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Tuesday, June 28, 2011


I can have an ethical dilemma, even about hedges.

During our honeymoon in Bali, ethical dilemmas confronted us everywhere we went. In the artsy city of Ubud, it was the ethical dilemma about whether or not we ought to haggle on the street with a vendor with three teeth and five children to get an $11 painting down to $6.

In beach-front Lovina, it was the ethical dilemma of whether or not we should participate in the environmentally unfriendly, exploitative tourist-trap of going out into the Pacific Ocean in a tiny little boat, racing a bunch of other tiny little boats crammed with a bunch of sweaty Australians for the chance of seeing a few dolphins.

Back in Ubud, it was the ethical dilemma of whether or not to spend time at a dog shelter, playing with dogs we knew we would never even be permitted to adopt, even if we were crazy enough to do so. I fell in love with a dog named Bruno, and I donated $25.00, and bought a bumper sticker that said, "I <3 Bali Dogs" that my Focus wore proudly until the red heart faded to pink, and we traded the car in for my wife's Fit.

"Look," I would say to my wife as we fought ass-crack sweat tramping down unfamiliar streets, trying not to get hit by mopeds or eaten by feral dogs, "I just want to have a good time-- I don't want to have an ethical dilemma about everything."

An every-now-and-then ethical dilemma can, of course, be a good thing. It means we're not sociopaths, and that's kind of a good thing not to be. Too much of that horseshit, though, can be mentally and physically draining, as we found out many miles away in Indonesia.

Which brings me back to Pennsylvania, and our hedges.

We bought our house February of 2009. Our house is a charming little twin, built in 1928-- good bones. It has no lawn to speak of, certainly none that requires mowing-- it's all pachysandra. There are, however, hedges that ring the edge of our property, and run all the way down the side of our house, separating it from the neighbor's abode, and these hedges do require some suburbanite upkeep.

Otherwise, neighbors look at you. They keep the tsk-tsk'ing quiet, but their looks are loud.

Since we moved in, I have been tending to our hedges with a pair of manual hedge-clippers. You know the type-- they look like gigantic scissors. In 2009, these fuckers worked like the dickens. Nice and sharp, they sliced through those leaves and little twigs like a champ. Last year, I noticed that they had definitely lost some of their vim and vigor-- or I had. Really, though, I blame the hedge-clippers. Their blades were dull, the nut-and-bolt that held them together was loose and tenuous. Sure, I could have taken them to some hardware store and had them sharpened, probably for half the cost of what I paid for them in the first place, but I didn't think that was very smart. So, like a smart person, I persisted in trimming my hedges throughout the summer of 2010 with dull, fucked up hedge-clippers.

This late spring and summer, which has been unusually hot and unusually rainy, I have trimmed the hedges three times already. And, from the first snip, I knew the manual hedge-clippers days were numbered. On Sunday, I noticed that our hedges, after being trimmed last weekend, were sprouting bizarre, wayard leaf-arms, extending from the even base.

"Listen," I said to my wife, "I can't do it anymore. I'm going to ask my father if I can borrow his fucking electric hedge-trimmer."

Because, really? I didn't want to have an ethical dilemma about it anymore.

Sure, I'm still relatively young and (don't snigger) strong-- and, really, I should be able to take care of our hedges with a set of manual hedge-clippers. But, in temperatures that routinely hover at around 90, with humidity constantly over 80% and little gnats landing in your ears and sweat stinging your eyes-- why the fuck should I? Because an electric trimmer wastes electricity? Because it adds to the already increasingly nascent amount of noise pollution that is plaguing our neighborhood?

Look, whether I use the electric trimmer or not-- this one's still power-washing her deck with a gasoline-based machine, this one's using a power-mower, this one's buzzing her grass with a weed-whacker. There are rotating blades and little engines all over the fucking place. And, if one more is going to help me get the hedges done in half-an-hour instead of an hour-and-a-half so that I can spend more time doing something I actually give half-a-turd about: I'm all for it.

My father dropped off the electric trimmer Sunday afternoon.

"Here you go, Mummy," he said, handing it over to me like it was a golden calf, "and here is the power wire (see: extension cord) it's 100 feet."

"Thanks," I said.

"Now, Mummy-- you have used it before?" he asked, his brow furrowed in anticipatory concern.

Desperate to be spared of a lengthy tutorial in his loud and dubious version of English I lied and said, "Oh, yeah-- a couple times."

"Okay, good-- but listen, this is a trick I learned from Dr. Porter-- always, always run the cord through your belt loop, that way it is impossible for you to slice the cord with the blade."

Oh, Dr. Porter. Our next-door neighbor when we were growing up. An ancient, five-foot-tall troll-like humanoid with thick, black glasses, a nose that looked like the hood of a Volkswagen, and suspenders that hiked up his trousers to his nipple-line. He used to refer to my mother (to her face) as "The Bod" and, in casual conversation, he would routinely ask neighborhood kids if they were "getting any." He was a thoroughly ridiculous individual, but, nevertheless I heeded his safety warning. After all, how could you ignore a self-preservation tip from a man who fell off an eight-foot ladder into a honeysuckle bush below while trying to get a raccoon out of a tree with a broomstick?

No ethical dilemmas for that sonofabitch.

1 comment:

  1. Posts like this reinforce my belief that you are approximately 453% better at writing than me. From Bali to your hedges.


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