There is a thing that happens every year where I live around late fall, a thing that fills me with a kind of dread, I should explain that most of the local businesses are landscaped here, I imagine they are everywhere these days wherever people take pride in the look of their homes and businesses. We have gas stations with beautiful slate walled berms with dwarf evergreens, rhododendrons, perennials and annuals topped with colored bark chips. These are maintained by lucky local landscapers who make a living off the small strips of land that border banks, coffee shops, diners, and chain eatery’s like Taco Bell which features an exotic landscape that puts me in the mind of Mexico. When you leave the drive up there you pass flower beds with tall grasses, bright rust colored ground cover, topiary cut pines, and tall flowers with sword like fronds that slice into the sky like rockets waiting to be launched. It all reminds me of an old spaghetti western and I half expect to see some figure in a poncho and wide brimmed hat smoking a cheroot.
But when the colorful blooms of spring have faded and the rich orange marigolds have turned rusty and blackened, and when the last tomatoes struggle to even ripen just a little. Then my friends the landscapers remove the sad reminders of a summer just past and instead put in their place that most depressing and fatalistic plant of all. Yes my friends I’m talking about the loathsome ornamental cabbage, I have to hope that that these were somehow genetically engineered by man and were the result of a horrible unintended mutation. That the whole idea of using these as decoration was skillfully foisted on an unsuspecting public by a person or companies unknown anxious to recoup capitol after investing in a genetic failure, and there is just no way God put his hand to such a sickly and squanamous creation.
They are used to great extent at malls on both the outside flower beds and in the courtyards between stores or restaurants thus ensuring an encounter with their unatural countenances no matter where you go. It was on just such a trip recently that I encountered them unexpectedly. I had taken my mother (who is partially disabled) to the mall to do some shopping, I parked in an area where there are no flower beds because it’s close to the store she needed to go in and also because there are many handicapped spaces on this side of the mall. This can be an exhausting task for me since mom can only walk so far on her own and I wind up pushing her in a Jazzy that’s really not meant to be pushed by another. So after having lunch and going to a few stores I found myself getting overheated in my overcoat, after settling my mom in Bloomingdale’s jewellery department. I walk out side for some fresh air into the courtyard to cool off. Now mind you, I haven’t been to this particular store in years and I don’t think I ever set foot in this courtyard before, so you can imagine the horror as my eyes adjust to the semi-darkness and find myself standing in the middle of a sea of cabbage. There are dozens of them in beds bordering the department store exit and the Cheesecake Factory restaurant opposite me!
Both the sickening pale green and the whitish purple kind are here, they were planted in a haphazard fashion making the whole courtyard look like the chilling incubator in Aliens. One could easily imagine the squalid leaves opening to release an unctuous beast upon the faces of unwary families. Some of the specimens lean at ungodly angles seeming to talk to their neighbors, others stay low to the ground shooting out in all directions multiplying as they do, and yet others grow straight and tall like sentinels watching over the blighted landscape. Their long stalks looking like vertebrae supporting large vibrant heads which seem to pulsate with an unearthly glow in the fading light of dusk. Most disturbing is the dead and dying lower leaves scattered around in pale sickly disintegration, turning blackish at the edges but not turning dry and crispy like friendly blowing fall leaves that bring back memories of jumping into the big piles that dad had just raked up. No these are heavy and flesh-like jumping into a pile of these would feel like hugging a cadaver. I am put in the mind of good old H P Lovecraft’s “The Color Out of Space” where a meteor brings unwelcome creatures to a farming community and causes a blighted heath where once was a good and wholesome meadow. I pace a few minutes wishing I had a sword or sickle to hack these blasphemous vegetative entities. I cut my time outside short wishing only to rid myself of the presence of these gross unatural horrors.
Now I am sure that some of you just love these things to pieces and can’t wait each year to buy them and put then in your yard, and if that’s the case with you dear reader then I can only say sorry…But perhaps they have already got you in their clutches…your one of them now. Maybe I’m just a little extreme in my dislike for one of God’s creations I don’t know. I shake off the cold as I go back in to find my mom and take us back to the entrance we came in, where asphalt and concrete prevent the horrors from getting a foothold. I tell myself that spring is just six weeks away and the promise of color and light will drive these things back to the gates of hell from whence they came.