|Loaded Elberta Peach Tree|
Somewhere -- a peach tree lives. An Elberta Peach tree at that. Smack, smack, that's good eating folks. If all goes to plan, this Elberta tree will produce its first crop of peaches next year. There's nothing like a tree-ripened Elberta peach in mid-August. I didn't get nearly enough of them this year.
Take notes children. Because this just might be a question in Trivial Pursuit someday. Do people even play Trivial Pursuit anymore? Or is Bill Bird just showing his rather ancient age?
This is a nice story.
|Sacramento's Most Eligible Bachelor Likes Babies (and peaches)|
Sacramento's most eligible bachelor is this man to your left, ladies. His name is name is Eric Dietz, and he is, indeed, Sacramento's Most Eligible Bachelor, as proclaimed by "Girls on the Grid." Eric, who serves as Legislative Director for Assemblymember Allan Mansoor (R-Costa Mesa) grabbed the lofty title last February, beating out ten other deserving (or so I'm told) contestants.
This story stretches back to the month of March, so please bear with me. Some explanation is in order.
We do a lot of reading here at the State Capitol. The amount of written material astounded me a bit when I first arrived here and was given instructions to "read this." My first thought was, "will there be a test?" That answer would be a gigantic yes, but I really would learn the reason for the accelerated reading curve until much later.
It's not the kind of test that this former television and broadcast reporter turned public relations pro was expecting.
|California State Capitol|
If you're going to work in the halls of the State Legislature... No -- let me rephrase that: If you find yourself lucky enough to be afforded the wonderful opportunity to work inside one of the most historic buildings in all of California -- you had better be "informed." That is -- you need to know about a lot of different things. You don't need to be an expert on everything mind you -- but the worst crime that you can commit as a State Capitol staffer is to be caught "uninformed."
The State Legislature deals with every topic under the sun -- and 100 times more than that. Subjects range from Apples to Zebras (A-Z) and everything else in between. Not only are you REQUIRED to know about these subjects, it's also a good idea to understand the competing views that each subject offers. Not everything is "black and white" here under the dome. Some issues are several different shades of gray. And, as a State Capitol staffer, it's in your best interest to not only know about each and every issue -- but also know about and understand the competing views that each issue offers.
The worst, most possible, crime that a legislative staffer can commit is to answer a phone call from a constituent and utter the words: "I'm not aware of this." Why is this so bad? It sends a terrible message to a voter that a legislator THEY voted for has hired someone who is rather clueless about an issue that the voter is VERY concerned about. And, the thinking goes, if the staffer is uniformed, what about the legislator? That's not good people.
|Read these-Test Later!|
Committing a crime like this leads to a very bad day or week at work. Bill Bird knows this all too well from experience. Don't ever be caught off guard. The only way to stay on your toes is to read, read, read and then read just a little bit more. Read until your eyeballs literally turn red (and then read a little bit more). Read -- because you will be tested. You never know when the surprise "pop quiz hotshot" is coming -- but it will come. That much, you can depend upon.
In some cases -- the people who represent these different issues will bring them right to your front door in the form of visits to the State Capitol Office. Staffers in a State Capitol office will meet with a lot of different people. Sometimes? The issue can be a simple one. Group A visits in the morning to urge the legislator to consider a hike in taxes. Group B visits in the afternoon to urge the legislator to avoid a hike in taxes.
But it's not always that simple or cut and dried.
One group that will bring its issues to the front door is the California agriculture industry. This is a rather important industry as one might expect, and it covers ALL issues of agriculture, not just one. The industry will often hold what is billed as "Agriculture Week" (or Ag Day), where staffers are encouraged to visit ag related fairs and booths that have been erected on the grounds of the State Capitol.
It's not unusual then, for the fresh flower industry, to drop off a vase of flowers at every State Capitol office. One year I actually picked up an entire year's supply of radish and carrot seed packets that were offered by the thousands. California beekeepers also show off their wares, usually in the form of a demonstration hive. It's also a good place to pick up pens or pencils that are used on the job (I have a particular attachment to my VIAGRA pen -- but that's a different industry).
But this past year, the nursery outlet known as Green Acres took Ag Day one step further. In an effort to promote fresh fruit season -- and the end of bare root planting season -- Green Acres presented each legislative office with a bare root fruit tree (grown by Dave Wilson Nursery, of course). Not every office received the same variety of tree either. Some received apples, others got nectarines while still others received peaches.
Now, while I thought this to be a rather dandy and inventive idea, it also troubled me. Although the office that I work in received an O'Henry Peach tree -- I needed another peach tree like I needed another hole in my head. I have enough of them, thank you. Fortunately -- the tree did find a good home.
|Bare Root Fruit Trees-Capital Nursery|
But -- there are 120 legislative offices in the State Capitol. That's 40 offices in the State Senate, plus another 80 offices in the State Assembly. That makes for 120 bare root fruit trees. Although our tree found a good home -- I wasn't as positive about the others.
The State Legislature has changed somewhat from the day I first stepped through the front doors in 1999 as a wide-eyed, 36-year old, rookie. Before the era of term limits took over -- staffs and staffing levels didn't turn over that much. It wasn't unusual for a person to work 25-or-30 years for just one or two different legislative offices. There wasn't much turnover.
That abruptly changed when term limits took effect in 1990. By the time I arrived in 1999? Many established legislators had already departed. Some were still around, but not for long. The same rule of thumb also applied to legislative staff. People who had been working in the State Legislature for a very long time were moving on as well. The culture of change had taken hold.
The point I'm trying to make here is this: Many legislative offices are staffed with very young and very bright and talented people who haven't reached the age where they are thinking about home ownership just yet. Many legislators who serve here don't own homes in the Sacramento area, they choose to rent an apartment close by the State Capitol instead.
My fears -- which proved to be well-founded -- was that a lot of these bare root fruit trees would be abandoned and left to die somewhere in an office corner. That's an orchard worth of fruit trees gone to waste -- and as much as I love fresh fruit -- that bugged me a bit. So -- I decided to play the role of "adoption agency."
I crafted an advertisement for a publication called the Senate Daybook, and after borrowing a few choice lines from a famous statue located on Liberty Island in New York Harbor, the ad I placed looked a little like this:
"Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled FRUIT TREES yearning to breathe free. If your office received a fruit tree delivery that hasn't found a good home, give it to me! I will make sure it finds the safety of a fruit orchard or backyard where it can live free."
Or something to that extent.
I was besieged, almost immediately, with a great many offers the moment this ad hit email inboxes. But they weren't quite the offers I was expecting. As it turns out? More people WANTED these trees than those who actually had them. One legislative staffer "gladly" offered to take fifty or sixty trees off my hand for an orchard she was planning.
|Black Tartarian Bare Root Cherry Tree|
There was just one eensy, teensy problem. I didn't have 50 or 60 trees. I didn't even have five. Getting just one of them was proving to be difficult. Perhaps my fears of trees left in an office to whither and die were misplaced?
As it turns out, not entirely. Slowly, one by one, the fruit trees rolled in. An unwanted Fuji apple here. A Black Tartarian cherry tree there. And I made sure -- as each one came in -- it went straight out to someone who promised to give it a good and proper home.
It was on one such hunt for forgotten trees that I entered the office of Assemblymember Allan Mansoor, where a young man handed me the gift of an Elberta Peach tree. As he smiled and turned away, his co-worker (a Sacramento Vegetable Gardening blog reader) pointed out: "That's Eric Dietz, Sacramento's most eligible bachelor."
And now you know why Sacramento's Most Eligible man is a real peach.