Friday, May 20, 2011

The B Horror Movie that Just Hasn't Been Made Yet

Battling kudzu is, to me, the ultimate futile fight of mankind against the inevitable. Finding a wayward patch, you grab it and pull. Yards upon yards of leaves and vines file through your hands as you tug roots up from the ground or pull the curled vines free from trunks and branches. But the branching, ever multiplying plant has no true end. Ultimately, you have to choose the point at which you declare “enough.” Even as the plant comes free in sweet release, your relief can only be physical. You have not won the war. In truth, you have not even won the battle. With a snip of your shears you have merely determined the location from which the fight will next resume.

You would think, with all the money we invest into biological warfare and gene tech, that someone out there would be able to develop a poison I could spray over my entire lawn that would only target the specific genetic structure of kudzu (Though I would be willing to sacrifice a few other ivies along the way if necessary). Yet, if such a product exists, people are completely failing to market it because I have yet to find it. When faced with a yard rung with kudzu, the most you can hope for is to declare your battle lines and to try to keep the enemy from crossing them. I pull vines free from the trunk of the one tree in my backyard which has not already had them intertwined into branches too high for me to reach. I monitor the fence that separates my back yard from my neighbors to ensure that the kudzu that covers it has not begun to creep along the ground. And I patrol the edge of my house while keeping a sharp eye out for any vines that have sought to cross over the thin strip of lawn in order to attack my foundation.

Should the vines ever reach the house, we’re done for. In a matter of months, kudzu can demolish a home. It twines through the foundation, busts through windows and tears down rafters. We bought our house in November, when the bare vines are barely distinguishable from all the other grey foliage, and we gave them no notice. At the closing the previous owners mentioned that the yard had “a bit of a kudzu problem” that we should keep an eye on. Of course, at that point it would have been too late for us to back out, even if we had realized the true implications of that innocuous comment.

The truth is, I love my house. At the most, the kudzu problem may have made me argue for a lower purchase price, but I doubt it would have been a deal breaker. I keep the pit of vines mowed back and monitor the lines I have declared. One day I hope to have the money to call in a landscaper and ask them how many thousands of dollars it will cost to have some professionals come in and clear out all the kudzu on my land (and that of my immediate neighbors, because otherwise there is little point). Hopefully, it will be a price I can afford. Perhaps it might be best to save this for closer to when we’re thinking of selling. While such an investment may definitely count as a battle won, it is still just buying time against the inevitable, unending war. After all, even a professional will ultimately have to pick the point at which they simply declare “enough” and and give the snip that merely redraws the battle lines anew.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Settling Down in My Home Town

These days it seems like the everyone is moving across country (or to another country entirely) from where they grew up. I can understand the desire to go someplace where no one knows you and you can get a fresh start. And sometimes, it’s just the best decision based on where the availabilities in your field can be found. However, I feel there are some definite advantages to growing older in the same town where you grew up.

I was born in Atlanta and grew up deep in the heart of Midtown. Growing up I was walking distance from my middle and high schools, from a movie theatre, a (small) grocery store, numerous restaurants, a couple of laundry mats, a hair salon we never used, the biggest park in the city and a neighborhood convenience store that probably had a name, but was always just called Richard’s Store. My husband grew up in a nearby suburb, and taught me that sometimes it’s okay to go someplace for an evening that’s more than ten minutes away.

I love Atlanta and, despite her mass transit problems, I have no desire to leave her. Other cities just don’t have enough trees, for one thing. But more than that, I know this town and she knows me.

I have never had to look for a mechanic. It seems like a taxing process. I have friends who have had their cars totaled by incompetent mechanics, and heard tons of horror stories of people being tricked and defrauded by those who are less than scrupulous. This has never been an issue for me. When I was little my parents used Bob Todd as their mechanic. When he retired, he passed the business, and their custom, on to his son, John. One of my first memories of being back in Atlanta after graduating college was taking my car in to get my blinker repaired. It was just a matter of replacing the casing and it only took a minute. When Mr. Todd (as I still call him much to his great annoyance) was done, I asked him how much it cost. He looked at me like I was crazy and told me “I’m not gonna charge Robert’s daughter for that.” It felt really good to be home.

Of course, living in the town you grew up in isn’t always discounts and name dropping. Sometimes it’s realizing the consequences of your favorite neighborhood bar also being your father’s favorite. There I am, sitting at a table full of my friends, my Guinness has just arrived and I am reaching to get a cigarette to accompany it when my father spots us and joins our table. Now, I am not a smoker. I just feel that beer, specifically Guinness, tastes better with tobacco. But after the years I spent giving my father grief about his cigarette addiction, the times I watched him try to quit, and the general “don’t ever start smoking or it will haunt your life for all time” sentiment in my house growing up, there is no way I can smoke in front of my dad - even as he bums a cigarette off my roommate and starts puffing away. Now, my dad is generally accepted amongst my friends to be pretty awesome, so there is no lack of engagement to drive him from the table. Meanwhile, my beer is growing warm and I really wish he’d go find his friends so that I can indulge my vices with out parental supervision.

Still, if my dad randomly showing up to curb my bad habits is the worst of my complaints, then life in my home town is treating me pretty well. And truly, his proximity is far more of a blessing than a burden. My husband and I only have one car between us, and MARTA doesn’t run to his office (did I mention that Atlanta’s mass transit sucks). Tomorrow I have an invited dress rehearsal for a show I’m doing costume design for at 8:30 in the morning in another part of town with out MARTA access in the opposite direction of my husband’s office. This would be an impossible situation if it weren’t for my dad who is graciously willing to pick me up at 7:45 and drop me off at the show. Because he loves me and is, as is generally accepted, awesome.

And this is with out even getting into the perks of having the in-laws nearby. Whether it’s help moving, help mounting shelves, or help getting around town, it is definitely nice to have the built in support structure of family. And when looking for reliable businesses, it’s a lot easier to spot them if you’ve been using them for over a decade, and possibly went to school with the owner’s children. I can understand the appeal of a fresh slate, but as for me? I really like being home.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Day the Dishes Fell

I originally wrote this as a comment in response to, but decided it was a little tangential to post over there. Still, it is a good story, so I figured I'd just copy it over here.

The other day one of the shelves in my kitchen collapsed. I thought I caught it in time only to have the other half give way. I couldn't catch it with out letting go of the side I was already holding. I watched helplessly as the shelf full of discontinued brown glasses which I had so painstakingly matched to my brown plates (all of which were wedding presents) went sliding to the floor.

At my cries for help and the subsequent crashing sounds, my boys rushed into the kitchen. Upon their arrival I simply burst into tears. "I've lost everything." I was convinced that I had lost not only the contents of the shelf, but that the crashing had no doubt broken everything on the shelf below as well. "I know they're just dishes, but I like having nice things ..." "I know," was all my husband said as he put his arm around me and steered me from the room.

While I sobbed into his arms in the bedroom, my boyrfriend cleaned up all the broken pieces and tallied up the damage (a task I don't think I could have born). After I had calmed down he came into report that I hadn't lost nearly as much as I thought.

Neither one of them, even once, made it seem like I was in any way unjustified in my sobs and desolation - even though I thought I was being ridiculous. I was given love, comfort, support and practical help. And I've been rarely been so glad to have two men to provide me with these things, as neither had to choose between giving me the comfort I needed and the natural male urge to fix the problem (which was also needed). They each just swooped in and took care of what had to be done. In that moment of pure emotional ridiculousness I felt completely loved and cared for.

Sometimes, it's not just about plates.