Friday, July 26, 1996
Everyone Goes Away.
It's a phenomenon that I've seen nowhere else: an entire county closing up shop and leaving on vacation. Not all at once; but gradually over the two months of July and August, everyone seems to take vacations around here. Maryland too.
All I hear is people talking about "going to the shore" for a week or two. Both the Maryland and New Jersey shores. South of here, they say "going to the beach". Just a little regional colloquialism.
This time of year, whole industries close down. Parts of towns become ghost-like. Same as during deer hunting season, when most of Pennsylvania is afflicted with the we gotta whack something mentality and everyone heads for the mountains to shoot at deer and each other. If it weren't so pathetic, it would be comical.
I always thought vacations were fun times for relaxation and renewal, but around here it's a ritual for going to a very crowded, congested shore setting and driving in heavy traffic. I guess everyone's got their own idea of what's fun.
My Idea of Vacation.
Topping my list right now would be sleeping for 3-4 days continuously. Just trying to get rid of the veil of fatigue that hovers over me would be pleasant.
Right behind in second place would be re-visiting Europe again. I haven't been there since about 1986, when I travelled extensively for some Euorpean clients on a market research trip.
I spent the summer in and out of five countries: Germany, Italy, Belgium, England and France. France I could do without on this trip; they're such arrogant and stupid people, in spite of having wonderful cuisine and wine. In fact, they made Jerry Lewis a national treasure, if you can believe it! That goes to show you what kind of mentality they have.
Europe in the Spring or Fall is one of the most beautiful places I could ever think to be in. Nowhere in the US do we have such diversity of seasons as they do. It can be magical: driving from the Netherlands to Italy to Belgium to Germany to almost anywhere else and seeing the myriad peoples, architecture, foods, wines, weather, automobiles and much more. Here, it's same-o, same-o, everywhere one goes. There's a something to be said for familiarity, but a whole lot more to be said for diversity. As with Nature.
I'm not knocking this country, simply stating a fact. Those of you who have travelled in Europe know exactly what I mean.
I'm very glad to be an American; wouldn't want it anyother way. But I do enjoy change. And America, with all its diversity, doesn't afford the variety that Europe does.
A Few Days.
I had two days off last weekend and just read and slept; that's probably all I can afford to take right now. My landscape crews and other employees come first for their own and their families' vacations. They've worked hard and deserve a break before the Fall onslaught breaks loose. It's almost as busy in the Fall around here as it is in the Spring.
Last fall, I wrote an ad called Winter Over that predicted a dire winter ahead. Originally, it was intended as a primer on how to care for plants and get them ready for an upcoming hard winter.
It snowed heavily and the ground froze on November 8th, 1995. After it all came true with The Blizzard, The Ice Storm and The Flood, people started paying attention to natural signs around them instead of listening to the weather forecasts or reading silly printed almanacs. People around the area asked me how I knew what was going to occur. Simple: plants and animals are the best source for prediction, based solely upon their behavior patterns.
By watching for signs that plants are under stress, flowering or turning color early, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that events are moving quickly to their early and logical conclusion. Animals give the same signs: migratory animals begin their trek early, hoarding animals begin to stash food early and others begin the hibernation process ahead of time.
Anything connected with Mother Earth is deeply connected with Nature and intuitively knows what's to come. They're way ahead of us, even with all our computers and forecasts and climate modeling studies. Be observant and watch the signs. It's all around us.
Right now, Euonymous alatus (burning bushes) are turning color, Oxydendrum arboreum (sourwoods) are blooming early. Rudbeckia goldstrum (black eyed susans), Buddleia davidii (asserfly bushes) and many other plants are blooming late. What does it all mean?
I'm not sure just yet. It's probably a result of the early and very harsh winter of 1995-96. Additionally, we had three very late frosts in May and June which did considerable damage to many plants that were just beginning their life cycle: trees have had to push out two and three sets of leaves, shrubs and perennials were stunted by the severe ice and many didn't come back at all.
No prediction yet. I'll wait until I see the squirrels and chipmunks begin to gather nuts for storage. If they're early this year as they were last year (September), then I'll make the forecast. They are the most reliable harbingers of things to come. Keep an eye on those little guys and lay even money on their activities.
One of the few times I allow myself a day "off" is to attend the various area nursery trade shows for the horticultural industry. One is the MANTS (Maryland Area Nursery Trade Show) in January in Baltimore, and the other is the PANTS (Pennsylvania Area Nursery Trade Show) in July in Ft. Washington, Pa. Both of these shows are for the horticulture and related trades people only; they're not open to the general public.
It gives me a chance to visit the booths of vendors that I buy from, look at new plant material from others, inspect and try equipment that might be useful in our business, and socialize with many of the people in our industry. Thousands of displays and tens of thousands of people. Busy times.
I always take someone from my business along; during the winter show in Baltimore, I'll take as many of the landscape crew members who want to go just for the experience of seeing such a large convention. The summer is different: everyone is working on projects and I usually take my landscape foreman. He helps me make buying decisions on material and equipment for use by the crews.
Today, I bought one exhibit and some other unusual items on the closing day of the show and we'll schlep it all home in our large enclosed truck. This is the time to buy stuff: you can get it very cheap, since the exhibitors don't want to lug the plants or equipment around after the show on their way to another. They'd rather sell off the things and have fresh items flown in for each show. Going on the last day of the shows is cool: new toys at a great price!
Being The Boss.
Owning your own business has both its upside and downside, as does life. The pressures and demands are great sometimes. But the worst thing is finding the negative side of people who work for you.
I'm now in a major Workmen's Compensation battle with a former employee who came here with a pre-existing medical condition, which wasn't covered by his former employer, stayed four weeks, did very little work and has now filed for remuneration against our company. I denied his claim.
Now, the lawyers and bureaucrats are involved in a so-called "fact finding" process to determine if his claim will be paid. The meetings and interviews will be taking up our valuable time for the next few days in an effort to set a chronological history of the events. My landscape foreman will be required to give testimony, as will I.
It's depressing to see a young kid trying to pull a scam like this. Especially since he was such a worthless worker and it took us four weeks to find out from the rest of the crews. I summarily fired him after the medical claim was filed.
I really care about all the people who work for me; I always go the extra mile for them in every way, helping out when they need it. But I have no time and sympathy for scum who defraud and lie.
I'm in the process of signing up for Photoshop and Illustrator classes for the fall at The Bradley Academy For The Visual Arts, here in York, Pa. My friend Janice faxed some information to me on the evening sessions in September and October, which are multi-level, from Beginner to Advanced. With some continuing practice beforehand, I'll be able to handle the more advanced stuff in both curricula.
Next week, look for my signature to appear below in each Journal entry. I hope the scan turns out allright.
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