Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Chuck Palahniuk Mows the Lawn

Imagine vacuuming. Now, imagine the vacuum weighs 350 pounds. Now, imagine this 350-pound vacuum has a rotating blade that can take off a man’s hand. Imagine that it does, only sometimes it’s not a hand. Sometimes it’s a leg. Sometimes it’s something worse.

Trust me.

That’s what mowing the lawn is like. By the time you’re through with the front yard and into the back, the vibrations in your hands have made you numb, the roar has made you deaf, the shards of grass have made you blind, and between the smell of gasoline and the rush of endorphins, you’re higher than you’d be on marijuana.

That’s why it’s called grass.

That’s why you see all the middle-aged men so eager to get to the lawn every weekend. They tell you it’s work. What they don’t tell you is they’re huffing gas fumes and riding a dopamine wave. That’s why the guys on the lawnmower boxes look so happy mowing. They’re all stoned.

But that grass isn’t just a drug. It’s a battle ground. It’s man versus nature written on a postage stamp lot. Picture Don Quixote and his windmills, except it’s not a windmill, it’s a lawn, and it’s not a toothbrush, like on the dental hygiene promos we all watched when we were kids. Now we don’t know if it’s a lance, a toothbrush, or a lawn mower. We’re a generation of men raised by promotionals on TV not to know the difference, and we’re taking it out on the only piece of nature we’ve got, and we’re getting high doing it.

Now we enter the lawnmower’s terminal descent. In about three minutes, the motor will burn out, and I’ll be coasting this 350-pound vacuum cleaner with a rotating blade and a tank full of gasoline back toward the shed. It’s more than enough to take out my small patch of suburbia. But then I notice that the grass still looks patchy in some spots, like real grass. It’s not perfect, like Astroturf perfect, the way only fake grass can be perfect. So I put the mower back carefully. Now is not the right time, because today is a beautiful day.

Jesse Kavadlo lives in St. Louis.

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