Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Field of Dreams: A Rant.

There is a yard on Highway 23 on the way to my parents’ place that always makes my skin crawl. Why? Because it is nearly three acres of JUST GRASS LAWN, clipped to within an inch of its life. There are no shrubs. There are no trees—not even a functional windbreak of pine trees lined up like soldiers on the property line. There are no flowers. There is no life. It is an ecological desert.

Sure, there IS a child’s play set behind the ranch house in the “normal” backyard area, which you need binoculars to see from the road. Can you imagine how BORED this kid must be when he ventures onto his giant lawn? Nothing to explore, no flowers to smell or bugs to examine or trees to climb or nesting robins to watch. Then again, his parents probably don’t let him outside much, unless he’s wearing a helmet, the strongest insect repellant allowed by law, and lotion with an SPF of 100.

I get so agitated driving past this yard that J nearly has to restrain me, lest I leap from the moving car, run to their house (which would exhaust me, because they have nearly a mile of lawn), and try to convince them to just let me BUY THEIR LAWN. Or, in my less generous moments, leap from the car to burn “Plant some trees, asshole!” into the grass.

So, Yardman…why the giant lawn? Here are some possible reasons:

1) You are ignorant about what an environmentally wasteful, uninspiring eyesore your lawn is.
2) You hate anything attractive.
3) You hate wildlife and/or are afraid of nature. Which should have been a consideration when you MOVED TO THE COUNTRY.
4) You enjoy giving up your weekends to mow your lawn on the TRACTOR. I have seen you on this tractor. You do not look cool. You don’t even look like you’re having fun.
5) You enjoy inhaling the exhaust from your yard tractor.
6) You love having an unfettered view of the highway, with inimpeded access to the smells and sounds of the highway. Great resale point, by the way.
7) You have no imagination and are generally dull human beings.

What would I do if I lived in this house? Glad you asked! I would:

1) Replace the lawn with a low-maintenance prairie to boost the native bee population, which would pollinate-
2) The garden of mixed veggies and fruits and herbs that I plant, which would supply my family and friends with enough produce to last an entire year.
3) Install bluebird houses. Or just leave the prairie be and give the Eastern Meadowlark somewhere to nest. With a population that’s dropped 72% in 40 years due to habitat loss, it could use the help.
4) Dig a pond. Or four.
5) Plant a few hundred trees and shrubs.
6) Divide the yard into eight garden rooms lined with perennial beds, wildflower and shrub borders, rose gardens, benches, water features, a fire pit, gazebos, arbors and obelisks, an outdoor dining room, and veggie gardens. Be featured in my favorite garden porn, Country Gardens magazine.
7) At the very least, put in some soccer goals…a golf course…a baseball or kickball or football field…ANYTHING BUT JUST EMPTY LAWN!!!!!

Sorry to end on a Debbie Downer note, but here’s the deal. Over the years I’ve become a major gardening nut (because, as I have explained earlier, I am an octogenarian trapped in the body of a Gen-Xer. Also, gardening is a little subversive, which I like.). Our city lot is a mere 60 x 62 feet, yet I have stuffed it with dozens of perennials and annuals, 5 kinds of fruiting shrubs planted for me or the birds, and even a veggie and herb garden. I also raise and release about three dozen monarch butterflies every summer (they are attracted to the teeny 3' x 3' plot of milkweed I maintain).

Perhaps I am simply jealous of this idiot’s yard, and the fun I could have with such a vast blank canvas. But ultimately? It boils down to this: roughly 50,000 people starve to death and an average of 90 species go extinct EVERY DAY. And you could certainly find a strong correlation between the two (lost biodiversity = bad news for bears, and people). Yet here in the U.S., we chemically saturate, water to the tune of 270 billion gallons each week, and mow an expanse of lawns that if combined, would be larger than the state of Pennsylvania.

All that wasted potential.

And that is why this guy’s lawn pisses me off.

(Don’t even get me started on the guy standing in the MIDDLE OF THE STREET last week, blasting a handful of grass clippings with his gas-powered leaf blower on a windy day.)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

We Called it Pissword and It was Good

BFF, en route to Chicago last Friday: "I think I might be pregnant."
Me: "Wow! How sure are you?"

BFF: "Well, not that sure. I haven't taken a test or anything yet."

Me: "Maybe you should. They have one now where you can find out before you miss a period."

BFF: "Yeah."

Me: "So do you really think so? I mean, are your boobs sore?"

BFF: "Yeah!"

Me: "Hmmm...So are you excited? How are you feeling?"

BFF: "More nervous. Unprepared."

Me: "Well, you can adjust to anything."

Five days later:

BFF: "Well, I'm not pregnant."

Me: "Aw! So....are you disappointed?"

BFF: "Yeah! I totally would have drunk more wine this weekend if I'd known!"


Shifting gears, I'd like to give a shout-out to my friend Lauren, who asked me to help spread the word about a very important "musical charity" fundraiser she's promoting to raise money for the PKD Foundation at Shooting Stars Mag. You can purchase just the songs you like or the entire album, featuring under-the-radar bands. So you can feel good about supporting a very worthy cause AND an under-the-radar band.

Have a great weekend, kids. Plant 'em if ya got 'em, don't take candy from strangers on parade floats, and do NOT throw away that musty old game of Password you find when you're cleaning the garage. Call it "Pissword" because that's what you first THOUGHT it said on the box, play it with family when you're super tired and it's really late at night, drink wine (only if you're not pregnant), and laugh so hard you rupture a semi-crucial internal organ.

Monday, May 18, 2009

How's THIS for some random stuff?

This is my final week at work, which also coincides with a massive yardwork initiative and my best friend's homecoming trip and the planning of my sister's wedding shower. So I'm really glad the city has chosen this particular week to tear up our intersection. Because I don't have enough chaos in my life right now.

Please ignore the giant dandelions in my yard. I do!

Here are the shower invitations my Mom and I made. I heart them! We're throwing her a tea party shower, and it will be all classy and refined. Crustless teeny sandwiches, dainty napkins, nary a box of wine in sight. No wonder my sister ixnayed my game suggestion: toilet plunger between-the-knees races.

I bought the raw materials at a nearby crafty-type store. The cashier was a sweet young woman, maybe 19 or 20, with wholesome freckles and an all-American smile. She also had a tattoo of the word "Live" on her inner wrist, which made me pause...when I looked more closely I saw old scars scratched up and down the same arm. I left the store somewhat shook-up. I hope she knows it will be okay one day. Or maybe it won't be. Either way, "Live" is a pretty good motto.

And now to lighten the mood, some more gratuitous nephew photos. What could cleanse the emotional palate better than a toddler in a "dump truck" shirt with a quilted block on his head?

How about the same toddler draped in a lady's shawl?

There. I totally feel better. Don't you?

Thank you to my sister's fiance's lovely family for hosting my best friend and I (parasites that we are) this weekend. We went to the Green Festival in Chicago, where we discovered that we were major free sample whores. And that walking five miles in thin flip-flops is a poor decision. And that no matter how many times I walk by a homeless person and don't have spare change, I will always feel guilty.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Meat Taunting Begins

This weekend marked the first obvious test in my sister's quest to raise her son as a vegetarian. We were gathered 'round the dining room table stuffing our faces with the spread that my Mom had made (yes, she did get the memo that moms are supposed to take Mother's Day off, and promptly licked it to wipe a dirt smudge from my brother's face). Among the veggie-friendly salads and sides was a platter of BBQ chicken sandwiches. My nephew, in addition to being the most adorable, hilarious kid I know (true, I don't know many children, because they frighten me with their shouting and coloring on the walls and rapidly growing feet), is also very into cheese and carbs.

Kind of takes after his aunt that way.

He was doing well with his fruits and beans and veggies and pasta bow-ties, and then began grunting and pointing at the chicken sandwich my Mom was eating. The bun represented the motherload of carbs: delicious, empty, fiber-free processed carbohydrates shaped like a soft little pillow. "Oh, you want this, Corbeau?"

Ring Bologna is HILARIOUS! And delicious. Do you have any?

My sister wiped his fruit-flecked face with a napkin. "Where are the buns? In the kitchen?" She excused herself to fetch her son a bun, and my Dad saw his opportunity.

Dad, whispering loudly to my mom: "Hey, give him some chicken. Just a little bit."

My sister, from the kitchen: "No, don't give him any meat!"

Dad: "Come on, just a little chicken!"

My mom giggled and tore a piece of bun from her sandwich. She gave it to Corbeau.

Dad: "Aw, there's not even any juice on that!"

My sister, returning to her seat: "I'm going to raise him the way I want, until he's old enough to make his own decisions."

My uncle jumped in with: "Hey, you need a babysitter tonight? I got lots of jerky!"

Dad: "You just wait until he has a bicycle and a couple of bucks in his pocket. Just wait until he tries his first hamburger. The kid'll never go back."

Me, trying to be a helpful pain in the ass: "Well, you used to call me Hot Dog Girl, and now I'm a vegetarian."

Hmmm....I thought I saw a trail of Bac-O's over here...

This was true. I'm famous for once announcing during brunch after church, "I think I'll just fill up on bacon." And also for sucking the cheese nibs from Oscar Meyer ham & cheese loaf, then folding the naked, pocked pink sheet of compressed snouts into my mouth. I was nine years old and hopelessly addicted to nitrites.

As was my brother, who would smuggle raw hot dogs from the kitchen when the mood struck. "Oh my god," my sister said to him, "You used to have the worst hot dog breath!"

Me and Uncle Hot Dog Breath. Just chillin'. Thinkin' 'bout hot dogs.

Later we were distracted by a cat stuck in a had a bad cold and a four-inch booger hanging from its nose. Which was sad, gross, and yes, a little funny. So the subject floated away. But it will be back, because my Dad is all about the meat. And one day Corbeau will eat a Bacon Egg and Cheese McMuffin, and then another, and ultimately experience the conflicted, simultaneous magic of singing tastebuds and a crying colon.

Anybody got a Kleenex?

*The cat came down by itself and will be just fine.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Hey, It's Late on a Thursday Night...

First of all, I can't believe this is my 317th post. I've been doing this how long???

And all of those old junior high sports coaches said I was a quitter!

Okay, it was only basketball in the ninth grade and believe me when I tell you I sucked spectacularly in my LA Gear high-tops with neon laces. Panting, wheezing, staggering around the court like an orangutan shot with a sedative-laced dart.

Anyway, I can't remember what I came here to tell you. One glass of red wine does that to me these days. I guess I should officially begin by wishing J a happy birthday, since it's been (mumblety-mumble) years since his grand entrance onto the planet. So, happy birthday, J!! I would like to take this opportunity to re-gift the homemade card my kid brother gave me when I was in college. I think it was my nineteenth or twentieth birthday, maybe. ("Happy birthday! Don't look so sad--in a few years, you'll look just like Mom!").

Honey, you look nothing like my mother. And we'll celebrate that very fact with hefty portions of Indian food at Sai Ram. (My mother's beautiful, but I don't want my husband to look like her, you know?)

There are a few things floating about my brain that deserve their own post, but they're still in their infancy. Hey, wow, I used there, their, and they're all in one sentence! And correctly (if a bit stiltedly). Thank you, English teachers from days of yore! So stay tuned for these sure-to-be-scintillating tidbits.

Finally, what's with all the wife-killers having the surname "Peterson" these days? Scott Peterson ... and now this winner, Drew Peterson ... I love how they describe him as "brash and mustachioed." But really, when you look at his photo, he looks less like Zorro and more like a patient who wandered off the grounds of a mental health treatment facility and is a distant relative of the Sutherland family.

This wraps it up for the week--I'm off to read more of People are Unappealing: Even Me by Sara Barron. I laughed until I cried in chapter two, plus there were at least four "Okay, let me just read this one more part to you" sentences or paragraphs so far, and I'm only on page 43.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Taking it to the Streets

You know how you can tell the entire world your mood at a given moment on all the social networking sites? If Blogger had a mood icon, right now I would select "I Want to Kick my City in the Coccyx and Call It a Bad Name."

Why? Because I am beyond pissed at them. If Pissed was riding a tricycle down the highway, I passed it on a Harley three days ago. Last week we received an assessment of the upcoming construction work that will be completed on our streets starting tomorrow. Yes, streets PLURAL because we are idiots who live on a corner lot. For the privilege of one full summer with interrupted parking, noise, chaos, jackhammers, diesel exhaust fumes, a ripped-up lawn, and stench (because they are replacing the sewer lines under our streets), we get to pay 10% of our gross household income.

At 8% interest over ten years.


Remember when I was rambling on about whether to take a tropical vacation or remodel the kitchen this summer? And then I got all excited about saving for a down payment on a new house? (I didn't tell you that part.)

This new development certainly simplified that decision-making process.

Here's the deal. I live in a mixed, blue-collar neighborhood that is likely home to many people on very fixed incomes. Nobody can be taking this well. But guess what? Last year's flooding caused a sewage system collapse a few blocks from us. Hence the massive street and infrastructure repairs mere feet from our house.

A sewage system collapse. That's a pretty important thing to fix. Important and disgusting.

I'm suddenly thinking of Lynyrd Skynrd's "That Smell."

I'm also wondering this: if the sewage pipes have been leaking for the past year, where has all the poo been going???