Have Yourself an Ambivalent Little Christmas


The Golden Age of Spam

Will the Real Renaissance Please Stand Up?

My Life of Crime

My Life of Crime, Pt. 2: The War of the Dandelions

Black (and Blue) Friday

Going Home

How Not to Celebrate a Holiday

Traffic Report Fall Down
and Go Boom

O, Holy Weekend

You Mean My Vote Actually Means Something?

Side Disorders

Lessons for Hurricane Preparedness as Taught By Example in Raleigh, North Carolina

You Mean My Vote Actually Means Something?, Pt. 2: Are They Gone Yet?

The Last Reality Show

It Builds Character

Sink the Flu

WTF (in C Major)

Intruder Alert

Kneel before Za

I Got Your Breaking News Right Here, Pal

Christmas in July...or April...or maybe even December


Why I Hate "The Little Drummer Boy"

My Life of Crime

My wife and I have embarked on a life of crime.

I was informed of this in no uncertain terms recently by the town government for the town I live in. I received this letter with official letterheard which stated "NOTIFICATION OF VIOLATION". Actually, the words were in mixed case, but I'm trying to convey how bloody huge these letters were. It was in something like 36 point type, using the Courier font, which meant the line looked like it had been written using the Jolly Green Giant's typewriter. I can only imagine trying to type on a typewriter big enough to create letters that size. Have you ever seen cartoons that show an ant or some similar creature typing by jumping from key to key? I picture a man doing that with a typewriter the size of a large desk.

The rest of the page was in normal-sized letters, which is good because otherwise the letter would have been twenty pages long. It detailed the law in question, stated we had broken it, and explained the potential punishment for hoodlums such as us.

The great thing is the crime which my wife and I committed.

We didn't mow the dandelions.

You will note that I don't say that we didn't mow the grass. That's because I don't think my lawn actually has any grass. There are dandelions all over the damn place, as well as tons of clover. There's also a patch of poison ivy in one corner of the back yard, but we're working on that. But actual grass? There may be a couple of blades where our yard touches the neighbors', but that's about it. Put simply, our lawn is yellow.

Some of you may be wondering why we let the dandelions get so high, or for that matter why we let dandelions take over the yard in the first place. To answer the first question, my wife was organizing a charity auction for the cat shelter she does volunteer work at. I can't really do much yardwork because of horrible allergies, and she didn't have time for it.

As for the latter, this is best explained by telling you the nickname my wife has given herself: "The Darwinian Gardener". Her approach to the yard is this: She plants things; if they can't survive, screw 'em. This isn't entirely true (she does "deadhead" the roses on occasion...I have no clue what that means but I've been assured it has nothing to do with Jerry Garcia), but she isn't one of these people who spends every Saturday in the garden for hours at a time. So if dandelions take over the lawn, it takes a long time before she gets fed up with it and starts trying to kill them. In fact, she decided about a week before we were informed of our criminal ways that it was finally time to do something about them, which means it takes her slightly under a decade to make such a decision.

I do, incidentally, do one thing in the yard, which is that killing the poison ivy is my job. I do this for a couple of reasons. The first is that my wife had a traumatic experience with the poison ivy in our yard. She used to not be allergic to poison ivy, and found out that she had become allergic to it after spending an afternoon weeding it by hand; she now refuses to go anywhere near it. The second is that the poison ivy killer (ivy poison?) we have squirts out of a nozzle that is vaguely gun-shaped. It's great fun do the Walter Mitty thing and pretend I'm fending off the invading Plant Monsters of Venus while squirting the poison ivy with this stuff. I was almost glad this spring when some more poison ivy sprang up after we had seemingly eradicated the threat last summer. It meant I got to play some more.

Anyway, the dandelions got above a certain height, and we got cited for it. We got this notification on a Saturday (ironically, about two hours after my wife had finished mowing the dandelions), which is a good thing. It gave me two days to calm down before calling the city government about it. This saved several people the trouble of hearing some very creative and very vulgar profanities. It's not just that fact that I'm a typical American who doesn't like being told what to do (the fact that people should cut their grass doesn't change the fact that this is a really stupid law). It's the idea of how you would enforce such a law that irritated me. The way I saw it, there were two ways this could have happened. First, a neighbor would have had to complain. Nobody spoke to me first. If you talk to me and I refuse to do anything about it, I can't complain when you inform the authorities. But don't go running to mommy and daddy without first trying to be an adult and discuss the problems with me directly.

The second possbility was that the town actually hires someone to be the Lawn Police and drive around looking for people whose yards have grown too much. This is a town of fewer than 20,000 people. Between the average number of people per household, the number of apartments in town, and the fact that you need to glance at a lawn for less than two seconds to see if it's a suspect, you could probably drive by every single house in town in a single day. The idea of a government official driving by my house every day to check out my lawn is creepy. That's not Lawn Police; that's Lawn Gestapo. On Saturday I was actually trying to shake the rust off the five semesters of German I took in college so I could curse the Lawn Gestapo out in his native tongue. I came up with "Leck mich am Arsch, Rasennazi! Diese ist ein freie Land!" -- I probably blew some of the declensions (it's been fifteen years since I graduated, and I finished those semesters halfway through college), but I'm sure I could have made my point. I was prepared to use this phrase if I found out the town really does pay someone to look for this sort of thing without it being reported to him first. Heck, I was prepared to use it before finding out. After fifteen years I was quite proud of having actually being able to communicate even this vulgar an idea in German.

But by Monday morning I had calmed down enough to speak to the person who wrote the letter in a civilized fashion, not to mention in English. I politely informed him that we had in fact mowed the lawn before we received the letter. And we asked how we came to get the citation.

It turns out that they don't have a full-time Lawn Gestapo, nor did someone rat us out. The truth lies somewhere in the middle: Someone had filed a complaint about someone else in our neighborhood, and the inspector had to drive by our house to get to that house (we're one of the first houses on the street). He felt it wouldn't be fair to refrain from citing our house when he was citing another for the exact same thing. Sigh. I suppose he had a point, but it's still pretty aggravating to know that we wouldn't have gotten this citation had we lived a little farther down the street.

Because it's a first offense and we took care of it, there's no fine. But that's not the point. The point is, I've been branded. I am a criminal. And now that I've been pushed across that line, I see no need to stick to the straight and narrow anymore. Since I've already lost my good reputation, I've got nothing left to lose. I might do anything at this point.

In fact, just to show society what it's done to me, from now on I'm going to park my car more than twelve inches from the curb.

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