Day in the life of an orchid enthusiast
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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Tue, 10 Oct 100 11:05:55 -0700
Subject: Day in the life of an orchid enthusiast
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Forwarded-by: Libby Shaw <elshaw@MIT.EDU>
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Excerpted-from: OrchidGuide Digest V2 #300
"Rick Barry" <email@example.com>
Day in the Life of an Orchid Enthusiast
The day began like many another Saturday. I awoke to the rattling of
shopping carts, the vehicle of choice of the neighborhood's midnight
scavengers who were only now headed off in the direction of the collection
center to cash in on their booty. An insomniac mockingbird was just
finishing his night time cacophony, ready to resume his daytime duties
harassing passersby. The heady aroma of diesel exhaust from the nearby
freeway wafted through my open windows as I washed my medication down with
a cup of French Roast while perusing the latest edition of Orchids
magazine, the AOS's monthly tribute to its fantastic new headquarters in
Delray Beach, Florida. I had determined to get an early start on the day's
watering in order to finish in time to view ESPN2's replay of the
Superstars on Drugs Championship Series of last August.
Little did I realize as I finished feeding my latest addition, Cymbidium
canaliculatum (intermediate to warm; cool, dry winter's rest), that I had
been designated as a person of suspicion, meriting a visit from the local
constabulary. I was to be held accountable to the San Jose Police
Department for some as-yet-uncertain transgression. What might I have done
that demanded the attention of the authorities?
True, I had once run with a pretty rough crowd: itinerant chess hustlers,
amateur astronomers, advocates of the Dewey Decimal System. Of late,
however, I had kept to the straight and narrow, my brush with the law over
an unsafe lane change notwithstanding.
Might a neighbor have complained about my late-night carousing the previous
evening? I had been fired with enthusiasm after once again reading
Northen's chapter on dividing Catts. In spite of the late hour (well past
9:30!) I resolved at once to divide and repot my overgrown Laelia anceps.
"Look out boys!" I proclaimed while transporting the plant to the kitchen.
"I'm splitting up the herd!" It was nearly 11:00 before I realized that
I had failed to turn the TV set's volume down to post-10:00 PM levels as
agreed to in the Homeowner's Association by-laws. To such an accusation
I could only plead "Guilty as charged!".
Responding to a firm and determined knock on the door I peered through
the peep hole to see who should require my attention. A surreal sight
greeted me: My front porch appeared distorted almost beyond my recognition,
the Zygopetalum mackayi compressed to a thin green wisp at the lower
perimeter of my view. In the foreground stood two uniformed men with
enormous heads and painfully shrunken bodies. To my immense relief the
scene had been restored to its normal proportions by the time I gathered
enough nerve to open the door and greet these hideous homunculi.
They identified themselves as law officers and expressed an interest in
the growing setup I have in my spare bedroom. They said that they couldn't
help but notice that I have an apparent grow light there. Since my 400
watt metal halide fixture tends to illuminate the entire neighborhood (not
to mention gathering the attention of passing aircraft) I freely admitted
my employment of the fixture in growing orchids. "In that case," came the
reply, "You wouldn't mind if we saw for ourselves?" I stammered something
about "Police Inspections" as I considered how I should respond to this
inquisition. They assured me they could come back with a search warrant
if necessary. Visions of the Popow Raid immediately came to mind. The
pieces of this puzzle were starting to fit together.
"You're the Plant Police, aren't you?" I asked.
The gendarmes, of course, feigned ignorance.
"Who sent you?" I demanded, "Cribb? Milton Carpenter?" I could well imagine
Carpenter the Crusader storming through my front door, clutching a Bible
in one hand and a copy of Awards Quarterly in the other, the Billy Sunday
of orchids bellowing "Apostate!" and demanding my AOS membership card.
They claimed to be part of a police crackdown on home marajuana growing
in the San Jose area. They only wanted to put their minds at rest regarding
my own possible activities in this regard. I had to silently laugh at this
tran- sparent attempt at misdirection and imagined the scenario
"Well, sir, we don't see any marajuana plants growing here..."
"Harry! Come over here for a minute. Isn't this Paph tigrinum? Hey, sure
enough! It says so right on the label! Last I heard this was Appendix
"May I see your documentation for this plant, sir?" and off I go to
Leavenworth while the best of my collection gets divided and distributed
among the Bosses of the International Orchid Cartel! Meanwhile my more
common specimens languish in some scale-infested horticultural holding
cell in the bowels of the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife...
"So I'm to be the fall guy, right?" I questioned, knowing the answer better
"We'd just like to be satisfied that you aren't growing marajuana plants,
"Which species of marajuana are you looking for? Cannabis sativa, Cannabis
indica, both perhaps?" I was determined to call their bluff. If I could
just put them off for a few days, say until Monday when my lawyer gets
back from his "fact-finding" trip to Cancun in anticipation of my upcoming
action against Taisuco.
"That's all. Nothing else" he replied uncertainly.
"Nothing else." I echoed as I noticed the other officer looking over my
shoulder at the Sarchochilus blooms on the coffee table. His expression
implied disinterest but his eyes said "fitzgeraldii". "You have no interest
in anything else I grow?"
"Like what?" the spokesman responded.
"Opium poppies, maybe" I responded. "How about a little peyote for fun
and profit?" I was on a roll. "Been tracking my utility bills? Have I
exceeded allowable levels of fertilizer consumption?"
"We'd just like to be satisfied that you aren't growing marajuana plants,
sir." He gazed at me with soulless gray eyes that seemed to give lie to
the government's denials regarding the Human Clone Project.
I had to review my options. I considered what my closest confidant would
advise at a moment such as this...
"I told you not to hang out with those orchid freaks! Now they've got you
in a jam and you want me to bail you out? Love to help you, fella, but
right now someone wants to use the phone, I'm ahead and it's my break!"...
Upon reconsideration I decided that it would be best not to interrupt
Mom's pool tournament. I was going to have to play this round alone.
"Are you going to let us in or do we have to get a warrant?" The officer's
expression changed to steely-blue intransigence. The reference to a warrant
was ominous in its inferences. A midnight raid, perhaps, with my paramour
and I caught en flagrante delico, engaged in an erotic Danse de Macabre
while watching Antiques Roadshow on TV. Maybe they'd bust in on me while
I'm repotting some particularly prized specimen, pointing out to my
(attentive, even captivated) dog the best places to cut the rhizome.
I decided to allow them to enter, but with the proviso that they were
there only to look for marajuana plants. There seemed to be little choice
in the matter. If I refused them entry I faced the prospect of an
unannounced visit from the CITES stormtroopers, and at some ungodly hour,
no doubt. I hate to have my sleep disturbed. Less than 7 hours straight,
I'm just worthless.
I knew that these officers were only the advance men in the Cartel's
attempt to dominate the orchid industry. I gambled that these men were
ill-trained for their task and couldn't tell a Potinara from a Hawkinsara.
I know I can't, but I figured that I could out-talk orchids with the likes
of these test-tube-raised peacekeepers.
I escorted them through the living room (I hoped they didn't see that copy
of the New Worker on the sofa!) to the spare bedroom where I grow many of
my plants. I stood in the doorway so as to obstruct the view into the
master bedroom, where I grow some South and Central American species. ("He
assured me they were grown from seed, your Honor.")
The police officers took a look at the orchids and proclaimed themselves
satisfied that I don't grow marajuana. I knew, of course, that these two,
they of no-doubt photographic memory, had quickly memorized every tag
within view, and would shortly compile their data. I pretended ignorance
of their deception, playing instead the genial host, explaining that I
would have bathed had I known I was to have visitors.
As they were preparing to leave, the thus-far silent officer glanced about
my living room and remarked that I must do a bit of traveling. I must
admit I was unprepared for the comment. I could tell him about my onetime
flirtation with the orchid underworld in Port Moresby; the nightmarish
voyage on the death ship out of Haiphong in '75, me clutching a floating
trunk with one arm while clinging obsessively to my small cargo of Paph
delenatii with the other.
"I'm basically housebound. It's the orchids." I explained. "You know."
"Sure... You ought to have that looked at."
They departed so abruptly I was left wondering just what he meant by that
remark. Was he refering to the angry wound on my forehead, which only
yesterday I had once again nicked while shaving? Possibly he was aluding
to my apparent obsession with orchids?
It's unlikely I'll see those two again. They'll be off collecting data
for the Authorities while the Cartel launches its next offensive in the
war for orchid dominion. No doubt I will shortly receive another visit
from the Cartel's agents, but I can only guess their guise. Some
Scientology disciples, perhaps, cameras concealed inside hollowed-out
copies of Dianetics, come to share the gospel of L. Ron Hubbard? A
"neighbor kid", small in stature but badly in need of a shave, asking to
get his ball out of my patio? Only time will tell.
For my own protection I must keep exacting records of all my plants, and
regularly distribute copies for safekeeping. Please keep this disc upon
your person at all times, and under no circumstances should you attempt
to duplicate it.
I'll be in touch.
End of OrchidGuide Digest V2 #300
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© 2000 Peter Langston