Friday, October 14, 2011

What is this weed?

I've spent the last year trying to figure out how to have a grass-free yard. It's harder than I thought it would be. I covered most of the backyard in a layer of old cardboard and covered that in mulch from the city landfill and in pine needles from Lowe's. Bermuda grass laughed at my efforts. My layer of hard-won mulch was covered in verdure within six weeks.  That's fine, as long as the greenery is low-growing and attractive. The previous owner of this house warned us we'd have to put out herbicide for the weed pictured here. In the absence of a thick layer of grass, it went truly apeshit.  I like it -it hugs the ground and has pretty flowers, but now that it's getting cooler it's starting to die back.

I tried killing off grass by cooking it under black plastic in the hot sun. Not as effective as what I'd hoped. Mulch is expensive and doesn't go very far. Pine straw feels squishy under your feet and while it's a better alternative to mulch because of the price and portability, it's still expensive.  Still working on this one. The mulched/pine straw option also makes it hard to rake leaves. It's fine with me if the yard's covered in leaves, hey it's free mulch, but I don't want leaves blowing into my neighbors' yards over the course of the fall and winter. 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

I Salute The Late Jake Midnight

Jake Midnight died about a year ago. I've written about him before here and here. I met him in the mid-90s, I think in the neighborhood coffee shop. We used to talk about getting out of debt and off the grid. He was more successful than I was with that kind of thing overall, and the chapper is, by the time I finally managed to get a yard and means to some self-sufficiency, he'd kicked the bucket. I was standing in my new backyard telling Vasco, a mutual friend, "I need to get Jake to come look at these trees," and Vasco said "Jake's dead."  In fact, Vasco had been to Jake's memorial service only the week before. I was a little irritated with him for not letting me know Jake was sick in the first place, or letting me know about the memorial service. But that's how it goes I guess; perhaps it was all for the best.

Aside from being entertaining and knowledgeable, Jake truly got excited about helping other people. This past year I've had about 50,000 instances to think "Jake would really be good to talk to about this," or "Jake would help me out with that." And "I wish I'd paid more attention to that song of his he performed that time, those lyrics were really cool, now I'll never hear it again." I'm not saying it wasn't his time to go, or I wish it hadn't happened. I'm just saying I miss him. He was a true character. The afterlife is a better place with him in it.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Significant Others That Aren't People

Earlier this season an episode of Doctor Who made me reflect on a similar situation in my own life. In "The Doctor's Wife," a living woman comes to embody the spirit of the Doctor's beloved TARDIS. As the Doctor's transportation, the TARDIS is an essential component of the Doctor himself. After all, nobody would watch a show about a bored Time Lord who did nothing but stay at home on on Gallifrey and bitch about his desire to be somewhere else.

During the episode the Doctor and Idris, the embodiment of his TARDIS, get to have actual conversations, which has been impossible in the past. They bicker. Sparks fly. Cupids fly about. It becomes clear that they have always been in love, even though the TARDIS has never been a person and before and isn't one again by the end of the show. The spirit of the TARDIS goes back into the police box. It becomes clear why the Doctor is such a loner. His other half is his TARDIS.

I believe I had a similar relationship with Booker Heights, the neighborhood of which I was a longtime resident. And so it began:

In high school I dreamed of escaping the drudgery of my boring, meaningless classes and the dreariness of my after-school job. I dreamed of finding a land where all the other people like me were. One night I and some other friends accompanied Yngwi Gatlinburg on his trip out of town to "a really good record store," as he put it. When I got out of his yellow Datsun on The Street and looked around, the enchantment began. There were people walking around, people standing around smoking and talking, you could hear live music coming from somewhere. Restaurants and stores. It was like an outdoor mall, only with seedy insteady of cheesy for atmosphere. After the record store there was Mexican food to be had at Macho Taco, a restaurant with a hand painted sign and a stage for bands up front. I wound up in there with about half of our crowd while some others, including a gumby boy named J'Bo, ran around outside. J'Bo got to overdoing it on the flailing about, however, and soon Va. arrived to tell us that he fell and was bleeding. Bad. Seconds later he arrived with his hands over his face, and looking over his shoulder in the bathroom, we saw him look at the gash in his upper lip and stick his tongue through it. The helpful staff at Macho Taco thoughtfully called an ambulance. So my initial visit to Booker Heights ended in accompanying J'Bo to the ER.

That was what Booker Heights was like. You never knew how the night would end. It was a breeding ground for adventure. The commercial strip I was first introduced to was surrounded by a residential area slam full of the most varied and inspiring collection of nonconformists anywhere. I had the best conversations of my life there. Amazing incidents of coincidence and synchronicity happened. In high school and college I made regular pilgrimmages to the neighborhood, where I felt I was able to be my truest self. After college I managed to move there. I was devoted, but it was like being hopelessly in love with an unrepentant, unmedicated sufferer of bi-polar disorder. There was poverty and heartbreak too. I got free plane rides with strangers, ex-and future felons for neighbors, all the malt liquor I could stand, and my car vandalized as a result of my relationship with this place. Actual relationships with fellas were difficult as a result of my love of Booker Heights. An autoimmune reaction would occur whenever I became entangled with other fixtures of the social landscape there, drama would ensue, and it would end badly for all parties.

I started this relationship with Booker Heights just before my eighteenth birthday, took time off here and there for educational purposes, and lived there after school until I was 34. At that point I wanted to own real estate, and alas, square footage in Booker Heights had become too expensive. I left. And this time, it was over. Signing those mortgage papers must have been what broke the spell. Whereas before during my sojourns away from it I could feel the neighborhood waiting patiently behind me, secure in the knowledge that I'd come back, this time was different. For the first time, I started getting parking tickets whenever I went back to visit. When I bumped into people I'd known and whose company I had enjoyed for several years, I found I no longer had anything to say and they no longer did either. On a profound energetic level, all ties were severed. My tenure in Booker Heights now seems like a dream.

I miss it, but on the other hand I now have a husband, house, and garden. My life is richer in many ways, so I have no regrets that it's over. My relationship with Booker Heights was a little too dramatic to be healthy. I think the Doctor's relationship with the TARDIS is much more supportive and functional.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Reverse Feed Bag

On Sunday a friend of ours told us about an innovative and inexpensive strategy she developed for keeping vomit off the couch.

This friend, we'll call her Mareva, spent a semester in Ireland when she was in college. Drago, one of her old Irish housemates, is visiting her now, and they came over for dinner.

Mareva told us when she arrived at her student residence in Cork, she walked in to find a roomful of people in various states of out of their minds. Drago introduced himself and offered to share his mixture of hash (the THC, not the corned beef kind) and custard. Some other people were dancing around in the joy of amphetamine abuse and another guy was passed out on the couch drunk.

"That guy's going to vomit," Mareva predicted. He just had that look about him, and a discussion took place among the housemates about what to do. There was a grocery bag on the kitchen table, the plastic t-shirt kind, and Mareva had a brainwave. They decided to loop the bag's handles over the unconscious guy's ears so that the bag was more or less secured in front of his face, while allowing for him to breathe. A reverse feed bag, if you will.

"I couldn't believe it worked," Mareva said. But sure enough, when drunk guy started puking, it all went into the bag.

Mareva and Drago had a lot of good stories about school in Ireland. I was suprised to see that Drago drinks Coors Light tallboys instead of you know, some Irish beer.

In the photo are some chickory plants and blooms in my back yard. Out of all the seeds I planted in that particular raised bed, the chickory was the only thing to come up and do well.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Wrestling Fans 1, Ceramic Clowns 0

I haven't seen my cousin Hoyt in a long time - he's MIA; perhaps he joined the witness protection program. Nobody's seen or heard from him in forever. My old friend Phoenicia and I have been waxing nostalgic about him lately. We've left messages for him at his job but he doesn't return calls. He is on of the most fun people I've ever ever killed time with, so in honor of Hoyt I'm going to dust off this story about him:

In the late 80s my cousin Hoyt was a scrawny-assed kid who drove a big-assed former church van. Eventually the brakes went out on it and he crashed into someone's house, but that was after all this happened:

Hoyt and his friend Cliff were in the van and in search of pro wrestling memorabilia. This memorabilia was located at someone's house waaaaay out in the county on such and such road, and they were looking for it in vain and getting frantic like you do when you're sixteen and thwarted in your search for a movie poster signed by Rowdy Roddy Piper. Cliff suggested they stop at an upcoming house for directions.

A sweet older lady answered the door. She said she wasn't good with directions, but she did invite them in and offered go and ask her son if he could help. They stepped inside and were treated to the most impressive display of weird clutter they'd ever seen. The walls of the home's living room were hung floor to ceiling with shelves, shelves crowded with ceramic clowns.

Sweet Older Lady must have seen the stunned looks on their faces because she beamed and started talking about her clown collection. She pointed to the first one she'd gotten, said it was a wedding gift from fifty million years ago, blah blah blah, I just get up and see them every day and they make me happy - you can imagine the kinds of things a clown-collecting woman would say about her hobby. Pretty soon she was talking to a couple of sets of glazed eyes, but finally she went down a hallway and up some stairs to talk to her son.

She was gone what seemed like a long time. Too long, anyway, to leave a couple of 10th grade knuckleheads alone with all those clowns. Cliff picked up the wedding gift clown and the one next to it and used falsetto voices to make it seem like they were having a conversation about cocaine and hookers. Hoyt became hysterical immediately, then Cliff fell apart because Hoyt was so funny when he laughed like that, but then all the laughter stopped when the wedding gift clown slipped out of Cliff's hand.

They only had time to look at each other before Sweet Old Lady and Burly Middle-Aged Son came down the stairs and saw the shattered pieces on the floor. Sweet Old Lady became Pissed, Outraged Old Lady and her son said he'd give Cliff and Hoyt a two-minute head start before he came after them.

A former church van is not a good thing to get chased in, so they scrambled out the door and Hoyt almost backed into the ditch because he was in such a hurry. They never found the house with the Rowdy Roddy Piper poster. Ultimately that was okay because soon Hoyt outgrew his pro wrestling fan phase, but this phase came back on when he was about 30.

Squirrel Stomachs Are Bottomless Pits

Anybody have ideas about how to keep these guys out of the bird feeder? How can so much food disappear into such a small animal?

Monday, April 4, 2011

My neighbor, Mrs. Brown Snake

Was excited to find this Brown Snake under a paving stone in the yard. I hear they eat slugs. Yesterday was fabulous. I planed 3 Nanking Cherry trees and 3 American Plums. I have raspberry, elderberry, and dwarf blueberries on the way. I wanted to plant some apple trees but now I don't think I'll have the space. I moved a small mulberry tree from the north side of the house near the AC unit to the back yard, where it should get at least a little southern light, even though it will be shaded at least part of the day.

Seedlings are coming up in both raised beds. They need to be thinned out badly, but I'll do that tomorrow. Fortunately I've changed jobs recently and my new schedule should allow for better use of daylight.

No groundhog sightings yet.

I gave up on covering the back yard with mulch. I finally found somebody who could borrow a truck, and we went out to the landfill to get a $20 load. Since she helped me rake and shovel the load off the back of her mom's truck, I gave my friend $20, and paid for an automatic car wash. It seemed like it took forever to move the mulch from the truck bed to the ground. Then I had to shovel it into a wheelbarrow and distribute it over the areas of yard I'd already covered with boxes, most of which had been waiting for mulch since December. It's been looking pretty trashy in our backyard. Once I'd spread it all, I realized that a truckload of mulch is not very much.

A couple of weeks later I realized pine straw is cheaper and easier to transport. I felt like a total dumbass. I'd have made so much more progress by now if I'd had that brainwave a lot sooner.

My most excellent husband bought me two rainbarrels for my birthday, and he installed them while I was at work Saturday. I think they were originally used to ship pickles from India. Gherkins are pickles, aren't they? One of the other barrels said "GHERKINS - PRODUCT OF INDIA" on the side. So that's cool.

I hope in a couple of months we're in good enough shape to have people over.