* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we are only too happy to escape from the grubbiness of politics. Except that, as Jon Sindell has found, there is no escape.

The Gardening Hiring Committee I Faced Were All Retired Senate Judiciary Committee Members


I’d lost the bid to install the Chelsea Center Elementary School butterfly garden, so with sunhat in hand I faced the Gardening Hiring Committee of the Senatorial Gardens Retirement Villa for the associate gardener job.

The meeting was chaired by old Senator Gaseous. He raised his gavel, dropped it, and called a five-minute recess to retrieve it. He called the meeting to order, but was immediately interrupted by Senator Jaundiste.

“I object to the Chairperson’s patriarchal assertion of authority,” she wheezed.

“You are out of order,” the Chair wheezed back, peering mole-like down the conference table with an educated guess as to who had spoken. Senator Gaseous had already promised the Senatorial Gardens Federalist Tea Time Book Club that he would vote for me, and read aloud from a prepared statement. “Mr. Raichu, you are a gardener of unimpeachable reputation. We have before us website testimonials from dozens of satisfied customers who have lauded you for your green thumb, your artistic eye, and your professionalism. To quote from three: ‘The passion flowers are so pretty!’…’He finished on time.’…’He brought donuts once!’ These testimonials speak volumes, Mr. Raichu.”

“Thank you, Senator.”

“It is I who should thank you. Senatorial Gardens would be honored to employ a gardener of your outstanding qualifications — qualifications which should be obvious to any non-senile member of this committee. In that regard, I yield the floor to Senator DeMagog.”

“Mr. Raichu,” said the acerbic ex-senator, knitting his brow like my high school principal when I was caught taking geranium cuttings from the botany lab, “allow me to read a statement attributed to you in the Best Buds Garden Center customer newsletter of July 15, 2018, and I quote: ‘Invasive plants are a real problem in this neighborhood.'” The senator removed his glasses with the triumphant air of a prosecutor poised to destroy a witness. “Is it fair to say that you consider native plants more desirable than the hardy species that you so derisively dismiss as ‘invasive?'”

I turned to my partner, Gina, for a whispered conference.

“I’m not sure that’s a fair characterization of my views, Senator. I was talking about the harm invasive plants cause to — ”

“I’ve heard enough!” gasped the senator, his nurse immediately cupping an oxygen mask over his mouth and nose. “I’m voting no on this monster!”

“Hardly a surprise,” interposed Senator Longtuthe with a bitter laugh, “considering that the Senatorial Gardens newsletter quoted you just yesterday as saying ‘Appointing an avowed social conservative to this post would endanger the values our community holds dear.'”

“Senator,” I interjected, “that’s ‘soil conservationist,’ not ‘social conservative.'” With a smile I thought winning, I added, “I live for good soil.”

“The witness is out of order!” screamed Senator Selfreiteous.

I checked my phone. A load of fairy-tale lavender had arrived at Home Depot. Sweet.

“The Chair recognizes Senator Bloviateur.”

Senator Bloviateur plumped a 400-page tome in front of me. “Be so kind, Mr. Raichu, as to open the Bylaws Of The Senatorial Gardens Retirement Villa to page 214 and read into the record Section 87(A)(2)(c)(iv).”

“‘In selecting landscape designs,'” I read, “‘careful consideration shall be given to the ability of new landscape elements to harmonize with existing physical structures.'”

The senator removed his glasses — they all had that riff — and leaned forward as if to kill a newly trapped gopher. “And what is your interpretation of the word ‘harmonize,’ Mr. Raichu? Do you give it a strict construction, or are you a good person?”

I’d been warned this was coming. “I suppose it refers to the idea that plants should look good with the buildings. The colors and shapes and sizes and so on.”

The senator harrumphed with self-satisfaction. “I see. And if residents were to propose a planting scheme that you, in your wisdom, considered inharmonious in terms of ‘the colors and shapes and sizes’ of the plants, would you be willing to install such a scheme?”

I looked helplessly at Gina. “I’d rather not comment on hypothetical planting schemes, Senator.”

“I’m sure you wouldn’t,” the senator sneered. “But the people of this villa have a right to know how marginalized plants would fare if you were appointed associate gardener.”

“Senator, I’m really trying to understand, but by ‘marginalized plants,’ do you mean border gardens?”

“Enough! You are making a mockery of these proceedings! And I cannot, in good conscience, risk appointing a man like you as assistant gardener. My vote is no. A thousand times, no!”

I peeked at my phone. Tomato starts were on sale at Lowe’s.

Senator Gaseous tapped the gavel with all the strength of Montgomery Burns. “It’s obvious that there’s nothing more to do here,” he wheezed. “We all announced our decisions before the hearing anyway, so let’s just vote, and maybe we can make last call for dinner at four.”

I passed by one vote. But when Senator Gaseous offered congratulations, I replied, “Thank you all for the honor, but I’ve just received a text offering a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to become the head of leafblowing operations for We Blow, Inc. So as we gardeners say, I’m just gonna make like a tree and leaf.”

“A joke that corny shows contempt for this body!” shrieked Senator Selfreiteous.

And with both of her points, I had to agree.


* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we take great pride in being able to tell big emergencies from little emergencies. We learned from the best: Time Barrow (and no, he does not have a brother named Wheel).

It’s Time We Prioritize Your Emergencies


Dear Ashwood Tenants,

Due to the unusually high number of recent maintenance requests and unexpected events, we’ve been unable to address them all in a timely manner. We apologize.

Remember, we’re still short a technician, since Wesley is hospitalized (and healing well) following the fiasco trying to retrieve Mr. Martin’s Professional Phantom III drone off Ms. Pritchard’s third-floor bedroom window overhang. (Know that we’re currently updating our policy on the use of video-enabled R/C devices near the building.)

While every situation and tenant is important to us, it’s time we prioritize your emergencies based on urgency and impact. Moving forward, we’ll address issues in the following order:

  1. Floods and time-sensitive emergencies
    Now that marijuana is legal here in Washington, if you hear an unexpected knock on the door, there’s no need to flush your stash. More to the point, our toilets cannot handle plastic bags, particularly those filled with large amounts of organic material. Young Jimmy Brophy in 1703, and the McEwan family in 1603, can attest to the resulting water damage.
  2. Anything of a fecal nature
    Many of you were witness to, or casualties of, Mrs. Esterhouse’s exploding colostomy bag in elevator #2 last week. The elevator has since been cleaned/sterilized and the hall carpets replaced on level 3. We’ve also removed the Jackson Pollock reproduction from that area, as it was a visual reminder.
    Remember: If you use similar devices, please change them, frequently.
  3. Electrical sparks, smoke, and gas leaks
    Rest assured that the simultaneous calls we received regarding these issues last Tuesday were unrelated and purely coincidental.

    1. Thanks to Mr. Steinberg on 7, we’ll remind you that your lease stipulates you not conduct auto bodywork (even just power-sanding a Ducati gas tank) on your terrace, as the sparks do shower down on those below.
    2. The smoke and resulting alarm were due to young Jimmy Brophy and friends under the conference room table (remember, you must reserve that space).
    3. The clubhouse gas odor was no leak at all, but rather just Mr. Vitanza’s IBS acting up in an unprecedented manner.
  4. Locked out situations
    We’ll address these requests based on situation:

    1. Is there a child or dog locked inside? We’ll be right there.
    2. No endangered child/dog:
      1. Clear-headed? The first time’s free (it happens). After that, it’s a $35 charge for each occurrence.
      2. Inebriated? There’s a $127 charge to let you in; $373 if we find the key is actually in your possession.
    3. Locked out of your car? Call AAA, your insurance company, or a locksmith. We’ll no longer assist in opening car doors with a slim jim, given the recent events (and impending lawsuit) after we assisted young Jimmy Brophy in entering and starting what we now know to be Mr. Scott’s classic Porsche.
  5. Legally dubious issues
    During the service call to fix Mr. Manz’s ice maker last month, our technicians were quite surprised to find numerous bags that look suspiciously like severed body parts. We’re cooperating fully in the investigation, and Apartment 1521 will likely soon be vacant.
  6. Bugs, rodents and critters (in order of likelihood)
    1. Bugs. We bring in exterminators upon new move-ins and as needed. If you contact us about cockroaches, as Ms. Brewner on 11 did, it can take a few days to schedule the exterminator. Assuredly, baking a “pecan pie” for the maintenance team is unnecessary and does not speed up the exterminator’s visit.
    2. Rodents. For years we’ve placed traps around the building without issue. This month was the first time we found one occupied. To the Goethe girls on 9, sorry Lauren & Olivia, we found Hail and Sleet, but you’ll need to secure that cage if you get any replacement pets.
    3. Critters. Occasional skunk/raccoon sightings have occurred. They’re occasional!
  7. Fires
    While this should seemingly rank higher on the list, fires aren’t really our thing. We’re maintenance technicians, for chrissake. If you have a fire and go to call us, hang up and dial 911. On that note, here are some tips to allay the need for the fire department:

    1. You should have learned, at a very young age, NOT to throw water on a grease fire. Ms. Hwang on 14 did not know this. Apparently, we also need to share that you should not spit on a grease fire, throw beer cans at it, or try to flash-fry sandwich meat over it.
    2. Your lease bans the use of barbeque grills on personal terraces. Accordingly, we maintain two grills in the common pool area. Your desire to BBQ nude at home, to respectfully avoid exposing your fellow tenants to such activity in the common area, is not justification (though somehow appreciated). As Mr. Kim on 9 recently learned:
      1. Grilling nude can be quite painful
      2. Balcony plants catch fire quickly
      3. Our security cameras broadcast a public 24/7 live stream
      4. One cannot remove such recorded streams from YouTube or LiveLeaks
    3. Thanks again to young Jimmy Brophy, we must mention that setting alight a quarter ounce of any substance in a bathtub–particularly with seven other people packed in the closed bathroom–is very much a fire hazard and can ignite the shower curtain.
    4. God forbid, if you’re experiencing a fire and booting up your laptop to alert us via email, just hang up and dial 911. (Just dial 911 from the get-go, Mrs. Parkin.)
  8. Broken appliances, doors and utilities
    Yep, we fix this stuff. In fact, it’d be our #1 concern, if not for this list’s other scenarios. Just put in a request and we’ll come… unless we’re tending to more pressing issues.

We appreciate your understanding and adherence to this updated policy on maintenance request prioritization.

Thank you,

The Ashwood Management and Maintenance Team


* Welcome to The Big Jewel, and to 2019! We hope this will be a most rewarding year for you. And if you heed the wisdom of Graham Techler, it just might be!

Patreon Rewards For Being My Friend


Hello! Thanks to Patreons like you, I am well on my way to the robust social life I feel I have been promised. For those who have yet to join me on Patreon, I am excited to offer you exclusive rewards for buying into our friendship on a monthly basis. Here are some of our tiered sponsorship options.

Text Me on My Birthday

Unlocks me texting you on your half-birthday, and also texting you on your ex-girlfriend’s birthday to make sure you’re doing okay.

Come to a Concert with Me if I Buy the Ticket

Unlocks me sending you the band’s top sixteen songs, which we can put into a seeded bracket before the show to gamify the experience and make this fun for you. Also unlocks an “Is this fun for you??” shouted over the music every three songs.

Need an Even Number for Water Bumper Cars, Only Have Five People, Consider Adding Me as the Sixth

Unlocks ponchos for this whole dream team you’re assembling, just in case I make the cut, but if I don’t: keep the ponchos, it’s an honor just to be nominated.

Give Me Your Thoughts on Marvel Movies

Unlocks my thoughts on Marvel movies and so much more. Some contrarian, some gushing, all largely unsolicited.

Post Up for High Five

Unlocks bonus fist bump.

Return Fist Bump

Unlocks bonus hug.

Pick Me Up from the Airport

Unlocks me offering to buy you a beer sometime to say thanks, you telling me it’s really no big deal, and me vehemently insisting that I thank you by making you hang out with me more.

Get In Argument with Guy Outside Bar during Thank-You-Airport Drinks

Unlocks me staying out of it, but filming it in case you end up looking cool as shit, but also deleting the video in case you don’t end up looking cool as shit. Either way I’ll give you space to do your thing.

Borrow a Book

Unlocks me leaving a lot of post-it notes in that book like little treasures for you to find that will remind you I exist. “This part’s great!” “Did you cry here? I did!” You will still be surprised when, years later, you learn that I left you all my books in my will.

Plant Shopping! 

Unlocks me also leaving you the plants in my will.

Stick Up for Me after I Post Something Misguided about a Hot-Button Issue, Risking the Ire of Our Peers in the Process

Unlocks my unwarranted assumption that you will agree with me on all further misguided opinions on hot-button issues, my confidence in posting said views more often in the future, and almost certainly the ire of our peers.

Co-Host New Year’s Eve Party with Me

Unlocks the fact that if you do that, I will literally hold back the waves of time to keep that party going and to keep you young. To keep you as young as you desire.

Slight Me in Some Unknowably Small Way

Unlocks me holding it against you for a long, long time, and yet massively overcompensating around you due to the guilt I feel from holding a grudge that I wish I could erase but is out of my control.

Meet My Parents when They’re in Town

Unlocks me telling thinly veiled stories that hint at rambunctious adventures amongst my friend group, suggesting to you that I am a confident, transparent straight-shooter with my parents, suggesting to my parents that I am a real adult with a slight edge to me, but in reality probably just making everyone a little uncomfortable, plus all previous rewards.

Are My Parents

Sorry. Super busy day at work. Will call later!