Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Does Lawn Mowing Equal Insanity?

It’s unfortunate when you have one of those neighbors that always waits way too long to mow their lawn. All the houses on the block have pristine yards except for that one house, the one with knee high grass and tons of weeds that just seems to bring down the whole neighborhood. Well get over it, because complaining about it isn’t going to get me to mow my lawn any quicker.

As you can guess, I do not like mowing the lawn. I’ve been doing it since I was 12 and frankly, I’ve had enough. On the other hand Pat is a fan of it and isn’t on any medication that I’m aware of (or maybe that’s the problem!). Therefore we will now debate the issue. Go ahead Pat, convince me that you are still sane.

Pat: Okay, this might be hard. I realize that the task of mowing one's lawn is inherently dreadful. Aside from the eco-terror that the growing of a lawn represents, the act of building up a hearty sweat to simply make it look neat seems ridiculous. Further, as your latent ire with your parents for their unjust chore-assignment shows, for many people lawn-mowing symbolizes a form of suppression. Remember that forest that I used to live in? My parents assigned me the joyous task of mowing those damn weeds on a weekly basis. And my sister...I think her chore might have been to hang out with college boys or something. Is that chore-equity?! You're right...it can really suck. Lawn-mowing can equal bondage.

However, there is also a freedom in mowing the lawn. Think about where we are for a minute, Christian. Thirty-eight years, house, spouse, kids...life is good, right? And yet how many times do you find yourself spent, void of energy or thought, unable even to explain yourself in words that would make sense to a two year old. When that burden of having to relate to or connect with your kid, your wife, your postal worker, your tax agent, your dog or your own head becomes too much, what are you gonna' do?

You know what I do? I plug in my earphones, turn on some good rock (though, as the days turn and the sun brings out the autumn hues I find myself in much more of a folk mood. Ah, poetry!) and get out there to buzz-cut my fucking weeds, man! In that one hour, I can sweat (exercise!), bang my head out-of-time with the beat (Dude!), and yell at on-lookers that I can't hear them. It's awesome. Monks have their monasteries, I have my lawn. And if I need more, I might just whip out the edger to make some really clean lines. Therapy, meditation...whatever you wanna' call it, mowing the lawn is keeping me grounded on earth right now.

I'll credit you some points... being the one house on the block that looks like shit just sucks. But someone has to do it. Even Texas has a democrat or two... do you think they deal with their ostracism by not voting? Further, you may want to look into your device. For years I went the route of the no-footprint push mower. Great in terms of karmic debt, but terrible in terms of results, and, if you're like me, you find yourself with more self-inflicted gut punches than is necessary. Also, your lawn comes out looking like someone whose mom cut their hair with a butter knife. Go power...I prefer electric, but some folks I've talked to say that the smell of gas can't be beat. Device is key!

I just worry about you buddy... I hate to see you so cavalierly cast off something that might have the potential to bring you great joy. Give grass a chance, man.

Christian: I’m going to cavalierly cast off your argument based on the fact that you said “life is good, right?”. This completely undermines your argument. I have a three year old and a one year old at home. I’m too sleep deprived and exhausted to classify this as life is good. On those rare occasions that I actually have a little free time to myself, I do things like brush my teeth and shower. Not mow the lawn.

But I will agree with you on two points: 1) Device is key. There’s no way I would even consider a push mower. What am I an ox? Also an electrical mower is out of the question since I’m terrified of being killed by electricity and I would inevitably run over the power cord. Gas is where it’s at. 2) I also love the idea of yelling at on-lookers that I can’t hear them. Especially when they’re not actually saying anything.

What I want to know is how is it that science hasn’t given us grass that only grows to a maximum of a three inches high? Are we at least putting some research into this? Do we need more stem cells? Do we have too many stem cells? What’s the deal here? I think we need to get more of our top guys on it. Maybe we can get some of the cancer guys. We can hold off on cancer for now until we solve this grass growing issue. It shouldn’t take too long, then they can get back on cancer. Grass that only grows a few inches high would solve everything.

Pat: Touché, friend. Once again, I was victim to the bias of my own experience. Indeed, while life with a three-year old and a one-year old is joyous in its own way (and, I assume, we both know that that is the official line, for to say how one is really feeling about the situation and the human creatures that cause it relegates one to the deepest pits of parent hell...right?), I forgot that it may not be as sweet as the life that a 6 and 8 year old engender.

I'll credit you some more points. While I stroll lazily up and down my yard making delicious lines in the grass (TWO shades of green, either way you look at it!), my kids play delightfully on their own or dangerously close to traffic, all without me worrying a single bit. Yours are probably finding their way to the underside of the mower. While I pause from my trimming to sip a cool lemonade or double scotch, you have to pull the mower over in order to lift the child's bottle out of the pile of steamy dog shit it just fell into. While I grimace at the idea of dumping the bag of clippings into the yard debris receptacle, you struggle to fish the child out of the same receptacle after realizing that the Bjorn wasn't as tight as it should have been.

So, alright...you win on that one. For now.

I still contend that, while it may not exist for you now as a perk, it one day will, and thus you should strive for it with vim and vigor. It sucked not being able to drive, especially when you saw those around you obtain their sacred holy license, driving crazily down the street, blowing by you on your Schwinn Varsity Deluxe (sorry...that might be a little projection) but did that stop you from saving up for that sweet jet-fighter blue Subaru wagon? (a very sensible car, by the way...I have always meant to tell you that. Good choice in my opinion) No. We do not let the hindrances of today delay our dreams for tomorrow.

So I beg of you Christian, while you may cast aside that mower and all it represents, do not give up hope for the future that it holds for you. I guarantee you that some of life's sweetest moments-- a child's graduation or wedding, a significant promotion, a benign tumor-- will be made all the sweeter as you reflect upon them while mowing your lawn.

Peace, brother.

Christian: I can’t believe you’re now claiming to have some kind of spoon bending mind powers that can predict the future. Are you serious? I think you may have finally cracked. But fortunately for us, I do happen have these powers. It’s one of my two special purposes.

In the future we’ll be eating expensive smoked meats from tubes, riding space elevators to the moon while sipping martinis, and I will still not enjoy mowing the lawn. I have foreseen it. It’s similar to how I know in the future I won’t be sexually attracted to staplers. Yes, even chocolate covered staplers.

But don’t worry I’ve got the future covered. One of the main reasons for having kids is to have future candidates to take over lawn mowing duties. I’ve already got my three year old a plastic toy mower so he can train now. I have him go back and forth across the carpet making sure he covers the entire thing. I’m very strict about it too. I’m constantly pointing out spots that he misses and making sure he goes over them again and again. It’s a lot of fun. So as you can see I’ve got a happy no lawn mowing future ahead of me. Should be starting soon. I just need to get him to figure out how to fill the mower up with gasoline.

But in the mean time, I did find a way to make lawn mowing tolerable for myself. I started paying someone else to do it. It’s unbelievably awesome. So in the end I think we are going to have to agree to disagree. You can go ahead and unreasonably continue to enjoy lawn mowing while I’ll continue to be known as the sane one.

Pat:  I don't think you even like Martinis. Smoked tube meats I'll concede you, but not martinis.

I hate to get you on a logical technicality, but I'm stubborn, and I refuse to acknowledge the possibility of a world where lawn-mowing does not bring joy. Three things I believe:

1. The fact that you are priming your own son for the chore of lawn-mowing means that, in time, you will take incredible pleasure in the mowing of your lawn. It just won't be you mowing it. But, technically, the lawn is getting mowed and you are getting happy. I win.

2. You may not enjoy mowing the lawn now. You may not have enjoyed it in your youth. You perhaps have been utilizing the wrong mechanisms to employ such a task. You may have been tasked with shearing a lawn so fraught with weeds that mowing proved too arduous a duty. But you will, someday, enjoy mowing the lawn. You won't know where, and you certainly won't know when, but someday you will find yourself drawn to the act of retrieving the mower from the garage (or the space-portal of your future) and gliding it effortlessly, or with considerable effort, across your overgrown yard. And you will revel-- dare I say dance a little jig-- at the sight of your newly preened green space. Such is the food of faith, and if you discredit me this argument you may as well tell the billions of followers of unseen gods that they are wrong too. You confident enough to do that, infidel?

3. There is a chance-- albeit slight-- that I am totally off my rocker on this one, that I have repressed so deeply an inner hatred of lawn-mowing that I circuitously have convinced myself that I love it. If that is the case, I call upon your sense of compassion for other humans. Is it really so important to you to win this argument that in doing so you totally unhinge my sense of peace, calm, rightness and justice, rendering me utterly useless as a husband, father and contributing member of society. I need this one, man. I need it like I've needed nothing else. Ever. And I can't really fathom what might happen if you take it away from me. Please.

So...there. Glad you found someone to mow your lawn. Are they cheap?

Christian: Yes.  I’ll hook you up.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Triscuits vs. Wheat Thins

I like crackers. I like putting things on crackers and then eating them. I recently asked Pat if he had a preference between Wheat Thins and Triscuits.

Pat:  I'd probably opt for Wheat Thins over Triscuits.

Christian:  Oh dear god. You’re not a risk taker are you?

Pat:  Ease up, yo!  

I just said that because I knew that I liked Wheat Thins when I was younger, and that Triscuits felt like a bundle of hay in my mouth (which made me always envy cows with their cud and their ruminant stomachs), but in reality I hadn’t eaten either cracker in a long time.

But I just had a fancy Triscuit and it was really good. It was triangular and it tasted like stuff. I think it was supposed to be “garlic and herb” or something, but it was just really salty and tangy with a little dust on it, the kind you get to scrape off your fingers later as a second helping.

Can I change my vote?

Christian:  OK, I’ll concede it’s a tough choice. Both have great qualities. You can equate it to trying to decide if you like Paul McCartney or John Lennon more. Obviously Paul McCartney is Wheat Thins, with their more traditional cracker format and widespread mainstream appeal. While John Lennon is Triscuits, since they have a slight edginess too them and are more likely to protest something. Both are amazing once in a lifetime talents/crackers.      

As for me, I prefer John Lennon and thus prefer Triscuits. Wheat Thins can go to hell.

Pat:  Why do all of these dichotomous problems always get reduced to a Beatles comparison? I have nothing against them, really, they wrote some very fine jingles (though my jury is still out on the Plastic Ono Band and Wings...sometimes “better together” is more than a cliché), but must all problems be compared to which Beatle was better?

Why not Daltrey or Townshend?

Why not Ray or Dave Davies?

Why not Martin Luther or Martin Luther King, Jr.?

In fact, I’m going to venture a guess that we’ve moved on enough to change the standard for problem-comparisons:

I’d like to suggest that, by today’s standards, you have two choices, American or British:

Triscuits= Kurt Cobain OR Noel Gallagher

Wheat Thins= Eddie Vedder OR Liam Gallagher.

What say you?

Christian:  Townshend, Ray Davies, Jr., Cobain, Vedder, Triscuits.  Wait, which Gallagher brother is the annoying one and which one is the talented one? Or is it vice-versa?  

Either way the Gallagher brothers, and Eddie Vedder for that matter, are more Ritz crackers than Wheat Thins or Triscuits; fine for a cheap whorish cheese spread when you absolutely need to put it on a cracker. But I just don’t think their body of work is in the same category as a Triscuit or Wheat Thin. I mean come on, have you heard some of the later Oasis albums? Do you really want to put a nice cheese or quality artichoke dip on them? No. Definitely Ritz material.

Pat:  You got me totally curious: what does a “quality artichoke dip” look and taste like, and where can I acquire one? Is that part of what makes people “feel good in the neighborhood” at Applebee’s? And “whorish cheese spread” just ruined my appetite -- for food and for prostitution!

You know, I’ve learned something in my 38 years of living, and that is that you can find yourself thinking on something for a long time, unable to come to a conclusion, and then, when your brain quiets down and you STOP thinking on it, the answer comes to you, like the ray of light coming through the clouds in one of those velvetty god paintings. That just happened to me. I removed myself from this question long enough to realize that I too appreciate Triscuits more than Wheat Thins, not for the taste or texture or nutritional value, but for the shear artistry of their creation. Have you ever seen the weave on those things, like really looked at it? I don’t know what kind of grain-loom they have there at Nabisco, but it must be amazing! In that sense, our analogies are all wrong. It’s more like a cotton t-shirt vs. a shetland wool sweater, and the sweater will always get my vote. Triscuits win!

By the way, Noel was said to have the talent. You’d think though, with all of that supposed talent and style, they’d both have had better hair. That stuff just looked silly!

Christian:  Yes, like a Ritz cracker.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Is Facebook a Drug?

Perhaps you’ve heard--there is a compelling social media network out there called “Facebook”.  SO compelling, in fact, that someday they might decide to make a film about it, and devote a lot of media attention to it and its founder. If that happens, you, reader, can say you learned about it here first! The following dialogue occurred after Christian and I enjoyed the fruits of Facebook’s labors for an embarrassingly large portion of our adult lives.

Pat:  Facebook is like a drug.  

It really adds no value to my life--gives it no more meaning and enriches it none. But I find myself, like clockwork, ekeing ways to sit down and open the page, often when no one else is around so I can really get dirty with it...feel its pull and allure all to myself. I go on binges where I post dozens of updates, comment on every trivial post I see and make friends with long-gone associates. A Facebook bender, I guess you’d call it.

And then I quit. For awhile. Satiated or burnt-out, I’m not sure which. But done.

Until that urge pokes back up, and I feel the need to see if I have been commented on, or if anyone wants to be my friend, or if I need to change my political views in my profile.

And then it starts all over.

I’m also not sure what it means that sometimes my wife and I use Facebook to chat with one another. While we’re sitting next to each other on the couch. I think that’s like drugs too.

Christian:  So are you saying Facebook is good thing or a bad thing? Because what I’m reading here is that it’s allowed you to get in contact with old friends and has helped you and your wife communicate more. All while giving you some of the positive effects of drugs without having to deal with the chapped lips and involuntary comas.

Pat:  I just started laughing out loud a little because I mis-read what you wrote and visualized “involuntary commas”--little grammatical imps that place themselves in your writing against your will. That would be funny.

See...I’ve been on Facebook for awhile, so that’s the drug-like impact it has on my thinking. I don’t know if that’s a bad thing, but it doesn’t seem to be making me smarter. Beyond the concepts of “good” and “bad”, I simply posit that Facebook is a powerful force, one which should not be approached lightly. Maybe a little disclaimer on the log-in page could be added, something that warns users of the impending time-suck they will indubitably encounter.

Yeah, as you note the immediate effects it has had on my life seem pretty positive overall. The skeptic in me, though, thinks the negative effects have yet to be seen, and may not be seen for some time, but when they ARE seen it will be unmistakable and it will be very very bad.

I just laughed again because, re-reading your statement above, correctly this time, I imagined someone voluntarily slipping into a coma. That’s funny too. Ooh...I just got chatted. Gotta’ go!

Christian: So when you talk about future unforeseen negative effects, are you thinking like diabetes or something? Or is it more in the theme of a societal collapse? Should I be putting more Butterfingers in my emergency survival kit? I’m scared. Please elaborate.

Pat:  Hmm...that’s a good question. I hadn’t thought it out that far. I guess my fear is that I’ll find myself at age 50, sitting in a nicely apportioned home (I don’t think Facebook will turn me into one of those people with half-eaten open cans of food laying all over, and afghans strewn about the living room) chatting with all of my Facebook friends. Sounds fine, right? But at longer look one begins to notice that I never have any actual social interactions. I never TALK to anyone in a way that employs my vocal chords. In fact, my vocal chords may have completely melted. When my wife tries talking to me, or maybe grumbling to me if her vocal chords have melted too, you might notice me shuddering, unsure and unaware of what the “thing” in front of me is, as I have completely forgotten that people exist in forms other than on-line entities or avatars. In that sense, the daily delivery of mail, or the task of retrieving groceries, becomes nightmarish.

So yes, I suppose that if you take this scenario to it’s full extent, and assume that other Facebook users experience the same extreme reaction that I do, we’re talking full-scale disintegration of the social order. Zombies will surely follow. Facebook zombies, who have no friends because they eat them.

Christian: Too much time on Facebook will lead to friendless zombies attacking. Got it.  

But if we are to be attacked by zombies, wouldn’t friendless zombies be the pie-in-the-sky scenario? Everyone knows that zombies are only dangerous when there are a lot of them gathered together. But thanks to Facebook, these socially awkward zombies will want to stay well clear of any social gatherings. Human interaction, whether it be in depth conversations or feasting on living flesh, will be something these socially stunted zombies want to avoid. As long as we don’t “comment” on them, “like” something they say, or “poke” them, I’m guessing they won’t want anything to do with us.

I’m starting to think that if we are to have any chance at surviving this impending doom, we need society to revolve around Facebook even more than ever. Or am I missing something here?

Pat:  No. The zombies will still eat us, whether they have friends or not. It’s like non-zombie people at the grocery store. Just because we’re all there, it doesn’t mean we’re all friends. We are, however, all united in the sense that we are engaged in the same activity. Zombies are the same. They can eat us whether they’re “friends” with their fellow brain-eater or not. This is terrifying to think about. I don’t know if I can use Facebook™ anymore.

Christian: You’re right, Facebook is evil and a plague on society and is chewing away at the fabric of everything that is holy. Speaking of Facebook, I would like to remind all of our readers that we have a Facebook fan page! We would love it if you headed over there and “liked” us if you haven’t done so already (there’s a link over to the right for your convenience). You’ll get announcement of new posts and other great updates! Facebook is so amazing at making it easy for us all to stay connected.   

Pat:  Guess what??  I just “poked” somebody for the first time the other day! In addition to feeling a bit kinky and risqué, it helped me solve a dilemma! If, in the face of a zombie-filled post-apocalyptic Facebook-caused demise of society, we use the “poke” feature to tell the difference between human “friends” and zombie “friends” there may be hope for us!

See...I poked this guy who I always kinda’ suspected of being undead. He doesn’t talk much, but when he does, it’s usually about how much he likes meat. And he tends to eat with his mouth open a lot. I poked him to see if he would respond...AND HE DIDN’T (yet)! I’m pretty sure that means he’s not one of us. Something tells me that zombies would not think to poke us back. They would just come over and eat us.

THEREFORE, should the above scenario come to fruition, feel free to use “poke” to save yourself, and those you love or even “like”, from falling into a Facebook zombie trap!  

You’re welcome.