Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Kiss My Grass

And they will beat their plowshares into scythes
and their pitchforks into rakes. — Isaiah 2:4

According to the eminent theorist Professor Klaus Von Yurman, landscaping is in reality one-upmanship waged by means of gardening. Professor Yurman draws a sharp distinction between landscaping strategy, which falls primarily within the realm of botany, and landscaping tactics which falls squarely within the realm of horticulture. All this is widely accepted, though I have to admit that when it came to my own lawn I was at a complete loss as to strategy or tactics; all I knew was that my lawn was swimming in crap. Literally. I came by this knowledge upon being served with a citation from my township’s Bureau of Waste Management.

As to the dismal state of my lawn I had nobody but myself to blame or should I say my wife. It was my wife who pressured me into delegating the lawn mowing to my son. Pay the boy $20 to mow the lawn and instill some responsibility. It would kill two birds with one stone, build up my son’s character and preserve what remained of my lumbar vertebrae. Unfortunately it would also kill my lawn because my son’s understanding of the arrangement was $20 a week and he would maybe mow the lawn if and the extent to which circumstances would permit. Inevitably however circumstances seldom permitted - circumstances such as tennis, twittering, facebooking, shopping, and chilling. Of course my daughter who had an airtight parity clause written into her contract would insist on the same deal, leaving me $40 a week in the hole. Then there was my wife - who is not exactly domestic - more like foreign - from Massachusetts that is - a place real Americans (especially Americans from Massachusetts) have a hard time pronouncing let alone spelling.

In a matter of weeks my lawn began to resemble the brush land outback of the Kalahari and the situation steadily deteriorated from there. My neighbors began to dump their trash on my lawn, not merely their recyclables. Apparently they mistook our lawn for the village garbage dump. Next came the dogs. Then things finally came to a head when the block committee held a secret meeting and voted us off the block association. Henceforth we would be shunned by our neighbors. If we needed to borrow a cup of sugar, we would need to go around the corner. This would pose a major hardship because although we purchased sugar by the fifty kilo bag, we were constantly running out, and don’t get me started on our dental bills.

In abject despair I turned to Professor Klaus Von Yurman’s seminal text “Horticultural Thinking, and What To Do About It.” I read with particular interest his chapter on “so called” professional gardeners, which was rather complex and mathematical, though I could discern a distinctly ominous tone. After several days of intense caution, and against my better judgment, I hired our local landscaping service Sandino & Sons, though as I later learned his sons had a similar deal to that of my children. After obtaining the services of a Spanish interpreter I was heartened to learn that Sandino would mow my lawn for the modest sum of $80 per week, May through September. Given that I was already in to the tune of $40 per week, the additional $80 per week seemed like a steal, especially if it included having my lawn mowed. I signed up on the spot. A month later when Sandino finally showed up (sans sons), he informed me of a slight complication. My lawn was apparently diseased, and whatever it was, it was highly contagious. The only hope would be to tear up the lawn and start from scratch. Happily I would be eligible for a limited time 10% member discount, so the cost would not exceed $8,200 unless complication arose, which as he disclosed “inevitably would, in all honesty”. The only alternative would be to lay pavement over the lawn, which would of course be unthinkable. After a second of considered thought I opted for the unthinkable.

As the final section of concrete was being poured, I was served with yet another summons, this time from the township’s Department of Planning, Building and Zoning. Apparently my little home improvement project was in non-compliance with building code section 347-173, which mandates the procurement of a bona fide permit for partial or total demolition of residential property, and which in any case would not have been granted in accordance with zoning ordinance 548-345 subparagraph D, prohibiting the pouring of concrete, pavement, tar or any other inorganic substance on acreage hereto designated for horticultural use. Failure to comply may result in a fine of up to $60,000 and prison time up to 2 years for repeat offenses.

Twelve thousand dollars later, after the final slab of concrete had been pulled out, I was at the end of my rope - literally out of rope - so I rushed out to the hardware store to buy some. On a wild impulse I also purchased a bag of grass seed figuring what more do I have to lose. Turned out the bag of grass seed was infested with rat feces, but I returned it for a brand new bag, and laid down some grass seed. Well the grass gods must have been with me that day because a brand new all American green lawn sprouted in a matter of two weeks. Then I threw total caution to the wind and had a go at the lawnmower all on my own. Turns out mowing the lawn is actually salubrious for your back; it exercises the muscles and stretches the joints. Feeling pretty heady at that point, I mustered up the gumption to call off the mowing deal with my son and daughter, pocketing an additional 40 bucks a week.

It wasn’t pretty though. They convened a family meeting and threatened to mount a massive legal challenge to the Supreme Court if need be. Nevertheless with all the money I am saving, I once again am able to make the dental payments; don’t get me started on my dental and legal bills.

Most importantly, however, I am a man again. I am at one with my lawn.

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