Posted by: dougery | May 5, 2009

Funny What a Few Years and a Couple Million Dollars Can Do

There’s this courtyard. Full of large paving stones and surrounded by a renaissancey cloister. Some have dubbed it ‘the Secret Garden’. For me it’s far too everyday to remain much of a secret, and too devoid of greenery to be much of a garden. Especially on a day like today, when those men came and nuked those pavers to the Bronze Age.

Two years ago, on a day very similar to this one, sun kind of shining, weather stumbling about and flirting with becoming almost nice, the Seminary hired what appeared to be a 16 year-old kid to weed between the many pavers of their courtyard. This far into spring, there was quite a bit of green sprouting all over the place, and the Secret Garden looked like it had quite literally gone to seed. I don’t know what they were paying the poor bastard, but it couldn’t have been enough. It took him 3 full days, of backbreaking and tedious work to cross the courtyard and clean it up. And one of those days was your wonderful early Spring Chicago Scorcher, where the mercury inexplicably surpasses 80 in the shade. Long story short, the Seminary, being a seminary, didn’t have any money to throw at proper landcapers and had to do things the old fashioned way. Like how that one Aunt of yours that nobody likes would ‘hire’ you to weed around her house for a glass of lemonade, a bee-sting, and the one disgusting hard candy peice in the dish that broke free from the glom of the rest and was shoved in your mouth before you could fend off your Aunt’s meaty forearm.

Last year the Secret Garden was strewn with rubble. Late the previous Summer a lightning storm had blasted the adjacent tower and sent gargoyles crashing through the roof in several places and plummeting to the courtyard below, cracking pavers and basically wreaking much havoc. Repairing and renovating the tower was now the priority, and the courtyard became an overgrown waste basket for construction workers to toss candy wrappers and empty gatorade bottles. All told a sad year for the Secret Garden.

Then late last year the Seminary agreed to sell it’s home to the University. It has shared the campus for almost 150 years and kept its autonomy–no longer. The deal they made, to high-tail it 8 blocks away across the midway, have a new building designed and built for them, and in the mean time until said building is operational, have their rent reduced to no more than $1.00 a month (utilities included) was pretty sweet. And on top of that they got what all the other buildings on campus get, professional no-holds-barred landscaping.

So when a crack team of elite Weedsmiths strolled out of their white fan this morning with scary facemasks (of the non-swine-flu variety) and gallon jugs of turquoise napalm (for plants) I wasn’t surprised. They fanned out across the courtyard with the precision of a team of fighter jets and sprayed the shit out of those pavers. I could practically hear the weeds screaming, withering and browning in mere moments. A rake or two finished the job in less than 2 hours. What the Seminary (just barely) achieved in 3 full days the University completed in about 100 minutes. Funny what a few years and a couple million dollars will do for ya.



  1. Sigh. I miss my Secret Garden.

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