September 29th, 2014


Overdoing It

Both my parents are always commenting, "Don't overdo it" when I mention some project I'm planning to undertake. I unconsciously verbalize some trite reply because, well, I never go into anything expecting to overdo it.

Saturday would be the exception. I knew the point at which I was doomed to overdo it; 1415. Parks was spending the night with friends and GBZ was at his grandmother's, so the night before I started pruning the trees. The problem with pruning is you can't just prune some - you have to prune all. Additionally, while appearing easy and uncomplicated in my head, it really wasn't.

I have 8 trees in my yard, all of which were either grown to the ground (making mowing around them impossible) or hidden from a dozen little trees which had sprung up around them, choking them out. I have not touched these trees for years, and my house was the embarrassment of the neighborhood. I'm pretty sure if I were my neighbors, I would think I was insane. My yard looked like a Guatemalan rainforest.

I'd bought pruning shears a couple months back thinking I would do some trimming after I mowed the yard one day, but in that oppressive heat I learned I could either mow, or prune - never both on the same hot-as-fuck day. But it was cool weather that night, and I wasn't drinking beer and throwing darts in the garage, which really opened up my evening for other activities. So I started pruning. I started small.

The next morning, after the requisite eight-hours sleep, I clipped my iPod to my hat and walked an hour or so in the cool morning air around the walking path behind the house dodging phantom helicopters. About this time, suzanne1945 showed up to work in the flower bed, so I continued my pruning. And continued my pruning, and continued my pruning. It was much more work than I had anticipated. Not only that, but I discovered the "huge fucking shrubs" surrounding the foundation of my house, wasn't shrub - it was elm, as in elm trees. Gigantic elm trees growing up against my house. I tried to prune those too, but they were far too thick at the trunks once I got to them, and while Hitachi makes many fine chainsaws, none of them are battery-operated to accept the same 18v pack as my hammer-drill, and Heston is the closest town to Newton which rents one, and I certainly wasn't in the market for a gas-powered chainsaw. So my neighbor showed up with his saws-all, and that did the job just fine.

The night before, I'd bemusingly assumed I would let the 8 small piles of branches sit in the yard until they broke down enough I could run them over with the lawnmower as I certainly wasn't going to put them in either the Tiburon or the Billmobile. But by now they were 8 rather large and ominous man-sized huts of thatch. I was at a complete loss as to how to deal with them.

It was now a quarter after two and I'd been outside five hours under the sun in a sleeveless shirt working my ass off. I was hot, tired, and ready to collapse. That's when my neighbor's son showed up in his jacked-up 4x4 quad-cab truck. I palmed him $20 to clear my lawn, knowing it would take both of us - and it did - another hour an a half.

All I'd eaten that day was a couple of bananas along with a shitload of iced tea.

Reaching up over your head while snipping 2-inch branches uses lots of muscles you wouldn't normally exert in such a way. And "snipping" makes it sound easy. It was more like using your arms and chest as the hydraulics in a Jaws of Life rescue machine over and over and over. My legs ached, my knees ached, my back ached, my neck ached, my forearms were spasming, my chest ached, and my biceps felt huge and powerful. I guess that last part was cool, but certainly not at the expense of all the rest.

I very nearly crawled into the bathroom, where I dumped two pounds of epsom salt in the whirlpool tub and spent the next 45-minutes hoping my kids didn't find me dead in it the next day.

The worst however, was yet to come. Even with 800mg of ibuprofen in me, the pain made it impossible to sleep. I wondered how much Vicodin I had - I think two tables of 10/325 I've been saving the last 18-months for such an emergency, but then it was morning and time to mow and weed-eat around the entire corner lot, so probably not a good idea to mix the two. Maybe afterward.

That said, I have managed to transform my house from the laughingstock, to a picture-perfect, well-groomed plot.