The I-Can’t-Remember-What-to-do-in-Cacti-Situations Edition

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This week on Spartan Holiday, I want to talk about something serious. I realize that sometimes this blog gravitates toward the frivolous and satirical, even when dealing with epic, history-altering and tragic events. Like last week when I kind of made fun of the daily horrors of the Cretaceous period or two weeks before that where I joked about Japanese ethics and meaningful work.

Maybe it’s because I believe, like Paul Woodruff, that “reverence and a keen eye for the ridiculous are allies.” It’s just the way I transcend death and express the state of grace I believe we all live in as human beings. By naming hypothetical dogs, I counter the sense of meaninglessness wrought by suffering, injustice and loss.

But can I write, for a moment, about something unfunny and all too common here in desertlandia? Something all over our city streets? Yes. I’m talking about cactuses. I will flip-flop on the plural usage of cactuses and cacti in this post. Both are correct. Inconsistency is the test of reality; whereas consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.

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Carmel Walsh’s cactus shoes are not the best invention ever (the best invention ever being the printing press or profiteroles).

If you live here and think cactuses aren’t really a problem, then you haven’t been outside lately. Both prickly pears and chollas are in full, red-blooded, hot-lipped bloom. And they’re all right up in your bidness on the sidewalks as you bike by. You go to sniff a flower and poke yourself. You take a picture of a flower for this blog and prick yourself. You anger legions of nectar-looting bees and sting yourself. There’s no two ways about it–cactuses are an urban menace.

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Flowers are hard to resist because of their ephemeral nature. Michael Pollan said it best in Botany of Desire:

I (Michael Pollan) do wonder if it isn’t significant that our experience of flowers is so deeply drenched in our sense of time. Maybe there’s a good reason we find their fleetingness so piercing, can scarcely look at a flower in bloom without thinking ahead, whether in hope or regret.

Flowers are stirring and subconsciously linked to our joie de vivre and sense of impermanence. It’s doubly poignant on a vicious cactus and we veer toward it.

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Other things can happen too. Like you’re hiking in the Sandias and you slip on some scree in your blown-out, treadless running shoes and your hand lands square on a little pincushion cactus and your friends have to pull 40 needles out of your palm and fingers while diverting you with stories of Craigslist fraud.

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I took this picture in the Sandias before I was attacked by a similar cactus further down the trail.

So let’s talk about cactus injury prevention. I think I succeeded in teaching my three-year-old daughter to be properly terrified by sidewalk cactuses by using the word “ever” about six times in the sentence, “Don’t ever (x6) touch a cactus Lali.”

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I think this teddy bear would be a good test to see if Lali remembers her little lesson.

But then I thought: Wouldn’t it be great if there was mneumonic devices to remind you not to touch different varieties of cacti when you see them? So I made some up on my bike.

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Ocotillo?

Don’t touch me-o

I didn’t say they were good rhymes.

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Are Chollas, soft?

Methinks not oft.

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Prickly Pear

Best beware.

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Also:
Prickly Pear?
Pants do wear.

This cactus here?

Best stay clear.

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So if you ever find your hand reaching in mid-air towards one of these cactus types, I hope you’ll take a moment to remember my rhymes. The last one is kind of a catch-all for when you don’t know specific names.

Isn’t it the hand reaching out in mid-air that says the most about us as humans, anyway?

It is a hostile, poisonous, pointy world we live in.

But it’s also a world of kindness, love and the out-stretched suspended hand, never landing, but forever reaching.

In closing here is a bad idea for a chair:

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Deger Cengiz’s  bid for the most uncomfortable chair in the world 
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