Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Bookfield, Life on the Bookfield

I remember waking up in the morning at the Epps’ house. A huge white pine grew outside our window, and a mocking bird who sat in that tree would start singing at sunrise. That is how I awoke. I usually was so fatigued from the previous day, that I had slept soundly and was ready for the new day. This all happened in the rosy part of the morning before I’d realize that I had to go out and knock on doors. Nothing spoils a mood like that. Nowadays, when I get up for work and feel sorry for myself, I try to remember what knocking on doors was like.

I learned a couple of things on the bookfield very quickly. Once, when I gave my approach, the man who had answered the door did not understand what I said. He called his wife to help him out. I was at a loss, so I tried to slow my delivery by a factor of two or three. They understood me then, although I thought I sounded comical, and noted that I was a Yankee. After slowing the tempo of my words, a drawl came almost naturally. I was using a drawl consistently by the middle of my second week, “Hai there miss-us Jones, mah name is Su-san Fair-vieeew, and Ah’ve been callin’ on aull the church folks in the neigh-bor-hood, Jus wan-ted to come bah an see yeew. Y’all dew go to some lo-cal church, don’t cha?” I can still do it now, albeit after a couple of drinks and plenty of prodding.

The drawl worked wonders, but folks could still spot me right off as a Yankee. For many I was the first New Yorker they had ever seen. I decided to capitalize on that recognition. I went to a local five-and-dime and bought a New York Yankees logo baseball cap in black felt with white letters. I’d tuck my shoulder length dirty blond hair into it. It kept the sun off my head and the bugs out of my teeth, but most of all it was my trademark. I never left the house without that cap.

I was able to get into almost any house I wanted just by knocking on the door and using the Parchment approach with drawl delivery.

It was just as easy to get drinks or food. It started when I realized that if Mrs. Jones would not buy a book, she would feel guilty, and would give me something to make up for it. The company told us that we needed to drink 10 ounces of fluid at least every hour in the heat. So I would start by asking for a glass of water. Typically, Mrs. Jones would then offer a soda, iced tea or food. I’m thin enough that many times Mrs. Jones would say, “You must be hungry!”

We were also trained to offer a quarter to Mrs. Jones for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich if we were hungry. This humiliating phrase worked every time, but was only required in the most desperate of situations. During the summer, most housewives were canning or putting up something. I would say, “Mmmm, smells good. What is that?” Mrs. Jones would take it from there, “Oh, you’re a Yankee, you’ve never had real southern fried chicken.”, or, “homemade succotash”, or, “my fresh peach pie”, or, “sausage and biscuits”, or, “fried okra”, or, “venison stew... Let me fix you a plate.” If I really wanted to make sure to taste Mrs. Jones” cooking I would say, “Well I did try that down the street at Mrs. Smith’s...” Mrs. Jones would always respond hastily with, “But you haven’t tasted real southern fried chicken until you’ve tried mine.” She might even make a gratuitous stab at Mrs. Smith’s cooking, housekeeping, or child rearing and that was always entertaining.

I tried to reward a paying customer by not hitting them up for food. But some of these people were just plain hospitable and offered food. It was rude to turn them down. They took real pleasure in it.

The biggest number of meals I ate gratis in one day was eight. That is not to say I couldn’t have gotten more, but that it was all I could eat in one day. I never went thirsty either. During the summer I put an additional 15 pounds on my five foot, four inch, 100 pound frame in spite of the increased activity from bicycling around the county. After a while, I really had no need to buy food.

But I did treat myself to pancakes at a diner at ‘five points’ (local name for the intersection of five roads in my territory) for breakfast that was at a halfway point some 5 miles out of Athens. Their cakes were too good to resist, and really fired me up in the morning. Sometimes I would get a bite to eat when I got back home at nine or ten o’clock in the evening. I became known for my eating ability, and would order a medium size pizza or four to five hamburgers for myself and consume them. Fortunately, the MacDonald’s on Prince Avenue was having a summer Olympics promotional game. With food you got cards with names of Olympic events. If the USA won a gold , silver and/or bronze medal(s) in that event the card was redeemable for free food. For example, the bronze earned a soda, while a gold medal would get a burger. The waitresses came to know me after a while and they would give me handfuls of cards at each visit. The USA did very well at the ‘76 Montreal Summer Olympics, and in no time I was eating free at MacDonald’s too.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Singapore, Day 5 - II, Jurong Bird Park

I took a taxi from the Zoological Gardens to the Jurong Bird Park. I never knew there were so many types of parrots and while they were placed on me, squabbling amongst each other alarmingly, I had my picture taken.

Pelicans were loose in the Park and one started following me as I proceeded to their enclosure. He then flew up onto a fence right next to me and demanded that I take his portrait. So I did. What I didn’t know was that it was pelican feeding time. A man with several large blue buckets filled with fish walked up and began the pelican feeding frenzy. Um, they can move fast for big birds. I was glad I did not resemble a fish. Just an observation, but they have really big, sharp beaks. Ever noticed that? I actually had to move out of the way. The keeper threw fish into the water for some of the less dominant birds. I ran out of film and it began to drizzle.

I moved on to the small parrot cages and saw parrots, lorries, keets, love birds, conures and more in all colors. It was rather easier to tell them apart when there were signs to help even though I am a birder back home. Duh. I do know what love birds look like.

Then I went to the bird enclosure (netted area) that had a beautiful waterfall and it began to rain a bit harder. It got darker out and then it was difficult to spot the brightly colored birds and I wasn’t sure my pictures would come out. I could feel that rain was imminent and there was no shelter there, so I moved on.

I went on to the hornbill exhibit when the pouring rain started. Fortunately there was a monsoon shelter arch in front of the enclosure. So, it was just me bonding with the hornbills in the monsoon. The rain was coming straight down with such a force that the splatter alone carried it far into the arch (10 feet or so - 3 meters) at each end. I had to put my camera away to keep it dry and stand in the very middle of the arch to keep dry myself. Fifteen minutes later the rain was just hard again. If you’ve never experienced a monsoon, you’ve never seen how hard rain can get.

I left the relative dryness of the enclosure and got wet to see the scarlet ibis, crested cranes and roseate spoonbills. I got my feet wet in the sopping grass shooting those. I also saw toucans and birds of paradise.

Now, with very wet feet, I completed the path noticing a fine koi pond on my way out.
I took a taxi back to my hotel. While there, the phone rang and it was the tour company saying that tomorrow's one day tour of the fishing village of Kucup and Orchid Valley in Malaysia was cancelled due to lack of interest, so a bit crestfallen, I booked the one to Johor Baru instead. I really had my heart set on seeing that fishing village and the orchids.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Bookfield, Pervert

I started with a small white house under some pretty white pines. An old man opened the door and I was let in. The house looked shabby, and his clothes were worn. I decided to pitch the Bible Dictionary. He listened intently to my demo, and asked me to look up some things from his favorite scriptures. Other folks who heard the Bible Dictionary demonstration had asked me to look up words before. I took this to mean that the old man was interested in the book. Indeed a bit later he said that wanted to buy the book, and offered to give me the total price in cash as a down payment. Then he whispered something that I didn’t catch, and I asked him to repeat it.

He said, “Would you like to come sit on my lap now? Come on sweetie, no one will know, and I surely won’t tell...”

“No, thank you sir...” I offered respectfully, as I wondered to myself just what kind of weirdo this was.

“Don’t worry. Just sit right here on my lap. I won’t hurt you.” He was persistent, but there was no way I was leaving. I smelled a sale! I managed to write the order and get his money even though he came and sat next to me and put his hand on my thigh. I moved to another chair, and continued to close him out. By the time my job was done and his money was in my pocket, he was literally chasing me around the furniture. I ran out of the house, and a good way further, in case he was still chasing. I continued to knock on the doors Gregg had counted out for me. I did one other demo and that was all.

Soon enough, Gregg’s car came down the road, and I got in.

“Hey! You were right about this territory. I sold a Bible Dictionary at that little white house under the pines.” By coincidence we were driving right past the house as I told him. “But you wouldn’t believe how perverted this old guy was. He was trying to get me to sit on his lap, and by the time I got his cash he was chasing me around the house.”

“What are, nuts? As soon as anything weird happened you should have run out of there! God only knows what he could have done to you.” he said in a suddenly protective manner. He shook his head and lectured, “First of all Sue, you must never, ever, go into a house if a man is there alone in it. You can try to get him to come outside, or ask to speak to the lady of the house, but don’t go in there!” Gregg continued, “You were crazy to stay in there with that guy giving you a hard time like that. I won’t make you go back there to deliver the book, just give me the slip, I’ll deliver this order, and you keep the money. I can’t believe you did that.” He shook his head to emphasize the point. “I think we’ll drive to your territory now.”

I was touched by the way Gregg was looking out for me, but perplexed that he did not see his own behavior as similar to the old man’s. I was glad that he was willing to make the delivery and I did not to have to return to the house at the end of the summer.

I told Gregg about the Cedar Shoals neighborhood, and he was eager to see it. Once there, the first door we knocked on was answered by an Asian woman. Gregg made his approach while I watched, but the lady looked spooked by the two of us. She responded to the ‘local church’ part though and muttered she attended on Prince Avenue.

“Oh yes, Prince Baptist Church? I was at their prayer meeting last Thursday. You must know Mrs. Franklin.” I piped up. Gregg looked stunned, but the lady smiled and opened the door for us immediately. Gregg gave a good demo but could not sell a book there. The Asian lady kept flying squirrels as pets and I had never seen one. Who knew they were kept as pets? They were interesting and cute. She said that sometimes she would let them out of their cages to swoop around the house.

Once outside, Gregg said, “It’s great that you knew about that church. If it wasn’t for that she never would have let us in. Actually she looked pretty suspicious of us at the beginning. You’ve learned a lot about ‘getting in the door”. You’re a pushy bitch too. You’ll get in a lot of doors that way. You’ll do fine on your own now.”

I smiled at the ‘pushy bitch’ remark and thanked him for the complement. Had he said it in kind of a joking manner? He didn’t seem to mean anything by it. We got back in the car and left Cedar Shoals. Gregg dropped me where I had left off selling on Friday. I was glad to be on my own again.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Fairview Outlook

This week, I would like to thank The Pretty Boys Club/Join Us or Die Ugly for linking my site under "Hot Guys Link US". Pretty funny if you ask me. Gabe and Damien's site is very humorous, right now their banner reads, "Yes, we feel pretty and witty and gay." So visit them and here is a pretty boy just for them:

Spring is trying to be sprung here at Fairview. The snowdrops are finally up. Why don't they call them snowdrips? That's what they look like in my garden, and I think it is funnier sounding. Anyhow, here are some snowdrips courtesy of the other half of my zygote over at garden fool:

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Bookfield, Parking Lot

Gregg and Bill, whose territory was north of ours offered to give us a ride back that night. Also, Gregg offered to give me some training on Monday. Bill was a sturdy fellow with wiry blond hair and a trollish, yet attractive, face. I was hoping to get home early from the meeting to rest up for the coming week, but we didn’t end up leaving until nearly midnight on Sunday. After driving until 1:00 AM, Gregg pulled the car over into a parking lot.

“Phew! I’ll tell you. I’m all in. I don’t think I can drive another mile without falling asleep. I just have to pull over and get some shut eye.” said Gregg. “Bill, are you awake enough to drive?”

“No. I was already asleep when you pulled over, and that woke me up. It’s okay with me if we sleep a little first. Unless one of you girls would like to take the wheel.”

“Neither of us drive.” said Mary.

“Are you sure you can’t drive any more? We’re only about an hour outside of Athens, aren’t we?” I tried to be the voice of reason. I just couldn’t believe that they wanted to stop here.

“Well, Bill and I are just too tired to go on, and you two don’t drive. What would you have me do?” answered Gregg.

Mary seemed accepting of all this, but I was upset. “Where in the hell are we going to sleep?” I asked.

“I’ve got two blankets in the trunk and we could lay them out and sleep on the parking lot.”

I had no money, having remitted all of it, and there weren’t even any cars going by to hitch a ride with. I felt trapped.

Mary and I walked a block to a nearby house and squatted and peed in their bushes. There was much giggling and nervousness. Urinating outside was a first for her, although I had done it before with my best friend during a sleep over, when we went outside and climbed a tree and peed from there. Still it was new enough to be worth giggling over.

Meanwhile the guys laid out the blankets in parking spaces and lay down. Upon our return, it was made clear that I was to sleep on Gregg’s blanket, and Mary was to sleep on Bill’s. This was such an obvious set up that I was angry enough to spit. I tried the back seat of the car, but it was too hot and the seat was short and had a big bump in the middle. I lay down on the blanket facing away from Gregg. A few moments later he tapped my shoulder, and when I turned he gave me a little kiss. “You know, I don’t bite”, he said in a bedroom tone. I rolled away from him.

Boy was that parking lot uncomfortable. I have a hard time falling asleep sometimes as it is. I told Gregg and he offered for me to sleep on top of him. I was so uncomfortable that I tried it. I did, with my back to his front. I’m sure he appreciated it, but I still wasn’t comfortable enough to sleep so I got off.

We awoke (I really didn’t sleep a wink) well before sunrise on Monday morning. We dropped off Bill and Mary in Bill’s territory. Gregg and I drove towards Athens on back roads. When eight o’clock rolled around, we weren’t close to my territory yet, but Gregg saw some ‘prime’ territory and wanted to sell some books for the deposit money. He counted out five or six houses for me, and left me on the road, saying that he would return to pick me up before I could finish them.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Singapore, Day 5 - I, Zoological Gardens

While at the Tanglin Mall, I had noticed a Deli France and went there for breakfast the next morning. Finally, good strong coffee! I also had a chocolate croissant.

Then I took a taxi to the Singapore Zoological Gardens and bought a green batik printed umbrella since I was not sure I would be back to my hotel before that day’s monsoon. The zoo was very nice as one can get very close to the animals. Blue vultures and pea hens wandered free on the paths. There were lots of little primates loose in the trees, such as cotton headed tamarins.

I watched a very funny snake show. As I recall, volunteers were gathered from the audience and had non-venomous snakes piled onto them, and of course there was a plant from the audience who freaked out and fell into the pool, it was really humorous. Hey, I was lonely. There was also an elephant show. Later in the day, they were moving the elephants back to their enclosure and went right by me. That was interesting. I don’t get to be around such big animals much.

I took pictures of flat cat on the meerkat and tiger signs; time to send him home now. I like the meerkats best. They were definitely the cutest. This colony is especially successful, so there are just tons of them. Actually, the sheer number is a bit scary. “But I just want one, Mommy, really, just one to pet.”

I also liked the kookaburras, cobras, leopards, white tigers, red mongooses. The tiger looked into my camera flash and I got his eye shine.

There were also ominous looking black spitting cobras displayed behind Plexiglas, thank god, and ‘friendly’ seeming honey bears (Malaysian sun bears).

I also enjoyed the butterfly and snake enclosure, where those animals are loose. A butterfly could come and land on you. Of course that makes them really difficult to photograph; you just about have to shoo them away to get a picture. One landed on my toe, but flew off before I could snap the photo. The snakes are all in the trees and hard to spot at first. But then you can see all of them and they are everywhere. So, the only camera angle is shooting up.

There was a very touristy set up to have one’s picture taken with an orangutan for S$16, but I passed on that. He would even help you eat your lunch. Gross.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Bookfield, First Sales Meeting

On Saturday night I dutifully completed my sales report, carefully noting my whopping one and only sale, and sealed all of my cash into the remittance envelope. The guys selling books in Oconee County, South of us, picked Mary and me up on Sunday morning and we drove to the sales meeting at a hotel in Marietta, north of Atlanta.

I thought that it would be great fun to go to the meeting. I figured that it would be instructional and supportive for us hard working folks. How bad could it be? At least we would not be asked to recite demonstrations. The meeting was held in a large conference room of the Marriott Hotel, just like other conventions are. I’d say there were about 100 people there. Everyone was smiling and Mary and I sat in the middle of the audience. The song, Me and Mrs. Jones [we got a thing going on] as sung by Billy Paul, was playing on the house audio system. I guess it was the Parchment theme song.

As I recall, after our welcome from Robbie, individual sales people were asked to stand up and reveal their sales total for the week. If they had sold well, they were to explain how they accomplished this. Pity the soul who did not have a good week, however, because they were publicly chastised. It was all planned. The management had seen the totals from our sales statements and orchestrated these ‘testimonials’. Again, I found myself dreading being called on.

Apparently, Mary had sold really well in her first week. She was asked to stand to report her first week’s total, which she did, and she managed to give a very politic reason, “I just followed my training!” Every one applauded, including me. I was really proud of her, and she gave me hope that I could do the same.

A young man was called on next and his total was not as impressive as Mary’s. Robbie snapped, “Hey! A girl sold better than you! Ha, ha, ha!” Everyone in the room laughed at the young man. “What are you going to do to improve your performance?” quipped Robbie.

The poor guy sputtered, “Um, I’m going to rededicate myself to doing my demonstrations and I’m going to really ‘want’ the sale!” There was a telltale hesitation and pain in his voice. He was caught off guard and humiliated. His answer was like spitting into the wind.

I just kind of died inside. How could they humiliate someone who was out there trying! And, if that wasn’t enough, Mary and I were the only women in the room, and obviously we ‘girls’ were not expected to sell as well as the men. If by chance we did, it would be used to chastise the men. My sales meeting bubble burst; I never wanted to go to another. But, attendance was required and this was only the first of many. I was grateful not to be called on that day. Was my week that bad compared to the others?

Later, I congratulated Mary on her great week and asked her if she could give me any tips. She was completely unhelpful, although not for lack of good intentions. She said that she herself did not understand the reason for her success. All she had done was use the demonstrations as written.

The rest of the day we were free to socialize and swim in the hotel’s pool. Most of the guys really let off steam. They acted out as if drunk, but I don’t think they were. I can’t say that I was in a party mood. I felt a little stunned. It was going to be a long summer.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Singapore, Day 4 - II, Holland Village

I took a taxi to Holland Village. What a fire trap! I used to be a safety person so let me tell you: no exit signs, narrow corridors, crowds of people, no sprinkler system, and flammable materials everywhere. It was like a rabbit warren chock full of rabbits. Deep breaths, try to calm myself, think nothing will happen, aum, aum, aum… Geez, this place got me meditating!

Quick survey, lots of ceramics shops, all full of junk. Okay, time to get out and eat. Once outside I noticed something else about Singapore; I wouldn’t want to be in a wheelchair here. Sidewalks are treacherous even for the able bodied. Here I came upon a deep drainage ditch between the two walks that was unavoidable, too wide to leap, too narrow to climb down into and back up out of, and could only be traversed by walking over a narrow cement plank (12 inches, 30.5 centimeters) that joined the two walks; no railings in sight of course. I guess that since there are monsoons, there is the need for quite a lot of drainage to handle the water. I must say that while here, I have not seen a puddle, even though we get scads of rain daily. Sometimes sidewalk safety is sacrificed for flood safety. Nothing’s always perfect (the one pictured is).

I ate lunch at a noodle shop and had chicken with bok choy and noodles. It was a bit greasy and had too much soy sauce but was okay. I also had weak lemonade.

Next I went to the outdoor covered market and found koi for sale. I was so excited that I took pictures. My assessment: colors were good, patterns were common. Went to Hagen Daaz and bought a cone to cool me down.

Went back into the ‘fire trap’ and found the linen store. I introduced myself to the lady proprietor and bought two pillow shams and a runner made from used silk sari material (see picture). They look gorgeous in my house but were not cheap. I also bought one block printed silk scarf (rose with navy blue print), three roller printed silk chiffon scarves (navy blue, rose, and black) that are truly beautiful and two cheap bags made in India for my nieces. The nice lady gave me a 10% discount and advised me to go back to Little India as gold was now S$16 per ounce down from S$18 it was recently. I might just consider that.

I took that taxi back to my hotel and decided to rest my back this afternoon. I took a hot bath and my back really hurt.

I could hear music from my room. I went out to investigate and found a band shell in the Botanical Garden offering Free Jazz in the Park. The band was from the US and was very good. I sat on the grass and listened as I enjoy jazz.

Then I crossed the street to the Tanglin Mall (decked out for Christmas as in the picture) and bought Panadol (Tylenol for those of you from the US – see my background in pharmaceuticals comes in handy now and then) for my back. While in the mall I had chicken and rice in a clay pot. It was so-so as one might expect from mall food. It had something unidentifiable in it. The place was mobbed and most of the people were eating noodles from steel pots, and theirs had unidentifiable stuff in it too (only fair).

I bought groceries, fruit and cookies. This store has gala apples, but then on second thought of course they do, galas come from Australia. The selection is better than at home: OB tampons, Friskies buffet, you name it (varieties of feminine hygiene products and pet foods are my arbitrary measure of sophistication of grocery store products when I am on the road). Plus they had Asian and European brands not available at home. There was one display case just for lox.

That night, I took a gram of Panadol and slept like a baby.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Bookfield, Prince Baptist Church

As I came around one block the houses appeared to be newer, and some were quite large. It was an affluent area. One door that I knocked on was answered by a Spanish speaking maid. I asked to see the lady of the house. She was summoned by intercom. I really didn’t think I’d get into this house at all. The lady of the house, Mrs. Franklin, was elegant looking in her caftan and cloth turban. Her brunette hair peeked out of the material. She was fortyish, I suppose. When I said the part of the approach about church folks, she perked up and said, “You’re probably here because my husband, Bobbie, is an elder of Prince Baptist.”

“Prince Baptist, I was at their prayer meeting this morning!”

“Well, come right in honey.” she chimed. She led me through an impressively decorated house. We went through the foyer, the living room and at least three parlors before we came to the back sun room where she sat with a drink that looked like a mint julep. The maid got me an iced tea.

“I’m sure you’ve heard all about Bobbie, um, Mr. Franklin. He’s been a church elder for over twenty years, and he’s on the city council. He’s raised the more money in charity events than anyone in town. Of course Prince Baptist has the biggest congregation in Athens, so that’s an advantage. Of course when we joined Prince Baptist it was much smaller. The congregation has nearly quadrupled since then, and you guessed it, Bobbie was an integral part of attracting folks to our church through business and personal contacts. You know, we do want as many of the ‘right’ people as possible.”

“I know what you mean.” I said, giving her the stock answer to any statement, that I learned in my sales training. I wasn’t exactly sure who the ‘right’ people were. I was afraid she meant white and or affluent folks, but did not think that asking her to be specific was a good idea. She seemed unstoppable in her monologue. I thought that I might learn interesting or useful things about the locale from her, and it certainly was a pleasant setting, and a very refreshing glass of brewed iced tea. So, I let her continue.

“Will you be in town long? You could join our church. You are saved aren’t you? Well of course you are, you already told me that you went to the prayer breakfast.”

I nodded agreeably. It was a lie, but it seemed like the thing to do. I didn’t want to create a problem by being honest.

“Our summer picnic is in July and you should come! You could meet my Bobbie. There will be nice young men who have accepted Christ there. You’re not married yet are you dear?”

“Um, no. The picnic sounds great, I’ll be there.” I said. More free food. I couldn’t turn it down. Besides, there could be lots of people to get interested in the books, or maybe just to make contacts with. I tried as subtly as I could to bring the conversation to a demonstration, but as soon as the topic was switched to why I was there, Mrs. Franklin looked down at the floor. She politely listened to the Family Bible Library demonstration, but had the maid usher me out as soon as would not be considered rude. I completed my required number of demonstrations, but didn’t sell anymore books that afternoon.

Mrs. Franklin’s neighbor’s house was next. I knocked on the door, and stood back. The woman who answered the door was young, well dressed and African-American. She let me in. We sat in the living room and it was immediately apparent that they were new to this affluent neighborhood, as some of their stuff was still in boxes. Her husband was home and joined us. They had no children yet, and didn’t seem very interested in the books. They kept looking at each other, confiding something that I wasn’t getting. “So, you guys just moved in?”

“Yes.”, the man replied.

“How do you like the neighborhood?”

The knowing looks resumed between them, and the wife began to cry. “That’s the problem you see. We don’t feel welcome at all here. The neighbors shun us, and we can’t join Prince Baptist. You should see the looks we get. We are considering moving, but to where? My husband got this great job so that we can afford this kind of place, and there aren’t any upscale neighborhoods for blacks here in Athens. When we have kids, we want them to attend the good schools here and grow up in a nice place. There is no such place here in town. Frankly, we don’t know what to do.” Her husband looked at her with concern and understanding, and then tears began to run down his face also.

He offered, “It’s not like anyone has burnt crosses on our lawn, or any overt bigoted thing like that, its just we don’t feel included in any way.”

I lowered my head and sighed. It was all so sad. “I know it’s really bigoted here in the South and I don’t know what I can tell you, except that I know what you mean and I feel for you.” Then, I began to cry softly for using a stock line to indicate that I commiserated with them. We all cried together for a while. The last I could offer them was that they could move to the North. I left the house and I could hear them still sobbing softly together.

Mary and I finally got to stay in our rented room on Thursday night. What a delight to have someplace to call home.

Some days later, still in the affluent neighborhood, on a bright and sunny afternoon, an obese man drove up behind me in a ’76 white Cadillac convertible with a red interior. His fingers glittered with gemstone rings. He eyed me and pulled over to speak with me. He introduced himself as Bobbie. I spoke with him a bit, and figured out that he was Mrs. Franklin’s husband without him telling me. He told me that he would give me his diamond pinky ring if I got into the Caddy with him. I declined and rode off.

Okay, so summing up, Mrs. Franklin was an alcoholic, Mr. Franklin, the church elder was a whoring fat man, and nobody in the neighborhood or their church liked blacks, unless they were ‘somebodies’. These self proclaimed Christians were all racist, sex mongering, drunk, hypocrites. Great neighborhood to live in; great church to belong to. And I did not tell a soul.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Singapore, Day 4 - I, Botanical & Orchid Gardens

I woke rested at 6 AM the following morning. I planned to take it easy and only walk the one

block from my hotel to the Botanical Gardens.

As I entered the gardens, there was a solitary man performing Tai Chi on top of a hill. Further along, I noticed a cannonball tree flower (I only knew what it was because of the label). There were scattered gazebos of all designs along the way for shelter from the monsoons, I supposed.

I walked through the water gardens and with great disappointment noted that there were no fish, only turtles! I did notice some lovely pink and white lotus, although the blooming season was just starting. Upon closer inspection, I did notice some wild fish that looked like cichlids (see picture, they must be earth eater cichlids). I bought water to survive the heat.

Then I found the National Orchid Garden which was unbelievably pretty. It was not so much each orchid, but the landscaping of entire beds of orchids. There was one garden in particular of tall orchids all of one kind tied to bamboo forming a maze into which little children can, and did, get lost. Very creative indeed. I also enjoyed the mist tents and moss covered statues with bromeliads and orchids growing onto them. I also used rolls of film on single orchids, only to have my brother tell me they were all common when I returned. I don’t care what he says, they are pretty.

There was a cute Asian wedding party in the Orchid Garden. It was a photographer’s dream taking pictures of them between posed shots. The groom was in black the bride and her three little girl brides’ maids all in white and carrying orchids. See them running up the steps! How adorable! Apparently, per Paul at Bedtime Stories that is, I was there during wedding season, and the monsoon would come shortly thereafter.

On my way back I went through the jungle which was very tropical and beautiful but had a concrete path. I saw a tiny squirrel and a very big bee-like insect on yellow flowers. There were lots of unlabeled trees so I did not know what they were (of course – I took botany in College, but to me a fern is still a fern).

Once out of the jungle I came upon a small water garden with an arbor and rectangular concrete ponds. These ponds had water lilies, miniature papyrus, Japanese iris and other plants I could not identify. There was one with a goldfish, more fish like those I saw in the lake, plus tiny red fishes that may have been Siamese fighting fish. The center pond had three white koi that were 6-8 inches long (15-20 centimeters). There were also pretty blue and purple water lilies.

I walked back to my hotel and watched the monsoon move in dramatically from the window.