Telling Those Little Green Lies

43624345 - green apple with water drop close upShortly after I cross the border into California, I come to an agricultural inspection station. All vehicles must stop. There’s no way around it. Back in the days of the 1989 Mediterranean fruit fly scare, I trembled at the thought. I can remember having to open up my ice chest for the inspectors, who proceeded to confiscate my produce. I remember having to throw out the vegetables my grandfather had just gifted me from his garden. I remember hurriedly eating an apple so it would be gone before I hit the border.

But when I drove to California after Dad broke his leg in March, I packed a cooler full of produce from home so I could eat it at my father’s house in San Jose. Zucchini, corn, tomatoes, apples, grapefruit. I refused to let it rot. And I did eat it, except for a golden delicious apple that I carried all the way to San Jose and back before consuming back in my own kitchen.

I hid my red and white ice chest under blankets and grocery bags in the back of my Honda Element. I held my breath and put on my most innocent smile. But it didn’t matter. The inspector neither looked nor asked if I was carrying any produce. He just wished me a nice day. Ma’am.

If he had asked, I would have lied. On other trips, I have driven through with apples in my bag on the seat beside me, smiled and said, “Nope,” when asked if I had any fresh fruits or vegetables.

Shame on me. It’s not good to lie.

But here’s the thing. I buy my produce at the grocery store. I don’t pick it off the trees or out of the fields. It does not have bugs. If it had bugs, I would not buy it. Most of it was originally grown in California anyway.

Usually, they take one look at me and wave me on. Aging white lady privilege. Or maybe it’s that I’m coming from Oregon in a relatively small car as opposed to an 18-wheeler from Texas or Tennessee. On my last trip through, I saw inspectors going through a long, low sedan driven by a group of young Mexican men. Trunk open, doors open, stuff out on the pavement. Why are they any more likely to bring contraband food across the border than I am? Racial profiling?

The California Department of Food and Agriculture website reveals some facts I didn’t know. The inspectors are looking for all plant life that might carry invasive species they don’t want in California. That includes things like firewood and hay. Also critters like ferrets and livestock. I suppose if I were carrying some of our legal marijuana that would deserve a look, too. In this article from a Las Vegas newspaper, the writer says sometimes they inspect the vehicle itself for hitchhiking bugs. Thank God Oregon is not a buggy state.

I thought the inspections started with the medfly crisis. Wrong. They’ve been inspecting vehicles at the borders since the 1920s. There are 16 inspection stations in California, located at all the major highways coming into the state. CDFA claims California’s plants are relatively bugfree and they want to keep them that way. The inspectors are not law enforcement agents; the worst they can do for you is take away your produce, but it’s still a worry for drivers passing through.

Most other states don’t have inspection stations. Florida does. Everything leaving Hawaii goes through an agricultural check. Coming into Oregon, folks bringing boats and commercial trucks have to stop, but the rest of us just ease on down the road.

Gosh I feel guilty now about lying. But I will probably continue to smuggle fruits and veggies from the J.C. Market across the border. If I start bringing hay, trees or baby goats, I’ll let them look. And if my dog joins me, she’ll be hanging out the window, ready to spill the beans. If she hasn’t already eaten them.

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Speaking of the dog, Annie’s incision is healing well and she’s walking on all four feet more often than not. Her fur has started growing back. She is scheduled to have her staples removed tomorrow afternoon. I have been counting the hours since last week. She still has to take it easy, but once the staples are gone, I can remove the inflatable collar, which will make her a lot more comfortable and allow her to go through the doggie door on her own. She will fit in her crate again. Best of all, I can leave the house without her. Hallelujah.

As for my other patient, Dad is still in the wheelchair in the nursing home and itching to get out. His doctor appointment is a week from Tuesday. At his age, healing is not guaranteed. Pray that he gets some good news.

On my next trip to California, I definitely won’t be carrying any fruit. I’m flying, and you  can’t get fruit past the security checkpoint. Wouldn’t it be nice if they served apples or strawberries on the plane instead of those bags of nutritionally worthless pretzel snacks? Come on, Alaska Airlines.

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Text copyright Sue Fagalde Lick 2017, photo copyright: klaikungwon / 123RF Stock Photo

Why does March rain surprise us?

IMG_20150427_172305014[1]Facebook, that nosy cousin you never asked to butt into your life, keeps popping up with memories of past posts I might want to share again. Sometimes they’re too embarrassing to share, but the practice got me curious about what I was writing here at Unleashed on other last Mondays in March. Turns out this month’s rainy weather is not unusual at all. Here is a quick trip through those past posts and a few updates. Enjoy.

https://unleashedinoregon.com/2010/03/   “Simple gifts” Yep, it rains here in March. In 2017. we have had a horrid winter, with several episodes of snow and ice, but so far the wind has not been as bad as usual. My gutters are gunked up again. Rain is predicted for the next 10 days. But miracle of miracles, the blue hydrangea bushes that I was sure were dead are covered with new leaves. The robins are back, the skunk cabbage is blooming in Thiel Creek, and I saw my first trillium flowers yesterday.

https://unleashedinoregon.com/2011/03/ “Thank You, I Think.” Oh, the yin and the yang of this one. I have two amaryllis plants now. Each has leaves about two feet tall. They rarely bloom, but when they do, the bright red flowers are spectacular. What really grabs me reading this is my ingratitude. Jill Baker, who gave me the plant in question, passed away last year. [link to that post]. I miss her music and her no-BS attitude. I also need to show more gratitude to the friends who threw me that surprise birthday party only three weeks before my husband died.

https://unleashedinoregon.com/2012/03/ “I Missed the Big Oregon Coast Storm” Why is it that every March we can’t believe winter weather is still happening? Re-reading this post, I’m feeling less put-upon by the continuing rain, but I am tired of soggy shoes, and I’m itching for another trip to San Jose to see my dad. [Turns out I’m getting that trip sooner than I thought. See below.]

https://unleashedinoregon.com/2013/03/  “Hugging the Open Mic in Yachats” Dare I say that old singers don’t retire; they just take their guitars to song circles, jams and open mics in Yachats? Four years later, I am still doing song circles and open mics as well as my church music job. As for paid gigs, not so much. I no longer have the desire to play over loud crowds for a few dollars in tips.

https://unleashedinoregon.com/2014/03/ “Lost an Earring, Found a New Beach Hangout” Gosh, I’m in a rut. I’m still playing music at church on Sunday mornings, going to Georgie’s with friends for lunch afterward, and shopping at the J.C. Market. I still have those earrings, and I still do not have pierced ears. I still park at Jumpoff Joe’s occasionally.

https://unleashedinoregon.com/2015/03/ “The Dead Husband Thing.” Well, that hasn’t changed much. The other day at lunch, I overheard a woman about my age say “when my husband died . . . .” I wanted to run over and hug her. My people! The dead husband club. I know it sounds crass, but these days I feel like I need to tattoo it on my forehead: “Hey, my husband died and I still miss him. If you still have one, you have no idea how different my life is without a husband.” Okay, I need a bigger forehead for all that. It will be six years next month. Hard to believe. I sound so content in this 2015 post. I have not been feeling that way lately. Grief is like the tides. It ebbs and flows, but it doesn’t ever go away.

https://unleashedinoregon.com/2016/03/ “Tucson Festival a Writer’s Dream” I loved last year’s trip to the Tucson Festival of Books and the nonfiction workshop that followed. I loved visiting Fred’s cousin Adrienne and her husband John. I loved the sunshine, the desert, and the new friends I made. I thought about that trip a lot as I was slogging through the rain while this year’s festival came and went without me. Tucson in 2018!

So we’re up to 2017. It’s still raining. The news is still full of President Donald Trump and his crew. Annie’s still sprawled on the love seat in front of the pellet stove. And I’m still in my bathrobe at 10:00 although I’ve been up for hours.

People ask if I’m still writing. If I’m still breathing, I’m still writing.

BREAKING NEWS: My father fell Saturday and broke his leg. I am heading to California to help him. No Wi-Fi at Dad’s house, so I’m not sure when I’ll be able to post here. Annie will be staying home with dog/house sitter Auntie Jo. Stay tuned. Follow me on Facebook.