Wednesday, July 16, 2014


“Your backyard is peaceful,” my friend Anne-Marie said dipping her toe in the swimming pool.
“Thanks,” I said floating on my back.
“It looks good with all the plants.”
“Wait—Are those grapes?!”

I’m not a show-off or a flashy person. I like simple things and minimal decorations. I relish practical items that serve a purpose. I prefer straightforward talk to lots of blah-blah-blah… blah. Which is another reason I like growing grapes in my backyard: they’re beautiful and highly functional. Plus they blow the socks of visitors! Not that I care about showing off or being flashy. 

The other day my friend visited for a pool day. Mr. Wonderful was working on yet another project in his studio, so rather than be a weekend widow I invited Anne-Marie over for a dip in the pool. Anne-Marie lives near the ocean, has a job and laughs at all my jokes. She’s a great friend. She also likes grapes and is a dramatic speaker.

“How did you get these grapes to grow in your backyard?!” she said leaping from the pool to the vines. 
“I put them in the ground,” I said twirling the beach ball on my index finger like Michael Jordan.
“But how did they get so huge?!”
“It’s the Valley.”
“They don’t grow in Santa Monica!”
I went on to explain that while the coastal areas of Los Angeles weren’t great for growing grapes because of their  sandy soil, frequent marine fog and gnarly surfer dudes, things were different in the San Fernando Valley. The Valley is surrounded by the Santa Monica Mountains, the Angeles National Forest and a dozen freeways with rich soil and sun, sun, sun. All of which made it an ideal climate for growing produce. Before World War II The San Fernando Valley was known for producing quality fruits and vegetables on its farms and orchards.“In fact,” I said “There’s a major thoroughfare in the Valley called ‘Vineland’ which makes me think that back in the day, they were growing grapes near where that street is located.”
“Get out!” Anne-Marie said “I live off Vineland! Wow!” 

Her socks were blown off, which would have made me happy if I were the type of person who liked to be flashy or show-offy. 

The next day our subdued rose-growing neighbor stopped by.
“Jerry, Come in,” I said opening the gate. 
“I brought you the name of the pruning clippers I use,” he said handing me a yellow sticky note.
“Thank you.”
“Are those grapes you’re growing?”
“They look real nice. What fertilizer are you using?”
“But how did you get them to look so good?”
“It’s the soil.” 
I went on to explain how our neighborhood—before subdivision, pools and even before Harold—had been a large orchard which had orange, grapefruit and lemon trees. If those plants could grow in our area, grapes would grow well too. Jerry scratched his head and adjusted his 49ers baseball cap.
“Our neighborhood was an orchard? Grapes like orchard soil? Wow.”

He was a subdued man but I knew from his reactions that deep down his shorts had been blown off! I could tell he was amazed to learn some history of our little corner of the Valley, and I was happy to share it with him. All of this would have made me happy if I had been a show-off, flashy, braggy sort of person. 

After Jerry left with a bunch of our grapes, our 86 year-old neighbor appeared.
“What did Jerry want?”
“Hey Harold. He was just marveling at the grapes we have growing in our backyard.”
“I know. I can see them. They’re big.”
“They are, aren’t they?” I said tossing him a totally non-flashy, non-show-offy, humble smile. 
“You must have some serious green thumb to grow them so well.”
“You could say that.” 
“Well keep them on your side of the fence.”

Harold is a grump but I know deep, deep, a million miles down that he was really impressed with my grapes and that they had blown his mind to smithereens! But I don’t care about blowing people’s minds or being a braggy, grape-growing show-off. Thankfully.

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