God and Lawn Care

sometimes, the chain emails I receive are worthy…

God said: “Frank, you know all about gardens and nature. What in the world is going on down there on the planet? What happened to the dandelions, violets, milkweeds and stuff I started eons ago? I had a perfect no-maintenance garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long-lasting blossoms attracts butterflies, honey bees and flocks of songbirds. I expected to see a vast garden of colors by now. But, all I see are these green rectangles.”

It’s the tribes that settled there, Lord. The Suburbanites. They started calling your flowers ‘weeds’ and went to great lengths to kill them and replace them with grass.

Grass? But, it’s so boring. It’s not colorful. It doesn’t attract butterflies, birds and bees; only grubs and sod worms. It’s sensitive to temperatures. Do these Suburbanites really want all that grass growing there?

Apparently so, Lord. They go to great pains to grow it and keep it green. They begin each spring by fertilizing grass and poisoning any other plant that crops up in the lawn.

The spring rains and warm weather probably make grass grow really fast. That must make the Suburbanites happy.

Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it grows a little, they cut it-sometimes twice a week.

They cut it? Do they then bale it like hay?

Not exactly, Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags.

They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?

No, Sir, just the opposite. They pay to throw it away.

Now, let me get this straight. They fertilize grass so it will grow. And, when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it away?

Yes, Sir.

These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves them a lot of work.

You aren’t going to believe this, Lord. When the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it, so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it.

What nonsense. At least they kept some of the trees. That was a sheer stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer. In the autumn, they fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. It’s a natural cycle of life.

You better sit down, Lord. The Suburbanites have drawn a new circle. As soon as the leaves fall, they rake them into great piles and pay to have them hauled away.

No!? What do they do to protect the shrub and tree roots in the winter to keep the soil moist and loose?

After throwing away the leaves, they go out and buy something which they call mulch. They haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves.

And where do they get this mulch?

They cut down trees and grind them up to make the mulch.

Enough! I don’t want to think about this anymore. St. Catherine, you’re in charge of the arts. What movie have you scheduled for us tonight?

‘Dumb and Dumber’, Lord. It’s a story about….

Never mind, I think I just heard

A Piece of Cake…

It’s been at least eight years since I had a Big Plan for New Year’s Eve. Since the birth of my Duck Feathers, New Year’s Eve has found me getting him tucked in and settling in with family. Surrounded by large batches of Barb’s caramel corn, we play games until midnight, make some noise and head to bed. I plant a kiss on my sleeping husband, who is often struck by 9:30 with a sudden bout of narcolepsy after two beers and a half-pound of cheese and crackers. This has been quite satisfactory for me. I have a funny family, and a few years have found us on midnight sled runs behind my brother’s house, running our speeding death traps into pine trees and ripping our pants. Good times, good times.


But after discovering that Cake would be playing the Riverside in Milwaukee on New Years Eve, we went for the Big Plan this year.


I love Cake. In my opinion, they are one of few refreshingly original bands left in this land. (Keep in mind, I don’t get out much.) Their style and lyrics are quirky and intelligent, perhaps near-genius. I predicted that their live show would be intense. They would blow my mind. And as someone who gets completely consumed by well-performed live music, I expected Cake would have me spinning in dance that would push my newly diagnosed benign vestibular vertigo beyond its limits.


I’ve been to plenty of shows in plenty of venues, and know the formula to live shows. You know it. You start big, get the crowd going, throw in some new material, add some down time with something slow, then build up to the finale with audience participation, a throbbing crescendo and the whole place explodes. You leave the stage as the crowd freaks out, and come back for an encore before they calm down. A couple more crowd-pleasers, and everyone leaves buying $35 T-shirts on the way out of the perspiration-steamed doors.


Apparently lead singer John McCrea doesn’t “do” formula. I knew my expectations were in trouble when the lapse of time between announcing the band to a pumped-up audience and the actual start of the first song was long enough for me to take another pee break.


The whole show seemed to be his personal social experiment in the anticipatory behaviors of large, drunk crowds and pushing their limits in patience. I couldn’t help but feel he thought of us as sheep, and we were disappointing him.        


The music in itself was fun. They played lots of favorites. But just when a song would grab its hold on me, it ended. We waited, and waited, and waited for the next to begin. Talk about prolonging the magic. The pauses between every song while McCrea tuned his guitar with his back to the audience prevented us from ever gaining momentum. There were good moments, but no intense, mind-blowers. Just when the band started getting tight, McCrea created awkwardness.  


A purist might argue that this intentional pull away from the formula is quintessential Cake. There were probably diehard fans nodding knowingly with smirks on their faces when McCrea preached about sacrifice (“Do you know anyone who was injured?”) and the privilege of running water rather than belting out “I Will Survive” (which they never did, dammit). I’m sure there were a few smug, internal cheers among the black-rimmed- square-glasses-wearing crowd when, at one minute ‘til midnight, McCrea began to discuss marking the “arbitrary difference between now and then” and rambled something about “killing your family while you watch” rather than count backwards from ten, which the audience finally took it upon themselves to do.


Observing McCrea’s discontentment in our buffooness was reminiscent of that apologetic feeling you get browsing at an independently-owned record store where the pretentious and knowledgeable staff exchange heated debates about the most obscure underground bands. You SO want to buy something completely unknown and edgy just to show them you are cool, but end up hanging your head low, feeling the unspoken scoff when they ring up your David Cook CD.    


I am not a musical purist. I am a 40-year old woman who had Big Plans and likes to dance. I like counting backwards at midnight on New Years Eve followed by a good hoot n’ holler. I would have really appreciated an extended Vince DiFiore solo to take me out of my head for a few minutes. I couldn’t ascertain if this was Cake’s regular schtick, if it was all tongue-in-cheek, or if McCrea was truly disillusioned with our inadequacies and inability to maintain more than a moment’s silence for the wounded (“you obviously don’t appreciate the sacrifices made for your country or you would have been silent immediately after I asked you to…”) or sing in unison for more than seven minutes. (“Bah”, he waved us off with the flick of his hand after what I thought was a damn good effort).


I am not bitter. I had a great New Year’s Eve. The Riverside Theater is a great venue. We were with good friends. The atmosphere was festive. Everyone was smiling. Klements Sausage Racers were a hit, as were the Brewhaus Polka Kings. There were plenty of sequins, glitter, and animal prints brightening up the joint. The bathroom line conversations were classic. You can bring your beverages right into the theater. I got a long, heated kiss at midnight from my awake and pleasantly buzzed husband. And except for the drunk asshole who kept yelling “MR. MASTADON FARM!!” every thirty seconds, it was like hanging out in an extra large living room with hundreds of your best-dressed and happiest friends. And when all is said and done, it was Cake and I heard some good tunes. They did really crank on “Jolene”. I went the distance, was bound for Mexico, and if I AM a sheep, I’m going to heaven.    


I still love Cake. I plan on purchasing those CDs I don’t yet own because I respect their music and want more. I’m all for consciousness-raising through music. You can dis’ me AND my country while I’m listening to you in my car.


But the next time I’m dressed in sparkles (or a short skirt and a loooong jacket) bringing in a new year, I think I’ll select the overwhelming thrill of formula over anti-climactic arrogance.   


Happy New Year to the sheep AND the goats.

Mrs. Fay

 I’ve always wondered what went through her mind the night she met us. What churned in her brain as she smiled across the Manitowoc Pizza Hut table at two pubescent girls in braces who had entered a fit of age-inappropriate giggling and were now trying to hide under the table? Now what did I get myself into? 

I concluded that my dad’s new girlfriend was cool from the git go. Maybe it was her little red Honda Civic with the New Mexico license plates and wooden bead seat covers. Maybe because I thought she was sort of hippy-ish, and clearly more interesting than the average bear walking around the small town where I grew up. She was a vegetarian, and that was definitely exciting. 

But I know it was her smile. A ray of sunshine. You couldn’t not like her.    

Then she won me over with her genuine interest in life. Her curiosity about people. Her intrigue with the odd. Her patience with and love for my dad. And us. The way she pointed out a speck of a highlight in the most mundane. The way she quickly shakes her fists and exclaims, “Eeeeee!”, when thrilled. The flash of spiky blonde and the swirl of colors that she wears. The way she remains classy when the rest of us don’t.      

I knew she was cool, years later, when we stumbled through the Greek ruins of humble homes, chose a foundation to lie on and stared at the millions of stars because ample amounts of retsina and red wine severely hampered our astrological skills in reading the glow-in-the-dark constellation map. We relied on our blurry eyes to scan the skies for Greek gods and shooting stars who could fulfill our so very many wishes, spoken and unspoken. She was with me at that dark moment. My spiky blonde spot of hope.

And that’s her. She’s one of my favorite people, because she always gives me hope.  

Yes, I would say my father is a good picker. I really lucked out in the stepparent department because my mom picked well too, but that’s a different story for a different day.

Today, it’s about her. Because today is her birthday. And I wanted her to know I still think she is pretty darn cool.

Happy Birthday to you Mrs. Fay.

Its Official: Winter 2008 Sucks Major Ass

Wisconsin governor Jim Doyle officially confirmed at 9:00 a.m. (CT) this morning that the 2008 winter season has “sucked the most ass” of any winter in the last few decades.

He simultaneously declared a state of emergency, activating the National Guard to conduct door-to-door triage of residents for the widespread epidemic of Seasonal Affective Disorder, (SAD) a situational depression that accompanies a particularly suck ass winter. Those most affected will be provided with antidepressants, bright visible spectrum lights, and twelve packs of Leinenkugels.  

Many schools, businesses and government offices planned to stay closed today and probably tomorrow, and I don’t know…maybe next Monday too, as the increased levels of SAD were expected throughout the week. Both Mitchell Field and Dane Co. Regional Airport delayed and cancelled most flights, because too many employees are curled up in the fetal position on their couches eating cookie dough.

“The level of ‘suck ass’ is critically high right now”, stated Health Services official John Rayston, “if we get one more snowfall, even the fluffy, pretty kind, I’m afraid we’re going to see some serious cases of freak out.”

“We are also seeing an increased incidence of Cabin Fever”, states Rayston, “and are expecting it to spread.” Like SAD, Cabin Fever is an illness characterized by hypersomnia and overeating. Unlike SAD, CF comes with an annoying, irritating, crawling-out-of-your-skin-ohmigod-I’m-going-friggin-nuts sensation to incredibly minor stimuli.

“If my husband doesn’t stop shuffling his slippers so loudly”, Eileen McButters giggles maniacally, “I am going to smack him upside the head with a hot iron”…McButters rapidly chews her index fingernail, “seriously, I really am…”

More Wisconsin residents have decided to stay in the World of Warcraft until the level of suck ass has subsided. “It’s so warm in Orgrimmar this time of year”, dreamily muses Geoffry Johnson, a.k.a. Spanks, a level 42 orc warrior. “I mean, it snows a little there, around Christmas time, but then it goes a way in like a week, and I can mine copper veins all day in the warm desert sun….”

“Conditions for crabbiness are at an all-time high right now”, adds Rayston, “between the snow, the arctic blasts, and the possibility that Favre might retire…its just too much for these people…thank god American Idol started when it did.”

Even children who are normally fond of winter have been deeply affected by 2008’s excruciatingly painful dose. Five-year old Jimmy Timbers shivers as he pulls on his boots for the 1,874th time this season, “If I have to wear that goddamn soggy flap hat one more time, I swear…we’re talking major, major tantrum” He grudgingly heads outside to work on the fourth wing of his three-story snow-fort.   

Bush announced he plans to tour all states affected by this god-awful winter to assess how much tequila and Sedoku puzzles FEMA should ship into the area.  

Mental health professionals add that the area should prepare for high levels of mania in March and April, should the suck-ass winter actually end at that time. This mania is usually evident by UW frat boys wearing shorts and firing up their grills in 40 degree weather.    

Therapist’s disclaimer:  SAD can actually be a serious condition, so if you have more than just the winter blues, ( you know who you are), Leinenkugals and tequila are not the answer….