Boise, the City of Trees.
Boise was, well Boise. We stopped in another town outside of Boise to visit with a wonderful friend of Ryan's - she lives in a rather conservative neigbourhood:
Her neighbours stole her Obama sign 7 times from her lawn and once from off of her roof.
Another time, she was on her roof, fixing her satellite dish, listening to Rossini when she over heard her neighbour saying to his wife:
"There she goes with that Jew music again."
Which is something that could only be said by someone so astoundingly ignorant that you just have to laugh. Or cry. What the hell is the world coming to?
The local police told her (she is friendly with them) to tell people she was Catholic (she is not in a position to start any "Let's educate the natives" campaigns for personal reasons), so she leaves a Christmas tree up year round (this irritates the Mormons) and hangs a cross by her front door.
She really, really hates it there but cannot leave for reasons beyond her control.
She lost a grand daughter and had a neighbour come over repeatedly and evangelise at her. At first she attempted to be polite but when she was getting ready to leave for the funeral, the woman appeared again, arms outstretched, eyes closed, saying,
"She is with God now. Oh I can't wait for the day that I am with the Lord!"
Ryan's friend: "Come over here, I'll help you get there."
Visiting Boise is much better than that place. It was really, really hot though.
Jan rented a small SUV and took us around the place. In the afternoon, I went with her over to her neighbours house.
Jeanette lives across the street from Jan and has the most amazing garden. The front has pots of wild strawberries that melt across your tongue, just about as sweet as you can handle. The front of the house has a trellis with a grape vine growing across and the grapes were just about green, underneath of which were squash plants with squash sat like hens eggs waiting to be discovered. If you walked around the back of the house, into the rectangular back garden, the fence to your left also supported more grape vines - this one of a different variety than the one in the front- and the other side of the garden had a vegetable patch with different varieties of tomato, cucumber closest to the house. A little further towards the end, about halfway down, was a blueberry bush. Closest to the house was a wild tangle of different herbs, particularly lemon balm not to mention mint and different sorts of sage.
Down the middle of the yard was another trellis and then a patch of hoed and turned soil, where the asparagus was growing. The trellis held a huge blackberry bush and it was this that we had come to the garden for. Huge blackberries the same length as the width of my palm grew in fat bunches, looking as though the were ready to burst. You had to be careful picking them because they were so tender and ripe that some of the drupelets would break and stain your hand, although my finger tips were stained wine red soon anyway.
So in this magical garden lives Jeanette, who tends it as best she can. She weighs 496 lbs. She knows it to this accuracy because she has herself weighed at the recycling center before she goes to the doctor. When I first saw her, she was sitting on a stool by her back door amongst the herbs, leaning on her walker. Most of her body was shrouded in a faded, shapless, black cotton dress. It was a short sleeve dress, so you could see her thick upper arms, laden with fat that slowly diminished into tiny, delicate hands which matched her little snub nose that seemed out of place on her round, fat swathed head. Her head was shaved bald and what grey stubble she had was sparse anyway. She had a delicate pinkness to her skin that I've only seen on fat people and it was damp with the moisture of the Boise humidity.
The way she tends her garden is to sit on her stool and give orders as to how she wants things. She hires a boy to come and do as she says and I think Jan does a fair bit for her: when we arrived our payment for picking her blackberries was to move her sprinklers around the asparagus. She wasn't very clear in her directions and rather than telling us she wanted 3 sprinklers amongst the asparagus, she simply started giving confusing step by step instructions, so it took us 20 minutes instead of 5.
She was quite frank about her situation, mentioned the palett that she had her chair on in the living room, the boyfriend who shot her in the stomach which was the catalyst for her current condition, and her various ailments. At one point, Jan disappeared into the house to get another container for the abundance of blackberries - our little colander was not even half big enough to contain them, Jeanette looked at me very earnestly and said,
"It's a shithole in there. Really. A real shithole."
Jan reappeared, we gathered more blackberries and she and I discussed the pie I planned to ask Ryan to make when we went back to Jan's.
The pie was delicious.
This was in that town outside of Boise. I realise it's hard to see so I'll describe it to you: beat up junker truck with a sticker illustrating "Calvin" of "Calvin and Hobbes" praying to a cross. He also had a bumper sticker that read "Real Men Love Jesus." I'm making a frowny face right now.
"Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?"
And finally, my hero, Maggie the Moocher.