide was oddly severed from the reality around him. Somewhere between that tall Egyptian grass. . .
Gardener – Arundo donax.
Writer – And the narrow English oak. . .
Gardener – Quercus robur fastigiata.
Writer – the Gardener concluded the impossibility of an approaching group since the inevitable shuffling of many feet on the gravel pathway was missing. He prepared himself for the worst, perhaps an actor preparing his lines or a man recently released from a nearby hospital. Then the embodiment of the voice stood beneath him – the Gardener was on the roof of the gazebo cutting back a vine growing on a yew.
Gardener – Clematis Montana rubra, he was probably thinning it out sometime midsummer.
Writer – The owner of the strange device walked around the side of the gazebo and stood in front of the entrance in the gravel clearing. He didn’t seem to notice where he was. He was listening to a voice or voices the Gardener couldn’t hear. Then he nodded and began walking in a circle as if orbiting around someone unseen at the other end of the conversation. The man gesticulated with his free arm while the other arm, cocked at the elbow, was bent to his ear where he held in his hand something black the size of an eggplant. He wore a grey suit. Occasionally he stopped, shoved his free hand into the his pants pocket and stood on the heels of his black shoes, tassels showing. He brought with him the vertical structures of New Drake, the rising buildings, the congested streets. He was wheeling and dealing in a world of his own, numb to the organisms growing around him. The Gardener imagined the person at the other end of the imaginary radius walking in similar circles through a different world, perhaps the floor of the stock exchange or inside an air conditioned office on the seventieth floor of a palatial skyscraper over looking a public square. Though the day was calm he felt the force of an unseen wind roaring through the garden diminishing the garden’s significance. With his hand still stuffed deeply in his pant’s pocket the man puffed up his chest then compressed his circular peregrination to a straight line which he now walked with the agility of a tightrope walker from the holly at one end of the clearing,
Gardener – Ilex aquifolium.
Writer – to the edge of the crabapple bed on the other side. . . well?
Gardener – Malus, maybe floribunda.
Writer – and back again. Importance permeated the area like the smoke from a burning cigarette. The sweet scent of something nearby
Writer – a clump of a white Phlox paniculata. . .
Writer – was decimated by the smell of a man on a mission. And then the man vanished in the direction of the Aquatic Garden, his voice remaining for a while like a distillation of burning tobacco lingering in the air, an aural fossil around the Gardener’s ear, an otic footprint left on the edge of his consciousness.
Since that first event in the High Garden the cellular infection had gone viral. So it comes as no surprise to him when the Garden Star and his assistants are preceded by a chorus of detached voices heard in the parking lot. Unlike that first visitation which arrived in high summer this occurrence descends on the Garden with all the sunlit expectations of the vernal equinox. The Gardener, who has never seen Whose Garden? doesn’t know what to expect. He knew the TV star had been expected a month ago but had overstayed the winter traveling somewhere between the Chateau de la Garoupe on the Mediterranean and the Villa Noailles in the foothills behind Cannes. When he finally appears between the shrub borders at the pedestrian entrance he is followed by his retinue of camera people who fan out onto the lawn south of the Greenhouses. The President, accompanied by her entourage, is there to greet him enthusiastically. But they must wait until the Captain retires from his cell conversation. Meanwhile some of his retainers continue chattering independently on conversations of their own, while the rest apply their digits on tiny keyboards like bees stuffing nectar into sacks. But at long last congruity is achieved and Morning Glory smiles at the President and her officers. She tells him “our entire Institution is placed at your disposal.” He thanks her “eversomuch” his smiles galvanizing the young Public Relations, who finds her breath vanishing with excitement, her emotions choking with enthusiasm until Development saves her with a sharp elbow to her ribs. The President is about to introduce Horticulture and the Assistant when the Captain’s phone rings with the opening bars of Fleur-de-lis. He excuses himself from the formalities and once more enters the aural world. The President and her court look at each other, trying expressions of importance or at least meaningful, envying the facility of Morning Glory’s following who have continued their private conversations both audible and tactile throughout these proceedings. “Ah,” he exclaims, pausing on the line, “one of my Assistants tells me there is room for us down in that direction where there is some sort of turn around.” The President looks to Horticulture, who looks to the Assistant, who nods his head avidly and tell them, “there’s plenty of room.” The Captain returns to his cell conversation and moments later, a huge “accommodation” trailer pulls around on the south road under the huge European Copper Beech,
Gardener – Fagus sylvatica Atropunicea. One of five and all a hundred years old.
Writer – brushing past the drooping lower limbs, passes the former home of Total Power’s man now the permanent day residence of the Institution’s Managers, sweeps past the Institution’s leaders, mouths agape, rounds the garage and disappears down the hill. “I will spend a day or two deliberating,” he tells the President, “I want to spend time, looking and thinking.” Public Relations, having returned to her senses, is of the opinion that Morning Glory’s home away from home will interest visitors on their way to and from the restaurant in the North House.
For the remainder of the week Morning Glory’s accommodations-on-wheels is a permanent fixture parked in the turn around south of North House. To keep the Captain’s home away from home comfortable the eight cylinder diesel engine rumbles most of the day. The Gardener can hear it up in the High Garden, where even the noisy mockingbird is distracted. To accommodate the Captain’s installation and camera crews, the Assistant suggests to Horticulture who tells the President that the crew should consider the potting shed theirs. “Maybe some of their glamour will rub off on your gardeners,” the President tells Horticulture, while she and her officers wait for the coffee to brew. Public Relations christens the Captain’s crew, Morning Glory’s Angels and Heroes. This becomes the standard tag used by management in discussions and eventually makes it’s way into the publicity releases. The following morning the Heroes arrive at the potting shed around 10:00. Since the regulars are already out working, the Heroes make a pot of coffee for themselves in the potting shed kitchen down in the basement and wait for their Captain, who makes his appearance between 11:00 and 11:30 with his Angels in tow, who put down their ever running video equipment and make another pot for themselves. Morning Glory, who only drinks Thai Tea sweet with milk over ice, doesn’t wait but immediately begins looking and thinking, while his angels scramble after him, sipping coffee from coffee mugs, their cameras running. The footage becomes standard fare on Morning Glory’s show. Public Relations, never seen before on the grounds unless attending meetings in the North House, now flits about the Greenhouse Beds like a wren searching for a nest. She boasts to the President that having the Institution hosting the Garden Show is marvelous advertizing. “Well, my dear,” says the President cuttingly, “I’m glad you thought of it.”
At lunch break the gardeners return with only thirty minutes to eat lunch and discover the five Heroes sitting in all the available chairs, texting on handhelds. Down below in the kitchen the gardeners find the five Angels queuing up at the microwave, chatting on their cells. “What about your star’s mobile,” asks the Gardener. “Oh, that’s the Captain’s makeup and dressing room,” one of the Angels replies. “And that’s where he privately watches tapes of his show in between takes,” says another. When the gardeners come in for the afternoon break they discover their now empty coffee can open on the counter, the coffee pot drained and stained, the coffee filter full of grounds and their cups missing. The Old Timer checks the communal coffee cash jar and says, “At least they didn’t take the money, too.” The Gardener, who drinks green tea, shakes his head. The next day he confronts the Angels and Heroes with the open coffee can and tells them to chip in like “the rest of us and bring your own fucking cups.” After that they drink the North House restaurant coffee in paper cups which begin to appear under shrubs.
The following Monday Morning Glory, or rather Bindweed as the gardeners are now calling him, Bindweed and his Japanese Knotweed and Mugworts, walks with great ceremony from one end of the Greenhouse beds to the other before announcing to an imaginary crowd, made up of nodding hellebores and fresh crocus, with his Japanese Knotweed filming the newscast as it comes to be known, Publicity looking on in admiration, “these beds,” he says, “will simply not accommodate my proposal. And what is my proposal,” he asks himself, looking from side to side, with hellebores and crocus, dipped in an agreeable afternoon light; “I propose to engage the elements of earth, air and water in a dialogue. I want to bring the visitor into a dialog with the ever changing always the same River Slang and its cohort the apparently same but ever eroding Palisades beyond. I want the visitor to see these magnificent creations of nature as they have never seen them before. Can that be done all the way over here? Think of Brunelleschi, una bella perspectiva! So with that in mind I will create a new garden on that lawn over there!” He points in the direction of the lawn in front of the Pergola, which has yet to achieve the high order of brilliance it will possess in the months to come, the colorful hanging planters, both in flower and leaf and the other assorted semi-temperate and tropical plants that will crowd around the base of the columns. “But the questions is this, what becomes of Dorothy when she comes skipping down the yellow brick road over there? Does it take her to Oz? Absolutely not! It ends at the macadam. She is left in the middle of nowhere. Instead of going straight toward paradise there beyond the pergola, she becomes confused. Does she dare carry on or must she turn left or right? The yellow brick road leads from the parking lot to a black road and dull green lawn. Esthetically it goes nowhere.” The President whispers to Development, “that’s exactly what I told the Board!” “Does the river merge with the Ocean and fulfill its destiny or does it disappear in a desert of sand? Something is missing. And that something is what I will call The Elevator Shaft. Yes, I can see it now, a garden dropped into the lawn, literally, as if levers have been pulled and the entire garden drops into the earth, the mother of all creation. The retaining walls will be made of thin corten steel plates The excavated soil will be moved in front of this place where we are standing,” and here he casually throws his hand behind him to indicate the place where he is standing, “a great cone of earth, a counterpoint in height to the sinking notes of the shaft, if you will. Stone steps will beckon the visitor coming to the end of the yellow brick road down into the new garden space and out the opposite stairway near the pergola. Now to best understand the condition of the soil where our lush garden will be installed, we made tests and our recent tests demonstrate the complete inadequacy of the existing soil. To prepare the display beds in the shaft I will add an enriched garden soil, specially blended by experts for me.”
Horticulture, who is standing to the left of the President two steps behind Publicity, is shocked by the scope of the work but afraid to say anything. Both Publicity and Development applaud and the President laughs. “He’s putting all the crap over here.” “I’m anxious to see his plant list,” mentions an excited Assistant; “then we can begin ordering for this year’s plant sale.” Then with his Angels and Heroes following, Morning Glory enters the greenhouse. There in the Palm House, where the Gardener once imagined a temple to Flora, the Captain turns and tells everyone that yesterday morning he had an epiphany while shaving. I saw myself in a tropical forest, bowers of sweet scented liana clamored into the bright sunshine through a canopy as bright as a mother’s day bouquet. I thought, that is what the Institution needs!” “What, what,” Horticulture whispers to the Assistant, “what do we need?” The Assistant is not sure, “possibly liana?” “Liana, what, where, out there on the lawn?” The President seeing the bewilderment on Horticulture’s face asks him, “Liana, what is that, sounds beautiful and photogenic?” Horticulture is speechless and can only point to the Bougainvillea still blooming on the wire rack against the back wall of the temperate house.
As this moment the Gardener enters the potting shed and sees everyone in the palm house. He asks the Pruner, who is washing pots, “what’s going on?” The Pruner tells him, “no one knows.” They watch the long cortege disappear into the tropical house with Morning Glory, leading. “Of course,” the Captain explains, “we can’t simply erase reality? But we can alter it by changing the way we see it. Our new garden will have an east-west axis like a house of worship. But our temple will no longer be here, invisible under walls of white smeared glass. We will take this tabernacle,” he exclaims, casting his open hand and outstretched arm around the tropical house like a magician introducing the beautiful woman about to be cut in two, “to where it belongs, to the shaft!” This is met with instant applause by Hero and Angels, with management joining in. “We’ll offer reality as we know it, that wall of stone, that magnificent river, our offering of a new idea. Since our expulsion from the Garden of Eden, we’ve been searching for the lush jungles of our imagination, seeking a return to our prehistoric Eden. Why else garden? Of course our tropical forest will be diminutive,” he says with great emphasis on the minu. “Da Vinci’s human scale cannot be forgotten!” “But,” he reassures everyone, “ we’ll supplement our offering of hope with large bananas and Canas. They’re lush! And perhaps if the President assents we can use the large tree ferns growing the other house.”
And with this the TV star of Whose Garden? takes over the greenhouses. The curator of the Tropical House is told she can continue the watering and the upkeep of all plants until the artistic evacuation is completed. But the curator of the Tropical House is upset. She comes to the Gardener. She’s afraid she’ll be demoted in pay, since her responsibilities are being reduced or even fired with the arrival of summer. “Remember the new guy!” she complains; “remember the old guys in maintenance,” the other gardeners remind her. When the Gardener complains about the removal of greenhouse tropicals, Horticulture tell him “they’ll all be returned.” “Yes? When?” “In the fall I assume.” “Assume? And who’ll return them?” “Well, I’m sure they will.” “You’re sure? I don’t think so! And why are we recommending tropicals as a viable solution for the average homeowner?” “We’re not,” injects the Assistant. “No,” he responds, looking at the Assistant in disbelief, “What about Bindweed’s plant list, which you’ve been waiting so anxiously for? Well, it’s here, in our greenhouses, all of it! According to your plan, we’re going to sell tropicals to the public in September just before the first frost!”
A week later Horticulture and the Assistant book a flight to Oregon, home of giant wholesale nurseries. Before leaving Horticulture and the Assistant call the gardeners together. The Assistant says, “I think you will appreciate what we are about to tell you; from this day forward, we want you to plan your own day, take responsibility for your own work. This year we want you to design and implement your own gardens.” “We already do that,” says the Gardener. “For one,” the Assistant continues unfazed, “you’re adults; you don’t need to be monitored like children. Neither the Director nor I are running a nursery school. The Wizard may have thought so, but we don’t. We’ll be gone for a few weeks.” “Why Oregon,” asks the Old Timer, “why not south Jersey, or Allendale for lord’s sake.” “Think of yourselves,” the Assistant continues without listening, “as free men and women implementing your own vision. Are there any questions?” A long pause follows. Then the Gardener asks if the sanctions on buying plants and materials has been lifted. Horticulture looks at the Assistant with some embarrassment. The Assistant says, “No. So if there are no other questions then we have a plane to catch.” Then the Old Timer asks, “why do we need managers if we’re now managing ourselves?” The Assistant reels on the old man and tells him, “there will always be managers as long as there are people like you.” Horticulture, putting his hand on the red faced Assistant answers the Old Timer, “Please consider management an invisible hand. You won’t see us looking over your shoulders any more, inspecting your work. Your work will speak for itself” “Damn right,” mumbles the Pruner of Yews. The Assistant looks harshly at the Pruner, then looks to the rest, “Remember, no one, I repeat, no one other than Horticulture or I should ever tell you what to do.” “Ah, but the invisible hand knows,” someone adds, alluding to the secret cameras the gardeners have been finding on the grounds. Everyone laughs. “Why can’t the invisible hand weed the Greenhouse beds!” says the Tropical House curator. She is now weeding the Greenhouse beds for the Assistant, who tells her he’s too busy. The gardeners explode with laughter. At that moment Development is passing by the potting shed with Public Relations. They have just been admiring Morning Glory’s live streaming for Whose Garden? “That’s a sound you never heard during the Wizard’s reign,” she exclaims. But inside, unaware of the favorable opinion those on the outside have of this merriment, the Assistant slams the trowel on the table and says, “the invisible hand is a metaphor for your desire to do your best. It’s a moral imperative in a free society.”
With Horticulture and the Assistant off in search of the golden apples in the west, the excavation of the shaft begins. The Heroes finally show their mettle, two of them pounding stakes into the lawn at the four corners of the square, two of them tying line to the four stakes, and the last, carrying a bag of lime which he spills beneath the line to form a white perimeter on the ground. The next day a dump truck pulls up in front of the garage, pulling a flat bed trailer on which a yellow front end loader with backhoe is strapped. “I’m surprised Horticulture didn’t volunteer to drive our tractor,” the Pruner of Yews tells the Gardener. The backhoe carves out the large square “shaft” in front of the pergola, dumping the earth into the dump truck. When the box bed is full, the truck backs across the lawn in front of the greenhouse garden, past the giant elm and releases it’s load on the far side of the walkway leading toward the greenhouse. Once the excavation is complete, Mayan laborers spade the sides straight with admirable precision and shovel the excess soil into the front end bucket of the loader which then runs the soil over to the pile and finishes off the cone by smoothing the sides with the smooth underbelly of the bucket. The following day an extremely long flatbed truck carrying the steel panels arrives at the front gate. After a few hours of negotiating the gate with the only accident being the removal of inner corner of the south most stone post, it slowly makes its way around the gatehouse. Before arriving at the beech the driver realizes he can’t make the tight turn in front of the former home of King Total Power’s man(and wife – remember she donated the property to New Drake in 1968). The new residents watching from the windows on the second story, their excitement palpable, are disappointed when the driver gets out of the cab and begins a long discussion on his cell, while standing at the curve in the road near the house. When he finally returns to the cab, he leaves the private roadway entirely and cuts across the lawn close to the Dawn Redwood. Behind him another flatbed hauls a crane across the same lawn. The crane’s gantry, though down, snaps the lower branches of the redwood in half as if they were twigs. Four enormous trenches follow this last vehicle to its rendezvous with the macadam. Once on site the gantry is raised and the crane lifts the plates from the flatbed and swings them over into the shaft where the Mayans guide them into place, along the earth walls of the shaft. A newspaper reporter with a camera woman appears and Morning Glory dutifully picks up a shovel and jumps into the shaft where he starts digging a hole. After the picture is taken he goes back to the Beech Tree growing at the north end of the lawn where he has set up court and receives the reporter for an interview. A Mayan then jumps into the shaft with a rake and rakes the soil back into the hole and levels it. Two Mayan remove a welder and the acetylene tank from the flatbed, then weld the seams at the corners where the steel walls meet. The following day a flatbed truck returns and delivers eight grey granite blocks six feet long. Again the crane which has remained on site hoists the stone blocks and swings them into place with the help of the Mayans. A stairway now descends into the shaft near the macadam road and ascends on the opposite side to the pergola. That afternoon the dump truck returns bringing soil which it releases on the roadway. Again the Mayans are there to distribute the pile. After the floor of the shaft is raked smooth, the Heroes appear again with stakes and line to mark out the path and beds. On the fourth day the other flatbed truck returns, carrying wooden pallets loaded with rolls of grass sod and pulling a large cylindrical tank with sprayer. Management flocks onto the lawn in awe. “Now this is gardening,” boasts the President. The crane sets the pallets of sod on the ground. Then the Mayans carry the green rolls down into the shaft. They roll them out like red carpets at a ball along all four sides of the shaft and up the middle from east to west, from stairway to stairway, and from north to south, from wall to wall. While the crane is dismantled, the Mayans unravel a long thick hose from the cylindrical sprayer and pull the nozzle over to the cone beyond the Elm tree and the yellow brick walkway. The pump is started and a green grass-seed gel is sprayed on the entire surface of the cone.
Throughout the week’s proceedings, with Horticulture and the Assistant away, and with the President and her officers watching in awe from the windows of the former home of King Total Power’s man, coming down only once to watch the rolling out of the green grass carpets, Morning Glory, sitting beneath the large copper beech already mentioned, commentates “on the process” to his crew of five, who are at his side. His Angels flock about him, cameras capturing the historic stream. From time to time his Fleur-de-lis disrupts his commentary after which he sends one of his Heroes out with an order to the Mayans. When the roadway is clear, mothers pushing children in stroller stop to watch the TV show, some brave enough to get his signature when they learn he’s a TV star. The retirees pass by on their way to the restaurant either offering their advice or complaining of the inconvenience. The only Institutional presence on the grounds other than the gardeners, who stop by regularly to evaluate the damage, is Public Relations who blends in perfectly in her black leather jacket and tight jeans with those sitting under the Beech. It is she who tells the Gardener, the Old Timer and the Pruner of Yews that the Captain’s commentary will one day become a valuable document and “we’ll be selling it in the shop one day.” The Pruner asks her when “the Mayans will be planting out the tropicals?” To which she replies, “Are they here too?” As they leave, he warns her “to watch out lest the Invisible Hand reach out and pluck her bower!”
When Horticulture and the Assistant return The Great Week, as it is now called on the second floor of the former home of Total Power’s man, is over and life at the Institution goes on as usual; well, not exactly, a great deal of curiosity is shown toward the strange new courtyard stretched several feet below grade in front of the pergola. But on the summer equinox at exactly 12:00, Morning Glory’s vehicle reappears and resumes its position south of the North House. Morning Glory and his entire retinue step out onto the ground like the ambassadors from a strange planet. With pomp and circumstance they take up where they left off beneath the Beech which now is in purple leaf. Horticulture resumes his place in his office on the second floor of the home of Total Power’s man and the Assistant calls in sick. The curator of the Tropical House frets about like a robin distracting a cat from her nest. As to the question the Pruner of Yews asked earlier, the answer apparently is “now!” As Morning Glory pulls the inventory from the tropical house, the Mayans carry the plants over to the shaft. There the Mugworts position them in the new garden beds. Then, as in now, the Mayans plant them.
The grand opening of “The Elevator Shaft” is on the first day of July, hot and steamy, a tropical delight. The Angels supplemented by a full squadron from the studio set up their equipment at strategic points between the entrance from the Parking lot to the shaft garden. The liquor flows like the waters of the River Slang, keeping everyone talking about this marvel that was once just a lawn. Great lights illuminate the crucial scene, that is, Morning Glory’s table where he sits signing the DVDs entitled. His valiant Heroes bring him gin rickeys, while they drink one of the Kings’ beers which they consume from the bottle. It is already obvious that more than a few of them have taken a shine to PR. They can be seen her nibbling Gruyère together and later disappearing into Morning Glories’ home away from home. Many downtowners, here for the first time, walk down the yellow brick road just as Morning Glory had prophesied. They look neither left nor right, nor out toward the palisades but at the magnificent tropical paradise rising up from the ground like an orchestra in the pit, or more precisely, like an oasis in a desert, for as the Captain is fond of saying, “a river must flow into the waters of the ocean and not into a desert of sand.” The visitors cry “marvelous” to those beside them as dozens of servers in black skirts and pants and white blouses and shirts appear before them with drinks and hors’dourves. “Awesome” is conveyed through the Ethernet to those waiting anxiously back at New Drake or points beyond for a tweet from Morning Glory’s court. Everyone is anxious to soak up the Captain’s sunshine, the arc lamps radiating over his presence like the spirit of the universe. Other celebrities hoping to appear on Whose Garden? make an appearance. Everyone is talking about the shaft. And to the President’s delight, representatives of the major newspapers and TV stations are photographing it all.
A month later a huge trailer truck from Oregon arrives loaded with woody and herbaceous plants. Forty of this variety and forty of that variety, all in black 1 to 13 gallon plastic pots. “Should we plant them in the nursery,” the Old Timer asks hopefully. “No, just line them out on the ground down there and keep them watered,” the Assistant instructs.
Gardener – In the trade they’re called liners.
Writer – What are called liners?
Gardener – Nursery pots, as in plants in pots that are lined up for sale.
Writer – That September, the plants are brought up from the nursery for the annual garden party and lined out near the auction tents. The sale is a success in spite of that fact that nothing used by Captain Morning Glory is for sale. When the gardeners inform the guests, who want to buy schefflera for the front of their house, that Shefleras are house plants, the guests go off in a huff looking for someone in charge. “After all,” they complain, “the Shaft is the hit of the party. Do you think Morning Glory,” they ask the President when they think they are alone, “could install one for me?” Nonetheless all the late summer-early autumn flowering perennials and a third of the shrubs sell out before diner is served. Because of their size, only a quarter of the trees move. Even so by the end of the evening, a profit is turned. During the following weeks, the prices of the inventory are dropped until everything is selling at cost. These are scooped up by homeowners who know value. Once the President discovers that big money can be made selling plants, she mandates, in an impressive paper, the creation of a permanent sales division that will run the envisioned Sales Shop. The Assistant pleads to be included in the Sales Division. The President doesn’t see why not since he was part of the original shopping spree in Oregon. When Horticulture hears of this he too requests a place. This too is granted and managers are knighted at the next meeting.
The Board is thrilled about the Institution’s new venture, but once again the Treasurer, while agreeing that supplementing public funding is essential, has difficulties accepting the idea of a pubic garden running a full scale business, let alone balancing income against the huge expenditures of the so called shaft project. The Secretary, who is a lawyer and is taking the minutes, duly acknowledges the reservations of the Treasurer.

The Gardener Returns, A Dialogue, Part Ten C

To everyone’s surprise the curator of the Greenhouse Garden is appointed the Assistant Director of Horticulture. As it turns out he’s a perfect fit. Years ago, long before his move to New Drake, he managed a shoe store in a mall outside Akron for the footwear chain, The Inner Soul. Later he managed a garden center near Columbus for the giant retail chain, The InsideOut Living Corporation. When asked by the Resource Officer if he gardened in his spare time, he told the interviewer he preferred sailing. “Where on earth did you sail in Ohio,” was the startled response of Resource. “On Hoover reservoir outside Columbus,” he answered; “sailing on Long Island Sound was one of the reasons I applied here, that and the benefits.”
In the potting shed the morning after his elevation is announced, the new Assistant can see the gardeners eyeing him skeptically. He tells those who didn’t know the Wizard, “in spite of what you’ve heard about the Wizard’s protégé, the Wizard had no favorites; he treated us all the same. Just because the Wizard liked what I did, doesn’t mean I used his friendship to gain advantages for myself. I stand on my own merits.” The Assistant, feeling an oratory power fill his lungs, winds up and throws another pitch. “The Wizard,” he continues, “told us what to do; what tree to move; what screw to use; don’t believe what someone else might tell you. As your new Assistant, I intend to guide you just the way the Wizard guided me.”
When the President returns from her AAPI retreat at the Spiny Cactus Resort and Spa in Southern California, she can barely contain herself. “It was marvelous,” she exclaims at her managers meeting, walking around the table where her team is seated, handing out souvenir ceramic Joshua Trees with the monogram SCR&S inscribed in gold letters on the base. “Do you know the biblical story of Joshua,” she asks, taking the last Joshua Tree for herself and fondly gazing at it. “I met a priest there and he told me the story of Joshua. Yes, it was a good time. When you wanted something, you went and got it. Apparently Joshua was having some trouble defeating the socialists in Gideon so he raised his hands to heaven – and by the way this is what the Mormons saw when they looked on the Joshua Trees growing near the spa. Joshua implored the almighty god in the bible, this is all in the bible, to grip that sun that was crossing the sky and hold it in place so he could get the job done, finish off the terrorist city-state of Gideon before sundown. I was reminded of an ad I used to see in the National Geographic magazine when I was girl – you’re all too young to remember this. A giant hand is gripping the atom as if it’s a hornets’ nest, taming its fury for our commercial use. Yes, it was a good time. There’s nothing we can’t do if we let the right people do it! Yes, you should have been there,” she says, placing the object on a massive Swedish reproduction of a 19th century commode where she displays mementos from other important meetings. In the mirror above the commode she inspects her tan. “The Kings’ people – and these are people who can control the atom! – sent their legal advisors. They helped us understand who we’re up against. Of course, here, we don’t need help, do we? We know exactly who we’re up against.” Everyone at the table looks around, as if the implied “who” is there with them. “They offered us,” she explains, lifting a parcel of papers in binders, “free enterprise strategies, call them practical formulas if you will, to help our Institution pay for itself. Of course, we’re on target, aren’t we – transforming our Public Institution into a Profitable Non Profit – the very words used by the closing speaker. . . And did I mention that Joshua was also a spy. Apparently Moses sent him into enemy territory to gather intelligence. On the open market, anything goes!”
Gardener – I thought she went to AABGA to attend a seminar for The Elimination of Pests and Weeds.
Writer – I told you already not the Association of Arboretum and Botanical Gardens of America, but the Association of American Public Institutions, AAPI
Gardener – What about The Society For The Elimination of Pests and Weeds?
Writer – Didn’t you tell me once that a weed is anything found in the wrong location.
Gardener – Any plant found in the wrong place.
Writer – As you can see the Kings’ people know how to stretch the metaphor. They pay people a lot of money to do it. But you wouldn’t know that, would you, you don’t watch TV.
Gardener – But what’s her spy story have to do with weeds?
Writer – Let’s go on. Following her preamble she describes the keynote speaker. “You all know who he is,” she claims, taking her seat, “the host of the national TV garden show, Whose Garden?” She waits for recognition to brighten their faces. Seeing none, she goes on. “InsideOut carries his brand name clothes and garden accessories. That’s right, Captain Morning Glory. You’ve seen his signature stitched across the breast pockets of shirts and jerseys and diagonally across the back pockets of pants and shorts. If you haven’t, you will soon. When our shop finally opens, we’ll carry his full line from rakes to socks. And Horticulture, I want his outdoor work apparel to be the standard uniform worn by the gardeners. And to get the ball rolling, Horticulture, I want Morning Glory to design a theme garden for us. Call his agent immediately – my secretary will give you his contact information – make the arrangements before anyone else gets hold of him; I’m sure our brother and sister institutions at the seminar are thinking the same thing. Yes, the world is moving quickly,” she affirms, tapping her fingers on the Kings’ stack of legal advice; “we don’t want to be at the bottom of the heap implementing innovation, do we? And donors give money to projects like this, isn’t that right, Development?” “As long as their names are in lights,” agrees Development.
Later, with the new Assistant present, the President reviews her strategy with Horticulture. The Assistant quickly applauds the idea. “I worked for InsideOut. The Captain’s merchandise sold like hotcakes. Don’t you think we should give Morning Glory the greenhouse garden beds?” “My sentiments, exactly,” the President agrees, “I want his installation to be prominent. And it would add some oomph to that area,” she adds, not wanting the Assistant to get too carried away with himself. But he bounces back and cheerfully replies, “and we can sell the plants varieties he uses in his installation.” “Horticulture,” cries the President gleefully, “I told you the Assistant was our man.” Horticulture nods instantly, reminding them that “tweeting will serve us well among the social network.” “I’ll have PR look into it,” she promises. “Now is the time,” she adds, walking them to the door; “The Institution encourages this kind of strategic dynamism.” Horticulture, still wanting to recapture his glow, quickly adds, “and if our garden hero actually used his own personnel to install the garden, we could reduce our staff.”
Energized by her stay at the Spiny Cactus, the President forges ahead on her plans for economic independence. “We don’t want future generations to suffer the decisions we must make now,” she exhorts her managers; “living in the red has no place in the public domain.” The first two positions eliminated by the Institution belong to the two janitors, both employed there since the early days. Among their many responsibilities was cleaning the bathrooms. The new provider is a large maintenance company who takes full responsibility for the health care benefits of its own employees. When this change goes down without comment, the Institution moves quickly. Lawn maintenance is eliminated from the payroll. Bids are accepted from local landscaping companies. The largest company, coming in with the lowest bid, gets the contract. To financially accommodate the cost of hiring the new company, the President tells Horticulture it’s time reduce staff size; he must “release” the last hired gardener. Having not understood at the time the repercussions of his off-the-cuff idea to the President, he puts up a last minute defense. “But we just hired him,” pleads Horticulture; “he’s still on his twelve month probation.” This makes him feel better. “Precisely,” she replies; “I don’t want you to tell him or anyone until two weeks before his probation is up. We save the Institution a whopping 12,000 dollars since the man’s not yet vested nor entitled to any benefits.” “It’s a shame,” bemoans Horticulture, “he’s so pliable.” “It will do the young man good,” she counters, “we don’t want to see him corrupted by entitlements.” And finally he adds, “I overhead he’s newly married.” “Horticulture,” she says acerbically, “we, the managers of the public sector, must always struggle against the inefficiency of the public sector. It’s endemic in our line of work. Whatever good, whether salary or security this gardener may derive from the Institution is beside the point. We’re not here to help him. We’re here to help the Institution. We’ve been chosen to walk through this alien environment, each his or her own Joshua, in search of government inefficiency. Remember, without this Institution the children will lose their jobs.”
“You mean he’s fired,” says the Gardener, when the decision is finally announced. “No, released,” replies Horticulture; “in other words he’s free to find other work.” This comment is followed by astonished silence. “Wow,” exclaims the Old Timer with a sigh, “just married and a mortgage.” “Just married and a mortgage,” mimics the Assistant with a shrug of his shoulders. “Just married and a mortgage,” is parroted throughout the Institution; “just married and a mortgage,” resonates like the notes of an organ, through the rooms on the second floor of the former home of Total Power’s man. “Why do you look so upset, Horticulture,” the President queries; “we made him no promises. Change is good, Horticulture, both for us and for him. I don’t see your Assistant mourning, do you? Besides, you’re still here.”
At her next meeting with the Board of Directors, the President flashes a “V” sign, which reminds her fondly of her college days at UCLA when she and the other students sat outside the Administration building, demanding an end to the war, hands raised, flashing the “V” symbolizing Peace. But here, she muses, it means Victory. It reminds her of the historical connectivity in a world of change. It gives her a cozy, warm feeling. She tells the Kings’ men, a gardener’s position, for the first time, has finally been eliminated. “That leaves a total of three unfilled slots, saving the Institution three salaries plus the entitlements. In short, a potential threat with all its attending ulcers like pension and health benefits has been avoided, a financial wound staunched.” The only member of the Board who does not applaud is the Treasurer, who asks if the hiring of new management positions hasn’t offset the gain made in reducing Horticulture. “I promised efficiency and innovation and that can only be achieved,” she says archly, “by insuring we can hire the best personnel in the field to help streamline the Institution.” “Let’s hope so,” the Treasurer remarks, observing the others, who see no difficulty in the evolution of management.
She fumes into the office of Development, bypassing the secretary. Development hears her, then assuages her fury by reminding her that terminating the position of the new gardener, not only saved the Institution from needless bleeding but rerouted these resources to better serve it, by implementing improvements in communication here in the upper hierarchy. But more importantly we’ve increased the resentment among the younger gardeners toward the older gardeners, since the last to be hired not only receive less to start with, but also have no job security. “You’re right, of course” says the President; “only that lousy Treasurer was waving his red cape at me.” Development goes on to advise, “we quietly spread the word that the older gardeners hired by the Wizard have been granted immunity.” The Board, with only one vote to the contrary, acknowledges the President’s accomplishments by giving her a bonus. She, in turn approves a merit raise for Development as reward for her insightful comments.
With the walls of Horticulture breached for the first time since the Garden’s inception, members of staff begin to whisper among themselves that if they can layoff one of the gardeners, then none of us are safe. Feeling no future here, Security and Maintenance are the first to jump ship. In a formal report to the Board, the President states that “with employee turnover increasing after two years, at last reasonable salaries can be maintained.” She writes, “during the Wizard’s time low turnover was considered a sign of contentment, contentment a sign of prosperity. The Wizard,” she emphasizes, pounding the keys emphatically, “considered himself. . .” and here she uses the now extirpated word “. . . the Garden. As a result his power over the Institution was immense. It was detrimental to the progress of the Institution.” “There were other Presidents,” the Chairman gently reminds her at the next meeting. “But as you will obviously concede,” she responds, “they were powerless against the immense strength of his supporters.” “His supporters,” the Treasurer emphasizes, “helped fund the Garden. Since his banishment. . .” “He wasn’t banished,” says the President, “he vanished of his own accord.” “And with him,” the Treasurer continues, “the financial support that he garnered.” “But,” she adds, reclaiming the discussion, “he favored entitlements. Entitlements feed worker dependency and foster systems of inert staticity and,” she says with arched brows, remembering what one lawyer emphasized at the Spiny Cactus, “without anchoring worker loyalty. This is counter to the strategic dynamism we now seek. I’m proposing that by eliminating these costly policies our savings match our losses, without our having to tax the public any further with gate increases. At long last,” she concludes, “our public institution can compete in the market reality of today.” The treasurer, who made his fortune in his own private investment company in the old days before bankers became investors with public money, is about to ask her why, instead of a garden, she isn’t running a business, when the Chairman, who is a banker after all and no longer intimidated by the Treasurer’s former successes, raises his hand to remind those sitting there of their role, “let’s allow our dear Institution to pursue the policies she has already initiated with success so far.” Excepting the Treasurer whose reservations limit his gaiety, the other members of the Board nod their heads cheerfully.
But Horticulture is worried. He’s come to realize the gardeners who worked under the Wizard are not only more experienced, but masters when it comes to composing color and texture with living material. Nonetheless, a new order is evolving and he must step aboard or be run down. As per signed agreement, once a week, five or six men disembark from a large green flatbed truck, the name of the vendor printed across the doors. They unload in front of the garage a fleet of mowers, large and small, and with an explosion of sound begin mowing the lawns. After their first visit it’s obvious to management that the need for the Institution’s huge sit-down mower, as well as the push mowers and edge trimmers is at an end. The President asks Horticulture to dispose of them. He hesitates. He wonders “if we shouldn’t keep them until absolutely sure.” “I am absolutely sure,” replies the President; “and if you’re so fond of them, take the fucking things home with you.” Shocked by her tone he apologizes. But taking no prisoners she says, “I’m sure the Assistant wouldn’t have any problems getting rid of them!” After the mowers are discarded, the President wants to know what’s left. Horticulture reports that three Cushmans, one so old it’s a miracle it still runs and the tractor with its front end-loader and the backhoe remain in the large room of the garage. In former days Total Power’s executive housed several cars and a mechanic who kept the cars running. In those days the garage had its own gas pump and air compressor and a pit in the small room between the parking area and the storage room in back for changing oil and washing cars. “Do we need a tractor,” asks the President incredulously. “We do,” replies Horticulture firmly. He doesn’t admit that he enjoys driving the tractor, now and then, his baseball cap pulled around visor backward. “How much do they cost to maintain,” she asks. “The greatest expense was maintaining the mowers, especially the rider. But now that those have been eliminated, the only cost, aside from parts, mainly for the Cushmans, comes to nothing. The Pruner of Yews keeps them all running.” In his next pay envelope, the Pruner of Yews receives a memo notifying him that because the elimination of the mowing machines have reduced his responsibilities, his salary has been adjusted.
The next area of improvement has to do with the Nursery where the Wizard and his gardeners had grown-on hard-to-find plants. Many of these plants had been germinated from seed or propagated from cuttings or bought as potted specimens from small mail order specialty houses. This area had been the primary source of the Garden’s diversity. Back in the day, now being referred to by management as “another time” or “medieval,” the Wizard, at the suggestion of the Porcelain Man, had placed the Old Timer in charge of this area. With the help of seasonal workers, generally high school students working summers, the Old Timer kept it weed free by first spreading the leaf mulch, stored nearby, between the rows, then weeding around the bases of the plantings. The mulch also helped reduce the watering and preserved the soil from compaction. One day the Assistant tells Horticulture in hearing of the President, “the public wants to buy what’s popular. They like flowers, big bright flowers! They like the flowers they see in someone else’s garden. When they see them in a nursery, that’s what they remember and buy. So why wait until Morning Glory arrives next year? Let’s expand the sales area for the next fund raiser.” Horticulture is annoyed with the Assistant’s loud, insistent voice. Ever since he became Assistant, Horticulture has noticed that instead of working in the Greenhouse beds, the Assistant spends his day taking pictures with his mobile and posting them on his MyFace page entitled “From The Ground Up.” Nonetheless “you’re right,” he says. The two men understand how important it is to agree on everything. “But our first order of business,” continues Horticulture, “is finding a wholesale nursery who’ll grow our material and deliver it in time.”
Gardener – Wait a minute. What’s the improvement for the nursery?
Writer – This all happened long ago after the Wizard vanished.
Gardener – But what about the nursery?
Writer – At the end of the next pay period the Old Timer discovers a personal memo in his pay envelope pointing out that since he will no longer be riding the mover his salary has been adjusted. He asks the Assistant if this is a prelude to being fired. The Assistant assures him he knows nothing about it, that he should speak with Horticulture. Now it’s Horticulture’s turn to look surprised. He advises the Old Timer speak with Human Resource. With a look of surprise Resource tells him absolutely not. As far as she knows, his services are still needed. “Don’t you work in the nursery,” she asks. “Yes,” he replies, “But we haven’t introduced new plants to the nursery since the austerity program began.” “Well,” she admits, “because of funding cuts at the Federal level the Institution has been reorganizing.” He’s noticed that. “Then you should remember that next time you vote, you do vote don’t you?” He nods sheepishly yes. “So you understand,” she affirms, “that as soon as the reorganization is completed we’ll begin loosening the purse strings again.” “Will that be soon,” he asks anxiously. “I’m not sure,” she answers, “but aren’t you going to retire soon?” “I hadn’t thought about it,” he says. “Well, you should,” she suggests; “either that or consider what the next election might mean if you vote for the wrong man.” “Wrong man?” “Think about it.” When relating this discussion to the President, the President exclaims, “fire him, why give him a chance to vote!” But Resource explains that firing him would be seen like an open attack on senior members of the staff, which as Development then points out “would hurt us rather than help us.” Public Relations agrees. “There’s a lot of old people around,” she says.
In mid-August in preparation for the upcoming Fall Fund Raiser the last small tree is dug and burlapped.
Gardener – The last tree?
Writer – A crabapple.
Gardener – Probably Malus sargentia Tina.
Writer – Perhaps.
Gardener – But how can they do that, a public garden? It’s unheard of! We’re supposed to be leaders in innovation, not followers of the garden mall mentality.
Writer – We? This isn’t about you? This is so much bigger than you! “What am I to do down here,” asks the Old Timer. “For now, nothing,” replies the Assistant. “What am I to do in the nursery,” he asks Horticulture. “An excellent question,” is Horticulture’s answer. The Old Timer waits for another memo from the office; but it doesn’t arrive. Instead Horticulture sends his own memo suggesting the gardeners, for the time being, grow their own vegetables in the old nursery. “Vegetables, ” asks the Old Timer in dismay. “Vegetables,” laughs the Pruner of Yews. “Yes, vegetables,” the Assistant affirms. “The season’s nearly over,” the Gardener says. “You’re always negative,” the Assistant replies, “have you forgotten Kale?” “Kale? Cabbage? Beets, maybe? Be my guest,” the Gardener says, looking at him, “you obviously have the time,” and walks out the potting shed door. “Don’t rule out next year,” the Assistant shouts, following him to the door. To the others he says, “Why are you standing around?”
Everyone was aware that the Old Timer mulched the Nursery from the nearby leaf piles. Everyone was also aware that the Gardener used compost and mulch in the High Garden. And if we recall, aside from the Old Timer and the Gardener, no one else used Compost and Mulch. But Horticulture and the Assistant are aware of the Gardener’s seditious movement of mulch and compost to the woodlands. They have it on tape. Therefore Horticulture and the Assistant deem the Compost and Mulch piles superfluous. It is rumored that mulch kills trees and that compost spreads a horrid fungus. The Gardener is shocked when he hears the newer gardeners discussing this. He acknowledges that mulch can prevent water from reaching the deep roots of trees and shrubs during droughts if areas are not thoroughly soaked and that the high alkaline content of mulch in late decomposition can damage certain acidic loving plants. And that the addition of too much compost can help porous soils dry out even faster. But he claims the benefits outweigh the exceptions. To this protest, the Assistant nods his head sadly. “I know,” he says, “the Wizard, against his better judgment, let you mulch the grounds. He let you dig in compost with all its weed seeds.” “That’s the reason you mulch composted areas,” argues the Gardener. “Those were different times,” continues the Assistant with unctuous relish, “a bygone era. You didn’t know any better. You didn’t use mother’s little helpers, the tech tools Industry is now offering the world. Besides, Gardener, we’re too big to waste the taxpayer’s funding on your antiquated methods. We don’t have the time, nor the funds to run a feudal system. Your old fashioned methods are too labor intensive. Do any of you,” he pronounces, turning to the rest, “really like spending days on end digging out the foul smelling mulch when you could be working up here doing. . . doing real gardening?” “Gardening is labor intensive,” the Gardener states; “there’s nothing wrong with garden work. Besides it’s good when everyone works together now and then moving mulch.” “Oh, I see, kill independent initiative by implementing big brother projects like the your WPA inspired move-the- mulch days. I think everyone here believes the Institution is here to foster the individual’s right to pursue his dream. Am I right?” He looks around for approval. He used to mulch. He knows that no one likes mulching. There’s a shuffling of feet as discomfort fills the air. Woefully the Old Timer announces, “I’ll never mulch the nursery again.” “What nursery,” replies the Assistant surprised. “I thought maybe one day.” “As I just said, we don’t live in bygone days.” After that wood chips provided by the garden maintenance company replaces the leaf mould which is let to rot down slowly under a host of burdock and sticky willy. Since Horticulture foresees the department turning a profit in the future for the Institution he convinces the President to allocate funds for the fertilizer that will supersede compost. “They want to get rid of me,” the Old Timer confides to the Gardener and the Pruner of Yews. “Woodchips! Imagine that?”
For the first time in all his years at the Garden– he refuses to say the word, Institution – the Gardener is unable to do his job. He feels he is being herded into a smaller and smaller place, held hostage by a set of alien rules applied to fit all circumstances, even a small garden. He once heard one of the Kings’ men complain that China was fixing its currency to favor its Industry on the world market. “China,” said the Kings’ man, “doesn’t play by the rules.” This man went on to say, “if I were President of the Country I would make China play by the rules.” What rules, the Gardener asks himself, and when did they go into affect? It seems to the Gardener that those who want us to play by the rules want us to play by their rules. After all the established rules of any group are created to favor that group. When he discovered the world of plants in the Old Woman’s garden – it saved him from the chaos of youth. For the first time since his father disappeared, he was rooted to something bigger than himself, which he perceived, with the Old Woman’s help, to be beautiful. He thought, if I bring this earthly beauty to others they will feel as I do. It took him sometime to realize that his Eden was not applicable to all, that everyone’s idea of paradise is different. The clients who sought him out generally liked what he did. He took on each project knowing he worked as if the ground belonged to someone he loved. Bits of his memory were lodged in his work like splashes of color against a unifying green, here a hint of his first days before his father disappeared, and there the strong influences of the Old Woman’s garden, and finally an architectural presence gleaned from the Wizard’s Garden on the Tongue of Slang. He also had clients who thought they liked what he did because he worked in the famous Garden. They thought, I want that garden here in my back yard. When they actually saw what he did for them, they realized, too late, they hated it. Sometimes they refused to pay him as if he had not lived up to the bargain they had imagined. It’s true his work sometimes reflected something he tried to avoid, an unwanted tension from the days his mother and his siblings wandered through this same suburbia evading the bill collectors. Some clients, not knowing the cause – it’s doubtful he fully understood himself – thought these manipulations of nature were strokes of genius, a spiny object amid an enveloping soft blue or an outrageous broadleaf tropical where one expected something neat and trim. No matter what shrub or tree he dug and moved again and again he couldn’t soften the composition, a glint of fury always remained.
When he began working in the High Garden at The Garden On Drake’s Tongue, he realized the Wizard had offered him a gift. In the High Garden he could encourage visitors to take home with them images of beauty that could help them design their own worlds of peace and comfort. But come now, Gardener, there’s little peace in creation, more like agitation, the act driven by a need to heal the psyche. Perfection is unachievable. But he counter argues, the attempt to achieve goes on forever. And therein was salvation. The potential for success, if only momentary, offers hope for eternity. If it can happen at all, it can happen forever. In the afterhours, if the creator reflected, he could pause and see his work of beauty. In that moment the creator is healed, for a moment, that fraction of time it takes the liver of Prometheus to heal before the bird of doubt returns to inflict its pain. He liked when visitors asked him about plants they’d never seen before and wondered if they could grow them in their gardens. He always recommended they try. Sometimes he gave them seeds, sometimes cuttings – provided they had a plastic sandwich bag – most often he told them where to buy the plant. He enjoyed hearing their stories and encouraged them to invest in the diversity of all these botanical beings.
Now, with his plant kingdom in the hands of someone who couldn’t care less about plants, the Garden is threatened. If the rules established by the Garden’s President are better suited to a mall, what chance did the Garden have? But not only his Garden, he realizes, but gardens everywhere. The Kings have narrowed the meaning of the word, industry to mean something profitable. Thus the Kings’ word, Industry, looms up beside the President’s Institution. More specifically the Kings of the plant Industry have established a business model that favors giants over all the Jacks and their handfuls of beans. How could the small growers compete against the Kings’ rules which have bypassed millenniums of practice? As the Gardener looks out over the Garden, he wonders what choice he has when the Kings have already chosen his seed for him. What becomes of the Garden’s diversity when the corporate model for the mall and the factory is applied to all? The natural world can’t be relegated to the demands of the market without the loss of this precious diversity, which for the Gardener is the cornerstone of his liberty, his liberty to chose for himself from a vast plant kingdom what the gardener will propagate. It’s no different than choosing beer or bread on a supermarket shelf. If it all comes from one company, that’s not diversity, that’s not the evolutionary plan. There should be no masters of the market or the garden. Who is the first to complain when our so called elected officials try to protect the realm from the loss of diversity? The Kings who cry against regulations! Diversity demands that all living things have an equal place on the plane of existence, no one thing receiving more than its share. He weeds the garden to ensure that one species doesn’t dominate over another. On the other hand, though he tries to ensure something rare its place in his garden, he can’t waste all his resources should this plant be ill-suited for that environment, like a barrel cactus in a pond or a lawn in a desert.
That same Kings’ man who complains about China, claims to know how to put people back to work? Yet this same man, to maintain his investments, has put people out of work. Were those who lost their jobs to help maintain his investments ill-suited for the work like the tropical orchid growing on a mountaintop? Perhaps a few. But more likely, the rules of the market dictated a high return on the capital invested by the principal shareholders, before they could consider the well-being of those employed. No, the rules don’t favor workers any more than they favor polar bears. Who would the Kings’ man help, the gardener who had collected his own seed or his neighbor, who had bought genetically modified seed from the King’s store? The independent or the company’s client? When the wind blows across his neighbor’s large fields towards the gardener’s small patch, it brings with it the neighbor’s pollen. Does the gardener have any chose which way the wind blows? Can he expect a big city judge to understand the mechanism for plant propagation when the judge has never worked in a garden? Can a judge who has only read the legal decisions from other trials or the well crafted words of the Kings’ agents understand the illiterate forces and unwritten laws of nature? We are not talking about the gardener who collects the seed knowing it’s now transgenic. We’re talking about the gardener who doesn’t want the Kings’ seed period. The Gardener doesn’t care if transgenic seeds is good or bad for people. He cares about his freedom to chose what he sows in his garden. At the end of the season, the gardener does what he has always done: he collects enough seed to sow next year. But the following year, he observes that his neighbors herbicide has drifted over into his garden on the same westerly breeze traveled by last year’s pollen. How does he know? Here and there on the margins of his plot, he can see tell tale signs of herbicide poisoning, the corn leaves yellowing and wilting for no reason at all. But he can also see that some of corn stalks among the dying are still vibrant and green. A week later an agent from the Kings’ men drives up in a dark car with tinted windows, gets out and serves him a summons. “What did I do,” the gardener asks. “A sample of your material. . .” “What material,” asks the gardener bewildered. “Plant material. You’re growing our product!” “What product,” the gardener asks befuddled. “Plant product. That’s our corn,” the man says pointing to the green stalks growing over by the ditch. “Our records show that you never bought the rights. . .” “What rights,” he asks truly alarmed. “Proprietary rights, allowing you to grow our patented products. Here, sign on the dotted line and write out a check in the King’s name and all will be well. Otherwise one of the Kings’ elected officials will arrive and take you to prison.”
The gardener refuses to sign for something he didn’t buy. He didn’t want that corn. “Yes, you did,” says the court judge, who lives off the taxes paid by both the gardener and King, though the King’s share is supposed to be larger because it makes more, “otherwise you wouldn’t be growing it.” “I collected the seed off my own land last year,” he tells the judge. “Can you prove that,” asks the judge, telling him “an invoice is as good as an alibi.” “How can I prove I collected my own kernels with my own hands,” protests the gardener. The judge looks at him with a stern eye, “That simply proves my point. You didn’t buy the product in question, you stole it.” “Why would I steal something I don’t want. It doesn’t make any sense,” pleads the gardener. The lawyer for the prosecution knows the law. He knows the Kings people and the Kings elected officials. He stands up, sharply dressed in a blue grey suit, and with the judge’s permission explains to the farmer who is, after all, just a hick, why he stole the factory-made corn seed from his neighbor. “Gene modification is saving the world from famine. There’s money to be made. By inserting the gene code for synthesizing the Bacillus thuringiensis toxin into corn’s genetic package my client, the King, prevents the European corn borer from destroying his clients’ corn. Do you know what Bt is,” the man in the blue grey suit asks him. The gardener can’t believe the tone of voice. He remembers using a Bacillus species for years trying to kill the grubs in the lawn in his back yard where his kids played kick ball. But the project had failed because he didn’t have enough lawn or larva to allow the B. popilliae to take up permanent residency. And he had never been sure that his targets, the Japanese Beetle and possibly the European Chafer, and other species of June Bug, which he always found piled against the screen mid summer or later as larva buried in his wife’s potted plants, had been the only targets. Later he tried nematodes but the results were the same. Not that he would try chemicals, preferring to live with his problems than shotgun the invisible targets out of existence. “Yeah, I know what BT is and I don’t want it in my corn. So what’s this got to do with me?” The lawyer in the blue grey suit sighs patiently. “I’m trying to explain to you the science behind this innovation.” “You’re explaining nothing I don’t know already,” the gardener objects; “gardeners like me have been culling seed since the Neolithic when the wise women selected the plants that favored larger fruits and resisted disease.” “Objection overruled,” injects the judge from his high seat above the courtroom. The lawyer for the prosecution thanks the judge before continuing, “but you, sir, wanted to take a short cut, didn’t you, you decided you didn’t want to wait a thousand years for a similar product to appear naturally; you took advantage of my poor client, the King, and that’s why you’re accused of patent infringements.” “Is this what my ancestors in Concord and Lexington fought the British King for,” he asks the judge, “that I can be prosecuted for collecting seed from the plants I’ve sown and grown on my property since I was a teenager working with my daddy?” “Didn’t you notice that some of what you call your corn didn’t die while other corn plants did? Didn’t you see that?” “Yeah, I saw that my neighbor’s herbicides hit my plants. I should be suing you!” he rebuts, “why would I want corn like that, that can be sprayed with plant killers and survive?” “Because then you could add more rows, plant more corn, which would increase you profit and feed the world.” “I prefer feeding the world the old fashion way, by weeding.” “That’s right,” the lawyer exclaims, as if he has struck his mark, “And you know how hard the old fashioned way is, don’t you; and when you found a short cut you took it.” “No,” the gardener shouts, “I didn’t take it. The wind brought it. That’s how plants do it, in case you didn’t know, in the wind. I don’t owe your King anything, but the King owes me. The King’s so called product invaded my property and then the King’s weed killer killed my plants.” The King’s lawyer objects, the objection is sustained, and judge pronounces the defendant’s comments inadmissible being based on hearsay. “Your Honor,” the lawyer concludes, “we see this defiance all the time from criminals like the defendant. If these people persist they are going to force my generous, understanding client, the King, to bring in the terminator against the all the Kings’ wishes. But my client must protect his assets for humanitarian purposes for only the Kings have the power to save the world from starvation and privation.” “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” the startled gardener acknowledges. “Unless you obey the patent laws of this country and the world and buy the Kings’ corn, the Kings will be forced to use a technology they have sworn not to use. In other words the day is coming when you won’t profit when you pirate my clients seeds without paying for it, because it won’t germinate! Either you buy the Kings’ corn freely or one day you’ll have no other choice at all. You, my friend, must follow the rules.” The gardener is shocked. Now he can only stammer. “The creation of sterile seed is against the law!” The gravel comes down. “Silence,” shouts the judge, “the only laws are the Kings’ laws!” “There’s a higher law,” the gardener cries, against the din of the courtroom, “and that’s Nature’s law!” “The Kings laws are nature’s laws,” proclaims the judge. “I’ll write my congressman,” he shouts defiantly as the guards take him by the arms, “I’ll go to Washington!” “You won’t be going to Washington,” laughs the judge. “And it wouldn’t matter even if you could,” explains the victorious lawyer, “I know you’re congressman and your congresswoman. I know them all. Besides the Kings didn’t invent the terminator seed; your so called government did!” he proclaims, everyone laughing out loud.
The Gardener is on his knees pounding the ground, beating the very object he worships, the earth beneath him, the ever sustaining Earth. And there before him staring right at him are the minute flowers of Galinsoga. . .
Gardener – How did you know the name of that?
Writer – I’ve heard your amused comments. Galinsoga is staring at him in amusement.
Gardener – Amusement? Hardly.
Writer – So he yanks the weed from its place in the sustaining earth and is holding it in his hands, roots dangling, like that famous painting of Goya, Cronos Devouring His Children.
When the President changed the rules the Gardener was still willing to propagate his favorite varieties. At first it was challenging to see what interesting combinations he could come up with yearly, using only what was growing in the High Garden. “Smoke and mirrors,” the Wizard once told him, referring to preparations for a fund raiser. “If we lack time, edge and rake the paths and the rest falls into place.” Fine for a limited purpose. So with lifting bulbs, making divisions, taking cuttings, collecting seed, the Old Woman had taught him all this; but now the struggle to survive with all the extra hours before and after work and the physical work itself has exhausted him. Plant diversity had been the kindling for his works of structure and color, needing only a spark of enthusiasm to ignite innovation and discovery. Without access to the great gene pool of the plant world he’s come to parody himself, like an old actor playing the same role over and over again, reciting the worn lines without emotion. Without plant diversity to sustain his interest he has nowhere to go but in circles. It’s simple, diversity is the bedrock of a healthy garden. A broad gene pool safeguards failure. If a species needing more light is failing under a tree, then another specie, provided there are others to chose from, replaces it. In the quest for success the composition must remain fluid. This is based on experience. Every great garden seeks the right balance. It’s trial and error and the process is supported by a rich diversity of plants from which to chose. Society was the same. Millenniums of experience had taught us the pitfalls of a constricting gene pool. Brothers were not encouraged to marry sisters. Defective chromosomes collected inside a single progeny was like a stagnant pool of water breeding illness. By regulating the gene pool with traditional taboos, society encourages diversity.
Then why is he devouring Galinsoga? A weed? Or is it a member of his so-called vast garden gene pool? He stares at the place where he just pulled up Galinsoga and finds it still growing there. He pulls it again but it reappears in the ground. He keeps pulling it but it keeps reappearing in the same place. He is now holding a handful of limp bodies in his hand, yet the species remains in the ground in front of him. Not only that thousands of Galinsoga are popping up all around him, leaves stretching toward the light, flowers dotting the crown, maturing, drying, seed spilling in a terrifying moment of mass reproduction. As far as he can see where the bare earth separates his perennials the seedlings of Galinsoga are unfolding cotyledons quickly bearing leaves. Is this diversity, he cries, hearing himself and suddenly afraid someone might have heard him. He turns away and there on the border near the street, where once he defeated Mugwort, the pungent silvery perennial is stretching toward the border’s edge, roots running though the ground in thick mats from which the aromatic leaves appear. He can’t believe it. But there isn’t time to counter this assault. The Bindweed which he had once eliminated around the narrow English oak,
Gardener – Quercus robur fastigiata.
Writer – is creeping around thin trunks of the evergreen inkberry. . .
Gardener – Ilex glabra.
Writer – and before he can intervene, is pushing both upward, twining thickly through the branches of these shrubs, flowering profusely white cups, quite lovely really, and dropping seed, and outward through the earth the white hairless roots, brittle to touch, piercing the ground beneath him. He is overwhelmed, drops his dying bundle to the ground and stares forward like a blind man while panic grass, dandelions, and chickweed, all once successfully managed, rise up in open rebellion against his orderly world in the alpine beds. This carpet of confusion is sweeping over everything like the grey water of the ocean rushing across the lowlands. The once soothing greenery sways before him rough edged like waves on a shoreline, cresting in white clouds of seeds drifting over everything like sea spray. The garden is collapsing as a bold few battle each other for total control, like Titians at the beginning of time. A cold sweat, an upset stomach and aching joints convince him he’s coming down with something. His white blood cells and his antibodies must be surging through his body now seeking the cause of infection. Yes, they are working inside of him now, regulating the microbes and viruses seeking to overthrow his health, the health of his body, the health of the organism. He laughs. It’s no different anywhere! Whether it’s his body, the garden or the nation. He eats well to help his body regulate his health. He weeds the garden to maintain balance. And we supposedly elect government officials to regulate the Kings and their people, whose narrow sighted goals for complete market dominance, make them detrimental to society. Rules and regulations are essential to the health of the country to prevent the Kings’ all consuming growth from destroying the country as it was now destroying the Garden. He leaves work with the others, is home before sundown, his wife and children shocked to see him so early.
The next day in the frame yard adjacent to the potting shed, he is staring into a bucket of water, when the face of the Old Woman floats to the surface of the water, smiling. He smiles in return. She asks him why he’s forgotten how wide the world is. Don’t let the darkness swallow you. Everything you need can be found in someone else’s garden. Just then the Assistant comes into the frame yard. “Who are you talking to,” he asks, a smirk on his face, “I heard voices.” “That’s odd,” the Gardener replies, lifting the bucket and leaving, “everyone here was quiet.” At diner he tells his wife and kids, “this afternoon I saw the Old Woman’s face in a bucket of water.” “A bucket of water,” asks his older daughter. “I was filling it so I could water some divisions of Iris pallida in the Herb Garden for one of the interns.” Who is the Old Woman, daddy?” “She taught me everything I know,” he tells them. “Did the Old Woman say anything, daddy?” “She told me to visit other gardens.” The kids laugh, thinking he is joking; but his wife says, “She’s right, you must get away when you can and visit other gardens.”
That night he dreams he is walking through an intricate garden of winding paths. Sunlight fills the garden; yet he can’t see the sun. The sky is blue and perfect with perfect clouds but the sun is nowhere to be seen. The trees throw shadows that seem alive, breathing. They sway as if in a breeze, although he can’t feel anything. He comes out onto a glade where it is suddenly dark and the rain begins to fall. That’s when he sees them wandering through the garden, one a tall pale figure in a thin blue grey poncho sweeping through the glade, a man like Mockingbird whistling. The other, the birdman’s companion, he recognizes. He’s the Wizard. He runs over to him, covering the great distance instanter and greets him enthusiastically. The Wizard reprimands him, one hand slicing the air. “You must be quiet! We’re working by stealth.” “Have you been here long,” asks the Gardener, his voice shaking the leaves all around him. “A very long time, but you must be quiet!” the Wizard emphasizes, his finger to his lips. He is holding a wad of plastic A&P bags. Just then the birdman swoops down upon a clump of iris to admire it, the outer edges of the poncho enveloping the clump, his head tilted to the side to study it. Then with a wind beneath him he rises up on his feet again, drifting ahead, his head looking side to side. The Wizard nervously apologizes and races forward toward the winged stranger. The Gardener, too, is following right behind. He sees the two confer. The unknown man hands the Wizard a small bundle and then moves off again, sometimes laterally, sometimes forward, his head constantly moving side to side in search of something. The Gardener looks down on the clump of iris. Weeds are growing through the rhizomes which clamor over one another in tight congestion. He can see that no one has been tending this place. It reminds him of the High Garden but then it could be anywhere, a garden beside an ancient temple or church. “Stop daydreaming and help me,” the Wizard scolds in hushed voice. “What do you want me to do,” the Gardener replies enthusiastically like a child. His voice fills the canopy of a nearby tree, leaves flutter silver and green as a flock of sparrows fly off, shrieking to the birdman. “Shhhh! Or you can go home,” exclaims the Wizard with a worried look. “Here take this.” He hands the Gardener a plastic bag, holding the rhizomes of the iris, and a plastic label. “What do you want me to do?” “Do I have to spell it out! Get the name and any other information. It’s important! And do be quiet!” “What do I write with?” “Don’t you carry a pencil and pad of paper with you anymore,” exclaims the exasperated Wizard. He digs through all his pockets. He appears to be wearing layers of casual jackets. “Why are you wearing all those jackets,” asks the Gardener in wonder. “They belong to him, can’t you see, they’re too big.” Finally inside the wallet pocket of the inner most jacket of brown suede, he finds a pencil and hands it to him. Printed across the length of pencil are the words in old English lettering, The Antique Pottery Mart. “Don’t just stand there, write something!” “What do you want me to write?” “The plant’s name for god’s sake. I can’t believe what’s become of you!” He point to the congested rhizomes in the garden bed. “Oh my, the Porcelain Man is getting away from me. I don’t want to lose him!” And he runs off. The Porcelain Man, whispers the Gardener, staring after them. He forgets everything and runs after them. Then he remembers the label, yes, the label. He turns back to look for the clump and there, instead of nubs of leaves growing out of the roots, spires of tall, bearded iris have grown with standards in burnt umber and falls of purple. He forgets the Wizard and the Porcelain Man and bends down to see the name of this marvelous iris for himself. The old copper label is blank. Then in midair above the label a stylus appears and scrawls an elegant calligraphy, that reminds him of something. As if such things happen all the time, he worries instead where he has seen this handwriting before, when he feels he’s waking. No, he cries to himself plunging back again toward the magnificent iris, reading on the label, I. g. Dante’s Inferno. In the distance the earth and the sky merge in a blue grey mist where he thinks he sees the Porcelain Man sweeping down from the sky, feathers of misty grey, the Wizard, below, arms akimbo, nervously urging him on. His descent is so rapid he knows it cannot be true, and yet this bird has dropped to earth, again sweeping close to the heartbeat of what he wants before returning to the distant Wizard, his hand now in the air like a perch, which makes the Gardener laugh, as he wakes to the sound of someone flushing the toilet somewhere in the building where he lives. In a panic he searches for the name. Then quietly, not wanting to wake his wife, he rises out of bed, goes quickly into the kitchen where he turns on the light. On a scrap of paper he writes, Iris germanica Dante’s Inferno.
Sometime during the following week it comes to him, a bolt of lightening that makes him laugh like he did in the dream. The handwriting on the label belonged to the Old Woman. How could he have forgotten that? When he began working at the Garden, he saw her less and less. Then the years passed without him seeing her at all. Then one day two years ago the Old Woman’s daughter, whose inclinations were not bent in the same way as her mother, called him. She wasn’t a gardener but she knew how much the garden meant to her mother. She told him her mother was sick and had been for some time. The next day he went to see her. The Old Woman smiled at him the way she did the first time she saw him from the corner of her house, a boy staring up her walkway. He told her he’d come to weed and deadhead the beds. “Oh, you have more important things to do now,” she told him, without a hint of reproach, “a garden of your own and a family to love. The girls must be getting big now.” He and the daughter moved the Old Woman to the window where so she could sit and watch him work. “If I do something wrong you can tap on the window.” He once remembered her garden full of surprises, nooks and crannies appearing beneath bowers, where something grew he’d never seen before. Now as he surveyed the work ahead of him, he realized how small it was, how quaint. It took him just a few hours to clean up the overgrown weedy beds and set the debris on the compost pile, now crumbling in decay. When they said goodbye, he kissed her on the cheek, as she patted his hand. A week later she was dead.
Now with the late afternoon sun in front of him, he drives across the River Slang, passing the Great Wall and the Gate Keepers’ colonnade. As he drives through the neighborhoods where he once lived like a gypsy, unwanted memories seep through the quiet, tree-lined streets like palimpsest standing in stark contrast. Why in his quest to create beauty had he forgotten the one person who had set him on that journey? He drives up the street where she lived. In just a few years the neighborhood had changed. Small houses had evolved with new additions into castle-like playhouses set back on manicured yards proclaiming wealth. He stops at the house. FOR SALE is posted at the entrance with the name and telephone number of the realtor. A sticker pasted diagonally across the front of the sign, leaving the realtor’s name and number in view, adds in bright letters, JUST SOLD! It’s obvious someone was called in to “clean the place up” before the sale. The garden appears sanitized, everything neat and tidy, the narrow paths defined, not a leaf or stem falling out of the tiny beds. There is none of the congestion, the overgrown aspects he had cherished as a boy and which he knew to be anything but congested. With his world at the Garden collapsing, he hopes he’s not too late.
It’s odd he thinks, how spells are broken, the magic drained right out of a place and time. A cold reality has replaced the enchantment that once resided here. Yet he’s wandering through a distant time even though nothing around him reflects the life of that time and place. Death is like that, he thinks, leaving behind this ultimate reality that no longer recognizes you. In one moment someone precious is alive, their body filled with awareness; then within a fraction of a second, the body still warm, nothing animate remains in the shell. Some would say the animate has left only dead wood behind. But left where? He has seen many times, the animate dwindling, dying out like a fire. If it goes anywhere it goes to those who remember, who remember the empty husk when it was lit from within. So with this garden, he says, reclaiming a cold ember and squeezing it with the heat of his memory. Even that day two years ago when he, the selfish man, came back after years of being away and found the Old Woman too sick to maintain the place, the garden breathed her presence. Weedy and overgrown, yes, but still alive, still animate. Her place, even by the window, animated the garden. He is sure that even after she died, the garden lived, as if her special essence, fleeing the decrepitude of her body, had taken refuge in the garden. But her daughter not understanding her mother’s vision, brought in landscapers to make “the mess” presentable. Unwittingly they scattered the coals of her imagination. The garden grew cold the way her body had. He accepts that in time we all become inanimate again. It’s a wonderful thing to know that no matter what becomes of an organism, whatever the Kingdom, nay whatever the Domain, from the sapient down to the smallest iota of self organization, the Earth reclaims it. Even if the body is forgotten, or shrouded in plastic or smothered by empty oil cans, or dissolved in toxins, the Earth reclaims it, without reservation, without approbation. In the end our Earth takes us back to the beginning. Even the Kings’ men, blind as they are return to the universality of the elements; even the conscious manipulators of others for personal gain, even these most evil of people, return to that elemental reduction that makes all things equal once more.
But somewhere, in spite of the landscapers, embers glow. Those who came to see the place and bought it must have sensed them. Perhaps they will not search for it vain. They will restore the light adding their own sympathetic fire. He can’t believe that two years ago while weeding and deadheading he hadn’t noticed the little details he was seeing now, like a child. Being on top of the world, in need of no one, his memory had withered purblind. He couldn’t imagine the Old Woman teaching him anything new. For a gardener this is a disastrous decline in sensibilities. It closes the door to everything else, because there is always something else, some new plant, some new means of showing the old ones off. It’s why we garden. But here and there tucked under branches a simple pruning would reveal, her little treasures are lying in waiting. How could he have not seen them? No one saw them, not even the gardeners who preceded him recently with their rakes, weeders and clippers. He’s conscious now that it’s getting dark. He’s been wandering through the garden for a long time, entranced by all the details he missed two years ago, that everyone missed, all but the Old Woman who always knew, knew past and future and the world under her feet. And suddenly he sees it in one of the borders in back of the house, lost in clumps of wild oats gone mad. . .
Gardener – Chasmanthium latifolium. . .
Writer – hidden, the old leaves folded and yellow, but new leaves breaking forth from thick rhizomes, like the corners of playing cards that the Old Woman is holding tightly in her fingers, waiting for this moment to declare her hand. It’s Iris germanica Dante’s Inferno. And there behind the clump is the label in his dream the night he saw the Porcelain Man.

Footnotes;

Strategic dynamism:
( re FROM NYT The Education Issue Anatomy of a Campus Coup By ANDREW RICE Published: September 11, 2012)

Taking farmers to jail:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monsanto

The Insect Pathogen Bacillus thuringiensis, A Bt Primer:
http://filebox.vt.edu/cals/cses/chagedor/btprimer.html

Masked Chafer
http://insects.tamu.edu/fieldguide/bimg140.html

And Masked Chafer control:
http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/r785301311.html

June Bug
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/June_bug

The Gardener Returns, A Dialogue, Part Ten B

The new President watches TV. She understands what the Kings’ people want. With her powerful connections she forges ahead. One day while watching the 6:00 news she has an epiphany. She’s a child sitting in her parents’ house during the latter half of the last century, watching TV while her parents fight over her father’s drinking. Her father always drinks and her parents always fight and the only way to cancel out the constancy of this struggle is to either blink her eyes rapidly and make the lights dance or follow intently the intervals between the changing images on the TV screen which always lead her away, as if they are flagstones down a path to other worlds. At that time the intervals came infrequently; but over time, and into this new century, the frequency has increased dramatically and like those on her computer, has become her metronomic standard for all Change. She herself thinks this way, jumping from thought to thought as if escaping the damaging onslaught of controversy. But does she ever lose track of any particular theme on her mind. Absolutely not. Details don’t matter. Nothing, she knows, stands still – that’s showbiz, except, perhaps, the realization that Change is a constant.
To her the expansion of her Public Relations Department makes sense. The cart must precede the horse; otherwise two plus two would be five. Writers for the local papers are invited. Unfortunately, knowing nothing of the President’s epiphany, they want to see the gardens and meet the Wizard. After all, by creating “this gem on the tongue of the Dragon” the Wizard put the Garden on the map. So Volunteers hand out surveys with multiple choice questions, such as: Would you like to see dance and art programs implemented at the Garden; followed by these possibilities: very much; probably; I don’t know; no. Then, by popular demand, a Dance and Art Department is added “to enhance visitor experience.” Young, enthusiastic dancers leap across the lawns and sing into the evening air. Art installations, some modest, others vying with the River Slang and the Palisades beyond, dot the grounds. On opening nights to scheduled events, the artists introduce their work. Free food and drink is offered. And now the critics come.
On the third floor of the second house, where the new café is envisioned on the ground floor, the Education Department expands its operations to include events for a new “Arts For All Ages” program. In “the old days” the school kids came to the Garden and accompanied by a strange old woman with a crooked back and a thick tongue, who reminded the Gardener of his old mentor and friend, they foraged for eatables in the woods, which they prepared and ate in the Learning Center beneath the large hall. Now instead of greens the local kids and their parents come on weekends and follow an artist into the woods where they collect rocks and twigs and later build habitats on cardboard panels in the Learning Center. During the week the educators ride out through the Garden gates and visit an inner city school. With their power point kits they render nature’s marvels upon a movie screen pulled tightly down over the blackboard in front of the classroom. The teachers, meanwhile, drive to the Garden where they attend a day-long seminar in the large hall where in the days of the early Kings, an unabashed collector of medieval armor imagined himself one of the knights of chivalry fighting the windmills of oblivion.
Over time mention of the Wizard is eliminated from all outgoing press releases. If by chance he’s mentioned, it’s as if he has outgrown his time. To those that never knew him or ever heard of him, he’s a crank, a misanthrope, a spoil sport, wanting to reserve the public trust for a minority of “plant lovers.” Some compare him to that other crank, now in disfavor, who forced the car industry to reconsider what was in the best interests of the consumer. That crank had the gumption to run for the most powerful office in the land, second only to the power of the Kings. Thankfully he was eliminated from the Presidential stage for limiting the voters’ choice. It was said, by the Kings themselves through their magnificent voices, that he had offered too much choice, which in politics is a no-no. Even our youngest, surfing the internet after school, know that choice has no place in a democracy and should be limited to the shelf space in a retail market.
And not only that, it is said the Wizard micromanages. It is said he makes all the decisions, that is, tells all the gardeners what to plant and where. When the gardeners hear this, they’re indignant. The Pruner of Yews remembers the Porcelain Man arguing with the Wizard over the placement of trees, or over the acquisition of a new hybrid dahlia which the Porcelain Man had to have even though the Wizard questioned color or shape. The Gardener agrees. He and the Wizard have walked the grounds many times, bamboo stakes in hand, negotiating the locations for Styrax and Stewartia and every variety of Cornus. And in the High Garden, the Wizard always leaves the Gardener free, although he sometimes gives him perennials he thinks might work well there. So the Gardener wonders if someone grumbling in the potting shed has scattered the seed of this rumor. Whoever did must have known it would fall on fertile ears inside the old houses, where the Kings’ people once slept. There, the directors of other departments are nodding their heads sadly. They can see it for themselves, the effects of an iron hand on the imaginations of those poor gardeners. “They live behind a green curtain,” says the President’s secretary with a titter; “who’ll bring democracy to them?”
For forty years, since the Garden’s inception, the Wizard has been its only Director of Horticulture and the Garden’s second oldest employee. The first is the Old Timer who has worked on the grounds since he was a boy, during the reign of Total Power’s officer. “Forty years,” exclaims the new Director of Development to the President when she hears that; “it does have a biblical ring, doesn’t it, like Methuselah.” “You’d think he’d have the sense to retire at the height of his career,” says the new Director of Public Relations. “I wasn’t even born when he came here,” she adds, smiling. All three are standing around a coffee maker, waiting for their brew to finish. The little machine coughs and sputters. Puffs of steam rise into the air. “We won’t get into that,” snaps the President, taking her cup and filling it before the last of the steaming water flows through the grounds. “We’ll help him.”
Eventually the Wizard is ignored by everyone, except the gardeners and those who’ve known him for years. At the managers’ meetings his suggestions are passed over without comment. It’s as if he isn’t there. Even worse he is subject to a growing disrespect from employees too recently culled from the business culture of higher education to understand its limitations. Shaking his head sadly, he tells his gardeners, “the time has come when the only things people value are the things they can buy. For 500 years the argument for choice has been refined by the market. It’s not enough to enjoy the transient beauty of a rose. Unless one can buy and preserve it as an investment, the rose is worthless. Today’s consumer would rather stand in line to buy a TV on sale than watch a beautiful sunset for free. My moment, too, has come. But to mangle the Poet, I ask. . , of you, beauteous and lovely garden, when you shall fade, who will distill your truth? Yes, you all must become the Garden’s collective memory,” he says, looking at all of them for the last time. “You must keep the word, Garden, alive for otherwise the word will be forgotten, and if not forgotten, remembered only as some distant place in a remote time beyond reach. Remember our Garden as it was, a place where we could do our work without the impatience of the Marketers. One day those who have harbored the pleasures we helped provide through beauty, who didn’t succumb to the visual noise of the promoters, will find their way back here.” The day after he says this, he vanishes into retirement. And for the first time in its forty years, the non-profit Garden On The Tongue Of The Dragon charges admissions. A notice tells visitors that salaries, health care costs and the cumbersome weight of pensions plans, however worthy, are unsustainable. This has forced management to charge the public admissions.
A new director is hired to replace the old Wizard. Instead of working in the potting shed, at the ramshackle table where the Gardener was interviewed years ago, his office is moved to a small room on the second floor of the management building, at the opposite end of the hallway leading to the President’s suite. When he’s introduced to his staff, the Garden’s President tells them their new Director of Horticulture helped another famous botanical garden enter the entrepreneurial age successfully by converting the garden shop into a money making venture. He reminds her that he was also in charge of the Herb Garden. With the President standing at his side, the new Director tells his staff that “from this day forward the Horticulture Department must pay for itself. The taxpayers,” he tells them, “are demanding more for their hard earned money.” The gardeners look at one another. They wonder what they’ve done wrong. After all, they helped create and maintain the famous Garden on Drake’s Tongue. Wasn’t that what they were supposed to do? Wasn’t that why the taxpayers were paying them?
One day, from her bathroom window, the President notices a gardener standing idly by the Long Border. She calls in the Director who’s down the hall and asks him what this gardener is doing. He doesn’t know and runs off to find out. On the two way radio, he calls the Gardener, who tells him he’s on his way down to the Long Border from the High Garden. When they meet on the Great Lawn above the Long Border, the Gardener tells the Director he must have seen the new intern who was waiting for him. “She can’t stand there doing nothing below the President’s bathroom window,” replies the Director. “You’re right,” says the Gardener, “but she hasn’t learned to “look” busy; she’s new.” “Well, you should’ve told her,” accuses the Director. There is a long pause before the Gardener responds. “As soon as I show her what to weed she’ll be able to look busy and accomplish something too.” The Director then returns to the President and tells her the intern was waiting for the Gardener. She asks how many interns work on the grounds. He tells her two. And how much do they cost. About ten dollars an hour. “Ten dollars,” she cries; “downtown the Kings don’t pay their interns anything; it’s an honor to work for them; ten dollars to stand around!” “It won’t happen again,” he promises. “You’re right,” answers the President.
The President confides with her new Financial Officer. “Horticulture,” she says, “believes he’s entitled to most of our limited resources.” “Wasn’t that the intention of the owners’ bequest to the city,” asked the Financial Officer. “It was,” she answers, “but that’s all changing. Any pact co-signed by the relevant parties in 1968, a year of infamy, height of the flower power movement, must either be amended for the health of the organization or be considered superseded to be in accord with the more relevant times ushered in by the Kings’ model.” The President lays siege to the potting shed. An austerity program is implemented. The buying of plants or any other materials is prohibited unless the President approves. To her Financial Officer she states her Law of Reduced Spending: the less people making decisions, the more money for us! By midsummer, Horticulture has already reduced spending by a hundred percent. “Look,” exclaims the President, studying the expenditure sheets prepared by her Financial Officer, “the gardens don’t look any different than last year.” “Yes,” replies Horticulture,
“but. . .” “But nothing,” she says; “it never hurts to tighten one’s belt; now at least we will have enough funds to send management to important AAPI conferences; next year’s event is sponsored by Society For The Elimination of Pests and Weeds and will be held in Southern California. Don’t you want to go to California?”
Gardener – Don’t you mean AABGA, the Association of Arboretum and Botanical Gardens of America
Writer – No, I’m describing the Association of American Public Institutions, now, if I may go on. During his tenure, a much simpler time, indeed, the Wizard hired gardeners based on the intensity of their interest in plants, not necessarily their knowledge of them, which he knew would be cumulative, providing they had a deep interest. An application was rarely used. The primary avenue for hiring a gardener was the interview, which always began in the dusty, clutter filled potting shed and ended somewhere on the grounds, rain or shine, rain preferred. Outside the Wizard would guide the applicant to a bench and finish the interview. He noted the speed with which the applicant walked as they traversed the grounds. If they ambled, their chances were diminished. Other idiosyncrasies uncovered during this face to face interview, but hard to judge using the hiring formulas of our new personnel manual, were also applied. In short the Wizard sought a person of good intent and they generally walked in off the street, lured by the Garden itself or by his reputation as head gardener. Of course, it wasn’t foolproof.
Today the Resource Officer screens the attached applications the candidates send her by e-mail. She selects those she deems worthy of meeting the new Director. Because of the economic downturn there have been more applications. But the personnel manual emphatically states that only those who have college degrees – the more degrees the better – and show at least four years internship in the field of work for which they are applying, will be considered. This goes for all positions, the only exclusion being positions for Maintenance and Security. These anyway will be soon outsourced to the private sector. Thanks to these tough economic times college graduates glut the jobs’ market and they’re willing to work for the lowest pay in years. And like Moses drawing water from rock, the President insists all new employees, after their six month probation period, accept only two weeks vacation and truncated medical benefits. In the private sector this is standard procedure, she explains unnecessarily to the Board. To maintain a record of worker accountability, a new position in Resources is created, occupying a small room behind the broom closet with its own dedicated computer.
The President, on looking around her, is satisfied. To mark her first year, she takes the Ben Franklin’s aphorism, “Waste Not, Want Not” and envisions an embroidery made with these words forming a half circle above an illustration of a dust pan crossed by a whisk broom, which she herself designs as her set of arms on a cocktail napkin in a moment of merriment while drinking a whiskey neat in a bar near her home on the upper west side of New Drake. Later that night she reserves her seat by the window on a flight to Los Angelus.
Out of nine gardeners, not including the Director, four remain from the days of the Wizard. Three new gardeners replace the five employees who left shortly after the Wizard. They are the first gardeners to go through the official probation period. It’s not long before they lose the ebullience of working at a top public garden. “You have every right to belly ache,” the gardener of the Greenhouse Beds tells them. He admits he was lucky enough to be hired during the Wizard’s last year. “But it’s always been first come first serve,” he tells them; “I don’t have their benefits either,” referring to the original gardeners, who retain full benefits. He in fact does retain full benefits but he has converted his resentment of the Gardener into the difference between what he makes as a relatively new employee and what the Gardener makes after many years of work. “Why should we help the old timers,” the new gardeners murmur whenever they meet, while coiling hoses or putting their tools away; “let them pick up their own piles of leaves and weed their own beds.” “Yeah, we’ll never see the day when we can pay off our college loans.” “Shit, we’ll never see the day we can live on our own, in our own places, without roommates.”
Early in the new year an ice storm with 40 mile an hours winds takes down seven prominent old trees, leaving tangles of fallen limbs and exposed root balls the width of Volkswagens. The Gardener encourages the gardeners. With work ahead of them, everyone pitches in. The physical effort draws everyone together. Their tired arms and stiff legs and aching backs wipe out the resentment they were feeling. But in the house of the former energy baron, all the President’s officers tell their staff, it’s all the Wizard’s fault, he’s up to his tricks again. But the President has a trick or two up her sleeve too. The salaries of the oldest employees are capped. At a managers meeting, Horticulture feels this will bode ill. But Development, who sits at the right hand of the President, second only in matters of influence to the Financial Officer whispers in her ear. “Ok,” agrees the President, “our new policy will be mitigated. For now, at least, the oldest employees can keep their four weeks paid vacation.” The new policy and this veiled threat casts a pall over the grounds. The President explains to the Board, the plan’s brilliance, because the preservation of their benefits will drive the wedge deeper between those who have four weeks and those who have only two.
The ice storm is followed by mild weather. Everyone in management is flashing victory signs. Then in February it begins raining and continues to rain, on and off for weeks. In the Potting Shed everyone huddles around the potting bench, potting up the cuttings and pricking out the early seedlings from the flats the Gardener has pulled from the growing house. No one speaks. Because of all the cloudy weather, plants, that were potted up several steps in anticipation of new growth, start to show signs of root rot. Finally the rains stops. After that it doesn’t rain at all until the middle of March and then only for a few hours. April is cold again but dry and then May is hot and sunny.
In June, an intern weeding the bed near the street in the High Garden, asks the Gardener what these strange plants are whose leaves are narrow and twisted and bear such lovely iridescent orange-yellow flowers. He tells him those are the Peruvian lilies.
Gardener – Alstroemeria aurantiaca. From Chile and Argentina.
Writer – He tells the intern they were introduced by the Porcelain Man years ago. “At that time no one thought they were hardy, north of New Drake because the winters were hard. So they dug them up every fall. But one year the tubers that were inadvertently left in the ground and usually died over the winter, came back. They’ve survived our winters ever since.”
June repeats May, and the hottest and driest Spring goes on record. What record, asks the President, repeating what she has often heard among the Kings’ people down in New Draak. We’ve seen droughts before, she says, lowering the thermostat for central air to 75 degrees, a good twenty degrees cooler than outside, where the interns working around the giant compressors, suddenly feel the excess heat blowing across them. They are there watering the struggling Yews that screen the huge air conditioning units that feed the building. Elsewhere as directed by the Gardener, the gardeners, on top of their other duties, are pulling three and four hundred feet of hoses to distant beds and setting up sprinklers. At the north end of the property the wood of seven giant trees have been removed but the root balls remain upended, covered in weeds, six months after the trees fell.
On a typical day, when the potting shed crew arrives, the Director is nowhere to be found. If he is present at the beginning of the day he quickly leaves without assigning jobs. With no one to guide them, the two interns look to the Gardener for guidance. After he told them to set up sprinklers under the big trees the other day, the three new gardeners now seek his advice. He arrives early before anyone else and wanders the grounds looking for problems so he can tell the acolytes and young gardeners. In the middle of May with the weeds growing in every corner he used to tell the interns that they would catch up, more or less, by the beginning of July. “By that time,” he told them, “the germination slows and we turn our attentions to watering and dead heading. But until then,” he joked, “it’s bedlam.” By mid July the weeds continue sprouting, bolting and flowering, casting seed everywhere. The Gardener can see the defeat in the eyes of the interns. He asks the gardeners for help on the grounds. The older gardeners listen out of respect but they’re less inclined to help. “We’re still two gardeners short,” they tell him. “I know,” he says, “I know.” “So when are they going to hire them,” they ask. The gardener of the Greenhouse Beds tells them to quit crying, but he’s the only gardener who never leaves his small beds around the Greenhouses to help others.
Beginning near the end of July, the drought of early summer is followed by torrential rains. In the Potting Shed the older gardeners talk about the old days, when we could count on April showers bringing May flowers and when August was dry and the lawns went brown and no one had to cut them anymore. That was normal. But looking out from the Palm House Portico, the lawns are bright green now. But for some of the older trees stressed by months of little or no rain, the rains have come too late. With weakened capillary systems, several giants topple over onto the water soaked grounds. Near the bottom of the hill, behind the north house where the new restaurant is being built on the ground floor, the hard rains wash out sections of the meadow. Gullies form and the hard dirt road that runs along it is rutted. The founding Dutch merchants of New Drake used to say the little creatures bowling in the highlands caused the thunder and lightening rumbling over the River Slang. But these days the gardeners feel the weather is driven by the drilling and hammering resonating from the house as the new restaurant takes shape. In the management office up on the second floor of the old home of Total Power’s officer, a similar mystical appeal leads everyone in the opposite direction. They blame the Wizard.
The only garden that continues shining during these dark days is the High Garden, where the Gardener works long after the others have gone home. Because all his plant requests are denied, he is unable to replace plants that have died during these last few years. To keep up appearances he must use many of the tricks he learned from the Old Woman to fill in the gapes, but this means the same species eventually predominate over greater and greater stretches of the garden. Because he does it artfully he knows he can get away with it for another year, possibly. To the untutored eye, flowers are blooming and all is green. But to those who know, the intricacies of variety are slowly disappearing. With the Pruner of the Yews he whacks the Junipers back from the pathways. Together they finally sheer the Yews around the Pergola. The Gardener asks one of the new gardeners who has shown promise to work alongside the Pruner. They set up the movable pipe bridges around the two giant conifers at the north end of the High Garden.
Gardener – You must be talking about Chamaecyparis lawsoniana, Lawson’s cypress.
Writer – Perhaps, but keep in mind this is all from long ago in the land of make-believe. The two gardeners begin pruning the conifers. Every now and then one of them climbs down and stands off to see what particular branches still need to be removed. And this is how it was always done. But the Gardener admits to the Pruner of Yews, he’s simply in defense mode, protecting the Porcelain Man’s vision without advancing any changes of his own.
When the Gardener admits this to the other gardeners, they open up and complain. They, too, are unable to keep their standards high. The gardener of the Greenhouse Beds shrugs his shoulders. His beds are weeded and watered. “What more can I do,” he asks; “I can only do what I can do.” But unlike the others he never works anywhere else on the grounds. He comes in at 8:00 and leaves at 4:30. He’s never hurried, never worried. Horticulture, who has just walked in on this conversation, nods his head sadly. He feels the weight of responsibility. He blames the Wizard. He’s cursed us. “What curse,” asks the Gardener; “he loved this place.” Horticulture walks out. He feels personally attacked, like Job upon his manure pile. “Don’t listen to him,” the gardener of the Greenhouse Beds tells him later. But Horticulture admits he’s made a bad career choice coming here.
In spite of the Gardener’s efforts, the old resentments resurface. The two groups reform, the youngest and the oldest, and while everyone but the gardener of the Greenhouse Beds follow the Gardener’s direction, they now work in isolated pockets, without enthusiasm, clearing and repairing the damage the weather has caused. Even though they known better, the older gardeners joke about the Wizard’s curse. They remember the old days, as if it had been a sorcerer’s ball. They climb onto spades and shovels and pretend to fly around. But the younger gardeners, who never worked under the Wizard, feel their lives have come to nothing. “We were born too late,” they commiserate. “The old guys can joke because they were there, but we missed it, we’ve always missed it, the glory days of old.” Meanwhile the crabgrass inches out onto the paths, throwing its seed between the pathway bricks. No one has time to edge it. No one has time to seed the bare patches where the June bug larva killed off the lawns during the winter. After every rain the rocks and pebbles beneath the soil appear.
One day the Old Timer tells the Gardener “we’re losing the woods. They’ve been on their own too long.” So the Gardener goes down to see for himself and when he returns he whispers to the Pruner of Yews that the vines have finally taken over.
Gardener – Ampelopsis brevipetala, the infamous porcelain berry.
Writer – For two years the vines had clamored up the Red oaks and sugar maples, branch by branch, fruited and sown their progeny.
Gardener – A horrendous weed killing off thirty to fifty foot trees.
Writer – Well, in our strictly homespun fairy tale, no one notices, certainly not the President, not even Horticulture.
Gardener – I can believe that. Porcelain berry has been sweeping over the trees along the throughways leading out of the city for decades.
Writer – When the Wizard first arrived at the Garden, he was at a loss of where to place the Old Timer, so he put him in charge of riding the big mower. But that not being enough, the Porcelain Man suggested he put him in charge of the new nursery and later in charge of the compost and mulch piles. The regulars watched over him because it was known that he drank brandy from small bottles on cold days. He swore the brandy kept him alive during a blizzard when he fell into a snow bank and was unable to move for an hour. To this day his bottles are still found on the grounds. Now he confides to the Gardener that Horticulture has shown no interest in his mowing, his nursery or his compost. And that he has been tempted by the spirits again. But the Gardener tells him how much he’s needed. “How can we have a great garden without concise pools of neatly cut green grass, or great garden beds without a rich mix of compost and mulch.” “But no one uses it,” the Old Timer complains; “you’re the only one who drives down here and shovels it into the back of the Cushman. You see the piles; they’re too big; there’s no room for this year’s compost and the leaf drop.”
The Gardener tries to encourage the others to use the compost and mulch. The gardener of Greenhouse Beds says, “you’re not my boss.” Finally the Pruner of Yews pulls him aside. “Can’t you see, they don’t care.” “Who is they,” asks the Gardener. “Management, they don’t want us to succeed; they want us to fail.” “Why would Horticulture sabotage his own operation,” asks the Gardener. “You heard him that first day: we don’t make money for the Garden; we only take money, that’s how they see it.” “That’s ridiculous,” the Gardener replies. “Can’t you see,” the Pruner adds, “the President is behind all this evil.” Furious, the Gardener storms out of the potting shed and decides he will try to control the woodlands by himself, using the excess mulch to stifle Ampelopsis seedlings. This year he will cut the vines and next year dig them out. The Pruner follows him. The Old Timer sees them and follows them. He agrees with the Pruner. Management wants us to fail. The Gardener ignores them. He loads two wheel barrows and a pitch fork onto the front end loader of the tractor and drives out of the garage. The other two get into a Cushman and follow him. “He thinks he can do it himself,” the Pruner says angrily. “No, he doesn’t know what to do,” says the Old Timer sadly. They follow him down to the mulch piles. They drive up alongside of the tractor. “Can’t you see,” they shout. He ignores them. He dumps the wheel barrows gently on the side. He jumps off the tractor and stands the barrows up. Then he jumps back onto the seat and scoops up the soggy leaves and fills one barrow at a time. The second barrow tips over. He leaps out enraged but the other two men arrive first and push the toppled barrow up. The Gardener drops his arms in despair. “Who cares about them,” he shouts; “they don’t know this land; we do!; because we bend down over it and we watch it like a mother watching her baby. We do,” he emphasizes, tapping his chest hard. “And why do we,” he asks himself. “We do it for the old man over there sitting on the chair,” he answers himself; “and for that woman there walking her four year old. We work for them, not for management; oh Earth, how I wish I had known the Porcelain man; I know he’d see it my way. Together they spend the rest of the day moving a quarter of a pile.
One day a journalist is walking the grounds with the President accompanied by Horticulture. She stops in front of a newly planted Myrtle and exclaims how beautiful. What a perfect place. The President repeats the praise, congratulating Horticulture on his idea. He thanks them. But later he asks the Gardener when the myrtle had been planted and from where it had come. The Gardener tells him “the tree comes from the nursery and had been growing there since the Wizard ordered the sapling years ago.” He took it upon himself to place it before it got too big and hoped Horticulture liked it. Horticulture doesn’t pass on the praise he received but tells him it will do for now. When the article appears, aside from that single new feature, the author is disappointed in the Garden’s appearance. She used to come to the Garden to get ideas. She always came down from the High Garden with something new to remember, and while the High Garden remained meticulous, the same marvelous contrasts of highs and lows, the tight, low plantings of the central alpine meadow, the topical extravagance at the garden entrance by the south stairs, it seemed frozen in time. As for the other gardens, they appear neat and tidy but they seem to have lost their focus. Are they in decline, she asks. She assumes the Garden is having financial problems since so little is being done in what was once universally considered a vanguard of innovation.
“That bitch,” growls the president to the other two as they wait for the coffee to brew; “just what does that old hag know!” “I thought you’d be happy,” says her Financial Officer; “isn’t that what you wanted.” “Well, I may want it, but I didn’t want to hear it and besides, she never once mentioned any of the art installations.” “It’s only fuel to feed the fires,” smiles Development; “after all isn’t the Wizard to blame?” And so it echoes through hallway on the second floor of management, filling every office, “the Wizard’s to blame, to blame.” But in the Potting Shed when the gardeners repeat the phrase now “the Wizard’s to blame,” they smile.
One day in the computer room behind the broom closet, a “volunteer” sees something on the video he is scanning. Thanks to a security grant provided by a national anti-terrorist agency down on the Potomac, surveillance cameras were installed one night throughout the grounds to protect the taxpayer from those willfully seeking to disrupt the public peace. The volunteer notifies Resources, Resources contacts Public Relations, Public Relations reaches out to Development and Development tells Finance and all together they approach the President. Overjoyed by what she sees, she calls in Horticulture. On video clips he sees the Gardener, in broad daylight to throw off suspicion, leading the other gardeners down to the mulch and compost piles. He watches them scatter the resources across the grounds beneath the trees. He sees the Gardener leading the Old Timer and another intern down to the nursery where they proceed to dig up the splendid carmine red Myrtle the journalist enjoyed and plant it in front of the blue concolor fir.
Gardener – Abies concolor.
Writer – He sees the Gardener directing the flow of annuals and perennials out of the growing house at the greenhouse to a public area in front of the pergola. He sees. . . “Never mind the rest,” interrupts the President. “Well,” she asks with a smile on her face, “are you in charge or is he?” He wonders if they should make him the assistant director. But seeing the look on her face he feels this might not be the answer to her rhetorical question. “Looks like he’s working behind my back.” “Damn right,” she replies; “we’ve known for a long time that before leaving, the Wizard gave the Gardener his blessing. In fact,” she emphasizes, “none of those who worked under the man can be trusted. Especially, as we just saw, the Old Timer and the Pruner of Yews.” “It looks to me, says Development, “the Gardener has created a rapprochement between the old gardeners and the new. But,” she add, “one gardener right here in these frames remains aloof throughout all this; who is he?” “That’s the gardener of the Greenhouse beds,” answers Horticulture, “but he never. . .” “Brilliant,” exclaims the President; “approach this gardener and ask him to be your right hand. I think it’s time you had a proper assistant.”
After some resistance, the gardener of the Greenhouse Beds admits the Gardener has been working behind the Director’s back. “He approached me, too, wanted me to work with the others down in the woods; I never understood why the Wizard dotted over him; the guy worked behind his back too. . . always butting in and telling us what to do; thinks he knows everything; I think he wanted your job; lacked the qualification; in spite of his big Ego!” When the Director reports back to the President, she tells him that’s our man.
At the next all staff meeting, the President introduces the word, institution. She says with great emphasis that the Institution has become too big to brook divisions between departments. The President says the Institution has become too important to support the quaint ways of people who can’t change. To emphasize her point she walks over to the table where the Gardener has been working on a plan for the Long Border to help the new gardener there with ideas. He’s drawn circles and added names of perennials then scratched them out and begun again. He doesn’t even notice the approaching President. She takes the scrap of paper from him and holds it up in the air for all to see.
Gardener – This is too much!
Writer – Remember, Gardener, this is just a fairy tale. Nothing like this ever happens. She holds the scrap like one would hold a tissue one has picked up off the bathroom floor, between her index finger and her thumb. This will no longer be acceptable when presented to me, she says. The office personnel laugh. Letting it drop back on the table, she returns to her table where Development hands her a looseleaf binder. She holds it up in one hand like Moses holding the Ten Commandments. It’s a neatly typed and illustrated account of her 5 year plan as composed by Development. Graphs in blue and red picture a rosy future. She leafs through it as she slowly turns a full circle looking directly at every face. The future, she says, begins now.
After the meeting on the second floor of the management building, people whisper in the hallway that the gardeners are holding back the Institution. From this day forward this word, Institution, replaces the word, Garden. Instead of working in a garden, everyone is working in an institution.

The Gardener Returns, A Dialogue, Part Ten A

Writer – Then there’s the Tale of the Gardener.
Gardener – Very funny.
Writer – Not you! This gardener is helpless until he puts on his boots. Then he’s inspired and can cover seven leagues, doing the work of twelve people.
Gardener – Sounds like another fairy tale
Writer – This is once upon a time, but still true to life, when there was a boy who imagined he was rich because he lived in a large house in the suburbs with a wide lawn in front and a forest in the back where he played. Every day his father drove home in a brand new car. The youngster could see himself stretched in all directions in the polished chrome hubcaps. The fenders were brighter and shinier than the silverware at the diner table. On Sundays, if the sun was out and the day warm, the family went driving happily in one of his father’s huge convertibles. With the top down they drove along wooded lanes. The shadows danced before his eyes. One day his father took him to a place where a hundred cars as bright and shiny as the ones he drove home were parked. Inside a large room with walls of glass on three sides, brightly colored parked cars looked like giant toys in a department store window. “I built this,” he told his son. Each car faced outward poised for a race. In the center of the room a small two seater sports car rotated on a revolving carousal in the floor. A woman in a bathing suit with long golden hair waved her hand at the boy. When she tilted her head and smiled at the boy, it reminded him of a crescent moon on a summer night. She looked like a princess. “She isn’t real,” his father told him; “otherwise she’d drive off!” But she seemed real to him.
But one day his father didn’t come home. That night he heard his mother crying in her room. All week, his mother set the table as she had for as long as he could remember. But his father never returned and took his seat at the head of the table. His mother cooked for them as she had in the past. But she kept crying, her tears falling into the soup. His older brother and sister complained. After that they all stopped eating at the diner table. They ate standing up in the kitchen or sitting in front of the TV or wherever they happened to be. Then his mother stopped taking care of the house, and after than, herself. Then one day his mother put on her makeup and pulled herself together with a blouse and a skirt, heels and stockings. She told his older brother and sister to keep an eye on him and his younger sister and left for the day. After that she left every day. His older brother and sister paid no attention to him or his sister. Everyone fended for themselves. One day weeks later his mother returned home wearing a stiff white dress with her name stitched above her breast pocket. She seemed happier. Every morning she left the house without feeding anyone and returned home late at night, too tired to think of food. By now he had learned to be quick. In the beginning his older brother and sister were always the first to raid the cupboards and the refrigerator for food. Although his older siblings fought among themselves, they agreed their younger siblings were a burden. When they were angry they shouted at them, and sometimes hit them. When they weren’t angry they referred to them as fools. At night when the older kids filled the house with loud music and acted crazy, the boy took his little sister’s hand and hid, but it was difficult sleeping.
One day the young boy discovered the toaster. He saw his older sister use it. When she left the kitchen, he toasted slices of bread for himself and his little sister. He found jam in the refrigerator and with a spoon spread it over all the slices. Not long after he watched his older sister boil eggs on the electric range. After she left he tried it himself. The egg was too hot to touch but he carefully drained the pot. Following his sister’s example he ran cold water over it. When it was cool enough to touch, he cracked it. He found the egg fully cooked. He showed his younger sister. After carefully removing the shell fragments, they divided it in half with a knife and ate it. He learned to mix it with mayonnaise. From then on he made them egg salad sandwiches on toast. As he got older he learned to cook simple meals for himself and his little sister. He watched a strange old woman on TV who cooked food and seemed to talk directly to him. He even mimicked her accent which made his little sister laugh. When he was old enough to ride his bicycle down to the super market, he bought his own pasta using whatever change he could find in the house. He knew how to cook it and mix it with canned tomato sauce. When his older brother and sister discovered this they demanded he cook for them. They gave him money to buy food. He like experimenting with flavors. Soon everyone but his mother was eating at the table again. As the undisputed master of the kitchen he reserved part of every meal for his mother, even though his older siblings thought she didn’t deserve it. At first surprised she accepted his offering. After that, when she came home late at night, she looked forward to it. She began giving him a family allowance to buy what they needed.
Then one night his mother woke them all and they left the house in the station wagon packed with only their most precious belongings. Next morning after driving around most of the night they came to another house where the houses were closer together with small square lawns in front and Norway maples in back crowding against a boundary fence. There they lived for a year. On her way to work she drove them all to their schools which was now far away. At the end of that time his mother woke them again. They drove through the night and the next morning came to another house, this one even smaller than the last and without a lawn in front or trees in the back. This leaving at night and arriving in the morning happened three or four more times. One day the boy asked his mother why they never left during the day. She drove him to a suburb like the one where they once lived. They turned down a street and past a house with tall trees and a manicured lawn. A brand new car was parked in the driveway. He saw his father on a ladder fixing the gutter above the front door. The young woman with long blond hair stood by the door, talking to him. He saw a very small girl sitting on the grass. A boy a few years younger than him was climbing a tree just the way he had when he lived in a house like this. As they drove by the boy turned his head so he could hold on to this happy picture that once belonged to him.
After that he never asked his mother about his father; nor did he ask her for his allowance. By the time he was in 8th grade he was cutting lawns and raking leaves for people who lived in communities like the one he once lived in. On Saturdays his mother dropped him off on her way to work and his older sister picked him up. Then she complained because he didn’t pay her for her trouble. So he decided from then on to walk home. The people for whom he worked noticed and began to drive him home. Because he worked hard they offered to pick him up.
One day during his first year in high school as he was walking home he passed an unusual house with high roofs and low eves around which a small intricate garden grew. There was a path leading through the garden and he was down it. Even though the garden appeared small, the path seemed endless. He was standing in front of the door to the cottage, when an old woman appeared at the corner of the house carrying a basket full of flowers. He was surprised and couldn’t keep his eyes off the lovely flowers. She saw his interest and showed him the contents of her basket. She gave strange names to each variety of flowers. Although he needed the money he offered to work for her free of charge. “What a kind boy,” she said.
Every Sunday he worked there and just before noon while he weeded, she collected greens leaves and colorful fruits growing among her flowers and shrubs. On a small slate patio in back of the house there was a glass table with white, wrought iron legs. White iron chairs were set around it. There on her old china plates with floral patterns the old woman placed a loaf of her own baked bread and large wedges of cheese. In a large bowl with painted birds and flowering bowers she tossed together the things he had seen her collect, adding a special dressing she made herself. One day she asked him what he’d like to do when he grew us and he told her he wanted to be President, so his poor mother would be proud. She told him anything and everything is possible. Then one day while eating thick slices of bread, he told her he wanted to be a baker. She told that anything and everything is possible, adding that the yeast she used to make her bread was a living thing, like her garden. Then one day while eating chunks of cheese which had a strong flavor and was mottled with green and gray colors, he told her he wanted to be a cheese maker. She told him anything and everything is possible adding that cheese was always made with bacteria, which was found everywhere on Earth, even in hot springs. But some cheeses like this one, she told him, were stored in caves where fungi grew over them and flavored them. Bacteria, she said, belongs to its own Domain and helped control the destiny of all life. She said the fungi, however, belong to their own Kingdom in the Domain, Eukarya. Because they’re neither plant nor animal, they are on equal footing with both. She told him people are afraid of mushrooms, yet the fungi link all the Kingdoms of Eukarya. She said they even helped plants thrive off the inanimate by breaking down stone and turning dead wood into humus. But equal to Bacteria and the to all the inhabitants of Eukarya is the powerful Domain, Archaea, one of the most abundant life forms on Earth. They control the air we breath and just about every facet of life. But no one has ever heard of them. Whenever they were together she encouraged his creative side. She knew more about his world than his mother.
The following spring, after he finished mowing the lawn and had put away her mower, she came out of the house and showed him how she divided the Iris which had finished blooming. She cut back the tall leaves and then gently forked the thick, exposed tubers up. She called them rhizomes. After they were all lifted they studied them for weakness or rot. She told him that the fibrous roots under the rhizome would wither away but she liked replanting the iris with all its dying roots deeply buried to anchor the heavy, top blades in the soil until the new roots seized the earth. They need the entire growing season to send out new roots before the ground freezes, otherwise they fall over when the earth heaves between freezing and thawing. She gave him three rhizomes each with a pair of growing leaves and told him to plant them for his mother with the top of the rhizome exposed.
The next year his iris bloomed by the back door of his mother’s house. The color of the flowers reminded him of the purple silk slip he saw his mother wear when his father lived at home. She was pleased. It made her smile. That season he and the Old Woman cut back other perennials when they finished blooming; then dug and divided the clumps. Out of one large aster, she called oblongifolius, the last to be dug, the Old Woman produced four smaller ones. That summer between his junior and senior year all the clumps he and the Old Woman had divided the year before had grown by the end of the season to the size of the original plant. He thought to himself this is like the goose that laid the golden egg. The Old Woman showed him how to collect seed from the dried flowers; how to store them in paper bags carefully marked with the name, color and date collected; she show him how to prepare some seed, freezing them to break their out coating. The following year they sowed them in place, each species together to better watch them and watched the bent stems and cotyledons straighten. Later they moved them around. She showed him how to take cuttings of certain perennials and annuals so he could multiply his possessions like the loaves of bread and fish in the bible. But even more powerful than this magic of multiplication was her formulas for arranging plants so that they benefited from each other’s beauty. This shape with that shape, this color with that color, this texture with that texture. These combinations were pleasing to see and made him happy. She said beautiful gardens can heal wounded spirits. He remembered the day he was drawn into her garden and how it changed his life. But she warned him, often if the gardener is unaware of what he has done and unable to see his work then he or she is cursed with unhappiness.
By his senior year his small business prospered. He owned a trailer with two mowers and had another young man working for him. He no longer depended on his mother for his clothing and gave her money every week during the growing season so she could buy groceries. This way the family fortunes brightened.
Gardener – Don’t make this another John D. Rockefeller story.
Writer – This is not that kind of story. After all, it’s about a gardener, not an oil man! Before he left for college, the Old Woman tells him about a public garden “on the serpent’s tongue.”
Gardener – On the tongue of what serpent?
Writer – Slang means snake in Dutch.
Gardener – So what?
Writer – That was her metaphor for New Draak City, the island metropolis at the mouth of The Slang River.
Gardener – I don’t know what you’re talking about.
Writer – As we all know Captain North, sailing for Dutch East India Company, discovered the river in his search for a passageway to the East. The first settlers on the island “in the river’s mouth” were traders who bought the island from the Lenape Indians in exchange of goods worth approximately 60 guilders. This transaction by the agents of the Dutch East India Company became the legal basis by which our latter day Kings established their right, as individuals, like you and me, over the entire island and later the 3000 miles to the west. In the 1600s it was believed that anyone following The River Slang’s serpentine course, hence the river’s name, would eventually find at its end, the golden Orient.
Gardener – Sounds like a Chinese restaurant.
Writer – Some said the cities in the East were made of silver and gold. Many believed the jewels brought by the Magi came from these cities.
Gardener – Some people will believe anything.
Writer – The simple truth is, the Dutch were businesspeople. They weren’t interested in following the River Slang to the east, but were content to welcome those going up the Slang in search of the fabled cities and providing them, at a nominal cost, all the supplies they needed; and later, when they returned downriver, relieving them of their burdens, more valuable than gold and silver in the current market, the bundles of beaver pelts in high demand by all the best dressers in Europe.
Gardener – All I wanted to know was why the woman said the garden was on “the tongue of the serpent!”
Writer – The Dutch liked to say their village of New Slang was “in the river’s mouth.”
Gardener – She said “tongue!”
Writer – Later, when the English replaced the Dutch, a clerk, writing up the bill of exchange, confused the word snake with dragon, so the settlement became the English metropolis of New Draak. This seemed fitting because of the common species of snapping turtles, Chelydra serpentine, found living in middle of the island whose fierce features and aggressive behavior when found on land, reminded everyone of the dragons they’d seen when they were children. The vigorous defense these turtles make when on dry land, literally snapping at anyone who approaches, led to a misconception of their powers. It was even believed a snapping turtle could pull a small child into the water and devour them.
Gardener – What about “the tongue!”
Writer – Eventually Chelydra serpentine was confused with a related species, Macrochelys temminckii, living in the Mississippi delta which was much larger and had on its tongue a mark that resembled a worm. When the turtle moved its tongue, unsuspecting fish were lured into its mouth.
Gardener – That? That’s the tongue?
Writer – The Old Woman was aware that in those days of yore, when travelers went up the Slang in search of treasure, New Draak was often called The Gateway To Happiness. Even in the time of the Gardener, New Draak City was known to lure into its jaws those seeking fortune, a reputation NDC continues to have.
Gardener – I’m sorry I asked.
Writer – The Old Woman tells the young man that the head man of this garden is a wizard. His enemies say he likes plants more than people. This is true, she confirms. He finds that most people are either hard working and gullible or too lazy to care about anything. In his estimate, she adds, both will follow a minority of unscrupulous and self-centered people, one believing all they are told, the other lacking the energy to think otherwise. But all this changed when he met the Porcelain Man, the greatest gardener of his age. It was the Porcelain Man who bent the Wizard’s cynicism with humor. With his energy and enthusiasm he helped the Wizard create the paradise we all love “on the serpent’s tongue.” One day, she said, the Wizard will need you.
The young gardener attends a local community college for two years, specializing in horticulture. On graduation he’s ready to seek his fortune. He returns to the Old Woman, who has treated him like a son and thanks her. She tells him it’s time to go into the mouth of Draak. “The Wizard needs you.” “How can I help the Wizard,” he asks nervously. “A terrible Scourge has taken the Porcelain Man away,” she tells him. “You mean replace the Porcelain Man? Me? I can’t.” The Old Woman tells him not to be afraid, each of us, she says, is meant to do something, and what that is won’t be clear until the day it’s revealed to you. You can only work to the best of your abilities. Even if the Wizard gives you the work of the Porcelain Man, that might not be your final destination.
Gardener – So he drives toward the city. . .
Writer – And he comes to a magnificent river flowing to the sea, which separates him from the city beyond. In the distance he sees the spires and towers. He pays a toll man and crosses the river on a great bridge, that’s hangs in the air. The garden is perched on a hill north of the bridge, like a tiny battlement against the grandeur of glass buildings to the south. He parks his truck in a lot filled with cars. The lot is hemmed in by a wall of tall shrubs, many of which are new to him. He follows a pathway leading through the dense shrubbery and suddenly he is standing on an open lawn looking at a great natural stone battlement rising up on the other side of the river he’s just crossed. In front of this palisades, on the far edge of the lawn is a wooden pergola set on cement pillars. Flowers overflow baskets hanging in the shade of the wooden frame which is covered with woody climber. On his right a tall glass house rises beyond a flower garden, like the central hall of a temple to Flora. Glass transepts span east and west along the entire length of the garden. He walks through the garden and enters a wooden porch painted blue, then through the double doors beyond. Aside from an Acacia tree bearing grey green leaves growing to the peaked roof in the corner and a sparse Bougainvillea with oval leaves growing up the north glass wall, the temple is empty. Next to the vine concrete stairs lead through the glass wall into a room beyond. It is inside this room, in what is called the Potting Shed, the gardener meets the white haired Wizard. As the old woman had foreseen, he is hired.
For a year the young gardener works alongside other gardeners doing every conceivable job, excelling in those he was already familiar, learning about those unfamiliar. But it is a year of mourning. The Porcelain Man is gone. He learns from those who knew him that he had been an eccentric but energetic man who fostered energy and excitement among his co-workers. He had taken his work personally, had suffered every disaster to befall the garden as if the blows had been inflicted on him. He had demonstrated to everyone that this Garden was theirs by right of their work and this work, this profession, an avocation, a privilege. Salary meant nothing to him but the smile on the face of a visitor everything. Like the Wizard he was intolerant of the lazy, but unlike the Wizard he suffered because of them. He couldn’t understand that for some a job is just a job. Now everyone wanders around at a loss, everyone including the Wizard.
One day the Wizard assigns the young gardener to the Pruner of The Yews.
Gardener – The Pruner of the Yews?
Writer – Naturally, this is once upon a time. So together with their sheers and a pruning ladder they climb the stairway to the High Garden which rises up behind the potting shed and greenhouse. The garden has fallen on bad times since the Scourge took the Porcelain Man away. At the top of the hill the giant yews enclosing the gazebo have darkened as the new growth ages.
Gardener – I suppose it wouldn’t sound as good if his title was Pruner of the Taxus.
Writer – The words clash. The Pruner tells him that they must never sheer the yews while the woad is flowering, unless that is, they’re rejuvenating the Taxus – right? – and want new growth to break on the dark wood further in.
Gardener – Isatis tintoria has a good ring.
Writer – “Why is that,” asks the newcomer. “Because the Porcelain Man once noticed how the yellow green flowers of Isatis – ok? – merged visually with the late spring growth of Taxus.” The Pruner goes on to tell him that when the Wizard first arrived here, the yews had been an unruly group around the gazebo, closing the entire structure in. The Wizard hacked the yews back, then molded them around the roof of the gazebo forming a tight enclosure that forced those sitting inside to look out over the High Garden to the river far below. The Wizard then taught the Pruner of Yews the art of green sculpture. The men begin at the foot of the evergreens sheering the branches back from the gravel paths. Why has no one taken over this garden, the newcomer asks. He has noticed that while the other gardens have their curators, this one is managed by everyone under instruction of the Wizard. The Pruner doesn’t know. Perhaps the Wizard is waiting for a sign. The Pruner has worked here for ten years. He barely graduated from high school, worked in a local bodega, then drove a cab at night. One day he read about a federal program which helped place young people in meaningful jobs and paid their employers the salary of the worker. The idea was to help train new people for particular work. But the Pruner discovered that many employers simply used him as cheap labor or used him to replace skilled labor. But luckily his last placement was here under the Wizard, who did train him. “Most of us,” he said, “are refugees from the economic meat grinder downtown. We’ve come here with no home of our own. Even the Porcelain Man, though trained as an artist, was lost in the mouth of Draak until he met the Wizard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in the American wing, where he was coping the illustrations off 19th century ceramics. When the Garden went public, the Porcelain Man sat at the front gate collecting tickets. But it wasn’t long before he was working on the grounds. You too, Gardener, are like us. You’re here because those in the world out can’t afford to love you.” Until then the young Gardener hadn’t realized he was like them, seeking sanctuary in a small world surrounded by giant enterprises.
At the end of his first year the Wizard takes him up to the High Garden. He tells him the High Garden will now be under his care. The view from the gazebo is spectacular. Gravel pathways lead in every direction and wherever he looks he sees something new, something the Old Woman would have called marvelous. He can see the entire Public Garden beneath him, the tall golden grasses in the Monocot Garden, the Dahlias and Salvias in the Flower Garden, the flowering white tree in the Lilac Border. . .
Gardener – Heptacodium miconioides, the seven son tree from China.
Writer – Beyond them the Slang sun lit below, and the Palisade beyond, where trees clinging to the edge show a hint of Autumn. In the distance the great Bridge spans the diaphanous span he first crossed when he came here. And to the south, New Draak as radiant as the fable cities the explorers had hoped to find. A wave of fear overcomes him. How can all this be mine, he thinks. I can see the entire world. How can I live up to the greatness of my predecessor? He runs down the path, down the stairs and returns to the potting shed. But then he remembers what the Old Woman had said the last time he saw her. He returns to the Wizard, who is waiting, and accepts.
Here in the shadow of the Porcelain Man, whose presence he can feel, especially in the bed of the cutleaf sumac. . .
Gardener – Rhus typhina Laciniata
Writer – bordered by three paths, where a mocking bird sits on a branch surveying his work everyday. While weeding he stumbles upon plants he’s never seen before. But in time he learns their names and comes to know them. He sees himself as no more than an ark in the stream of life that must insure the survival of all those the Porcelain Man introduced. He is there, he tells himself, to preserve the man’s vision. The following year when the Isatis is blooming he sees the wisdom of the Porcelain Man. The Yews and the Woad sing. But as the seasons progress he realizes that the inhabitants move on their own accord; they live and die in their own time and not according to his plans. He is forced to work with them and realizes that the garden is changing. When something dies he must replace it. But at this time, at the beginning of the Gardener’s career, many of the species and cultivars the Porcelain Man had mysteriously procured, are still unavailable. So the Gardener is forced to improvise. He studies the area to see if he can understand what his predecessor wanted. Then new ideas appear that have promise. When they fail, the Mocking Bird laughs at him. So he digs up the bed and starts again. As he becomes the garden’s master, he becomes the master of his gardening, just as the Old Woman had promised.
When the Porcelain Man was alive, he moved the Wizard with his energy and the Wizard guided him with his restraint. Together they introduced many new plants to the Garden, the Wizard wanting something that was perfect, the other, like one of the early explorers, searching for new plants to expand his horizons. Together they found ways to combine members of the plant kingdom to create borders of beauty, which, as the Old Woman had first shown the Gardener, could ease people’s suffering.
One day the chairwoman of a garden club across the River, approaches him up in the High Garden and tells him her mother is now confined to a wheelchair which prevents her from walking in her garden. She wants him to design and plant a garden her mother can easily visit. He agrees. Although he has retained some of his earliest clients out of loyalty she becomes his first new client since becoming a public gardener for the Wizard. He likes the incapacitated woman who reminds him of the Old Woman. He installs a walkway that is easily traversed by a wheelchair. The walkway is level while the garden around it is built into the hill in back of the house, providing a comforting enclosure. The end of the walkway circles around a small pool with a fountain in the center. Here the old woman sits and listens to the birds in the dogwoods overhead. A neighbor takes notice. Soon his services are sought by everyone. When asked for credentials he gives the name of the Public Garden on the tongue of Draak and everyone is impressed. The Wizard’s reputation is renown. The Gardener enjoys working with people who like working with him. He finds the creative dialogue stimulating. But times are changing. Many clients want him to install gardens the way designers install living rooms. They don’t know what they want, they don’t care as long as it looks like a picture out of a garden magazine. He tells them he is too busy.
At this time the Board of Directors of the Public Garden choose a new President for the Garden. She is very close to many of the Kings’ vassals working in City Hall and arrives highly recommended both in the private and public sector. She visits the Garden for the first time on the day of her first interview with the Board. When ask by the chairman of the board of her first impression, she says “I was wondering where I could buy a cup of coffee.” If her intention is to startle with incongruity, she succeeds. The bankers laugh, while the lawyers look at one another with raised eyebrows. They tell her the usual answer is always about the magnificent view of the palisades on entering the main lawn. She shrugs her shoulders and replies, “I missed that.” The chairman, a banker who has benefited from the recent deregulation of banking rules, smiles. He asks her if she got her cup of coffee. “Eventually,” she admits; adding “In that first moment I was lost, bewildered. Where do I go from here, I asked myself. Not into the greenhouse, for god’s sake.” The directors nod to one another. She is talks like them. “As a first time visitor I assume I felt as other visitors did, in need of guidance. Where,” she asks, “was the signage. . ?”
Gardener – Was Moses looking for a signage from god?
Writer – It’s just another fairy tale. Like all the rest we’ve discussed. Anyway the Kings’ vassals shrug their collective shoulders. They aren’t involved in the day to day management of the Garden. That would be her job. She confides with them. “It’s the duty of every public steward to get the most value out of public property. I see this public garden the way a landlord sees his property. It is there to be utilized for the going market price. That is how I see my public stewardship.”
She tells them confidently that as president she will introduce a new era of business friendly partnerships. Forging contracts favorable to the Garden, these will include a food concession, run by a reputable and familiar chain – visitors will be encouraged to eat and drink. Going on, she describes a visitors’ center where ticket holders can tour the grounds virtually, with finger tip ease. If it’s too hot or too cold, rainy or snowy, everyone inside the center can tour the gardens without ever having to leave the comforts of the center. Plush couches will be provided. Ongoing visual commentaries will keep everyone entertained. This process will dovetail with another commercial venture: a retail marketing company with knowledge in public programming will provide a seamless environment where visitors taking the virtual tour will be within hands reach of all the necessary tools they will be encouraged to need in order to enrich their “visitor experience.” The digital tour will be laced with cues whetting their appetites and stirring their neurotransmitters; in other words, those sitting on the couches, will find the necessary shopping incentives for our single most important revenue engine, the garden shop. Guide books for all ages, books on gardening by famous TV and movie stars, books on cooking by the leading competition chefs, and for those who can’t read or are adept at multitasking, headsets will be sold, carrying our exclusive audio downloads by well known news personalities. For the children our handheld magnifying glasses illuminated with LEDs, illustrated with well know cartoon characters will be irresistible. Other nifty devices one must have when touring the garden, not to mention a special GPS units with our new logo will be available! “You have a logo in mind,” asked one of the lawyers. “Something Asian,” she says without pause, “perhaps a Chinese symbol looking like a pergola or a clump of grass, resembling green knife-like-blades of grass.” In this way she promises to bring a backward public garden into the global economy. There is silence after she finishes. Then a roar of applause like nothing anyone has seen before during any interview at the little Garden on the tongue of the Dragon. “Let’s do it,” exclaims the Chairman.
Her first realization on becoming President of the Garden is the popularity of the Wizard among gardeners across the nation, many of whom are major financial contributors to the Garden. She sees him as a reactionary preventing the garden from keeping up with the times. He runs his department like a feudal lord and yet it’s always one for all and all for one, or something like that! She takes his popularity personally.
At her first full staff performance she promises everyone present a time of prosperity. There are those among us who will not like me from this day forward. But we must face the hard truth, she says. The free ride is over. I am not like those who came before me. I don’t want to be popular, I will not give everyone what they want. There will be no entitlements. The privileges of a select few will no longer be tolerated and here she looks directly at the Wizard and his gardeners, who always sit together and are said to rarely fraternize with other employees. We don’t work in a feudal manor but in a democratically run, economic public venture. “We are here,” she reiterates, “for the public, and not for a select few who do what pleases them at the public’s expense. Having said this, I assure you this will be a time of peace.” Someone coughs, someone rustles papers but no one says a word. That is until the Wizards stands and leaves the room, the gardeners following. Then the room explodes with the voices of excited people.
Her first official act is to move the office of the President from a modest room on the second floor of the manor house where the business offices are located, to the wood paneled conference room at the end of the hall. This room was once the master bedroom where King Total Power’s man bedded with his wife in former times. The views of the river and the bridge are spectacular. This house, as well as the other manor house on the former estate, which is about to become a restaurant, had belonged to the son of a poor man, a self made officer of an Oil King later called Total Power. The wife of the officer, on his death, donated the houses and gardens to the city of New Draak. The President feels at home in the former office of one of Total Power’s men. On the wall behind her huge mahogany desk, she hangs a framed poster with these words: Change Is Good. In the days to come she will have T-shirts bearing these same words above the Garden’s new logo, created by a well known marketing firm, a silver dollar on which the green razor sharp blades of grass are embossed. On the day she introduces the T-Shirt to the staff, she manifests her sense of humor by telling them, “What could be more horticultural! What could be more cutting edge! Of course you all recognize my mantra.” The gardeners nod their heads knowingly. They see change in the world they work in. But it’s obvious the new President doesn’t have nature’s changes in mind. Among themselves they say, “Change is Inevitable, but it’s not always good.”

The Garden Returns, A Dialogue, Part Nine B

Gardener – The garden where the Youth lived. That’s my beginning. I’ve spent my life looking for it.
Writer – Aren’t you already inside?
Gardener – It never feels that way.
Writer – I see the Youth’s garden out there where you work. You’re recreating it.
Gardener – Even if I could recreate that garden, I wouldn’t.
Writer – Why’s that?
Gardener – It’s not mine, not his either.
Writer – More like our mother’s.
Gardener – I run into folks here, who tell me how lovely the gardens look now. They’re standing in front of the Azaleas we planted two years ago, the two Renee Michelle and the Aphrodite, all in full bloom. The blue, sharp leafed Campanula portenschlagiana is bursting its seams nearby. They smile and tell me how much they enjoy the blue violas. They’ve survived the years of neglect. The azaleas are spectacular, but what they see are the blue violas growing in their mothers’ gardens. Or it might be the invasive lily of the valley at the other end of the bed, which I struggle to keep in check. I ask them what they think of the Azaleas. Oh, yes, they say, yes, they’re nice too.
Writer – Even if they don’t see all that’s in front of them now, they’ll see it in the future. We always draw on the past to help us through the present.
Gardener – Last autumn when we planted the Pleasant White Azaleas in the distance over there on the slope, I didn’t know they would bloom at the same time as the slow budding pink Renees here in the foreground. I didn’t know the white azaleas would bond with the white flowering Viburnum dentatum scattered through the Rhododendron? The Viburnum might have come in too late. And Aphrodite, brash red between them all, might have clashed with the Renees in front. I didn’t even think of the Campanulas! Gardeners have to be patient. In some cases we never see the final outcome. We’ll be dead before that elm reaches its glorious heights. Look, Renee’s pink blossoms are dropping already.
Writer – They’ll bloom again next year.
Gardener – A whole year.
Writer – Still the opportunity remains ahead of us. That’s exciting. Doesn’t that make you feel good?
Gardener – It should. It does. . . sometimes. I sometimes wonder if I don’t want to feel good.
Writer – Like Martha.
Gardener – Martha?
Writer – Of George and Martha in Edward Albee’s play, Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf. The Youth’s girlfriend wanted to see the Mike Nichols’ film, so she took him when it first came out.
Gardener – The wife?
Writer – No, this was a high school girlfriend. The film was stranger to him than anything he’d seen before. This couple and their violent games. It was a keyhole view of the adult world. He understood physical violence, but found the intellectual violence over his head.
Gardener – But he left us images, didn’t he?
Writer – Can you see Elizabeth Taylor at the screen door, world-weary, realizing her emptiness? The youthful George Segal can’t fill it with his virility. Remember her words? I do, as if the Youth is whispering them to me now, her incantation: “George, who can make me happy and I don’t wish to be happy. I do wish to be happy. George and Martha, sad, sad, sad.”
Gardener – Writer and Gardener, sad, sad, sad.
Writer – Do you remember Three Sisters?
Gardener – What three sisters?
Writer – The play by Anton Chekhov.
Gardener – Oh, those sisters.
Writer – The past and future swinging wildly around like the hands of a clock gone mad. There, the violence is latent, tightly compressed like the mainspring under the surface of things. The veneer of good manners begins to wear. We barely register the sound of a gun shot in the last act.
Gardener – I had a hard time staying awake the last time we all saw it in Brooklyn.
Writer – It’s the battery commander, Alexander Vershinin, who clings to the hope that one day several hundred years from now, the world will find peace and happiness. He puts it mathematically. Today there are three lovely, talented sisters; tomorrow, there’ll be six, the day after twelve, until one day in the future everyone will be like them.
Gardener – If I remember correctly, he and his optimism are in retreat at the end.
Writer – His wife is sick and his children depend on him for stability. He believes the sisters grew up in the kind of home he’s failed to provide his own children.
Gardener – Perhaps their home only seemed perfect.
Writer – The old colonel was his commander in Moscow and his home was open to all his officers. Vershinin knew the colonel’s wife and remembers the sisters as Colonel Prozorov’s three little girls. He’s surprised to hear Irina, the youngest, planning her return to Moscow which she remembers as a place of happiness.
Gardener – Considering the sisters don’t have any kids, his calculations are groundless.
Writer – He sleeps with Masha, the middle sister.
Gardener – There’s no future there since she’s married like him.
Writer – The sisters dote on Andrei Sergeevich, their younger brother as if he will save them from life’s tedium with his brilliant career.
Gardener – He’s the least talented of the bunch!
Writer – But he has children. And his wife, a local woman, is ambitious. She’s seems best prepared to meet the future.
Gardener – She gets her husband a government job by sleeping with the head of the county council. In the end she’s appropriated Colonel Prozorov’s house for her children.
Writer – And everyone is telling themselves that someday their suffering will be understood. Irina claims there will be no more secrets.
Gardener – What secrets?
Writer – Perhaps the same secrets that keep Martha and George from being happy.
Gardener – We don’t all have the same secrets.
Writer – Perhaps she means the secrets that undermine our efforts.
Gardener – Well, something undermines my efforts.
Writer –What are you looking at?
Gardener – The Galanthus are gone.
Writer – Give us the English.
Gardener – The snowdrops! Galanthus nivalis. I’m talking about the bulbs I dug up and divided last spring after they bloomed. I moved them around, so their white lanterns would nod cheerfully along the walkways when everything else was still dormant. I set them in clumps among the narrow black leaves of Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’ and the golden Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’ – I don’t know the common name!
Writer – Sorry.
Gardener – I do know the common name, creeping gold Jenny. They’ve disappeared.
Writer – The creeping what’s its name?
Gardener – The Galanthus, the snowdrops, went to seed while I was in here with you. I even missed the Crocus and Tulip species that remind me of Asia minor.
Writer – Where the writers of the ancient world placed the first garden!
Garden – Now it’s the late blooming Azaleas that are coming out. No matter. We can see them next year. Didn’t you just say that? Next year when our neighbors step out the door, they’ll see the difference a snowdrop makes?
Writer – The potential is there.
Gardener – For those that notice. But why isn’t that enough?
Writer – McMahon presents Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s views on the subject of perfection on pages 240 -1 of Happiness. We’ve never read Rousseau’s Second Discourse so we must take this as McMahon’s interpretation. May I read this section in full?
Gardener – Why are you asking me?
Writer – Just being polite.
Gardener – Please!
Writer – Just keep in mind what Aristotle and Aquinas said regarding desire and perfect happiness. . .
Gardener – Please!
Writer – Ok, to quote McMahon, “. . . what Rousseau calls ‘the faculty of self-perfection,’ or simply ‘perfectibility. . .’ is the fatal quality that lies in reserve in the depth of the soul, the very quality that is at the root of all progress. When called forth, it enables human beings to do extraordinary things: to strive constantly to improve their circumstances, to conquer nature, to organize themselves, to control, develop, and exploit. Yet at the same time, this faculty cultivates a ceaseless restlessness, breeding disaffection with our present state. It urges us to summon ever new desires and to place our reason in the service of their fulfillment. It urges us to compare ourselves invidiously to our fellow men, to strive to outdo them. It urges us constantly to outdo ourselves.”
Gardener – And where can this restlessness lead Adam, remaking his garden again and again!
Writer – Always lacking.
Gardener – This lacking – we can’t put our finger on it – causes all our unhappiness. On the other hand Adam keeps trying because he always feel this close to succeeding.
Writer – Doesn’t that mean he has the potential for happiness?
Gardener – If that’s so wouldn’t that also make him self-sufficient?
Writer – I’ve been rereading Ernest Schumacher’s Small Is Beautiful. If you remember the Youth first read the book when it came out in1973.
Gardener – I know, I know, I see the ratty copy there, falling to pieces.
Writer – While their conclusions are different, there are a great many places where both Ernst Schumacher and Ayn Rand agree. For example both found reprehensible the idea that humans could be interpreted as nothing more than a corpus of atoms. Both valued the world of ideas and criticized those who claimed that ideas are relative. Both deplored our failure to solve problems that were once easily solved. Anyway there’s a reference to Burma in the chapter on Buddhist Economics. I wanted to see what had become of Burma. It seems it has been a completely failed economic system when viewed statistically. Not only that it has suffered years of military repression. But this is how I discovered the recent Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech of Burmese activist, Aung San Suu Kyi. Actually she was awarded the prize in 1991 when she was under house arrest in Burma.
Gardener – It’s been in the news. She spent 15 years under arrest.
Writer – In her speech she said, “absolute peace in our world is an unattainable goal. But it is one towards which we must continue to journey, our eyes fixed on it as a traveller in a desert fixes his eyes on the one guiding star that will lead him to salvation.” Earlier she had explained, “the Burmese concept of peace can be explained as the happiness arising from the cessation of factors that militate against the harmonious and the wholesome.” Here I was reading an old book that had paraphrased the hopes and dreams of a newly liberated nation. Like the Congo the dream for Burma goes off the tracks after a charismatic leader is killed. Now I find myself caught up in the on-going events. We have to keep trying.
Gardener – The Youth taught us that.
Writer – Do you remember, around puberty he began suffering from acute pain on the right side near the stomach? A doctor told his mother the attacks would eventually pass. But when they struck, he’d doubled over. If he was playing baseball he’d curl up on the ground wherever he was on the field. At home he’d lie on the nearest couch or bed, even the floor. He imagined an imperfection festering inside him. For relief he imagined taking a knife and cutting the evil sore from its place. As the doctor promised, the painful episodes disappeared. But he could still feel this imperfection growing inside of him. The Old Man seemed to confirm this whenever he sent him up to his room for an infraction. There he punched the soft, low inclined ceiling with his fist. These outbursts of anger never brought permanent relief. But at least he had tangible evidence of his suffering right there on the ceiling, proof that he had something to complain about. When he was older he had his little sister and her friend lock him in a small closet on the second floor until his legs went numb. In high school, after classes, he ran bare foot up and down a rock strewn hill behind the football field, hoping that would make him tougher. The summer before his senior year, he was required to read Tolstoy’s War And Peace, which he never finished, losing his way in the infinity of characters, and a depth of feelings he couldn’t understand. But he imagined he was like the one character he thought he understood, Dolokhov. He met him sitting on a window sill downing a bottle of rum, in Part I, Chapter 9. He thought that was cool. On Friday and Saturday nights he downed pints of vodka with friends. “Bold ass moves” they called it. He had learned in 9th grade that vodka didn’t leave a scent on his breath. Years later, when he finally finished the Russian epic, he found Pierre and Denisov far more appealing. But at the time he hadn’t found the ability to shape words into images. They baffled him and Dolokhov was a man of action. One day, eight or ten years before I appeared, and having by then embraced the counter culture in reaction to the Old Man’s views, he was typing on his grandmother’s Remington in the apartment he shared with his girl friend and their friends, when his lack of articulation unleashed a potent dose of violence. Like a flash flood his anger immersed everything around him. He threw his grandmother’s typewriter against the desk, smashing her cherished teapot which his mother had given him after she died. I can still see it, the cracked lid, the broken spout, which later he tried to glue together. Just then the Siamese cat, Thor, freaked out, and leaped on the desk. He grabbed Thor before his thoughts could catch up to him and threw him against the wall.
Gardener – The cat, he threw the cat?
Writer – Thor ran under the bed and wouldn’t come out until the Youth’s True Heart had returned from classes.
Gardener – It was her cat?
Writer – It was the first time she learned of this other side of him.
Gardener – Was the cat hurt?
Writer – Shaken. The Youth saw himself throwing Thor as he had thrown the typewriter. He saw the fear in the cat’s wild eyes. Almost immediately after he threw him against the wall, his fury receded, like water flowing down the drain, leaving him empty. He was ashamed. From that day on, whenever this anger burst from it’s place, it became an act of will not to hurt anyone else.
Gardener – For all we know the Good Samaritan was struggling just like him when he came up to the naked man.
Writer – Jesus never tells us. He says he had pity.
Gardener – The night before, he might have argued with his wife over the way she was raising the kids. Perhaps that morning he argued with his son about doing his share around the house, maybe it was his daughter he yelled at because she smiled at a boy.
Writer – Our Christian theologian is optimistic. Everything wants to be good. It can’t be helped since goodness is the source of all things. Evil is nothing more than the lack of good. He calls it a privation. Even if the Samaritan was angry at his son the night before, he still had the potential to get something right. I think that’s what Aung San means about never losing sight of peace. This potential that we spoke of earlier must have kept the Youth, in spite of his failings, from quitting.
Gardener – The Youth must have loved the cat.
Writer – Knowing who we are, we can assume so.
Gardener – But the moment he threw the cat, he must have lacked love for him.
Writer – I don’t think he was thinking of love or hate at that moment.
Gardener – But throwing the cat wasn’t good and if the lack of good is evil then the lack of love must be hate.
Writer – So you’re saying because he lacked goodness the moment he threw the cat, he therefore hated it.
Gardener – I’m saying that must have been the reason for his shame, the realization of what it means to hate something, even momentarily.
Writer –We already know the Christian believes his god is perfect and good. He also believes that god is love. In Summa Theologica, Part 1:Question 20, he quotes the evangelist, John from the New Testament, chapter 4: verse 16, where John says “God is love.”
Gardener – But he sensed something else, didn’t he? Hitting the wall was one thing. He could blame others for his anger. Everyone was against him. He hated the Old Man who sent him up to his room. And what about that Sister Mary Ursula? He hated her too.
Writer – She actually told the 3rd grade class that anyone living outside the true faith would not enter Heaven. Instead they would suffer the flames of hell. The boy was horrified. At the Old Man’s request our mother had raised us as Catholics, but she had remained an Episcopalian. Unable to reveal his sorrow, the Youth suffered quietly as if he himself had taken her place in the inferno.
Gardener – I mean this is something we can understand. He had a reason to hate her. And under ASS you had “reasons” to hate everyone who was impeding your efforts to accomplish something great.
Writer – Long Live Galt! Let the cities rot! Let the country go to hell! We’re taking our business to Shangri-La. Actually I just heard that Remington Arms Company is threatening to pull its business out of New York State if the government insists on microstamping gun casing to help law enforcement.
Gardener – But as soon as he threw the cat, he could only blame himself. He was no better than those he hated. Sister Mary Ursula always blamed him for things he didn’t do. She was stupid and lazy – that’s why he hated her. But when he threw the cat it was because he was inarticulate, because he was stupid, because he was weak. Thor was innocent. He had to assume responsibility. He was no different than she was.
Writer – You’re right. His lack of love left him with an incomplete view of himself. It was like looking into the mirror and being unable to see his nose. It’s there but he can’t see it. Instead there’s a hole. Most of us spend a lot of time and money trying to find our nose.
Gardener – The problem is we often want a nose that’s popular. The Youth wanted straight hair. He wanted ears that didn’t stick out. But even going out and buying stove pipe pants and cabana socks, and lathering his hair with cream couldn’t fill the hole in the center of his face.
Writer – That’s when he must have begun to empathize.
Gardener – But do you think he was ready to use the word, love? I mean there was a canker still growing inside of him. He could love his mother, even The Old Man, when he didn’t hate him, but love himself?
Writer – The Youth was fascinated by Shakespeare’s use of that word in the Sonnets.
Gardener – Love?
Writer – Canker. He rode his bicycle to work and on his way home he often visited the Shakespeare Garden beneath Belvedere Castle. I suspect his interest in the word was tied to his fascination of rosebuds which reminded him of medieval spires. But Sonnet 54 was different. The context was unusual and aided his understanding of his problem. The poet describes a canker rose, a rose without a scent. The Youth, who was even then learning to convert his views of the natural world into words, had come to think of a canker as a worm.
Gardener – I think of stem problems. . . rose stems.
Writer – But that didn’t seem to be the case here. I quote the bard: “The canker-blooms have full as deep a dye/as the perfumed tincture of the roses. . . But,” as the poet later adds, “for their virtue only is their show.” In my words, when they fade, that’s it; no one remembers them; while perfumes from the redolent roses are distilled in bottles and remembered. The poet is comparing his sonnet to perfume by which his lover or is it his youth, can be remembered after beauty has faded.
Gardener – Shakespeare is putting a value on scented roses. There are many exquisite roses that aren’t sweet scented.
Writer – It’s his metaphor for something intangible. The Youth realized he no longer needed a knife to remove his pain.
Gardener – Why does this never end?
Writer – In San Francisco, years before he discovered Shakespeare, the fog lifted sometime around noon and the sun found him in its glare. He began feeling the bright blue sky was weighing down on him. He had nowhere to hide from himself. It was as if the sun at noon was casting its searching rays straight into the center of his emptiness. At the time he was reading the Budge Translation of the Egyptian Book Of The Dead. He couldn’t wait for dark so he could fall into the cool night as into a pool of water.
Gardener – I feel that today, cooped up with you.
Writer – He was struggling out of this emptiness, this lack of success.
Gardener – The blue sky’s chiding me. Why am I inside? That’s why I garden.
Writer – That’s why I read Chekhov!
Gardener – Nothing is more lovely and perfect than a bright sky on a lovely day, and nothing more hideous!
Writer – Perhaps this hole in all of us is what the believers in gods call original sin.
Gardener – Is this the reason for their holy wars? Filling the privation with blood and gore?
Writer – It makes our emptiness a fault. Love they neighbor as thyself, but if we can’t love ourselves, how can we love our neighbors.
Gardener – We’re not as perfect as the congressman from Wisconsin.
Writer – I never expected to find this emptiness here in the middle of the rock pile.
Gardener – He never doubts himself.
Writer – We were going to build something solid.
Gardener – Never questions himself.
Writer – I mean these rocks are all we have.
Gardener – He has all the answers.
Writer – A place both wild and domesticated, like the mind.
Gardener – Does that mean he loves himself?
Writer – Instead we’ve uncovered a black hole in the center of our universe.
Gardener – I feel awful.
Writer – I’ve thrown more words than there are stars into this singularity without ever stopping up the pain. And all because we can’t “be.”
Gardener – What about our potential?
Writer – But we can do the right thing.
Gardener – When we succeed, we find happiness.
Writer – It’s short lived!
Gardener – What are you moaning about? You’re in your element, here in this world of all consuming illumination. They’re sending ships to the arctic circle to bring you light. They’re blowing tops off mountains to brighten your day. Your computer is saving paper but still burning on the carboniferous. It took every ounce of energy for the Youth to control his anger. Are we his reward?
Writer – You and I.
Gardener – Sad, sad Youth. Besides he doesn’t know us. And we don’t know him.
Writer – I remember when he disappeared. We were standing by the window on the second floor of Castalia, the Greek Restaurant where he worked. He was looking out onto Madison Avenue. He realized he was thirty. That something had changed. And then I was alone, myself. But anyway, you know him more than you know anyone else.
Gardener – I remember this vaguely. But I can’t take credit for his struggle.
Writer – Isn’t that why you’re here now?
Gardener – It never ends, converting this hatred into motion, into work.
Writer – As the Pagan said, we must exert ourselves!
Gardener – Why can’t we pat ourselves on the back now and then when we get it right? I mean the placement of those far off Pleasant Whites was perfect.
Writer – We always forget. We rush on.
Gardener – Tomorrow all this will start again.
Writer – Sad, sad Gardener.
Gardener – Do you think the Youth felt good every time he weathered a storm?
Writer – If relief is good, he must have felt good.
Gardener – How about self-sufficient?
Writer – If he felt good, then he needed nothing more.
Gardener – Still I’ve never thrown a cat!
Writer – Should we blame our Youth?
Gardener – I didn’t do it! I couldn’t live with that.
Writer –How about that kid in Florida? He sure looks like he threw the cat. Blame him!
Gardener – He’s dead.
Writer – Can we live with that?
Gardener – I’m ashamed of what we’re capable of.
Writer – Not me, blame the devil. The devil made us do it.
Gardener – Yeah, Hitler made us kill the Jews.
Writer – That’s easy.
Gardener – Charlie Manson made us shoot those people up Cielo Drive.
Writer – See how easy it is!
Gardener – Why do we always go back to his time? We can’t change anything back there.
Writer – That’s right. We can’t. But we’re going forward! I told you that.
Gardener – But why are we capable of such atrocities? I didn’t kill the Jews. And it was the Youth who threw a cat against the wall. So why am I ashamed?
Writer – It’s the hole in us, our privation.
Gardener – We need to move on, like the seasons.
Writer – There are people working in food factories who treat animals as if they were nothing more than bags of cement and pallets of brick. They kick chickens. They punch pigs.
Gardener – But we don’t. We threw a cat, once!
Writer – That’s right we did!
Gardener – If I could only get outside.
Writer – You always start moping when you stand by the window.
Gardener – I see the weeds growing. If plants acted like people, consciously refining the Pooh Principle we’d be gone by now, the human species, smothered in weeds.
Writer – Remember Little Shop Of Horrors by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman.
Gardener – I know I’d feel good again, pulling weeds. It’s as simple as that.
Writer – I work with my hand too!
Gardener – On that infernal keyboard, pounding rock.
Writer – When I was suffering from ASS I was too important to stop by the naked man.
Gardener – The silent pulling of weeds.
Writer – I wouldn’t help the stranger.
Gardener – Before too long a patch of bare earth, waiting for new ideas, a hardy gardenia perhaps, against the brick wall, the pale white flowers, the sweet scent nurturing our memories.
Writer – Why didn’t he come to me earlier, why did he go on believing in big government.
Gardener – That’s all it takes, bending down, pulling green dross. That leaves room for dreaming.
Writer – As John Galt warned, by helping this man I was helping a dysfunctional government and its corporate cronies survive.
Gardener – Piling dross on the compost.
Writer – I realized people must die until they see clearly.
Gardener –Editing what isn’t valued at that moment, in that place. That’s gardening.
Writer – When I was suffering from ASS I called myself objective.
Gardener –Like the congressman from Wisconsin, what’s his name. . .
Writer – Paul Lie’en?
Gardener – Yeah, Paul Lie’en, with a lion’s halo, another victim of ASS.
Writer – Not any more. Haven’t you heard? In his words “like millions of young people in America,” he attributes his ASS to his youth.
Gardener – In other words, he was a Galt groupie like you but not any more.
Writer – Yep, he came of age and went public. He’s disowned his hero like St Peter denying Jesus before the cock crowed.
Gardener – Why do we never hear about Daggy Taggert? Wasn’t she struggling against the same torpid system as the congressman.
Writer – It’s never been about Taggert, even if she was the vehicle of change.
Gardener – Didn’t she feed the beggar on the train and give him a job?
Writer – I think the hobo had news of her mysterious inventor.
Gardener – She’d still have done it. The way you’ve described her she’s the most real.
Writer – Oddly enough, the author believed she was egocentric, because she believed she could fight entropy all by herself. Anyway, the hero from Wisconsin now claims to be a follower of Thomas Aquinas!
Gardener – Then the congressman from Wisconsin, like you and I, agrees with Aquinas, that none of us can ever be good.
Writer – According to his advocates in our congressional brain trust his budget is based on moral principles. Through sacrifice we all, in the future, will become self-sufficient, like the congressman. And as you and I know being self sufficient makes us good.
Gardener – Too bad the Youth isn’t around to see this ASS. He might have understood why he was doomed from the beginning.
Writer –In St Mary’s the good kids got good marks and gold stars. They seemed endowed with grace. He felt he lacked something.
Gardener – Earlier we said the Good Samaritan had to help the stranger. Right? Had to!
Writer – He took pity on the man.
Gardener – His pity compelled him.
Writer – Right.
Gardener – When he helped the stranger it was an act of goodness.
Writer – Everyone agrees.
Gardener – But who can see the Youth’s act of goodness?
Writer – I see your point. Not throwing the cat is equal to the Samaritan’s well applauded act.
Gardener – The Youth is angry and violent, but of his own free accord he wills himself to not act. He restrains himself. He does not throw his true heart’s cat against the wall any more.
Writer – It’s a turbulence I still feel.
Gardener – Does everyone struggle this way?
Writer – In The Happiness Hypothesis, Jonathan Haidt said we’re all different genetically, metabolically.
Gardener – When we see the Samaritan, we say, “he’s one of the good guys.” But when we see the Youth, hood on his head, walking aimlessly around, hanging out on the corner, when we see him, we say “that kid’s up to no good.”
Writer – But we know differently.
Gardener – Only because we know our Youth.
Writer – Of course, it helps to have a moral code in place.
Gardener – But it means nothing unless we wrestle with ourselves.
Writer – A moral code is passed down through millenniums because it makes sense, because it’s practical.
Gardener – Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not steal.
Writer – Still we must earn them.
Gardener – Aren’t we ridding the high horse again?
Writer – It’s not about retribution. It’s knowing the difference between right and wrong.
Gardener – What are you talking about? Of course it’s about retribution!
Writer – We don’t believe in heaven!
Gardener – Sometimes we do the right thing because we do fear getting caught. Sometimes we do the right thing because we’re afraid someone is watching! Like that time you accidentally backed the pickup into the car behind you and cracked the front fender.
Writer – What do you mean, me, that was you, you were tired after that long drive down the Taconic.
Gardener – I wasn’t driving.
Writer – You had plenty of room to park. You admitted that yourself. You thought you were in first gear but you were in reverse.
Gardener – It was your idea to go upstate with the wife.
Writer – I don’t drive! I never leave this room.
Gardener – Oh, I guess all these stories come from inside your head, no influence from the outside.
Writer – The internet, newspapers, books, music.
Gardener – I remember one evening, after working late, trying to squeeze into the only parking space I could find, me. The dam hitch plate rode up on top of the fender of the car in back. I told myself if someone parks on the street, shit happens. It’s expected. Still, after all that work I decided to find another spot. I didn’t want the owner of the car to do something to my truck in revenge. . . Having admitted this, will you agree “we” were driving this time?
Writer – Well alright, but I can’t see how I could have been there. If it eases things, yes.
Gardener – No sooner “we” hit the car behind us we realized we had a problem.
Writer – We were parking right in front of the building where we lived. We cracked the fender.
Gardener – I said, damn, we live here. I figured for sure someone saw us from the window.
Writer – I said, damn we live here. What if somebody smashed our car? Wouldn’t we appreciate knowing?
Gardener – No one told us who stole our cargo bay cover. Nobody confessed to messing up the door lock on the passenger’s side or cracking the side view mirror, I mean. . .
Writer – Stuff like that helped us turn a corner.
Gardener – I’ve worked hard for a living. I looked at that cracked fender and knew this was going to be costly.
Writer – Old habits die hard.
Gardener – We left a note on the windshield with our phone number. Shit.
Writer – A few days later a parole officer who lived down the block called us. He said he and the fellas down at the office had talked about us around the water cooler. They couldn’t believe we’d left a note admitting fault!
Gardener – They thought we were crazy.
Writer – He praised our honesty. It was his daughter’s car.
Gardener – Well I told him to save his compliments. I told him it took everything I had to not walk away. Cost us $800. I wrote the check myself.
Writer – But we did it, the right thing. In spite of all those feelings, we still did it. We could see ourselves doing it. And we felt good about it.
Gardener – Not completely. It hurt writing that check.
Writer – I was relieved.
Gardener – I don’t know. 800 bucks.
Writer – No one forced us to leave the note under the windshield wiper. . . Look we both agreed with the theologian that all things strive to be good. We wanted to do the right thing. But we must, as the philosopher said, exert ourselves. We both know it’s not easy.
Gardener – It’s not easy.
Writer – We smashed the bumper. To make good we admitted out fault.
Gardener – When I think of the money it hurts. When I think of right and wrong it feels good.
Writer – In Small Is Beautiful, Economics As If People Mattered, Ernst Schumacher emphasized two point views, one was economical, the other metaphysical. In our global culture, the economical view takes precedence over the metaphysical view. In Part I, Chapter 3 he writes “it would be ‘uneconomic’ for a buyer to give preference to home-produced goods if imported goods are cheaper. He does not, and is not expected to, accept responsibility for the country’s balance of payments.” Today we can add unemployment as well as a castrated national identity. When the metaphysical view supersedes the economical, we acknowledge some things standing outside of monetary value. It would be immoral to rip families apart with the economic strains caused by foreclosures, deportations, and the unregulated investment policies of Kings who bring on these economic hardships. Wherever we can, we should decide what is best for people and not for the Kings who knowingly gamble with the national security since economic downturns create national insecurity. Schumacher argued that when meta-economics are applied, anything people-made can be treated economically, but anything people can’t make must be treated reverently. He uses the word, “sacred.” In Part II, Chapter 2, he gives the example of someone deciding it will be more economical running the car into the ground than spending X dollars keeping it going. With the money saved the consumer can buy a new car. But one shouldn’t demand the same economic calculus for the earth where we grow our food and raise our animals, and from the animals themselves. Pigs and chickens aren’t TVs and toasters.
Gardener – That was written a long time ago. No one remembers Schumacher. They remember Galt because we all want a hero!
Writer – But we aren’t any further away from success. We’re just as close today to being good stewards of the real world than we were 40 years a ago.
Gardener – That’s almost a half century.
Writer – The potential for success is still in our hands. We have the capability of producing goods and preserving the home planet as a self sustaining unit for everyone.
Gardener – What about the Kings and their vassals? These masters of deception are thinking only of what they can make for themselves in their own life times. They don’t give a hoot about the life time of the planet.
Writer – Schumacher laments in Part I, Chapter 2, that “a man driven by greed or envy loses the power of seeing things as they really are, of seeing things in their roundness and wholeness, and his success become failures. If whole societies become infected by these vices, they become increasingly incapable of solving the most elementary problems of everyday existence. . .”
Gardener – Is this supposed to make me feel better. He’s not simply describing Kings but all of us. That could be a description of you and me!”
Writer – It is. He continues, “The Gross National Product may rise rapidly: as measured by statisticians but not as experienced by actual people, who find themselves oppressed by increasing frustration, alienation, insecurity, and so forth. After awhile, even the Gross National Product refuses to rise any further, not because of scientific or technological failure, but because” and the emphasis is mine, “of a creeping paralysis of non-cooperation, as expressed in various types of escapism on the part, not only of the oppressed and the exploited, but even of the highly privileged groups.” I would add the non-cooperation caused by the adherence to dogma. Now he said this 40 years ago and if ever there was a prophesy made that’s come true, this is one of them!
Gardener – I’m not consoled. We’re all in the same boat, the Kings, their vassals and the rest of us.
Writer – I was just reading an article this morning in the New York Times. . .
Gardener – I was here! I saw you reading it.
Writer – A Georgia Town Takes the People’s Business Private by David Segal which describes a suburban community near Atlanta, Georgia.
Gardener – Sandy Springs.
Writer – That’s right. When I was reading it I thought there are some good points here. For one the brief description of the 19th century tax code. Taxpayers paid taxes for specific services needed by the taxpayers. Nothing new here, even the Roman emperor Hadrian said the only purpose of government was to clean the streets and pick up the trash. I think I read that in Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar.
Gardener – There’s a lot to be said for that!
Writer – I can easily image a governing body hiring a local company to do something for them. But most of the companies mentioned in the article are national with home offices in other states. That means tax dollars are leaving the state. On top of that the manager in another state is telling his manager in Sandy Springs what to do with local workers. Naturally the local manager. . .
Gardener – Was he born there?
Writer – Not sure but I assume he has the responsibility of making the right decisions, the right decisions being the most profitable for the company. But all this aside, where I feel the idealism goes off the tracks is when the author paraphrases Mr. McDonough the Sandy Springs city manager, by telling us “The privatized approach saves money because corporations hire superior workers and give them better training.” The emphasis is mine. That’s a dangerous statement. It borders on an act of faith. The author continues paraphrasing the city manager: “Work handled by 15 public employees can be done by 12 privately employed workers, he says” that is Mr. McDonough according to David Segal who then actually quotes the Manager: “It’s all about the caliber of employee and the customer focus that comes out of the private sector.’”
Gardener – That’s scary.
Writer- Exactly what I thought. Not scary because of the actual process which is worthy of experimentation but because of the evangelical tone of its believers.
Gardeners – Pureliners. One size fits all.
Writer – Near the end of the article the author describes an encounter between , Mr. McDonough and Kevin Walter, the deputy director of public works, who works under contract for URS. “Mr. Walker has good news. Currently, Sandy Springs pays for two people to operate two road maintenance trucks five days a week — in effect, 10 days of work every two weeks. Well, Mr. Walker has just figured out a way to reduce the number to nine days every two weeks, saving $50,000 a year.” Mr. McDonough is happy and Mr. Walter is happy.
Gardener – Yeah, it’s not coming out of their pockets.
Writer – Exactly. It’s obvious it’s coming out of the pocket of one of the drivers. That’s a demotion. Not because of work done badly but because the Kingdom wants to save $50,000. Now we can rest assured that this demoted worker wasn’t making $50,000 for 52 days of work, nor was his truck consuming that much fuel and need that many repairs for 52 days of use.
Gardener – Let’s hope not.
Writer – What would running a tuck and paying a worker cost the home office of URS in San Francisco? $200 tops? $300?
Gardener – On the ground floor that’s a good estimate, even if we consider a union contract with the teamsters, which is unlikely considering the tenor of these evangelical managers.
Writer – Let’s round it off, $500 for one worker and his truck a day. That’s $26,000. So who’s making the remaining $24,000?
Gardener – Maybe it is coming out of Mr. Walker’s pocket.
Writer – Maybe. We could tally up salaries for secretaries at the home office as well as the cost of upkeep of the buildings and the possible mortgages pending on operations and real estate at the home office in San Francisco. It’s more likely that by demoting a worker, Walker is insuring that his salary stays the same or is raised.
Gardener – Maybe we should ask the experts at Bane Capital?
Writer – Yeah, I’m sure they could tell us. But Schumacher is clear on the goals of Sandy Marsh. . .
Gardener – Springs, Sandy Springs.
Writer – In Part 1 Chap 3, he claims that “the judgment of economics. . . is an extremely fragmentary judgment; out of the large number of aspects which in real life have to be seen and judged together before a decision can be taken, economics supplies only one – whether a thing yields a money profit to those who undertake it or not.” The emphasis is his. The King keeps the Miller’s daughter locked inside his sweat shop spinning gold for him because it’s in his best interests. The King rationalizes doing this for the good of the Kingdom. The consumers of the Kingdom are happy as long as they have enough gold to buy goods as basement prices. But the bottom line is, the King’s getting his desired return for locking her up.
Gardener – One could argue that it’s in her best interest to marry the King.
Writer – But we’ve discussed her liability since she was using an outside source. The King holds all the cards. When he marries her, he monopolizes what he believes to be her skill. If she can’t make gold, she can still put out.
Gardener – What about the critics? Isn’t there always a revolution around the corner?
Writer – According to the King, his critics are just envious.
Gardener – There’s truth in that. We all want to live like the King.
Writer – Think of Cinderella and her shoe.
Gardener – Yes we’re all willing to squeeze in if only to marry the prince.
Writer – The Kings have caste their spell over us using the gold we’ve made for them. We fall asleep dreaming of the Dogmateers who sally forth from their castle ideology with sword and shield to fight the windmills of differing views. Oh yes they tell us, we’ll put Humpty Dumpty back together again.
Gardener – Wolves in sheep’s’ clothing or should I say grandma’s dress and shawl.
Writer – We carry this too far! We’ve heard what Rousseau had to say about why we can’t be happy. Our striving’s to blame; but I suspect that for most of us the Marquis de Sade is closer to the truth. Do you remember what he said Act One, Scene 22, in Peter Weiss’ play, The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat As Performed By The Inmates Of The Asylum Of Charenton Under The Direction Of The Marquis De Sade?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marat/Sade
Gardener – I thought the analogy fit, using wolves and you know Little Red Ridding Hood
Writer – “That’s how it is Marat/That’s how she sees your revolution/they have toothache/and their teeth should be pulled/Their soup’s burnt/They shout for better soup/A woman finds her husband too short/she wants a taller one/A man finds his wife too skinny/he wants a plumper one/A man’s shoes pinch/but his neighbor’s shoes fit comfortably/A poet runs out of poetry/and desperately gropes for new images/For hours an angler casts his line/Why aren’t the fish biting/And so they join the revolution/thinking the revolution will give them everything. . .”
Gardener – Anything to make me happy. Like a new nose I can stick into everyone’s business.
Writer – Is it a wonder we want to believe them, these master of deception. Even when we like them they can come up short. On page 432 in Happiness, in McMahon’s discussion of Friedrich Nietzsche, we discovered a passage the Christian wrote in the Supplement to the Third Part of Summa Theologica, which we’ve never read because of its references to heaven.
Gardener – And you don’t mean Sandy Springs.
Writer – It would seem that the long promised eternal happiness we can’t find permanently on Earth, is made more exquisite, if that’s possible, in heaven when the blessed watch the suffering of the eternally dammed! How in this eternal world of perfect good is their room for, yes, still more good? The Christian explains: “Now everything is known the more for being compared with its contrary, because when contraries are placed beside one another they become more conspicuous. Wherefore in order that the happiness of the saints may be more delightful to them and that they may render more copious thanks to God for it, they are allowed to see perfectly the sufferings of the damned.”
Gardener – Are the taxpayers of Sandy Springs enjoying the privation out beyond the castle walls?
Writer – This is troubling.
Gardener – Not to the congressman from Wisconsin. He’s pushes back that devilish debt caused by those of us who’ve been improvident, squandering our assets on pleasures’ imitation. . .
Writer – Don’t bring in the Prodigal Son
Gardener – I’m just getting the hang of this.
Writer – Don’t.
Gardener – While the congressman and those of us who’ve nurtured our resources, sit back in our hard earned leisure enjoying the revelers suffering privation!
Writer – I don’t think his congressional benefits add relish to his congressional happiness. I think he’s blind to the suffering of others.
Gardener – According to Sister Mary Ursula when the Youth died he could sit on his heavenly perch watching his poor mother burn in hell for all eternity.
Writer – Fortunately a more exacting teacher, the stern Sister Mary Estelle, sensed his crisis. She took the boy aside and asked him what was wrong. When she learned what it was, she told him that was nonsense, that anyone who believed in the goodness of Jesus would enter heaven no matter what their church.
Gardener – Was Sister Mary Estelle a heretic in the eyes of contemporary church teachings?
Writer – A heretic? Because of her wider christian views? This Sister of Mercy brought solace and comfort to the Youth, just as the Samaritan had to the wayfarer lying on the road. She stepped outside dogma and saved the boy from torment. Had she been a Jew or a Muslim she would have done the same.
Gardener – We don’t need to be Christians to follow Jesus.
Writer – Nor Buddhists to follow Buddha? Buddha was a Hindu.
Gardener – Jesus was a Jew. There were no Christians in his day.
Writer – When Mohammed heard his angel, Gabriel, he could have been a Jew or a Christian or a Hanif. It doesn’t matter, does it? He stepped outside and became something new.
Gardener – Maybe he was a descendent of the Good Samaritan?
Writer – It doesn’t matter. Like other great people he steps outside of his time, becomes the outsider.
Gardener – Still, after these great people die, humans will be humans and the great efforts of unification crumble.
Writer – Shiites and Sunnis appeared just the way Lutherans and Calvinists did in Europe. Just the way Theravada and Mahayana appeared after Buddha.
Gardener – If prophets unite, their followers always lead to disunification. Have we come all this way only to find ourselves still searching for John Galt?
Writer – Remember those two apprentices working for the baker?
Gardener – Are we back on Main Street again?
Writer – Every town has a Main Street, even in Syria where towns are blown to bits. In this town, on this Main Street, the baker had a shop where he lived with his family and the two apprentices before it was destroyed by government artillery. . .
Gardener – Is this another fairy tale or a news bulletin?
Writer – The day after the government destroyed the town, the militia of the ruling minority, the Alawite, entered the shattered village and killed the baker and his wife and children. Our two young apprentices, hiding in the rubble, waited until dark to escape on the road north. We find them each carrying a loaf of bread. Each prays to Allah to help him evade the marauding gangs of the Alawite. At dawn one apprentice tells the other they should share the bread in common. The other agrees and offers his loaf. When they’ve satisfied their hunger and finished the man’s bread they continue on.
Gardener – I smell something rotten.
Writer –Naturally the other apprentice who offered up his bread first doesn’t think of himself as generous because he was acting for the common good. But they have walked all day and now evening is coming. He’s hungry and he sees his associate nibbling on the remaining loaf of bread. So he asks him for his share.
Gardener – King Lear again.
Writer – The apprentice who suggested dividing the bread between them in the first place continues walking. The hungry apprentice asks him again for his share. Now the apprentice with the bread quickens his pace. It’s almost dark now and the other man is well ahead of his comrade. So the hungry apprentice runs after him. The well-fed apprentice starts running too, until he is even farther ahead.
Gardener – I would have beat the shit out of him.
Writer – Soon it’s dark. The hungry apprentice is tired and can’t keep up. The other apprentice disappears into the night with the remaining loaf. It’s getting cold, winter is setting in. The hungry apprentice staggers off the road and up a hill to avoid an army convoy. On the hill he discovers an orchard of fig trees. Although it’s nearly winter they are heavy with fruit, so he eats to his stomach’s content.
Gardener – Figs can produce fruit twice in a single year, but generally the first crop is in late winter or early spring and the second crop in summer.
Writer – He hears the sound of running water. In the middle of the orchard there’s a well overflowing with sweet water, so the apprentice drinks his fill. He’s no longer cold and hungry. He lays down in the dark and dozes off beneath one of the trees. He’s not sure he’s dreaming but he overhears doves talking on the branches above. They’re talking about a poor, blind cobbler who could be rich if only he knew about the three pots of gold buried beneath his shop floor. They gossip how the people in Damascus pay great sums to their leader to import their water when there’s water for all just a few feet beneath the city’s main gates. And then there’s a king living in a far off land, who could save his dying daughter if he killed his precious dog and fed her the meat.
Gardener – Blah, blah and just the way the King got the miller’s daughter, the apprentice goes out and finds his fortune and a princess too.
Writer – Remember, that King was thinking only of himself when he locked the miller’s daughter in a room full of straw. Yes, the generous apprentice finds the pots of gold where the doves said they’d be but he takes only enough of the gold to get him to Damascus, leaving the rest for the poor cobbler, his wife and his many ill-fed children. In Damascus he discovers water under the gates just where the doves said it would be; the people want to make him President but he takes only enough money from the grateful people to get him to the land of the dying princess. And there he saves the King’s daughter. Naturally the King gives him his daughter in marriage. But feeling his son-in-law will leave his services if he doesn’t offer him a bonus, he asks what more he can do for him in gratitude. The apprentice tells him he’s a baker and would like to open a bakery. The King thinks this venture would be a good investment. Bread has been something his people have made at home. Opening such a business would lock up his monopoly of the food industry. But on one condition, continues the apprentice. And what is that, asks the King, not used to beneficiaries giving conditions. That the bread we make will be free to those too poor to buy it. The King looks over at his daughter. Without a moment’s hesitation he consents. And here is where the apprentice and his new wife, the princess, can be found, their aprons dusty with flour, their hands sticky with dough, distributing good bread and sweet water to anyone who have fallen prey to bad times.
Gardener – How about the other apprentice who left his friend behind?
Writer – Oh, he doesn’t matter any more.

Footnotes

1 – Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Who%27s_Afraid_of_Virginia_Woolf%3F

2 – Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Sisters_%28play%29

3 – what Aristotle and Aquinas said regarding desire and perfect happiness. . .
The Gardener Returns, A Dialogue, Part Nine A

4 – self-sufficient?
The Gardener Returns, Part Nine A

5 – Aung San Suu Kyi Nobel Peace Prize recipient for 1991 Acceptance Speech
http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1991/kyi-acceptance_en.html

6 – Summa Theologica, Part 1:Question 20: God is Love
http://www.ccel.org/a/aquinas/summa/FP/FP020.html#FPQ20A2THEP1

7 – Method to Track Firearm Use Is Stalled by Foes/ By Erica Goode Published: June 12, 2012

8 – Budge Translation of the Egyptian Book Of The Dead.
http://www.sacred-texts.com/egy/ebod/

9 – Charlie Manson
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Manson

10 – Little Shop Of Horrors by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Shop_of_Horrors_%28musical%29

11 – St Peter denying Jesus http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+26%3A31-35&version=NKJV

12 – the hero from Wisconsin claims to be a follower of Thomas Aquinas
http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/297023/ryan-shrugged-robert-costa?pg=1

13 – Good Samaritan
The Gardener Returns, Part Eight

14 – A Georgia Town Takes the People’s Business Private by David Segal

15 – Pureliners.
I:1 WHERE THE GARDENER FAILS TO MOLLIFY THE WRITER WHO DECRIES THE NOTORIOUS PURE LINE DISCOVERED BY THE YOUTH IN HIS BALLAD OF THE BANKBOOK

15 – the Miller’s daughter
THE GARDENER RETURNS, A DIALOGUE, PART THREE

16 – Humpty Dumpty
THE GARDENER RETURNS, A DIALOGUE, PART FIVE

17 – Peter Weiss’ play, The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat As Performed By The Inmates Of The Asylum Of Charenton Under The Direction Of The Marquis De Sade
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marat/Sade

18 – The Christian explains in Supplement (xp): to the third part of the Summa Theologica
Treatise On The Last Things (qq[86]-99)
Of the relations of the saints towards the damned (three articles)
http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/aquinas/summa/sum641.htm

19 – Main Street/Apprentices
The Gardener Returns, Part Four

The Garden Returns, A Dialogue, Part Nine A

Gardener – How many Christians follow the example of the Good Samaritan?
Writer – Jesus never called him good; he simply said he was a Samaritan. Everyone commenting on the story has called him good.
Gardener – But we agree what he did was good.
Writer – That’s why everyone calls him good.
Gardener – It’s easier helping someone when they’re lying like that right in front of you.
Writer – The Pharisee and the Levite didn’t.
Gardener – We all have a bit of Pharisee and Levite in us.
Writer –We call it self–interest in the narrow sense.
Gardener – But you and I said the stranger from Samaria helped the wounded man because he had to!
Writer – He had no choice. If he ignored the stranger, he’d have carried the stranger’s suffering in the form of shame.
Gardener – Something the Levite and the Pharisee could manage.
Writer – We do it all the time, convince ourselves it’s not our problem.
Gardener – Especially when the stranger isn’t lying on the road in front of us but is a foreigner on a dusty road in some far off land.
Writer – The Samaritan was a foreigner.
Gardener – Doesn’t matter where he was from. We’re all the same species, Homo sapiens.
Writer – Only this human would have found it hard to live with himself had he passed by.
Gardener – You mean he’d be miserable, unhappy.
Writer – According to Aristotle, the pagan philosopher, happiness and goodness are connected. The ancient philosopher says in Ethics I:7, “the final good is thought to be self-sufficient.” He defines “self-sufficient. . . as that which when isolated makes life desirable and lacking in nothing; and such we think happiness to be; and further we think it most desirable of all things.” Like goodness, happiness is, to quote the pagan, “something final and self-sufficient. . .”
Gardener – In other words the Samaritan was self-sufficient, he needed nothing more when he helped the stranger.
Writer – I think the pagan philosopher means more than that. Being self-sufficient is possessing all we need to be happy inside ourselves, in spite of what is happening around us. The pagan mentions the shoemaker. . .
Gardener – Not the cobbler on main street?
Writer – Why not? After all every town has a main street where people are hard at work making a living. We’ve known the bakers and shoemakers Adam Smith describes. Aristotle knew them, too. He writes in Ethics I:10 “If activities are, as we said, what gives life its character, no happy man can become miserable; for he will never do the acts that are hateful and mean. For the man who is truly good and wise, we think,” my emphasis, ok, “ bears all the chances of life becomingly and always makes the best of circumstances, as a good general makes the best military use of the army at his command and” again my emphasis! “a good shoemaker makes the best shoes out of the hides that are given him; and so with all other craftsmen.”
Gardener – A man who’s good and wise will bear all the chances of life becomingly – he means stoically?
Writer – Let me put it this way: if a shipment of leather is of poor quality, the shoemaker will do whatever he must to continue making good shoes. He won’t pass the poor quality onto the customer. If he can’t afford to ship the leather back to the original vendor he will find a way to work the leather to produce good shoes, or perhaps it will be belts or wallets or purses. The same can be said for the baker, the butcher, and the brewer! They won’t cut corners. Their own integrity is tied to the integrity of their work.
Gardener – And so it is for the gardener and the writer!
Writer – “And if this is the case,” Aristotle concludes, “the happy man can never become miserable; though he will not reach blessedness, if he meet with fortunes like those of Priam.”
Gardener – Priam, like in the Iliad.
Writer – King of Troy, lost everything to the Greeks. In other words the self-sufficient person will make the best of any situation, no matter what happens to him.
Gardener – Which means, I guess, if we follow a good path through thick and thin we’ve a good chance of being happy.
Writer – At least content.
Gardener – Easier said than done.
Writer – I know. That’s why in Ethics, X:6, the philosopher qualifies by saying, “The happy life is thought to be virtuous; now a virtuous life requires exertion, and does not consist in amusement.” In other words, it seems those who’ve worked hard being virtuous, who’ve worked hard doing the right thing, are better prepared to deal with adversity, since they’re aware of their own failings.
Gardener – Being virtuous? In other words being good? Didn’t the Sisters of Mercy tell the Youth “ to be good?”
Writer – He failed, didn’t he? Let’s say, if we exert ourselves the chances of dealing with adversity improve. Some 1500 years after the pagan philosopher, the christian theologian, Thomas Aquinas, accepts the pagan’s understanding that happiness is “the perfect and sufficient good.” But he adds that “since happiness is ‘perfect and sufficient good,’ it excludes every evil, and fulfills every desire.” An impossibility for humans in this world.
Gardener – In a perfect world no one would ignore the stranger lying in the road. In fact no one would have robbed him.
Writer – That why christians believe in two worlds, our imperfect one, where, to quote the theologian, “every evil cannot,” my emphasis, “be excluded” and the one to come, which is perfect.
Gardener – In our world people do rob each other and people do walk by without helping.
Writer – “This present life,” explains the christian, “is subject to many unavoidable evils; to ignorance on the part of the intellect; to inordinate affection on the part of appetite, and to many penalties on the part of the body.”
Gardener – We don’t see our happiness linked to the man lying on the road, unless it’s to our financial advantage.
Writer – Narrow self interest inflicts a great deal of pain. It’s difficult for us to be happy when we think only of ourselves. For the theologian and other believers in after life, god is the supreme good and this good is the ultimate happiness of eternal paradise. When they die they hope to rest in god’s presence which is everlasting happiness. But this all depends on how they behave in the present life.
Gardener – This eternal life that many believe in. . .
Writer – And desire.
Gardener – Belongs only to believers who’ve died. I don’t care if there’s a heaven or not.
Writer – Me either. You and I can disagree on many subjects, but we both agree we must live up to our own standards of what is good because it’s something our hearts and minds demand of us now. We don’t do the right thing because it’s the key to everlasting paradise.
Gardener – We do our best to live a good life. . .
Writer – A virtuous life.
Gardener – Since this makes us happy now.
Writer – Unfortunately, for believers and non-believers alike, most of us can’t maintain a moral standard.
Gardener – It’s a roller coaster ride beginning to end.
Writer – Darrin McMahon in his excellent history, Happiness, follows the human search for happiness in the western hemisphere, from the early Greeks to the present. According to McMahon even John Locke, one of the pillars of the enlightenment, an influence on Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson, and whose central concern was the here and now, felt that a reward of eternal happiness in the hereafter was the best inducement for being good now.
Gardener – But even if you and I aren’t concerned with this heaven. . .
Writer – It doesn’t concern us.
Gardener – We still have a problem. You and I may agree that the man from Samaria did the right thing.
Writer- Not just you and I, everyone. That’s why they call him good.
Gardener – What if the stranger lying on the road was the robber, you know, the “perp” foiled by the victim in his attempt?
Writer – It wouldn’t have mattered.
Gardener – What if the stranger had been raping a small girl and been caught and beaten by her parents?
Writer – There was no way the man from Samaria could have known these things.
Gardener – Nonetheless one person’s good is another person’s evil. What can this ‘perfect and sufficient good’ that we call Happiness mean to a child molester or a glutton or a drug addict? Or to a crusader or jihadist seeking everlasting happiness by killing others in a temporal cause. Or worse to a manager who makes billions off the misery of others? Do you think the Syrian ruling class believes in this hereafter?
Writer – Self interest begins with self preservation. The ruling class will do anything to stay alive, whether they’re Kings or their lackeys. They consider their own well being the ultimate good of the moment even if it’s not in the best long term interests of the common good.
Gardener – I’m sure Hitler wasn’t thinking of the hereafter when he decided to punish the German people after his hopes of conquering the world failed.
Writer – For all his global ambitions, his world was small. He couldn’t imagine a world greater than his medieval vision of Europe. What is frightening is how the imagination and drive of a single human can sweep up the random fears and frustrations of an entire nation and lead them to Armageddon.
Gardener – The cold blooded murderer doesn’t believe in divine justice.
Writer – As Giovanni says in the first scene of John Ford’s T’is a Pity She’s a Whore,
“Shall a peevish sound,/A customary form, from man to man,/Of brother and of sister, be a bar/’Twixt my perpetual happiness and me?
Gardener – That bloody play we saw in the Brooklyn Academy of Music the other night reeks of the voyeur’s world. I saw Charles Manson, Helter Skelter and that whole mad crew bubbling out of the cauldron of individual freedom in the time of the Youth.
Writer – You’re right! We could compare this Jacobean view of Parma to the final years of Age of Aquarius. Our wife, the English Teacher, gave me an essay to read from ‘Tis Pity She’s A Whore: A Critical Guide edited by Lisa Hopkins. It was titled New Direction: Identifying the Real Whore of Parma by Corinne Abate, who describes the permissive environment of the city. John Ford wrote the play sometime around 1633. It’s as relevant today as it was then. The Cheek by Jowl production took liberties with the script but it illustrated our ongoing concern of the right of the individual to do as he or she pleases, even if the victim is innocent, like Giovanni’s sister.
Gardener – The Youth showed poor judgment; but unlike Annabella, he was helped by the true concern of older people.
Writer – Lydia Wilson played Annabella perfectly. Even though she was attracting everyone’s sexual interest, she jumped around like a tomboy. I thought of that black kid in Sanford, Florida, killed by the gun bearing vigilant volunteering for the police.
Gardener – The vigilante was blinded by self-interest. He wanted to catch somebody so badly, he knew exactly what that somebody looked like.
Writer – As if guided by fate, some of us are swept along by the chemistry of our body. In another fascinating book on happiness, The Happiness Hypothesis, Jonathan Haidt informed me in Chapter Two, page 32, how each of us is endowed with a particular genetic blueprint that describes how we will act in different situations. We may instinctively laugh at adversity or scream. In extreme cases some of us must take medicines to live normal lives. Sometimes I wonder if we can’t change the code in a crisis. I just read in our wife’s Nutrition Action, an article called Food And Addiction, by Bonnie Liebman. She says, in my words, that among addicts dopamine screams for happiness at the sight of something we want, but goes mute on delivery, leaving us totally dissatisfied. Are we slaves to our neurotransmitters or can we break the pattern of desire? In Sylvia Nasar’s Beautiful Mind we learned that the mathematician, John Nash, defied his schizophrenia by an act of will, once he understood it. That’s not the same thing as defying a chocolate cake, but we are talking about the genetic code and destiny. In a New York Times article, Can You Call a 9-Year Old A Psychopath the author, Jennifer Kahn, quotes Dan Waschbusch, of Florida International University, on the efficacy of treating youngsters diagnosed with psychopathy. He says “‘But to take the attitude that psychopathy is untreatable because it’s genetic (is) not accurate. There’s a stigma that psychopaths are the hardest of the hardened criminals. My fear is that if we call these kids ‘prepsychopathic,’ people are going to draw that inference: that this is a quality that can’t be changed, that it’s immutable. I don’t believe that. Physiology isn’t destiny.’” Essentially Haidt and all the rest agree with Aristotle, we must exert ourselves, some much harder than others because of our inheritance, to live good lives.
Gardener – Are you calling the vigilante a psychopath?
Writer – No, the word, psychopath, refers to the degree of effort needed by some people to make a change through choice. But whatever his reason, when the vigilante chose to carry a hand gun, his action that night when he killed the boy was pre-ordained in his psyche. Had he chosen not to carry a gun, it would have been different. He claims the boy attacked him. In that case, they would have wrestled around, possibly bruised themselves, maybe a broken arm, a concussion, but death? Unlikely. When he chose to carry a gun, he made that possible.
Gardener – That’s what I realized the morning I wrestled with that crazy driver on the overpass at 246th St. What if he had been carrying a gun? Neither he nor I were thinking of heaven!
Writer – Once Giovanni decides to seduce his sister – and the language he uses to describe his illicit love is gorgeous – he narrows his ability to escape his choice.
Gardener – Of his own free will, the vigilante gave up his free will.
Writer – Think of King Lear. Macbeth! All of Shakespeare’s tragedies begin with a decision.
Gardener – So much for the here after to curb the bloody minded in the here and now!
Writer – Annabella acknowledges her error and asks forgiveness. But in the end there is no one to snatch her from the madman’s revenge. Except for the Friar who has left town, everyone in Parma is jaded. She dies gruesomely, like Sharon Tate.
Gardener – We’re back to the robber barons and survival of the fittest. Our happiness imperfect.
Writer – On page 224 of Happiness, McMahon quotes from Rousseau’s Reveries “All our plans of happiness in this life are therefore empty dreams.”
Gardener – And yet the man from Samaria, a pagan, who lived without hope of everlasting happiness, did the right thing.
Writer – Because helping the stranger makes him happy now.
Gardener – Self-sufficient. He doesn’t need to judge the stranger.
Writer – Nor does he need the law of stand your ground to protect himself from those he judges.
Gardener – On the other hand, what I do for and to myself is my own concern.
Writer – That’s the essence of the Pooh Principle, which according to McMahon is Jonathan Stuart Mills’ philosophy as well. He quotes the philosopher on page 350 of Happiness, “Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.”
Gardener – I must read that for myself someday.
Writer – Me too. The quote is from Mills book On Liberty.
Gardener – After a difficult day at work, it’s time for a little something! It’s an American Ideal.
Writer – I’d say doing what one wants to do is fine until it takes advantage of another’s weakness.
Gardener – Like shooting an unarmed kid.
Writer – Or forcing others to act against their will or their understanding. A pimp can convince a rebellious fifteen year old girl that hanging out with him is cool, and only later does this inexperienced person realize she’s been used.
Gardener – What if it’s the pimp lying on the road?
Writer – Without knowing who he is, we assume he’s innocent.
Gardener- What if the stranger is Hitler?
Writer – Assuming we don’t know he’s Hitler, we assume he is good. We base our judgment on the stranger’s highest potential good. Supposedly in our judicial system one is innocent until proven guilty by a jury of peers. It’s a marvelous idea.
Gardener – What if we know the stranger is Hitler?
Writer – According to Traudl Junge, the youngest of Hitler’s Secretaries in the documentary directed by André Heller and Othmar Schmiderer, Hitler was sweet. A great many people were taken in by his gentle behavior.
Gardener – But we know what Hitler did to the Jews, and to the Poles and the Russians. We know how many died because of him. We must judge him. He’s a terrorist.
Writer – Even if we know the stranger on the road is Hitler, can you and I ignore him?
Gardener – Is there is no end here, no right or wrong, only what is good?
Writer – Look Osama bin laden is responsible for masterminding the killing of nearly three thousand people. To avenge three thousand people the land of the free went to war and millions more people were killed, people who had nothing to do with Osama bin laden. On the other hand King Union Carbide and all the King’s people and all of the King’s shareholders living right here in this land of the free killed 4000 people in a single night in Bhopal, India. In a New York Times editorial, here it is, dated December 3, 2009, Suketu Mehta wrote “Half a million more fell ill, many with severely damaged lungs and eyes. An additional 15,000 people have since died from the after effects, and 10 to 30 people are said to die every month from exposure to the hundreds of tons of toxic waste left over in the former factory.” So where’s the outcry here in the land of the free? Where’s the indignation? Twenty five years pass. King Dow of Napalm fame buys out King Carbide. When the victims finally have their day in court, the King’s people are each fined $2100. Lo! for Kings, that’s less than the tab for a night on the town!
Gardener – You can’t compare King Carbide to Hitler.
Writer – Why not? Everyone is comparing everyone to Hitler these days!
Gardener – For one, more than 20 million Russians alone died because of that maniac. Stalin was bad enough. Hitler makes him look like a saint!
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_II_casualties_of_the_Soviet_Union
Writer – And I guess you would agree that it’s unfair of me to compare King Carbide to Al Qaeda?
Gardener – Their intentions were entirely different. Bhopal was an accident. The Trade Towers was premeditated.
Writer – You’d agree that the collateral damage in all of these examples was tremendous.
Gardener – Naturally.
Writer – And you’d agree that most of victims in the trade tower were as innocent as the sleeping residents in Bhopal or the millions who died on the eastern front during Operation Barbarossa.
Gardener – They were all swept up by tragic events.
Writer – But you’d agree that all of them lived in terror.
Gardener – You can’t compare intentions.
Writer – I’m not! I’m simply saying the victims, if they had time to think, experienced sheer terror. In fact the actuaries at work on the Tower disasters figured it all out. Those legally connected to those at the top of the buildings deserved more money because their loved ones suffered more at the hands of Al Qaeda, than those living at the bottom of the buildings. I mean in dollars and cents some people who were legally connected to those who died made fortunes based on this accounting. We know one such person who in fact didn’t love her estranged husband!
Gardener – Yes, and we know of another who didn’t visit his son, then living with his mother in his grandmother’s house, until the boy’s mother died.
Writer – Imagine if we calculated an entire night of terror as the poisonous fumes settled over everyone. Imagine if we calculated terror lasting an entire winter of cold and starvation, buildings exploding. Imagine the terror of waiting 25 years for justice!
Gardener – An accident is still different than an intention!
Writer – Hitler’s intention according to a great many people both in Germany and in the land of the free was admirable. Many Kings admired Hitler’s organizational skills. He mobilized the people, and created a docile work force. And he was ridding us of Communism. What could be better for the land of the free. He just didn’t finish the job. One could almost assume he was one of the Kings’ vassals, only he got too big for his britches! Now Al Qaeda makes no bones about it. They’re out to get us! But King Carbide. Hum!
Gardener – The King mishandled the disaster. But. . .
Writer – But nothing. We need to look at this the way the Trade Tower actuaries looked at it. Profit motive seems to sneak its way into our democratic system the way sugar sneaks into all our food. We like the taste of it.
Gardener – The Pooh Principle.
Writer – Should we go into unscrupulous foreign managers overlooking safety codes in the King’s India operations to help increase profit? If the King and the King’s people were counting on making a profit in exchange for someone else’s labor, you know, calculating so many poor people in the third world working at such and such a wage, under poor conditions to make poison the King can mark up and sell at a much higher price, why I’d say that’s premeditated. Planning ahead to make profit is always premeditated. Cutting corners is always premeditated.
Gardener – It doesn’t always work out as planned.
Writer – Of course not, Hitler didn’t expect to bog down in winter! When everything is going according to plan everyone seems to benefit. If the means to profit, by cutting corners in safety, or other unscrupulous measures, accidently kills 4000 people and mains another 15,000, can’t we call that premeditated terror?
Gardener – Everything gets fuzzy here.
Writer – No, we’re back with the shoemaker and his leather. The King’s people didn’t do their best under the current circumstances. They ran away! According to the actuaries something along the line of a financial settlement is required to make an honest person out of the King – you know, to make the King feel good. If we can put a financial value on the victims in the Trade Towers terrorized by Al Qaeda, don’t you think we should do this all the time, you know, value all life? I don’t think the actuaries ever worked on any other disasters, Oklahoma, Hiroshima, Hanoi. I mean I’m using the same accounting values that were used to return people to happiness in regard to the Trade Towers tragedy. Imagine suffering 25 years with ruined lungs. With birth defects. 25 years! Imagine 40 years, a good biblical number, suffering the affects of Agent Orange. That makes a 110 story building a piece of cake!
Gardener – You’re cynicism is getting on my nerves.
Writer – I’m only pointing out that there are two accounting books, one for Kings and one for Terrorists. . . No, that’s not the right word since we’ve seen that Bhopal was sheer terror. Let’s just say one book for Kings and one for those they don’t like.
Gardener – I’m no supporter of Kings, but to put them on the same level as Hitler or Al Qaeda is unfair. The cold bloodedness of Hitler or bin Laden, defies comparison.
Writer – No. Who profited from all the guns that Hitler needed, who made money on the poisons for his torture chambers and the analog computing machines that kept all the records straight, you know, this many killed in this chamber, that much gold extracted from those teeth! Hitler is gone, but the Kings always remain. Napoleon is gone but the Kings are still here. Stalin is gone, and Khrushchev and all the rest of them but the Kings have reemerged there. Need I mention China! I mean the King promised the citizens of Bhopal jobs. Instead the King brought terror. Why can’t King Carbide make them happy?
Gardener – You’re mocking everyone who suffered. It’s childish, don’t you think, demanding happiness from Kings?
Writer – Then why do we do it? Believe everything they tell us?
Gardener – Because we’re tired. I’m tired. The long winter is over and I’m still sitting here with you, debating our rights to happiness. And why hasn’t the big Norway Maple leafed out? The others have.
Writer – I’ll tell you why. We still feel we were created in a god’s likeness. We still feel we were cheated at the gates of Eden. We believe the Pooh Principle is an inordinate right. And all along those who’ve been terrorize simply want a normal day.
Gardener – When will it rain? It hasn’t rained in months.
Writer – Thomas Jefferson summarized the beliefs of the Enlightenment when he claimed that the pursuit of happiness was an unalienable right.
Gardener – The hypocrite!
Writer – Aren’t we all?
Gardener – If he believed we were all created equal why didn’t he liberated his slaves?
Writer – As McMahon’s points out in his history of Happiness, the equation for happiness is resolved when we add the word pursuit. I suppose Thomas J never felt comfortable about the idea of equality. He realized from the start he could never be happy, that is self sufficient, but he could pursue it through his many mercantile projects. In Ron Chernov’s Alexander Hamilton, page 212, I learned that of all the slave owners at the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, George Washington was the only one who liberated his slaves. And I think I read in the same book that when slavery was outlawed in New York, thanks to the efforts of people like Alexander Hamilton, many New York slave owners, rather than take “the loss” by liberating their slaves, sold them to the sugar plantations in the Caribbean.
Gardener – Ok, so all of us are hypocrites.
Writer – A month before the Continental Convention in Philadelphia, The Virginia State Constitutional Convention ratified their own constitution in which our landed fathers of democracy stated that no government could deprive us of our natural rights which included, and I’m quoting from McMahon’s history of Happiness, chapter 6, page 318, “the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.” Apparently this wasn’t unique to Virginia.
Gardener – They just couldn’t bring the idea into focus, could they, the inalienable rights of all men and their own right to acquire property, including people.
Writer – Which is why we must blame Adam and Eve! Whatever perfection we seek, we’ve already experienced it, somewhere in the past, our first breath of fresh air, our first taste of sugar; the sweet scent of honeysuckle, the bright color of the blue sky, the first time ever; none can be repeated again with the same intensity of that first experience. That’s our Garden of Eden.

FOOTNOTES:

1) Aristotle, Ethics I:7,
http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/nicomachaen.1.i.html

2) Not the cobbler on main street?
The Gardener Returns, A Dialogue, Part Four

3) Aristotle, Ethics, X:6
http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/nicomachaen.10.x.html

4) Thomas Aquinas On Happiness
http://www.op.org/summa/letter/summa-I-IIq5.pdf

5) John Ford’s T’is a Pity She’s a Whore http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/f/ford/john/pity/act1.html

6) New York Times, Can You Call a 9-Year Old A Psychopath

7) What if he had been carrying a gun?
2: WHERE THE GARDENER OFFERS A DIFFERENT STORY IN WHICH HIS LUCK IS PROVIDENTIAL

8) The Pooh Principle,
The Gardener Returns, A Dialogue, Part Six

9) Traudl Junge, Blind Spot, directed by André Heller and Othmar Schmiderer
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Im_toten_Winkel

10) New York Times editorial, December 3, 2009, Suketu Mehta, Bhopal

11) Bhopal Victims, . . . the King’s people are each fined $2100.

12) WWII, 20 million Russians died http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_II_casualties_of_the_Soviet_Union

13) Declaration of Independence, the pursuit of happiness, an unalienable right.
http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_transcript.html

14) many New York slave owners sold them to the sugar plantations in the Caribbean.
Slavery In The North, Emancipation In New York, 12th & 13th paragraph
http://www.slavenorth.com/nyemancip.htm

The Gardener Returns, A Dialogue, Part Eight

Writer – Where am I?
Gardener – In your room.
Writer – I’m in a cold sweat.
Gardener – You thought you were the Fisherman’s Wife.
Writer – What’s this? Ah, my Trustee Of The Toolroom.
Gardener – Reminding you of Keith Stewart calmed you down.
Writer – I can’t understand what comes over me. Suddenly I believe I have all the answers.
Gardener – Clearly you’ve had another ASS attack. You had all the symptoms. I’m afraid your strain is virulent.
Writer – Whew, I’m exhausted, but I can see again. I owe you an apology. I must admit it was exhilarating, being almighty, feeling my universe expanding outward, encompassing all things. My influence filled every niche and void of the expanse. If the question why entered my thoughts, I plunged forward, regardless. I never looked back. . . Then it was too late to turn back. I was helpless. The desire for more was that intense. As the kingdom grew, everything around me grew smaller and smaller. Everything and everyone was racing away from me. Even though I, the universe, was expanding outward, I remained in the center, unmoved. By the time I realized it, all my minions, even those close to me, had become points of cold light in the darkness. It was frightening. My power was immense, but it was in the hands of strangers. If they hadn’t been wearing name tags with the corporate logo of the flounder, I wouldn’t have known who they were. Even though they smiled at me as if we were friends, I sensed and feared their own desires. They were like me. They wanted to get ahead. Here I was believing I was the center of the universe, wanting the sun and moon to rise and fall at my command and all the while these millions of people, filling countless positions out to the farthest ends of my kingdom, believed they were the centers of their own universes. Naturally, that’s where it all begins.
Gardener – With each of us.
Writer – They were working for me because they needed a job. That was their central concern. As Richard III said in Shakespeare’s play, “Richard loves Richard, that is, I am I.” As long as every hungry I believed my rules were just, they stayed in line. But sooner or later, somewhere farther out from me. . .
Gardener – Or further down.
Writer – Someone wasn’t just. It’s obvious to those working under this individual, that management didn’t care.
Gardener – Care? What is care? What about competence, don’t you mean competence?
Writer – Being competent helps you control others. They see you know what you’re doing, they trust your decisions. But care puts everyone at ease.
Gardener – I can tell you this, and it can’t be helped, there are those I dislike, and caring for them is a chore.
Writer – But the manager must never show sides, never have favorites. It might be a pretense, a relationship limited to the workplace, but it’s crucial, almost as crucial as being just, which is another way of saying you treat everyone as equals, encouraging those who can do better and rewarding those who have done their best.
Gardener – Don’t get high and mighty with me. All this you learned from me. You never managed anyone.
Writer – No, I’m the creative one.
Gardener – With words maybe but not with plants, and certainly not with people if your ASS is any indication.
Writer – That’s the Syndrome; you can’t blame me.
Gardener – Why are you so susceptible? It’s as if you have no immunity to it.
Writer – I’m an idealist. I’m always looking for a solution that will solve everyone’s problems. That’s why I detest these managers who fail in their duties. They should be discarded!
Gardener – Like the scrap pile of Murkydoc, full of personnel.
Writer – He employs an impressive 51,000 employees.
Gardener – And I’m sure he knows them all. That would explain why the Kingdom’s riddled with scandal.
Writer – Once the staff realizes they count for nothing in the eyes of those above them, they begin pressing their own advantage and the kingdom starts unraveling. Without justice it’s everyone for him or herself.
Gardener – Still Murkydoc insists he is the best judge over the King’s troubles.
Writer – He’s no different than the Fisherman’s Wife. Like her he didn’t want government meddling in his affairs. And we saw what happened to her when a higher power intervened.
Gardener – Murkydoc’s standard of right and wrong is particular to his kingdom. His moral standard is not mine. He created the environment that permitted the invasion of privacy. Murkydoc should look to himself.
Writer – The last I heard he was eliminating all the bad apples!
Gardener – Bad apples?
Writer – Managers and staff alike who’ve tarnished the name of the King.
Gardener – Didn’t he know these bad apples?
Writer – You said yourself he knows all the King’s employees.
Gardener – Well then, why didn’t he deal with the bad apples before it became a crisis?
Writer – Bad apples don’t tell you they’re bad apples! They’re rogues. They keep their rottenness to themselves. Take those people over there.
Gardener – In that line up?
Writer – We don’t call it “a line up!”
Gardener – Then what is it?
Writer –It’s just a line.
Gardener – Are they rogues?
Writer – I wouldn’t know? I don’t know any of them.
Gardener – I’m sorry, they look like criminals under the glaring lights.
Writer – There’s nothing to be sorry about.
Gardener – Then why did you want me to look at them?
Writer – Because they’re numbers.
Gardener – They look like people to me, lots of them. Are they all rotten apples?
Writer – They’re on the dole. They’re waiting for a government handout.
Gardener – Wait! See that one, don’t you recognize him?
Writer – Stand back!
Gardener – We know him! That’s one of our neighbors.
Writer – You don’t want to know them.
Gardener – So they are criminals?
Writer – Well, they do want our money since the Kings’ people are required to pay Unemployment Tax.
Gardener – The last I heard he had a job.
Writer – I warned you about getting too close to them.
Gardener – Some say his wife was important, I mean really important.
Writer – I thought you knew him.
Gardener – Of course I know him. That’s # 112.
Writer – That’s the fisherman who brought about the collapse of his wife’s Kingdom.
Gardener – The Wife’s Fisherman?
Writer – I wouldn’t admit knowing him or any of them. Some of them have caught Bolshevikitis!
Gardener – Who told you that?
Writer – Our vassals in Intelligence.
Gardener – Last I heard he was a healthcare assistant, cleaning bedpans for old veterans in a nursing home. The State paid him well. He was doing fine. Paying his bills.
Writer – Then you haven’t heard. On our advise, the Kings’ vassals fired him. He was making too much money.
Gardener – So that’s why he’s on that line.
Writer – Don’t feel sorry for him. The King bought Outsource, and Outsource took over the operation of the nursing facility for the state. In other words we rehired him, that is after he pledged allegiance to the King and swore off unions.
Gardener – You’re under the ASS again, aren’t you?
Writer – He said the same thing to her. “You’re under the ASS again.”
Gardener – He was simply trying to get her to come to her senses.
Writer – I see you’ve spoken with him.
Gardener – I read this! In your own copy of The Complete Grimm’s Fairy Tales published by Pantheon.
Writer – Fairy Tales are not to be trusted! And after all she did for him.
Gardener – She used him.
Writer – She lost everything. He was too stupid to realize he was up to his neck in mortgages like everybody else.
Gardener – You can’t blame him for her failure. She wouldn’t listen to reason. Merging Church and State under her corporate logo was an outrage!
Writer – As Matthew puts it in chapter 18, verse 18 of The New English Bible published by Oxford in 1970: “whatever you forbid on earth shall be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you allow on earth shall be allowed in heaven.” How else could she have capitalized on the infinite market potential of heaven?
Gardener – I prefer Mathew 6:10: “Our Father in heaven, thy name be hallowed; thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as in heaven.” Narrows the interpretation.
Writer – I see you’ve been boning up on your scripture. Then you know Mark 12:17: “Pay Caesar what is due to Caesar, and pay God what is due to God.”
Gardener – Yeah, that separates the earthly kingdom from the heavenly one for sure.
Writer – But if you combine them, what better way to eliminate both tithe and tax at the same time! It was a stroke of genius to unite the two. Simplifies things, I’d say. Once a shopper always a shopper on earth as in heaven. It’s the holy power of the market.
Gardener – And when the earthly market came tumbling down, the fisherman ended up right back where he started, eking out his living by the sea. Only the flounder was gone. She had assumed she could use the sea for personal gain without repercussions.
Writer – Don’t be a fool. There’s plenty of fish in the sea! The federal quota on fishing stopped him. Big government is what put him out of business.
Gardener – I thought she was the government.
Writer – Her kingdom was entrepreneurial, real estate, marketing and media, which you might call the spiritual end of it. But she understood that the genius of the market works for everything, including the sea. Why shouldn’t the sea provide her the means of building her real estate empire? That’s why she eliminated regulations.
Gardener – Which put on board every vessel self-interest above the common interest. It was only a matter of time before the fishing beds were depleted. It’s interesting that she did regulate wolves to preserve elk for hunters. Seems to be a conflict of means inside her so called philosophy of de-regulation.
Writer – Oh, I wouldn’t expect you to understand. It’s much too complicated. Even though she was the government she was actually against the government. Her principles of rule were based on the ideal that the state is run like a non–profit corporation following the time tested vagaries of the market. That way it never interferes with the money making enterprises of all the Kings’ people. The elk hunters take precedence over wolves because wolves don’t shop!
Gardener – A government run like a corporation. Not exactly what Plato had in mind.
Writer – We’ve been through all this, haven’t we? Imagine the state run by philosophers! Almost as bad as waiting for John Galt. No, the market belongs to the people. It is the people. Their desires create the Kings’ wealth. When the market fails, the people are to blame. It means they’re not shopping. Plato was not very practical.
Gardener – If the fisherman had been practical he would have asked the flounder to ease his days by increasing the bounty of the sea.
Writer – Water under the bridge. Let bygones be bygones. At least we were able to provide him with a good job.
Gardener – The Wife’s fisherman cleaning bed pans!
Writer – A man possessing that attribute will go places.
Gardener – What attribute?
Writer – An indifference to strong odors. You know, being a fisherman There’s no telling to what heights such a man could go. A man with that attribute, of all people, shouldn’t be on that line.
Gardener – Well, why is he on that line if he has a good job. Maybe he’s not making enough to live on.
Writer – We pay the market rate for bed pan cleaners. We don’t run a charity. It’s not in our best interest.
Gardener – Nor his, I suspect.
Writer – If he can’t pay his bills, he should be out looking for more work. Instead he expects me to support him.
Gardener – Maybe his eight hour shift doesn’t leave much time to look for work.
Writer – What eight hour shift? Our professionals are hired strictly on a part time basis. This eliminates the need for health insurance.
Gardener – You mean people working part time are healthier?
Writer – You can’t expect the taxpayers to provide health care on top of the market wages for part time workers! Big government says only full times workers deserve that. They’ve put in the time. My lord I hope you haven’t caught Bolshevikitis!
Gardener – Why not make him full time?
Writer – We don’t employ anyone full time. Besides all this is irrelevant.
Gardener – What do you mean?
Writer – We’re selling the company.
Gardener – You mean disappear like John Galt.
Writer – No, that requires an ideal. Nothing ideal about business. You saw what happened to 112’s wife. She didn’t get out in time. Ka boom!
Gardener – But sell? You’re providing a service. Think of all the old veterans needing your help since the state forfeited responsibility to the King’s subsidiary.
Writer – There are underling problems.
Gardener – You mean like 112, our neighbor.
Writer – Look, the King wants to unload a subsidiary. Don’t worry, another King will buy it. It happens all the time. It’s the American way.
Gardener – It already happened once when the vassals abandoned their responsibility to old veterans by handing them over to the King. Now the King is going to abandon them again by selling Outsource!
Writer – No one abandons anyone. The market dictates our course. Private enterprise is the American way. It doesn’t make any difference to our senior veterans whether the state provides the service or a private company.
Gardener – As long as good people are involved, I agree. A good person is going to do a good job for the vets no matter who employs him or her. That being the case why did the Kings’ vassals eliminate the government jobs in the first place, if not for the sake of Kings?
Writer – Because Kings can do the job for less. After all we pay what the market dictates, not what unions demand.
Gardener – I suppose the market dictates the bonuses of the Kings’ people. Why must we, the people, pay the spiraling costs for the upward mobility of these people?
Writer – It’s the heavenly nature of the market. Especially in this land of opportunity on earth as it is in heaven. God bless America.
Gardener – Not for those who just lost their jobs. Not for 112. Why should his American dream be a nightmare?
Writer – We’ve done what we can. Like Uncle Sam with his All American campaign, the King wanted Outsource to do its all American best to help both the old soldiers and the unemployed! We hired anyone, including those recently cut from the work force, like applicant #112. All they had to do was swear allegiance to the King and sign an affidavit swearing never to join this union or any union advocating higher wages and better benefits so help them god! What could be better?
Gardener – Get two birds with one stone.
Writer – Exactly. We helped the old veterans and hired the unemployed.
Gardener – So why is the King selling Outsource to the highest bidder, if the King is serving such a patriotic purpose?
Writer – We’ve done our job. It’s in the King’s best interest that we pass on our humanitarian torch to the next King. After all there’s plenty to go around. Our investors, who provided the money to buy Outsource, and fund its operation at a profit, think it’s time to recoup the investment at the promised return. Our efficiency experts analyzed our success. They don’t need an understanding of the day to day mechanisms of the production line. They’re purpose is to “rectify” errors on paper. . .
Gardener – You mean the “underlying problems.”
Writer – Precisely. As you yourself said, the company serves a purpose.
Gardener – Help the vets and hire the unemployed.
Writer – Rehiring 112 to clean bed pans at market rate was the least we could do at the time.
Gardener – I’m sure he was relieved.
Writer – As I said earlier his previous line of work had prepared him well. His acclimation to strong odors was noted on his application; on top of that he had previous experience cleaning bed pans.
Gardener – At the same facility.
Writer – Precisely.
Gardener – So why sell?
Writer – Once our investors had helped Accounting reach the necessary figures we were seeking, the King could, to avoid a conflict of interest, recuse itself in good faith, from any further interest in Veteran affairs.
Gardener – By reaching “the necessary figures” you mean through the money the investors pumped into the system?
Writer – That’s right..
Gardener – Sounds fishy, like a ponzi.
Writer – We prefer calling our economic model the pyramid since the investors – and they’re from all walks of life, pensioners and bankers alike – are all the King’s people, or should I call the King Pharaoh, you know, because of the pyramid. Anyway it’s in everyone’s best interests to have faith. . . You keep fiddling around in that pile of books.
Gardener – Just looking for. . . So why sell the company?
Writer – And you keep asking me that.
Gardener – I mean now, why sell the company now. . , and not tomorrow or next year.
Writer – Time is right. We’ve done what we can.
Gardener – Will there be anything left after you leave?
Writer – What a question. The company, naturally.
Gardener – But doesn’t the company need capital to pay its employees?
Writer – The company has a product. It derives its income from that. You yourself said the company served . . .
Gardener – Yes, yes, but in the meantime. . .
Writer – You didn’t expect our money to work for nothing.
Gardener – The money wasn’t yours to begin with.
Writer – The life of an investor isn’t easy. We, I mean, they take chances. There are no unemployment checks for them!
Gardener – You saw an opportunity.
Writer – That’s the name of the game. We pumped investor money into the system, submitted the system to an austerity program – look we do this with governments too! -the books look good, especially since, as you observed, the product has promise which is why we also amortized the intellectual property.
Gardener – Cleaning bedpans!
Writer – Somebody had to design the bedpan.
Gardener – You’re taking the principle and running.
Writer – We are paid for our work. Do you work for nothing?
Gardener – No one can work for nothing!
Writer – Welcome to the natural world. Back in the time of the Robber Barrons the Kings had the good sense to agree with science. They translated “survival of the fittest” into economic growth!
Gardener – So what becomes of 112?
Writer – He has nothing to worry about. He’s already lost his job. Resources recommended 112 for the first cut.
Gardener – And that’s why he’s here!
Writer – Maybe a pre-existing condition.
Gardener – Like the need for food and clothing! I can’t believe I’m arguing with your ASS!
Writer – Maybe he has an aptitude for failure.
Gardener – Why, because he’s been thrown out of work three times?
Writer – Maybe he wanted to improve things. We got complaints.
Gardener – How does one improve cleaning bed pans?
Writer – Exactly. What are you doing?
Gardener – Where did you put the Trustee?
Writer – I hid the book.
Gardener – Why?
Writer – I don’t believe in placebos. And I rather enjoy solving problems of society.
Gardener – Adolf Hitler felt the same.
Writer – There’s something to be said about simple solutions.
Gardener – I could say the same for a simple declarative sentence.
Writer – That’s different. Literature should open its doors to complexity. But Kings should follow the simplest path laid down by the market. The market is made up of people. Our desires are time tested, and easily tracked using algorithms. We are part of the great cosmic plan. Physicists believe that somewhere in our midst a comprehensive theory unites all the disparate laws under one simple equation. Simple is best.
Gardener – They haven’t succeeded in solving the theory for everything. The data gets more and more confusing.
Writer – You’re just stirring things up the way 112 did.
Gardener – But why make him a ward of the state?
Writer –You said yourself 112 couldn’t make ends meet even while cleaning bedpans.
Gardener – That’s no reason to fire him.
Writer – He was overqualified.
Gardener – I thought his sense of smell was an asset.
Writer – It was. Until it bumped him up to a higher wage bracket.
Gardener – I thought the market dictated his salary.
Writer – Actually the market dictates what we’re willing to pay. But we gave him a break. We asked him if he would take a higher title in lieu of a salary.
Gardener – Like Vice President of Bed Pan Divisions.
Writer – Exactly. When he later complained of hunger, we encouraged him to take his new and improved CV and seek a still higher plane of employment with one of the other Kings.
Gardener – You mean you showed him the door.
Writer – On the contrary we showed him the ladder of upward mobility. Remember, his indifference to strong odors was an asset. But he said he was dizzy and afraid of heights and complained of stomach pains. He said he was a fisherman. In other words he belly ached. 112 was a whiner.
Gardener – That’s why Humpty Dumpty landed on him when your men dropped him!
Writer – He had three chances at bat. But as you know, three strikes and you’re out.
Gardener – So what becomes of our neighbor, of all our neighbors?
Writer – They’d have lost their jobs anyway. Remember, the company was about to go belly up when we stepped in, you know, underlying problems.
Gardener – Like 112 and his living wage.
Writer – For a time we spared them the inevitable. It was a swell opportunity.
Gardener – I don’t think the Good Samaritan was looking for a swell opportunity.
Writer – Ah yes, I was wondering if you’d ever get around to him. You know socialists try keeping religion out of government, where it belongs, while insisting government interfere with the Kings’ business, where it doesn’t belong. Kings prefer our spiritual leaders use The Old Testament when referring to the good book, but The New Testament with all its socialist ideas is like junk science. Looking after one’s neighbor without a return is an untested ideal. On the other hand, as we’ve seen in the story of Pharaoh,
The Old Testament shows life as it is, everyone out for himself, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, real exchanges. Think of the improvements in the human condition, Abraham putting an end to human sacrifice with only a slight setback in the story of Jephthah. But The New Testament, especially this Gospel According to Luke, Chapter 10, Verses 25-37, well then, where does profit motive enter into it? It’s not relevant to real life which is the story of the human condition which can’t be separated from self-interest. What’s this?
Gardener – Just look at it.
Writer – Oh my god. Not again. The Trustee.
Gardener –You’re having another relapse of ASS. Think! Keith Stewart!
Writer – Ok. Keith Stewart.
Gardener – That’s better. Say it again.
Writer – Keith Stewart.
Gardener – I’m just the gardener. You of all people know the story of the Good Samaritan. You told it to me.
Writer – I don’t know why I keep losing my way. But as you probably know, it’s been in the news lately, the carpenter’s son, some call him everyman – he and his ragged followers have been preaching economic parity and nonviolence, annoying those with power, especially the money changers out in front of the temples and churches. More and more people clamor for change. Jesus, that’s his name, and all these unemployed people, whom you insist on calling your neighbors, have been occupying the public square where Humpty Dumpty once sat before he was abducted. Beating on drums, singing at the top of their voices, they’re getting on people’s nerves. What do you want, cries out an exasperated man, a lawyer, who has spent his whole life defending Kings and whose apartment overlooks the park where Jesus is preaching. He confronts Jesus near the medical tent, where Jesus is healing a man possessed of fear, and starts cross-examining him. He wants to catch the itinerate preacher in a contradiction, you know, embarrass him. He asks Jesus how he, who has worked so hard in this life, can have eternal life. Jesus in turn asks the lawyer how he interprets the law. The lawyer knows what is required and answers, love God without question and your neighbor as yourself. Jesus tells him if he follows these simple rules, he’ll have eternal life. Not satisfied, the lawyer seeks confirmation. Who is my neighbor, he asks. Jesus understands. The lawyer is wondering how an unemployed, homeless man like Jesus can possibly understand the word, neighbor. After all a neighbor is someone who lives next door or in the house down the street. He is a member of the community, often seen praying in the temple or giving to a favorite charity. It’s easier to love someone you see daily than the outsider who passes through without paying taxes, someone who must feel entitled to the welfare of the community. Jesus tells the lawyer about a man who was on his way down to Jericho from Jerusalem. Highwaymen robbed him of his clothes and his money and beat him unconscious, leaving him for dead on the side of the road. Jesus doesn’t say the man is a Jew because it doesn’t matter. To us he is a stranger, lying naked, bleeding to death. Perhaps he’s a penniless drunk, who has come to no good, like one of our neighbors in the line back there. The first man to see him is a high priest. But he’s too important to get involved, so he crosses over to the other side of the road to avoid him. If later someone in the congregation mentions the plight of the stranger, he will recommend a committee to investigate the homeless. They will no doubt hire one of his friends to help these people off the streets for a nominal fee. A Levite is the next man to see him. He’s a prosperous man, has important business in Jericho. Like the high priest he looks the other way. He will no doubt be the right man to deal with these homeless when the committee contracts the services of his company. The next man to come along is a man from Samaria, an outsider from another culture, a pagan. Jesus says the outsider pities the man bleeding by the roadside. That’s why he stops to see if he’s alive. Since the unconscious man is still breathing, the Samaritan washes his wounds with the wine and oil he carries with him. He wraps the wounds with strips of cloth he tears from his own clothes. Then he lifts the man up and carries him to a roadside inn where he cares for the stranger. Did he have a choice? He too is a busy man like the high priest and the Levite. He too, like them, has business in Jericho. He can’t call 911. There’s no government sponsored health net to catch this man stripped of his clothes and left for dead. No insurance card to cover the costs. No profit to be made. Not even the lawyer’s favorite charity was there to help him. No, but this man from Samaria, who is an outsider, has no choice. Something inside of him tells him he must care for this man. Is this compassion for others instilled in him by his parents? Did he learn to respect all life in his place of worship? Possibly. But like you I think it’s what he’s made of. He’s compelled by his nature. He is compelled by the need to help a stranger, no matter who he is. There are people like this who stand outside their culture, outside the conflicts incited by their culture, who will help a stranger. There are Jews who will help a Palestinian, and Palestinians who will help a Jew. These special people are the neighbors Jesus praises.

FOOTNOTES:

Gardener – Like the scrap pile of Murkydoc, full of personnel.
Writer – He employs an impressive 51,000 employees.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/News_Corporation

Gardener – Of course I know him. That’s # 112.
The Gardener Returns, Part Five

Gardener – A government run like a corporation. Not exactly what Plato had in mind.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosopher-kings

Writer – We’ve been through all this, haven’t we?
The Gardener Returns, Part Four

Gardener – Well, why is he on that line if he has a good job. Maybe he’s not making enough to live on.

Writer – We are paid for our work. Do you work for nothing?

Gardener – That’s why Humpty Dumpty landed on him when your men dropped him!
The Gardener Returns, Part Five

On the other hand, as we’ve seen in the story of Pharaoh,
The Gardener Returns, Part Five

The Gardener Returns, A Dialogue, Part Seven

Gardener – The founders of some kingdoms understand their connection with people. They identify with the public. At least in the beginning.
Writer – They believe people will like what they like.
Gardener – Then something happens.
Writer – The co-founder of A&P. . .
Gardener – Which bought Sussel’s butcher shop on Main Street. . .
Writer – John Augustine Hartford, told Time Magazine in 1950, “I don’t know any grocer who wants to stay small. I don’t see how any businessman can limit his growth and stay healthy.”
Gardener – That’s an alarming statement.
Writer – It’s an assumption of a particular breed of people.
Gardener – There’re a lot of small grocers, especially in cities where local populations need something close and convenient.
Writer – And there’d be more in smaller towns if they weren’t put out of business by the rule of One Size Fits All. Unfortunately the one size operations are big, very big.
Gardener – Like the A&P.
Writer – According to Forbes one of the richest man in the United States before he died was Frederik G. H. Meijer
Gardener – Never heard of him.
Writer – Neither had I, but you’ve heard of Sam Walton, who was the richest man in the US for nearly a decade, almost up to the year he died in 1992.
Gardener – Wal-Mart.
Writer – In 2006 Wal-Mart was the largest super market in the USA, according to the Information Service Food Marketing Institute. And that’s just the Kingdom’s grocery end!
Gardener – I’ve never been in one.
Writer – Meijer’s super market style influenced Walton.
Gardener – It’s hard to fault people who work hard even if they go on to create monolithic businesses that swallow up everyone else.
Writer – Walton knew what he liked when he went shopping!
Gardener – The lowest price in town.
Writer – He never spent a penny he didn’t have to spend. According to the American National Business Hall of Fame, he continued driving to work “ in his beat-up 1978 Ford pickup with balding tires” right up to the time he retired.
Gardener – My pickup is 16 years old.
Writer – We’ve all heard phrases like “we pass our savings on to you, the customer.”
Gardener – The idea’s not new.
Writer – Sam Walton found producers willing to sell him produce at reduced rates as long as he bought vast amounts. That way he. . .
Gardener – Passed his savings on to me!
Writer – Correct and the more we save.
Gardener – You mean the more we spend. Fortunately, I take after my mother. I never spend a dime on something I don’t need.
Writer – That makes you, the consumer, like Walton. Only Walton, the vendor, didn’t make his goods “more affordable” because he wanted you to be like him and spend less. He kept finding ways to drop the price, until even you, a skin flint, could “afford” spending your last dime.
Gardener – It’s a topsy turvy world when a snake starts swallowing its own tail.
Writer – In Sweetness And Power, Sidney Mintz describes a world not unlike our own. He quotes an English cleric, David Davies, who describes how rural poor living in the heart of the British empire could no longer drink fresh milk because they couldn’t afford a cow nor drink home brewed beer because they couldn’t afford the malt. But as Davies puts it, and I quote him from Sweetness And Power, Chapter 3, page 116, “. . . it appears a very strange thing, that the common people of any European nation should be obliged to use, as part of their daily diet, two articles imported from opposite sides of the earth.” – he’s referring to Tea and Sugar, the same products the American colonies boycotted ten years earlier. Most Brits in the heart of their own Empire were no better off than the colonists in 1774. They could buy exotic goods produced cheaply by slave labor in tropical islands but were too poor to afford things grown in their own back yard. So much for nationalism.
Gardener – When I started work as a professional gardener at Wave Hill I remember hearing a lot about Sam Walton’s ‘Buying American’ campaign.
Writer – Uncle Sam was the number one all-American guy during the reign of the Kings’ patriotic vassal, Ronald Regal.
Gardener – Maybe Uncle Sam was just trying to get something in country for the same price he could get it from the third world.
Writer – According to the American National Business Hall of Fame: “Between March, 1985 and 1988 Wal-Mart claims to have purchased over $1.2 billion worth of goods under this program, producing 22, 3000 jobs in the United States.”
Gardener – That was in everybody’s best interest.
Writer – But when push comes to shove and keeping costs down means more than being patriotic. . .
Gardener – Flags waving in the breeze, smiling faces, white teeth gleaming.
Writer – Then narrow self-interest is the only pledge of allegiance. According to a November 29th 2004 post on China Daily by China Business Weekly writer, Jiang Jingjing, Wal-Mart’s Chinese inventory for the United States was $18 billion in 2004. The writer quotes Lee Scott, the president and CEO of Uncle Sam’s Kingdom: “ ‘We expect our procurement stock from China to continue to grow at a similar rate in line with Wal-Mart’s growth worldwide, if not faster’.” Later in the post we learn that “Xu Jun, Wal-Mart China’s director of external affairs, ruled out the rumor ” that Lee Scott had secretly visited China in order to find out where Wal-Mart could expand resources. Xu Jun said “the CEO has never visited that or any other site for a warehouse. . . Nevertheless,” Xu Jun exalted, “China is Wal-Mart’s most important supplier in the world. . . So far, more than 70 per cent of the commodities sold in Wal-Mart are made in China.” End of story.
Gardener – I can see old Uncle Sam in Beijing driving out of his personal jet in his old beat up Ford.
Writer – I don’t know about a personal jet. And I think he wanted to keep his growing connections with China a secret. On the other hand the Kingdom’s second and third generation of managers have openly divorced themselves from their so called all American past and now with their own brand name, made in China, compete with their own American suppliers in China.
Gardener – In other words all the Kings are competing to put American workers out of work. Is that in their best interests?
Writer – When Uncle Sam says “he wants you,” he means us, the American consumer, and we’re ready to follow. Richard Tedlow of Harvard Business School quotes Walton from his auto-biography. The founder is reminiscing his return to the town where he opened his first profitable store. Apparently his landlord, seeing how well the young businessman was doing, decided not to renew his lease because he wanted to give the now profitable store to his son. He never realized how far Sam Walton drove to buy cheaper inventory. “You can’t say we ran that guy—the landlord’s son—out of business,” writes Walton. “His customers were the ones who shut him down. They voted with their feet.”
Gardener – The landlord deserved it!
Writer – Especially at those prices.
Gardener – Who did he think he was, trying to make me pay through the nose whenever I thought it was time for a little something. Thank you, Uncle Sam, for putting the customer first!
Writer – Still somebody has to pay for the Pooh Principle. We can’t expect the savings to come out of the Kings’ pockets. The Hartford/Walton model works only if the employees. . .
Gardener – You and me?
Writer – Realize we are also the customers. As citizens of this great merchandizing nation, we must accept reduced salaries to keep costs down. If we as workers can’t keep costs down the vendors can’t pass. . .
Gardener – Their savings onto us, the customers.
Writer – Which means we, the workers aren’t doing . . .
Gardener – Our patriotic duty. We’re forcing our poor, beleaguered Kings overseas.
Writer – However the Kings have another solution to help all of us, vendors, workers and customers alike in our patriotic duty. An idea tested by time. We find precedents in history. A century after the cleric Davies talked of how working class English natives found it easier to buy produce from overseas than goods produced in-country, a nineteenth century English sugar broker, George Porter, still dissatisfied with sugar consumption, wanted to increase sugar imports. In chapter four of Sweetness And Power, at the bottom of page 174, Sidney Mintz describes Mr. Porter’s proposal: eliminate the tax on sugar, and the poor could afford to buy more sugar.
Gardener – Eliminate the tax and pass the savings on to us, the consumer.
Writer – It’s the mantra of political economics. It makes no difference that sugar is an exotic import. The People are already hooked.
Gardener – The way we are today on electronic gadgets produced overseas.
Writer – And who’s to blame?
Gardener – Surely, not the Kings.
Writer – Going back again to the previous century, the Cleric Davies writes “. . . if high taxes, in consequence of expensive wars” – a century of wars in which the British were fighting the French for world markets with the American Revolution in the middle – “and changes which time insensibly makes in the circumstances of countries,” – Industrial Revolution was beginning – “have debarred the poorer inhabitants of this kingdom the use of such things as are natural products of the soil, and forced them to recur to those of foreign growth; surely this is not their fault.”
Gardener – E. F. Schumacher has a great deal to say about this unsustainable absurdity in Small Is Beautiful.
Writer – Absurd as it may seem – it makes sense to Kings because the Kings and their people are making money, lots of money. They just have to find ways of cutting costs so they can . . .
Gardener – Pass on the savings to me!
Writer – Correct! Cutting government taxes is good.
Gardener – The Kings’ people rally the customers. . .
Writer – Sam Walton and me.
Gardener – Around the evils of taxes.
Writer – We can all agree on taxes, vendors and customers and workers alike!
Gardener – Less money for our government, which is too big, too intrusive anyway, and more money for the Kings who always provide us with a little something. . .
Writer – Provided we work for the going market price they have agreed upon!
Gardener – To do otherwise is to terrorize the market place with unhealthy demands!
Writer – On the other hand, and I am afraid to say this, not wanting to offend the fearless supporters of individualism, who literally see themselves as the face, each with a unique face of course, of capitalism, but it seems that the Hartford/Walton model can only be supported by the faceless masses.
Gardener – No! Not here in the Land Of The Free. That’s communism. We’re not the masses, we’re the customers!
Writer – No, it is true, like the godless Marxists, the god fearing Capitalists must look at customers and workers and vendors too as a people without a face, a crowd.
Gardener – I’m offended!
Writer – How can “a people” have a face, an individual face? We can say they are an industrial people, a god fearing people, a war like people.
Gardener – You and I have a face!
Writer – True, you and I recognize each other. But when we are grouped with the rest of the people, we become strangers. Don’t get me wrong. That’s good. In our world once you have a face, you become a commodity, like every other little something! The icon of a new generation of believers, the face on a bill of exchange, a pop star.
Gardener – Don’t you want to be popular? Don’t you want to have friends?
Writer – Friends or no friends, most of us enter a factory as workers and pop out the other end as customers,
Gardener – I don’t know anyone working in a factory anymore.
Writer – All right, we enter an office or a restaurant as workers. . .
Gardener – More like a mail order warehouse.
Writer – Warehouse workers then! At the other end we’re consumers just the same.
Gardener – I don’t think Patrick J. Cullen, the president of the bank in Cattaraugus, New York sees his customers as faceless?
Writer – No, Cullen refutes John Augustine Hartford. When the bank examiners ask him when the bank will grow, he replies, “ ‘where is it written I have to grow? We take care of our customers.’ ”
Gardener – Imagine if all bank presidents knew their customers personally.
Writer – “ ‘The truth is,’ ” he goes on to say, “ ‘we probably couldn’t grow too much in a town like this.’ ”
Gardener – The Hartford/Walton model for expansion is working for somebody. Think of the individuals who’ve become billionaires.
Writer – According to Alan Feuer, the author of The Bank Around the Corner, Mr. Cullen’s bank is financially, “the state’s smallest bank.” It’s “not the kind of bank you’ll find anymore in New York City, where multiple branches and capitalizations counted in 10 figures are the norm. With $12 million in total assets, the Bank of Cattaraugus is a microbank, well below the $10 billion ceiling that defines small banks. It exists in a seemingly different universe from the mammoth banks-turned-financial-services-conglomerates, like Citigroup ($1.9 trillion in assets) or JPMorgan Chase ($2.25 trillion).” Last year the bank posted a profit of $5000.
Gardener – Sounds like peanuts to me.
Writer – “Yet it plays” Mr. Feuer continues, “an outsize role in this hilly village an hour south of Buffalo: housing its deposits, lending to its neediest inhabitants and recently granting forbearance on a mortgage when the borrower, a bus mechanic, temporarily lost his job after shooting off his finger while holstering his gun.” Considering the bank’s 130 year old history, I’d say it has succeeded in serving the community. But let’s not fool ourselves. The Bank of Cattaraugus is an anomaly. Before the Great Depression there were lots of mom and pop banks across the country, just like Mr. Cullen’s bank. Why our grandfather was president of such a bank until 1938 when it merged with the Seattle-First National Bank, “one of the most powerful banks in the west” according to The Colville Examiner.
Gardener – This perennial consolidation of Kingdoms must be why the Hartford/Walton model for expansion is the national model.
Writer – Precisely. But while the Cattaraugus anomaly helps individuals in a particular community, the Hartford/Walton model helps masses of total strangers fulfill the Pooh Principle.
Gardener – We want a little something because we’re special.
Writer – Precisely. Each of us deserves to be somebody.
Gardener – Even if we’re all wearing the same clothes, eating the same food, listening to the same music. We can all be friends.
Writer – Precisely. Aggregates of like minded strangers who each feel unique.
Gardener – But we’re never sure, are we, that we’re all that special? We need more and more little somethings to confirm our uniqueness. We keep hoping this new and improved little something will make us. . . make us even more popular.
Writer – It’s in our best interests.
Gardener – Being popular.
Writer – We deserve it! And you know who understood that?
Gardener – I don’t like the look on your face.
Writer – The Fisherman’s Wife.
Gardener – Wait a minute! She squandered her husband’s resources.
Writer – Squandered nothing, she committed his daily quota to the forces of the market. She understood the value of the fisherman’s work and converted that into a promissory note, payable to her husband. That’s how she exchanged their pigsty for a cottage by the sea. But without skipping a beat she used this increased equity to leverage that big fish, who then increased the value of the loan, which allowed her to exchange the cottage for a castle. That woman knew how to get more for her buck.
Gardener – What buck? She was still penniless. And she still depended on her husband, who knew the big fish.
Writer – That fool!
Gardener – Because he worked outside, he understood the nature of things. There are limitations to growth. It’s common sense.
Writer – Bosh! Only a gardener would say that! He could see himself as a fisherman and no more. But she never underestimated the full value of appearances. The more prosperous one looks, the more prosperous one is!
Gardener – Smoke and mirrors! Everything still depended on the initial loan. She produced nothing to supplement it. Only the fisherman had any means. He did the right thing. He released the flounder.
Writer – The Idiot! You never give something away for nothing! It’s the most important principle of the market place. Always try to get something more in return. Otherwise people think you’re a fool. You’ll never find Uncle Sam giving his merchandise away for nothing!
Gardener – The flounder asked for mercy.
Writer – Naturally. He valued his life. He was willing to give anything to preserve it. She understood that.
Gardener – She turned an act of mercy into an economic advantage.
Writer – It’s capitalism. People do it all the time. We profit from acts of mercy all the time, whether wars of liberation or earthquakes.
Gardener – You’re putting a price on moral behavior.
Writer – Me? Not me, it’s all about market forces. It’s what victims are willing to pay
for mercy. What’s marvelous here is how the fisherman’s wife learned from her mistakes. She was new to the game, a housewife. As soon as she realized she had underplayed her hand by asking for a cottage, she didn’t wallow in self-pity. She forged ahead. She bluffed her advantage. By the end of a week she had a castle, no money down, brilliant!
Gardener – The way you’re talking you’d think money grows on trees.
Writer – Doesn’t it? That is, for those who understand the market. The wife’s fisherman’s a failure. But she notices the weekenders from the city, standing at the water’s edge, are admiring her hopeless husband, the rustic clothes he wears, the sturdy fishing poles he uses, the burly look that first attracted her when she was foolish girl. What does she do? She transfers her real estate momentum into marketing and creates a line of outdoor wear. Soon she’s retailing fishing poles and baskets, which can be used for picnics. This line morphs into gardening apparel and accessories, pink trowels and wide brim hats which can also wear to the beach. She takes the nostalgia of bygone industries and creates new wealth. . . Do you know what? I think we should ride on her coattails and sell the film rights to this idea. Can’t you see it, Barbara Stanwyck in the leading role!
Gardener – Stanwyck’s dead.
Writer – We’ll find someone who looks like her, cast her in the role of Barbara playing the Fisherman’s Wife.
Gardener – What is her name?
Writer – Stanwyck!
Gardener – I mean the Fisherman’s Wife, what’s her name?
Writer – Does it matter? She’s iconic. She’s like any of us, a customer, like Sam Walton, a customer in search of a bargain. Everyone gravitates to a success story. As we buy into her dream, we find that instead of being only customers in search of bigger homes, better kitchens, we are buying her idea of success. Without moaning and groaning about women’s rights she tells her fans she wants to run for public office!
Gardener – The Fisherman is astounded by her ambition.
Writer – Forget that jerk! Who cares what he thinks. She understands the market.
Gardener – And I can’t understand your enthusiasm! It worries me.
Writer – Being a player is one thing, running the show is another. You make the rules when you’re on the top of the pyramid. Even her stupid husband should understand that.
Gardener – He depends on the sea for his livelihood the way the Farmer depends on the land. You can’t exchange the natural world for one of your own making, no matter how picturesque you make it.
Writer – Once a gardener always a gardener. But once you are rich, you can be anything. To prove it, she produces a reality show about her rise in wealth and power. It’s an immediate success on prime time TV. She inspires millions of people, like herself, tied to the mundane. They laugh when she laughs. They wear what she wears, eat what she eats. There’s her boring husband, pleading with her to relinquish her ambition. She keeps him a leash. He’ll do anything she says. After all he’s just her husband. She can have anyone she wants and does! It’s the perfect marriage.
Gardener – What’s gotten into you. You go from being a liberal to. . .
Writer – No one wants to be a fisherman.
Gardener – Nor a gardener, I suppose.
Writer – Mere hobbies! You’ve said so yourself.
Gardener – I was angry when I said that!
Writer – During her presidential acceptance speech at the convention she tells her fans, “My husband was a fisherman, so I was poor, like you. I lived in a pigsty, like you. But in this country you can be anything. I worked hard and see, I’ve made it to the top.” Her fans go wild.
Gardener – Running a castle isn’t the same as running a nation.
Writer – You couldn’t be more wrong. We agree that since the days of the Kings’ vassal, Ronald Regal, our government has been evolving according to the Hartford/Walton business model. Well, there’s a popular show on TV called Downton Abbey that dramatically illustrates that running an estate with a castle is like running a business!
Gardener – You call that a proof? We’re back to “which came first, the chicken or the egg.”
Writer – Irrelevant. If something is said on TV, the truth of it is verified. The fisherman’s wife is now a major player. She rules the country from the 70th floor of the palace. No more waiting in line on Black Fridays for her. As a real estate mogul and marketing genius, her credit rating is sky-high. She’s John Galt in high heels.
Gardener – All the fisherman wanted was a reasonable livelihood. Live and let live.
Writer – And what did he have to show for his work? A pigsty!
Gardener – The cottage by the sea was enough. Now his wife threatens everything.
Writer – There’s risk in everything we do. Don’t be so negative! Think of what she’s attained.
Gardener – What if all her customers realized everything she had she owed to a single promissory note given by a flounder living in the sea?
Writer – They’d call it a miracle! Faith, my friend, is the basis of every investment. The value of our savings grow indefinitely, as long as we believe.
Gardener – It’s only paper.
Writer – Everyday we exchange paper, believing in its worth.
Gardener – Forgetting that paper comes from trees.
Writer – The pages of our holy books are made of paper too. Does that hinder us from seeing beyond each page, god’s ethereal template. Isn’t the Tree of Jesse more than just a tree? The physical world is here to support the ethereal, not the other way around. Every investment the fisherman’s wife made increased her spiritual wealth. She understood the link between scripture and economy. So now she must take her rightful place as the ruler of the world, overseeing god’s work here on the earth.
Gardener – And she still wanted more!
Writer – Oh it’s that husband of hers. Always trying to protect that fish of his.
Gardener – It’s not his fish.
Writer – A talking fish, no less.
Gardener – It is unusual.
Writer – I suppose you’ll call it an endangered species.
Gardener – That’s why it pleaded for its life.
Writer – Look buddy, catching fish is what you do! Go back and get something in return.
Gardener – Calm down. I’m not the fisherman.
Writer – You old fool, do you think we can live on nothing.
Gardener – Get a hold of yourself!
Writer – You took the food right out of our mouths! You, the fisherman, feeling sorry for a fish.
Gardener – That was no regular fish. It talked.
Writer – And it danced no doubt!
Gardener – We’ve got a diagnoses. Everything points to ASS. You’re relapsing with ASS.
Writer – Relapse nothing! You told me the damn thing said it was a prince! ASS?
Gardener – Atlas Shrugged Syndrome. It did.
Writer – And you believed it. You are dumber than I thought. And now that a fast talking fish has you feeling sorry for him. . . What are you looking for? You won’t find diner in that stack of books.
Gardener – The Trustee Of The Toolroom.
Writer – Forget that. You go back out there and settle with the flat fish. Figure in everything you’ve lost and will lose. Tell him because you threw him back in, your wife is threatening to leave you. He can’t have something for nothing. It’s a hard world we live in. The only rule is the market’s iron hand. And don’t go around telling people about a talking fish! We’ll have regulators coming down here and telling us what to do.
Gardener – Where is that book? It’s here somewhere.
Writer – This is a unique moment in history. Our customers are breaking down the barriers separating church and state. What better time to rule both heaven and earth!
Gardener – If you could hear yourself! You sound terrible. You, the idealist. You’re advocating a new world order.
Writer – Let me be. If John Galt. . .
Gardener – You used to believe. . . I found it. Keith Stewart!
Writer – Beliefs. I believe. . .
Gardener – Down with “big!” period. Remember? The bigger the kingdom the more opportunity for failure the farther the network stretches from the founding idea on the seventieth floor of the palace. I’m afraid you’re ill.

FOOTNOTES:

A&P bought Sussel’s butcher shop on Main Street. . .
THE GARDENER RETURNS, A DIALOGUE, PART FOUR

John Augustine Hartford, Interview, Time Magazine, 1950, “I don’t know any grocer who wants to stay small. I don’t see how any businessman can limit his growth and stay healthy.”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Great_Atlantic_%26_Pacific_Tea_Company#cite_note-Red_Circle-10

Frederik G. H. Meijer
http://www.forbes.com/profile/frederik-gh-meijer/

In 2006 Wal-Mart was the largest super market in the USA, Information Service Food Marketing Institute
http://www.fmi.org/docs/facts_figs/faq/top_retailers.pdf

Sam Walton drove to work “ in his beat-up 1978 Ford pickup with balding tires” right up to the time he retired, American National Business Hall of Fame
http://www.anbhf.org/laureates/swalton.html

“Between March, 1985 and 1988 Wal-Mart claims to have purchased over $1.2 billion worth of goods under (All American Program), producing 22, 3000 jobs in the United States.” American National Business Hall of Fame
http://www.anbhf.org/laureates/swalton.html

Wal-Mart’s China connection, November 29th 2004 post on China Daily by China Business Weekly writer, Jiang Jingjing
http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/english/doc/2004-11/29/content_395728.htm

Writer – I don’t know about a personal jet.
http://www.xploreutah.net/node/594

Sam Walton on keeping his growing connections with China a secret.
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/walmart/secrets/wmchina.html

“(Sam Walton’s) customers were the ones who shut him down. They voted with their feet.” Richard Tedlow of Harvard Business School quoting from Sam Walton’s auto-biography.
http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/2375.html

Gardener – I don’t think Patrick J. Cullen, the president of the bank in Cattaraugus, New York sees his customers as faceless? Alan Feuer, the author of The Bank Around the Corner, NYT 12/2011

Gardener – The way you’re talking you’d think money grows on trees.
ROCK PILE: I:1 WHERE THE GARDENER FAILS TO MOLLIFY THE WRITER WHO DECRIES THE NOTORIOUS PURE LINE DISCOVERED BY THE YOUTH IN HIS BALLAD OF THE BANKBOOK

Gardener – You used to believe. . . I found it. Keith Stewart!
The Gardener Return, A Dialogue, Part Two

THE GARDENER RETURNS, A DIALOGUE, PART SIX

Gardener – Does that mean most of us are like Pooh, assuming he bought the pot of honey with his own money.
Writer – Which I doubt. With all due respect to the Old Man, the diversity of that gang over by Hundred Acre Wood is not based on the limiting value of money.
Gardener – What else is there? A few of us know how to put our money to work until we’ve more than we need – much more, while the rest of us barely manage to stay afloat.
Writer – I think the majority of us don’t think of money until we need it?
Gardener – I think those who need money think about it all the time.
Writer – I know people who think most of us without money are lazy or corrupt.
Gardener – There are people who are lazy or corrupt.
Writer – Most of us are simply indecisive. We work hard but get discouraged because we’re going nowhere. There’s the kids to feed and cloth, the grandparents to take care of, the neighbors. . .
Gardener – Is that an excuse for spending money on things we don’t need. That is not in our best interest.
Writer – It’s difficult determining what we need.
Gardener – We need food, water, clothing. Let me throw in shelter.
Writer – What if self-interest is a questionable asset? Perhaps it depends on opposing values. There’s long term value and short term value. Some might call it the broad view or the narrow view. There’s only one thing a drug addict considers in his or her immediate self- interest and that’s scoring.
Gardener – While the self- interest of a drug addict is better served in the long term by getting off drugs and becoming a free human. I get it.
Writer – We’re surrounded by things that are supposed to make us happy. So we reach out and take what is offered, deferring payment because in the immediate realm we need happiness
Gardener – But there are enough hucksters telling us that with little down and lots of time we can buy what we can’t afford.
Writer – Of course sooner or later time runs out. In our society money is the only exchange through the turnpike of goods. That’s why most of us are unsuccessful. We’re not the Kings’ people. We’re the Kings’ subjects, the consumers of the Kingdoms. It might explain why we’re constantly dissatisfied and unhappy.
Gardener – Well, I’m happy! At least when I’m gardening. And I’m not a businessman.
Writer – How many teenagers want to be gardeners?
Gardener – The Youth liked working outside! You told me he raked leaves, mowed lawns and caddied.
Writer – That was before puberty. He sat in the pine tree and daydreamed. He never said he wanted to be a gardener. More likely he wanted to be an explorer. He’d read a Classic comic about the birth of the nation. In a section on Lewis and Clark, he discovered his hero John Colter, who stumbled upon Yellowstone, just a frame around colored ink where a startled figure on horseback calms his horse as Old Faithful rises into the clear blue sky above the Rocky Mountains.
Gardener – I thought he wanted to be like Roger Maris?
Writer – That too, when he was eleven, playing baseball like all the other kids. But he couldn’t hit the ball to save his life and when someone hit a high fly out to left field where he stood like an expectant knight surveying a field of windmills, he felt so much pressure to catch the ball, he always missed. Then came puberty.
Gardener – And girls.
Writer – Now he wanted to be like Fabian or Dion. He wanted to be cool. But he couldn’t sing.
Gardener – I guess gardening saved his ass.
Writer – It’s never about what we can do best but what’s in fashion. Remember when computer programming was the rage? Young people wanted, indeed were guided toward careers in computing. Only a few succeeded. Most were white collar slaves until the bubble burst.
Gardener – They wore ties and jackets instead of overalls but that didn’t change what they were.
Writer – They might have done better as mechanics or carpenters. . .
Gardener – They could still wear ties and jackets if that made them feel better!
Writer – But we can’t blame them. Those were the jobs been sold in shop windows. The trades were looked down upon. Shop classes had been all but eliminated in high schools. No one, not even trades people, wanted their children going into that line of work.
Gardener – But you and I have been lucky. We’re immune to fashion. Marketers don’t affect us.
Writer – Are you crazy? No one’s immune! We all desire something. That’s why ad-men troll the waters of commerce for likely prey.
Gardener. – You think we’re like our neighbors who always return home with bags full of things?
Writer – You think we’re different?
Gardener – I don’t think of ourselves as shoppers.
Writer – If you mean we’re not distracted by window displays then I agree with you.
Gardener – Actually I see my reflection.
Writer – We have the same problem.
Gardener – But that image of me is superimposed on a million objects behind me.
Writer – You mean in front of you. The objects in the window can’t be behind you.
Gardener – Not the real me, but in back of my reflection.
Writer – Like Narcissus.
Gardener – Yeah even paper-whites. Thousands of them crowding the displays this time of year.
Writer – No, the Greek teenager from mythology.
Gardener – Teenager?
Writer – He was trapped by the image he saw in a pool.
Gardener – What image, what pool?
Writer- You know the story! Narcissus, the son of Liriope. . .
Gardener – I know liriope, they’re not even in the same family! Liriope’s in the iris family and makes a wonderful ground cover!
Writer – Perhaps in your world, but in Ovid’s world of Metamorphoses, Book III, Lirope is a river nymph who is raped by the river god, Cephisus. Their son is Narcissus, whose beauty is renowned. But he spurs everyone’s overtures until one day he is bending over a pool of water and sees his reflection. He falls in love with what he sees but can’t possess it.
Gardener – What’s that got to do with me standing in front of a department store window?
Writer – Well, I don’t know exactly – only that you’re staring at yourself and can’t see the display items beyond your reflection.
Gardener – Maybe you can’t seen beyond your reflection; but mine is imbedded in the stuff that’s for sale. It’s just another object, only it’s me.
Writer – No, it’s your reflection.
Gardener – Same thing.
Writer – No it’s not. You’re standing here in front of me, just the way you were standing in front of the shop window. But you can’t own that reflection, any more than Narcissus could embrace the boy he fell in love with in the pool.
Gardener – What I see in the window is as immaterial to me as all the things behind me, I mean behind my reflection. It’s as if I’m drowning.
Writer – In a pool of material items.
Gardener – Just the opposite happens to me when I look into the night sky. I feel tremendous. The Moon, the planets Jupiter and Venus, and all the stars make me feel as if I am something important. My body flows out into the cosmos. It just happens. But when I stare into the static display of a shop window, I disappear, I reach out to save myself from an attraction that seems to threaten my identity.
Writer – You’re not kidding. But don’t think I haven’t stopped in front of a pastry shop and wanted to sit down at the counter inside and order a coffee and a pastry. But which pastry?
Gardener –It’s odd, isn’t it, since the Old Man was a great salesman?
Writer – What’s odd?
Gardener – You and I being on a different frequency than sales-people.
Writer – I told you we’re not immune. The Old Man wanted the Youth to work with him, but they never got along. The Old Man couldn’t sell him on it.
Gardener – So he was immune, immune to the Old Man’s pitch, even if others weren’t.
Writer – They just didn’t get along period. Years later the Youth was working at a restaurant on Madison Avenue. One afternoon he was serving up Rob Roys, extra dry to some salesmen sitting at the bar. They were regulars but one of them hadn’t been around in a long time. His friend asked him if he’d been out on the road. The guy told him he was working for a new outfit. The two men talked shop, moving their glasses around the counter as if they were railroad cars full of goods. The Youth listened to them talk while he washed glasses in the sink beneath the counter. It didn’t seem to matter to them whether they were selling toiletries or Cadillac’s, the process was all that counted. They were salesmen. They enjoyed the pitch to the customer. He realized his Old Man was different. Not only did he enjoy the pitch, but the product was his baby. He’d nurtured it into existence by trail and error. He not only made the stuff in the family garage, but delivered it on call. He believed in the product as much as he believed in himself. He didn’t have to bribe the company buyers the way the corporate salesmen did. He knew the people working on the floor wanted his product. Not only because his cleaners and waxes worked, which he knew since he used them himself, but also because the Old Man was always there whenever maintenance called him in a pinch. It didn’t matter what time of night. If they needed a batch, he’d mix it and bring them a 50 gallon drum that night.
Gardener – That kind of integrity you can only get from a small business.
Writer – But as charismatic as he was on the floor of a bus terminal or an airport hangar, he failed to convince his kids. His products meant nothing to them. Besides he was temperamental, his way or the highway, a one man company.
Gardener – But all this doesn’t tell me why we never buy pastries. We never buy anything! I know people who think we suffer from a deprivation of the senses.
Writer – We buy books, too many books.
Gardener – Books! Yes, your focus comes to a rest on books.
Writer – Sometimes after reading a book review, I find myself orbiting the book’s gravitational field slowly dropping closer and closer toward the moment I must buy it. All my guarded reasons for not buying it, all based on experience, the knowledge it won’t change anything, are burned away as I enter the books aura with its hope of resurrection. Sooner or later I buy it. It’s inevitable. I’m flush with happiness. Just the feel of the book makes me feel good, even as I drop it on my stack of unread books.
Gardener – Is this bad?
Writer – I don’t know. It’s all I know. But was it in my best interests to have yet another book? I don’t know. And what about you, is there anything more addictive than buying plants?
Gardener – Buying new plants is like finding buried treasure. It’s not like I’m having a bad day and need to go out and buy plants. There’s always so much to do in a garden. The physical work siphons off frustration. But every plant has the potential to fit into the mythic garden where the Youth grew up. I look for species that will illuminate the hidden ways back to that long ago landscape. I know they’re not plants he knew, when he first sat at the top of the Pine tree like Adam surveying Eden. But it provides me with possibilities. Eden is always changing, but the substance of it remains the same, it’s the same place he was seeking. It’s a place where pain has been filtered out and happiness distilled.
Writer – And what about the sailboat?
Gardener – Kismet.
Writer – Like I said, no one’s immune.
Gardener – Buying Kismet was extravagant. I worried about the monthly payments. I knew that Huevo, one of the gardeners where I worked, bought a new car every three years. The price of our third hand boat was probably less than one of his new cars. Buying on time didn’t daunt him. He actually enjoyed looking for better deals and better rates on a new loan. He joked with me. He said if I waited until I saved the money I’d be too old to sail the boat. Then he added, “You’ve worked hard, haven’t you?” “Everyone feels they’ve worked hard,” I replied, “even slackers.” He chided me. “Live and let live,” then added, “go ahead, buy it, you deserve it!”
Writer – Even our mother of solid Scotch heritage took out a personal loan every three years in order to take her mother and her three kids across country in the family station wagon to visit relatives and friends out west. Besides we paid off our debt in five years.
Gardener – That was twenty years ago and we’re still sailing her.
Writer – Maybe you’re right, maybe we are lucky. We take after our mother.
Gardener – That’s what I think. We’re thrifty, like her.
Writer – Unlike Pooh bear, who needs little encouragement from the Kings’ creative writers to have a little something.
Gardener – Huevo said “live and let live.” If people didn’t work like me, they were slackers, period.
Writer – Sounds like he was trying to say the same thing the Old Man was saying.
Gardener – Only it appeared to me like letters in a mirror.
Writer – Or a reflection in a pool of water.
Gardener – But the words that have stuck to me, like burdock seed on wool socks, is “you deserve it.” I didn’t deserve Kismet, I wanted it.
Writer – The most recent meaning of “deserve,” according to the Oxford Dictionary, is to “earn or become worthy of(reward or punishment, etc.); secure by service or actions, gain, win.” Oxford describes the Latin and French verb “servir”- “to serve” which I assume means to serve others, plus the prefix, “de,” which augments or reverses that service. It seems as if someone who has been served is rewarding the server for service well done.
Gardener – But Huevo said “I deserved it.” I mean he said “you deserve it,” but he wasn’t in the position of giving me what I deserved. He was assuming that I must feel I deserve it.
Writer – That’s the curious twist, isn’t it? When we tell ourselves we deserve something, we’re transforming service to others into something self-serving. Like the self-service at The Automat, only instead of a cherry pie and a cup of coffee we serve ourselves a conceit. It seems to morally or ethically justify our desire. We are “worthy of” serving ourselves something we want!
Gardener – I don’t need a justification for what I want. But I do need money.
Writer – Didn’t Huevo say you’d worked hard?
Gardener – That’s not justification.
Writer – But you like being paid. It’s nice having a good salary that provides more than just basics in survival.
Gardener – I earned my salary. Besides, the salary would never have been enough if my heart wasn’t in the work.
Writer – You don’t clean bed pans.
Gardener – I admit I’m lucky, a gardener. But I worked hard for my salary.
Writer – In other words you deserved it.
Gardener – No, I was paid fairly for something I did. It was an agreement. I do this for that. Money is the exchange.
Writer – Fairly? You sound like D’Anconia during his sermon on money at Jamie Taggart’s wedding party, in Atlas Shrugged, Part II, Chapter II.
Gardener – Aren’t we going backwards?
Writer – It’s relevant. When you say “money is the exchange” you’re practically paraphrasing Francisco. He said, “Money permits you to obtain for your goods and your labor that which they are worth to the men who buy them and not more. Money permits no deals except those to mutual benefit by the unforced judgment of traders.” But you know as well as I do it’s easier said than done. We’ve already seen, and Adam Smith pointed this out, that those with capital to pay for labor, work together to keep salaries down. It’s in their best-interests to demean the “worth” of a worker’s efforts. And if the worker has been unemployed for some time as many are today, he or she is desperate enough to take whatever’s offered, because most of us don’t want to be on the dole. Our “worth” is rarely based on our abilities but on conditions like mass unemployment which lowers the value of work the way inflation lowers the value of the dollar.
Gardener – In other words, we’re not worth shit.
Writer – If we are to believe what Francisco says about the worth of “your goods and your labor . . . to the men who buy them” then the one who sells either goods or labor or both and the one who buys the goods and or labor must agree to something that’s in their mutual best interests. This kind of agreement assumes the broad view. To the seller it guarantees income and to the buyer it guarantees that this quality he or she values will not disappear.
Gardener – How can we agree on the broad view, when each side clamps down on self-interest with the ferocity of a dog gripping a bone.
Writer – There was a time, after working many years at the garden, upper management thought you as a middle manager was earning enough and should be paid no more for your services.
Gardener – That’s true. Which would have been fine as long as the price of food and clothing and rent remained the same.
Writer – But you convinced them that if you didn’t receive cost of living, you would leave.
Gardener – But one of the gardeners under me did not have the same clout.
Writer – Huevo.
Gardener – Yes. The executive director, at that time, did not think he deserved a cost of living raise.
Writer – 2%
Gardener – Exactly. Not only was he the gardener who had been there the longest, he was having back problems. Management decided to cap his salary. This wasn’t just a matter of economic life and death. His pride was hurt. We were a non-union garden.
Writer – He invited the union.
Gardener – Yes. A nasty struggle ensued between management and labor. In the end the gardeners voted in the union.
Writer – Whose side were you on?
Gardener – On his side, the side of the gardeners.
Writer – You felt he deserved 2% cost of living increase.
Gardener – Yes. And I told upper management this. Instead of accepting my recommendation they pursued a costly war against the staff, which easily exceeded the cost of 2% that he requested.
Writer – He would have been satisfied with that?
Gardener – Absolutely. It was a matter of being fair.
Writer – But you and I know it has nothing to do with being fair. It’s whatever you can get.
Gardener – Which is why the gardeners brought in the union.
Writer – And the gardeners won, a pyrrhic victory, I understand.
Gardener – The potting shed morale, the primary engine for the garden’s success, was destroyed. There’s much more to this story but it deserves a separate telling.
Writer – I agree. At any rate, Huevo had earned that 2% because his salary was based on existing economic conditions like the price of food, clothing and rent.
Gardener – His salary was based on his work, but the salary was worth less because of inflation. Either he got paid cost of living or worked less to accommodate inflation. But in my book working less wasn’t an option.
Writer –The Kings’ people say that Huevo caused inflation because he wanted more money.
Gardener – Can the Kings’ people prove that the egg came before the goose?
Writer – I think we’ve agreed that work created Humpty Dumpty.
Gardener – Right. And management came later.
Writer – But aren’t those paying the salaries entitled to spend their own money as they choose?
Gardener – The garden is non-profit, so the money belongs to the taxpayer and those funding projects, but I see what you mean. In the broader sense when the product is sold in the public square where Humpty Dumpty used to sit, then the production process is communal. Labor and capital amount to the same thing. The man with capital can’t run machines or use his hands creatively but he or she can pay others to do it. Money and Labor need to sit down and negotiate without ideologies for masks.
Writer – But when the employee feels he or she deserves more money, the employee is putting him or herself at a disadvantage.
Gardener – Right, better to say I want a raise.
Writer – Just the way we wanted a sailboat. And money is what you and I and the wife used to buy the sailboat.
Gardener – With the help of a bank loan
Writer – Another agreement which we signed after reading the small print.
Gardener – We wanted the boat. We bought it using funds earned at work and to be earned at work.
Writer – To be earned is crucial to the equation of what is possible.
Gardener – The bank loaned us the remaining funds assuming we would pay them back according to the agreement we all signed. That loan was not based on the “merit” of our desires. We didn’t deserve the loan.
Writer – Nor the sailboat.
Gardener – That’s why we paid interest on that loan, that’s how the bank made money on our loan. It wasn’t based on what we deserved. We accepted their terms.
Writer – Nor do we deserve the chocolate cake at the end of the meal because we’ve finished the meal. But I assume Christopher Robin’s parents like all parents worldwide have enticed and continue to entice their children to finish their green ham and eggs with the promise of dessert.
Gardener – And so we’ve grown older nurturing Pooh’s justification for “for a little something.”
Writer – As if anyone deserves a sailboat!
Gardener – We wanted the boat, as simple as that.
Writer – On the other hand, the Pooh Principle manifests itself at the highest levels of all the Kingdoms. All the Kings’ men are rewarded with “a little something” whether they succeed or not. They call it, the bonus. It’s the cornerstone of the corporate world. The carrot dangling before every ambitious prince.
Gardener – The honey pot at the end of every financial rainbow.
Writer – Even though the Kings’ men and women work in offices far above the production line, they serve themselves the desserts of a production they often know nothing about.
Gardener – Especially bankers.
Writer – The difference between what they make and what our neighbors make on the floor of the assembly line is the primary reason the pockets of the few are full of the money our neighbors’ lack.
Gardener – But don’t our neighbors realize that when they buy back on credit the products they’ve made but can no longer afford, they are helping to make the Kings’ people even richer?
Writer – Our neighbors believe they deserve it.
Gardener – Even though the Kings people use this money to pay our elected officials. . .
Writer – The Kings’ vassals.
Gardener – To help the Kings people reach deeper into our neighbors’ pockets.
Writer – In his fascinating book, The Marketplace Of Revolution, How Consumer Politics Shaped American Independence, T. H. Breen describes how the colonists went from being loyal consumers to practitioners of “non-importation” of those cherished products of the British Industrial Revolution. He describes the stages in this evolutionary journey from consumer to political activist. To quote Breen in Part II, Chapter 6: “during this early phase of protest” – Breen is referring to the colonists reaction to the Stamp Act which was an added tax on imported goods from Great Britain – “it gradually became apparent that consumer sacrifice would help Americans preserve what they defined as their basic rights and liberties. . . [T]hey began in published pieces to equate the pleasures of possession with broader, more public issues of constitutional misrule, a move that accelerated a symbolic process that would in time allow discontented Americans to conflate a perceived loss of freedom with their own participation in the consumer marketplace.” He quotes two writers of the time, one from Philadelphia who writes that the Stamp Act “awakened a whole continent,” and here I love the phrases that follow, “till then, going on in luxury, sinking into a forgetfulness of their liberty.”
Gardener – The continent still sleeps!
Writer – Another writer, who called himself Economicus, says, “Every person who owes more than he can certainly pay is in a state of thraldom, and cannot, in speech or action, exercise the rights of a freeman. How carefully then should we, who entertain such high sentiments of the blessing of liberty, avoid every step that may involve us in debt, and thereby deprive us of this boasted liberty.”
Gardener – Almost 250 years ago and nothing’s changed!
Writer – Ostensibly, we have more to choose from! The Kings and the Kings’ vassals in Washington want us to believe they are the guardians of “choice.” But what is choice if it involves only what can be bought and sold. Breen also quotes our Adam Smith in Part I, Chapter 3, Section 3, “A great empire has been established for the sole purpose of raising up a nation of customers.”
Gardener – Today we’re the same customers buying the latest fashions from overseas. At least the Brits, at the center of their commercial empire, were reaping the benefits of our colonial debt.
Writer – Let’s assume the Old Man’s principle was as true then as today.
Gardener – You’re probably right. Still, here in the heart of the American empire we’ve been marginalized while the Kings slowly cut their tethers to the Homeland – as our leaders call it – to achieve global supremacy.
Writer – Breen again quotes Smith, “For the sake of that little enhancement of price which this monopoly might afford our producers. . ,” – The monopoly Smith is referring to is the Navigation Acts prohibiting other nations from trading with the colonies and forcing the colonies to buy finished goods from England only, – “the home-consumers have been burdened with the whole expense of maintaining and defending that empire.” Of course, we don’t have to buy a cherry-colored overcoat made overseas.
Gardener – But an overcoat made here costs more than a coat made overseas!
Writer – Well, who’s to blame, the banker or the tailor?
Gardener – The tailor’s blamed and all he was trying to do was make enough money to feed himself and his cat.
Writer – It’s hard to believe that someone like the Mayor of Gloucester didn’t put any of his own money down when ordering his extravagant wedding coat for Christmas day.
Gardener – Are you saying the tailor had to spend his own money buying the material for the coat?
Writer – Apparently all of it. He had barely enough to buy himself and Simpkin, the cat, food. And not only for the coat but material for the peach colored satin waist coat as well.
Gardener – What a bain to a small business. But it would seem the tailor is to blame since he accepted the assignment without a down payment
Writer – Well, I’m sure he tried but he had little leverage here, in spite of his obvious skills, being poor, desperate and old. It seems this was his last chance to make his fortune.
Gardener – The mayor must have been shrewd.
Writer – Oh yes, like so many of the Kings’ vassals, he also been one of the King’s men. In fact he got his start in a private equity firm.
Gardener – So that’s how he learned to invest other people’s money and labor to get the things he wanted.
Writer – As any Vietnamese or Chinese worker knows money is equal to labor the way mass is equal to energy. But luckily for the tailor the mice understood that! In the broadest terms it was in their best interest to help the poor old tailor for non-monetary reasons!
Gardener – Didn’t Simpkin the cat come to a broader understanding of self-interest too?
Writer – It’s true he was annoyed with the tailor at first because the old man had released all the mice that he had caught. But when Simpkin saw the grateful mice sewing the Mayor’s coat, he realized that by saving the old man from the poorhouse they were saving him as well, since he too depended on the tailor for his general well being.
Gardener – Didn’t the Mayor become the governor of the state?
Writer – We’re not talking about that Gloucester, known for Cod, but the city of that name in England.
Gardener – Oh I know, it’s near Romney Marsh, known for a breed of sheep.
Writer – No, that’s in Kent. The Tailor lived in Gloucester, not far from the River Severn near Wales.
Gardener – Oh.
Writer – However, can we blame the Mayor who has the means to get what he wants, when all of us dress like mayors whether we can afford it or not. Either we work together like mice to overrule the Kings or we remain the pawns of our fashionable obsessions. From the Kings’ point of view, cheap labor allows immediate returns.
Gardener – No wonder the Kings of older kingdoms complain about their aging staff of Huevos, protected by the unions. It makes it difficult for them to compete with young kingdoms where the employees start out earning much less.
Writer – To stay viable in a cut throat economy the Kings need the freedom to keep salaries and benefits down. In fact the end of the year bonus is sweeter for the Kings’ men when they achieve this.
Gardener – How can the Kings expect us in the Homeland to buy the latest toys and wear the latest fashions with our low salaries?
Writer – They don’t, that’s why they ship our neighbors’ jobs overseas.
Gardener – How can our neighbors buy anything if they’re unemployed. Is the Mayor of Gloucester, using the tailor’s mice?
Writer – Well that story is of an older time when mayors and their brides dressed in petticoats and tails. The tailor would have gone to the poorhouse or what they called the workhouse. These days are much better. The Kings don’t fret over lost sales because we now have Unemployment Insurance.
Gardener – What if the Kings’ vassals. . ,
Writer – Our elected officials.
Gardener – In their efforts to put Humpty Dumpty back together again, kill unemployment insurance!
Writer – The Kings have always claimed that minimizing wages benefits customers! Ironically, the Kings’ vassals expect our unemployed neighbors or those now working beneath subsistence to have enough money to buy the games and toys their lords, the Kings, ship back to the states!
Gardener – Who’s John Galt!
Writer – Unfortunately the Kings are only interested in John Galt’s efforts to kill regulations, not in John Galt’s generator.
Gardener – It would be a boon to small business since it doesn’t run on oil!
Writer – The Kings will only bring production back to the United States, if we give them absolute fealty which means accepting lower salaries on the assembly line.
Gardener – Which leaves our neighbors no choice but to buy the Kings’ latest fashions in the Kings’ chain stores!
Writer – Which reminds me of the Ball and Chain Company Store, where the Youth and his high school friend stocked up on food and gear during their stay in the White Mountains of Arizona, a year or so before I met him. It’s a memory the Youth shared with me sometime before he disappeared. He and his friend arrived in the small mill town of McNary with little cash in their pockets but a guarantee of work from a lumber company. They were assured by the company agent, they could buy what they needed on credit and the amount of debt would be deducted from their paychecks. At the time this seemed like a good thing. The Ball and Chain was the only store in town. It was owned by the company. For months they lived on a tight budget.
Gardener – But this couldn’t have been a hardship. They were young, their expenses were small.
Writer – True, and they enjoyed the novelty of the work. They worked out in the loading area covering stacks of finished boards in sheets of white Polyethylene, a relatively new material. They spread the plastic over the board wood that came out of the mill in stacks, folding the ends as if they were wrapping huge birthday presents. Instead of ribbons they tightened down metal straps with a ratcheting tool and stapled the folds to the board ends. Forklifts then loaded the stacks onto railroad flatcars waiting on a nearby siding. The air smelled of Limber, White and Ponderosa pine. In the afternoon they watched the thunderheads build, crack like seashells underfoot, before sending everyone in the yard undercover. Moments later the rain stopped, the sun returned and the smell of the forest was even stronger.
Gardener – Of course they weren’t there to settle down. It was a lark, an adventure.
Writer – That’s true. They rented a shack out by the town dump, and scavenged most of their furniture, even the mattresses from the garbage. There they reveled like fools feeling like kings living under a roof they called their own, drinking Coors beer with a number of young ladies who were intrigued by these easterners. Then one morning they woke up itching all over, an unbearable sensation of helplessness at the hands of the unseen. They hauled all that shit back out the door to the dump. By this time they’d caught up with their expenses, so they moved out and rented a small cottage in the neighboring town of Showlow from the mother of one of their friends at the mill. She remembered being a child when the new owners of the mill had brought in the first train loads of blacks to replace the local workers. “They took jobs away from white folk,” she said, “people who lived here all their lives.” The Youth thought she was referring to the new owners but she was talking about the blacks. The Youth and his friend sat in her kitchen, sun streaming through the curtained windows of the country styled house listening to her describe the scene. Her feeling were so evident, it seemed as if it happened yesterday. He imagined hordes of blacks arriving in open door boxcars and swarming the town like locust. He saw it as a black and white newsreel, like those he’s watched on Saturday mornings in the back room in the days when he still climbed the great pine like the first man. First came The American Farmer followed by The World At War. He didn’t understand that that these black folks had brought their families and arrived in regular passenger cars like anyone else and that this had all happened in 1923, because the new owners were lumber men from Louisiana. The young men thanked the woman and left with her son to see the cottage. Her son was engaged to be married to a young woman with hair like wheat bright with sunshine and a sweet smile. Years later they learned she had gone down to the University in Tucson and married a black man. By then the times were topsy turvy everywhere. The cottage was out behind the woman’s house, beneath a stand of tall pines. It was made of logs, like the main house, nicely furnished in rustic manner. It had a real bed with sheets and a coverlet. They were in heaven.
Gardener –The Youth believed in hard work. He felt that an individual should be able to account for himself and not depend on the generosity of strangers. He was bred on conservative principles.
Writer – It’s easy to think that way when you have only yourself to think of.
Gardener – Self-interest in its narrowest context.
Writer – It would have been different had he moved there with a family and with the expectations of a bread earner hoping for a piece of the American pie. He began to understand what it meant for the people he met in the mill who had been born and raised in the small town. Like Jesus Campo, their young Mexican friend, the oldest of nine children and the family bread winner, who lived in a house packed with his mother and siblings on the edge of town – a house slightly better than the shack by the dump.
Gardener – Only it was a home where you wouldn’t find fleas.
Writer – Jesus was always in the hole! He never received a full paycheck. On payday he still owed the company money!
Gardener – But his mother always made enchiladas hot as hell for his new friends when they came over on Sunday.
Writer – They sure weren’t like the enchiladas they’d eaten in those new pop-up drive-ins down in Phoenix!
Gardener – Too bad that lumber company hadn’t been run by Bob and Charlee Moore!
Writer – Or Ray Anderson!

NOTES:

Writer – I think we’ve agreed that work created Humpty Dumpty.
The Gardener Returns, Part Five

the Mayor of Gloucester didn’t put any of his own money down when ordering his extravagant wedding coat for Christmas day.
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