Jeff and I live next to a park. When I first moved into the neighborhood, four years ago, there was at the foot of that park a convenience store that did not deserve the name. A retrograde bodega stocked with merchandise from the Hoover administration. The only two items that moved -- beer and paper towels -- were begrudgingly vended by a proprietor who was personally enraged by any customers that did not provide him with exact change. It was a terrible place.
Last year, the grumpalumpagus sold out, and after a period of closure and remodeling, the Bodega From Hell reopened as a combination yuppie gourmet and floristry emporium. The kind of place that sells six kinds of organic honey, milk from a local dairy, and handmade sandwiches that incorporate creme fraiche and capers. In keeping with the florist aspect of the business, the yard of the building has been transformed with giant potted palms, gazebos, infinite fountains, and mind-numbingly insane experimental items like lemon trees. Bananas. Madness.
The proprietors are evidently not satisfied, however, with the small plot of dirt that they actually own, and have begun to invade the teensy city-owned plots along the sidewalk that normally contain large shade trees. The plots alongside their building, however, are bereft of shade trees, and the bodega owners have taken it upon themselves to fill the gap with -- corn. Giant stalks of corn. With big silky ears of corn upon them. I am interested to see whether this causes an infestation of smart-alecky cartoon crows, or more realistically, whether they will sell the corn, or have a corn-tasting party, or something else that the whole neighborhood can enjoy.
Also, it makes me wonder how common it is for people to sneak on to fallow bits of city land and repurpose them. The corn guys are not the only urban farmers in the neighborhood. As I was walking along from the grocery store the other day, I noticed that someone had planted the median strip with eggplants. They also have a good crop of hot peppers coming in.
There are all these teeny strips of land that serve no real purpose, covered with nothing but grass. And they're usually the best kinds of places for a garden: near enough to homes for someone to drag a hose out there, but far away enough to be exposed to full sun. Why not let people just plant watermelons on them? It's community-oriented, encourages people to grow healthy food, maybe for charity or donation purposes, etc. I suppose someone could come along and steal the watermelons, but I think that if someone steals your median strip melons, they probably needed them more than you.
I am making this sound all too easy, most likely. After all, my own food-growing right now comes to two tomato plants on the roof, and the amount of watering, spraying, tending, netting, and cooing I do over those two plants is tremendous. Let's just say that if care translates in any way into savoriness, the produce of those plants ought to taste like liquid diamonds.