Friday, May 22, 2009

Sweet Nothings

So I’m cleaning up a couple things in the front yard when I hear a voice on the other side of the hedge, “Giving away any succulents?”

Well, no, but…

I walk out to take a look. A skinny man with a walking stick, T-shirt, and belted shorts . White socks pulled calf-high. “My wife and I got some succulents for free at the senior center, and so we decided we’re going to tear out the grass and plant our yard in succulents. Need plenty more”

I remember my aloe arborescens. “ I’ve got aloes. You’re welcome to unlimited cuttings.”
He looks disappointed. “Oh, we got them all over the place. They pile up faster than garbage.”

Uh, ok. I figured I could spare a few sedums, so I take him over to that bed. “Those?” He snorts. “We’ve got those everywhere. And that, and that, and that one over there too. Never liked that one.”

“I don’t know what these are called,” I say, showing him some large-leafed succulents that I believe are rather rare. “But you can have several if you like.” His eyes take on a faraway expression, obviously rising above something distasteful.

So, I don’t know why, but now I’m desperate. “I’ve got senecio mandraliscae, ” showing him the blue, low growing groundcover. “Some people call them blue French fries, or blue fingers.”
One side of his mouth pulls down into a sneer. This offering is not even worth a rebuke.

I start backing into my yard for a quick getaway, but he follows, taking his time and looking around. “Well, that’s kind of inner-esting ,” he says, pointing with his walking stick.

Well yeah, it’s my 15-foot tree aloe.

“Might look good near the pool. And that’s kind of nice over there,” he says, again with the walking stick. Okay, that my big bush of blood red irosene that has been three years in the making. It’s not for donation, and besides, it’s not even remotely a succulent.

“You seen that lady who lives up the street, with that front yard full of succulents?” he asks. “Now, she really knows her stuff.”

“Oh, you’re right about that,” I tell him, opening my front door and jumping inside “Well, good luck with your garden.”

He shrugs, turning his head to take in the whole front yard. “Well, I’ll tell my wife what you’ve got.” Suddenly his face beams with a gentle smile, like a man does when he’s telling you a sweet sweet lie. You know, I love you babe, but don’t wait by the phone…

“My wife, she don’t get out much, but we might stop by one day. ”


  1. Geesh, what a funny character. Altadena is full of 'em.

    (I've been toying with pitching a story about salvage gardens - gardens with plants that have been recycled or started from cuttings. He'd be perfect.)

  2. A snobby, succulent searcher. Funny that he was so picky. I have a feeling somehow that he and his wife will be knocking on your door this weekend. ;)

  3. I can understand his wife mite come bye 1 day 2: when he gives her permission to leave the house.

    You are the story you tell. So, you chose this story well.

  4. Completely and totally off topic:

    May I just say what a complete load of claptrap "Marnie" is? I just saw the last half hour on TCM and I think it was directed by Hitchcock but Moly Hoses, what a dimestore bit of Freudian nonsense that turned out to be.

    Thank you.

  5. My mistake K. The knee-stocking'd man caught me by such surprise, I totally forgot I was going to poke mucho holes in Vertigo.

    (The most outlandish part of Marnie -- anyone would believe Connery had to struggle to get a girl.)

  6. I'm not sure if I believe you. Either way, you're making me laugh over here.

  7. The neighbor's behavior-that particular neighbor-doesn't surprise me at all.
    I've known some folks who you give and give and scrape for and when you're plum gave out, they bitch that they can't take anymore.
    That may sound pretty negative, but I'll tell ya, I'm blessed with some damn fine neighbors.
    I would get in a knife fight for my raspberry colored sedum, though. Some things a man can't abide!

  8. Hilarious, and creepy; I got worried for you and your plants while reading this.

  9. I read this hearing a New England accent--he sounds like Pa Kettle.

  10. Funny things happen on the road to senility. Perhaps it’s watching the lights go out slowly and not knowing how to refocus. You rub the eyes, trying to clear them and for a moment, perhaps, it is clear again, though only for an instant. It continues the trek into darkness.

    Then again, in another context, perhaps there are now so few who can be approached without a prop, like an aloe that can still be identified, or a rich, red irosene, larger than any he could ever grow.
    It's a long trip on a dusty road, searching for something to which one can connect, before it all fades into the final cloud of total obscurity.

    I don't mean for this to be a downer, but I thought there was something very beautiful, quiet and peaceful, though threatening in this encapsulated encounter.

    Be careful. You seem at times to be oblivious to threats.

  11. Spellbound is every bit of claptrap as Marnie.

    Succulent Guy sounds creepy.

  12. Succulant Man seems like a character out of Hitchcock.

    I thought the film where Dali did part of a dream sequence and Ingrid Bergman was going mad was another bad Hitchhock. I think I'm remembering right and that was Hitchcock. Suspician? Was that the name?

    This piece is hilarious, Karin. And a little scary.

  13. We're going to have a stupid Hitchcock contest on this blog (and I love the guy, but...). Laurie, I think you've mixed two together: Spellbound has Dali (which drives Vanda around the bend) and Gaslight has Bergman going mad.

    This guy was real Margaret. I thought about him off and on all day. Maybe C3dot is on the right track.

    Hi Bandit!

  14. I'm not saying a thing. I walked out with the Aloe Tree

  15. Hah! It's true, PA did, folks. But he or she never belts the shorts.

  16. Oh right. Spellbound. DIdn't she go crazy in that one, too? Or was it just me?

  17. Karin, you remember that modernist house you showed me when we went to look at those two properties with all the trees? Somebody bought it and renovated it. They just put it back on the market. I saw it online and impulsively drove by. The owners happened to be there and invited me inside. It looks wonderful, they did an awesome job. I wish I could afford to buy it.

  18. AH is right--Bergman was the shrink; Gregory Peck was the patient in Spellbound; it definitely has the Dali sequence.

    Much to love and much to cringe at in Hitchcock, I think.

  19. We used to have a neighbor that sometimes stepped out on her porch bottomless so anything belted would have been appreciated.

    I really liked this piece, very visual. Didn't even need a pic to imagine it.

    wv ablemaph
    I'm ablemaph the time.

  20. I saw some of those wonderful blue french fry thingies at the nursery today. I thought of you.

    WV: rembonis isn't that a kind of succulant? Or maybe it was one of Hitch's foreign films?

  21. He sounds like one of those people who try to bargain by pretending they don't want something. Only he got it wrong because he was asking for freebies. Wacko. It's appropriate to discuss him along with Hitchcock.

  22. There must be something succy in the air. I bought a wonderful Jade Tree at a garage sale for $5 last weekend. Dinah said it would probably retail for around $75 in Kansas City. It's pretty big. Great post and comments, as always K.

  23. Mister E., "It's pretty big." Yeah, that's what they all say!

    My WV: INEDI Never mind that.

  24. Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus!


  25. Gotta love those two. I do. Sold separately, or as a set.

  26. Batteries included?


  27. very funny story about human nature. quite humorous. I guess you didn't share your website with him. I am glad you are enjoying the photos on my site. thanks for your comments.

  28. Another classic hillarious post, AH. I can visualize the whole exchange. & I'm so impressed that you know the names of all your succulents & others. Huntington is lucky to have you.