My lawn should be condemned

When I first became a homeowner, few things excited me more than finally having a front yard. I was ecstatic about a lawn, and I was looking forward to mowing it, landscaping it, and telling neighborhood children to get off it while referring to them as hoodlums and ruffians. After all, isn’t that the curmudgeon’s American Dream?

The only problem was the weeds. There were large swaths of yard that, while technically green, weren’t technically grass, so during my second summer in the new house, I decided to do something about it. My neighbor had a cousin who worked in landscaping, and he offered me a great deal to spray my yard to control the weeds. I paid and he sprayed, and I was now looking forward to yelling at the neighborhood kids to get off my weed-free lawn.

Fortunately, all the weeds died. Unfortunately, I had underestimated just how much of my lawn was weeds. Basically all of it. All of it was weeds. And within a week after spraying, all the weeds became dirt. All the weeds that had been all my lawn were now all dirt.

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Crap.

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“Ok, ok. I can fix this,” is a stupid thing that stupid men say before they do stupid things. I was about to embark on a futile lawn resuscitation endeavor that would leave my yard as lifeless and devoid of resources as a former soviet republic.

I started with bags of grass seed. Just bags. I didn’t have a (working) spreader, so I  just wandered around the desolate dirt pits in my yard, throwing handfuls out onto the scorched earth like a woefully inept Johnny Appleseed. The summer was an especially hot one, so I knew watering would be vital. Unfortunately, watering was a Sisyphusian exercise. After a week of seeding and watering, a few small patches started to spring up–probably accidentally–and if grass blades were sentient, I’m sure they would’ve regretted the decision to sprout immediately after seeing the sprawling wasteland into which they’d been born. Each morning and evening, I trekked out to water the fledgling refugees. I felt like a surly headmaster throwing a bowl of lukewarm gruel into a mass of starving orphans, a bristly desert of  yellow-green Oliver Twists looking up at me and begging in adorable British-child accents, “Please sir, just let us die.”

A second problem was mowing. You see, even though 90% of my lawn was dirt, I still had 10% that was living, growing grass that needed to be mowed. And it’s not like the grass was all in one, easy-to-mow spot. Nope. Little vaguely green clumps pockmarked the dirt like Gas Town outposts in a Mad Max apocalypse. They had to be trimmed. This is where I should mention that my lawnmower wasn’t in top working order either. The engine had something rattling around in it that made a god-awful racket when the motor was running–imagine a machine gun firing hammers at a water heater filled with cement. Oddly specific, right? Oddly accurate as well. It sounded as if it might bring about the end of the world every time I mowed.

So once a week or so, I’d wake Ragnarok the Lawn Obliterater and cut the grass. When normal people with normal lawns and normal mowers cut their grass, there’s a bit of symmetry and grace to the act–clean lines, bagged clippings, fresh smell. When a neighbor walks by, they share a friendly wave. It’s nauseatingly suburban. When I mowed the wasteland, I zigzagged haphazardly, moving from one tuft of green to the next, a trail of dust kicking up behind me as if I were racing a jury-rigged dune buggy across the desert. The embarrassment and pity when people walked by was palpable. They’d make it a point to cross to the other side of the road and watch as I emerged from a dust cloud, leading the four horses of the apocalypse thundering over the mutilated dirt.

The one small consolation in this cavalcade of failure was a small patch of Bermuda creeping in from my neighbor’s side. I thought it might…it just might move in and cover one of the larger dirt patches. But as it slowly progressed over the weeks, it sensed the shame and failure in the soil and it, too, began to wither and die…but in a very specific spot. It died literally on the property line between my yard and the neighbor’s.

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What the hell, grass gods?

My property line looked like the border between East and West Berlin circa 1985. While the neighbor’s grass was enjoying a verdant, fertile existence full of Western excesses, the shocked citizens locked in the hellscape of my own little East Ber(muda)lin kept attempting to sneak back over the wall to get their hands on Levi’s Jeans and Bruce Springsteen cassettes. And I desperately attempted to fix the problem through central planning and rationing of resources, but like the Soviets, I clearly had no idea what I was doing.

Summer faded into fall, and eventually I gave up on fixing the lawn for the season. Luckily, October brought with it a generous layer of dead leaves to cover my yard. I’d pull into my driveway thinking, “Thank goodness all these dead leaves are covering up the dirt!” This thought was quickly followed by the realization that I was single-handedly bringing down the property values of the entire zip code.

I left the leaves until February, afraid to rake them for fear that the dead leaves, dirt, and stagnant failure had congealed and fermented into a demonic sludge monster, like a zombified version of the Scotts lawncare guy.

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I think I’ll just leave it alone for a bit longer. Things like this just go away with time, right?

All the people in “The Purge” are ignoring the best crime

Apparently, The Purge is a movie about the American government allowing everyone to commit any crimes they want–without repercussions–for a single 12-hour period every year, or so I’ve gathered from the trailers online. It’s such an unbelievably stupid concept for a movie that I haven’t even seen it yet, but I don’t need to do something as trivial as watch a movie to know that everyone in that universe is missing a huge opportunity to take advantage of the temporary suspension of law.

First, some things I hate about this movie I haven’t yet seen:

The advertisements in this fictional universe go to great lengths to specify that “all crime…including murder” is legal. Why do they need to specify murder? That’s what “all crime” means. If some crimes weren’t permitted, then the announcement would say “selected crimes” are legal, followed by one of those really fast-speaking ad guys rattling off all the infractions that were still illegal. I feel like you’re just adding “…including murder” for no other purpose than dramatic effect, and that’s just patronizing to all the people who already understand the rules of the game. It’s like reading “If you pass GO, collect $200” on the Community Chest and Chance cards in Monopoly every single time it comes up. Yeah, we know we get $200 if we pass GO. Stop treating us like we’re stupid and roll the dice, Greg. You already got to be the race car and built hotels on Boardwalk. Why do you insist on making every family game night unbearable?

And if this annual murder carnival has been going on long enough that people have just sort of come to accept it as routine, why do they need to keep reminding people that murder is legal in the first place? Are there people who are concerned that the powers that be will suddenly decide to rescind all felonies from the list of approved Purge activities, so they’ll be left with crimes like smoking weed and prank calling the police? Yeah, that Purge sounds way less like a horror trope and more like the plot of the third Hangover movie.

And the whole 12 hour limit creates a plot hole so big that [insert a metaphor related to large holes and things driving/going through them]. We’re all just ok with the lasting consequences of the non-killing crimes? Like, if I break into my neighbor’s house during the Purge and steal his TV, can I invite him over the next day to watch The View on the TV he used to own? Is that a jerk move? Can he take it back, or is it now legally mine? And if he steals it back after the Purge is over, did he commit a crime? Give me some rational system of post-Purge justice, here!

Now, maybe all these questions are answered in the movies, but again, I haven’t seen them and I don’t really care, because no amount of suspension of disbelief will allow me to accept that I could just jack a police cruiser during the Purge and then spend the next eleven months pulling people over when they annoy me on the highway, regardless of how awesome that would be.

Besides, all the crimes that would require going outside would be stupid to attempt because of all the legal murder we’re constantly being reminded about. I feel like most people–me included–would just hide inside until it was all over. But that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t take advantage of the 12-hour window, oh no. You know what I would do if the Purge were real? If it took place any day before April 14, I’d lock all my doors, power on my computer, and do my taxes.

Seriously.

While all the narrow-minded miscreants run about like physical manifestations of Charles Manson’s id, attempting to loot and kill and jaywalk, I’d sit comfortably at home, racking up thousands of dollars in fraudulent deductions on my 1040. I’d max out claims for charitable donations, gambling losses, self-employed business expenses, medical expenses, state taxes paid, mortgage interest paid, and any other tax credits and claims I could find.

In fact, I think I’d hardly be the only one to use the Purge less as an open invitation to loot and kill, and more as an opportunity to do all the everyday stuff the government frowns on: fishing without a license, setting off fireworks, grilling on the beach, not paying sales tax.

That should be the next installment in the franchise. The Purge: White Collar Crimes and Non-Violent Misdemeanors.

That’s a Purge I can get behind: one where I can get all my money back from the government, buy beer on Sunday before noon, and build a two-story shed in my backyard without a permit.

Doing Laundry: A Flowchart for Men

My clothing has two categories: dress shirts…and everything else.

Dress shirts get thrown in a basket to go to the cleaners. Everything else gets tossed into the washer and then into the dryer. There is no consideration for color or material or style. It’s all going in. I’ll mix some towels in there too sometimes. And I even measure out an appropriate amount of detergent if I’m feeling particularly attentive to detail.

Back in my bachelor days, that’s all there was to it. Doing laundry was about as stressful as taking out the trash, with roughly the same procedures–pick stuff up off the floor and put it into a circular receptacle once a week, or every other week depending on Netflix’s release schedule.

Then I got married.

I learned very quickly that my previous laundry methods were unacceptable practices for a domesticated husband, specifically my errant throwing of all wet things into a dryer and cranking it up. I legitimately had no idea that dryers had additional settings beyond “how long do you want to cook these boxer shorts?”

What most men don’t understand is that women’s clothing is just like women themselves: confusing, temperamental, and – like underwire – likely to get bent out of shape if you just toss everything into the dryer.

The problem is–unlike cooking, cleaning, and personal grooming–showing that you understand how to wash a woman’s clothes isn’t something that you’re likely to demonstrate during the dating phase of a relationship. Because of this, most women have to wait until they’ve moved in with a man to begin addressing this issue.

Lucky for you, I’ve been through all that, and I’ve got your back. In an effort to help both the ignorant men and the exasperated women out there, I put together a handy little flowchart:

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Best of luck, gentlemen!

Lullabies and Acid Trips: Adventures in putting Baby Girl to bed

Ok, so I have to tell you about the most unintentionally terrifying children’s lullaby video ever posted to YouTube. But first, some background.

When I found the video I’m about to share with you, I was looking for a new bedtime routine because, shockingly, pillow fights and Kidz Bop sing-a-longs make poor precursors to sleep for two-year-olds. I knew I needed a more chill approach to the nighttime ritual if I ever wanted to watch Game of Thrones at its scheduled time ever again. So I decided lullabies might work. I mean, what could be more calming and less exciting than a lullaby?

Oh, sweet ignorance…

The most obvious place to look for a free lullaby was YouTube, and I discovered if you simply search “lullaby,” one of the first results is an EIGHT HOUR long video of nothing but instrumental lullabies.

Any rational, non-child having person would look at that search result and laugh at the thought of anyone needing EIGHT HOURS of lullaby music, and then that person would probably go climb a mountain, or fly to Paris, or go to the bathroom uninterrupted, or whatever other magical things people without kids get to do. But for me, and for every one of the parents who contributed to the OVER SEVENTY MILLION (as of now) views on that video, it was the promise of a much desired full night’s worth of peace and quiet. I started using this video immediately, fully believing I’d be providing its eighty-millionth view within the week.

At this point I have to mention that, as a requirement for uploading a video to YouTube, an uploader must include some form of…well, video. The eight hour lullaby video, while primarily serving as an auditory sleep aid, was still required to have some sort of image. So, for those of you who didn’t click the link above and watch yet, what do you imagine when you think of the video that would accompany eight hours of instrumental lullaby music?

Maybe a static image of a moon?

Perhaps a tranquil scene of a secluded landscape at night?

Pictures of those obnoxiously cute Precious Moments figurines holding teddy bears and sucking their thumbs?

Yeah, no.

Imagine what you might see if you were dropping acid at a Skrillex concert in the ninth circle of hell. That’s the visualization the uploader chose. No, really. I’m going to show you.

Oh, it starts out innocently enough:

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Ok, not bad. I definitely associate this image with calm, quiet, “it’s time to sleep now” music…

Look at that baby with the “one long curly hair in the middle of an otherwise bald and perfectly circular head” stereotype. And there’s a heart! The only way this image could be any more innocent is if the words “Lullaby World” were written in comic sans.

But when the music starts, the visual immediately devolves into something out of a Jimi Hendrix fever dream:

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Oh wow…uh, hello there accidental acid trip. But ok, ok…maybe the bright colors and spinning drug starfish are calming for infants?

I think I can taste the music…

Then the screen switches, and I realize there are other visuals…and the descent into madness begins…

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The drug starfish kaleidoscope morphs into a ’60s psychedelic rock music video.

“Twinkle, twinkle little star / How I wonder if time is just, like, our perception of ourselves making love to the universe, man?”

Oh wait, I think the walls are starting to melt…

Then at 2:19…

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Have you ever seen one of those science videos of a cross-section of human skin with blood pumping through the veins? Imagine the footage was spliced together by a serial killer and then shown through an old film reel projector with “Lullaby and Goodnight” playing in the background, and you get a fittingly ironic horror movie soundtrack.

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6 minutes and 50 seconds in and…OH GOD! ACID SPIDERS! THEY’RE BURROWING UNDER MY SKIN! These insectoid-spider-brain-cell hybrid creatures literally fly at your while flailing their demonic hell-tentacles at your face. Even more terrifying is the fact that they have a predator-like invisibility that triggers in time with the music, so it’s dark and empty…and then…SURPRISE! ACID SPIDERS IN YOUR FACE!

And did I mention that as the acid spiders attack, you’re also falling endlessly into the reactor core of the Death Star? Because you are.

The most terrifying visual of all surfaces after 18 minutes of slowly eroding sanity…

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GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!

Look at it! LOOK AT IT! Who puts that image on a children’s lullaby video? Good god, man! And that just pops up in the middle of Frere Jacques.

Are you sleeping, Brother John?

Oh yeah, I’m definitely going to sleep while that hellspawn frogbeast leers at me with his unfeeling subwoofer eyes and bloodied electrified teeth. Like a baby.

As soon as Baby Girl saw this terrifying lizard monster oozing through the screen to devour her innocent soul, she couldn’t get enough of it. She demands the video now and refuses to go to sleep until she sees “the monster” sing to her. She literally calls it “the monster” because she doesn’t yet have the vocabulary to describe the abject horror she’s witnessing.

Now our new nighttime routine includes me, lying next to Baby Girl in her tiny toddler bed, holding the phone above us in an uncomfortable, twisted-carnival-crane-game-arm-falling-asleep claw grip so that we can both watch the front-running entry for “most awkwardly unfitting video to ever accompany children’s music since Kidz Bop started covering Ke$ha’s singles.”

And keep in mind that this video has OVER SEVENTY MILLION VIEWS. Seventy million seething death toads have materialized in children’s bedrooms over the past three years, and we parents have collectively decided that this is totally cool, as long as our kids go to sleep. This should show you how much parents value putting their kids to bed over the looming possibility of getting them therapy later in life.

Now Baby Girl and I must visit hell’s underground lullaby rave every night before bed. I don’t know how long it’ll last, but hopefully the next iteration of our nighttime ritual won’t include acid trip spiders, serial killer skin montages, or ghastly frog monsters.