Friday, November 5, 2010

An homage to a lost friend.

I'm old enough to remember backyard leaf-burnings during the autumn. The smell of a leaf fire was a rite of passage for young people in the 1960s. We'd rake the fallen leaves into a big pile and set them ablaze, then do a gleeful little dance. The embers would scatter into the same wind that brought them to the ground.
The great cycle of life.
At some point in our development as a society, we decided that burning leaves in the backyard was either (or both) an environmental or safety hazard. It's as though our habit was irresponsible, and we are supposed to sit back and marvel at how we never burned the neighborhood down or inhaled enough smoke to go to the emergency room. I suppose we were impervious? Or perhaps now, we tend to think too much.
When leaf-burning became taboo, it gave rise to a new technology - the leaf blower. A backpack contraption, fueled by gasoline that makes more noise than a small aircraft engine. Somehow, this is seen as being better than raking and burning. I missed the memo that told me how spewing exhaust into the air and annoying me with sound was better than raking, smoke and fire.
But we accept it, and even embrace it as a way of life in suburbia, where fallen leaves are viewed with the same disdain as a neighborhood child molester. They must be chased and vanquished, picked up by a truck and taken far away.
I like the look of a browning lawn strewn with leaves. It tells me that the seasons are changing. However, the business of landscapers dies along with the lawns, and they need an excuse to keep hundreds of immigrants gainfully employed, so they bridge the gap between mowing lawns and plowing snow by blowing leaves.
Normally, I'm at work when the blowers are outside my condominium. Today, I had the day off and was awakened at 7:30am by two men with gasoline backpacks (wearing no ear protection) disturbing my planned sleep-in and temporarily cleaning our common area. A quick look up at still-leafy trees tells me that they will be back several more times, moving leaves with forced air. God forbid they mulch them with the lawnmower or (egad) rake them quietly.
If there are companies in the world who make nothing but rakes, I'd guess that they have been nearly forced out of business over the past 20 years. I can only imagine what lies ahead in the leaf-removal technology advancement.
Perhaps a helicopter hovering low over the trees, blowing the weakened leaves off and into a passing truck with a spinning mulching blade? Or a mutant hybrid-dandelion tree with leaves that dry up and blow away? Or maybe a neutron leaf-style bomb that kills the leaves but the trees remain standing?
I miss the rake.
Wherefore art thou, rake?
Your metal teeth and handle
don't make too much noise.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

It's all over but the shouting ... and the complaining.

Just like pulling off a bandage, you have to do it quickly, without thinking. Otherwise, the pain will be too great and you'll just wind up leaving it on until it comes off in the shower. What am I talking about? Voting.
I was at my polling place at 6:35am. Number 6. I waddled into the booth, pushed a few buttons and viola! Off to work.
Incidentally, do you think that something is fishy when you sign that paper receipt with a number on it and they hang it on the back of the voting machine? I do. I think they can trace number 6 to the votes I cast and paste together my voting record. I'm paranoid, but am I paranoid enough?
It's a lot like trying to lose weight, the voting. We vote, thinking that we're doing something good, but we don't really know. It's like eating low-fat food and exercising to try to lose weight. You aren't sure if what you are doing is going to do any good, but you do it anyway.
The ads that ran for the better part of three months were non-stop screaming accusations and made me think that whomever I voted for would wind up being a colossal boob who I wouldn't want house-sitting my cat. I'm not sure that's what Thomas Jefferson wanted me to think about on Election Day, and I'm pretty sure he didn't run ads telling people that John Adams was not looking out for their best interests. I'm pretty sure he had grand ideas about improving the country, unlike the boobs on the ballot today.
It's 8:01pm, the polls are closed and the first results are coming in. With 1-percent of the vote counted, the winner is ... a guy who, in 4 years will be accused of being a boob.
And on it goes.