Wintriest just before the spring

I am told that Walla Walla is in its glory in the spring, with the green wheat popping up through the dry hills, the return of songbirds, and immaculate gardens some of the townsfolk cultivate. This sounds quite a bit different than my past experiences:

In Princeton, you knew it was spring because the graduate students looked more worried and stressed than usual, you could smell all the new hair products the Guidos were wearing to woo potential mates, and people started talking about their tomato gardens.

In Syracuse, the snow would finally melt, revealing tulips and an unbelievable quantity of dog poop that made walking down any given sidewalk like jumping through an obstacle course. Snow-soaked dog crap is really nothing to dismiss.

In DC, you started sneezing your head off as the pollen count exploded to the outer rings of Saturn. Oh, and housing prices would start to skyrocket, and landlords would finally be able to start evicting people, so you’d see piles of belongings on the sidewalks, which I suppose is a whole different kind of awful from wet shit, although the two do start to resemble each other if they’re left out long enough.

I was at the coffeehouse yesterday, attempting to get my muse on, when four students from the college walked in and sat down at the large table next to me. It was regular college banter about confusion over how to approach an assignment, how they have no time to read novels anymore, which college men were best avoided from a romantic perspective. An uneventful afternoon, to say the least.

Now I mentioned some months back that Walla Walla has a different take on physical space, in that it’s not at a premium like it is on the east coast. If there’s a decrepit building, for example, it’s not a marker of a declining neighborhood or criminal activity. They just up and construct a new building right next to it. In that way, they also have a different relationship to people with developmental disabilities. Such it is that a local older woman who has Down’s syndrome is more than allowed to walk around downtown, into whichever business she chooses, to see her homemade paintings (only $5 each). I’ve never seen a business owner chastise her or chase her away, as I’m certain would be the case if she tried soliciting money from your average shopkeep in DC. 

So, to draw the picture, as it were, she walks into the coffee shop and marches right up to the college quartet to show them her wares. It’s not the most slick pitch, as you can imagine, but you have to give her points for determination and persistence. She basically came up to them and said, “hello, how are you,” and then proceeded to drop the paintings — about 30 of them, most on gessoed art boards (which themselves can cost about $2.50, so perhaps someone should talk to her about ROIs and profitmaking), some on thick cardboard. They are bright and simple and childlike — cats, bears dancing, birds with long beaks — most against bright blue or purple backgrounds, sometimes with clouds, sometimes with a sun hanging in the top corner. We have purchased two so far, for a total art investment of $10.

Well, the college quad folks didn’t know what to do about her. They started off pretty much ignoring her after saying a mumbled “hi,” but our intrepid artist doesn’t give up so easily. She went to the next person in the group, not understanding that they were collectively disinterested in her pictures. I leaned in and said, whispering, “she comes by every so often to sell her pictures for $5, and might not leave until you at least look at them.”

With a clear plan of action, they went for it, even oohing and ahing at a few of them. The artist was delighted, “oh you like that one,” perhaps thinking there was some money in this exchange. If so she was disappointed. I was really impressed with all of them, though, thinking that Walla Walla fosters niceness, if not jobs. And out of the corner of my eye, I saw the shop owner smiling.

Categories: transplanted


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