Thursday, May 20, 2010

Ode To Suburbia

All through the winter, when the lawn was dormant and nothing grew, my "lawn man" was apparently mowing my dead grass. I never noticed any difference in my dead grass from the time I left for work in the morning to the time I returned after dark in the evening. I didn't notice any difference in my dead grass when I walked the dog on Saturday evenings, nor did I notice a change in it when I went out to get the paper on Sunday mornings. Still brown. Still asleep. Status quo on the dead grass. I didn't notice anything about the dead grass until I received a bill from my "lawn man" in March in the amount of $375 for services from November through February - for mowing the dead grass every three weeks - just the front lawn.

So now it's Spring and the grass is no longer dead. The grass has decided to awaken from its slumber. Quite frankly, I can't afford my lawn man now that there really is grass to mow.

This weekend I ventured into the garage (a place I hate almost as much as the attic). Behind some old doors and under a box of roof tiles, I found the power mower. Not the John Deere riding mower. That one was over in the corner next to a trunk I had in college. The John Deere won't crank up. I have no idea what is wrong with it. In order to get it repaired, the John Deere dealer has to come over and put it in a trailer and haul it over to the shop. But until the garage gets emptied out, there's no way to get the John Deere out of the garage.

I was grateful that the mower was close to the door, and with some shifting and pushing and pulling, I was able to get it outside to take a look at it. I wiped the cobwebs off, filled it with gas and put lawnmower oil into the oil case. "Push red button 3x." I did. "Hold down throttle and pull cord." I did. Nothing. I tried again. Nothing. Finally, we go. Third time's a charm

The mower hasn't been used in years. I think it needs new spark plugs. If I could find the owners manual I would be able to tell where they are on the machine and learn how to change them. It will chug along for a while and then give a gasping, choking sound. If I push the handle downward causing the deck to rise slightly, it chugs again. (I'm not a mechanical engineer, but I think that symptom tells me there is an air flow problem.)

My lawn. Admittedly, my lawn is more weeds than grass. On the other hand, my neighbors' lawns are beautiful. The men go out every Saturday morning in their bermuda shorts and socks with brown loafers and work on their lawns. It shows.

I got home from work at around 7:00 p.m. last evening. The lawn looked ghastly. The weeds had grown like - well - weeds. So after changing into "yard clothes" I pulled the lawn mower out...pressed the red button 3x...held down the throttle and pulled the cord. Instant start. Good sign.

Putt-putt-putt down the driveway and onto the lawn. I see a youngish man (late 30s) coming up the street walking his dog. I see him a lot. I've seen his dog taking a dump on my lawn on several occasions. He's one of the "newbies" in the subdivision. Moved in several years ago; total renovation. Young professional. Cocktail party type. Nice house, good lawn, great landscaping. He waves. I give him the "hi-dee-ho" with my chin because if I let go of the throttle the mower will stall, then stop, and I may not get it started again before dark. He slows down as he gets to the edge of my property. His dog sniffs around. He stops, takes in a wide shot of my lawn, and starts to speak in a tsk-tsk tone.

"Gee. You're lawn is really gone, isn't it."

What I thought: Nice to meet you too, rude little snotnose. You're from the North East aren't you? Or from L.A.? The product of too much smoke and dust and a thin ozone layer.
What I said: "Well, its a process. Um - I can't let go of the throttle so you'll have to speak up."

"Oh! Sure!" he shouted. "I spent $$$$ (here he divulges a large price tag) on having my lawn re-sodded last Spring."

What I thought: Idiot boy. I could have had a face lift with that.
What I said: "Yes, it's very expensive."

"This year I'm seeing weeds."

What I thought: Duh.
What I said: "Oh."

"I think the seeds might have blown over from your yard."

What I thought: They didn't blow over, dweeb. I sent them over...special delivery...just for you.
What I said: "Huh?"

"Yeah, those seeds blow with the wind, you know."

What I thought: Like the wind that blows into one of your ears and comes out the other, douche-pie?
What I said: "I guess that would depend upon which way the wind is blowing."

"Well, they look exactly like the weeds you have," taking in another expansive view of my weedy lawn.

What I thought: Are you filing a paternity suit? Did you do a DNA sample? You cracked the case, oh great genius. My weeds travel up the street in the dark of night to spawn on your lawn.
What I said: "Weeds of a specific species have identical characteristics - like all plants."

"You should probably rip the whole thing out and re-sod."

What I thought: I guarantee you something's going to get ripped out if you stand there one more second.
What I said: "Well, gotta go chop the heads off my weeds."

"Good seeing you."

What I thought: And if your dog shits on my lawn one more time, you'll find it on your windshield the next morning.
What I said: "Same here."

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Thoughts That Go Bump In The Night

It began uneventfully. Bed at 10:00 p.m. as usual. Hours later something awakened me. A dog barking in the distance? A car door closing? I glanced at the clock: 2:00 a.m.

"If I fall back asleep right now, I'll get four more hours of sleep."

But the "night thoughts" started. Random, stupid, annoying things that keep the mind awake:

That conversation earlier today - no, I guess that would be yesterday now. Why do we say African-American? I would bet that very few Americans have ever put a toe on Africa. My buddy P** is African-American. She hasn't been to Africa. Does she even call herself African-American? I've never heard her say, one way or the other. Make a note to ask P** about that. What about people of color who live in...let's say...Scotland? They wouldn't be African-American...surely.

There are a lot of syllables in that phrase as well. We like to abbreviate everything, so that's odd. We're getting lazy. Names of leaders...There was FDR, and JFK, and MLK - and then the shortest of all - W. Then there's LOL and TBA and FYI. "I've got the 411 on that."

If I fall back asleep right now, I'll get 3-1/2 more hours of sleep.

What program was it tonight - no - by now it was last night - someone said, "I bet most Americans can't even name the 9 Supreme Court Justices." I think I could. Rogers, Ginsberg, Kennedy, Scalia, Alito, Stevens, Sotomayor - I wonder how she spells her name. S-O-T-O-M-A-Y-O-R. Right? Now I lost count. Alphabetically - Alito, Bader-Ginsberg, Kennedy, Rogers, Scalia, Sotomayor, Stevens, Thomas. I wish I had a camera with me when I met Clarence Thomas. Why didn't I think to bring a camera? I could have asked someone to take our picture. He's short for a man. I wanted to genuflect and kiss his ring when I met him. I got so nervous. I think I said something dumb - I can't recall. Did I name nine? No. Eight.

If I fall asleep right now, I'll get almost 3 more hours of sleep.

I had a feeling Snape would turn out to be a good guy in the end. In fact I knew it. I told John so. I knew it right from the first. I don't forgive J.K. Rowling. That was mean, what she did. And that comment she made about Dumbledore. If it didn't happen to the character in the books, it didn't happen, right? I mean, they can't have a life outside the books themselves.

Did I let the cat in?

Did I turn off the oven?

What ever happened to those Northern Nights sheets? The sage ones. They were crisper than these. These are Egyptian cotton and soft. Maybe I need crisper sheets. Am I cold? Should I get up and get another blanket? I'll wake up too much if I get up, and...

If I fall asleep right now I'll get almost 2-1/2 hours more sleep.

Oh, blast! I have to get my car tags tomorrow. No - I guess that would be today. Why do I have to get them again? I just got the car in February. Didn't I pay tax, tags and license at closing? Make a note to pull the paperwork out of the glove compartment. Why do they call it a glove compartment? Does anyone ever put their gloves in the glove compartment? Why not call it the paper compartment, or owner's manual compartment. I don't think the car has a cigarette lighter. On second thought, I know it doesn't. When did they stop putting cigarette lighters in cars. I don't smoke. It doesn't matter.

I did let the cat in, right? I remember calling him. I'm not getting up. I know I did. Didn't I? I turned the oven off, I'm sure...but I think a light is on downstairs.

My hours weren't good enough last month. I have to do better this month. Let's see...this Friday is the half-way point in the month. After Friday I'll have 11 more work days - no 10. Because the 31st is a holiday. So, I have to be at...what? 80 by Friday. What do I have so far? Was it 40? or 42? or was it 38? If I do ten hours a day for the last ten days, that's 100 right there.

If I fall asleep right now, I'll get another 2 hours of sleep. That will be fine. Good enough anyway. will be "bagels in the kitchen" at work tomorrow - I mean today. They do that every time someone has a birthday. I wish they'd just forget about mine. I usually skip the bagel thing. But I'll have to have one It will be for me. So I have to. I hope they don't make me eat the bagel while they watch. I'll say I'm taking it back to my office to "save for later." Damn carbs. Well, then, I'd better give up red wine if I don't want carbs. No more wine. Maybe just for the occasion and then that's it. I'm serious.

I wonder what movie is in the DVD player? I wonder if I can work the clicker in the dark? Oh, good. You've Got Mail. I did it. There's the tune..."Dreams are nothing more than wishes and a wish is just a dream you wish to come true..." Give up. Watch a movie...Breyer! Justice Breyer. That's nine. Does he spell his name like the ice cream? I'll look it up tomorrow - or today. "If only I could have a puppy, I'd think myself so very lucky..." continues the tune.

If only I could fall asleep right now, I'd get 1-1/2 more hours of....zzzzz

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Perhaps A Barge Down The Nile

A wasted day. An absolutely wasted day. I hate days like this...days when I arrive at the office with every intention of being productive. But after I walk into my office and sit down in my big blue leather chair a funk settles over me. I drum my fingers on the desk and stare out the window, I groan every time the phone rings. I Google Castles in Ireland, or the cost of flying from Atlanta to Heathrow in - let's see - six months from now. Then I remember how I hate flying. How about Nova Scotia? I can actually drive all the way to Nova Scotia. What is there to see and do there? And I spend the next hour flitting from Nova Scotia to Prince Edward Island to the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee and up to Mackinac Island. (My mind never goes very far west, nor any more south than where I currently am).

Some time ago ( truth some decades ago) I was at a party in Hawaii at a friend's condo - which had a lovely view of Diamond Head. We were a group of about 8 or 9 from all over the world, drawn together because not many of us could afford to fly back home very often (or in my case ever) for years at a time. So we became family to each other, spending holidays hanging out together. All young, all hopeful, all very clever (or so we thought - things aren't always what they seem to be, alas.) One of the guys in our group was into psychology. I can't remember now if he was working on his Ph.d. or not, but as I recall he worked in the field. In any event, at this particular party "D" was listening to me expound on some thing or another. I am quite confident I droned. He was a very rapt audience, looking very intently at me (he was also rather drunk). I finished my point. Silence. Seconds passed. He continued to stare me down. Discomfort mounting, I was about to shout, "Okay - What?" when he said, "Linda, for you, analysis would be a complete waste." He took another swig of whatever he was drinking, hiccuped, and fell asleep on the floor.

I am now trying to remember why I told you this story. Oh, yes. Here it is: I never have to wonder why I feel the way I feel, or why I think the way I think, or do the things I do. I just know myself. I am not sure if that is an unusual trait. I'm so used to it, it doesn't seem at all odd to me. Maybe it is something one is born with - like being right-handed, or being able to tie a cherry stem into a knot with ones tongue, or being very very limber. (Which reminds me -most competitive swimmers are born with a ligamentous laxity in their shoulder joints, which in the rest of us might be diagnosed as Multidirectional Instability but for them makes them better swimmers. In other words, my abnormal can be someone else's normal.)

So, I do not have to ask myself why I am staring into space and thinking of castles in Ireland. I know why I can't focus properly on tasks at hand, whether it is answering my business correspondence or cleaning out the hall closet. I know myself, you see. I need a vacation. I have not had a vacation since my eldest son was in the 5th grade and we went to the mountains for a week. He will turn 30 this summer. How pathetic is that?

Well, blast and damn I've had enough! I'm fired up and I'm going to do it. And I'm not just talking about a long weekend visit with family. This year I am going on a Vacation - (note the capital "V"). A real one. I'm going to pack my bags and brush the dust off my traveling shoes and...well...just go. I might pin a map to the wall and throw a dart. I might travel by pack mule or by paddle wheel up the Mississippi. But go I shall. Blessed relaxation - with nothing to do but read and drink those little drinks with the paper umbrellas. I'll remember to take lots of pictures - maybe from the top of a pyramid.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Renaissance Tinky

My dear pal, Tinky Weisblat, (well, we've never actually met, but that's one of the marvelous things about the blogosphere, right?) is not only an author, a food writer, a fabulous cook, the holder of a doctorate in American Studies and a masters degree journalism, she has a marvelous blog named In Our Grandmothers' Kitchens which you really ought to visit regularly. Tinky is also a gifted singer (or, chanteuse, as she would say). ("Well big deal," grumbles Grad. "I've got talent too, 'ya know. I'm am practising my Hula Hooping and I bet I could beat the snot out of her if it ever came to a contest." Yeah, you go, Grad.) Tinky's blog often has an event- driven theme, and in honor of the running of the Kentucky Derby she created a link to her beautiful rendition of My Old Kentucky Home, and with any luck, I'll be able to get the link to work correctly so you can enjoy it as well. Songs about the south always make this Yankee a little teary-eyed. I love your voice, Tinky, but how about a little Led Zeppelin? Stairway to Heaven or D'yer M'aker perhaps. So, okay (with Tinky's kind permission) here goes...let's see if I can do this ...

Woo hooo! Success!

Did I mention that I am available for all sorts of agent-type promotions. My commission is a mere the top.