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Yard Slaves and Slackers

Put down that edger and relax

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This is the time of year that separates the yard slaves from the yard slackers as the grass shoots up like a pre-teen and the weeds diabolically spring to life. Winter's dormant cover is off and everybody's true yardwork personality is exposed. You're revealed to either be a hawk, hellbent on launching fanatical assaults against weeds, in other words, a lawnatic, or you're a dove inclined to peacefully watch the weeds choke the sap out of your good plants while relaxing on your porch drinking hard lemonade.

I unapologetically position myself in the slacker camp. I fully enjoy being in our yard and observing what's growing there, and have even gone so far as to rub the trunks of failing trees and whisper encouraging words in their leaves, but I draw the line at heavy outdoor labor. If God had intended women to push both a vacuum and a lawnmower weekly he'd have given us bigger biceps.

Fortunately I'm married to a "sometime" yard slave so our property pretty much stays this side of respectable, and besides, the arrangement provides me with the extra advantage of getting to watch yardwork without having to actually do it.

Maybe this is a kind of garden-variety perversion on my part, but I definitely get a warm tingling sensation while overseeing somebody other than me hack and hoe. Our back porch is set high above the lawn, so I get a little mistress-of-the-plantation boost, perched up there surveying hubby's efforts. Husband-as-sweaty-yard-hand: always a reliable fantasy.

All would be well if it weren't for, of course, the neighbors. It's my luck that we're surrounded by not just yard slaves, but slaves of the extreme Spartan strain. The woman next door bends over double to maniacally scrape stragglers that dare protrude out of her driveway cracks. The neighbor on the other side logs serious time yanking weed intruders from the grass with some weird- fangled contraption she probably bought off e-bay.

As I lounge up on high in full slacker mode while they scrape and yank, I can feel their resentment pressing against me through the screens. I don't have to hear them to know they're whispering among themselves with a mixture of outrage and amazement, "What is she doing up there?"

That I have the gall to simply sit and stare contemplatively at our Shangri-La of weeds as if it were the ocean seems to bamboozle these superior-in-their- own-minds souls who boast that they "have to be doing something," a claim which has always struck a natural-born loafer like myself as more pathetic than admirable. Meanwhile I'm providing a social service to the community by giving them ammunition for their feelings of self-righteousness.

I have this theory that a person is compatible with where they live to varying degrees based upon different qualities of the place. For example, my first apartment was in a Richmond neighborhood so downscale it would make NoDa look like Myers Park. This neighborhood was unapologetically un-restored, un-discovered, and un-tarted up as "arty." Those of us who lived there weren't urban pioneers, we were just too broke to live anywhere else.

Yet despite being the bottom of the barrel and frequently smelling like pee, that neighborhood suited me to a tee in several ways, including the fact that it was the most yardwork compatible with me of any place I've lived. Its population was made up of nothing but yard slackers of the highest caliber. These people knew one type of "ho, and the only weed they cared about was the kind you smoke.

Even though it was in the city limits, come Saturday and Sunday mornings the whole area was as deathly quiet as the center of a primordial forest, its silence unbroken by the screeching of some slavish yard goon getting his edger on at 8am. Weekend mornings were strictly for recovering from the night before as the neighborhood slept off its collective hangover.

It was while living there that I got the impression, later to be so cruelly squashed by slave-master suburbia, that Sundays were all about getting a major buzz on as a block against weekday reality steamrolling your way. My fellow bottom-dwellers instinctively knew that God didn't intend for the Day of Rest to involve any clippers other than the roach kind. Sunday afternoons were hair-of-the-dog time, when the men gathered to sip and converse.

In addition to having residents who preferred to hone the high art of hanging out over that of yard maintenance, it was the kind of place where sitting and staring wasn't just tolerated, but a time-honored tradition. Air-conditioning being scarce and summer heat being the heroin of weather, it was commonplace to see somebody in a nod on their peeling back porch, the tall grass in the yard before them shimmering like the sea.

As lawnmowers crank up across the city, here's to all yard slackers who know what's really important in this life: paying attention to its passing as measured in weed inches. Or is that ounces?

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