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."


  1. Different countries, cities, and neighbourhoods . . . and yet we seem to have the same neighbours (and lawnmower, as it happens!). :)

    You have my sincerest sympathies. I don't know where these people come from (all over, it seems), but I wonder what they would think if they knew how much they resemble the weeds they complain about? How great it would be if they took some time and attention to re-sod their personalities instead of their lawns.

  2. Inkslinger, sometimes I get the feeling we're being outnumbered. Like they're ganging up on us. I like that your personality!

  3. You can be my neighbor Grad! I have a terrible lawn and I don't care. I love the dandelions that grow in it and I am sure, though no one has ever said anything, my nextdoor neighbor with the immaculate lawn hates me. But I don't care about that either! Lawns are such a waste of time and money. We are slowly ripping ours out and replacing it with perennial flowers.

  4. Stefanie, I would so love to replace mine with ground cover, or flowers. But we have restrictive covenants which have an actual rule about lawns, the height of the blades of grass, the landscaping. You wouldn't believe it! If I didn't love my home so much (and if the market was better) I'd sell it and move to the country. Best friends live across the street. She is a fabulous gardener and has a large flower garden in front of the house. Someone actually filed a complaint with the HOA Board that there were too many flowers! Cooler heads prevailed, thank goodness, and the flowers were allowed to stay.

  5. Grad, I laughed out loud while reading your post. It reminded me of a time (many years ago) when I decided to plant my entire front yard (admittedly postage-stamp sized) with sunflowers. I don't know what the neighbors thought, but my kids loved it! Something to think about....And I'm pretty sure sunflower seeds blow in the wind, too...

  6. Bibliophiliac, gotta tell you, blowing sunflower seeds is a lot more pleasant that blowing hot air. Got enough of that in the south already!

  7. Grad, you are SO BRAVE. I would probably skimp on groceries and hire the expensive lawn man back--although I would certainly tell him NOT to come next winter. (I'm not kidding; I once did this so I could hire someone to clean my house. I'm a horrible person who hates t do actual work.)

  8. I was sitting here thinking "Oh no, how long is it since I mowed my bald lawn?" and "Maybe the manufacturer's website will have a .pdf of the lawnmower owner's manual." and "Thank God I have lovely neighbours around me, not graceless fools." I read the comments and then my brain exploded.
    Not only is there a regulation height for blades of grass, but someone filed a complaint that there were too many flowers? Why not too many butterflies? Too much birdsong? That the sunset is too orange? What the HELL? I don't care if the complainant has hay fever, or if the flowers clash with their curtain tiebacks. Get a bloody life. Preferably elsewhere.
    Let all of these idiots move to a suburb far, far away, and file complaints against each other, and then WE can all live in the same street, and leave books in each others mailboxes, and bake each other eccentrically spiced cakes, and swap seeds for dandelions and opium poppies, and have a wild street Christmas party every year with a live band and performance poetry and handsome young men behind the bar. Yeah. I'm liking this plan.

  9. Tinky, I am seriously considering it. Especially since I have to calculate the cost of buying a leaf blower (can't leave grass clippings in the gutter to wash into the water main) and a lawn edger. We're talking serious lawn maintenance here. (And I didn't mean all folks from the northeast - I was thinking of one particular city - which is wonderful once you get used to it, I guess).

    Fugitive, I was once reported because I left my boat and trailer (when I had them) on the driveway for a few nights while I was trying to find a new storage facility for it. I got a "lawyer letter" demanding I remove it, and charging me a $50 fine. With that said, my immediate neighbors are lovely and our subdivision is a very friendly place. There's always a few who appoint themselves the sidewalk supervisors. I think members of the HOA Board sigh a lot (I was the first president and I certainly did!)and roll their eyes. I would dearly love to be your neighbor - books, spice cakes, live kind of place!

  10. Fugitive, one other thought, the flower-lady's husband had a reaction similar to yours - with much more colorful language! How delightful that was! And those pesky birds wake up at 6:00 a.m. every morning. How's one to get their beauty rest? :>

  11. Great post. Laughing here at the thought of the newbie snotnose re-sodding his personality. My lawn is postage-stamp sized but I still let it get a bit overgrown. Well done on the mowing though. And I would definitely change the seasons that your lawn guy does the lawn.

  12. People, just be thankful you HAVE a lawn! Llew's lawn envy is getting out of control. But Graddikins, your internal response system is superb. I hope he could hear it somehow.

  13. If I may just universalize this post a little bit...I have a feeling that all over America, people are making changes similar to what you're doing here--i.e., beginning to do for themselves what they used to hire others to do, to save money. You've touched on something.

    Congratulations on your return to the land (or at least to the lawn).

  14. You should've said... "Well maybe the wind blows your dog's shit down the street creating extra fertilizer for weeds to grow!!" "Hope the wind doesn't blow your dog shit back onto your yard, ASS!"


  15. p.s. I did not write anything with elegance.... however - elegance is learned, my friend!