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The Lawnmower Chronicles – Episode 11

This is the new addition to the house – a screened-in porch. Bugproof. Luxurious, right?

This may be the final edition of The Lawnmower Chronicles this season. I only mowed the front lawn, however, because the construction of the new porch means many things are lying around in the back yard. And truthfully, the back yard is really not in need of mowing, so I may let it lie for the rest of the winter.

As I cranked up the engine and began criss-crossing my way across the lawn, the sad little man with the sad little dog went walking by. He lives somewhere up the block from me. He scares me a little. His dog looks like it weighs about seven pounds, and one of its ears was flapped back against its head this day. It hardly seems like it needs its leash. The man and the dog are in perfect sync with one another: the man strolls at a slow pace, and the dog walks very precisely behind him, with enough tension on the leash that it does not drag on the ground, but enough slack that he does not choke. I see this pair often, walking down one side of the street and coming back up the other. I have noticed lately a number of older gentlemen walking small dogs around the neighborhood. I fear I may become one of them, a man whose daily highlight is walking a small dog down the street.

My lawn is in sad shape at the end of another summer. I do not so much mow the lawn really as suck up leaves. Watching the new porch go up made me once again painfully aware how completely incompetent I am at building things. I do not like middle-class life, and despite the fact that I like my house very much, I hate being a homeowner. As I was chatting with the carpenter building  my porch, a very affable man probably in his late 40s with a daughter just starting college, he was giving me tip after tip about how to take care of small things around the house. He admired my roof and the choice of interlocking shingles I had made. He told me how to prevent an ice jam up in the corner of my roof: take some panty hose, fill them with calcium flakes, and throw the filled-up hose into the gutters around the troublesome corner. The snow will melt away like magic and head on down the gutters. He was quite impressed with my big tree in the backyard, mostly because he has no idea what kind it is. No one does. I felt the need to reciprocate all the good advice I got from him, but I felt he had no need of tips to hone his acting technique.

There is fall maintenance to be done. The air conditioner needs to be wrapped up. The wife suspects one of the basement walls is leaking, but she is prone to exaggerating everything, and like the good Italian she is, everything becomes a disaster waiting to happen. As she sees the porch go up, the “honey-do” list is recited, containing a collection of errands I will do my best to put off in the next few weeks. Part of the backyard nearest the house has become a dirt patch. The pop-up camper is still set up – I never did get the ad into Craigslist to sell it. There is literally grass growing in my shed because a bag of grass seed opened up onto the extremely damp floor, and the seed sprouted. I consider running the mower over it.

Most of the leaves now have turned yellow. MacBeth’s line – “My way of life has fallen into the sear, the yellow leaf” – sticks in my head. I get the front lawn done just as a little rain shower passes. The temperature is actually warm, around 60 degrees, yet the wind howls and makes it feel much chillier. The gas in the lawnmower will have to be stabilized for the winter. I consider once more the backyard. Too many things in the way. It can keep until spring, I decide.

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The Lawnmower Chronicles – Episode 10

I let two weeks go by without mowing. The back yard was not too tall, but the front yard was actually quite thick. I was surprised to see how thick the grass actually was. This is a tricky time of year, as in these parts it could just as easily snow tomorrow as any other type of weather. So far, no freeze or frost warnings have been issued, so the grass is still growing. As I pull the lawnmower out of the shed I spend a few minutes thinking about how to re-arrange the space, and when to pull out the snowblower so I can get the scooter in there for the winter.

My daughter needs a car, but she can’t afford one, so I spend some time figuring out how to scrape up enough cash for her so she can buy a decent used car. Watching children trying to make their way in the world these days is rather difficult. The economy is terrible for young people, as is the pace. I raised my children in a leisurely fashion, and I think that’s coming back to haunt them. They can’t adapt to the faster pace of today’s society. There seems to be no “middle ground;” you’re either in a minimum wage job or you’re in some sort of high-pressure situation. No middle ground 

I took the time to move the scooter off the front walk, so the front lawn goes quickly. Back and forth, row after row, until it’s done. There are apples along the curb from the children across the street, who have taken to rolling apples from their applre tree into the street in an effort to see them crushed under the wheels of an oncoming car. The curb also has a lot of weeds along it. They can stay there as far as I am concerned.

The backyard goes slower because there is no easy pattern. The popup camper that I failed to sell this summer (mostly because I hate having to transact business with other people) poses an obstacle that has to be worked around. I begin to think about why it’s so difficult for me to get rid of things. I have a third car in my driveway I don’t need, but I hang on to it as an “emergency” car just in case someone else will need it, maybe one of my kids or my nieces. But I know it’s because there is effort needed to get rid of things: listing the item, taking phone calls, having scammers bother you, being available to show the item off. All just things I think I don’t have any time for.

Even mowing the lawn is being done under pressure. The rain is supposed to come the next day, and if I don’t squeeze in the lawn now, it won’t get mowed for the next few days. Everything these days seems to be about that. I can’t even find time to get a haircut, and my barber always has four people deep in his waiting area. I look like something your cat dragged to the door after three days away from home.

The birds are eating seed like crazy. It’s the sparrows, dove, and wrens that I feed, not the fancy colored birds. Occasionally a cardinal, occasionally a nasty blue jay, occasionally a pretty finch. But mostly sparrows, doves, and wrens. That seems to be an apt metaphor for my entire life and career to this point. I empty the bag of grass cuttings into the plastic garbage can, wondering if I will get to point at any time soon of bringing it down to the city mulch pile. Probably not. There are many other more important life errands to run that require me to figure out a way to delay them. As I put the lawnmower away, I see that the small snowblower I should sell sits off in the corner. I think it’s grinning. Or begging. Or weeping just a little bit.

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Why the Washington Post’s Attack on Bernie Sanders is Bunk


The Washington Post just ran an attack on Bernie Sanders that distorts not only what he’s
saying and seeking but also the basic choices that lie before the nation.  Sanders, writes the Post’s David Fahrenthold,
“is not just a big-spending liberal. And his agenda is not just about money. It’s
also about control.”

Fahrenthold claims Sanders’s plan for paying
for college with a tax on Wall Street trades would mean “colleges would run by
government rules.” 

Apparently Fahrenthold is unaware that three-quarters of
college students today attend public universities financed largely by state governments.
And even those who attend elite private universities benefit from federal tax
subsidies flowing to wealthy donors. (Meg Whitman’s recent $30 million donation
to Princeton, for example, is really $20 million from her plus an estimated $10
million she deducted from her taxable income.) Notwithstanding all this
government largesse, colleges aren’t “run by government rules.”

The real problem is too many young people still can’t afford a
college education. The move toward free public higher education that began in
the 1950s with the G.I. Bill and was extended in the 1960s by leading public
universities was reversed starting in the 1980s because of shrinking state
budgets. Tuition has skyrocketed in recent years as states slashed education spending. It’s time to resurrect that earlier goal.

Besides, the biggest threats to academic
freedom these days aren’t coming from government. They’re coming as conditions
attached to funding from billionaires and big corporations that’s increasing as public funding drops. 

When the Charles Koch
Foundation pledged $1.5 million to Florida State University’s economics
department, for example, it stipulated that
a Koch-appointed advisory committee would select professors and undertake
annual evaluations.  The Koch brothers now fund 350 programs at over 250
colleges and universities across America. You can bet that funding doesn’t
underwrite research on inequality and environmental justice.

Fahrenthold similarly claims Sanders’s plan for
a single-payer system would put healthcare under the “control” of government. 

But health care is already largely financed through government subsidies – only
they’re flowing to private for-profit health insurers that are now busily
consolidating into corporate laviathans. Anthem purchase
of giant insurer Cigna will make it the largest health insurer in America; Aetna
is buying Humana, creating the second-largest, with 33 million members. 

Why should anyone suppose these for-profit corporate
giants will be less “controlling” than government?

What we do know is they’re far more
expensive than a single-payer system. Fahrenthold repeats the charge that
Sanders’s healthcare plan would cost $15 trillion over ten years. But single-payer
systems in other rich nations have proven cheaper than private for-profit
health insurers because they don’t spend huge sums on advertising, marketing,
executive pay, and billing. 

So even if the Sanders single-payer plan would cost
$15 trillion over ten years, Americans as a whole would save more than that.  

Fahrenthold trusts the “market” more than he
does the government but he overlooks the fact that government sets the rules
by which the market runs (such as whether health insurers should be allowed to
consolidate even further, or how much of a “charitable” tax deduction wealthy donors to private
universities should receive, and whether they should get the deduction if they attach partisan conditions to their donations). 

The real choice isn’t between government and the
“market.” It’s between a system responsive to the needs of most Americans, or one
more responsive to the demands of the super-rich, big business, and Wall Street – whose economic and
political power have grown dramatically over the last three decades.

This is why the logic of Sanders’s ideas depends
on the political changes he seeks. Fahrenthold says a President Sanders
couldn’t get any of his ideas implemented anyway because Congress would reject
them. But if Bernie Sanders is elected president, American politics will have
been altered, reducing the moneyed interests’ chokehold over the public agenda. 

Fahrenthold may not see the populism that’s fueling Bernie’s campaign, but it
is gaining strength and conviction. Other politicians, as well as political
reporters, ignore this upsurge at their peril.

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The Lawnmower Chronicles – Episode 9

The lawn is really showing some wear now. Spots in the backyard have stopped growing, turned brown, and become thin. Some parts of the lawn continue to look thick and green. The ground remains hard; even the weekend-long rain of last weekend did not really soften the ground. The job goes faster now, but today was a pretty terrific day to cut grass: sunny, not too hot (low seventies), low humidity, a slight breeze. Can’t ask for much more – hardly broke a sweat.

Upon beginning to mow the lawn, I found a song stuck in my head from Cabaret: “I Don’t Care Much.” I was humming it while mowing, and it seems that all of a sudden I was thinking about a lot of things I don’t care about. Even the state of the lawn – I don’t care about that so much. It is what it is, and while I think sometimes about re-doing the whole lawn (leveling, re-seeding, new soil), I really don’t care that much to do it.

I began to mow the lawn right after the Bills lost to the Patriots. The season is young, and so is the team, but they are fun to watch in the early going. I don’t really care much about football anymore. It’s become something to pass the time on an autumn day, but I find that if I can do anything else other than watch a football game, I will do it. I think it’s because I value these days off so much that wasting time watching football is just that. Just don’t care anymore.

As I was mowing the front right-of-way by the street, I kept a lookout for dog poop. I don’t usually find any, but one time this summer I found a pile, so I do keep an eye out now. I don’t know why people care so much about pets. I like cats, but since my last cat died I haven’t really felt the urge to get another one. I don’t know how people get to care so much about their pets. When my cat died, I don’t recall being so broken up. She was a great cat, and I have fond memories, but the fact that she died did not break me up all that much.

Then I began to think about things going on at work, and once again I find I don’t care much about what’s happening. Enrollment is down, and there is a lot of activity surrounding student recruitment. They are talking about 5-year restructuring plans, and I probably don’t care much because I won’t be there in five years.

I’ve got a popup trailer in my backyard as well as an extra car in the driveway, both of which I don’t need but neither of which I have on sale. I don’t care enough to make the Craiglist listing, and I really don’t want to go through the trouble of dealing with people and paperwork. I don’t care enough to sell them.

Caring. When it comes right down to it, I think I have lost my capacity to care very much about mostly anything. I wish I could say what that is, but I can’t. My best guess is that life is becoming very narrow and very immediate to me. What I actually need to care about is simply becoming smaller. My children, my parents – that’s going to be about it very soon. Politics, world affairs, art, culture, social trends, all of these things are not worth caring about anymore. Maybe another reason why that’s true is because you start to feel you’ve seen it all by now. Perhaps one cares about things only because they are new, or because your survival depends on caring about something. Perhaps this is a transitional phase, and once I can actually shuck off the present concerns and create a passion of my own, caring needs to take a back seat.

After finishing the lawn, I usually stare out the window to admire the work. As I was doing so, a local older man came walking by. In the summer he always has flip-flops, shorts, and a sleeveless shirt on. Sometimes he is walking a small dog on a chain. Sometimes he is accompanied by a small child. He seems to have little to care about, and his life seems small. I wonder if I don’t find something to care about soon I may end up an old man with a little dog that I don’t care about following me on a chain as we walk in the neighborhood we’ve known for 50 years.

I don’t care much, go or stay,
I don’t care very much either way.

Hearts grow hard on a windy street.
Lips grow cold with the rent to meet.
So if you kiss me, if we touch,
Warning’s fair, I don’t care very much.

I don’t care much, go or stay,
I don’t care very much either way.

Words sound false when your coat’s too thin
Feet don’t waltz when the roof caves in

So if you kiss me, if we touch,

Warning’s fair, I don’t care very much.

-Emcee, Cabaret

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The Lawnmower Chronicles – Episode 8

I decided to honor Labor Day by doing a little labor – mowing the lawn. Today’s mow went fast. I got it done late morning about 11:15 AM, A time when most of the back lawn is in shade. The ground is very dry and hard, the day is hot and humid, the grass not terribly long; just sort of shaggy and unkempt.


I managed to get the lawn cut in pretty much record time, about 35 minutes. The pop-up camper is up and basically drying out. I have only had it open for about two weeks this summer, but they have been dry weeks, so it’s been a help to get the musty smell out from being closed up for almost two years. Did some sweeping, but still have to do a bit of spot cleaning. It’s for sale, in case you’re interested.

My thoughts during the lawn mowing today centered mostly around hiking the Appalachian Trail. A few days ago I was looking Kinja Deals, and the book AWOL on the AT was one of the deals at $2.99. I’ve been interested in the AT for some time, so I bought it. I read it over the last two days, as well as another book entitles Appalachian Trials, a book about the psychological, emotional and mental aspects of hiking the 2,200 mile trail. I have not seen A Walk in the Woods yet (I’ll probably hate the movie for its inaccuracies), and probably will not until it’s on TV, but I did read the book many years back. Walking the lawn with the lawnmower made me think of all these things.

I think the AT may be something I could do to make the transition from working to retirement. Spending 5 months or so hiking the AT would be a very nice period of time to basically be doing nothing while doing something – something difficult and challenging. Certainly it would be something that would make the transition less shocking to the system. Since I really have not decided what I want to be doing during retirement, this might be just the activity to spend time thinking about that. I like hiking, and while I haven’t really hiked any more than 25 miles at any stretch, I do like the activity. I did a lot of hiking while on tour with the American Shakespeare Center, but I was in the best shape of my life during that time. Ten years have passed, so ten years older and fatter. Maybe the AT would be just the ticket to get in shape for the next 20 years. Get physically fit, make the mental transition from work to retirement, accomplish a major life achievement – why not?

The question is do I really need to do it? It’s a very challenging task in all ways, and perhaps it’s too much. Only 3 people in 10 who start the trail finish it. I have not read a single book that talks about how easy it is. Everyone mentions the “roller coaster” – horrible days followed by good days. Lately there have been outbreaks of norovirus (people don’t wash their GD hands), West Nile Virus (mosquitoes) and Lyme disease (deer ticks). It’s not easy. Yet everyone does talk about the feeling of grand accomplishment, and that’s the attraction.

There are options, though. I like the idea of doing the Finger Lakes Trail first. That one is all in NY, and only about 550 miles. I could consider it a warm-up hike, a shakedown cruise. And perhaps I could do a “round trip” on the FLT, or complete all the FLT spurs. A “thru-hike” of the AT generally speaking is completing the entire trail in one calendar year, so I could do half one summer and half the next in “flip-flop” fashion. Or I can finish in my own time as a “chunk hiker,” hiking large sections in 4-6 weeks at a time until complete, without concern for becoming a “thru hiker.”

Another alternative is to do scooter trips on my 300cc Kymco scooter. Such trips would get me to many places faster. Riding a 300cc scooter on all backs roads and state highways (no interstates) and tent camping along the way sounds enticing and perhaps less taxing physically. Cross-country would be the way to go. Or maybe doing nothing is good. Or maybe taking the RV with Ann Marie (but she has to learn to drive it).

At any rate, the question of the transition was what was on my mind during this quick cut session. Pretty apt as we transition from summer to fall (although to judge by the Labor Day weekend weather, you’d hardly know autumn was around the corner – hot and humid!). Until I make up my mind about this, I am content to spend a Labor Day holiday doing this:


watching the Yankees play the Orioles, broadcast in Spanish (English broadcast blacked out because of stupid fucking antiquated blackout rules of MLB) via the ESPN WatchNow app on my Roku streamer through an HDMI computer monitor. The setup is on my back porch, which will by the end of autumn become a screened-in porch room. I can transition this way too!

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The Lawnmower Chronicles – Episode 7

The house lawn has been mowed one-and-a-half times, and the land lawn once since the last episode. In the meantime we went to Chicago to visit our son, the semester started up, and all shows for the season have been cast. Today will combine some relaxation with some yard pick-up, but no mowing.

The reason that I mowed 1.5 times is because, before leaving for Chicago, I only mowed the front yard. I left the back yard for the next time, mowing the front to keep up appearances. The front yard is actually coming along nicely in terms of some of the repairs made earlier in the spring. I filled in and re-seeded the area where the manlift came in to replace the tinning on the soffets, as well as making the whole area even from when the water line was replaced a few years ago. The grass there is newer and grows more rapidly, but at the very least I can now move the lawnmower evenly across that area. It makes mowing much simpler. The back yard got a bit long and deep, and two summer rainstorms made the lower area on the lawn’s east side a bit damp, but eventually, and with patience, we are now on the same schedule for front and back.

The land presented a different challenge. The Snapper rider up there became somewhat finicky for reasons I could not fathom. It would start out well, but after running a bit would cut out and die. After experiencing this three or four times, I decided to replace the spark plug, hoping that this simple fix would help. I am not 100% sure that it did, since after replacing the plug the same thing happened a few times. But then after a few more stalls and re-starts, the mower began to run without stopping, and I had no further incidents. Perhaps the last ounce of old gas had run through (although I had emptied the tank and put in fresh gas earlier this summer), or maybe the gods of lawnmowing had mercy on me, but once it kicked in I was able to get the front section mowed completely. I left the section behind the tree line alone, as I chose instead to tempt fate and mow a path south to my second undeveloped location.

Admittedly I abuse this lawnmower, which says something about my relationship with machines. I wanted to open up a section of the property that was completely overgrown and should really be handled with a brush hog. I had a hand weed whacker to get started, but the area was too large, so I whacked open a small passage and began slowly to cut into the high weeds, with the mower at the highest level. I was lucky enough to get a small section fairly cleared out and open up some small paths. I had a gravel pad built in that area right by the tree line, and the RV is currently sitting on that pad, but the surrounding area is really not  cleared and set up for any type of camping. The underbrush is too deep, and there are far too many brambles and stickerbushes up in there. But to the west of that area is a very beautiful woods, the best woods on the property, and I would love to be able to enjoy that section of the land. Hence the attempt to open up this area a bit. I know I won’t be completely successful this fall, but perhaps getting a start will help move things along easier come next spring.


The lawns grow more slowly now. With the opening of the academic year I announced to the department at its opening meeting that this will be my final year as chair of the department, so I am now “on the clock.” Everything I do now as chair until June 30 will be “the last time” I do it. I have begun to feel an affinity with the slowly growing grass as fall approaches. The grass grows, but more slowly. I get my job done, but I move more slowly through it. There will be plenty of nice warm autumn days ahead, but there will be less light. I still have a good deal of energy to get my job done, but I get tired more quickly. Autumn, my lawns, and I have much in common as the mowing season comes to a close.

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The Lawnmower Chronicles – Episode 6

Jonas has mowed my home lawn for the past two sessions. Nothing spectacular. One time I wasn’t even at home The second time I was working on the back porch on some meaningless task that time will swallow up and digest into the maw of inconsequential eternity. But the lawn that was preying on my mind was the one on my 20-acre property out in the hills. It’s a nice remote spot – off the grid, with only one other person living within sight. The view from my elevated porch is beautiful. I wish I spent more time up there. Actually, I wish I lived there, but that’s another story altogether.


It has been two years since the last time I mowed the section that I mow. Most of the open field is hayed by a local farming corporation, but I keep a section behind the tree line mowed. For this I have had a riding mower for the past 10 years perhaps, and it has done yeoman service.

I finally got a day dedicated to going up to the land and mowing. I knew it was going to be a challenge, having neglected the property for two years. Sure enough, things were bad. The ramp leading up to the storage shed was pretty rotted out, and I had trouble getting the warped shed doors open. I found a spare piece of 1/4″ plywood to act as a replacement ramp, got the doors open, and managed to gently ease the mower out. I had already decided that the battery was going to be useless, so I came armed with a replacement battery, which I proceeded to try to install.

Let’s keep in mind that I am not the world’s handiest man. Machinery and I respect each other, and I can handle most tools OK, but only for small jobs. So, while installing a battery is a job I am capable of handling, it’s the details that become an issue. The first detail was how to connect the battery posts to the wires. Immediately I saw that I had purchased the wrong size connectors. They were too small for the thicker ends of the batter wires. They wouldn’t work. So a trip to the local grocery/hardware/deli IGA store got me some connectors which were clearly larger. A little too big, it turned out. So I used my heavy duty pliers to cramp the ends, hoping the wire inside would make a strong connection to the battery. Thinking I had accomplished this task, I placed the battery back in its compartment, sat on the seat, and turned the key. Nothing.

A few more turns of the key netted the same result – nothing. Not a cough, a whisper, a hint of any engine life. Mind you, I had not expected the thing to start, but I had expected the thing to turn over and make some sputtering sounds. So “nothing” was not a good sign. I then made some feeble attempts at trying to pull start the beast, but that was futile as well. Day 1 came to a close with me scratching my head and wondering what Plan B was going to be – everything from buying a brand-new lawn tractor to hiring the job out.

Day 2 was spent driving around town trying other options. A stop at the local small engine repair shop and a chat with John held out some hope. He was three weeks behind in his repair schedule, so if I brought it in I could expect not to get the beast back for three weeks. A check of Craigslist revealed no decent used options for sale. A drive around to various locations revealed a few used machines for sale, but at one place the merchandise was decidedly overpriced, and at the second the merchandise was decidedly suspect. I knew I was going to have to get fresh gas anyway, so I accomplished that task in the meantime, buying the ethanol-free 91 octane version, which is much better for small engine carburetors.

Back on the land with the beast, I dumped out the old gas, and put in the fresh gas. John suggested trying to trickle in some fresh gas either through the air filter or the spark plug hole. I opened up the air filter and sort of dusted it off, but could not find any place to trickle gas. I removed the spark plug, gave it what little cleaning I could, doused it in the fresh gas, trickled a bit into the spark plug hole, and replaced the spark plug. The I went to check the battery.

Come to find out that the battery wires were not being held into the connectors very well, and so no contact was being made between cable and battery. This immediately explained the nothingness of yesterday. I had fooled myself into thinking I had solved that problem. Not so. After looking at the problem for about 3 minutes, I decided that rather than put the wires back into the connectors and try to re-crimp them, I would use the flat end of the connector to press the bare wires against the post. To do this I had to spread the wires apart a bit to go around the screw. Once I completed this method, I once again replaced the battery into its compartment and once again turned the ignition key.

Immediately the engine began to sputter and turn over. Now I knew it was a life-and-death struggle between clearing out the remainder of the old gas in the carburetor and hoping the new battery would have enough juice to keep firing away. Setting the choke to full, some sputtering, a couple of backfires, unchoking, re-choking, and eventually the roar of the engine!

A sense of relief combined with an immense sense of satisfaction at having solved a mechanical issue swept across me. So many of the things I do in life now I can do well and with little trouble, so conquering the challenge of fixing a problem in an area where I don’t generally do well brought a measure of pleasure and satisfaction that is hard to describe. These days, real pure joy is hard to come by for me, but this moment was one of pure joy. I let the engine run for about five minutes, just sitting on the beast, both elated and somewhat stupefied that it was running and purring like a kitten.

I finally engaged the blades (no problem), put the beast in gear, and let it rip. With the blades up at their highest level, the tall grass surrendered to the vicious sharpness (?) of the blades. I cut down a good portion of the “lawn,” re-opened the driveway, leveled the gravel parking pad, and just cut through a few walking paths for the time being in the second section of the lawn. After 90 minutes of cutting, the place looked much better.

I get a lot of joy out of riding on the mower and cutting this remote lawn. There is nothing out there but me, the machine, the surrounding countryside and its views, and the solitude. I had come to miss that over the past two years, but I hadn’t realized how much until I was riding and mowing once more. When I mow this lawn, I always feel as if it’s the only job I have in life, the only thing I need to be doing at all.

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On Patriotism



A few words about patriotism – something we talk a lot about, especially around July 4th, but seldom stop to examine its real meaning.

True patriotism isn’t simply about waving the American flag. And it’s not mostly about securing our borders from outsiders.

It’s about coming together for the common good.

Real patriotism is not cheap. It requires taking on a fair share of the burdens of keeping America going – being willing to pay taxes in full rather than seeking tax loopholes and squirreling away money abroad.

Patriotism is about preserving and protecting our democracy, not inundating it with big money and buying off politicians.

True patriots don’t hate the government of the United States. They’re proud of it. They may not like everything it does, and they justifiably worry when special interests gain too much power over it. But true patriots work to improve our government, not destroy it.

Finally, patriots don’t pander to divisiveness. They don’t fuel racist or religious or ethnic divisions. They aren’t homophobic or sexist.

To the contrary, true patriots seek to confirm and strengthen the “we” in “we the people of the United States.”

Have a happy and safe Fourth of July.

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The Lawnmower Chronicles – Episode 5

Sometimes you have to take matters into your own hands. Jonas is probably up in Buffalo preparing for opening night tonight, and I am nervous about opening night tonight as well, as now the whole thing is out of my control. With the lawn needing serious cutting, I decided to take my recently repaired and returned lawnmower into my own hands and cut the lawn, if only to get my mind off thing for awhile.

The mower worked OK, but the grass was thick and wet underneath, so it was no picnic. Although I had the bag attached to the mower, not much grass went into the bag. Most of seemed to fall as wet mulch back on the lawn. The mower strained a bit on some denser patches, but made it through the session without cutting out. One section of the lawn against the east fence had standing water, so I had to skirt around that.

As I mowed, I began to think about authority. I presume this is because, as a director, you have a lot of authority over a show. People want to please you, and everybody asks you questions. Sometimes, even if they question something, they still don’t ask you questions, because you’re the authority. So they do what you tell them regardless of their own doubts or fears. Sometimes you never know they even have questions.

“Question authority” is a phrase I have heard often in my life. But what happens when you become the authority? Do you question yourself? I’ve been doing a lot of that lately in all aspects of my life. I chair a department. I direct shows. I’m a father of three children. And I find myself constantly questioning a lot of decisions I make. As I shake the mower to release some of the wet grass underneath, I realize that one reason I look forward to retiring is that I will no longer be the authority. I’ll be able to sit back and let others make decisions. Or so I dream.

I’ve left a wet grassy mess on the front sidewalk. I’m beginning to sweat and my lower back is barking at me. It all feels good.

I keep experimenting with new patterns for mowing the back yard. The various obstacles continue making the search for the perfect, most efficient pattern a bit elusive. The Mother’s Day tree has grown quite a bit, and so the branches reach out to places they have not been before. The raised garden that my daughter’s partner made while they were living here bed needs attending, as weeds and volunteer trees are beginning to consume it. I think all the bird houses I put against the back fence are now occupied.

The new bird feeders are a spectacular success, almost too much so. I now have to fill them as part of my morning routine. The old Home Depot feeders never attracted so many birds. I see mostly sparrows and wrens, with the occasional finch, blue jays, and cardinals. Mourning doves drop by to pick up the leftovers, as do young crows. There seems to be a small hill of seeds I now have to mow over around the base of the feeder.

I should sell the old popup camper, Eric used to use it as his summer hangout with his friends, but nowadays it sits in the backyard, closed up. Perhaps, with the show closing, I should take an hour to raise it up just to get fresh air moving through it.

My eyes are filled with sweat. I have to take a shower today after this session. Humid, not hot. Rain is forecast for later today. I am glad I took things into my own hands. Lawn mowing is perhaps the one chore that, when you’ve completed it, you feel like you’ve accomplished something of value and worth. I like to stare at a new-mowed lawn for awhile.Perhaps the patterns on the lawn have something to tell me, but today I am too sweaty and preoccupied to listen. Still more to get done today. I’ll have more time to listen next session. Or so I hope.

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