Tuesday, April 21


Spring is here and summer is coming. That can only mean that the soothing sounds of neighborhood lawn mowers will permeate my every waking hour. There is the early riser, the mid-day man and the night owl, each working on their outdoor masterpieces usually when I am trying to get a little shut-eye. Please don’t misunderstand me, I understand the practical purpose of a lawn and the desire to keep it looking nice. I just can’t grasp why their upkeep is so magical to so many.

Myself, I see not the magic in a perfect lawn. What I do see is wasted time constantly cutting, raking and bagging. The same warm weather that brings everything that we love about spring also reanimates the Yard Nazi from his winter slumber. Everyone neighborhood has one. The guy (or gal – there are plenty of you Eva Braun’s out there) that cuts the lawn every week, needed or not. He is always in the yard grooming it, but never enjoying it. I know that I sound judgmental, but I myself come from a long line of Yard Nazi’s. Once, when my Grandmother was wringing her hands in frustration over the falling leaves, my Grandfather suggested that she “go get a goddamn bucket to catch them as they fell off the tree.”

My Yard Nazi is the first on the street to cut in spring and the last to cut in winter. No, you didn’t read that wrong, he cut the grass in winter. When it was dead. I think that my favorite Yard Nazi trick occurs in the fall. As the leaves fall off the tree, he does not bag them, oh no. That’d be too good for those nasty leaves. No, he loads them into his beat-to-shit truck, it’s only purpose to transport the leaves, and illegally dump them into a school dumpster across the street from my house. The beauty in all this is that the leaves blow out of the dumpster into my yard, where they sit pissing him off every time he drives by. Ha ha. But, being a renter for a large portion of my life, I am used to drawing the ire of neighbors as I recklessly push the mower with abandon, forgoing any blade growth pattern. Oh yes, I have been judged by the prying eyes as I failed trim, edge and water (hey man, the lease says CUT not manicure).

I wasn't always this way. I think that every kid should know the pleasure of heading down a Slip N’ Slide, only to end the joyride on a patch of mushy grass. And who can forget the childish glee of stepping in dog poo, or better yet, on a bee? When I was younger, we lived on a newly developed golf course. So either you played on the front lawn of newly planted seed (aka dirt) or you literally took your life into your hands on the back lawn. There is nothing more fun that romping with man's best friend only to dodge errant golf balls. We had planted some trees as a buffer between the course and our house, but the dogs kept eating them.

Once when we were in the backyard, I bent down to pick something up and heard what I assumed was a flying insect by my head. Actually, it had been a golf ball and by the time it took me to stand up, my Dad was heading up to a golf cart. After he’d reached striking distance, he chucked the ball at the group of golfers screaming “yell fore, motherfuckers!” Ahhh memories.

Then one day, something magical happened. Up from the big patch of dirt in the front of the house sprouted little green seedlings, oh my God a lawn. It grew and grew, with the help of the dogs. Until one day, it got so tall it needed to be cut. With a lawnmower. What followed molded my relationship with lawns, ne nature, for the rest of my young adult life. The details of the story have been refined over the years, but here is how it went down: My Mother asked my Dad to mow the lawn. For whatever reason, he failed to do so in a timely manner. My Mom, high on PMS, decided to mow it herself only to encounter frustration at the fact the mower wouldn’t start. She tried over and over to get the mower to cooperate, but over and over it refused to start. So my Mom calmly walked into the garage and emerged with an axe. She took the axe to the mower and proceed to kill it. I don’t know if any of the neighbors saw her doing this, but if they did they were probably smart to stay away. I know that’s what I would do if I saw a crazy woman murdering a defenseless lawn mower.

Needless to say we had to get a new lawnmower, which we did. My Dad went and bought the cheapest one that Sears had, and after a glaucoma treatment he put on his flip-flops to mow the lawn. What could possibly go wrong? I was very young, but I remember it like the post traumatic stress disorder it became. He tripped over the front step and there was this noise, a loud PING as if the mower had hit a rock. Only it was no rock, it was my Dad’s toe and the mower had cut it off. All I can remember immediately after that was my Mom yelling for me to get in the car as she searched the grass for the missing toe. After a few minutes, the search was called off along with any hopes of reattachment.

The good news was that they stitched up the toe (after which my Mom puked in the hospital lobby, that was awesome) and sent us home. As we pulled into the driveway, my Mom sick to her stomach and my Dad high on painkillers, we saw it. My Mom was the first to notice that something was amiss; she said, “what does that cat have?” The realization slowly dawned on us all. There was our cat, sitting on the front stoop, eating my Dad’s toe. Don’t feel too bad, it kinda grew back. I should mention that it was the 70s and my Dad was a body builder, you do the math.

So, when I think about the joys of having a patch of bug infested nature right outside my door I am not usually to stoked about spending time on it, in it or around it. I mow it only when I am in clear and present danger of receiving a ticket from the City. But before you peg me as a bad neighbor, remember this: you can't necessarily equate a nice, well-kept lawn with a nice well-kept person. Just because your next door neighbor's crabgrass is under control doesn't mean they don't have a mysterious collection of little shoes. Because that’s the first thing neighbors say after HASMAT takes the last of the acid barrels from the basement. “He was a quiet guy, kept to himself. Had a nice lawn, though.”