February 20, 2011

You’ve Got To Be Orchidding Me

Good morning and greetings, NBA All-Star game fans. Well, in the words of Jimi Hendrix’s old pal Buddy Miles, the weather went through “them changes” last week as we went from Summer Sanders back to Jonathan Winters here on the central coast. The couple of powerful storm systems from the Northwest blew in torrents of rain, pebble beach-sized hail, snow and fabulous rainbows that would have made the North Shore jealous. And yes, by the grace of will and God, I caught one down at Natural Bridges that I’ll post on this site as soon as my camera and liver dries out.

So what is it about winter that brings these violent storms to Father Earth? The weather was as brutal as Idi Amin in January, as the east saw more snow drifts then at a Charlie Sheen toga party. Scientists and four out of five dentists that chew gum say that no snowflake ever falls in the wrong place, but I’ve watched a pot and it has boiled. I once heard Lindsay Lohan say that a snowflake is winter’s butterfly, but I prefer the orange and black monarchs who visit Santa Cruz every fall and don’t require me to carry a shovel, ice scraper and chains in my Kelly Slater board shorts.

Still, my weather philosophy goes back to something I first heard from a member of the Rainbow Family at Woodstock. “Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, bring your own sunshine.” While sleigh riding through Antarctica, Admiral Perry learned that the Eskimos have fifty-two different names for snow because it is so important to them, much like the way I have eighty-five names for my pillow and TiVo remote control.

Duke Kahanamoku, the Hawaiian swimmer who brought vowels and surfing to the mainland, has this tropical perspective of the coldest season. “I have never seen snow and do not know what winter means.” My favorite French romantic poet, Victor Hugo once remarked, “winter is in my head, but eternal spring is in my heart.” That may be all well and good, but I’m more of a Robert Byrne type who says, “winter is nature’s way of saying ‘up yours.’” As far as the record snowstorms that have battered the midwest and east coast this winter, I believe it goes back to the boys from Spirit who told us “it’s nature’s way of telling you something’s very wrong.”

But let’s end all this winter talk on a light-hearted note. Knock, knock. Who there? Freeze. Freeze who? Freeze the jolly good fellow… Hey, nobody said I’m going for a Pulitzer here.

So while the skies were gray last week, there was color in my heart and my photo archives. Tomorrow is my brother Paul’s birthday and he is an orchid lover. As children, we spent hours together in our greenhouse, tilling the soil, tending the seedlings and hand-feeding tiny acorns to the baby squirrels. So to honor my favorite middle brother on his special day, I’d thought I’d let him grace the pages of today’s blog. So here, in his own words, a young man who claims he once beat me in ping pong, Paul Gilbert.

I’m trying to figure out when I first got interested in orchids (my botanical memory cells have been slowly composting over the years). I believe it was after visiting the acres of greenhouses at Rod McLellan headquarters in San Bruno, CA. A friend of ours was working there in the marketing department and gave us a tour and I was immediately taken with these most unusual and exotic plants. At the time, McLellan was one of the biggest supplier of orchids in the country. They even had an “orchid spa,” where people (wealthy) would have their dormant plants taken care of until they were ready to bloom again. Nothing like a little hot oil massage to reinvigorate those tired roots.

I began building my own collection, starting with the usual mundane pink and white phalaeonopsis, also known as the moth orchid, due to the shape of its flowers. Soon, I graduated to more interesting-looking striped and spotted varieties. Then, I began to expand my horizons to include warm-growers like cataleyas, dendrobiums and vandas. I began going to orchid shows, hunting for unusual species, with more striking colors and shapes. Now, I was hooked and kept needing that orchid high, which fortunately, you didn’t need a prescription for in California.

Next, I expanded into fragrant orchids, such as miltonias, zygopetalums and my favorite, an oncidium known as Sherry Baby. This plant fills an entire floor of a small house (aka ours) with an incredibly intoxicating smell. Sometimes, I’ll find one with six stalks and up to 75 delicate flowers and every time I pass by it, I inhale deeply (unlike Bill Clinton) and marvel at its sweetly delicious perfume. If my wife wore that kind of scent, I might never let her leave the room.

Eventually, the global economy jumped into the orchid business and prices plummeted as the market became saturated. Plants that once went for $60-100 in a flower shop could now be purchased for $15-30 at Home Depot or Trader Joe’s. About a year ago, I started growing tired of feeding and watering my clan and gave all the non-blooming plants away via Craig’s List to a transplanted couple from Hawaii who couldn’t afford to buy new ones themselves. Plus, there’s a wholesale greenhouse in Half Moon Bay, so when I go down to Santa Cruz, I stop in there and pick up some new ones when I need them. My orchid passion still burns, but I’m not into long courtships anymore. I’d just as soon grab a quickie.

Besides, I’ve got a new flame. Don’t get me started on succulents.

Thank you, brother and let me say a few more words about the guy who popped out of my mother’s womb after me. Paul used to work for NBA Entertainment and created the league’s “NBA Action is Fantastic campaign.” Bill Simmons, author of the best seller, “The Book of Basketball,” says that if he were putting together an 80′s time capsule and could only use 30 minutes of material, it would include Paul’s “Oscar-winning sixty second classic that used Hall and Oates, ‘One on One’ that featured a number of pretty passes, Jerome Whitehead stuffing Tom Chambers dunk and James Worthy’s gorgeous 360- degree layup in slow motion during the sax solo.” Bill, do me a favor and throw in Pointer Sisters “I’m So Excited” promo just to make amends.

So for our photo greenhouse, I have included a variety pack of orchid delights. In my archives I have hundreds and hundreds of these photos, as besides my brothers I grew up an only child and consider them all my friends. And if I can get personal for a moment, on the door my oval office I have 98 different photos pasted to each side of the “orchid door.” It’s not the “Stairway to Heaven” but it’s damn close. My father always said, “Geoff, you have to have hobbies” along with the all-time classic, “if cream cheese were illegal, I’d stop eating it tomorrow.” Now that’s an episode of “Law and Order” I’d pay to see.

On to the late night. “Experts say that what happened in Egypt proves that countries in the Middle East can move toward democracy without the U.S. invading them. George W. Bush said, “Now you tell me.”–Jay Leno “Now that Hosni Mubarak is out of office, they’re saying he’s an old tyrant, decrepit, and out of touch. Oh wait, that’s me. Hosni Mubarak reportedly didn’t understand the Internet and social networking. That may be true, but somehow he figured out how to wire $80 billion to Switzerland.”–David Letterman

“President Obama unveiled his new budget, including $1 trillion in spending cuts, which Obama called the most painful choice he’s ever made. Then he looked over at Joe Biden and said, ‘OK, 2nd most painful choice.’”–Craig Ferguson “It rained in Los Angeles. By the time I figured out how to work my wiper blades, it stopped. Over the weekend, we’re supposed to get over a quarter inch of rain per day. Why is god doing this to us?”–Jimmy Kimmel “NPR’s “This American Life” reported that they may have stumbled upon the secret ingredient to Coca-Cola. It turns out that it’s Pepsi.”–Conan O’Brien

“Watson, the IBM computer, beat his two human opponents by a long shot on “Jeopardy.” He’s already getting a little famous. In fact, he was just offered a million dollars to pose nude for Popular Mechanics. A new study found that married couples who go on double dates with other couples are more likely to have better relationships. They say it inspires better communication — on the ride home, when you talk about how much you hated the other couple.–Jimmy Fallon “Facebook is looking into buying Twitter for around $10 billion. If all goes as planned, the company hopes to combine the two companies, creating the biggest waste of time the world has ever seen.” –Jay Leno

“Breast feeding activists plan to descend on Washington for a public breast feeding demonstration. Also descending on Washington, thousands of men saying, “What? I’m looking at the baby.” –Conan O’Brien “In Los Angeles, 170 people became violently ill at the Playboy mansion. Doctors don’t know what it was, but their theory is that Hugh Hefner’s robe fell open.”–Craig Ferguson “Khloe Kardashian and her husband Lamar Odom are coming out with a cologne for Valentine’s Day. It’s called “One of Us Has a Skill.”–Conan O’Brien “Happy Valentine’s Day to everybody. Or if you’re single, Happy Ben & Jerry’s Day!”–Jimmy Fallon

I thought we’d end with this. Pat Williams, the founder and executive vice president of the Orlando Magic, has bone cancer. ‘I’ve delivered many a motivational speech about the stuff you always hear about in sports. I’ve stood up there and told other people you can’t give up and you’ve got to show courage, perseverance and will. Now, I get to live out the things I always talk about. That’s a privilege.’

Williams was then asked, what advice would John Wooden, the greatest coach of all time give you? “Coach Wooden would look at me and say in a soft-spoken voice: ‘Pat, even though it’s not the way you planned it and even though you might not feel 100 percent, make each day your masterpiece.”

I don’t know if I could. Courage is not one of my big attributes, I’m much more of a clever coward. So that’s a wrap. Birthday wishes also go out next Sunday to my old Day Hall pal Amy Zimmerman, who has traveled the world and still uses words in sentences that I have to look up.

So be grateful for your good health and we’ll catch you driving the lane. Aloha, mahalo and later, Derrick Rose fans.


  1. This is a masterpiece of blogging. See you at Jason’s game on Thursday.


    Comment by Todd — February 21, 2011 @ 9:34 am

  2. I orchid you not. Happy birthday Paul

    Comment by Jerry Hoffman — February 21, 2011 @ 11:57 am

  3. Actually, I believe that delightfully scented orchid is a Sharry, not Sherry, Baby. So Shorry.

    Comment by Jason (Or)Kidd — February 21, 2011 @ 6:48 pm

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