Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Hideous Plastic House

I have been keeping a secret from you. The Big Picture can always be viewed from many different angles and perspectives. It is easy to leave out a part of the picture to create an impression that doesn’t capture the entire truth. If you don’t step back far enough to gather as much information as possible, looking closely at one single facet can lead you astray by touching just a few emotions. The Big Picture is far more complicated because it contains lots of facets that touch lots of thoughts and feelings.

Have you ever noticed that some people seem to think their cars can give them some characteristic or value that can’t be properly relayed to other humans through their personality or behavior? These people always tend to have new cars, shiny cars, big cars and expensive cars. They get washed and scrubbed and polished like some favorite pet. Real estate agents love to prove they are successful with a car. Some men with monster trucks try to create the illusion that things are bigger than they really are. Need a boob job or a little blue pill, hormone replacement therapy? Buy a car.

The neighborhood where I live is zoned rural and built residential. Because of the high cost of housing this rural/residential in reality has become a cross between duplex and apartment zoning in built structures and habitation. Don’t let the freely roaming jungle fowl fool you, each half acre lot is its own small apartment complex and parking becomes an issue. My landlord’s downstairs tenant parks below their house on an extension of my driveway that is between the two of us.

Every year now Hawaii gets some new insect plague and I do mean plague. The insect population of the latest pest can reach astronomical proportions and we can’t do much better battling the onslaught than African peasants swatting at locusts.

Two years ago the pestilence was a new species of whitefly. Plumeria trees all over the island looked as if they had been sprayed by the canned snow used for Christmas trees. The bugs were so thick they even migrated to the top of the leaves. Under that white cottony fuzz was a dark black sheen that coated every surface. The main trunks of the trees were completely black. If you walked under the tree you could feel tiny drops of liquid landing on your skin. Honeydew was raining from the trees in visible drops and black mold was growing in this insect excrement every where it landed.

My beautiful Buttercup Tree was attacked by this tiny white hoard. I started a campaign of regular water baths with the hose nozzle set at the longest sharpest spray, good enough for scaling fish, to squash those whiteflies’ in an insect tsunami as I washed them off the leaves. It was an attempt just to keep them at sub plague levels.

There is something else under the Buttercup Tree now.

Mannette move into the downstairs unit at the same time as the whiteflies. One side of my Buttercup Tree gracefully shaded the parking pad where the prized possession of this divorced women was going to spend some time. The lovely BMW lasted one night there because in the morning it was covered in a clear sticky slime. There was a request from the landlords for me to do something about it so I grudgingly removed some major limbs that arched over the space.

Fancy cars often come with custom fit covers so it seemed reasonable to just cover the car as well. The covered car lasted two nights under the newly pruned tree. She claimed the slime oozed through the cover but I know it was just too much effort for her to deal with the sticky thing. The car moved up to the front lawn to park until a new solution could be found.

One day I came home and there on the drive was a Hideous Plastic House. Her son had come from the mainland to visit for the holidays and together they proudly erected this structure. It was jammed up against the trunk of the Buttercup Tree and had turned a two space pad and turn around into room for one car only. It was completely encased with side panels so what had once been an open space and major corridor for all kinds of traffic through a garden and nursery dead ended in a plastic bat cave. At the store they managed to buy a house that was way to long so they removed one section of framing and the plastic roof and walls were draped and adjusted to fit. It looked like the folds of Shar Pei dog and it was parked in my garden flapping in the breeze. I was not happy!

Mannette’s attempt to recapture fond memories of Maui from a time long ago didn’t go well. She was a very attractive normal appearing women but she would never look you in the eye and barely spoke. Over time I realized she was scared to death. A slight breeze generated rustle could startle her. The job she got caused panic attacks and she had to be rushed to the hospital from the community college a few times. A back pain was discovered and then so was oxycontin. The lovely BMW sat in the Hideous Plastic House all day long most of the time now. Once a week it went out for a bath. At the most inopportune times as if she sat by her window waiting for a customer to come down the drive she would appear silent and timid and needing to leave in a hurry. The Plastic House had so constricted the drive that it was a major procedure for this woman, even with a precision driving machine, to turn herself around with another car on the drive and be able to leave. Fifteen minutes later she was back with a piece of fruit from the store. I was not happy!

It was a wet and stormy winter and that Plastic Shar Pei House bounced around and flapped in the wind right outside my bedroom windows for months. I placed cinder block around the ankle of the posts to hold it to the ground and it still danced around the driveway. The Shar Pei folds collected rainwater and it dripped and sagged. The wind was still stronger and the Hideous Plastic House at times got contorted to half its width. It could stay that way for days and still doing a daily fruit run no attempt would be made by Mannette to readjust her car container. After a few days of looking at this I wouldn’t be able to stand it and would move the block covered legs back into place and drain the flooded folds. I was not happy!

Both the end of the whitefly plague and Mannette’s stay on Maui finally came. It may seem like a paradise at first but you can’t lie around sucking the life out of things forever. It is the real world here too after all and competition from other bugs and people eventually will clear things up. The lovely BMW was shipped back to the mainland and she followed a week later. The very next day I was ready to remove this plastic curse from my world. My landlord however had other ideas and wanted it to stay for the next tenant. I suggested one more time a simple built carport to cover the whole pad. He declined again in his regular miserly way. I was crushed. I have lived here for fifteen years and I know both my landlords are about as observant as the blind. When they left one day I removed the side panels and rolled up the excess fabric hanging off the back end. At least now I could walk through the space again.

It was months before Nalani moved in. The first day Nalani parked her car down here I was thrilled to see it had a major dent and scratch along one side. Not quite a beat up Maui Cruiser, but it was just a machine to get her from point A to point B, not an extension of self. I had known her for many years since she was a friend of the landlord’s daughters growing up.

Even though I still hated it, I had gotten used to sitting in the shade of my plastic house and potting plants or doing cuttings. It was a lot less aggravating when it was useable space and didn’t hinder foot traffic. Though it would be a parking space again, she was young, active and had a job and the car wouldn’t be sitting there all day long. Nalani’s car also didn’t call for the return of the Plastic Bat Cave.

I was out cleaning one day many months ago and sorta of accidentally, maybe, kinda poked a hole in the roof of the Plastic House trying to knock the leaves off that had collected there. Winter has returned and even though there has been next to no rain, the regular wind and storm winds started to blow the sun baked Plastic House around the drive again. One gusty evening I saw my cat GreyMan perched on the roof. He would climb up there from the Buttercup Tree. Later that night when I was out there again the roof of the Plastic House had been ripped almost in half and it hung from the frame flapping in the breeze. I liked that.

Over the next couple of weeks this thing I despised began to slowly disintegrate in the strong winter winds. Nalani continued to park there as if nothing was going on even when the plastic fabric hung so low you had to duck to get in and out of the space. My landlord’s deck looks over this scene and they had to have noticed this thing I offered to remove falling apart below them. It was another contest of wills that I always lose. It wasn’t my Hideous Plastic House. I didn’t want it there. I didn’t park there. It was not my responsibility to clean up this plastic carcass. As usual after weeks of waiting in vain for one of them to deal with their own mess I couldn’t stand it any longer and cut the cord still holding the tattered thing together and removed chunks of the plastic and tucked and folded the rest off to the side.

The disintegration is not complete and it continues to decompose on my drive. I haven’t said a word and have just looked forward to its eventual skeleton where I may be able to say, “Can I take this down now?”

Last week Nalani came down the drive and parked a shiny new sporty looking blue Honda with paper dealer tags in the remnants of the Plastic House. I got a major sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. Yesterday Nalani informed me that she was getting water spots on her new car from my irrigation system.

I see blue sky filled with yellow blossoms through the half roofless Plastic House. I see blue sky through the blooming branches of my Buttercup Tree. From certain angles ugliness can be avoided. The giant yellow blossoms that litter the ground can be collected and savored on their own away from the thing that lives beneath it.

I am going to suggest a simple built carport over the entire pad again but I can see a new Plastic Bat Cave in my future. This is just one more facet of the life of my Buttercup Tree. It is still not the complete picture. This tree has a history and a future. The parent clone I planted and grew lives a couple blocks away. There is more I can tell you, but for now what is important to know is that beauty can exist side by side with trash.


Anonymous said...

Hey Christopher,

You're a better writer than I thought. Doug

The County Clerk said...

Man... this kind of thing freaks me out.