Every day this week, my neighborhood roars from morning to late afternoon with the sounds of power tools. Mowers, edgers, blowers, whiffers, whaffers, that thing-that-digs-up-your-lawn-and-makes-it-look-like-geese-crapped-all-over-it, but is somehow good for it. (Oh yeah, an aerator.) My neighbors will be doing their second mow of the season this weekend. We have yet to do our first.
It’s not that we don’t care about our lawn. We do. We just don’t care that much. Once again, we’ve found ourselves out of step with our neighbors.
For much of my life, I found myself living near at least one person who objected to lawn care as bourgeois bullshit. You know the type: Obsession with a weed-free patch of grass in front of one’s house is the ultimate distraction from the stuff in life that really matters, and so they opt out. That “the stuff that really matters” tends to be “sitting in front of the TV watching basketball” is only evidence of their superior sensibilities. And so they let their lawn grow long and shaggy, and sometimes they glance out the front window and say, “Thank God I’m a Libertarian, and above all this shit.”
To these people I have but one thing to say: Move to Mongo. (Mongo is a small town in northern Indiana, but in this usage it’s more representative of that outback town where civilization is always kept at bay. In the 1980s and ’90s, when the city of Fort Wayne was aggressively annexing its urbanized, unincorporated neighborhoods, a knot of whiny individualists could always be counted on to write tiresome letters to the editor about the changing city-limits sign. These missives always contained some version of the line, “But Marge and I moved here five years ago to get away from the city,” as though buying a three-bedroom house in a subdivision where volunteer soybeans still occasionally sprout in the back yard, close enough to the city limits to lengthen one’s commute by no more than eight minutes, gave one an eternal claim to some sort of “country” life. A colleague and I came up with “Move to Mongo” as a way to say, “If you really want to get away from it all, then get away from it all. And stop complaining”)
In matters of the lawn, as in so many things, I’m a committed moderate. You will never catch me out there fretting over crabgrass and dandelions, but I accept that I live in a neighborhood, and neighborhoods only look as good as their crummiest property, and I promise not to be that property. I will never be the nicest one, either, but I’ll do my part.
Here in the GP, we find ourselves falling closer to the libertarian end of the spectrum. People here tend their landscaping with the tender loving care of a pothead with hydroponics. Some people here simply live to putter in the yard. Most of our neighbors have automatic sprinkler systems, which go on at 5 a.m. with a loud, sibilant hiss, awakening certain late-staying-up journalists in the neighborhood, not that I am complaining. But it’s damn hard to keep up with these folks, so I don’t try. “Maintenance-free landscaping” — there’s a Realtor’s phrase to steal my heart. We’ll have to get the mower out this weekend at the very latest, or risk becoming Those People. We’ll hold up our end, keeping up, if not with the Joneses, than certainly the Smiths.
Whew. This week has been less-than-good, but at least I now have new prescription bottles littering the coffee table. I’m asking Kate to “bring Mommy her medication” so that she’ll have lots of good stories to tell her therapist. As soon as I can teach her to mix a daiquiri, she’ll be well on her way.
When it comes to colorful, you really can’t beat a colorful lawyer. The DC Madam’s mouthpiece is a case in point:
You do a computerized database news search for Sibley, and what you get is information on his representation of Arthur Vanmoor, better known as the aforementioned “Big Pimping Pappy.”
BPP ran an escort service in Fort Lauderdale a few years back. He got busted and deported (he’s Dutch), then sued his clients for having sex with his employees. Sibley was his attorney.
It was the same tactic Sibley is using now to advise Palfrey: The manager of BPP’s escort service was merely providing “quality time with a quality woman,” Sibley told MSNBC’s Tucker Carlson in an on-camera interview in March 2006. Customers had to sign a receipt saying they wouldn’t engage in illegal sexual activity. If they did, then they broke the law.
Sibley sued them for breach of contract.
Let’s go to the videotape:
Carlson: “You sound like you look down on these men. That they would somehow get the idea that just because you call an escort service . . . and have a girl in a tube top and a vinyl skirt come over to your hotel room — that somehow they got the idea sex was involved. You sound like you’re unimpressed with their judgment.”
Sibley: “Well, Tucker, is that what the girls look like that come to your hotel room?”
Carlson: “I don’t have girls come to my hotel room who I’m not married to.”
I don’t know about you, but when I saw that Joan Baez was getting some ink earlier this week, claiming military officials refused to let her perform for the troops, I had a few questions, including:
1) Joan Baez is still performing?
2) Someone wants her to perform for them?
3) People young enough to be soldiers? Come on.
Well, it’s more complicated than that. The invitation was extended by famous Hoosier grump John Melly-mel Cougar Mellencamp, to “play with him,” suggesting a role shaking a tambourine and singing backup on “Small Town,” not crooning “Joe Hill” in her own soprano warble. Whew. I was fearing a comeback tour.
Have a great weekend. Back, and feeling better I hope, next week.
alex said on May 4, 2007 at 11:05 am
It really struck me last week when I started popping the heads off of dandelions. “Hey, wait a minute,” I thought. “These are spring perennials. What’s this unnatural aversion I have? Why am I doing this?”
I’m in a sort of limbo-land between country and suburbia where the people who make the most effort in their yards might as well not bother. For one, they seldom exercise good taste. What’s more, the ChemLawn crap they use makes algae grow a foot thick on top of our lake and doesn’t make the lawns look worth a damn anyway because the earth there doesn’t support anything besides a carpet of moss. And moss makes a fine damn lawn that’s also relatively maintenance free.
Actually, I could be very happy moving to unspoiled Mongo except for having to put up with its inhabitants, who are as uncultivated as the land itself.
John said on May 4, 2007 at 11:13 am
“Mongo only pawn… in game of life.”
vince said on May 4, 2007 at 11:42 am
Second mow of the season?
Heck, I just made my second mow of the week!
But here in earthy crunchy Portland I and two of my neighbors push around good old fashioned non-motorized mowers.
They barely make a sound.
Plus, the only pollution they create are the clippings that go in the composter.
(Factoid: gasoline powered lawn mowers put out more pollution than most cars.)
Caveat: it helps that I have a very small lawn. Takes about 20 minutes to cut.
john c said on May 4, 2007 at 1:00 pm
Like our hobbled hostess, I am a Grosse Pointe lawn moderate for the very same reasons. Most people keep their lawns neat. It makes the neighborhood very pleasant. So I’ll do my part. (I also happen to live on a corner lot at off a busy street, which ups the pressure. I just bought an edger, for example.)
Thought I’d share a funny story along these lines. We moved here from Chicago six years ago. Friends moved at the same time (part of the same move, for my wife’s company), and I can remember sitting around the patio with Ken sharing beers and joking about how crazy the GPers are about their lawns. (He was a moderate too, though maybe more begrudging about it than me.) Two years ago they moved back to Chicago. Not long after I talked to Ken, and asked him about their new digs, in a nice Chicago suburb. “We love the town, and I can’t believe I’m even saying this, but people around here don’t know how to keep their lawns neat!”
ashley said on May 4, 2007 at 1:32 pm
When my self-propelled John Deere died, rather than throw another $150 to fix it, I bought a neuton battery-powered mower. Quiet, and perfect for our size yard. Also has an attachment for a string trimmer.
I had a reel mower in Idaho, but I like the neuton a lot.
Kirk said on May 4, 2007 at 2:25 pm
Smithsonian did a story several years ago about lawn care and some people’s obsession with it. One expert rated lawns in terms of speed, as in a 5-mph lawn. A 5-mph lawn is one that looks great even when you creep past it at 5 mph. Mine is about a 20-mph lawn.
brian stouder said on May 4, 2007 at 2:35 pm
Kirk – I would switch the metric to altitude.
My lawn probably looks pretty good from, say, tree-top level
Kirk said on May 4, 2007 at 3:02 pm
Of course, then you get into the issue of dogwood vs. sequoia. I just hope that, if I live long enough to retire, I’ll have something better to do than worrying about whether a few blades of grass are hanging over the edge of my driveway.
Dorothy said on May 4, 2007 at 3:36 pm
Okay I admit it – I’m sort of borderline nuts about a nice lawn. (We don’t have an edger, Kirk. I do have edger-envy, though.)We had an awful infestation of crab grass last year, and this year I’m determined to extinguish the little bastard seeds before they germinate! Twice I’ve put down crabgrass killer/fertilizer combo. And I pull weeds when I see them.
I blame this on the lawn we had in Cincinnati. It was a beauty, already well established and weed free when we bought it in 2002! This crap growing here in the South grows sideways! Guess it’s good I’m moving so I can attain lawn perfection again.
My husband said once “There’s nothing sexier than a woman sitting on a riding mower!” He’s kind of sick that way.
brian stouder said on May 4, 2007 at 3:47 pm
We don’t have an edger, but we USED to have a lawn-obsessed retired guy right next door. When he moved, he gave me a tool that I use once a year, and in fact used last weekend. It is a sort of straight hoe (braced for Imus jokes); the head is not bent, but in-line with the long wooden handle.
When the ground is the consistency of devils food cake, as it is every April, you go along with this thing right at the edge of the sidewalk or driveway – in effect “flossing”. Takes about 20 minutes, and then my edges look as good as any of the obsessive/compulsives in our neighborhood, for the rest of the summer! (‘Course, I might take the weed-whip to the edges two or three times before Halloween gets here)
But my weeds are out of control!
Ricardo said on May 4, 2007 at 4:19 pm
I enjoyed one episode of “Prairie Home Companion” about a Los Angeles couple visiting Lake Woebegone. They showed pictures of their lovely garden and lawn to everyone and added that their gardener did all of the work. “…you would have thought they told the Minnesotans that someone chewed their food for them…”.
I think I am the only one on my block that cuts my own grass. I enjoy my time gardening. It was so warm here, I cut grass all winter this year. Little by little, I have been paring it down to add plants that need little or no watering. I also like to plant 50 or so sunflowers along the sidewalk. Save the seeds from one year to the next.
I am trying to get the message out: If you believe that illegal imigration is a problem here, and you don’t do your own gardening, cooking, cleaning, car washes and/or food production, then you are the root of that problem.
Kirk said on May 4, 2007 at 4:27 pm
I remember my dad having (and using) one of those edging tools, Brian. Unfortunately, he didn’t show me how to use it.
Dorothy said on May 4, 2007 at 4:36 pm
Ricardo I do all of that myself except for the food production. I don’t quite know the way around that, however. Does it count if I plant tomatoes and peppers every year?
Michael said on May 4, 2007 at 9:23 pm
As a dedicated nn.com nut, an infrequent contributor to this forum, and the immediate past National Chair of the Libertarian Party I must thank you for recognizing our members and their unique perspective on matters of community harmony, and self expression. There are probably only a few LP types in GP but Mongo is another story entirely!
I hope Ricardo can get his closing sentiment down to bumper sticker size. When it’s ready I’ll take 2.
MarkH said on May 5, 2007 at 8:45 am
Ha! You people crack me up. Take heed:
Out here in Yellowstone country, 6000 ft., we rarely make our first cut before May 15. But even this is a bit unusual:
05/05/07, 6:30AM MDT:28 degrees, 20-40mph NW wind and 2″ of new snow. My lawn can wait till Memorial day.
nancy said on May 5, 2007 at 9:08 am
Michael, thanks for the shout-out. I direct you to Alicublog(although not today), where Roy regularly tracks the malfeasance of the so-called “bullshit Libertarian” faction, growing by the day, it seems.
basset said on May 5, 2007 at 9:44 am
definitely some… interesting, let’s say… links off that page. like the one where the right-wingers fly over the “Muslims of America” compound, take pictures, and argue about what that basketball court REALLY is. underground bunker? arms storage? misshapen soccer field? It’s a mystery.
Ricardo said on May 5, 2007 at 1:50 pm
BTW, I am not hispanic, I just spangelize my post name.
My own belief is this: You call them illegal aliens, I call them Native Americans. Take that Michelle Malkin!
brian stouder said on May 5, 2007 at 2:17 pm
alicublog strikes me as a continuous (and opaque) inside-joke.
Oh well – I’ve also (for example) never had a taste for wine; and blog-based whines leave me flat, too.
(Presumeably this points up some major deficit in the refinement of my character!)
nancy said on May 5, 2007 at 8:57 pm
If you’re not a regular reader, Alicublog (and lots of others) can seem a little inside. It helps if you occasionally dip a toe into the other pools on the internet that much of this back-and-forth jabbering relates to. I simply can’t keep up anymore. Alicublog’s niche is calling out wingnuttia, which he does masterfully. But I wouldn’t read that shit if he didn’t link to it.
For real inside blog baseball, though, you have to see The Poor Man. Which is a pity, because some of his Keyboard Kommando comix are sheer genius.
Unindicted Co-conspirator said on May 5, 2007 at 9:08 pm
So Nancy, now we know you don’t watch “King Of The Hill”!
Hank’s lawn obsession would drive you nuts!
basset said on May 5, 2007 at 11:44 pm
“King of the Hill”?
some kind of cartoon, that’s all I know.
co-conspirator, surely you can come up with a better definition of someone’s place in the world than what silly-ass TV shows they do or don’t watch.
Connie said on May 6, 2007 at 7:58 am
My retired neighbor lady mows her lawn two or three times a week all season long. Each time in a different pattern. Her lawn reminds me of a major league baseball field with its pretty patterns.
At our house our goal is to keep it mowed.
michaelj said on May 6, 2007 at 4:22 pm
The Grosses don’t have Libertarians, since the demise of the Giacalone family. They have Republicans in Libertarian clothing that want Fredo to read all your emails.
Since the resident doyenne brought this up a few days ago, here‘s an appreciation of the man and the arms disguised as a review of the Warren Zevon book.
The reference to Linda Ronstadt interested me, since I’ve always held a grudge against her for singing Poor Poor Pitiful Me. Sorry, but that’s a quintessentially male song. It’s like Joan Baez mutilating The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down. Comparisons with Hemingway are also pretty annoying. I mean, Warren was a talented writer. Actually, comparisons of this guy to anybody are probably more odious than most comparisons are odious.
Danny said on May 7, 2007 at 12:41 am
Baez did The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down? Yikes. I’m having trouble just thinking about that. Reminds me though, it is time to put The Band back in my CD rotation. They should compliment Little Feat nicely.
Danny said on May 7, 2007 at 1:08 am
Sarkozy, won. Zut alor! Now I can finally stop eating these nasty “freedom fries” and get back to french fries. Vive la France, vive la revolution
LA mary said on May 7, 2007 at 10:50 am
Sarkozy has been anti-Iraq war since day one, Danny. He’s right in more ways than one.
Danny said on May 7, 2007 at 11:01 am
Don’t know much about him, but I suspected that. I mean, a conservative in Europe is about equal to Nancy Pelosi here. I was mainly making a joke, not getting all euphoric and francophilic.
Danny said on May 7, 2007 at 11:23 am
One thing I did read though was that he is against illegal immigration. I guess he is right in more ways than one.
LA mary said on May 7, 2007 at 1:36 pm
I wonder which of their former colonies they want to stop people coming from? It’s worked out so well with Algerians there.
ashley said on May 7, 2007 at 5:51 pm
…and don’t forget that Sarky’s parents were native Hungarians.
witless chum said on May 8, 2007 at 12:08 am
Howdy, came from Roy’s about the Lileks, which I’d get more if I’d ever read a word of Lileks’. Sorry for the late comment.
I’m close to the basketball watching guy on my street in Kalamazoo. My thing is, I’ll mow it and I’ll rake it. I won’t do anything else. Dandelions are wild flowers.
My neighbors across the street spend a majority of their waking hours out in there yard, which is addmittedly really nice looking.
I’d missed that link from Roy’s above, somehow I didn’t note the fact that the historically confused (he’s got the wrong Ottoman attack on Vienna) Baron was leafleting people from the air. That’s kind of awesome, if crazy people in planes can be awesome.
NotAnOgre said on May 17, 2007 at 9:41 am
Well, thank god for this blog! I’m glad to know I’m not the only one in the world who ISN’T obsessed over the lawn. My neighbors try and drive me batty and call the cops/enforcement/etc anytime they can about my yard… and the sad thing is I _DO_ mow it at least once a week. I have honestly seen my neighbor outside mowing his yard DAILY.. No joke. He’s retired for many years now… but my point is, there’s many other things going on in the world to give a care about besides grass. Very enjoyable to read, and thanks to everyone sharing their views about this!