Monday, August 1, 2011

First Day Take Two

Sorry Pam, I think blogs have the most recent post at the top. So now I've gotten things all out of order - sort of like the street numbers on Telegraph Road, where there is a 24395 at 13 mile road, and another 24395 at Nine Mile Road. That's where I started my day at 8am, inquiring about rental vans to transport very very large pieces of wood, pieces which had been purchased and cut yesterday by Asa and Amy , the pergola prep team. (What's a pergola? Read the July 25 entry by Pam and you will know. Eventually.)

When I was a teenager driving around Detroit and environs in my snazzy 1974 Chevrolet Impala (brown) I loved the freeways. You got on at one end (Northwestern and 12 mile, say) whizzed along nearly underground, with high walls protecting you from "out there" and got off at the other end - Ann Arbor, maybe, or the Detroit Film Theater, or the Woodbridge Tavern, or some cool place. You never, NEVER got off in the middle. What was in the middle? Who knew? Who cared?  It was only years later that I started thinking about the middle, and the people living there, and the fact that they didn't have things like jobs, or buses, or maybe food, and I didn't know anything about them at all. I didn't live in Detroit anymore so I started volunteering in Harlem, thinking maybe there was some kind of Karma in that.

25 years later, and I finally got off the freeway in the middle - at Linwood, to be exact. At 9:30 this morning I arrived at FocusHope's very lovely headquarters on Oakman Boulevard, where I found the very shiny new Roeper grads Megan and Dan, crusty old Roeper dad Clint, and the very patient FocusHope staffers Bill (wearing the suit) and Stephanie (with the keys to the truck). I'd already called Bill to tell him we'd be late getting started (not how you want to show up on your first day) because of the wood. Remember the wood, and how Asa and Amy sawed it all up yesterday? Well it was big, and we needed a truck. Emery waved a magic wand and a bright red pickup that said Roeper on it appeared. This truck can't be turned off or it won't go back on, and the back gate doesn't open, but no matter. We put a couple of metric tonnes of wood in the back and sped off to FocusHope. (Note to Brad: I was right, you should have taken Franklin. I got there 20 minutes before you!)

After learning some history of FocusHope and all the impressive things they do, we trekked around the corner to the garden, where Abe, Asa, Brad and Em had all recently arrived. It was lovely - much nicer than the Google Earth pictures we'd seen. Over a dozen planting boxes were filled with blooming flowers, cherry tomatoes, herbs and a lot more.  We unloaded everyone's cars, set up a tent for shade, passed out the ice water, and the digging began.   I didn't get to use the pickaxe, but I did have fun with the post-hole digger.

The goal was to dig 5 (or maybe it was 6) 3 foot deep holes of perfectly even width.  Think about a three foot deep hole for a second. Got it? Right, that's deep. The soil was in layers: dirt (1 inch deep). Rocks and more rocks (a foot and a half), then heavy clay.  By lunch time, we were about halfway done, but Cliff's thermometer read 99 degrees and we were already wiped.   (And I have to confess I spent half the morning under the tent talking on the phone - everyone else worked a lot harder.)

Luckily, after lunch (about which, the less said the better but tomorrow we go to Avalon Bakery) help appeared: four teenagers in the FocusHope summer job program with seemingly endless energy and strength and a great enthusiasm for post hole digging.  

As they dug, Asa  (who designed the entire pergola) turned his attention to his planer, where he was carefully shaving tiny strips off the giant pieces of wood to make sure they were going to fit together just so. Dan and Megan started drilling and screwing (the wood, people, the wood!)  Brad art-directed.

I was actually on the other team - the garden team. Abe got his ipad with his landscaping app and started looking up plants that could tolerate hot sunny dry conditions.  "Rose of Sharon? Wandering Jew?"   Do all plants have such biblical names? Ashley (one of the teens) and I weeded, planted perennials, and talked about her neighborhood, her family and her dreams for her future (she wants to be a physical therapist because she's always loved helping people. She likes working with handicapped people especially because other people assume things about them but when you get to know them there's so much more to them than you ever imagined.) I also picked cherry tomatoes and dared her and the other guys to try them. She declared that she doesn't eat tomatoes, but I'm pretty sure she liked it.

A couple of very small people wandered in to help. I let them smell the herbs, and showed them how to water the plants right at the roots. They also got the best swag - the fantastic Roeper Alumni Corps t-shirts. (By this time in the story, if you're still reading, you might be wondering where the pictures are. I have them. In my camera. On the CF card. That doesn't connect to any of the technology in my parents' house. So pictures will come later.) They promised they'd come back Wednesday to help plant flowers, and headed across the street to buy some pop. (This is Detroit, remember? We Detroiters don't drink soda.)

3:00. Still 96 degrees. Holes dug, now they are filled with concrete, screws placed just so in the concrete so the very large pieces of wood will attach to them tomorrow. Perennials planted, plans in place for Tuesday: giant truckload of compost, which we'll dig into some new garden beds; and Wednesday: giant truck of 100 trays of donated flowers, which we'll plant in the garden beds with the help of lots of very small people from Summer in the City.  And more pergola building, fence painting and food packing.
4:15, all cleaned up, rinse off my dirty feet, head out to meet the team at Bastone in Royal Oak for some post-game analysis and beer.

Note to Asa: you were right. I should have taken Davison. You had time to down a couple of rounds before I criss-crossed through eight suburbs and finally made it back to Royal Oak!  However, you all saved some moules and frites for me, and we all got to know each other a little better. Pam used to live in a log hut. Geoff just got married in Las Vegas. Asa is mixing up cow poop and pond water (or something like that) and storing it in the back of his car for a few weeks to see if it makes fuel. Cliff knows how to make robots. And I once slept in the bed of Ma and Pa Harding while they sat in their living room and smoked all night long.

Tomorrow, Day II. Put your makeup on and wear your RASC T-shirt, the TV cameras are coming.

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