Sometimes we find signs in signs.  I’m an avid license plate reader.  I always wanted one of those plates that has a word by accident, or cool initials that can mean something, but whenever I get new plates it’s so random there’s nothing to be made of it.

Today I saw a license plate that sent me a clear message.  It was unmistakable.  This vanity plate was yelling: HELP US PK!

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It’s unmistakable.

That’s right, PK.  That’s me.  When I was on a softball team, they called me PK.  I don’t know why.  It was actually the only time I was called that in my life.  And it’s not that weird as that is my initials and it’s easy to say PK.  Try it.  Pique.  Incidentally, Kiki calls me that, and of course, we are P and K.  And there was the maitre ‘d at the catering hall I worked at as a busboy, Herb, who used to call me Paulie.  He was the only one.  I didn’t mind it because it made me feel like I was in a Mafia movie or something.

Now if this turns out to be your license plate, please let me know what you meant, exactly.  Maybe you’re a PK too?  Could be.

Then I started to think, what does this mean?  Help us with what?  What can I do? This is a lot of pressure.  I’m just a writer trying to write, a businessman trying to business, and a musician trying to music. That’s all I got.

But since I need to come up with something, let’s try gardening, and the outdoors.  I know what you’re thinking: what a great segue!  You’re welcome.

I don’t know, they just keep growing.

Last year we moved from an apartment in LA to a town-home in the valley and got this great patio in the deal.  And of course, that meant plants.  Well, for whatever reason, the results were very spotty.  The potted palm died.  The rosemary, doing so well and blooming purple flowers and attracting bees in June, was dead by August.  One pot of flowers died.  One shrubbery lost half the plant.  The tomatoes looked promising, with many blooms, but only 2 or 3 tomatoes grew.  Why?  Very hot days.  We had almost a month where the mercury hit 100 last year.  Too much heat kills pollen.  No pollen, no tomatoes.  The pepper tree did okay.  The begonia wouldn’t flower and had holes in the leaves.  It made me sad 🙁  That’s exactly what my face looked like.

This year, with the weather not as warm, it’s a complete 180.  The begonias are blooming like mad, the flowers are popping, the basil is ridiculous.  I can take a large bunch of basil, enough for a lot of pesto, and it will grow back in a week!

Basil Rathbone, I presume? Pesto? Pesto? Anyone?

But best of all is the return of the tomato and pepper plants.  I kept watering and feeding them through the winter, and they survived, and not only that, they started producing. As mentioned previously, to keep the squirrels off the tomatoes, I put a screen around the pot, but that meant trimming and pruning almost like a grape vine.  Nowhere in plant care research does it say to do this to a tomato plant.  And now I have a crap-load of tomatoes!  Not sure if this was an accident, but they also taste better than last year.  But there’s almost no leaves at this point, so once I harvest these, we’ll see what the plant does next.

Just waiting to see what it does next, but this is a hell of a lot of tomatoes.

The pepper plant is a dwarf.  You can say “dwarf” about plants, so no letters please.  Same as the tomato, except after I pruned it and kept it alive through the winter, it didn’t grow upward, but the peppers are showing up and they are the same size as when the plant was bigger!  It’s like a little person with a large… nose?  A very, very large nose.  It’s kind of like a bonsai, no?  I call him Peppy.

Maybe nose analogy doesn’t quite work here.

So maybe I can help us with patio gardening?  No, not at all.  I mean, it’s all working out right now, but I don’t know what the heck I’m doing.  So you’re on your own.  Best advice I can offer? Water when dry. Feed when they look hungry. Prune at will. Keep trying. Good luck.

The other thing I like to do is take pictures of bugs.  Only when they are cooperating. I’ve been trying to get this avocado seed to sprout and it’s doing okay but it keeps sending up new shoots that don’t survive.  It has well-formed roots and keeps sending up new shoots.

Well, yesterday I was looking at it and this little fella (that’s a non-gender-specific “fella,” so no letters please) was on one of the shoots, moving around maybe eating or something.   I put a little more water in the jar to keep the level up, and the cute little bugger climbed up to the end of the toothpick to get a better look at me.

Ladybug on avocado shoot in glass jar. I feel a haiku coming on.

Anyway, they’re supposed to be good for plants, so perhaps this is a good sign for my avocado pit.  And he was very nice and a good model. Thank you, Mr. Ladybug.  So my advice on shooting bug pictures is, pay attention, move slowly and quietly, and make sure you have a cooperative subject.

Hey, you looking at me? Huh?

So, maybe HLPUSPK doesn’t mean anything about me.  Or me helping anyone, even myself.   In fact, there’s not much I can offer to help you or us, but if I can put a positive message in here someplace, or make a good point about today when I write something that happened 150 years ago, maybe I can at least help a little?

There are some positive messages (and subversive satire (at least I think there’s satire but I’m still no 100% certain I know what that is)) in Smoking in Bed, but it won’t help you unless you read it!  Thanks America!

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