html xmlns="" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> From the archives: These are the people in my neighborhood.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

These are the people in my neighborhood.

The problem with being in a community garden, a garden meant to draw the neighbors together, a garden for all residents of Midtown, is that then one must deal with the people of the community. You might think a person could just go, garden, and mind her own business, but if, one day, by accident, a person made an offhand comment that perhaps there were better uses for empty plots and was the roster up to date and the county wasn’t going to like it if we don’t clear the pathways, she might find herself the manager of that community garden within the week. Because I haven’t lived an entirely wicked life, karma sent me Denise a few months later, who co-manages with even more ideas and energy. Because karma has not forgotten the debauchery of the hippie co-op, karma also sent me the Drunk Old Guy from Another Culture and the Overwrought Melodramatic Girl.

Drunk Old Guy showed up one day when we had a plot available; I had only just put him on the roster when Melodrama rushed over to tell me he had been expelled from another garden for groping people. Fuck. He’s ours now and he is ours all day long. Drunk Old Guy loves the garden. He’ll tell anyone it is the only place he has in the world. I believe him because he is there for almost all the daylight, drinking and smoking and leering. He never progressed to groping me but his leer is so heavy that I plant my tomatoes in screen formation between my plot and his. I can’t stop his gaze but we worked out an arrangement the day after I played in an all-night Ultimate tournament. That afternoon I was too messed up to do anything but go to my garden; all I wanted in the world was quiet, undemanding chores. He came rushing over to hug me and I had nothing left for civility. It must have been quite a glare, ‘cause he backed away scared and didn’t speak to me for months. Perfect.

Drunk Old Guy is annoying and Melodrama wallowed in it. Everything he did hurt her personally; his smoking damaged her tomatoes; his plants crowded her walkway; he gave her advice; he looked at her; he was always there. She complained to me in person, and I finally came home to an email from her. Drunk Old Guy made being at the garden unbearable – the garden should be a place of peace for her but he ruins it – because of him she doesn’t know if she has the strength to stay in her plot even though she loves it so – she is crying even as she types to me. I forwarded her email to Denise and started thinking about what to do.

I couldn’t think of a solution. Mediate between them? As if he were sober and she were reasonable? And how long would THAT last? Move one of them? All the plots were full. Scold him for staring at women? He’ll grovel, apologize and keep doing it. Nothing sounded promising. Denise called a day later and asked what I thought. I sort of went over ideas for a joint mediation and rules we could propose. I petered out and asked what she thought. “Well,” she said, “I think interpersonal relationships between gardeners aren’t our problem.”

I was astounded. My jaw dropped, like the cliché. It had never occurred to me that I didn’t have to solve a problem just because someone brought it to me. It was an epiphany. I loved it. I called Melodrama and told her we weren’t going to handle it. I ended up listening to her cry for an hour, but once she told me her grievances again she said she felt much better. She would talk to Drunk Old Guy herself.

I haven’t seen Melodrama this season and I think Drunk Old Guy won’t be at the garden much longer. Denise and I finally did have to confront him about a number of grievances. He agreed not to do them again, but I don’t think he can keep to his agreement. I’m not looking forward to evicting him, but I won’t miss him. I won’t have to. The neighborhood will bring some other crazy person to bloom in our garden.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm trying to picture the gardens these two might grow. I imagine the drunk guy's garden would have hops, barley (to be malted later), agave, grapes, tobacco, corn, and rye. Plus some kind of berry to attract the magnificent Thunderbird.

The dramatic girl would have high maintenance plants like tea roses. Of course, she must have a weeping willow. She would also have nightshade for when the world finally becomes too much and she can't take it anymore.

4:41 AM  
Blogger Ananda said...

I was going to say, even though inter-gardener friction isn't your problem, you better keep an eye on her plot for hemlock just in case. But Nick beat me to it.

6:08 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

I talked to her last night, and she gave up her plot. It took her half an hour to tell me, in between details about how she is going blind because she didn't take care of her diabetes because she was taking recreational drugs, but it will be OK because obviously she had to reach this point to learn valuable life lessons. Belladonna for her.

Sadly, Drunk Old Guy seems to think that our conversation about not shitting in the shed and how he has to leave the garden when women gardeners are present has reestablished relations between us and he can resume talking to me. Boooo!

9:16 AM  

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