Don’t Rush Me

Earlier in the month my wife, and I’m sure many others, heard Michigan Radio host Todd Mundt interview botanist Dr. Tony Trewavas. She heard the interview while driving to somewhere, and when she got home she had to tell me about it.
And, once I heard the Reader’s Digest version of said interview I was left cold and chilly. Visions of 1950s horror films haunted my thoughts.
“Todd Mundt’s show talked about plants with feelings,” dear wife Jen said. “They can feel and communicate.”
Indeed, Dr. Trewavas of the University of Edinburgh says we humans have underestimated plant life — that the only difference between us and them (besides they’re green, we have feet, hands and opposable thumbs) is that plants are not mobile.
Which means they can feel, see and taste. Individual types of plants adapt to their separate environments.
They’re alive! Was what I thought. It’s true! The end cannot be far behind. Kid, it’s a topsy-turvy world we live in. One day you’re on top of the food chain, eating whatever you can sink your teeth into, the next — I shudder to think of the “next.” The next day can only resemble either The Day of the Triffids or The Thing From Another World?
In both, vegetable aliens threaten the existence of human kind. And in both movies only man’s desire to survive and the fact he can throw things saves humanity. Triffids wither to smithereens when one throws salt water on them and the Walking Carrot Thing — aka actor James Arness — was burned and fried.
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I have long heard you should talk to your house plants, that they respond to kindness. You can sing to your plants, but never yell at your plants.
I actually e-mailed Dr. Trewavas to ask him what was going on in Edinburg. What is he trying to prove? Is he trying to make me feel guilty for going out to the back yard, breaking off a stalk of celery and biting into it?
What? Will there soon be anti-plant eaters protesting outside the produce market? Will there be a backlash against the vegan life-style?
I have these concerns because I have seen and heard the well-meaning, but lunatic fringe folks from PETA — People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. I have nothing against people who chose to be vegetarian — just leave me and my medium rare hamburger out of it.
We, people of all races, colors and creeds, are on top of the food chain — a number one, top of the heap, king of the hill, etc. And, until an alien species swoops down from the heavens and proves they’re masters of the food chain, we’re still numero uno. Which means we can eat all those further down the food chain ladder.
Guilt free.
But, alas I’m Catholic. I have a healthy dose of the guilts — for everything — and, to ease my mind about eating my veggies, I also e-mailed Winslow Briggs –botanist for the Carnegie Institution of Washington. And, here’s what he wrote me:
“I know of no single case in which it has been demonstrated by sound science that plants have ‘feelings.’
“Every case I have seen has had a completely logical explanation based on known responses of plants to their environment. Plants do respond to physical stimuli such as light, gravity, touch, even wind pressure (the wood is stronger on the undersides of large branches and on the downwind side for trees regularly exposed to wind from a certain direction) but there are perfectly plausible and extremely well studies cellular mechanisms to account for these responses.
“Even reports that “plants prefer rock and roll to classical music” are tainted by the fact that the speakers are normally in the chamber with the plants. The louder the music the more ethylene or other volatile substance emitted by the speakers. Since ethylene is a natural plant hormone, finding a difference between the effects of loud and soft music is hardly surprising.
“The bottom line is that although there are some true believers out there, there is no real scientific basis for their beliefs.”
He added, “Glad I could help you with your anxiety about celery.”
I don’t know about you, but, folks, I can sleep easier at night with this information.

On a recent blustery day I stumbled into Lakes community Credit Union in Lake Orion. And, there up on the counter separating me from the teller chick, was a familiar white box. A box with the promise, “Baked in the deep south according to a famous old southern recipe.”
That holiday favorite, the Claxton Bakery Fruitcake, was sitting pretty, in all its glory, begging to be bought.
“Do you actually sell these things?” I asked the teller-chick, Maureen to family and friends.
“Yeah. I’m gonna’ buy one,” she said and smiled.
My shock, which I thought was well concealed, must have been oozing through to my facial expression. Without prompting, Maureen added, “I don’t eat fruit cake. I’m gonna’ cut them up, shellac ’em and make them Christmas ornaments.”
“Great, now can I draw some money out of my checking account and I’ll get me and my dumb look out of your financial institution?”
Back in the car, I started to think. does anybody eat fruitcake? When you mention fruitcake, people get funny looks on their faces. Yet, they must be popular for something, there are a lot sold . . . so, I thought some more.
My top 10 things you can do with a fruitcake . . .
10. Give as a gift to that “special” somebody
9. Sell to somebody else
8. Wear around your neck while you sleep to fend off little fairies and whacked-out elves
7. Throw ’em in the back of the pickup for added weight during the winter driving season
6. Makes a great paperweight
5. Cut ’em up, shellac ’em, hook ’em and make Christmas decorations
4. Bomb shelter building material, would also serve as emergency food rations in case of the “big one.”
3. Make it an anchor
2. Festive looking doorstop.
And the Number 1 thing I can do with a fruitcake is give it to my wife as a present.
Yep, it’s true. I came home with a wad of cash in my pockets, this great idea for a column (making fun of fruitcake) and she tells me she loves the nutty, fruity goodness that is a fruitcake.
“Everybody jokes about them, but I never get one,” she said, nearly putting a dagger in the back of this week’s column. Nearly.
I was able to look inward and access my feelings. Taking shots at fruitcake was a go!
I did research on Claxton Bakery and fruitcakes in general. The recipe, “from the deep south,” was created by an Italian immigrant, Savino Tos, who opened the Claxton Bakery in 1910, in Claxton, Georgia. The fruitcake of note was born when, in the fall, “Tos decided to capture the spirit of the season by offering a premium quality fruitcake, filled with nature’s finest fruits and nuts.”
In 1927, Tos hired an 11-year-old lad, Albert Parker. In 1945, Tos retired and sold the business to Al. According to legend, Al saw the writing on the wall when it came to the bakery business. Grocery stores were putting the hurt on the local baker. Al focused all his energy on one thing: fruitcake. And, in that first year, Al and a few workers baked 45,000 pounds of fruitcake.
Their 50,000 square foot bakery, now produces millions of pounds of fruitcake yearly. Claxton, GA, is now the Fruitcake Capital of the World, and over 1,000 service groups sell the fruitcake as a fund-raising project. Al ran the company until his death in 1995, at the age of 79. His four children now run the company.
As Paul Harvey would say, “Now you know the rest of the story . . .”
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And, from the internet, here’s a fruitcake recipe:
1 cup butter, 2 cups sugar, 6 large eggs, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 3 cups flour, sifted, 1/2 t. salt, 1 cup bourbon, 1 pound pecans, chopped ,3 cups white raisins (or use candied fruit) , 1 t. nutmeg. AND a very large bottle of bourbon whiskey.
First, sample the whiskey to check for quality. Assemble all of the ingredients. Check the whiskey again. To be sure it is of the highest quality, pour one level cup and drink. Repeat this step.
Turn on the electric mixer and beat one cup of butter in a large fluffy bowl. Add one teaspoon of sugar and cream until beat. Make sure the whiskey is still okay… try another cup. Turn off the mixer. Beat six leggs and add to the bowl, then chuck in the cup of dried flut. Mix on the tuner. Throw in two quarts of flour. Gradually pour in the cow. Add 2 dried anything.
If the fried druit gets struck in the beaters, pry it loose with a drewscriver. Sample the whiskey and check it again for tonsistency. Next, sift two cups of salt. Or something. Who cares??? Check the whiskey again.
Now sift the nutmeg and strain your nuts. Add one table. And the spoon. Of whiskey. Or something. Whatever you find left. Grease the oven. Turn the crake pan to 350 degrees. Don’t forget to beat off the turner.
Pour the oven into the batter. Throw the bowl out the window. Lick the batter off the floor. Bake 300 minutes at 50 degrees. Finish the blobble of whishy and flow to bed.
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Somewhere, a l-o-o-o-o-o-ng time ago an old-timer said something like this (and I prefer to picture and can hear the old-timer as character actor Walter Brennan — in particular as the cantankerous, game-legged jailkeeper, Stumpy, in the John Wayne movie, Rio Bravo. You can pick your own favorite old-timer to make the quote more poignant to you). What’s the old saying?
Once you’ve fallen so far and hit the bottom, the only place to go is up.
I think the saying was a way to brighten the downtrodden’s day. A chippy little diddy to give hope. The old-timer obviously hadn’t envisioned new technological advancements in regards to suckatoods — it’s called a shovel. Anybody can fall further into suckatoodness so long as they have a shovel and keep digging.
And that reminds me of the Year of Our Lord, 2008. In a word, it sucked. In two words, it really sucked. Oh, I am sure there were good things that happened in 2008. I know folks fell in love, got married and had babies — all wonderful things.
I know, I know — it sounds like I’m a hater. My cheer isn’t, ?2008, the year I hate! Kick it in the shin, punch it in the nose, run out the year, let’s go, go go!?
I really don’t hate 2008. What is there to hate? I mean it’s not like the stock market crashed. We never paid $4 for a gallon of gas. Tens of thousands of people didn’t lose their homes to foreclosures. One in ten people in Michigan are not unemployed. People and jobs are not leaving the state like rats from a sinking ship. Home values have not fallen. Taxes have not gone up and neither has inflation.
The Detroit Lions (and I use that term ‘professional? only because they get paid to play) didn’t boldly go where no other team had gone by losing 16 games and winning zero. The Detroit Tigers didn’t finish last in their division. The Michigan Wolverines didn’t implode on the gridiron.
The South doesn’t hate the North. Government officials and elected types don’t treat each other with contempt and disrespect. (What am I saying? In the previous sentence, for the word ‘each,? insert the word ‘all?). And, we the people, don’t feel the same way about the government and elected types. Daily newspapers are not getting rid of the paper part of their names.
Israelis and the Palestinians don’t hate each other and are not killing each other. Thousands have not died in Iraq. The Taliban doesn’t hate women’s rights and, in general, all things American. Russia didn’t claim the North Pole as their territory, nor did they invade the smaller, neighboring country of Georgia.
And we didn’t find out Joe the Plumber is not really a plumber. No, there isn’t a single reason to hate 2008.
But, I learned long ago, if you can’t say something nice about somebody, don’t say anything at all. So, I will not say anything bad about 2008. As fired Detroit Lions coach Rod Marinelli said, ‘The record speaks for itself.?
Let’s just bury 2008 and mutter a few nice words over it’s grave: Crap Happened.
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I am glad that is out of my system. It’s been a long time in the making. I don’t know about (or care about) what you feel, but I feel better ‘sharing? with you. So with that, and in accordance to my credo of always having a happy ending, let’s look to 2009. In 2009, we as a community will come together. We will rely more on ourselves and renew our relationship with neighbors. We will shop locally.
We will take the time to notice the nice gestures of family, friends and complete strangers. We will take time to smell the proverbial coffee, and raise beautiful, fragrant and bountiful gardens. We will listen to the birds and the bees and watch the trees sway in the breeze.
We will smile more, laugh more, hug more, love more.
Our spiritual awareness will be rekindled. In short, we will not whine in 2009.

As any science fiction writer who is at least average does, I often project from today into the future. So I did a few weeks past, when I penned a column about the end of civilization thanks to a population addicted to texting.
And, it actually piqued some readers? attention. So without further eloquence . . .
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My stepson, Ryan, was majorly marked down on an English paper he did last year. He blamed it on the teacher, stating that she was being SO picky. After reading the paper, I was shocked to see his ‘text language? being used in place of our English language. He used ‘bc? repeatedly in place of ‘because.? By the way (BTW), he thinks that everyone should know what this means. I told him everyone does not know what bc means and the only bc abbreviation I know is for before Christ.
His dad and I chewed him out and now proofread what he turns in at school. We have seen this change and we do not like it! Though I must admit that when he texts LUL, (love you lots) my heart smiles. 🙂 — Kathleen G.
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Hey Don, — Nice article about texting. . . .I think some folks use texting as an easy way out. In a text, you don’t have to look the other person in the eye. You can hide behind your tiny little cell phone screen and you don’t have to LISTEN to the other person’s
reply. Texting shouldn’t be called ‘co?-mmunicating. It should be called ‘uni-cating.?
So I share your fear about civilization crumbling. . . and I too am anal retentive about spelling in my texts (and pretty much everywhere else).
As I re-read, I’m feeling like a complete hypocrite. I love to text and I regularly use all of those shortcuts. But I do feel guilty when I use them, like I’m offending Noah Webster himself. Is that worth anything? — Sue F.
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Hey Don — I think your column is dead on.
Technology has been a great thing, has made our lives easier and more productive, but it definitely is changing our children. It’s changing how they are growing, their life experiences and who they will ultimately become. Not knowing what the end result will be is the scariest part.
Interesting memory. . . I remember the phone was in our kitchen growing up, and I was always careful about what I was saying cuz my mom was right there cooking, etc. I usually whispered. My kids have conversations and I didn’t even hear the phone ring.
Advice: Be snoopy. If they leave their phone laying around, check the texts. That’s how I found out my son was planning to meet a girl at the mailbox at midnight. Busted!
I like to spell things out in complete sentences and people tell me that I’m too wordy. I was discussing what new acronyms I learned just this week with my husband . . . one is LMAO . . . and MILF. I think we’re doomed. Great column . . . again! — Dee C.
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Texting — hate it — mostly because i can’t do it. although i do love my e-mail and IM — thank you mom for forcing me to take typing in high school. i also don’t feel a need to punctuate correctly or use capitals — i assume you know that i know….
I think it is a wonderful convenience IF, the big IF, people are also able to communicate in real life’face to face or on paper. The problem with this process being used among teens is that they are skipping much of their ‘real life? experiences at a very crucial stage in there lives. It is up to us as parents and educators to outsmart the little rascals and figure out a way to incorporate the new technology in a ‘real? way.
I am also quite sure there were parents grumbling about the first printing press, the telephone, the typewriter, the ‘horse-less carriage? etc. as being the end of civilization as well. And you know what, they were right. It was the end of one thing and the beginning of something else equally wonderful — just different.
What is good?
We can’t stop progress — even if it doesn’t seem like the right thing. I don’t really want to go back to the ‘good old days? (for one thing they had really ugly shoes and I just got my hair to look good with hair dryers and flat irons). I guess we just need to step up and show them what they are missing by sticking to one form of communication and we need to be a little more open minded about the positive aspects of technology. Everything in moderation. — Hollie G.
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There is a wonderfulness to the printed word. Texting cannot capture tone, convey nuance, create a vivid image or communicate a thought longer than 60 words. It is a quick way to get a message out, but it encourages misspellings because ‘r? is faster than spelling out ‘are.?
‘Prolly? kills me. I wonder if teens and 20-somethings even know how to spell ‘probably.? btw, where we stay on Harsens Island there’s no cell service and no land line so TEXTING is our only alternative. Essential! Going with the flow.? — Peggy M.
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