Monthly Archives: March 2011

It’s not that I’m too old, it’s just that lawn cutting lost its allure when my neighbor moved

I’ve done a terrible thing that is assailing my conscience in a troubling manner. No, I haven’t taken to drinking gin before sunup, smoking opium or cavorting with teenaged nymphets or anything quite so colorful and debilitating.

 The terrible thing I’ve done is to sign up with a lawn-maintenance service. That’s right, I have taken the step to now sit back as a slack-assed sluggard while a couple of young bucks lime, fertilize and mow. 

The decision was a long time coming. For years Wendy had said we should have somebody else do the lawn so that it wasn’t hanging over us and we didn’t have to make arrangements when we went on vacation. And, I did think that my old man likely never cut a lawn past the age of 40. I am, ahem, a tad past the age of 40 so why should I be doing it still?

But, balked for a long time in giving in to the inevitable. You see, grass cutting was, for me, a symbol that I wasn’t yet entirely past it. In bowing down to this decision it seems like it puts me one step closer to the grave, or at least to riding around on a scooter rather than continuing to exercise my personal myth that tells me if I were single I’d still be bigtime date-bait.

As it is, we live in the heart of suburbia and in North American suburbia lawns rule. When we moved into this house over a decade ago it had huge lawns front and back. The previous owners obviously cherished their herbaceous verdancy and had installed underground sprinklers and all the other accoutrements of lawn care. Over the years we have whittled away at a lot of the lawn and put it into neato little flowerbeds and the like. But, there is still a lot of it left and what’s left does need mowing on a regular basis.

There are those anal enviro sorts that maintain lawns are wasteful and hence evil. Well, actually they’re not. They serve nicely in cooling the house on those 11 torrid days we get each summer. So, I don’t mind them and I like them to look good, neat and trim and verdant, and the sprinklers take care of that.

I also suffer from lawn maintenance guilt. For a few days prior to actual mowing I would fuss and fret how the lawn needed cutting and I would chastise myself for not getting to it by focusing on things like earning a living in the manner I do.

And sometimes my neighbor would beat me to the task. That would send my guilt into the stratosphere, especially a few years ago when Dale, my former neighbor would beat me to the task. At one level I loved it when Dale cut her lawn because she would wear skimpy enough to be barely legal shorts and had tanned legs to her armpits, but it would still make me guilty when I got there first. Dale told me later that if I’d cut my lawn when she was out, she’d feel compelled to cut hers. Actually I knew that, and that meant she’d be out in her bitty shorts. It doesn’t take much to amuse me.

What really prompted my decision at this time juncture is that age had finally taken its toll on my mower. It has been a good mower that we bought when we moved into the house in 1998. But, time and wear had done what they do and beginning a few years ago bits began to fall off; then the plastic wheels broke and had to be replaced, and finally the recoil starter cord broke no less than three times and I had to go through the ordeal of rewinding a new one.

When it broke for the last time, late last summer, Wendy said she was going to be firm about it all. She didn’t want to get a new mower; she wanted somebody else to have the headache. I grudgingly agreed after we’d had a service come in to do the final mowings of the season. I had to confess that was kind of nice.

Yet even now, I look out and think I could be out there cutting the thing if only I had a mower. I had to actually stop myself from perusing the mowers at Home Depot last weekend, but damn it, they look so nice, so inviting, and so seductive.

But, Wendy’s ‘no!’ was firm, so I guess I’ll just have to adjust.

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Let’s go retro, guys. It’s the latest thing

OK – now sing “Hallelujah! According to recent accounts the ubiquitous ballcap is dead! I find my sources for rejoicing wherein I can. And if the ballcap has lost its dubious vogue, then that can only mean the reversed ballcap is even deader. Hallelujah again.

George Carlin wrote that he liked watching old black-and-white films of 1950s ballgames because the only people wearing ballcaps were the players. That’s as it should have stayed.

But wait, does that mean that everyone is going about tonsorially uncovered? Not so. Keeping up-to-the-minute with societal transitions I just read that the old-fashioned fedora is making a comeback, especially amongst younger males.

Ostensibly influenced by Mad Men, among other things, guys are opting to look like men of an earlier era. It is said that JFK killed the impulse for men to have their heads covered since he chose to go hatless on even official occasions. Being spawn of that era I, in consequence, have remained obdurately hatless throughout my adulthood.

When I was a small boy my brother and I referred to the standard fedora, such as was worn by our father, as “man hats.” We chose, however, to not express our manliness by covering our heads. Dad wore a fedora, and my grandfather, a gentleman of the bar (the legal one, not the boozy one, as he was a teetotaler) preferred a homburg which did make him look rather distinguished and separated him from the proles he was prosecuting.

Basically, I simply don’t ‘do’ hats. I may like the look of them on some people, but I don’t like the feel of them. Once in Hawaii I bought a very classy looking fine-mesh straw panama hat with a wide brim. It did look cool. I wore if for part of the day but just wasn’t comfortable. I have it to my ex whom, I must confess, in the hat and bikinied, sitting poolside looked amazingly hot. Much hotter than I did, no doubt.

Of course women in hats is an entirely other topic. I’ll say no more other than to say I like women in hats; floppy hats, wide-brimmed hats, and adorable little berets. Charming to a one.

So, am I pleased that man hats are making a comeback? Some jazz musicians, it seems, have already re-embraced the porkpie, and that’s pretty cool. And some men do look well and commanding in a fedora. 

Do I. I have no idea. As I said, I just don’t really do hats. I am always conscious that the damn thing is on my head, and when it’s removed it still feels like it’s there and will for hours afterward. Why is that? 

Anyway, I’m fortunate enough to have kept my hair, and that’s head-covering enough for me.

How will this toughen them up and make them ready for war?

Kids today, they got it too soft. No wonder they’re all going to hell. Not only do we no longer beat them, send them down the mines, into reform schools or into the navy at 12, but also we no longer humiliate them.

What’s that all about? How can we muster sufficient cannon-fodder for future wars when all we’re left with is a bunch of spoiled nancies? No wonder Al-Qaida laughs at us. 

There has been a long evolution to this softening of the moral fibre of the young. It began when they stopped strapping the snot out of them in school hallways, and I suspect this is the final straw.

You see, I just read yesterday that they’ve done away with the old-fashioned boy scout and cub scout uniforms past generations had to contend with and have replaced them with moderately modern garb that is not only representative (sort of) of life in the 21st century rather than something Kitchener’s lads wore at Khartoum in the late 1800s, but is also (get this) fairly comfortable and practical.

Comfort and practicality? I always thought that part of the sadistic motivation for Baden-Powell’s li’l group of paramilitaries was to deck them out in stuff that was not only horrible to wear, but was inconvenient and awkward to dress in, and then ultimately looked like shit, even in context of the 1950s.

I only mention the 1950s because that was the decade in which I was introduced to the awful world of ‘cubdom’. Judging by the looks of Annette at the time, I would have much preferred membership in the Mickey Mouse Club, but was granted no such option. Yes, the mouse ears were pretty ridiculous, but the bounty of Annette would have made the sacrifice worthwhile.

My father, a former boy scout leader, was a great believer in the virtuous of honesty, steadfastedness, the ability to light a fire in a raging windstorm and other sorts of nonsense, so he left me effectively no alternative but to join the ranks of the “Dib-dib-dib; dob-dob-dob” gang of motley urchins. Actually, to my astonishment, there were kids that actually liked being in the organization. Alas, I was not in their number.

I’ve already outlined how much I detested my cub days in an earlier blog, but I am here to say that arguably the thing I hated the most, aside from the Akela guy, old Mr. Knobby-knees with the wonderfully risible name, Rundle Woolcock, was the uniform.

And we were ordered to take our uniforms very, very seriously. Here’s what we had to put on, you runny-nosed lazy little modern cubscouts and scouts: A horribly scratchy sweaterish top, an immaculately pressed neckerchief that had to be folded only in the prescribed manner and secured by a thing called a ‘woggle’, mortifying woolen short pants, and knee-socks of the same abrasive material as the top, secured with little elastic garters with tags on them. Then you were set.

Now all they have to put on is a bloody T-shirt. How is that different from conventional schoolyard wear? Where is the humiliation in that? Modern adherents do not seem to get that humiliation is part of the mix. Makes a man of you, damn it! At least I believe that to have been what motivated weird old Baden-Powell whom, as an aside, was rather an admirer of the Hitler Jugend in the 1930s according to vicious but amusing rumor.

As I have said before, the cubs and I parted company in relatively early order. Maybe I just wasn’t man enough, but I was at least able to dress comfortably and to grow up to be an adult wastrel just like contemporary cubs and scouts will unless they reverse this ‘soft’ trend and demand that they ‘man up’ once again like in BP’s day.

Try a little randomness

My smart blogger pal Jazz is really adept at presenting her random thoughts about a multiplicity of subjects and presenting them with (sometimes cynical, and at least sarcastic) wit and well-stated élan.

Today I thought I’d take a page from her book and offer you some uncalled for opinions on a few matters of late. Some of the items chosen might have called for an entire treatise, but I just didn’t feel ambitious enough to do that. 

So here we are:

–         The not untimely demise of Elizabeth Taylor: Let’s face it for years she hasn’t been much other than cruel and insensitive joke fodder for the once-funny (rather than now funny-looking) Joan Rivers. OK, I was never a Liz fan. She was a lousy actress with only two roles that warranted esteem. Her first, National Velvet (sweet kiddie flick and she was unspoiled and cute) and as shrewish harridan Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. In that she was brilliant. Otherwise, just a mass of dreck, leaving her mainly notable for her 30 or so marriages to, with the exception of Burton, remarkably uninteresting males.

–         The highly likely Canadian federal election: This is something that will accomplish nothing other than to rob the taxpayers so that a bunch of unworthies can secure their positions for another go at the same thing. The more it changes the more it stays the same. Oh well, we could be in Libya. Mustn’t grumble since it accomplishes nothing. Nobody ever listens to me about these matters.

–         Libya: This action is called establishing a “no-fly zone.” Funny, it looks a hell of a lot like war to me. I’m not up enough on my euphemisms I guess.

–         Martin Sheen: Remember when he was hyped as a nouveau James Dean? A pretty cool younger actor especially if you recall Badlands and Apocalypse Now, before he segued into the went on far too long West Wing and parlayed his political leanings into a Kennedyesque president. Well, Kennedyesque except he kept his pants on. Oh, and then there’s Charlie Sheen, but I have nothing to write I that regard.

–         The Japanese earthquake/tsunami: We were shocked and aghast about what happened across the Pacific and many well-meaning people have volunteered to either help or to at least send financial aid. Even Canada added a pittance, which was damn big of us. But, as so often happens, the media in our part of the world grew weary of the big ‘over-there’ picture and began self-obsessively focusing on ‘what if it happens here?’ So, newspapers came to be filled with ugly scenarios of how the big one will devastate all that we hold dear, complete with graphics and pictures and posted odds and how utterly unprepared we are for this and what buildings will fall down, etc. Even we were susceptible and we sure went out and bought some bottled water just in case. It will be stored in the garage (deemed to be the worst place to store emergency supplies) until the next big cataclysm somewhere else, at which time we’ll pay attention again. Meanwhile, the horrors continue in Japan. There it’s not yet old news, but we must say don’t be spewing your damn radiation our side of the Pacific.

Did it all and no mayhem ensued

Living room not exactly as shown

We just completed a major household project – one that we’d been putting off for what seems like decades, and in truth it was 12 years or so. We completely redecorated, painted and generally spiffed up our living room. Not to put too fine a point on it, but it looks heavenly.

Over the years since we bought this house, which we quite love, back in 1998, we have been methodically (read slowly) repainting it room-by-room. I will refrain from going through the history of it all. But, the one room that remained stuck with its ghastly white primer coat was the living-dining room combo. 

And it sucked. We hated it. Liked the room but hated the bland and almost depressing coloration – yes, white can be depressing. Sounding like Pa Kettle, I would regularly intone: “Gotta get the room painted – one of these days.” But, never do it. 

Finally we girded our loins – whatever that means, but our loins were surely girded – and tackled it, high vaulted ceiling (which needlessly intimidated us for some odd reason) and all.

So, there is big satisfaction in having it done and reveling in the overall effect. But, there is even more satisfaction in something else. We undertook this major task with nary a harsh word passing between us. This is, in my experience, a pretty significant accomplishment for a domestic couple. 

I say “In my experience” because I could never manage that with either of my other two spouses, so this speaks well indeed of Wendy and perhaps the place in my head in which I find myself today.

My first wife, bless her heart, and I fought like scalded cats whenever we took on a major task. We simply did not work well together and were suffering from equally strong wills and at that time in our lives, probably a great deal of immaturity. 

My second wife, bless her heart as well, and I didn’t fight (about that, at least) per se, but only provided we did the job ‘her’ way. There was no room for debate. And woe betide me should I raise an objection. This would lead to a lot of slammed doors and words uttered that would have made both of our mothers ashamed of the offspring they’d raised.

But, with Wendy, and bless her heart in a very big way, there seems to be none of that when it comes to a project. Sometimes we can quibble over the minutiae of life, but when it comes to a big task, virtually never. We map out our tasks, and get to them. We also know when and how to defer in that she does some things better than I do, and vice-versa. For example, she does the trim part along the ceiling because she’s neater and has a more steady hand than I do in that regard. It’s nice. I just sit back and watch her and praise her periodically. Then for the use of the roller (did you know the paint roller was invented by a Canadian? I just thought I’d throw that in in a moment of national chauvinism) I take that on. I also get to mix and also pour the paint in the tray. I’m clever at pouring.

No more about this. Just to say that it’s all done. We love what we’ve done and, by golly, we still love each other.

Despite what you think, you don’t own the road, moron!

Do the dickheads that drive oversized and overpowered Dodge Ram pickups sign a contractual obligation with the Chrysler people that state they must at all times tailgate the vehicle immediately in front of them?

I only mention this because not even an hour ago I am tootling along the road in my little Nissan sportscar going off to take Max walkies. I look in the rearview and there dominating the scene is that stupid Ram sheephead logo. A friend and I just had a conversation two days ago in which he said if somebody is tailgating you and you look in the rearview you will see that fucking ram head. 

So, back to my trip. As I say, I see the sheephead and then I see the car in front of me with his left signal on indicating he is making a, yes, lefthand turn. But, there are cars coming the other way so he must wait. Good driver that I am (and I am a good driver) I stop well behind the chap turning. I look in my mirror and the fucking Ram is approaching me at a speed indicating he must believe he has 40 unimpeded miles before him. I literally brace myself because I have nowhere to veer off to avoid him I then hear a huge screech of brakes and his front end veers to the right so he can avoid hitting me. I mutter a few descriptive terms indicating my thoughts on his sexual predilections, and somewhat shaken continue on my way. 

So, what is it with these morons in the huge pickups? And why do they feel they’re entitled to tailgate – especially tailgate smaller cars. Do they get erections when they watch the mucho macho Ram commercials on television that feature the guy with the growly voice late of monster truck stadium shows?

Well, according to my friend, and who am I to refute his wisdom, about those erections and the drivers of big pickups – especially Rams, yes I’m singling you out because of my recent experience – ‘the bigger the truck, the smaller the dick.’

Works for me.

If you are a Ram driver and didn’t like this blog – bite me. Just don’t tailgate me.

If life is for the birds, it depends which bird you are, sometimes

Yesterday afternoon I looked out in the yard to see if my bird feeders needed to be filled. I glanced through the window and could see not a bird in sight. Further scrutiny told me why.

Sitting there atop one of Max’s favorite chew sticks was this fellow. An immature Cooper’s Hawk. I apologize for the quality of the the photo as it is taken though glass. I didn’t want to open the window in case I frightened him off. Despite the fact that he obviously evoked some terror in the little juncos, chickadees and sparrows that frequent the feeders, I found it exciting to see him up close and personal.

I like all birds, which is why I have the feeders. But (and apologies to the little grain and worm eaters) most of all I am fascinated by raptors. They look like sleek and powerful and slightly sinisiter killing machines and they have attitude that renders them very different from their prey.

I used to keep chickens years ago and periodically they would hunker down in the hen run or depart for the sanctuary of the house. I would look heavenward and see why. Hundreds of feet in the air a hawk would be circling. They knew the shape those ostensibly (and mistakenly deemed so) stupid fowl on the ground. They knew terror from the skies and how rapidly a representative of the avian luftwaffe could swoop down and nail one of their numbers.

We have a lot of raptors around here. We have hawks like the one pictured, as well as American kestrels, and we have a resident owl whom we’re very fond of, and bald eagles around here are virtually as common as sparrows.

I also noted, shortly before the hawk departed that right inside one of the feeders was a chickadee, hunkered down, hoping to not be noticed. Do birds pray? If so, to which god? Anyway, the prayers worked, he was still there when the hawk left.