Hi, there, Dear Reader, and welcome to another edition of Musings & Thoughts. It’s late morning here in my corner of Florida on this hot, humid September Saturday. Currently, the temperature outside is 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius) under mostly sunny skies. With humidity at a sticky 74% and a southerly breeze blowing at 4 MPH/7 KPH, the feels-like temperature is 98 degrees Fahrenheit (36 degrees Celsius). In the house, of course, it’s colder; the owner likes the thermostat to be set below 78 degrees Fahrenheit (25.5556 degrees Celsius).
As I have mentioned a few times before, sometimes it’s so hot outside that even though my study is so chilly that I have to wear long-sleeve button-down shirts and slacks, ripples of heat waft across from the room,especially when the sun streams into the room starting around noon and continuing into the afternoon hours. Due to various factors – the angle of the sun vs. the house’s orientation, the open-or-closed status of the venetian blinds and the curtains, and the temperature difference – sometimes those ripples of heat can be quite warm.
However, all things being equal, my present study beats – by far – my old bedroom in my erstwhile home in East Wind Lake Village. Mom chose that room for me when she bought the house because she thought it was nice; it had a set of sliding glass doors that led to a west-facing balcony. The view was, as they say today, “meh.”
When we – meaning Mom, my older half-sister, and I – moved into the then-brand new two-story townhouse in mid-February of 1978, we didn’t have the lychee tree that my grandmother would plant several months later. Instead, the architects had planted a ficus tree (more than likely a Ficus benjamina), a tree that is commonly planted in Florida and other states such as Arizona for shade, decoration, and privacy,
The problem with Ficus benjamina is that it has a destructive and invasive root system. When you buy one as a sapling for planting in a yard, the plant doesn’t look like it’s going to be anything more than a lovely, hardy, and evergreen shade tree. But looks can be deceiving; those ficus trees that are so beloved by landscapers who work with developers to create condominiums and apartment complexes end up becoming a homeowner’s worst nightmare.
Per the article Ficus Popular for Privacy but Disliked for Their Invasive Growth, which first appeared in Ft. Lauderdale’s Sun-Sentinel and was republished in Lawn & Landscape:
Rising 8, 15, 20, even 40 feet, the popular ficus separates subdivisions and individual yards, conceals weathered fences and dresses up cold concrete walls all over Palm Beach and Broward counties.
In most cases, landscapers create hedges by planting a large number of ficus trees close together and “clipped and trimmed into perpetual submission as shrubs,” but in the case of East Wind Lake Village, many of the houses – including ours – were handed to the owners with single tree-sized specimens of Ficus benjamina…without alerting them to the downside of the species’ invasive root system.
There are those famously invasive roots, too, which make raids on neighboring yards and beyond. The tentacles can crack pipes and sprinkler lines, buckle pavement, invade pools, clog toilets and pop bathroom tiles off walls (so says local ficus lore).
“You actually have to defend yourself from ficus growth,” points out one Fort Lauderdale gardener on a tropical-plant Web site. “Ficus benjamina is probably the most over-planted tree in all of South Florida.”
If memory serves, our townhouse had three ficus trees: one in the backyard, one by the side of the house next to one of our two parking slots, and one in front of the kitchen window.
Grandmother urged Mom to remove the Ficus benjamina in the backyard almost as soon she arrived in Miami for one of her two long visits from Bogota and replaced it with a lychee sapling that grew into the huge fruit-bearing tree that was still there when I – reluctantly, I have to say – moved out of my house in 2016. The other two trees, though. stayed where they had been planted for many years. Sure as rain, their roots did plenty of damage to the pavement and even clogged the sewage pipes. That was gross! Mom eventually got rid of them in the late 1980s, but the driveway still bore the scars of the Ficus benjamina’s gnarly and hardy root system when I left my former home.
Anyway…yeah…it took a long time for the lychee to become the beautiful shade tree that I remember, and even then, my bedroom bore the brunt of several hours’ worth of sunlight in the afternoon. Even with venetian blinds (which were later replaced by vertical blinds) and tinted/reflective material placed on the sliding glass doors to reduce the impact of the sun and lower the temperature, my bedroom was the hottest room in the house by far.
And the view? It was spectacular only at sunset; I loved the pinks, reds, oranges, and deep purples that would stream in through the sliding glass doors when the sun went down in the evening in South Florida. Other than that? Nothing more than the eastward side of my neighbors’ house, which was the same model of townhouse as ours. Nothing worth remembering, unless you are into air conditioners’ exterior components and whatnot.
I’m tired. As of late, I don’t sleep well at all. I think everything – from the coronavirus pandemic to the political divisiveness that is almost literally ripping the U.S. apart to my tempest-toss’d personal life – is getting to me. Homesickness, which had not bothered me much before, is an ever-present preoccupation, and I am mightily vexed by my inability to afford a nice house or large apartment. (And not necessarily in the Miami area….I don’t want to move back there, at least not in the short term.)
As for the rest of my Saturday, I plan to listen to my new CD with Jerry Goldsmith’s music for Star Trek: The Motion Picture. It is not the complete score, mind you, just a 20th Anniversary Edition reissue that comes with a bonus disc: a revised edition of Inside Star Trek.
I actually listened to Inside Star Trek last night; it was hard to get the CD out of its 2-disc jewel box; the little tray or discholder or whatever it’s called separated itself from the outside case, that’s how tough extracting the CD was. I don’t think I broke the plastic thingamabobs, but I can’t reassemble it, so I had to store the Inside Star Trek CD in one of those media storage pouches you’d buy to take a bunch of CDs or DVDs on a trip with you.
In any event, Inside Star Trek was just as fun to listen to in 2020 as it was when I had the original 1976 recording in eight-track tape. I used to play that version constantly in that sun-flooded room when I was a teenager with dreams of becoming a noted novelist or screenwriter. The 1999 version is slightly different, having been altered by the addition of a new introduction and epilogue presented by Nichelle Nichols, the actor-singer who played the original (Prime) Nyota Uhura on Star Trek: The Original Series and the six spin-off 1979-1991 feature films released by Paramount Pictures.
Well, I don’t have anything else to report at the moment, so I’ll close here. I apologize for the somewhat somber tone of this post, but unfortunately, life isn’t always sunshine and clear skies, y’know?