A blog about flora and fauna, besides creative horticultural criticism, photography of the garden and beyond in an urban context. All its possibilities within crowded concrete/asphalt realities, aesthetics and its murder farther along the self.
CAGUAS CITY originally a valley with many of the produce bought in the supermarket, plus sugar cane, tobacco and coffee.
I went to every public school there, before the rampant occupation of Savarona, in the late 70's. The urban spread killed the town and everything within, just like it has happened before and continues in every part of the world following the USA: automobile dependance, housing/highway construction, malls, social, political, economic model.
The original valley is now asphalt/concrete in every cardinal point having reached the mountains around it with the Saharan dust making the scene more atrocious.
I did not know yesterday, when my peregrination of over 3 miles, with some heat and glare started at a nursery, El Patio, in the Gurabo City, exit. The same silly, abused, worn out trees, bushes, plants and orchids with a picturesque/standard touch, an employee hose spraying the plants with a finger controlling the water flow.
Not too far, one of the town cemeteries, a couple of dear ones buried there, plus absurd grass cut with trimmer and mutilated trees, even when there are no electrical wires in sight. Ugly as hell.
I passed by Rovira Funeral Home, visited at least 3 times in my life time...Turned by Fernando Pla street, ugly, desolated but quiet. I remember walking in my childhood by those streets.
Went to visit Winston Copies. The owner used to play ball in El Condado with his long time pal, Gallego. Never considered him a friend, but he was ok. After thirty years, I found out he is still alive and certainly has no idea of whom I am.
Later after a right turn, I reached the Court Building. Ugly, ill kept, smallish with cars parked on the 'green' areas, overgrown Duranta repens,Acaliphas and Cordyline. The structure may remind good observers of a chickencoop.
Not far, across the parking lot, the Government Center, another ugly old, ill kept building, followed by the bus terminal...Third world that is.
Finally passed all that, I reaching our previously impressive city plaza. The decay, vegetation wise started in 1969, when my first published letter denounced the mutilation of the surrounding Ficus. Of the total then, less say 50, perhaps ten survive, sick, waiting for a shot of grace to take them out of their misery.
All this emotion, I did not know then, required a visit to calle Padial, a dear street. 'Las Delicias' , the chosen oasis, a few steps from the legendary Farmacia Betances in the exit to Aguas Buenas City. Refreshed and rested after the 1 1/2 mile stroll, went to a thirty second visit to my former dentist for over 30 years and basketball adolescent mentor, Dr. HectorDavila.
Later, five blocks down, it was the turn of William Montanhez, my hairstylist since I was 17 when he opened his first barber, one chair shop (circa 1969) on Georgetti street in the exit to San Lorenzo City. It was flanked by Santiago and Equis pharmacies.
Montanhez move down here from from Chicago in those years, with no relatives and/or friends, to live for a while in Villa del Rey one of the first ten housing projects in Caguas, responsible for the destruction of the inner city.
With time, he moved the barber shop operatios to a wooden structure with glass windows, painted orange, two blocks to the left of the original, in the same street, but now with ten chairs. In the left corner of the shop there was also one of those joints for beers and fritters with imported ladies.
After that, the shop landed in Ruis Belvis street, some ten years ago. In that corner of Acosta and Georgetti street, where the second barber shop used to be there is now a rather classical ugly four story housing structure.
Montanhez is 74 of age. Has kept his good spirit, quick, alert, wise mind on top of a great sense of humor and kindness. His barber shop is an institution where more than one generation of ladies and gentlemen of el Pais Criollo do their hair.
I finished my last trip to Caguas City in some bar in the photos in Acosta street, not before visiting two former classmates. Morenos's Furniture Store and Francisco Cabanhas Flea Market Store in Georgetti, where Farmacia San Rafael once stood.
Later in Ponce de Leon street aka El Millon, my elementary school Jose de Diego, a shot and chaser in the last of the boricuas joint one corner to the left. Farewell, Savarona, occupied by the foreigners from the west isle.
I did not know it then, but I do now. I have no plans to visit again. It looks and has the same defeated demeanor of Rio Piedras, Santurce and Miramar. Out of every five commercial buildings 3 or 4 are empty, abandoned or desecrated in any direction you look or walk.
Even though my words often demonstrate a steady misanthropy for the collective, during the time I have been writing, there are a few good individuals, men and women, I met through my existence. This is a token of appreciation for their deeds.
Caguas, the town I used to love, now a country, is dead. Walking by those streets feels like the Rip Van Winkle story. As far as I am concerned, this is the burial.
that is that
From the editor
If you noticed the many drugstores mentioned
in this post, you are right. Now that I think of it.
A DAY with a few surprises just went by. In the afternoon it was "Lady in the Lake" a black and white film with one of my favorite characters, Phillip Marlowe. It is dumbfounding to watch such a work of art in terms of photography, acting, direction, dialogue, music and plot.
In the 40's, 50's, 60's movies were something else. For the last fifty years, at least those from Hollywood are mostly crap, remakes and Rocky's with 2,3,4 parts. Now is mostly special effects to the point that movies look more than war video games than real films. Not to get into the rip off scam 3D, the same crap more expensive.
In between, I went to get an echocardiogram, in the Pavia Hospital. The office is atrocious. Computer wires hanging all over the desk. A a loud tv monitor on local news--standard now-- in a rather tiny space. The woman doing it got annoyed when I expressed my surprise when not seeing a monitor hanging in the ceiling with the local news channel;
The ugly, skinny, pale woman responded that is the people selection, not getting the message. Why do we the people, have to watch news from a shitty local channel if there are 100 in cable to pick from.
This brings your humble servant to the tittle. I went to the movies. 'The Great Dictator', with Sacha Borat Cohen. Every film with this actor has the same problem, the story does not flow. It lacks good editing or story writing I do not know what. The point is that if you cut the film it in segments, is still fun to watch thanks to the ethnic jokes and constant use of twisted semantics, upside, inside, and backward meaning/intention of what is said.
Puerto Rico comes to mind. In "The Great Dictaror,' what takes place is a portrait of 3rd world politics and USA, a constant reminder. The scene that best portrays the islanders' frame of mind, not only among politicians, bankers, judges and everyjuan else, is the bearded dictator in his own Olympics (in which he wins 16 gold medals), starting the 100 meter race with the gun in his hand, looking around and shooting anyjuan getting too close, including some of the judges.
When I think of it, I never thought that proletariats, lumpen or not, will be responsible to pay for the chronic stupidity and embezzlement in the majority of significant democracies for the last 15 years by politicians, bankers, lawyers, speculators, stock brokers and the rest.
Back in the studio, I took some pictures beyond the most documented garden in the Caribbean, some at home, to keep the readers posted flower, pets and produce wise.
I am not the most expressive fellow no matter the situation, when tears, sentimentalismo, sadness and the like are not only expected, but demanded.
However, the recent deaths of two pop/disco singers in my age range moved yours truly to express a few thoughts about death. The subject is rarely discussed in the so called social networks, except when finances, funeral arrangements and likewise crap is an opportunity to write.
In the childhood stage two deaths marked your host. The first, in sixth grade. Roberto Velez was his name. Certainly ironic to pass away, squashed by one of those typical yellow buses, moving students in Puerto Rico from the country side to the city.
Roberto's memory is still around. His smile and powerful laugh, was something to envy; particularly if one tends to question if any laugh is worthy of the situation.
Next was Nestor. One of 3 brothers, whose father I was able to see once in a while, in Savarona. I 'knew' him from my visits to the basketball court in that neighborhood, close by the Catholic chapel in a dead end street in the country of Caguas.
His head was smashed with a baseball bat by a fellow named Valentin. Their differences started, in the mentioned court. Nestor was a brilliant basketball and baseball player, as his brothers.
Savarona, a working class vicinity, before the invasion by Dominican islanders, in the 70's was divided culturally, economically and socially by a street called "EL MILLON".
We, living to the east of that chabola, were rich in comparison. To make the story short, at least from my perspective, there was some resentment between those who were closer to the untouchables in India, in terms of living conditions and opportunities, than us. A few houses down their boundaries.
The thing is that young poorer people then used to get into horses for the 'fun' of the riding and else. Playing basketball and horse manure on the surface within the lines are not compatible.
The argument started about them horses shitting on the court. I have no doubts about that, even though 48 years later I declare I was not there. But I used to play ball then and saw them horses around the high grasses.
The thing is, for the record, the hostility between these two segments of the population, the working class with possibilities of a 'better future' and the lumpen good for nothing without it was evident.
One hot afternoon day, I got home from the shitty Jose de Diego elementary with leaking roofs, and heard the news. Nestor was dead at 18, he could not have been older, by the horse loving inner city youth, who got a few years in jail and probation.
48 years went by. DIVA our house companion animal is not doing much better after the original treatment. If you believe in god, LALO was offered to ameliorate the pain of the loss.
I believe all living creatures deserve equal affection. My feelings clash frequently with the masses. At this moment, I can write that flora and fauna are worthy of respect and love.
YET one thing remains clear, when the loved ones are just suffering in pain to prolong their lives with medication and tubes.......is not more 'human' to end their pain and suffering?
LIFE or living is a constant turmoil of decisions. The best way to cut the chase, if there is not much time to debate, is to go Manichean. Black or white without those mostly philosophical, rhetorical and academic grey areas.
Nowadays there is sickening hemorrhage of information about the most stupid and meaningless issues covering the whole living spectrum and possibilities. If you ever knew depression, as in the mental state, these most be the worst of times, since making decisions is one of the biggest obstacles of those embracing it.
Take for example planting or cultivating. What is it that really motivates you? The beauty and fragrance of Plumerias, Gardenias, Mirabilis, Pedilanthus, or the taste and beauty of: cucurbitas, solanaceas and else?
What is it in between, but foliage?
In my case, moons ago when I started down or up this road, my initiation with Cannabis and Ficus pumila were pioneers in the hundreds of plants, trees, bushes I have put me hands on during the last four decades.
I confess to have felt certain superiority for my preferences in the past, versus those edible options that ordinary fools believe are the only creatures worthy of planting. An irritating tendency among those, here, is the disconnection between their little parcels of happiness within the whole concrete/asphalt hellish reality, them bastards are constantly preaching.
If you give me the option of managing a produce store, I will certainly go into flower mode. But this pumpkin got me thinking.
Skills of the planting kind, should be developed to the maximum. The advantage of planting seeds of cucurbitas, those of the night shade family or any other, is that if they survive, you will have something to eat after weeks or months, without any effort in my case.
I do not care for this plant, the flower is attractive and edible. I appreciate it, thank nature for the miracle, and will probably eat it boiled. It is a seasonal conversation piece. But I confess that I just spread the seeds to watch what happens literally. Thanks to Tito Collazo, there is that nice looking creature hanging in the south fence, tendrils grasping tightly my red Hibiscus.
that is that
PD If you wonder why is our star climbing and not prostrated as usual, is that every wall/building cast shadows....this plant does not like that at all.
I JUST counted the dogs in the opposite sidewalk. Eight exactly. Besides their noisy choir when something is not of their liking, two of them are allowed to walk up and down and poop in the sidewalks in front of any house of their liking almost daily.
I bet these dogs eat rice and beans most of the time, forget about dog food. A visit to a veterinary? Forget about that too. Pills and treatment for heart worm, fleas, ticks, teeth and gums disease? Sorry. Never heard of it.
Now these are dogs, pets with a roof! Imagine all those people throw in the streets, any highway, or from a bridge as they did notoriously in Barceloneta, a couple of years ago.
What is the big deal? Well, if you are of the good heart persuasion let the record show good deeds cost money, time and committment no matter the cause.
Lalo, visited the vet for the first time yesterday. Weights 29 pounds, is about a year old and has a somewhat weird disease.
Canine Ehrlichiosis is the name, a blood disease, caused by one of those insects fond of dogs. Anyone could notice something is wrong with any dog with it. His breath is just like a cadaver within.
Lalo was checked and treated for this and other common dog diseases. We are all fortunate, dogs and humans, it was discovered on time, otherwise he could have bleed to death in more than one way.
Now this is just part of the picture. People without introspection will constantly suggest from their monitor, to adopt pets either from the street or animal shelters. There are other issues, dog piss and poop, how do you deal with it. Fortunately I use the solid for them plants in the south garden.
Both Diva our senior and Lalo use the same area for their water closet needs, making the cleaning easier. But if anyjuan thinks out of an impulse, and irrational feelings of humanity to adopt an animal without the considerations above, his/her life and that of the neighbors will be a miserable one. Any pet will probably land in the streets. Why will you guess there are over 100, 000 stray dogs in Puerto Rico, never mind cats and green iguanas.
Did I mention money? Well, that first visit and treatment, with an honest and reliable vet, who has treated Diva for years, not a scam artist--like all periodontists--charged the equivalent of over a week salary at minimum wages, you do the numbers.
Gardening is not different. If you can not propagate plants you will have to buy them creatures. Plus, irrigate, fertilize, and treat for diseases. It makes no difference if you are the container kind or grounds gardener.
Pets and gardening demand commitment, time, money and energy. To pick up poop and weeding require good knees and back...To be in shape, if you are not, maybe, you should forget about it. Watch tv or go for a stroll.
In conclusion, gardening and pets require deep/wide considerations before hand, not after. However the consequences of losing interest in one of the two, is cruel and unfair. To throw your animals away when bored, unwilling to follow through.
SOMEkinds of people, collect and/or adopt colored children, yet is rare to see colored people acting accordingly with white/pasty likewise. Others, enjoy, preach, write preferably in a monitor--feisbuk is a classical spot-- about animal abuse, inviting to adopt, the environment, pollution, recycling, but only as worth of mouth.
Other people act, without much preaching and posing. Lalo is a mostly white sweet, friendly guy with a twisted tail. About a month ago he appeared out of the blue, with a remarkable alert disposition, across the street, in front of our house, in heat, in a futile attempt to conquer Dalila, Tito Collazo's dog pony featured previously with Diva, our own senior dog.
He was pretty clean and healthy. The reason became evident two weeks ago when things turned against him. The bastards living six houses up our street, threw him out. His frequent visits were reduced to zero, almost unable to walk. Me wife tricked him yesterday to visit our home with steak.
Diva our senior companion had met him before the way dogs are accustomed with the smelling of private parts, friendly and curious stares, when he dropped by our sidewalk before or after checking out Dalila, the impossible dream. Since his arrival, they have played and explore the playgrounds...Our senior runs faster at 80, than Lalo. She can fetch, he can not...But Lalo does something Messi like, when the balls drop, he stops it with the right or left leg. Believe it or not.
Lalo's abysmal capacity to show affection equals the intense rancor I feel towards most people, not in the abstract, but in reality, when thinking of all the abuse taking place in the world, not only against all animals unable to make decisions beyond their limited instincts, but all flora and fauna, air, water and soil.
Here is Lalo, before and after his first shower at home. Welcome four legged friend!
BONUS POST FOR THE PEOPLE
Last night, while keeping company to our new companion, with a little firewater, Maria Muldaur's, Midnight at the Oasis, I I sat in the opposite side of these pots. The one at left is a grafted lemon. To the right, is some kind of fruit, with a cranberry taste that me cultist, adventist and avaricious sister gave yours truly when we were in speaking terms 36 months ago.
Observing the silhoutte in the dark, I noticed in the scaffolding of the second, the similarity with pines in Zen gardens with bamboo tied to their branches to force shapes and peculiar drops, often seen in bonsai.
Considering the beauty and size, wondering if it was time to change pots I decided to follow through. Check the pictures.
ONEfeisbuk friend inquired about the popular name of some plant from those cold/template countries a few days ago. Yours truly with a typical response: No idea, is out of my ecoregion. But being the curious character I am, I wondered since the little white hanging down flowers in the photo were familiar.
How to solve the matter? Catalogs! Most people buy their plants from catalogs and nurseries. I used to subscribe to quite a few until I realized beside the exposition to this or that in the north east, south, west of USA, the knowledge is useless since most or all, require that winter cold to survive and thrive. And I live in Puerto Rico.
Convallaria majalis. The plant is on page 53, on Brent and Becky's Bulbs, 2009, catalog. I felt some satisfaction.The story is that she remembered this plant since her childhood in Europe, now living in Argentina. To finish the anecdote, her interest in a popular name, was not resolved. Many plants have no popular names, and it seems they have one particular name or more, in every country it grows.
Back to the studio, we in the third, shall move now to the books review department. Not me review, but relevant. The story above created the following. After that search, the call of the printed page surged and I started looking at Fine Gardening of June 2000 and Horticulture, October 2001.
Growing home: Stories of Ethnic Gardeningby Susan Davis Price, with photographs by John Gregor (University of Minnesota Press; 196 pages) will perhaps become a garden history reference,
if only to illustrate how much American gardening changed in the postwar period. It profiles 31 Minnesotan gardeners who have imported the plants and horticultural traditions of their native or ancestral lands. They include John Maire from the Sudan, who encourages fellow Americans to rejoin communal life through a group farm, and Minnesota native Kevin Oshima, who strengthens his link to his Japanese heritage through the art of bonsai.
An impressive diversity of ethnic backgrounds is presented, but Price has chosen to emphasize the similarities of these gardeners more than
their differences. Most of the people Price interviewed come from lands far warmer than Minnesota, and they struggle to grow their familiar crops in a northern climate, just as they struggle with emotional displacement. Gardening seems more intrinsic to their original cultures than their new one. Nearly half the people in this book grow or collect plants for medicine. Most also garden organically and are keenly aware of the nutritional value of their produce.
Although some of their techniques and crops differ, their feelings about the emotional rewards of gardening have much in common.
One Chinese-born woman said that gardening made her feel alive again after a long day of office work. Struggling to survive in our fast-paced and largely artificial culture, these people restore their sense of balance through their connection to the earth.
I made a video clip recently, depicting
a foreign security guard in our enemy's parking lot. Not many people
bothered to watch it, even though I mailed it to maybe 60 people.
spiritual friend from a dusty, almost totally forgotten adolescent past
sent some feed back. Instead of offering some useful insight, the way
readers, (some), expect from yours truly, the person in question
suggested as in a inquiry fashion: 'Why don't you move to the country
side? You will never beat Sagrado Corazon. They are many, powerful and
you are only one'...in addtion to other similar advice in that train of
thought, typical of people who had lived ostrich like, with them head
below the surface, when the time to fight for one's rights arrive.
WHEN I think of it..I
feel just like my icon. The head blowing up in a burst of restrained
anger. How can any one look at some images and instead of feeling some
solidarity, just for one a minute, feel the urge to suggest that one run
away from the problem. Absurd, is not it.
reminds me that somejuan once said that becoming a saint is not that
difficult if you live by yourself in some cave as some weird monks did
in the past and others still do. What would I criticize if I follow
such silly recommendations. Where would my humble bragging rights with
the most document garden in the Caribbean land, go?
takes us in the third to recent events of the photographic kind in
your favorite garden. I think it was on Sunday.. I climbed the ladder
and took some aerial views of the south and west garden. For the first
time I felt a strange sensation of accomplishment. It was a pleasant
moment to remember, since I have been at this for a while. Most of the
time it is like a never ending work in progress. Not any more.
thing to finish. I visit this site from Spain often, since they had the
courtesy of writing a review with photos of your favorite a while a
go. Well, they recently presented a competition to find the best
looking garden in that region. To my surprise, there is not much new
to learn, observe. Check it out. Be the judge.
YESTERDAY, I received a silly comment regarding my reaction to a new law in Holland, banning foreigners from smoking herb in their coffee shops for that purpose.
I shared out of my good heart my own discrimination rule to determine If I buy a drink in some establishments or not. It is a matter of diplomacy. Now I ask before ordering if the owner is native or imported, unless is really obvious, in which case none of this takes place. Since they have a peculiar speech melody, I know after a few phonemes, and hit the road without much thought,.
My rarely displayed irritation blew up when looking at the term xenophobe. I am not, if you check the definition, one of them for a simple reason. I know what I am talking/writing about and willing to go to a duel virtual or real about my position on emigration.
The woman in question lives in Vieques a territory of Puerto Rico. She mentioned something about hurt, as if my comments hurt. I am not sure if she is the one hurt of those occupying Santurce, I am sick of them.
The silly lady used the worst possible argument to defend her position and attack mine. The Puerto Rican Diaspora it is called now. Being citizens by USA imposition since 1917, an honor for many, with the right to become canon fodder in the I WW, the isle natives have been migrating as agricultural pawns to places as far as Hawaii and the north east coast to pick this or that since the 1900's.
I mentioned the Mexicans. That wall, just like the one the Israelites have built to protect their territory, seems absurd to your humble servant. After all Mexico was one half of the USA. One does not need a Harvard degree to understand they were made foreigners in their own territory where they have lived long before the guys in the Mayflower arrived to America the Beautiful.
In France, Holland, Australia, Switzerland the government have been moving to a zero tolerance to impositions of any kind, religious or cultural from these hordes looking for their 'better future'.
In the first, women will not be allowed to walk in public with those rags in their heads the same way in their country of origin western women can not show this or that and have to cover their hair in public.
In Australia the government told them emigres of the Islamist persuasion, sorry, if you do not like it here, move along, you are not going to impose upon us your religious and after life believes. I think I posted the whole thing. And I would add, an we certainly did not invite you.
Now for the record.
In NATURE, emigration of flora and fauna takes place constantly. The fauna in all elements migrate in search of food and warmth as season demands in every continent. Almost everyjuan comes and goes, sometimes traveling 10,000 miles each way, in water, air, land.
With humans is a little different. People migrate for different reasons, at least, that is their explanation. Politics, freedom of speech or this or that, religion, poverty or the damned 'better future'.
Emigres of the last persuasion become cheap labor in every continent, exploited, persecuted, kidnapped or killed if they do not pay ransom as in Mexico, China and other places. I could go on an on but let finish with this.
My beef with emigrants anywhere, at home, is that if those illiterate with/without college degrees, mostly black or even blonde/blue eyes, have to migrate for their cliched 'better future' I will accept that. Will tolerate it. What I WILL NOT, is their whole noisy family occupying our territory illegally. Wife, children, grandparents, uncles, cousins and nieces, Screw them!
Every time I discuss this thorny issue, most people without guts, vision and references, refuse to get into the essential matter, overpopulation in poor countries. Birth control, abortion rights is never part of the spectrum.
What never fails are those humanist types, with their Bayer panacea: education and equal distribution of wealth.
Contrary to fauna and flora in nature, people who migrate refuse to return to their original cradle. Even if the situation in their country as those in Puerto Rico from Quisqueya, in terms of economy, is better according to their own president.
Lets see...Universidad Sagrado Corazon, the money making, third rate college institution, over rated and over charging for credit. It is only important among the students, staff,
president, dean, those making profits.
The community gets in return, 3 kinds of pollution. Noise, fumes, food stench, and iluminary contamination.
USC pollutes perfectly. With total impunity and pride.
Air with diesel/gas -1,200 cars daily, plus delivery trucks, trimmers, lawnmowers-food stench, Noise with teachers unable to modulate, constantly hollering, students, air conditioning chillers, concerts in the basketball court, noise in the swimming pool water filters motors.
Let the record show, this institution is not the only one guilty or ruining the quality of life for our community with all kinds of pollution. Some individuals, natives and imported ones are also in this bag. The majority are of the illegal persuasion, working as handyman.
Attempts to solve these issues with Department of Health, Board of Environmental Quality