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A Tree Grows in Sacramento

May
17
2004

Sometimes – often, actually – when I read the papers I wonder what country I live in. ‘Cause some days…some days….
Sunday was a classic. First, Garry Trudeau took a shot at Gov. Terminator’s bad habit (now apparently in remission) of grabbing women. Pretty funny. But, for Californians, beside the point. Take a look at Dan Weintraub’s take on Arnold Schwarzengger’s first six months in office. He gives the Gov. a “B” for effort and an “A+” for marketing.


Here’s Weintraub:
The new governor has demonstrated a mastery of the political game as if he had been playing it all his life. His first six months as chief executive – which end Monday – have been not so much the dawn of a new era as the return of an old one, reminiscent of a time when California’s political leaders clashed over policy in the Capitol while maintaining a civil or even friendly camaraderie at the negotiating table and away from it.
After reading the whole colum, I had the feeling even Schwarzenegger was laughing at Doonesbury. But, as I know you know because you’ve been reading this web log, Gov. Terminator is no joke.
So then I picked up the New York Times magazine and read Michael Pollan’s ”An American Transplant” about the move from gardening in New England to gardening in California. This paragraph jumped out at me.
It’s a good thing that states don’t license gardeners the way they do drivers, because if I had to take a written test to requalify as a gardener in the state of California, I would definitely have failed. What month should you plant tulips? What’s the name of the tree with fruits that resemble miniature pumpkins? Will basil survive the winter outdoors? Should you stake an artichoke? Is Mexican salvia an annual or a perennial? So little of what I brought with me as a gardener seems to apply. I’d be lucky to get my learner’s permit.
For those of you on the East Coast this is a marvel, I know. Particularly since Pollan then goes on to sing the joys of growing artichokes. But it sounded familiar. I’ve been reading Carey McWilliams’ “California: The Great Exception.” And he has a few words – written in 1948 — that Pollan echoes.
…One turns to “Pacific Coast Gardening,” by Norvell Gillespie, and is there informed that both the technique and the timing of gardening on the Pacific Coast are quiet unique and that success depends on a know-how which cannot be imported but must be discovered here, by a painful trial and error process.”
McWilliams then goes on to make an observation that applies to more than gardening. He is, after all, a political writer, one who should be required reading for everyone interested in this state’s political and economic history.
The culture of California has two striking characteristics: the willingness of the people to abandon the old ways, and the willingness with which people will try new forms and modes, and the inventiveness which they show in devising such modes and forms.”

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