Haircuts and Transplants

Oh, Glory of glories! The spider condos are gone! Removed by my own hand! (and CLH's). Carmelized then pulverized in the outdoor fire pit. Sigh.

And i thought MOWING the lawn was satisfying. Bah!

Seriously now. I don't know what the name of those suckers were (the plant books are still in boxes, and I'm not smart enough to figure out to search for a plant picture online without any good criteria), but there were COVERED in cobwebs. It was a low growing bush (when not housing a spider population) sporting tiny waxy leaves and bright orange berries. This one, however, was hardly green anymore because it was so covered in webs. The trunk was gnarled and withered. The spiders had long ago abandoned their 14 story house of filth, but their webs had all manner of decay still hanging around in them. The plant was grey, for god's sakes. Dis. Gus. Ting. Who knows if it was even alive? All I know is that the thing was creepy, it was half dead/half growing on the side of the house and it looked like hell. So, we cut it down, in the rain, and then we burned the thing.</p>

We had the fire going for several hours. We'd rented a chainsaw earlier in the day and CLH cut up the old Christmas tree and the who-knows-what-other-kinds-of-tree stumps we found in the many "refuse" piles in the yard. (By the way, lawn chairs don't compost, so don't fucking add to the piles of organic stuff, mkay?) We had a pretty sizable pile of junk wood going- weirdly shaped roots and dried out thin crispy boughs and stuff, so we got a burn pile going and lit it up. We'd burned most of the blackberries we'd wanted gone (they're noxious, but delicious, weeds here), and we were just relaxing after a long day's work, looking around the yard for other stuff to burn (the lawn chair almost made it in) when CLH remembered the spider condos. We both got a gleam in our eyes, grabbed the saw and shovel, and practically ran to the front of the house. By this time the rain was coming pretty steadily. Nothing too heavy- just enough to make all the dirt stick to our clothes. We looked like chocolate bunnies when we were done, but we didn't care. The spider condos were on their way to a fiery grave. I didn't leave the fire until every last inch of them had turned to ash.

There was something indescribably wonderful about burning all the crap that wouldn't stack in the pile. It was one part necessity, and one part ceremony. We, without adding to already stuffed compost bin we'd built, or the bulging yard waste container, got rid of the yuck, AND we rid our house of yet one more reminder of the rampant neglect that shows up everywhere here. Even plants can use a funeral pyre. Sure, we could have shoved the things into a wood chipper- but that would have seemed overly brutal and mechanical. The slow burn approach seemed a bit more ... noble (even if i WAS doing it with a little bit of sadistic glee in my heart). CLH and I transplanted some lavender and sage plants from the backyard (where they were also looking gnarled and spindly from not being trimmed) to the spot the spider condos had been. The rain came down harder later that night, so we didn't even have to water them. Now, instead of having our ankles raked by the tendrils of a dying old bush as we walk by, we will be greeted by the soothing (dare I say, therapeutic?) smells of lavender and sage. Ahhhhhh.... I feel calmer already.

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Another “I heard it on the bus” blog posting

Let me just start out by saying that commuting by bus from the suburbs BLOWS. I'm about ready to throw in the towel with this whole "living in the suburbs" bit. The highlight of my day: a sweet young girl engaged me in conversation on the bus. Hang on, though. I need to vent.

I used to recoil at the sight of the massive spider webs embalming the pathway from the front door to my car. Now, i'm so pissed off (at the spiders, at nature, at my beep-beep-beep-heavy-machinery-backing-up-at-7-am-neighbor, at the fact that the first thing I see when I walk out my front door is a half dead monkey tree limb laced with webs and spiders the size of my eyeballs, about my too-small kitchen sink and my too-big "camp style" bathroom, about the utter lack of foresight that dictated the position of all the freakin' light switches in this house) that i just machete right through them with my bare arms. Anyone observing from afar might think a) i have a hard time regulating the swing of my arms when i walk, b) that i'm practicing my judo chop on invisible sparring partners or that c) i'm stark raving mad.

I had to wait an extra forty minutes for the bus home because i finished work late and the buses run with less frequency after commuting hours. And this after a long and tedious day of work. The only thing that kept from going on a killing spree was the book about organic gardening i read while waiting.

The odd highlight of the day was talking to a young girl on the bus on the way in to the city. I didn't realize until a few minutes into the convo that she was with a group of special needs kids. She shyly asked me if it was okay if she talked to me. Of course, I said. She started in on a story about how she'd won the plastic bracelet she was wearing at a carnival. I was just about to get a closer look when someone from the back of the bus hissed her name and told her to not talk to me. The voice said something like "What did we say about talking to people?" The girl tucked her chin into her neck and paused for a moment - but then she kept on going. Again, the voice from the back of the bus said the girl's name, adding "This is your last warning". The girl and I looked at each other; I patted her hand and said, "it's okay- you can tell me another time. I don't want you to get in trouble." I turned and faced forward so she wouldn't be tempted... but, as we drove along, i kept wondering why this girl needed to be silenced by her authority figure. What she prone to violence or outbursts? She seemed so incredibly innocent and demure... The worst part about it was that I could tell she was used to being told to shut up- but that didn't stop her from trying to make friends on the bus anyway. I don't know much about what it's like to take care of a special needs kid... or what this girl's particular story was- but it sure didn't seem like she was hurting anyone by yakking on the bus (hell, it beats staring out the window at the cargo containers on the port). I kept thinking, as I exited the bus and started my walk to work, about how she was being treated like a criminal for talking to me. I don't mean to turn this into a soapbox moment... but i sorta had this refrain going through my head... something like "what the world needs now/is talking on the bus/sweet talking on the bus". Maybe that girl's story would have made some morning commuter's day... It just seemed, given that the rest of this city's inhabitants can't seem to make casual eye contact with one another on the streets (Chicago? Five gold stars for you for your pedestrians' AWESOME sidewalk-side manners. ) that a little light convo on the bus is just what we need to make being crammed in there a little more palatable. I hope she got to tell her story to someone today...

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Public F*ing and The Art of Selling Out

Alright. Enough about the house already. The grass has grown back. I cut it. The library got painted yesterday. It's "coming along", people. Thanks for asking. Really. Onto bigger things.

Like public sex. Like the kind i saw yesterday on my way to an outdoor music festival. It appeared, from a distance, that a guy was rhythmically pumping one of those drop down flexible security gates, his hands above his head, clutching the rungs of the gate, his legs spread slightly, his pelvis crashing into the gate, causing it to shudder. It wasn't obvious right away, but there was a girl up against that gate. I probably wouldn't have even noticed her, had she not moved. As we passed, she reached for the hem of her denim mini skirt and tugged it down (for effect really. I mean, come on, sister. One more square inch of flesh isn't going to send anyone over the edge. You're having public sex, for chrissakes.)

Yes, the boy definitely was either stoned or drunk and his pants were about 3/4 of the way down his legs. His oversized shirt covered his backside. What was most striking was this: while they guy looked like he was enjoying himself immensely, the girl looked embarrassed and maybe a little scared. She was just a touch taller than him and her head poked out just above his right shoulder. She looked right at us as we passed. Weird.

Afterwards, I thought to myself: this is the kind of thing that always happens to other people and never to me. Almost everyone I know has some sort of "i saw people doing such and such in a public place". Not me. Not ever. Do I have some instinct to avoid this stuff?

I remember a bus ride home in high school. It was my first year of high school. I was still a naive little girl, fresh from Catholic grammar school, on her her way to Catholic high school and ignorant still of the inner workings of human sexuality. Nancy P., all ninety pounds of her, leaping up on her bench seat, revealing the rolled up waistband of her her too-big plaid uniform skirt, pointing to the window and screeching and giggling that the guy in the car next to the bus had his pants around his ankles and was masturbating as he drove. We all rushed the side of the bus Nancy was sitting on, but, by the time we got there, the guy had sped off. Nancy, breathless and smiling, told us the details. He was looking up at her. He was an older guy. The car was an older model. He was hairy. I sat back down in my own seat, disappointed that a few seconds had separated me from another opportunity to glimpse into the adult world of sex and its secrets.

After a few more blocks of walking away from the kids on the street, my thoughts took a turn. Was she there by choice? Was that a rape I had just witnessed? Did i just walk away from a CRIME, stifling nervous laughter and averting my eyes? Geez. She DID look a little scared. She WAS really young. She WAS tugging her skirt down so we couldn't see her... She did look right at us. Was she saying HELP, or, Man, I am embarrassed. Hurry up, drunk boyfriend, so we can get the hell out of here. I hate that I have to think that way.


Earlier in the day, I sold a little piece of my soul to eBay. I'll let you know if my "cute, perky" mug (their words, not mine) makes it to Internet. I was standing in line for a smoothie when a woman with an eBay t-shirt approached me and asked if i had ever sold or bought anything on eBay. Turns out, i had just sold my Simpsons figurine collection to a Canadian via CLH's eBay account. Made a cool $600 (i bought the damn things for almost $1200.00 seven years ago, so you could call that a really sound investment). I told the lady with the t-shirt the story and she called over her producer. I repeated the story to him. It wasn't much really- just that we had made all this money on the eve of moving into the house, and that, when all was said and done, I had essentially used that cash to pay my first mortgage payment. That, and after frantically wrapping up more than one hundred figurines after 51 simultaneous auctions on the eve of moving day, we moved with something like 12 less huge boxes. They ate it up (i think they ate up more that i was "cute and perky", "had great energy", and that i was wearing my hair in pigtails. I was asked three times if i was over 21 years old). So, i may be an eBay spokesperson soon enough. Here's the thing i took away from that: I am frighteningly good at taking direction. The producer made me do three takes, and by the third take, I was a 12 year old, telling the story in an almost-falsetto about my dolls that i sold on eBay and how thrilled i was that eBay was able (with a dramatic wipe of brow with back of hand) to help me make my payment just in the nick of time! Scary, huh? From jaded to juvenile in three takes. Who knew?

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A Conqueror and afeared to speak

That was the subject line of a junk email I received.

Having cut the grass yesterday, I sort of feel like the Conqueror of the Back 40 (that's what we're calling it these days: the vast, untamed expanse of a backyard we "own".) I also feel like there is so much to say about this place that I am a little intimidated about what to report. I'll start with the lawn and work from there.

A year ago (hell, three weeks ago!) I didn't understand what it was to cut your own grass. Power tools? For the birds. Definitely not for me. But, we bought this lawnmower at a neighbor's garage sale the DAY we moved in. We weren't quite sure how to start the thing, so we had to go back and learn the trick from the neighbor. Sure enough, it started, and its low hum was probably the most satisfying song i'd heard in a great while.

CLH and I did the front the next weekend. If I wasn't feeling like a suburbanite before, I was feeling it then. When I was finished, I stepped back, wiped the sweat from my brow, and admired my handiwork. The dandelions had been leveled. So, it wasn't so much a "lawn"mower as it was a "weed"mower. Nonetheless, it provided the illusion that I could manage the stuff growing in my front yard, even if for just a short time, and NOTHING beats the smell of fresh cut grass on a hot summer day. The interior of the house was such a freakshow... so, having just 10 square feet of order and simplicity felt hugely satisfying.

Yesterday, I spent most of the day rubbing my hands together mad-scientist-style in anticipation of mowing the BACK yard. Comparatively, the backyard is 6 or 7 times as big as the front... and even though I knew I'd only be able to get to one sixth of it last night, it was exciting. In some parts, the marshmallow (flowers) had to be trimmed before I could even get the mower over the grass. The lawnmower choked over most of the grass under the fruit trees. It was probably no less than a foot tall. A foot. I tried to recall the lawnmowing lessons of my perfectionist father- cut in even, symmetrical swaths, go over what you've cut, and incorporate just a few inches of the next swath on your next pass, continue like this to make sure you get everything... tilt the mower back on its back wheels and lower it onto the tall stuff, should you encounter it. Of course, my father never let our grass get a foot tall. It never was more than 2.25 inches long on any given Saturday afternoon. Towards the end of the night, as the sun was setting, I started to throw the rules out the window and was pushing that thing around like it was a vacuum and I was a crazed housewife expecting the inlaws in exactly three minutes.

There is so much more to do... but at least we can walk under the fruit trees and not have to wonder what on earth is tugging at our ankles. I must have found a dozen or more peaches underneath our peach tree IN the tall grass. This was in addition to the ones i found ON the tall grass. The previous homeowners said the peach tree wouldn't bear much fruit and that the fruit wasn't very tasty. We have found the exact opposite to be true. CLH and I picked about 10+ pounds of peaches a few days ago and they were delicious. My housemate and I skinned and cut them up last night and stuck them in a freezer bag for future smoothie making.

That's another thing: peaches. In my mind, they are reserved for the southern plantation. Any literature I have even encountered around peaches usually details lazy summer afternoons in the deep south, the cicadas buzzing... and now they grow right in my backyard. It's surreal to me. The cherries in my former backyard I could handle. Cherries are the pride of this state for a few short weeks in the spring/early summer. But, peaches? Peaches, too.

The Italian plum tree is so laden with fruit, there are more plums than leaves. I cannot wait to pick those suckers and turn them into prunes.

The apple tree is nearly 40-50 feet tall. I know, i know. Apple trees are not supposed to be that tall. But, when you've seen the rest of the house and the other forms of neglect it has suffered, you will understand how a fruit bearing tree gets to be 40 feet tall. We can't even see the fruit at the top of the tree. You wouldn't even know it's a fruit tree save for the beautiful, perfectly round deep red apples it drops underneath it every few days.

So much to do... I'll try to update this thing more regularly. And, I'll also try to avoid making this house the subject of every entry. It's a slippery that you know about the lawn, you're going to want to know about the kitchen and the bathroom. Camp bathroom. That's what we call it. The reason? Another time.

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This is not my beautiful wife…

So, i bought a house.

Hmmm.. That should probably be accompanied by more fanfare.

I bought a house!

Even that looks odd.

I just bought my FIRST house!! WOW!!

The "wow" might have been over the top, but I'll live with it.

It's an old farmhouse. It's in the suburbs. I live in the suburbs. It's a jagged pill to swallow, having lived in major cities most of my life. It's not quiet either or peaceful either. I live in a flight path, bordered by a highway. So, when the roar from the planes dies down, the roar of the traffic takes over.

I'll have more to write later; I am overwhelmed with having to add a commute to my morning time, with having to pack my life on my back to head into the city for the day. I'm trying to avoid words like "transition" and "life change", so it might take some finessing. There is so much to tell.

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