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April 30 • 09:02 AM
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Good neighbors, good vibes



shadow
shadow
June 06, 2007
"I'm talkin' about good, good, good, good vibrations..."

When it comes to good vibes, my neighbors are what you might want to call 'groovy.' Hip. They're happening. Right on my front lawn.

The grooves they're in are the washboard kind—the lumps and bumps of my so-called 'grass' that are indeed pretty hip—when it comes to your hip bones rattling. And the good vibes? Well, those would be the ones that rock you from the seat of your pants to the crown of your head when you're sitting atop a riding lawnmover and going to town—well, to the ditch near the road that eventually leads to some sort of town.

Yes. My neighbors Mike and Kathy Clauw mowed my lawn. Actually, it was Kathy—who is the Mario Andretti of riding lawn mowers (Mike plows). Through-out the long mowing season, I've seen her literally taking corners on her 18th-green-at-Augusta-like lawn at speeds that rival any NASCAR veteran. Whether she's in jeans and a t-shirt or bundled up in a hooded sweatshirt and boots, Kathy takes to her iron horse like she was born to ride.

I'd be remiss if I left Mike out of the equation. Mike, the unobtrusive, philosophical one who you can tell spends time pondering this and that and reaches his own peaceful but strong conclusions. Each in their own way, Mike and Kathy live their convictions. And one of them is obviously human kindness.

It starts like this: For the past several weeks I've been lamenting—helpless even—about the sorry state of my so-called lawn and the even sorrier state of my so-called lawn mowing equipment. And the lament leads to downright despair when I evaluate the exceedingly sorry state of my checkbook, thus my inability to do anything about it. For a quick fix—and just for the out front part—I hire the young Iraq War veteran Tom wrote about who's trying to start a landscaping business rather than wash dishes at his dad's restaurant. I tell him Money's An Object and he says he'll do it for $15. Now I know I should jump on it but it just doesn't feel right. Here's this kid who served five years in the Army, a young single dad 23 years old who went to combat for...I don't know what. Now he's out and he's practically going crazy because after months in the desert he doesn't know how to relax. He tells me this as I'm showing him around. No way can I let this kid spend an hour and a half of his time on my so-called lawn and walk away with a 15 measly bucks. So big spender that I am I up it to $25. He actually feels grateful. And so do I. It's nice.

Four days later it's as if he was never there. And that's just the front part. The rest has 'blight citation' written all over it. I realize that I cannot pay anyone—even a kind, respectful single dad Iraq War veteran—$25 a week even to spot mow because I've got the circle and the back filled with trees and plants and all the ensuing intricacies that are a landscaping company's absolute worst nightmare, especially when the client says 'Money Is An Object.'

So, I decide to get off of helpless row—thankfully it's a place I'm unfamiliar with so I don't stay too long—and I wake up and say 'buy a lawn mower that you can afford and mow your lawn.' And I do. I walk away with a 'Husky' 5.5 hp 22-inch deck walk behind with the big grandma wheels on the rear. The guy at the store tells me they make it easier to push. He even makes me feel good that I can't shell out the extra hundred for self-propelled. "If your lawn is the way you say it is you wouldn't want that anyway. Too much slippage," he says. Yeah. Whatever.

So I get home, unload it, set it up and mow. And mow. And mow. And mow. Eight hours worth of mowing over a two day period and that was just the front part. But it's done. And I feel good—well, at least the part of me that I can still feel, anyway.

So a week rolls by and much to my consternation my home returns to that 'abandoned look.' We have hot sunny weather—that is until I get a so-called long weekend which isn't long at all since I have to work on Monday. And it rains and rains. I'm beside myself with frustration dreaming that on Saturday and Sunday I could mow again, get it over with and maybe on Monday when I'm done working actually mess around with some plants or my motorcycle or relax or some such nonsense. Not. After work on Monday I fire up old Husky and start mowing.

Soon before my path Mike appears. I'm hesitant to turn Husky off. In our short and not-so-sweet relationship I've already noticed his stubborn tendency to overheat and sit silently, but I don't want to be rude so I pull the plug. Mike says "what's up with your riding lawn mower?" And I stutter and stammer about and say this and that, all Too Much Information. Mike says, "Kathy'll come and do the front." I say "That's really not necessary" and feel like I'm going to cry. Mike being the strong, philosophical gentleman that he is lets me off the hook by saying "if you want to mow around your trees and all...we hate to see you have to work so hard." And next thing I know there's Kathy making her Mario Andretti moves aruond my strange but beautiful forest of trees. Like some twisted version of the dueling banjos, here we are, two women and our lawn mowers making our own little—well, big—mechanical song. She mows way more than I could have ever asked for and then leaves with a wave of her hand—which I'm sure by now is lacking of all feeling after all the shaky, bone-jarring vibrations her speedster lawn mower put her through. Good, good, good, good vibrations.

They wouldn't be too pleased to know I'm writing this, but I must. They don't do things and expect something in return. They don't judge or comment. They're just there, giving off all those good vibrations.

Email Catherine at

cminolli@pageone-inc.com

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