May 19, 2006

First Person:

No mower

Al Carlos Hernandez

Although I am an indolent middle class person with grown sons, I still mow my own lawn. It’s not like we take any civic pride in our landscaping, we don’t, its showcase, not functional open space. To me, it’s all good, just as long as it’s flat and green, I feel the same way about my IRA.

I consider mowing the lawn, something that needs to be done at the last possible minute, when it looks tall and unruly; I maintain the same philosophy about haircuts. In both scenarios, I’m really happy that something still grows, without the slightest animosity towards weeds or dandelions. I draw the line at squirrels and gophers.

My wife whose only interaction with the front yard, is to drive by it in her Mercedes, insists that we hire a lawn service, who come by and do the lawn on a regular basis this usually happens when you’re not home, giving you the illusion that your grass never grows. I used this argument stating my case for putting in Astro turf, she found the argument disingenuous, and knowing me, I would end up trying to water it.

My bludgeon of choice is a loud gas powered push mower, with a rotating blade. Buying it back in the day was a big deal for us, I remember going to K Mart to buy a part to fix the old school one. My wife said, “Honey buy a new one instead.” That’s when I realized that we were finally middle classic, having enough discretionary bread to trade up from the raggedy push mower that was about as sharp as a serving spoon. The grass was tugged out leaving rude bald spots, rather than neatly buzz cut clipped.

We have had this last mower for about 15 years, and like me it’s been through the crabgrass wars, and has been slowly and steadily rusting throughout the years. Over the last few, it’s been kept outside, because the garage has to fit two cars now, now that the Mojados have moved down the street and maintain a fleet of hoopty imports with homemade tinted windows.

It was May 1st, the day without ignorance, or whatever, that I thought I would do something humbling, so I rolled out the mower and pretended I had a real job, poised to put my chop down.

It started alright, did a few warm-up stripes, and then started to realize that the engine was falling though the frame, because it was rusted. Naturally I kept going, the engine tiled cutting deeper ruts into the lawn, that is when I realized that if I kept going the whole thing could blow up in my face, or the blade could come loose, rendering me Jewish. Killed the engine, adjusted the wheels higher than gave it another pull, it became personal as the lawn was halfway done. Like riding an ailing horse across the finish line, completing its final race before it goes out to stud.

Suffice to say, after a few desperate me running back and forth passes, smoke filling the air, grass and dirt spewed everywhere the engine broke loose fell down through the frame, the lawn looks like a Peking Vanilla Ice Super cut haircut. But I got it done, but now it looks like some schmendrick plowed it instead of manicured it. I hope the new neighbors with Chicano car lot, don’t come by and plant corn.

Putting the old unit out to pasture, plan to salvage the still strong brigs and Stratton engine, hoping to give it to a teenager to make a mini bike or a go cart.

I’ve reached a crossroads, and have decided to buy a new mower hopefully with a V8 this time, because I still want to do the lawn. I find a certain dignity in working with my hands; it is my last real connection to mother earth and the tradition of my forefathers who worked on Hawaiian plantations.

My first real work study job in community college was being a gardener. I would put my campus radical Mack down during the day with coquettish coeds, then pulled out the hedge clippers and rakes while those students who didn’t have to work went to the mall.

I learned certain humility about work, like folks say in Oakland, “It’s not What you do, It’s How you do that counts”.

Al Carlos Hernandez writes from Hollywood.

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