Flowers Add a Festive Touch to Reunion Time in Nero
Red, purple, yellow and white flowers gave Nero an unusually festive look this summer.
The flowers were purchased with a federal downtown revitalization grant. Baskets overflowing with blossoms hang from lampposts all over the center of the city. Large urns dot street corners.
A man stands in the back of a city truck to water the flowers every morning. The truck speeds alarmingly from lamppost to lamppost. The flower-watering detail is a coveted assignment at the city garage. Complaining neighbors, self-important bosses and nosy politicians aren't around in the early morning to complicate the task. Also, the work is finished in plenty of time to make the opening race at Saratoga.
The flowers have impressed summer visitors, including those who have returned home for family and class reunions. Nero has not become Saratoga Springs but at least an effort is being made.
Since Nero is Nero, there are complaints about the pretty flowers, including the views of the angry, but clean-speaking talk show host Mike Van Wilson at WNRO radio.
"Federal funds for flowers," Mike sneered one day on the radio. "What stupidity. This must have been an idea left over from when Bill "Love Those Interns" Clinton was president. The next thing is they'll start serving lemonade and cookies, no probably white wine and brie, when welfare cheats line up for their benefits."
"Well if isn't the begonia basher," Wanda Tamburino said as Mike Van Wilson walked into the banquet room at the lakeside resort near Nero for their 25th high school reunion. Wanda is constituent problem-fixe
r for the region's popular Congressman and, therefore, the logical candidate to organize reunions for the class of '76, the year she and Mike graduated from Nero High School.
"Get over it Wanda," Mike shot back. "Is your boss running on the pansy and daisy ticket? Does he expect flower power will get him re-elected?"
"Why is it you are so offended when a politican does what politicians do," Wanda replied. "Isn't it good to have flowers obscure the view of vacant lots and abandoned and burned-out buildings for a little while? It's a short-term fix but, Mike, life is short-term. The flowers are cheaper than your beloved war on drugs."
Some at the reunion were excited to hear Wanda and Mike go at it. Others, non-Nero spouses for example, shifted their weight from one foot to another, nibbled cheese, sipped wine and thought, "These people from this forsaken place argue about everything. Why did I come here?"
By the end of the evening, Mike and Wanda were laughing and drinking together, which caused even more talk. High school reunions are emotionally and sexually charged. Most men and women try to look their best at these gatherings of people they knew long ago, when life seemed simpler and hormones were raging. Some attendees do not make this effort to create a good physical impression. Perhaps they are wiser or have reached a stage in life where they don't care.
Well-turned out women and men eyed each other during the night with a mixture of friendliness, flirtatiousness and suspicion. To break the ice, high school escapades were retold and laughter filled the room. There were hard-to-follow accounts of children, spouses, ex-spouses, careers and illnesses.
The short, thin kid who was a geek in high school and who now runs a New York City computer business got the courage to talk to the huge, former football player who used to bully him. Remarkably, they talked about the downtown flowers. The former football player is now Nero's public works commissioner.
Some wished the reunion could go on forever. For others, the night could not end soon enough.