Monday, January 7, 2013

Deleting the Lawn

“Your lawn is so lush,” our nosy neighbor said adjusting the baseball cap on his bald head.
“Thanks, Harold,” I said sweeping the driveway.
“It’s like a putting green.”
“You must be proud of it.”
I shrugged.  “We’re ripping it out.”

Before Harold collapsed from shock, I grabbed his 86 year-old elbow and steered him into his lawn chair.  He shooed me away cursing “these days” and “idiot young people.”

I think he meant us.   

As first time homeowners, Mr. Wonderful and I were learning about our suburban neighbors’ fascination with The Lawn.  In a nutshell: 1) Grass ruled and 2) The greener, the better, which was great if you lived in Scotland where it rained 490 days a year.  But we lived in L.A.’s San Fernando Valley best known for its hot, dry, desert-like conditions where people had to morph into snakes to survive.  This climate explained why Hollywood thrived here and nowhere else.  It also explained why green grass was hard to grow and even harder to maintain. 

In retrospect maybe it was this difficulty that made grass so desirable because our neighborhood was full of verdant front lawns fed by sprinkler systems that were more complex than NASA’s Mars Rover Program and dispensed more water on a daily basis than Hoover Dam, most of which flooded the adjacent streets and sidewalks.  If concrete grew with H2O, our street would be as tall as Universal Studios’ Black Tower skyscraper.  Now wouldn’t that be awkward: driving up to the 30th floor and taking the elevator down to the entrance—

But I digress.

Mr. Wonderful and I could do a lot of things, one of which was doing without the lawn, and its requisite watering, mowing, fertilizing and bragging rights.  With all the work we had to do on the house’s inside, we didn’t need any more work on the outside.  After a few inquiries with the County I learned they were actively encouraging homeowners to rethink the lawn. 

“What do you mean?” Norma said as she handed a glass of water to Harold sprawled prone in his lawn chair.
I shrugged, “They want us to remove our grass.”

As Norma fell over I slid her 85 year-old frame into a lawn chair next to her spouse.  In unison they clutched their hearts.  I was ready to dial 911, ready to follow their ambulance to Burbank Hospital where they’d be treated for dual quadruple heart attacks.  I was ready to explain to their doctor: “All I said was we were removing every blade of grass from our lawn when—boom!—their hearts stopped—” 
“Doc?  You’re on the floor clutching your chest.  I’ll call 911!”

Luckily none of this happened because Harold and Norma were vigilant about following a strict vegetarian diet meaning that, with my stress and arteries, I was imminently closer to a suffering a heart attack than either of those octogenarians. 

But I digress.

“Remove your lawn?!” Harold said fanning himself with the newspaper. 
“That’s madness!” Norma said fanning herself with the business section.
“We want low maintenance,” I said.  “So we’re replacing the grass with—”
“Concrete?!” Norma gasped.
“Over my dead body!” Harold said struggling to his feet.

I ordered them to relax or I would give them a heart attack with a free knuckle sandwich.  I proceeded to explain how Mr. Wonderful and I were planning to remove our thirsty green turf and replace it with California native plants indigenous to Los Angeles like: Manzanita, Toyon, Ceoanthus, California Poppies and Cacti.  These natives had spent thousands of years adapting to the unique climate of Southern California, so they were prepared to thrive in our blistering, dry summers right along with Hollywood’s cruelest snakes.

“Sounds nice,” Norma said.
“Thanks—” I smiled.
“It’s… different,” her spouse said.
“These days," Harold said "you never know what idiot young people will do.”

This time I knew he was talking about us.  But I didn’t care.  I did not digress from my water-wise plan for a grass-free yard.  Come summer I’d have a beautiful garden and he’d be watering the street.


Next Step: The Inspection

P.S. If you’re interested in deleting your Southern California lawn, click here for more information!