MOVarazzi

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

722. Bring Back The Jungle

Our next-door neighbor, Mr. Constantine, is the nicest guy on the planet.  He always waves and says hello.  He immediately walks the mail over when it’s been mis-delivered.  He shovels the snow off his sidewalk right after it snows.  He retrieves his trash cans the minute the trash trucks have pulled away. 

But for some reason, other than clipping an occasional wildflower, he does not keep up his lawn. 
The reason is:  he is 90 years old. 

Now, before you email me saying that I should offer to help him, let me tell you I already thought of that.  The first week we lived here, I said to myself, “We should really help him.”  Then I begged The Husband to go over and mow his lawn for him.  The Husband reluctantly agreed.      
The Husband spent the next six hours cutting his way through grass that was taller than most second graders.  When he was finished, the yard looked like a golf putting green, or at least like a normal lawn. 

This random act of suburban kindness did not go over well.  Mr. Constantine was at our doorstep within minutes.
“Why did you mow my lawn?  I like it that way.” 

That was the day we learned not to be such control freaks.  (Well, The Husband learned.  I’m still learning.)  The Husband and I had a long private discussion later about elderly people maintaining their independence.  So what—he wants to pretend to take care of his own yard by cutting down a few wildflowers?  Let him.       
Not only did the grass grow back, but bushes and trees and various plant life forms grew up and around the house, like a soft green blanket.  We knew that under there somewhere was a house, but heck if we could see it. 

The backyard was even worse.  There was a solid six foot wood fence between our properties, so we could not really see what was going on back there; however, various vines grew up and over the fence into our yard.  The vines grabbed fiercely onto our trees and tried to choke them.  We called a professional landscaper who recommended cutting back anything that was on our side of the fence. 
“Those vines will kill your trees,” he said, a Prophet of Doom in a “Trees ‘R Us” t-shirt.  “It’s your responsibility to make sure that doesn’t happen.” 

For the next two years, The Husband worked diligently to keep our side of the fence safe from rogue homicidal vines. 
We could see more of Mr. Constantine’s backyard from our second story window, even more when we used our 125x zoom binoculars.  Turns out, he had dozens of green clumps of something, maybe they were bushes or trees.  There appeared to be some sort of water feature, possibly even a pool.  Small animals were nestling in every green crevice.  We were sure we saw a monkey.  If you’ve ever been to Disneyland and gone on the Jungle Cruise ride, you have an idea of what we were dealing with.

Looking at his yard from that second story vantage point, we realized that his landscape issues were of epic proportions. 
We did what anyone would do in our situation:  we shut the blinds. 

Last week, the neighbor on the other side of Mr. Constantine complained to the city about Mr. Constantine’s backyard.  City officials showed up, had a brief chat with Mr. Constantine, and the next thing you know there were four illegal immigrants chopping down anything green behind the fence. 
The boys and I scurried to our second floor window to get a better look at the “progress.”  When the workers were done, the yard was a pitiful dirt pit with a few trees and an algae covered pool.  Now we could also see a shed or pool house back there, that apparently had been hidden.  The walls were falling down. 

We noticed a decrepit garage.  The roof had caved in. 
For the first time, we could see beyond Mr. Constantine’s house to the industrial buildings in the distance, buildings that had been obscured by lovely branches.  Neon lights that were always there now blink and flash and assault our eyes. 

Last night, The Husband lowered the window shade of our upstairs window. 
“What are you doing?  The yard is cleared out now.  Why are you closing the shade?” 

“I don’t want to see it.  I miss the jungle.” 
MOV

18 comments:

  1. Maybe all the vines were holding the buildings up? I'm sad for Mr. Constantine. It was very good of you to want to help him. It seemed like the logical response. I'm sorry that the city's "gardeners" weren't as careful or considerate. There is a fine line between "landscaping" and "desolation."

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    1. couse, I think that is exactly it: the vines were holding the building up! I do miss the green......

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  2. Oh, this made me sad for Mr. Constantine. We had lots of elderly neighbors where I grew up and I thought of them all as friends because they liked when I would come over and eat all their cookies. (at least I like to think they did...) My dad mowed the whole block, I think.

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    1. your dad is a good guy. I hope you saved a cookie or two for him!

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  3. The grass is not always greener on the other side!

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    1. true! it could be a pool house that has fallen to the ground underneath there.

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  4. We got tired of seeing our neighbors overgrown yard and cut it also and they were furious. Needless to say, we didn't do it again. After that, they let it overgrow even worse just to aggravate us.

    Some people's children...

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  5. Love this post. It's a great story about how we get used to things, how we prejudge people and how to have compassion. Thanks.

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    1. wow, thank you for the kind words. The post was meant to be about my selfishness and also my desire to eat large amount of girl scout cookies, but I like what you thought it meant better.

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  6. That's so sad. But - it WILL grow, it MUST grow. Nature abhors a vacuum.

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    1. we can always bring in the dolphins......... I hear there is a pool over there.

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  7. This is such a sweet, sad story.

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  8. Mr. C likely understands this, but it's not just the independence to have his surroundings the way he likes them. I LIKE WEEDS. They are strong, healthy, vibrant, grow anywhere and are damned hard to kill off. They have an innate beauty and grace because it's almost like they know they're not supposed to even be, but they are. I am always letting them go nuts on the fringes of my back yard, but my better half has a nasty (but funny) habit of oulling them up and leaving their little leafy dead bodies in the middle of the patio, like a kitty leaves a dead mousie to be admired. Cracks me up every time. I have a vision of Mr. C's yard and the one in my head is lush, overgrown, messy, verdant, beautiful and pumping out oxygen like crazy. When I was a Boy Scout, my troop helped to clear out a seriously overgrown corner lot belonging to an elderly woman who was being forced to move. We worked all day, leaving the lot looking clean... but the soul of the place was gone. I remember the woman walking around, looking stunned and out-of-place, she was gone soon after. I liked it better before we touched the place. Thanks for this post!

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    1. oh, I feel sad for the Boy Scout you, working so hard and then having to see her sad face.......

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  9. I really liked this post. A meaningful lesson, I think...

    Also, I just wanted to say that I've been absent from reading blogs for about a week or so, and I just caught up on all of yours! SO MANY great posts lately, I laughed a whole ton. Keep up the good writing! =)

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    1. thanks ellen. and thanks for your sweet words about my recent posts. :)

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