Confessions of a Clandestine Gardener
It is with great pride that I claim the label “gardening outlaw”. Please permit me to share my story of ruin, recovery and redemption in Hayes Valley.
It was a year ago during the rainy season and I was new to the streets of Hayes Valley. It was a damp, cold morning. Day was just breaking and I had had a rough night. A woman I knew as Gail smiled as she passed by. I trailed her to the edge of Patricia’s Green. “Hey handsome, you need a friend?”, she called out? I nodded and came closer. She reached into her pocket, then extended her hand. In it was a small packet of sunflower seeds. “Here you go Sugar…” she gave me a nod, “Go on, and try it”. Looking back in time I now realize we were standing under the ghost of the Central Freeway at the Fell Street underpass.
Gail knew who she was dealing with an easy target. Me a kid, not much money in my pocket but enough for more of what she was selling.
I wasn’t really sure it was right…you know: planting a seed in a city park. Could I get in trouble, embarrass myself, my family? I tried to rationalize my desires. “The park really isn’t looking good anyway.” Neglected by staffing shortages and tight funding, “Who cares what happens here?”, I thought.
Chances are life would sprout as it will, only to be crushed by a lovable, but unattended dog with one step (or jump, trample, dig, poop, pee, puke, roll over and play dead) anyway. Bad things happen in the tough city.
Now, I try to follow the rules of decent society. It generally seems like a good idea. Gail, knowing the streets better than me, picked up on my hesitation. She tried to comfort me saying, “It’s really pure stuff from my homies at SFNPC”.
I’d heard about SF Neighborhood Parks’ Council and I knew they had moved into the hood with a crib on Hayes. If I was ever going to going to survive in Hayes Valley, the moment to prove myself was now!
... To be continued in a future Voice