You Fu!!ed With The Wrong Azalea
The weather gods finally hit their remote-control channel buttons that say, "Seattle, Spring, Nice" so both the flowers and the sun could be out at the same time. All was good, the perfect day for a walk. We gave ourselves a day off, so I took it. And then, I almost died. From laughter only, but still. Death is death, whichever way you slice it.
Near a church for the Disintegrated Methodists, there is a late Victorian house with perfectly tended arboreal grounds, the borders of its English country lawn bursting with vertiginous verdures and all the colorful bounties of spring. The verdures are shielded by a robust, menacingly spiked cast-iron fence which barely manages to stay on the ornamental side of "institutional," or "severe." Near an entry gate, firmly fastened to that fence is a laminated yellow sheet of paper. In big, bold and black 24-point type, it is titled as follows:
To the Cretinous Thieving Asswipes Who Stole Our Azalea
Now that's an attention-grabber. Foul play in my neighborhood! I stopped and read on:
What? You're not expecting language like this around a house of worship? Okay, how about cretinous thieving MURDERING asswipes? That is what you did to our tree, you plant-murderers. It was gorgeous, in full bloom with glorious salmon-colored blossoms. The way you tore it off, it won't grow. It will DIE, and I hope it casts a blight of DEATH over everything you try to plant around it. I hope every plant around you dies. I hope your cloud of blight becomes so obvious that people around you have no choice but to lock you up in some kind of bubble to spare their own precious greenery.The house is right next to a church, is probably a pastor's residence, and I didn't make it through the whole paragraph before something inside me dislocated and I started to laugh. The laughs soon turned into a fit of coughing, then wheezing, as snot came out of my nose and tears out my eyes as I hung on the fence for dear life, desperately trying to breathe and maintain consciousness for the next 60 seconds. Maybe it was more like 100 seconds. Anyhow, it was rough going there for awhile.
And that was only the first paragraph. It went on:
Yeah, yeah, I am supposed to pray for your immortal soul. Yeah, right. Maybe some people can, but some of us need all the help we can get not to rip you limb from limb! Your mortal butt should be rotting in jail and then MAYBE I can pray for your soul.Phew. I didn't make it through to the end without a couple more seizures. Now, azaleas are amongst the most common lawn entity in Seattle, which is a gardening-nazi town to begin with. (Got any pollen allergies? You'll rue the day you stepped foot here. We've got the pollen that torments you, and many more that will.) It's as if fugitive, hunted gardeners from other states fled here to hide out behind the cover of their fescues, magnolias, strawberry trees, lavendars, thyme, clovers, mosses, retching clumps of rhododendrons, big hairy frilly afro-weeds with little blue-and-white flowers all over them, dark red whacky things sticking up in the air that can slice open a hand, rose bushes with thorns big enough to take out an eye, murderous morning glory vines capable of tearing clapboards off a house, Japanese maples which have been doted on like trust fund babies, and 800 kinds of aggressive, mostly mutant ornamental grasses and ivies. And oh, yeah. Don't even get me started on the goddamned bamboos.
And what if you repent? What if some act of divine mercy or divine vengeance fills your heart with contrition? GROVEL. Go before the Lord your God and grovel. Plead for mercy! If that does not work or you still need to repent further, PAY for your sins against our community. Send a large contribution to the faith community of your choice and mark it "azalea fund."
May God take pity on your pathetic wretched existence!!!!!
I looked at the plant in question, which dared me not to look at it while appearing to be as healthy as an oak, and tried to make out the possible absence of a branch or two. I guess the enraged church gardener referred to the theft of an entire plant by envious homeowners, maybe a desperate couple on the lam, needing to do a fast lawn upgrade in order to flip that one last house before the bubble pops. Fearing eternal damnation and fighting the shell-shocked, still-painfully-cramped muscles which go across my ribs, I declined to approach the scene of the crime or get near what was sure to be a zealously guarded survivor. I reflected on the nature of property rights in general, plant theft in particular, half expecting a matron wielding a knitting needle to pile out onto her porch and stare me down like Charlton Heston, when he played Moses, stared down the Red Sea. Azaleas are special here. There once must have been a sort of mordant, obsessive interest in them, perhaps there were even bizarre azalea-breeding competitions. Maybe there still are. Enough to motivate a crime. An azalea underground. A brush-flower conspiracy. All I know is, this pimp-mobile of plants flowers in every shade of pink, red, violet, chartreuse, and mauve imaginable, and it is nearly impossible to kill.
I should know. I have one, and have not exactly been gentle to it. It's salmon-covered, is in full bloom, and it lies crying in my basement, begging for light. (Just kidding. Really, no, I'm kidding! It was too hard to resist making light of what may be a serious matter. Why, there's already a thriving, red-pink beauty right in front of my house. Please don't damn me or otherwise hurt me.)
I was going to go back, laptop in hand, to transcribe what I consider to be a worthy, evocative piece of Americana. I mean, think about it. We steal azaleas, blow up over their theft, worry about second-hand smoke and I just bought organic duck eggs a couple weeks ago. Filled with Omega-3 acids! In other places, by comparison, people worry about keeping their craniums unshattered and connected to their torsos, along with most of their limbs, as they shop in markets, ride in cars, try to make love, and sleep in houses. Which in turn made me think, "Wait a minute! Something this good might already be on the Net." I searched for the terms "cretinous murdering azalea thief." First-hit paydirt. Somebody sent it into the "I, Anonymous" column of our local entertainment weekly, The Stranger.