I have a knack for staring out into nothing, but currently I am staring at broccoli. Though I am certain I’ve purchased broccoli in my adult life, I cannot say I recall the experience. Verily, unless it accompanied a crime spree among the rutabagas and parsley, how could anyone be expected to remember something as unremarkable as selecting produce?
When was the last time you really stared at broccoli? We are gawkers, after all; it seems a perfectly natural, non-committal act. Next time, before you dismember a stalk and add it to your stir fry, really take a long look at broccoli; it mimics a shrunken, barkless tree. Along with its restorative dietary qualities, it can, in a pinch, double as a miniature stunt oak for a particularly destructive landscape live-action sequence. This is a wildly fantastic quality. Cue the makeup artist. Its trunk bulges as if the arm of Schwarzenegger in Hollywood prime. Its bulbous foliage spreads wide, and is thoroughly impenetrable. Its edible, beta-carotene-rich canopy is dense, allowing neither water nor sunlight to filter through to the understory. It is said that a person in confusion cannot see the forest through the trees; having scrutinized broccoli, it would not surprise me one bit to learn that the saying originated with this compact li’l vegetable.
I see in its form the vivid imagination of someone who delights in making oddities and peculiar inventions, perhaps even inspiring the inventor of the umbrella. I could see my role as observer and that of my subject reversed: broccoli staring at me, marveling at my peculiar head of fine, black hair, mid-life belly, freckled face, odd nostrils, and overbite, all the while in verdant awe, offering praise for something so curious and oblong that only a prolific and eccentric artist could have dreamed a thing like me up.
Eric Peters, affectionately called “Pappy” by those who love him, is the grand old curmudgeon of the Rabbit Room. But his small stature and often quiet presence belie a giant talent. He’s a songwriter of the first order, and a catalogue of great records bears witness to it. His last album, Birds of Relocation, blew minds and found its way onto “year’s best” lists all over the country. When he’s not painting, trolling bookstores, or dabbling in photography, he’s touring the country in support of his latest record, Far Side of the Sea.