It’s pretty, but it’s the bane of many an old flower child

paja canalera
Are old hippies senior flower children? That may be, but don’t be a baby when this stuff goes into bloom and makes you sneeze and cry. Archive photo by Eric Jackson.

Doctor, am I going to die?

Panama by bus, with Eric Jackson

All masked up, on a full Coaster, the little after 9 a.m. bus that heads from up the back entrance toward El Valle, through San Juan de Dios and has few seats left by the time that it gets to Juan Diaz, turns left at the highway and goes on to Panama City. I’m just headed to Coronado on this Sunday morning.

A little past the center of Rio Hato I start in on a sneezing fit.

Oh no! Have I caught The Virus? Am I going to die?

I can imagine going to the doctor about it:

‘Doc, am I gonna die?’

‘Of course. We all do.’

‘OH NO! I’m indispensable! Who’s gonna feed the cats and dogs? Sob… Wail…’

‘If you keep keep up with this hypochondriac whining, I could give you a really painful shot that might make you die a bit more slowly….’

The paranoiac ideation is interrupted by a glance out the window. In most places along my route it has yet to blossom, but the paja canalera is blooming, its white flowers giving off pollen, along this stretch.

The move from Michigan spared me the hay fever misery of goldenrod and ragweed. But here my allergies kick in from that invasive Southeast Asian weed that was brought into the old Canal Zone way back when, with several origin stories about it – the elephant grass, the paja canalera, Saccharum spontaneum L. As in, it’s getting into the season when by eyes water and I sneeze a lot, but they won’t have to intubate me just yet.


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