My neighbor’s lawn is a pristine expanse of deepest emerald, trimmed with geometric precision and fertilized, debugged, aerated and over-seeded into hyper-fertility. No weed dares to intrude among the slender blades. No mole cricket burrows underneath. In the dead of winter, when all the yards have gone sere, his verdant plot defies the season. It’s the kind of lawn that practically begs you to strip off your shoes and socks and walk joyfully barefoot among the blades, digging your toes into its genetically-modified plushness. Except my neighbor would have a cow. Because he is a lawn-freak.
His is a trophy lawn. It does not exist for children or dogs to roll and play on. He is retired and I’ve never glimpsed a grandchild. They have a tiny dog, but she walks politely down the concrete walk to the driveway and then to the street every day when his wife takes her for her daily constitutional. No, his lawn exists only to show up the rest of us, to tell his neighbors, look at this. This is how you grow grass. Look upon its magnificence and weep. He is a lawn tyrant and like all tyrants, leaves all the grunt-work to his subjects. Or in this case, his one and only subject, the yard guy.
I hate the yard guy. Not in a he-annoys-the-crap-outta-me kind of way. I usually pass that point before he is halfway through his lawn care ritual. No, by the time he straps his gas-powered, fume-belching, roaring-monster leaf blower to his back and continues to shatter my peace and quiet for another 20 minutes, I am gleefully fantasizing about bloody murder.
In the summer, I try to understand. If my freaky neighbor wants his grass manicured within an inch of its life every Wednesday morning of the growing season, so be it. I’ll grin and bear it (though the grin may closely resemble a rictus of pain. Or rage. One of those.) But yard guy does not simply mow the lawn. He drives a riding mower big enough to carry my entire family around a yard maybe twice the size of a postage stamp for roughly an hour, in case a blade somewhere got missed in the first five passes. The he takes a gas-powered monstrosity of a weed eater and edges the entire yard until the borders appear as if they were cut with a knife and a ruler. Then he gets out the aforementioned leaf blower. And this is when I really have to stop myself from going berserk on the guy.
I think leaf blowers are a sign of Armageddon (and I can’t believe I’m the only one who does). Think about it. The yard guy is using a gas-powered monster that is pouring pollution into our air and emitting a deafening growl that surely violates the city’s noise ordinance and what’s the payoff? In this case, yard guy gets to blow grass clippings off the lawn, where they would eventually decay and add their nutrients to the soil, and into the street. I particularly enjoy this senseless ritual in the spring and fall, when I get to savor the sweet smell of gasoline wafting through my screened windows and the lullaby of the engine’s roar unmuffled by closed windows.
But what really gets me, is when the guy shows up in December, long after the grass has stopped growing, after the leaves have all fallen and long since been mulched or cleaned up, and does the whole routine only more slowly than he would in July. The only thing he manages to blow into the street is a little dirt, but he takes his time doing it. And that’s when I start having graphic fantasies about hog-tying him and locking him in the cab of his own truck with his leaf blower, gassed up and running, in his lap.
All this, because American culture has dictated that every house should have a neatly-trimmed homogenous gathering of grasses in front of it. I was a victim of this arbitrary standard myself for several years. Though I was never so extreme in maintenance habits as my lawn-freak neighbor and his paid minion, I did sacrifice more than a few hours (and dollars) each spring in futile attempts to eradicate “weeds.”
I finally realized, though, that life is short and money is shorter and I have no particular problems with “weeds.” I’m kind of partial to clover really. It’s pleasing on the eyes and bare feet and fun to look through for mutants with an extra leaf. And dandelions are cool-looking when they go to seed. This year, there’s this lovely purple spiky thing blooming all over our “lawn.” I think I won’t mow it until it’s done. It’s pretty. And it’s going to drive my neighbor bat-shit crazy. At least I hope so.