I wake up and thank the Buddha that it’s not raining. I live on the first floor in one of those “romantic” places with a tiny garden out back. It looked cool when we first went to see it. I thought, great, we can strip the old wooden doors, put a new coat of paint on them, and it would be fantastic. Then we can plant the flowers and chili peppers I’ve always wanted to plant. Up until now however, none of this has been done. The screws won’t come out of the doors, and no matter how many times I have people weed my garden, the unwanted greenery keeps coming back in full force. Having said that, it is bright outside, meaning that the musty smell has all but gone, and the walls aren’t moist, and the flying ants haven’t woken up from their winter nap just yet, so all is pleasant. After doing my morning thing, I walk outside, and am hit by my first real sensory smack in the nose of the day. It’s a mix of dirt, staleness, and the slightest smell of laundry detergent. People have all hung out their sheets to dry in the morning. The Happy Birthday jingle plays in the distance. You know, the street soakers. One is coming my way. I’ve got nobody to impress today, so rather than run from the water stream or pick up my feet as the bicyclists do, I lean into it a bit. I inhale through my large nose, and try to enjoy it all. It makes me a little wet if not invigorated by life. Down the road a tad farther, I pass the duck head and jiaozi place. I wonder how long those heads at the bottom of that big steel plate have been simmering in those hot and spicy juices. They must clean out that seasoned cooking vessel every now and then, right?
I’m not in the mood to think about these small details, so I just enjoy the scent emanating from the broth stewing with all of those duck brains and eyes inside their fragile skull. When I walk closer, I can hear the sounds of people sucking out all of those good morsels for breakfast. What a way to start the day. There is an old lady starting a fire with little sticks and whatnot in one of those metal pots for lack of a better word. She drops in the cylindrical piece of coal in to it with tongs, and out pours the black smoke. For some reason, I like this better than the smell coming out of the tailpipe of those poorly tuned buses. A cat is sunning herself on the sidewalk near the bike repair guy who’s dabbing a drop or two of rubber cement onto a tire tube which looks as if it has been repaired numerous times. All I can think about is going home again to start my garden. Wouldn’t that be just Spring-like?
by Tim Hoerle
This is the tenth anniversary of me writing this column. I have heard, at times, it has upset some people, but I also know that sometimes, it has made one or two of you laugh. I regret the former. Here’s to more of the later.