Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Suburban Wasteland

I like that title. I'm not sure why. And I'll bet it's been used before by trenchcoated teenagers with their nails painted black with permanent marker and all sorts of piercings they regret to describe the exquisite hatefulness that is being a doughy white kid living in comfort so comfortable it's painful.

Did any of that last sentence make sense to you? Yeah. Those kids are stupid, aren't they?

I'm outside, on the porch, with a Pepsi and a netbook. I am sitting in a pre-Enlightenment-era cast-iron bench that looks like it was designed to either impress old ladies or grill meat. Or both. It's the stupidest thing ever, and I wish I had some poots to defile it with.

The sun is out, and there are happy children scooting around on skateboards and bicycles and basically just being carefree and oblivious to their impending doom.

Well, I assume that their doom is impending. They may end up avoiding it altogether, and what a shame that would be.

But it's very pleasant, this porch-sitting. I just mowed the lawn and attacked some weeds, and that's where this little utopia kind of falls down for me.

See, I hate yard work. I don't mind pushing a mower--rather like it, in fact--but I can't stand the rest. There are old men on my block who devote entire DAYS to going out with a soft baby's hairbrush to individually polish blades of grass and who apparently make their own bark mulch from scratch out of cellulose they grew in culture in their basement laboratories.

I hate them. It makes me look lazy, and I've been trying to hide that.

Speaking of lazy, I have underground sprinkling, but I haven't turned it on all year. Just as well, since I don't know how to winterize the pipe, and it burst sometime last winter. There are seven valves I have to turn in the proper sequence to squeeze all the water out of the thing. I did it wrong, and now water shoots out of it in two different spots in a festive display of terrible design.

I picture the sprinkler man standing in the yard, staring at the side of the house, with one finger up his nose and the other darting off on its own to point at squirrels.

"Hurp!" he'd be saying. "I say we gits a pipe made outta copper foil and make it run out of the side of the house, durr, and up about three feet. Next, and for no reason whatsoever, we glue on a little horizontal bit just a-bristlin' with doodads! Hurr, after that, make it go back down four feet and disappear into the ground!"

"Why," his boss probably asked, "wouldn't you make it come out of the house and then go directly into the ground? Having all that exposed pipe with the thin walls is just begging for it to trap water and burst when the water freezes."

The sprinkler man got his way, of course. He probably made a very persuasive argument by pulling a catfish out of the front pocket of his bib overalls and waaaaaving it around. You just don't argue with a man like that.

The lawn was seeded years ago with rare and expensive Texan Wuss Grass, which turns brown, shrivels up and blows away under the following conditions: all of them. Sprinkling it doesn't help. My grandfather, (an old man whose lawn is museum-quality) says it's the pine trees sourin' up the dirt. I knew it. I knew those smug bastards were up to something.

The weeds, of course, have absolutely no trouble at all. If it were up to me, I would take out all the grass and put down some rocks. Maybe paint the rocks green to fool the near-sighted.

The house is situated on the corner where one street T-intersects mine. The driveway is split at the end, and empties out onto each street. Between the ends, in the angle formed there, there is a little miniature forest complete with oak trees that poop seedlings all year and, of course, big wads of weeds.

I went outside to glare at them. "Stupid weeds. I hate you. I hate you. You know what I'm going to do? No, not go back inside and not think about you. I'm done with that. I'm going to get some poison, and I'm going to put it in a spray bottle!"

At this point, the bigger weeds started laughing.

Speaking louder, I continued, "and then I'm going to come out and douse you with doom! And I don't care what Wikipedia says; I choose to believe that weeds can feel pain. Oh, just you wait!"

I stalked back inside and mixed up a bottle of weed murder. I put it in a bright orange bottle that once contained dollar-store spray cleaner. Then I went on the attack.

I wish I could call it a rampage. But it wasn't. It was the saddest thing you've ever seen.

A man in jeans and a T-shirt with what appeared to be a bottle of spray cleaner, stood in his driveway, stoically squirting weeds. The bottle made a soft "ffft" sound and some clear liquid pattered onto the laughing weeds. Then, nothing happened. A gentle breeze stirred the weeds, causing them to wave obscenely at the man.

An old lady happened by. "Cleanin' yer weeds?" she asked.

"Murdering...them!" the man said through gritted teeth.

"Aw, ain't that something!" she said. "Looks like ya got quite a crop growin' there."

"I need a flame thrower," muttered the man.

"Ffft," said the spray bottle.

I'll be keeping an eye on the weeds over the next few days to see if they die. If it works, I'll refill the bottle and attack the other side of my forest. What will probably happen, though, is the wind will blow some of the poison off the weeds and onto the lawn, killing it instantly. The weeds will become immune to the poison, mutate, and start feeding on birds.

And then, when all the songbirds disappear and the night is filled with the belching of my weeds, the neighbors really will start to complain.