Austin really is the greatest city. I love it here. Aside from one very difficult year in my hometown of Houston (difficult because of a job, not the city itself), I have lived in or near Austin since 1987. Austin is diverse, tolerant, smart, fun, musical, and a whole lot of other adjectives. It can also be, well, a little too Austin for its own good.
Yesterday, I went with L, my superfabulous tennis partner and canning partner and cooking partner and friend, to the bag-your-own-dirt section at the Natural Gardener. A mecca of sorts around these parts, Natural Gardener has all kinds of organic soils and amendments and groovy things for your garden. And even better, instead of buying by the bag, you can go and dig your own, thereby recycling (less plastic from using your own bags) AND saving money (no labor other than your own, no transport costs, no markup). Neat, huh?
We arrived well before opening time and joined the long line of cars (it's almost planting season around here AND the weather was PERFECT - and I mean perfect even for Central Texas -- clear skies, mid 60's, slight breeze) waiting for the gates to open. When the pearly gates opened, we drove slowly to the way back, delicately marked SOIL with an arrow. It's true - what they're putting out elevates dirt to soil and beyond.
L and I were the only ones there for a solid half an hour - digging, bagging, filling, sweating, chatting. It was great. I'd have been miserable if I'd had to do it all alone, which I will have to do tomorrow. Because I can't measure volume. Which, by the way, is cubed and not squared. Dammit. We were soon joined by a benevolent and wise farmer guy who, as one does when sharing laborious tasks, began to chat. Turns out, he's got a large garden/farm out east of town and belongs to all manner of volunteer tomato forums (fora?). We chatted about tomato varieties, amendments (went with the turkey compost based on his recommendation), and blossom-end rot.
Please don't stop reading because you couldn't care less about tomatoes - this is about what nice looks like and what asshole looks like. Carry on.
Now, this type of conversation isn't going to happen just anywhere, but it was lovely. I mean really lovely. And even though I don't tend toward the wistful, it felt like blowing bubbles in the summer time. One of those little moments that you probably will forget later but will wish desperately that you had held onto it just a little longer. Our new friend, Larry, went so far as to give us each two tester tomato plants. He and his tomato buddies are cultivating new heirloom/hybrids, and he had a bunch in the back of his truck that he didn't need. Now, he didn't know us from Adam (Eve?). He, like us, had found a pleasant moment of time with some people with common interests and a gift of gab. So, he shared his knowledge and his tomato plants with us. It was, in what has become such a big city, magical.
Until. As L. and I were tying up our bags of garden dirt and getting ready to move on to the turkey compost, we noticed that the soil yard had filled up significantly. As in packed. As in sardines. So, she remarked, "I didn't realize that gardening had become so popular." And then, we got "outAustined." It's a phenomenon that you see every once in a while, usually at Whole Foods or REI or Natural Gardener (great places all, just locations for this disturbing trend). And it's not pretty. A young (to me - maybe early-30's) gentleman in just the right race t-shirt, from just the right 10K, with just the right track pants, said, "Well, gardening's been popular for a long time. You're just new to it, and you've come at a very busy time." And then gave us the stink eye because apparently we had less right to be there than he. So here is my missive to him:
Oh, no, you didn't. Let me just say that my friend L is from a farm in Gonzalez, Texas. She and her sister have access to some of the best produce you've ever eaten, including jalapenos so hot that I couldn't put my contacts in for a week after we canned them. She has the most beautiful gardens you have ever seen. She is also a lovely lady in her late 50s. You are the most condescending and preposterous and disrespectful piece of work that I have seen in a long time. And it popped my bubble. I am angry. And angry. I don't like people messing with my friends. I don't like general disrespect. And I don't like you thinking that you have anything on anyone, especially when you DON'T EVEN KNOW US.
And I especially don't like you taking what was a community of gardeners and planters, of amateurs and grizzled veterans, of like-minded strangers and friends and turning it into some kind of twisted game so that you can feel superior. Now, I realize that by letting you bother me I gave you control over my day, which you didn't deserve, and I am a bigger person that that, so I should have just ignored you. Bladdiddy, bladdiddy, blah. But Austin didn't used to be like that. And it's so much more than that. And I was having a perfectly nice tomato fantasy with my new friend. Larry, until you shit on it. So, thanks for that. Seriously, just be nice. It's really simple.
Hrumph. One of my favorite people in the whole world had a bumper sticker in the 90s that I loved. People could live by this.
Mean people suck.