there is something unsettling about abandoning your car at a parking lot, waiting alone underneath a sign that says “bus pick-up here,” and piling into a small yellow bus with a gaggle of seniors. not that i have anything against the elderly, mind you, but someone of my tender age does feel conspicuous when they’re the youngest person in the room by twenty or thirty years.
we were all headed to the van dusen garden show, you see, an event that seemed like it might be a venue where one could scope out some delicate and stunning fern varieties. i have a thing for ferns, wherein i read oliver sacks’ oaxaca journal in much the same way as one reads salacious novels or watches nigella lawson and her gastro-porn. although “-porn” is the suffix de jour, there is something plain wrong about using it to describe my simple but passionate love of ferns.
terminology aside, i was in for a brutal shock as i paid my fee and stumbled through the well-crafted maze of gardening paraphernalia and disturbingly well-manicured vancouverites. i was out of my element here. christ, i don’t even own a garden or house of any kind. the best i mange is a small apartment living room crammed with plants and books. i don’t complain about my comfortable little abode, but draw focus to how ill-placed i was among the beautiful people straight out of glossy magazines about urbanites and socialite malcolm perry’s shrewd gossip column in the vancouver sun.
the worst part of this disorienting affair was the complete absence of anything to do with ferns. apparently they aren’t fashionable right now. i missed the boat when they were last popular in the 1970s (just as i missed glam rock and early eno). damn my parents and their not having pushed my kindergarten ass into collecting and sketching rare fern species.
dejected, and cursing audibly at the crazed, consumerist septuagenarians pushing me aside to place their sweaty palms on the latest in gardening gadgetry, i made my way to the fern dell in the regular part of the gardens. this is a retreat i can trust, knowing that many sassy and spry varieties await my longing gaze and gentle touch. when the seniors approach i hiss, paw at the air between us, and blind them with my camera flash.
later, we piled back onto the bus, where i found myself again trampled and thrown aside by muscular grandmothers who pretended deafness, blindness, and whatever else would excuse their ill manners.
i would sit in my car in the parking lot for a while after this affair, feeling dirty and robbed of something special.