Hail The King Of Suburbia!
Friends and Family,
of you live in, or once lived in, the suburbs.
For the most part, it is quite a blissful existence.
It is a life of simple pleasures that other may not
understand or appreciate. Even
still, at times it’s a mixed bag of happiness and heartache.
Along with the joy of watching children getting friction
burns on the “Slip-n-Slide by day, and taunting neighborhood
traffic by playing “flashlight tag” on summer nights, you also
endure the hardship of the occasional “white trash” neighbor
using his front porch as a storage shack for wayward appliances.
This is usually the same neighbor who enjoys letting his
fence morph into swiss cheese and walking his dog over into YOUR
yard to “make a deposit of recycled Purina” on your freshly
shorn lawn. Even with
these setbacks, I consider the suburbs a kingdom like no other.
of us on the “outskirts of town” sometimes have to withstand the
taunts of those who live in “the city limits”, paying squillions
of dollars per square foot for their privilege.
You know the ones… those who drive cars that cost as much
as your house, sit as department chairs with other Ph.D.’s, and
drink bottled water that comes from a faucet in France, rather than
us suburbanites who happily slurp our bottled water burped from a
tap in Cleveland. They
never set foot in a Wal-Mart. Instead,
they hire families to do their shopping for them.
Families where the father’s wardrobe consists solely of
tank tops, the mother owns only housecoats, and the children are
forced to walk shoeless, in diapers, through Health and Beauty at
midnight on a Tuesday. (NOW
you know why you always see these people blocking your path to the
these elite city dwellers measure their status with awards that you
may have heard of… awards like “The Pulitzer Prize”… “The
Nobel Prize”… “Wheat Grass and Parchment ‘Crafter of the
Year’ from Martha Stewart Living “ (who the hell has parchment laying around the house anyway?
Susan B. Anthony?) The elite never know the true value of
suburban glory. But…
I digress (I do that a lot, don’t I?)
suburbanites all know that the award most prized in all of suburbia
is not one that comes with a medal of honor, a congratulatory
handshake from George W. Bush, or a visit from Ed McMahon.
No… the most respected resident of middle class sprawl is
none other than the man who possesses a sign in his yard reading:
(Blank) Neighborhood Association Yard Of The Month”
you drive through the neighborhood on the way to the community pool
or little Amanda’s dance lesson, you can’t help but slow down as
you drive by “lawn perfection.”
You heart swells as the juxtaposed feelings of green envy and
humble respect do battle in your gut.
When you see the yard that has been christened Yard of the
Month (hereafter referred to as YOTM – pronounced “yoh-tum”),
you can’t help but admire the owner. You know the time and effort put into every plant selection,
mower height adjustment, and bush-whack.
There’s the tender nurturing of a new tree combined with
the violent assault of chemical warfare on the weeds.
It’s a ballet, really – something of an art form.
since I bought my first house in 1997, I have been vying for this
award. I was always the
guy driving by, saddened that the YOTM sign never stopped at my
house. Every summer, I
would see the placard placed somewhere else, and I… I would wait
another 30 days for my shot at glory. It was a painful experience, from which I still have periodic
tortured dreams and night sweats.
Three hundred dollars and 5 counseling sessions later, I am
improving, but not fully recovered.
figured I even had an upper hand, what with one of the most famous
lawn product manufacturers as my namesake (Scott’s).
So each year I would consult old ladies at the nursery,
asking which flowers to buy. I
found that they’ll give you advice readily if you just show them a
little leg. Coming
home with my booty, I would till the earth to make new flower beds.
I would burn my skin with pesticides and fertilizer.
I would equip my Weed Eater with line strong enough to fall a
mighty Redwood. I think
I once toppled a telephone pole in my back yard, just trying to hack
away at a particularly stubborn dandelion.
If lawn maintenance was a sonnet, I was its Shakespeare.
“To bag, or not to bag… THAT is the question.”
If yard work was a religion, I was one of its 12 disciples.
Just call me “Luke of the Lawn.”
year, I began anew at Gabby’s house… um… er… I mean… OUR
house. When I moved in, I noticed that the place had a good
foundation. Nice flower
beds, healthy grass, and a decent paint scheme (anyone who tells you
that YOTM is only about the plants is kidding themselves – it’s
a total package deal!). Gabby
is an incredible housekeeper, and this ability had trickled out to
the lawn. In truth, it
wasn’t her kindness, generosity, spirituality, full heart, radiant
beauty, or even her nice butt that led me to “pop the question.”
It was simply the fact that the gal owned a fertilizer
spreader, weed eater, lawn trimmer, hedge clippers, and a branch
lopper, and knew how to use ‘em all!
Ask any guy around… THAT’S BEYOND SEXY!
with a solid foundation, I began my work.
Gab and I bought plants, nurtured them, fertilized, sodded,
mulched, and mowed our way to elite status.
It all went off without a hitch (well… sort of).
Gabby prefers a longer lawn, while I like the shorter turf.
Therefore, there was the continual dance of the “mower
height adjustment” that
continues to this day. Rather
than talk about the problem and compromise, I found a solution.
Just mow the yard when she’s not around, and deal with
“the Gabby look of mild disapproval” for about 30 seconds.
Grass short! PROBLEM
April, we sowed the seeds of YOTM attainment.
May came and went like a flower, and the sign was placed elsewhere.
Disheartening, but understandable.
June was more of the same.
But… still two months left.
“I can handle it,” I said.
comes July 1st - a day that will live in infamy in South
Creek Neighborhood Association history.
was a nice sunny morning - the kind of morning that makes you forget
about lawn futility as you enjoy the Good Lord’s bounty.
After a good 30 minutes of work in the home office, it was
time for a break. I
thought, “this is a perfect day to go outside and water the
plants.” So, I walk
out the door and turned on the hose.
I begin to sprinkle the plants when I look up and see the
neighbors across the street working on their yard.
I think ” Wow… it’s weird that they are trimming on a
Monday morning. Oh
well! He’s a
landscape architect, so maybe he’s just warming up for a day of
the neighbors (who I used to like) finish up their minor
putting the hedge clippers to bed, Ronnie grabs something from his
garage and begins to walk it into the grass.
I watch… astonished. With
a move he must have learned from watching astronauts plant a flag on
the moon, or those in the Oklahoma Land Run laying claim to their
own parcel, he roundly swirls the sign overhead, and firmly stabs it
into the ground in one fell swoop. With that, I can read the words on the sign.
YARD OF THE MONTH”
might as well have run the blade of the sign stand through my heart. In fact, I can’t remember exactly, but I believe I may have
shrieked like a 7-year-old girl in a haunted house when the posts
made contact with the ground. As
he grinned at me and said “Good Mornin’”, I couldn’t believe
it. It made me sick. Not
so sick that you violently puke, but just sick enough so that you
gag a little bit at the back of your throat and quickly remember
what you ate for breakfast. I
muttered a sheepish “Yeah. Good
Morning,” but couldn’t muster a “congratulations” until
later that week when I saw him again.
was devastating. That
night, I considered scheduling a covert operation and stealing the
sign… BORROWING really… just long enough to plant it in my yard
and take a few photos. But,
that wouldn’t satisfy me. I
got as far as the curb in front of his house before realizing that I
couldn’t show off a YOTM sign in my yard in the middle of the
night lit only by the headlights of my Explorer.
It was fool’s gold. Folly.
The sign mocked me from 6 feet away, but stealing it
wouldn’t help matters. (Well…
it might take that cheese-eatin’ grin off the neighbor’s
face…but…) I sulked for a while, then walked back into my house to
continue my dreaming.
next month’s mowing was hard.
I constantly wondered why the neighbor won and I didn’t.
I even had visions of conspiracy.
“The last two winners had a big ol’ planting of Elephant
Ears lining the backs of their flower beds.
Maybe it’s all about the Elephant Ears?”
I pondered going to the neighborhood association meeting and
finding the guy who votes on the award and doing a little “A Few
Good Men” remake. I,
obviously, would play the part of Tom Cruise.
of the Lawn:
“I want the truth!”
“You can’t HANDLE the truth!”
of the Lawn:
“Was it the Elephant Ears?”
“You lawn guys… sitting there with your mulching mowers
and electric powered lawn tools… you think you know it all!
Well… from where I come from, if you can’t grow Elephant
Ears as big as a Buick, then you don’t deserve to be a man!”
“So you ordered the vote to be made based on Elephant
“You’re DAMN RIGHT I DID!
“I KNEW IT! (Then,
Demi Moore falls in love with me and brings me a gift certificate
for $100 worth of free perennials)
maybe that wasn’t the answer.
They’d probably kick us out of the neighborhood
association, which would preclude us from ever being able to
participate in their “All South Creek Garage and Crap Sale”
every 6 months. Not
worth it. I would have to bide my time.
So… every week… without fail… I continued my ritual in
hopes of a miracle.
July 31st, the phone rings during dinner.
I answer, fully expecting to say, “We don’t need any more
Miracle Cleaner” and hang up.
“Yes it is.”
“This is Laurie from across the street.”
to hold back my instinct to chastise her Elephant Ears)
“I just wanted to let you know that, since Ronnie and I won
the YOTM award last month, we are on the committee to pick a winner
you didn’t hear this from me… but it’s going down tomorrow”
since Woodward and Bernstein were tipped off by Deep Throat has
there been such a political insider revelation.
I felt like Martha Stewart getting a call from Sam Walksal.
“That’s right. Just so you know.
was looking at me. She
asks, “Who was that?” I
answered, “Laurie from across the street.
She said she and Ronnie are helping judge YOTM tomorrow.
I wonder why she called?”
she wanted to tip you off? Maybe
you’re getting YOTM!”
I mow?” I quizzed. “It
has only been 5 days since I last mowed, but I wonder if she was
calling ‘cuz our yard doesn’t look good enough right now, but if
I just trimmed it up, it would be a winner?”
I rambled on nervously for another 5 minutes, playing out
several scenarios out loud… annoying the hell out of Gabby.
Finally she said,
whatever you have to do. I’m
on the couch tonight!”
I put on my grubby clothes and went outside.
It was your typical South Texas summer evening.
A nice balmy 178 degrees with a light breeze. I had to make an emergency run to the gas station to fill up
my gas can, but otherwise, things went smoothly.
I even unfurled the American flag on our porch, and swept up
a few extra leaves. It
looked immaculate. As I
closed the garage door, I said to myself, “If you build it, they
will come.” I know,
it doesn’t REALLY fit into this situation, but I often like to
hear myself talking like James Earl Jones.
next day was like waiting for Christmas as a five-year-old.
You were never sure it was going to come. “Have I been a good boy all year? Did I leave enough cookies for Santa? Should I have used the 10-10-10 fertilizer instead of the
12-6-8?” It was
brutal. Every so often
throughout the day I would wander to the front door and peer out the
window, half expecting to see 10 people with clipboards,
dressed in stark white lab coats rating my Begonias on a
scale of 1-10. They
never came. 2:00…,. 3:00… 4:00… 5:00
CRAP I LOST AGAIN!”
started folding laundry and licking my wounds.
At 6:00 comes the ring at the door.
There stands Ronnie with sign-in-hand.
smiles. “We were
always talkin’ ‘bout how y’all should get it.”
am beaming from ear-to-ear. I
say, “Thanks! This is
looks at me and mutters, “Well… do you want me to put the sign
in your yard, or do you want to leave it on the porch.”
I lean in and tell Ronnie “I think I am actually going to
wait ‘till I can send an invitation to all the neighbors and set
up a fireworks show. I want it to be bigger than a Vegas hotel opening when I
plant this thing in the ground!”
laughs a little bit and then says, “Man… me and Laurie
couldn’t believe you was out there mowin’ yesterday in that
heat. We thought you
was gonna’ melt!”
I guess I didn’t have to mow after all.
When Gabby came home, she celebrated with me.
We went into the front yard and planted that big ol’ SCNA
YOTM sign in the ground! We took plenty of photos.
I say to all the Nobel Prize winners and Pulitzer guys out
there to “STICK THAT IN YOUR PIPE AND SMOKE IT!
ALL HAIL, KING OF SUBURBIA!”
the saying “30 days hath September, April, June and November?” Well, I can’t help but think that they picked me
SPECIFICALLY for August because of the extra 24 hours.
You gotta’ marvel an day extra at the guy who won it
without a single Elephant Ear!
have attached photos for your viewing pleasure.
insisted she take the pics right after I finished mowing.
I think she may be looking to start up a new magazine titled
“Skinny, Sweaty Lawn Hunks”.
I gave her the “Blue Steel” look as an added bonus –
which made her wish she woulda’ hired a dancer for her
bachelorette party rather than just waiting for a lifetime of
“white man’s overbite” from me.
The pic of Gabby is just her way of “passing the baton”
to me. Sure… she
knows how to Weed-Eat, but now defers to the Lord of Lawn
Maintenance when the trimming needs to be done.
Good psychology I think.
She doesn’t have to get all dirty and sweaty, and my ego
stays highly inflated.
next time… HAPPY MOWING! And
may the YOTM Gods smile upon each and every one of you this summer