Thursday, August 13, 2009

The State We're In...

You know, unlike most people I know, I'm darned proud to be from Louisiana. I think our state, while short on morals and political righteousness, is long on culture, and that goes a long way with me. In fact, I think some of the dark and dirty episodes in our political history could probably be traced back to the cayenne pepper-laced culture we are steeped in. 

All that said...There are times when I do have to just shake my head at the unabashed redneck culture of North Louisiana. I think it's being a little too close to Arkansas. But the Ark-La-Tex, and Louisiana's Other Side is just a leeetle bit too diluted for me sometimes.  There are days I wish my grandmother had stayed put down in Lafayette and not wandered up here to water down the Acadian gene pool with some of that Yankee blood. (Yankee here being used very liberally. I don't think I have an ounce of blood in me that originates from a latitude higher than Little Rock.) 

That being said, I wonder if people in Washington or California, or New York, or even Iowa put up with bad grammar on road signs?  There has been threatened construction on a major interstate I use daily.  They have installed those big obnoxious signs that flash updates on the road conditions scattered along the side of the road for miles.  Somewhere there has been a disconnect in the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, because the signs are ready, but the construction obviously isn't.  For weeks, the signs have urged Louisiana motorists to "Drive Safe".  Ugh.  My eyes! My eyes!

There are some things I am a snob about. I admit it.  In my own defense, there are lots of things I am NOT a snob about. (I eat cheese tater tots and drink screw-top wine. Seriously. I think I have a good sense of balance with my snobbery.) Grammar is one of the things I am a snob about. I come from a long line of teachers, readers and writers, who, for whatever reason, managed to escape living in the boondocks in the South without horrible hick accents or pock-marked grammar. Those signs drive me everloving nuts.  But who do you call? Seriously? Can you imagine that conversation?

K: Hello. I'd like to file a complaint.
DOTD: Yeah?
K: The signs on I-49 have unspeakably bad grammar. It should be, "Drive Safe-Leee. Safe-Leee." 
DOTD: Uh, we'll get right on that ma'am. 

Yeah, that would be a waste of time. These are the days when I wish Tell the Times was still in existence. You could always find someone to give a shit on Tell the Times. 

Then, there are moments when the lunacy of Louisiana is just comical.  Shake your head, embarrassed for them comical, but comical nonetheless. Days like yesterday, when I went to the DMV, and caught a glimpse of this before I pulled into the parking
Looking at it now, I can see how people might misconstrue this sign to be offering a very formalized and legally binding version of the sno-cone. At the time, though I obviously picked up on the absurd, (hence the photograph), it was perfectly clear why this enterprising Louisianian was offering a one-stop-shop for more than one incongruous product. And why not? Got your cash for clunkers deal, need the paperwork done, it's hot, have a grape sno-cone.(notice, that's hypenated, and without the W, thankyouverymuch.) Makes perfect sense to me.
And, exhibit B. The signage on the building itself was even more captivating. No words from me. Just look and enjoy.

I did manage to get out of the DMV with a new license and my sanity. In seven minutes. Seriously.  The woman at the desk asked me if I wanted to go ahead and renew since it was almost my birthday anyway.  I was 4 dollars in cash short of the renewal amount so I declined. I was so awed that my number was called after three minutes I wasn't about to risk losing the mojo to go to the ATM.  I also had a fleeting moment of, "Wow...Louisiana must be doing something right. At least at the DMV!"  Then, on the way home, the same or surely related governmental agency bid me, "Drive Safe".  Welcome to Looziana.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Who knew?

I love to mow. Call it genetically inspired, maybe. My dad is an uber grass-cutting phenom. He always said he didn't like to mow, but living on 5 1/2 acres necessitated it. Often. And obsessively. In a certain pattern. Nobody could ever convince us he didn't enjoy it. I still think he likes to mow. And he'll still argue with me that it's just a necessary evil. We agree to disagree in this twenty five year argument.

I have figured out, however, that a woman mowing a yard opens herself up to all sorts of commentary from passers by. Onlookers. I don't really believe that men have onlookers when they mow. But women do. Or, should I say, I seem to.

Years ago when we were living on Centenary Boulevard, I decided I was going to mow the front yard. I got out there and started the job, and quickly got the eerie feeling someone was watching me. How did I get this little feeling? Might have been the binoculars that gave them away, but a herd of college frat boys in the apartment complex across the street thought my playing yard boy was quite the afternoon entertainment. They actually had folding chairs. And beer. In a styrofoam cooler...(in addition to the aforementioned binoculars.) I was banned from front-yard grass duty from then on.

Fast forward to today. We have gone through two yard men in the past six months. The last one was let go because he had the knack for breaking every single piece of yard equipment he laid his hands on. It was an epidemic. We finally had enough of his sacrifices to the Poulan gods, and said enough was enough. Hubby and I decided that we could handle the yard work, at least for the time being. So, today, I was determined to get the lot next to the house cut before Scot got home. I couldn't get to the gym today, so this was to be my exercise. Little did I know it was to be , above all, an exercise in patience and humility.

Got the ipod screaming, the mower revved up, and I was enjoying the annihilation of the grass and the workout. I felt pretty safe. We live at the dead end of a quiet street in a gated community vaguely reminiscent of Stepford. No college kids across the street. Nobody drinks beer on their porch in folding chairs. It was all going according to plan.

What I failed to take into consideration are the other annoyances of a nice little cookie cutter community: the helpful neighbors.

Our neighborhood is fraught with walkers. Dog walkers, power walkers, stroller walkers...Our dead end is the turn around point for every.single.walker. Period.

During the hour and a half it took me to cut the grass in that stupid lot, I got those funny little half amused looks from the flipping walkers. A cross between, "Awwww, isn't that cute. A little lady, mowing the grass." and "Awwww, poor pitiful woman. Pushing that heavy mower. In this heat, bless her heart."

Now, anyone who knows me knows that the only thing I hate worse than being thought of as a cute little anything is being thought of as a weak, pitiful anything. It's a lawnmower, people, not an ancient torture device! I am strong and tough, and frankly was enjoying kicking the grass' butt before your condescending little looks started, thankyouverymuch.

But no, it didn't stop there. If it had, I'm not sure it would have made adequate blog fodder. I guess I looked so darned cute and so darned pitiful that some of the walkers decided they would actually engage me in conversation during my mowing. Somehow the fierce-sweaty face, dark glasses and earbuds didn't give off the leave-me-the-hell-alone vibe I was hoping for. Evidentally, a woman cutting grass has to wear leather and weapons to avoid being a spectacle. Who knew?

The first walker to smile and slow their pace for input on my agronomy skills was a nice older gentleman, pulling a wagon with smiling grandkids. His comment:
G: "You mowing that grass wet?"
K: "Ummm...yeah. It's a little wet."

I was kinda digging weaving in and out of the sprinklers as I mowed. Avoiding the little pop up heads like a whack-a-mole game. The refreshing burst of cool water as I got a little too close...It was all part of the enjoyment of the experience for me. Evidently, men don't mow wet grass. Who knew?

Luckily Mr. Nice Older Gentleman with the wagon was content to simply comment on the obvious and cluck his tongue. Not so for neighbor number two.

With him, I saw the grin coming from down the street. Uppers and lowers. Bared completely. Evidently, in India, women don't mow grass, because he looked at me like I had six arms and a trunk.

I: "You mowing your grass!"
It was a statement, not a question so I tried to nod and continue on. No dice.
I: "Why you not mowing in a straight line?"
K: "Because I like carving my initials in the grass with the mower. And then chopping them up. And you see, there are these popped up sprinkler heads I am avoiding. And fire ants. The poison I put on them hasn't killed them yet. And straight lines are boring. And since the grass is wet, going in swirls and circles is hopefully going to mask the ruts in the yard that will divulge to my husband that I mowed the grass wet. And I am, frankly, just not a straight line type gal."

I didn't actually say all of that. I nodded and smiled, and tried to look grateful for his input. I mowed in a straight line until he rounded the corner. Then I made a large swoop just to spite him.

Final straw was the guy who simply laughed his ass off at me. Unabashedly. I at least admired his honesty. You see, I did mention that this was to substitute for my workout today? Well, the typical workout is a 3-4 mile run at a pretty good pace. So, I had some work to do to get my heart rate up. addition to the ipod and dark shades, I was also wearing my heart rate monitor. No way I was going to sweat that much and not know how many 100 calorie snack packs I had burned! So, by the end of the mowing, I wanted to get my heart rate up a little above the target zone, kinda like a few minutes of sprinting at the end of the run. So I was, ummm, sort of, jogging the mower. Ok, ok. So I deserved the laughs, perhaps. But isn't there some unspoken rule that you have sanctuary from ridicule in your own front yard? Or does that only apply to the back yard?

Oh well. I got the grass cut. I stayed in the target zone for over 90 minutes. I earned enough negative calories for a few glasses of wine to help numb the humiliation.

Anyone know of a good yard man? Yes, I said man. No woman deserves to be made a spectacle of just cause she wants to cut some grass.