(As told to Ed Grisamore.)
GRIS: Happy first day of the festival and happy second day of spring.
MR. B: Thank you. Are you in charge of the weather?
GRIS: No, I cant take the credit -- or the blame. Im a newspaper columnist.
MR. B: Ive heard of you. Youre the fellow who asks those tough trivia questions on Mondays.
GRIS: Lets start with some background. What is your name?
MR. B: Right now, folks call me Bud. By the weekend, I will be promoted to Blossom.
GRIS: Thats nice to hear. We didnt see much of you last year until after the festival. Who are those folks on either side of you?
MR. B: Theyre my buddies. We will be in full uniform by the middle of next week.
GRIS: Awesome. Has anyone ever told you how pretty you are?
MR. B: (Blush.) I prefer handsome. You know, Im a guy.
MR. B: Thats OK. Im sure the tiny pinch of pink threw you off. It happens all the time.
GRIS: Where do you live?
MR. B: In the park at the corner of Third and Mulberry, on the northeast end of William Arthur Fickling Walk. Four paper lanterns are hanging from the branches of my tree. Im just a few steps from the 3-ton, 8-foot lantern hand-carved by craftsmen in our sister city of Kurobe, Japan. A granite bench was dedicated at my feet 30 years ago this week.
GRIS: Youre in a prime location. A lot of folks would consider the stretch of Third Street Park between Cherry and Mulberry to be the epicenter of the festival.
MR. B: Ive got the best seat in the house. I know there are a lot of activities at Central City Park and other venues. And I would consider it an honor to be among the blossoms out at the Fickling farm or Wesleyan Woods. But you cant be everywhere, and this is a signature spot.
GRIS: Sure looks like a bloom with a view from here.
MR. B: There is something happening around me every day. There are long lines for free ice cream. I dont have to pivot my petals very far to catch Saturdays bed race over on Cherry Street and Sundays parade. Next weeks arts and crafts festival is right behind me.
GRIS: How old are you? You appear to be rather mature.
MR. B: Im not sure of my exact age in Yoshino years, but my host tree is the granddaddy on the block. The rows planted along the walkway are made up of younger trees that replaced many of my peers.
GRIS: How many blossoms are there in Macon?
MR. B: They are like stars in the sky. They claim there are 300,000 cherry trees in this city -- one for every man, woman, child, dog, cat and gnat. I figure there are at least 839 blossoms per tree, so you do the math.
GRIS: Sorry. Journalists are mathematically challenged. Ill take your word for it.
MR. B: A single blossom might not make a difference, but collectively, we can take your breath away.
GRIS: You look white, which I assume means youre not ripe. Are you having a pink complexion problem?
MR. B: Be patient and follow my bloom cycle over the next week. Its a thing of tutti frutti beauty.
GRIS: Ive noticed pink blossoms painted on storefront windows and splashed across back windshields. Does that make you proud?
MR. B: Absolutely. I like to think theres a little bit of us in every one of them. See the one over there in the window at the new Telegraph building? It bears a likeness to me. Ive got a twin.
GRIS: There is pink everywhere. Pink newspapers. Pink poodles. Pink pancakes. Pink socks. Pink buses. Pink port-a-potties. Theres even a new pink Christmas tree on display in the Long Building at Central City Park.
MR. B: Thats why they call it Pinkistan.
GRIS: What do you like most about the festival?
MR. B: I love the way it brings the community together. Not only does it attract visitors from all over, which helps the local economy, its a point of pride to those who live, work and raise their families here. Nothing else can match it. Its the tie that binds.
GRIS: Thank you for your time. Its time for me to, pardon the pun, leave. Folks might get the wrong idea if they see me in the park carrying on a conversation with a cherry blossom. Is there anything you want to add?
MR. B: Yes, Id like to close with a quote from The Last Samurai. It goes like this: A perfect cherry blossom is a rare thing. You can spend your whole life looking for one, and it will not be a wasted life.
Reach Gris at 744-4275 or firstname.lastname@example.org.