the other man

I have finished the desultory mowing of the putative lawn.  I know, this does not sound promising.  I was told I would mow or someone would be hired for the task.

Uhoh!  The pool boy!!  We all know what the pool boy means from trashy romances.  (Note to self:  find out if this is a community property state.)  The pool boy is dark-eyed, lithe, maybe even slinky, and he glides when he walks;  he is always wearing a bright red thong - even when he mows.  "Is that package for me?" asks the coy housewife... 

"I am going out to mow now!"  I announced loudly.

The fellow-to-be-hired has always hung over my head, a sharp weapon indeed when thrust at a skinflint.  Skinflints are notoriously easy game; threaten their finances and they fold like an empty wallet, going all easy and flat.  'Why hire it done if you can do it yourself?'  asks the 80 year old man who has just fallen off his roof and is being interviewed by AARP lawyers in ICU.  'Who can we sue?' they ask one another.  'Watch that nurse!  She looks inept.'  'Take notes,' says the senior advisor.

The lawn didn't used to be merely putative; I am reminded of that at all-too-frequent intervals.  When we moved in here, ten years ago?, the place had a nice lawn, even formal gardens.  All this is gone now.  On Zoe's last visit she was staring out the window at the chicken coop and said to me, in Pat's presence unfortunately, "You have a talent dad.  You can take an otherwise nice home and turn it into something that looks like a commune, and you work really hard at it."  Oh, Pat glommed onto that like a chicken on a worm.  The word came up in reference to the lawn today.  When I was younger commune was a legitimate word of hope and expectation.  Now it seems to mean that Ma and Pa Kettle have arrived in the neighborhood. 

My many projects have left some scars on the grounds.  I will admit that, but not that these scars are a blight.  Everyone should have stacks of old usable lumber, and an additional stack of scrap that will someday be converted into firewood.  'Waste not, want not', I mutter into my beard, the careful steward.  And if the ground is torn up a bit here and there due to building excavations, then that is simply a sign of a property owner who isn't about to rest his fat butt on his little laurels.  And who wouldn't build their compost bins out of old pallets given the price of new lumber?  Gimme a break!  Tractor-tire divots in the grass?  Hey, when the lawn grows in and you mow it all looks even again.  Good as new.

What it comes down to is that I have been made privy to a secret.  It need not have remained a secret for twenty-five years but for my own lack of vision.  Her charms have caused me, for an entire quarter of a century, to glance aside when the truth impinged.  Her wit, intelligence, superb culinary skills, dogged loyalty, athletic prowess in more personal realms - all have clouded my sight terribly.  I now see that Pat is not just a socialist with some rather provocative ideas.  No, she is simply middle class, a flat out bourgy with faux aspirations to egalite et fraternite...  ah, the horror!  She cares what other people think!  Imagine that.  All these years I imagined I was hooked up with a trailer-park-queen with a to-hell-with-convention outlook - and she wants the lawn mowed.  And my blindness is, I confess, self-induced.  She hid nothing from me; I just always thought she was kidding.  What a dream we live in.

Standing by the bed, still befuddled by sleep, I look down and see I am holding the fat pink sausage of myself in my hand, maybe two-thirds erect.  I am warm and feel as full-bodied as a fine Merlot.

Pat stands across the bed from me putting on her swimsuit; it is almost time for her water aerobics class.  She looks up, her eyes grow round and she gives a small gasp:  "Oh, my god!"  

We smile at each other and both laugh.  She knows the tried and true response, maybe more than half play-acted, but nonetheless earnest, laded with goodwill.  As if it were twenty-five years ago she utters the loyal response that I long for - even now.  Times like this being a male is so simple.

We will search for a consensus.  Everybody gets to vote and each vote is counted as equal.  She may get to water aerobics, she may not; there will be no damaged egos, hurt feelings or simmering insecurities regardless.  In which decade did those all dissolve?  I cannot recall.  The earth spins on it's axis; it is driven, like love, by the inertia of it's past movements.  The important thing is that from this spinning we are not thrown off into the cold vacuum of lonely space by stoppage.  We are rooted in affection, our gravity.  Whether this morning's affection, perhaps only a coax or two from fruition, will blossom now, or in October is nothing that need be rushed.  We have all the time in the world for this one moment.

I think of others our age who are spun off into the cold dark, by the death of a partner, the most irreconcilable sort of stoppage.  We have each said we hoped the other dies last - aren't we a fun lot?  The diary goes on, everyday beginning with the simple statement:  "We both still breathe and live; life is good."  Who could possibly be embarrassed by one pink sausage when events of such weight impact?

We have been to the Common Ground - what a fine name!  The three day fair run by MOFGA is ending at this very moment up in Unity, Maine, ending on a drizzly-wet day that probably did not lower attendance a whit.  Such a gathering of talent,  good intentions, and goodwill is seldom seen.  I doubt any other state has a fair this real and relevant.  MOFGA's basic premise is that not just agriculture, but all of our existence, can be sustainably healthy.  The vendors are all like-minded on organic methods of farming, energy conservation and the care which we need to take of one another and our land.  Best of all, I think, it doesn't have that phony taint that comes from commercial interests feigning interest while prospecting the market for new, profitable venues that just a little misspeak and a few exaggerations could slide them into, with a few of the old products repackaged as 'healthy'.  A fair of this sort would have all too much of that input in a place like California.  The thing I saw at the Fair that made this point most strongly for me was the one children's ride offered:  a long grassy slope and sheets of cardboard; it was a sliding sea of giggles and whoops.

We did not get to the Fair the way we planned, arriving in Snooky as volunteers to spend a few days in communal tuning.  No one has such poor planning capabilities as the Forsey-England's.  All we needed do was get the volunteer aps in by the eleventh, tell our sitter when to arrive, and be off.  Not even that was managed.

We are getting a new oil burning furnace installed soon, before it gets colder.  It is very exciting as the new furnaces burn just over a gallon of oil per hour vs. the 2 or 3 gal/hour of  our old burner.  This furnace was driving me crazy; all summer it keeps going on constantly just to keep the reservoir of hot water up to temp.  I had turned that setting down to 140f but was getting death-looks in regard to the tepid shower temps.  (Tell your children: Never marry a sybarite.)  At 160f the damn furnace goes on constantly.  Burning oil in the summer - sheesh!  The new furnace just has a tiny reservoir with a huge coil and acts as an on-demand system.  Very neat.  Frugal me.

The one expensive thing I bought at the Fair is a permanent chimney sweeping device that works off a pulley up top and the brushing part lives in the cleanout, at the bottom of the flue; it is all run by hand via a stainless steel chain.  The chimney can be swept completely in a couple of minutes without going up on the roof, even with the furnace on. It is also used by fire departments for snuffing out chimney fires. I don't like going up on the roof and had the $400 in hand, so...  I do have to go up once to install this, but that should not take but a couple more minutes than climbing the ladder up and back.

And I got the huge pile of limbs stacked from clearing the woods out front ground into about 4 cubic yards of chips.  A third of hese have gone around the berry patch over wetted cardboard for organic weed and erosion control.  While we haven't had many red raspberries this first year the 20 canes have grown well;  I am getting offshoots several inches out from the roots I put in and have written the nursery (Nourse Farms) to see if I can take these sprouts and start new beds.  The 40 feet of purple passion asparagus have done well, too; I first feared that spending all of June in standing water would impede them.  Some of the plants are putting out berries and I thought I might try growing from them to make more beds.  That seems more fun than mail-order, though I think Nourse sells fine plants.

Out in the greenhouse the cukes have all been taken out and spinach put in.  The eight one dollar each seeds turned to 8 plants that must have put out a hundred pounds of very sweet cukes, more than we could ever eat.  I find they need to be pruned and trellised; the way I let them go they had headed for the greenhouse doors and were growing out into the yard.  The back third of the place is still in thrall to the tomatillos; they too know no bounds when it comes to being feverishly fecund.  I find the fruit have been dropping off  and going to waste under the thick canopy.  Some are starting to come into the house now and we will have a pot of chile verde tomorrow.  I have also got beets for greens, beets for roots, carrots, cabbage, broccoli and brussel sprouts started.  I am a bit doubtful on the brassica; they may have gone into the ground too late and may not be as cold tolerant as I first hoped.  I absolutely loathe brussel sprouts but things taste so different fresh that I am willing to change my attitude.

Outside the temp dropped to 25f for one night - greenhouse went to 40f, and pretty well did in the garden tomatoes.  We got one ripe fruit from many plants this year.  Lots of large green fruit are hanging.  I left them on the vine hoping they would weather the frosty temps and ripen, hoping as well that we don't get another frost for a couple of weeks.  It looks like some of them made it; others turned dark colors and fell victim to gravity's charms.

Suppose I could go on and on, but you probably tire of  such quotidian concerns, and this is getting somewhat long.  The dogs are gimpy but healthy, the cat a ferocious hunter of pinkies, the cluckers well, and Pat and I are fine.  The best to you.  don and pat.

Pat here with a couple of amendments. The pool boy in the thong is no fantasy of mine.  Think rather of Pierambrogio, the 20 year old driver-mechanic who comes with the Maserati  mc 12 which I will commission after I have lost my license.  He will speak very little English, but will be able to understand simple commands like “faster!”

I’m surprised that Don could talk about the Common Grounds Fair and not mention the food.  Wood oven whole-wheat pizzas with organic goat cheese!  Kebabs made from lambs who actually had a chance to gambol!  All manner of apple goodies served forth with great good cheer!  Another world.  A better world!

I occasionally come off as carping and fretful in these letters.  If I am so, it’s because I feel somewhat fragile, buffeted by Don’s rampaging enthusiasms.  He means so terribly well, and I am only mortal.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.  

This page was last updated: September 27, 2009