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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Such a Rake

On Tuesday, my day off, I was determined to be both productive and leisurely. On Monday evening, after returning from a Target Run with the Mrs., I turned to her and said,

"I'm going to take care of all these fucking leaves tomorrow, it's getting ridiculous. I'll probably need a bulldozer. The neighbors are getting restless, I think."

"Meh," my wife said, failing to notice that every lawn on our street is distinctly devoid of fallen autumn leaves, and that our section of the street was littered with rather substantive leafy mountains.

My lovely wife, I suspect, has a similar lack of social awareness that her lovely parents possess. Oftentimes, they are mystified as to why they don't fit in with their affluent neighbors in Providence, R. I. My mother-in-law and father-in-law look great, on paper. They're Jewish, and she's an attorney and he's a psychiatrist, probably just like lots of power-couples in their neighborhood. Of course, there are cracks in the plaster. She's an attorney who wears pink jumpers emblazoned with cartoon pigs, frilly socks, and a handbag shaped like a watering can. He's a psychiatrist, who, even when attired in a sport coat, collared shirt, dress pants and a tie, looks like he just rolled out of bed on a good day, or a dumpster on a not so good day. Their lawn is unkempt, there are often cast-off cars in their driveway, their mentally disorganized dogs haphazardly pull them down the neighborhood streets and bark at unseemly hours of the day and night, sometimes resulting in law enforcement contact.

While my wife and her family are afflicted with the curse of unawareness, I am struck by hyper-awareness. Or maybe it's paranoia. I'm not really sure, but, since I'm as yet undiagnosed, let's stick with the colloquial. I constantly feel the searing stares of others upon me when I do something, or, worse, don't do something. When our lawn is an unfortunate state, I know I am silently being judged by those around us-- older, wiser, more competent, more experienced, more... with it. As I've said before, lawn care doesn't interest me in the slightest, as I suspect it doesn't interest many other people my age who happen to have the good fortune to have a house to maintain. But I know that I'm supposed to give a shit about mowing and raking and trimming, so I do it. As Pooh-Bah says in The Mikado, "it revolts me, but I do it."

And, Tuesday morning, I did it. With a snow shovel.

Now, as I was "raking" my autumn leaves with a tool definitely manufactured for a different purpose and a different season, neighbors passed me by, jogging, walking their children to the elementary school that I attended as a boy, getting into their cars to start their daily commutes, and I couldn't help but think to myself, "Was what they were thinking and saying about me before they saw me cleaning up the street with a snow shovel worse or better than what they're thinking and saying about me now, watching me shovel gargantuan piles of red, brown, orange, yellow, and purple leaves with a snow shovel?"

And I suppose what it all comes down to (my friend) is that I'll never know, just as those around me will never know the vitriolic, frustrated, judgmental sentiments I have about lots of them (especially that bald jerkoff with the black Passat wagon) and what does it all really matter anyway? A lot of the time, I wish that I could operate more like my wife and her family, wandering around unaware of the vast, great distance that separates us from The Joneses.

Or maybe there's a happy medium somewhere in there. But, for a guy who cleans up leaves with a snow shovel, I sort of doubt it.

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