Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Suburban Lawns

One of the main advantages of city living over suburban dwelling is not having to tend to a lawn. I've been back in the Midwest for what feels like 200 years now, and I still don't understand the fascination my neighbors have with their grass. It's almost a religion for some of them. One guy, a few houses down the block, actually measures his grass height, lying flat on his stomach, ruler in his out-stretched hand. To me, he looks like a lunatic. To the rest of the block, he's a conscientious citizen trying to make his front yard respectable if not enviable.

He has company. Now that Spring is here, all of the middle-aged men in my neighborhood spend their Saturdays and Sundays mowing, pruning, weed whacking, and watering their respective lawns. Then out come the big bags of Miracle-Gro, Heavenly Sprout, Paradise Seed, Dr. Boffo's Mega-Grass Protein Powder & Flora Enhancer, all dumped on the freshly-cut green blades, small white clouds rising from the ground and inhaled by the homeowners, sending them into further fits of hysterical lawn care.

I watch all this from my front porch, cold drink in hand, shoes off, shades on, and smile as they toil and sweat. A few look my way every so often, receiving a friendly nod from me in return. All I get back is the occasional shaken head, for it's obvious that I am shirking my suburban responsibility. And I am. Quite consciously so. Why should I spend a beautiful, warm weekend busting my ass so that my yard looks exactly the same as the others? I have yet to cut my grass this year, and the lawn is getting pretty shaggy -- not hillbilly long, but close all the same, and I planned to break down and mow the thing on Monday. But then it rained. Hard. Then it rained again. Being the earth child that I am, I knew better than to second-guess nature, and put off my mowing until the grass and ground dried. But then the rain returned on Tuesday, and my lawn, perhaps sensing that it has permission to go wild, shot up some more, tall lush untamed green in direct contrast to the manicured, measured, pampered lawns around it.

The teen loves it. "Grass should be tall," she told me. "It looks better all full like that. Don't cut it for another week."

"I dunno if I can get away with that."

"What -- are you going to be put in lawn jail?"

"Well, the neighbors might complain."

"Who cares! They think we're beatnik weirdoes to begin with. We got nothing to lose."

It's true -- some of the more conservative neighbors do look at us as if we're . . .

What can you do?

Today, the sun is out, and it's supposed to be warm and dry for the next few days. Maybe I'll mow tomorrow. Maybe on Friday. Or maybe I'll take the teen's advice and let the grass get even crazier. I can saunter out with ruler in hand and measure it, then compare notes with the anal-retentive lawn guy down the block. It'll be just like . . .