Friday, September 12, 2008

Nuns. They're wiley, man.

I took today off to wait for the gas man to turn my gas back on. I didn't realize that I was responsible for cooking gas; my heat and hot water come with my assessment, and I didn't realize that cooking gas is my responsibility (maybe because it's so BIZARRE?) I've owned this place since March, and have not gotten a single bill or notice. So when my stove stopped working and I called the appliance-repair guy ("sounds like your gas line") and then the management company ("Did you pay your bill?") I realized I had become an unwitting deadbeat.

So yeah. Had to wait for the gas guy. After he came, I biked a few blocks north to look at a community garden that I'd been told had some good plots. I saw a fenced area with a profusion of late-summer vegetables and flowers and, in one spot, a small stand of towering corn.

A few guys were hanging out in front by a van. They seemed nice enough.

"Hi, do you know whether this is the garden that Sister Cecilia manages?"
"Yes, this is it."
"Do you have plots here?"
"Oh, no. But you can find Sister Cecelia at the community center around the block," said one of the men in a heavy Jamaican accent. "You just follow this street--" he motioned--"around to Paulina. It's next to the laundromat."
"Thanks, " I said. "I'll do that, and I'll take a look here also."
While I looked the garden over, the men began a discussion of things someone had grown.
"He had blackberries, mon. Sweet, I tell you. SWEET."
A third man sat in the van, drinking a Miller. It was like the Rogers Park Social Club. The men weren't skeevy or creepy, just guys hanging out, shooting the breeze. It was kind of fun.

I thanked the men and biked over to the community center where Sister Cecilia, after talking with another person in the waiting area, heard my request for a plot.
"I can put you on a wait list. There are fifteen people ahead of you."

Fifteen. This is Chicago. People move, they get shot. I'd be in there in no time.

"That's fine," I said.

Sister Cecilia was one-hundred-percent Nun. In her late fifties, early sixties. Short salt-and-pepper hair, sensible clothing. No-nonsense.

"We're also doing work in Triangle Park, across the street from the gardens, We can use some help there."

"You mean to make into community gardens?" I asked hopefully.

"No, we're doing some plantings, some landscaping, Awe have some youth leaders but they aren't always reliable. Maybe you can help us with that."

Several things went through my mind:

1. If I suck up and help in Triangle Park, maybe it would move me up the community-garden wait list.
2. Hold on. She's a nun. A Bride of Christ. She's beyond patronage!
3. Yeah, because the Catholic Church never plays ball with power. You are so IN!

"Sure I can help, when I'm available. I've got some other projects going on, but I can help when I can."

"Good. that way it can be in your name rather than mine."

Crap. CRAP. I looked into her shaggy grey eyebrows. I haven't been Catholic for over 25 years, and I still can't say no to a nun.


"Are you a master gardener?" she asked. I sensed a trap, and decided to play it safe.

"N-nope. No, actually, I got involved with other gardening projects because I know nothing about plants." Lying to a nun. She looked at me through those steel-frame glasses and I had to remind my self she Could. Not. Read. My. Mind.

"I need a Master Gardener to help with a Botany instructor at the high school, and all the local Master Gardeners are pulled in so many directions."

I'm not a Master Gardener. I grow tomatoes in pots. I know a few things, it's true. I have a green thumb, and I have an interest in Urban Permaculture. But I was not at all interested in being roped into helping a high school botany instructor, and I sensed that any hint of helpfulness on my part would spell my doom. I told Sister Cecilia that I did not have that kind of experience, but would be sure to contact her if I came across anyone who could help. I also kept up a mental chant of LALALALALALALA just in case she could indeed read my mind.

Having exchanged contact information with Sister Cecilia, I said good-bye and left. (I have an actual nun's email. Here's the thing: wouldn't you think that the Catholic Church would have its own domain? www.romancatholic.god? What does this nun use? sbcglobal. Wait. Maybe SBC is just a shell company...ooh. That's good; that's very good.)

All I know is I crave a plot of dirt. And not to go to hell.

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