I live in an east-side neighborhood where power mowers are few and far between. Not only do most of my neighbors not burn gas, they spurn grass. But there's this one gentleman, a relative newcomer, who's bought the whole myth of the well-manicured lawn. He's out there every day, poking and prodding, and although I've never actually seen him apply fertilizer or herbicides/pesticides, I don't think a thick green carpet like that is possible without them.
Fine, to each his own. But I happen to feel that his lawn-mowing etiquette leaves much to be desired. To wit: He tends to mow as early as 7:30 in the morning. That's sort of okay on weekdays, when most of us have to get up and go to work, but on a Sunday morning, when at least one of us is sleeping off Saturday night, it can be mildly infuriating. Trust me, I'm not one of those "east-side types" who monitor everybody else's life in the name of "community," but I do think there's something obnoxious about the way this guy does his yard work, and so far I haven't gotten any of my more community-based neighbors to take the bait.
So what do you think? Should I talk to him?
Lawnmower Man: You might be interested to know that there are only three topics that I avoid like the plague: 1) plagues (too depressing), 2) abortion (too divisive) and 3) lawn care (way too divisive). But since we've all been living through a chapter out of the Book of Revelations this summer - drought followed by floods - in which it's been almost impossible to mow the goddamn lawn, I'll make a grand exception and discuss all three. Okay, taking it from the top:
Should a plague of locusts descend upon your lawn (and how could it not, after what we've been through?), here's my advice: Stick your head between your legs and kiss your grass good-bye.
Should any of your neighbors bother you in any way whatsoever, keep in mind that, as my mother used to say, it's never too late to perform an abortion. Yes, you will have to spend some time in prison, but I guarantee that when you return there won't be any, say, dog turds in your front yard.
Should any of your neighbors mow their lawns at 7:30 on a Sunday morning, when they really should be preparing to hear a sermon about the next chapter in the Book of Revelations, keep in mind that...
...well, just keep in mind that there's something primordial about our love of a well-manicured lawn. Lawns, as you undoubtedly know, are not natural. (Stone-age men and women didn't play croquet.) But they're an outgrowth, if you will, of the African savanna, where so many of our ancestors played hide-and-seek with saber-toothed tigers. Yes, they now represent suburban conformity. And yes, maintaining them will destroy the planet if something else doesn't get there first. But there's something deep within our coils of DNA that desires a zone of protection across which we can see bands of marauders (i.e., nosy neighbors) coming our way. And grass, I think you'll agree, is preferable to razor wire.
Personally, I think everybody should convert their lawns into gardens, meadows, forests and pastures. (Cow manure is all the zone of protection I need.) But my job isn't to save the world one blade of grass at a time. My job is to tell you that, when you confront your neighbor (and you really should, because 7:30 is too early), you should try to stick to the matter at hand, which is noise pollution. And try to remember that, when he's cutting a swath down his greensward, what he's really doing is protecting you from saber-toothed tigers. I mean, seen any lately?
If your drug counselor told you to keep off the grass, write to: MR. RIGHT, ISTHMUS, 101 KING ST., MADISON, WI 53703. OR CALL 251-1206, EXT. 152. OR EMAIL MRRIGHT@ISTHMUS.COM.