July 10, 2023

Cincinnati, OH 

Dear Marianne,

Well, we’ve hit the dog days here in the Midwest. Two key indicators they’ve arrived: everyone is surly all the time and Big Gulps go off sale. Hell, maybe the two are related. I don’t know.

Me? Despite paying more for my Big Gulps, I’ve fallen into a state of calm I don’t often see. What I should say, I guess, is I’m in a state of calm Michele doesn’t often see. I’m usually not paying that much attention to myself, whether I’m calm or unhinged. Actually, I sometimes do notice when I’m not unhinged. It’s notable. And I will say this–to coin a phrase you’re fond of–in defense of unhinged, at least unhinged is 100% honest 100% of the time. Nobody, me included, fakes unhinged. Except in movies. And on 24/7 cable news.

I credit my current state of calm to a pair of things. First, the Reds are arguably the best team in baseball and inarguably the coolest, which is how it is supposed to be. And, second, I finished the great, big talk that for a year or two felt like the thing my whole life was leading up to. It went pretty well and now it feels like my life has maybe culminated since I’m no longer working towards this big thing. Now it’s kind of like I’m being stretchered away from it. But I know me. It won’t be long before I’m bored and once again working on something big, although I think the next “something big” might be several smaller bits. Which, of course, if assembled together, will become something huge! Stay tuned, I guess.

But the whole trip and the talk went well. The closing keynote at the International Master Gardeners Conference in Overland Park, KS. Totally my kind of audience. A big room packed with a thousand people, none of whom got out much over the past three years and therefore had unknowingly lowered their standards on what an entertaining and informational talk should be. Got a few big laughs at jokes I thought would go over well. Nothing lifts me like a big laugh rolling through a big hall. 

That said, you know what else feels pretty good? No talks on the docket for a couple of months. I love doing them but they do stress me out. And the travel. And the getting behind in everything else. But the garden never fell too far behind and now it feels kind of caught up. Hence, enough calm to go to a baseball game. Or to watch one on TV. Or do nothing at all. Feels weird. Feels nice. Feels like it can’t go on for too much longer.  

Another big lift: we finally finished the application and the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden got Level IV Arbnet accreditation. Only Zoo in the world which can claim that! News of that came on the same day we picked our first tomato.

We went to a Reds game. It was sold out.

I spoke for the International Master Gardeners Conference in Kansas. It was sold out too. We had a great time there. Hosted by literally some of the nicest people on Earth.

But the calm I’ve been enjoying has been somewhat offset by some very bad pain and suffering. Sciatica. Which I’ve had before. Bullwhip sharp pain down one leg until you can hobble to a shoe store, get a new pair of shoes, and, voila, it’s gone and I’m normal. But this time it’s different. First, prolonged, no matter what shoes I wear. It feels like my vertebrae are pinching off my spinal cord, much like what I do when I kink a hose to stop the water so I can change from a nozzle to a sprinkler without having to walk all the way back to the spigot. Because walking is electric shock agony down the back of both legs. Marianne, for weeks now, this has been my experience. I’ve been lurching around my garden like some kind of monster washing ashore from a filthy lagoon. And, yes, I can hear what the neighbors are saying and it’s not very nice. 

Lilies are getting all the attention in the garden right now. Even if you don’t see them, which you will, but even if you don’t, it’s like the air is candy. Just so you know, I indeed realize that it’s a lily in the foreground and a daylily, an unrelated species, in the background. I also know that Myanmar was formerly known as Burma. 

But, what am I doing? Instead of dwelling on me, I guess I should respond to your letter. But I won’t. I’m way more interested in your Rant post that–if it should go viral enough–might bring down capitalism. Your anti-influencer blog. At your age, and your place in life, I understand your point of view completely. Especially in tandem with your letter, which was sort of like getting cluster bombed by fun, happiness, and good fortune. You must understand. I’m older than you. And not so rich. And no longer good-looking like I once was. Marianne, I have fewer years–none of which could be described as potentially “quality years”–to live. So, what I’m thinking is I’ve got to go for whatever I can and I’ve got to do it now. Therefore, yeah, I’m going to become an influencer. Or die trying.

I mean it.

So I wrote it on my calendar to walk down to the libray on Thursday and check out a book on how to become an influencer. Or, who knows, maybe I’ll splurge and go to a bookstore and buy one. And, then, once I’ve read it a couple times, I’ll go for it. Hard. Head on! I actually practiced some selfies today. I based my poses on the daily dribble of profile pictures I get from young women who–out of the blue–choose to become new Instagram followers of me. They especially like to do this pursed lips, pouty thing. I don’t know why. But they all do it, and, you know, if it’s working for them… Anyway, I have no idea who all these women are or how they’ve heard about me, but, gosh, maybe I’m practically an influencer already! 

But don’t worry. I won’t forget about you when I’m famous. Especially if you help me pick out my best selfies. Which are the sexiest? I can’t decide. 

The pursed lips, pouty look. The standard, apparently.

Getting a little daring with an off the shoulder look.

Showing the world how I look with a product.

As if I have to just come right out and say it! I’ll fix the sign for future posts. So you don’t have to read it backwards, it says, “If you paid me money, your LOGO would be right here. Although I definitely need to work on some things, I see sponsors coming out of the woodwork!

Sorry the letter is so short. The sciatica is so bad it even hurts when I type.  


Grandbaby Celina is eating solid food now. I think she has influencer potential too!