October 18, 2009 12:07:00 AM
Sunday a week ago in front of the Catholic Church in the drizzling rain two Korean women were gathering the fruit from the Ginkgo trees lining College Street. The women are sisters. They live in Tuscaloosa. The older one is wearing gloves; the younger one is using tongs. They have just come from Reese Orchards in Sessums where they have been picking persimmons, a fruit popular with Asians.
They are filling clear plastic bags with the foul-smelling Ginkgo fruit to make a cough elixir, they say. The plum-like fruit can cause a skin rash, thus the gloves and tongs. In broken English they explain that they use the inside of the seed.
Extracts from Ginkgo leaves and its inner seed are said to provide medicinal benefits such as improved blood flow to most tissues and organs; protection from free radicals; and protection against cardiovascular, renal, respiratory and central nervous system disorders.
Fossils date the tree''s existence to 270 million years ago. Here''s an excerpt from Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia: "Extreme examples of the Ginkgo''s tenacity may be seen in Hiroshima, Japan, where four trees growing between 1 to 2 km. from the 1945 atom bomb explosion were among the few living things in the area to survive the blast. While almost all other plants (and animals) in the area were destroyed, the Ginkgoes, though charred, survived and were soon healthy again. The trees are alive to this day."
The two sisters perk up at an offer to exchange a jar of local honey for the elixir they plan to make.
"Is it 100 percent honey?" the older one asks.
"Yes, would you like to see the bees that make it? They''re only a block away."
The women say they would like to see the bees, at least the older, more adventuresome does. They drive their Suburban around the block to the house of the beekeeper. The older one walks tentatively through a muddy yard to peer into the bee hives there. The younger one watches from inside.
"We would like to buy a case honey," the older one declares after she sees the source.
"Would you like some tea?" they are asked.
"No, we must go," the younger one says.
"What kind do you have?" the older one asks.
"Green, black, herbal."
The sisters think better of the offer for tea and walk out into the gray twilight, honey in hand.
Saturday a handsome black woman with a regal though friendly bearing is eating breakfast in the patrons tent at the Kentuck Festival in Northport, Ala. The woman is wearing a fur hat, sunglasses with leopard spots that coordinate with her blouse and a long, black wool coat.
A neighboring diner produces a ziplok containing hot sauce from a canvas bag and proceeds to sprinkle it on his grits and goat cheese.
"You remind me of my Cajun friends," the woman says to the man with the hot sauce. "They always carry their hot sauce with them. You can smell them coming."
The woman is wearing a VIP badge; she is one of the jurors of the arts festival and won''t devulge her name, though it printed in the program.
"They live in some little town with two names near the Mississippi border," she says of her Cajun friends. She can''t remember the name of the town. "One of them has a favorite sauce bottle that he refills. I don''t think he ever washes it out."
The woman, an artist and an educator, says she writes movie reviews using a pseudonym. She says it''s better that way.
"I''m friends with Spike Lee. He wouldn''t speak to me for five years because of one sentence I wrote in a review of one of his films. One sentence, and it wasn''t even a bad review. Anonymity is better."
The little boy
One day last week a grandmother was driving her grandson home after spending the morning and part of the afternoon with him. He''s riding in the back seat in a car seat. The little boy celebrated his third birthday in September.
"How old are you, Lizzie?"
"How old is my dad?"
How old is my mom?
How old is Tanner?
"Why do people get old, Lizzie?"
"Benjamin, we all get old. With each birthday, we grow older. It happens to all of us."
"I don''t want to grow old, Lizzie."
The grandmother looks in the rear view mirror and sees the little boy''s chin quivering.
"I want to always be a little boy," he says.
"I tell you what, Benjamin, why don''t you stay a little boy and I''ll stay a little girl."
He thinks for a moment.
"That''s a good idea, Lizzie."
Birney Imes III is the immediate past publisher of The Dispatch.
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