Everything’s a Blur

After my brief abduction by alien mushroom plant invaders last week, I’ve had quite a bit of catching up to do on household chores and other mundane duties. Although my weekends are typically waaaaay more exciting, Saturday was dedicated to laundry. On my way to pick up more clothespins from Walgreen’s, I ran into a friend in front of her usual spot on Church Avenue. A couple other regulars were gathered there to smoke and look at the day. This person and I hadn’t been in touch lately, mostly just exchanging messages on her medical condition. In one of those exchanges, she shared a bit of meaningless gossip about a mutual friend. She brought it up again Saturday and, to punctuate her point, said, “You shoulda seen the look on your face when I told you that.” I pointed out that we had been on the phone. The truth is that, were it nearly anyone else, I could have replaced “the phone” with “Facebook,” “texting,” “tweeting,” “online,” “emailing,” “messaging,” or fill in the blank with any other sort of cybermunication. The truth is also that nearly anyone else would not have been hanging on the corner having this inane conversation or patronizing the bar behind us for that matter – it’s become a bit of blight in my otherwise pretty cool hood. My friend, like the other regular clientele (and I mean the truly “regular” customers – not those who go to gawk at them), are largely technilliterate. Although it was a welcoming place when I first moved into the neighborhood, it’s known for mistreating its customers and hosting violence. It’s a blue-collar bar where the running joke, surely inspired by the age of its patrons and the attendant physical conditions of the most regular of regulars, used to do with a stool at the end of the bar that they called the dead man’s seat since anyone who sits there dies. And it’s true: anyone who sits there dies. Don’t ask me how I know this stuff. It’s my neighborhood, and I’ve been here awhile.

Back to the blurring … it’s 3:33 a.m. here, and I’ve woken up after my first online dream ever. I try to take note when I dream of someone for the first time after meeting them. It says to me I’ve incorporated something about that person or the relationship, that it’s become part of my consciousness. I can’t quite explain what I mean that this dream was “online,” or even relay the plot to the extent there was any. The dream, simply, somehow concerned itself with online existence. There was nothing fantastical or otherworldly about the dream. It was everyday ho-hum, regular old doing online stuff, but I was existing inside it .. inside “online.” It was not just passive (which is, why, I think it felt different than the few tv dreams I can remember – one, for example, I had when I was about 15 years old and in it I was in a sitcom that was popular at the time). But my activity in the dream was not particularly active either. It wasn’t like I was racing through a cyberworld as on the kids’ show Cyberchase where they have to get the bad guy before he takes over cyberspace. It wasn’t even particular to this blog. I was online, and I seemed to have no existence apart from what I was doing online.

This is, without question, a transitional time. I may have mentioned (or not) that I’m an unlikely blogger. In college, I was the last of my friends to use a computer. (That was, obviously, in an era where there was even a choice). I check the mailbox that hangs next to my front door every day, and every day there is something there I should look at. I have a checkbook, and I use it. I believe in cash, and I use it. I like the feel of a book in my hands, and most pages I view online overwhelm me. But all of that is slowly beginning to change, against my will or not. I worry about my credit card bill getting stolen from my mail. I find there’s not much use for a checkbook anymore except to pay bills or make donations; I don’t remember the last time I stood in a checkout line and wrote out a check (although I have done that in my life and I believe those of us who can say that are dwindling in number). The convenience of someone else keeping track of how I spend my money and spitting back reports of it (a la mint.com) is a temptress who may seduce me soon. As for the almighty book, my Kindle sits in my inbox (physical inbox – I do still have one of those) waiting to be fired up. And as to my self-imposed segregation from cyberspace, as of two months ago, I write a daily blog, am training my eyes to not swirl from the advertisements on every page I view online, and, for the last three years, my work has required at least nine hours a day nearly without interruption in front of a computer. And now I’m dreaming online. My suspicion is any resistance is a hopeless cause; I should probably just float on in with all the other folks. Modern irony: if there’s some cybertastrophe that destroys all that is the internet, those folks in front of the local bar who now seem to be lagging may come out smelling like roses.

I also suspect that my avid gardening this year may have metastasized from my fear of the other side. If there is an opposite of “online” it’s not offline; it’s under the line, in the ground. Although you can bring all the gadgets and advancements you want to gardening, it is at its core setting hands to earth. It’s a perfect antidote to the nine+ hours my fingers spend clacking at the plastic keyboard. I think I’m not alone in this drive to ward off media overload with my gardening. It seems everyone is doing it these days. Then again, gardening is probably no more a reaction to the fast paced internet-dominated world we live in than is any other “back to the land” trend like slow food, home brewing, the DIY craze, or any other such hippy hobby that’s seen a resurgence in popularity lately. Evidence? Just check out all the blogging on that stuff.

That’s it. I’m going back to bed. As for you?

QUESTION: do you remember your dreams? what’s the last one you had? have you ever had a cyberdream? do you have any garden dreams? is your gardening an effort to get off the keyboard and back to the land? is it to figure out how to live off the earth in the event of a cybertastrophe? Go ahead .. gimme the dirt.

Kicking Up the Bucket List

On Saturday, I finally made my first visit to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. First … ever. It’s embarrassing, I know. It just was something that always fell into that category of things you do when friends or family come to visit – you know, one of those things that makes New York great and that makes being a New Yorker super cool but that you never do, which makes New York more like any other town and you like any other townee (which, when it comes down to it is probably more true than any of us cares to admit). But, like a dyed-in-wool local yokel, I do have my list of things to do right here at home before I die or leave Gotham, whichever comes first. And visiting the BBG for the first time is no longer on that list. Visiting it again many times, however, now is.

I’m glad it was a scuddy, rain-soaked day. It can only get better from there – and it was pretty damn good as it was. Aside from the phenomenal foliage, and the massive trees that really do seem to sing to each passerby, I am in love with the little old lady at the information booth, which, by the way, is piled high with pamphlets (each of which was more alluring than the next and each of which I couldn’t help but stuff in my bag, to the chagrin of my patient partner). Our BBG ambassador urged us to take the next tour, and when we politely (I hope) declined, she almost couldn’t contain herself as she directed us breathlessly to the bluebells (when we saw them, we realized why – it is just pure joy, truly – it’s got a kind of magical buoyancy that lifts every person within range). After cautiously, anxiously making our escape from her eager urgings — nodding our heads, backing up to the nearest exit, as she chattered on about all the things we could see on our way to the native plants garden — we were finally on our way.

Now, I question the countless times I’ve looked up Lady Liberty’s skirt, my out of town entourage in tow, or took my tourist friends to guzzle more than our share at ChaCha’s on the boardwalk, or stuff our faces at Nathan’s, when all this time I could’ve been tripping through the bluebells. Maybe it’s age. Try to convince a 25-year old visiting from Beloit, Wisconsin that, yes, what they really came to New York to see is that vast field of flowers in the middle of Brooklyn, when all they wanna do is shout “HowYOUdoin” in a very bad Brooklyn accent to every surly regular in the bar.  Yeah, it did take me a long time to live that down. Back then, in my own heyday at the local pub, it eventually helped me feel more at home, since after that visitor left I ended up with a new Brooklyn nickname, like Mikey Apples, or Jimmy Deli (he owned a bodega, of course – later came to be known as Jimmy Daily for his increasing presence at the bar).  My moniker was, simply, “Wisconsin.” A dubious benchmark but one I warmed to nonetheless.  My own Brooklyn name.  “Hey, Wisconsin, what’re you having?” Bluebells.  Lots and lots more bluebells.

QUESTION: if, as it’s said, we have a mere five days left, what would you do to get yourself back to the garden? What are your bluebells?

Links: http://www.bbg.org/