Connie Champagne: Mystery Tomatoes

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 (Photo: Guillaume Souvant/AFP/Getty Images)

Times are hard for Connie Champagne, and like others, she contemplates leaving for a fresh start. That’s where a mysterious tomato bush comes in.

Behind my flat in the Castro district, where I've lived for 27 years, is a tiny backyard. Nobody uses it, so a few years ago, I planted tomato seeds, but nothing grew, and I forgot about it.

So, I was surprised when last month, in the middle of lockdown, a bush bursting with tomatoes mysteriously grew in the yard.

The mystery tomato bush showed up at a good time.

Like a lot of people, COVID-19 has wiped me out financially. My livelihood as a singer and entertainer evaporated when entertainment venues shuttered. I've been trying to survive on odd jobs pet shop clerk, grocery worker but this city is expensive. And with smoky skies and a pandemic adding to my money worries, I'm beginning to think it's time to leave. I'm not the only one. The news is filled with stories of people fleeing San Francisco, driven out by high rents and contagious crowds.


But looking at that mysterious tomato bush, I'm thinking maybe I'll stay. That bush took years to grow, in spite of no watering, not much light and smoky air. My mystery tomatoes have shown me something by refusing to go, finding your way through, no matter how bad it gets, you just may thrive in the end.

Nature is fickle. On one hand, the world has been laid low by a tiny virus. But on the other hand, when you least expect it, nature offers a gift of the most delicious tomatoes. Both are small, but both have helped me make a big decision.

The mystery tomatoes have nourished my body and to my surprise my spirit. I'm going to give San Francisco another try. This pandemic won't last forever.

And if a tomato bush can make it, so can I. With this Perspective, I'm Connie Champagne.

Connie Champagne has been an actor, singer and entertainer in San Francisco since 1980.