Location: Iowa, United States

61 years old (pretty old for a blogger) proud to be a grandpa

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The Green Green &^%$##$ Grass of Home

A recent blog post from a young relative of mine (see: Superior Lawn Care Tips
http://nottotallyinept.blogspot.com/) has partially restored my faith in the younger generation. In the post he describes how as a new home owner he had neglected his lawn long for so long that an anonymous neighbor took care of the task for him. To this young relative, I say, “Come to my arms, my beamish boy! O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!'. If the lad lived closer I should feel it my duty, nay my honor, to clasp him to my bosom with unbridled avuncular pride and affection. For he has repeated in his own way an old and valued family tradition of lawn apathy.

In fact I was roughly his age when I too looked out my window to see my neighbor mowing MY lawn. When I asked him what he was about, he answered that he was anxious to “try out his new lawn mower.” He was a gentlemanly fellow and this statement may be the biggest whopper he ever told. In any case, I was seized with two emotions. On the one hand, he had invaded my castle (or at least the moat area) which I resented. On the other hand I now had my lawn mowed! Needless to say, this latter fact pretty much trumped emotion number one in less time than it takes to yank a Briggs & Stratton starting cord.

My father was perhaps the only person who hated lawns more than I do. When I was old enough (6?) he foisted the job off on me, his oldest son, and I’ve labored under that onerous yoke ever since, not being “blessed with male issue” myself. After I left home my younger brother inherited the task and regarded it with a similar revulsion. When he was around 13 he was asked by an elderly neighbor if he would like to earn some money by mowing her lawn as well as his own. He turned it down, stating, “I think I’ve got enough to take care of with my own lawn.” Little did he know at the time that eight years earlier I had responded with those exact words to another elderly neighbor who had been foolish enough make a similar proposition to me. As you can well imagine, these two incidents have served to strengthen our mutual admiration and respect over the years.

I am not one of those people who take delight at skewering every aspect of American culture and habit so that I can be seen as an enlightened citizen of the world. But I do have to admit that this business of fussing over one’s lawn is a little piece of Americana that can go by the boards as far as I’m concerned. I don’t have any realistic hopes about this, however. Here’s a little snippet from a piece that appeared in Life Magazine in the late 1960’s:

“Let a man drink or default, cheat on his taxes or cheat on his wife, and the community will find forgiveness in its heart. But let him fail to keep his front lawn mowed, and to be seen doing it, and those hearts will turn to stone. For the American front lawn is a holy place, constantly worshiped but never used. Only its high priest, the American husband, may set foot on it, and then only to perform the sacred rites: mowing with a mower, edging with an edger, sprinkling with a hose, and rooting with a rooter to purify the temple of profane weeds.”

Now, a good part of my aversion to lawns and lawn care can be chalked up to pure laziness so I might as well admit that from the get go. But besides that there’s the complete futility of the thing. I mean, what’s the bloody point to this mind numbing work? And it’s not enough that the stuff be kept short. It needs to be all of one species even if it means pouring poison all over the thing lest some foreign plant work its way into the neighborhood. Is there any purer form of bigotry than this? Does having a few dandelions, crab grass, or creeping charlie really make playing less fun for kids? It only looks bad because we’ve been conditioned to associate uniformity with beauty. If dandelions were difficult to grow, there’d be whole companies given over to making them more robust. I say if you’re going to have a lawn (still an open question as far as I‘m concerned), let diversity rule the day!

I read recently that part of the American love affair with lawns is the result of our love affair with golf. Snobby golfers liked the looks of the neatly trimmed greens and decided they had to have the same kind of stuff gracing their properties. Should we be surprised that the world’s silliest sport has thus given rise to America’s silliest outdoor activity?

I was going to end this with a parody aimed at lawn care based on Markham’s poem, “The Man With the Hoe.” After I re-read the original work, however, I found I only needed to make one small word substitution. The next time you push that ridiculous cutting machine around or see one of your neighbors doing it, see if this stanza doesn’t ring true:

Bowed by the weight of centuries he leans
Upon his mower and gazes on the ground,
The emptiness of ages in his face,
And on his back, the burden of the world.
Who made him dead to rapture and despair,
A thing that grieves not and that never hopes,
Stolid and stunned, a brother to the ox?
Who loosened and let down this brutal jaw?
Whose was the hand that slanted back this brow?
Whose breath blew out the light within this brain?

OK, OK, so that's a bit much. But it IS the way I feel when I'm mowing the freakin' lawn!

Monday, March 14, 2005

Commentary - Free Speech for Terrorists?

Commentary - Free Speech for Terrorists?

Free Speech for Terrorists?
Here's an interesting article arguing that terrorist speech does not belong under the protection of the first amendment. It's also an interesting (and pretty fair) thumbnail history of free speech in the United States which I found interesting. I haven't decided yet if I agree with the conclusions. Here are some thought-provoking excerpts:

"The impluse to defend individual liberty is admirable, but, since individual liberty is not always society's paramount concern, admirable intentions do not mean its defense is necessarily wise."

"Moral clarity...postulates that some evils are so palpable we need not further test them in the marketplace...Do we really need additional ideological thrust-and-parry to know, for example, that the advocacy of genocide, or rape, or the indiscriminate mass slaughter of civilians is condemnable under any and all circumstances?"

"Exactly what meaningful dissent will we miss if we proscribe the advocacy of murder, or of militant Islam's clarion call to violent jihad?"

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Quote of the Day

"We who are liberal and progressive know that the poor are our equals in every sense except that of being equal to us." -- Lionel Trilling

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Things I can’t understand anyone being interested in but I’m not judging in any way those who are:

Golf (playing or watching)
Line Dancing
Monster Truck Rallies
American Idol
Attending a Boat Show
Watching the New Year’s Ball Drop in Times Square
Attending the Rose Bowl Parade
Learning to Play New Age Piano Music
Soccer (I’ve tried, believe me)
Dog Shows
Growing My Own Herbs
Massage Therapy
Organic Gardening
Pottery Making
Going to Six Flags Over Anywhere
Day Trading
Making my own Wine
Financial Planning
Any event that has the word, “workshop” in it
Attending a rally for anything
Owning or Driving a Recreational Vehicle