I have several seemingly disparate words whose unrelatedness I am considering attempting to resolve in this writing: corn plant, USPS, pets, iMac and ‘Crossing Delancey’.
MY CORN PLANT – I have lived in New York City most of my life, likely 65 years, although I have lived in Copenhagen, Paris, Cambridge and San Francisco for 10, 3, 3 and 3 years each. In New York I have lived Upper Eastside, Lower Eastside, NOHO, Greenwich Village and Upper Westside for 5, 4, 25, 3 and 25 years each. When I moved to the Upper Westside in 1995, my upstairs neighbors who were senior race-walking friends from Central Park training and races, gave me a corn plant for house-warming celebration. That plant still lives although it has gone through several trying periods. One thing it has never had to suffer is the jealousy of feeling me give caring attention to another competitive plant. It is an only child. Once, for part of a month, a present from a woman friend of a small carnation lived near to it. I didn’t understand that flowering plant. I let it die.
And then, when the corn plant got to be six foot tall in my 8 ft 2 inch [2.5m] high ceiling apartment, I cut it down to 3 ft. It sprouted new leaves and growing tall again. Finally, two years ago, I cut it down again to 2 ft and put the upper portion in a vase of water while the bare parent stalk stood in its original pot next to it. For two months I worried whether it would grow roots. It did. And with the guidance of that same woman friend, we planted it in a new pot with new soil. It seems to be gracefully or stubbornly surviving these traumas and is growing a new leaf every three months. It is a still a modest plant and compares poorly to other corn plant owners whose plants are like tropical forests with abundant and healthy succulent green leaves. I prize the four remnant long dry beige leaves that hang lifeless along the stalk. It is a metaphor for the stages of life, human life, the dead leaves paralleling stages of my own life.
USPS – United States Postal Service. I have lately had two quite impressive performances by this third largest institution in the USA with 500,000 employees, the third largest in the USA, working harmoniously under Federal guidelines on non-discrimination of race, gender and sexual orientation, higher egalitarian standards than many private organizations. It traces its roots to 1775 during the Second Continental Congress when Benjamin Franklin was appointed the first postmaster general. As of 2019, it has 470,000 career employees and 136,000 non-career employees. By geography and volume it is the globe’s largest postal system, delivering 45% of the world’s mail. It collected $72 billion in revenue in 2016. The Republicans obsess with privatizing this postal service, as it strives also to do with education, prison, social security and the veterans administration. With the pandemic, mail-in voting ballots dependent on the USPS, has put new pressure on its flexibility, and the current administration has stealthily restricted and downgraded its delivery competence. I speculate about this obsession; it has several root causes, mostly politically motivated, that challenges State versus Federal, and private versus institutional, and originates possibly with the self-reliant pioneer spirit that immigrants needed to develop in creating a new country, the United States of America.
Three events recently impressed me favorably almost to the point of tears. The 2020 Census was well handled by USPS logistically speaking, and now, the Absentee Ballot, as it is called, was sent to me two days ago with clear instructions on how to request the ballot, including where and when to vote and the different methods of voting and mailing. I realize USPS is only the conduit for delivering these mostly well-thought out instructions created by an exemplary dedicated Federal agency.