My Dad and Don Vito Corleone

May 4, 2016 at 5:30 am (Sweet sticky things, Waxing Nostalgic)

Yard tools“Are you guys cleaning again?” It was the neighbor across the street. We rarely speak, just keep our heads down and pretend the other doesn’t exist. It’s the great Southeast Portland way. Everyone behaves like it’s prison.

“Yeah, we do it every ten years, whether it needs it or not.” I smiled and tossed another load of yard debris into the construction dumpster. Bro-in-law had just come to help. It was last day of spring cleaning before they take the dumpster away.

We’ve been buying the same house in Lents for fifteen years now. It’s better now than it was when we bought it, mostly. We’ve replaced bathroom floors, hell, we replaced the bathroom. We’ve been through a couple bug infestations, and I’ve had a couple of girlfriend infestations as well. Her stuff has been harder to get rid of than the bugs.

In order to buy the house, all the adults have to work part-time as much as allowed to make bills. My sister has been throwing newspapers and working in a stable for years until recently. A cancer scare and some time to breathe showed her (with my encouragement) that there are easier ways to get through life than working yourself to death for nothing. She loves working with horses, but their attached humans can be the worst, so I helped her get a job cleaning human stables. (She’s a hotel room attendant now, in one of the mid-range downtown hotels.) It’s showing her the prettier side of Portland, and she can pop in to the Waterfront Store on her way home and drop off the daily newspaper. The Oregonian no longer gives her a free delivery paper, but the hotel put her in charge of recycling the dailies comped to the rooms. I get better Oregonian service from the Hotel!

So Sis is tired, and bro-in-law works until Tuesday, so it’s up to me to get this springtime yard clean-up rolling…

Sunday morning, my favorite time of the week. Everyone is passed out from Saturday night, except the old Asians wandering the neighborhood. (And the guys on bikes with trailers, looking for cans and shit to steal.) I assessed the situation, found my brand new gloves (thanks to Southie and the store’s trade show freebie basket) grabbed the clippers and went to the yard. There were garbage bags and suitcases of Rain’s stuff, piled in the driveway and front yard. The container of almost every beverage drank in the last year was piled in bags. I had a brainstorm! I grabbed two garbage bags and began picking.

My cousin, since we do it, figures he can throw his cans in the yard too. (But he only does it when I’m not home.) Fortunately, he drinks the mainstream stuff, so I find tons of Pepsi, Coke etc… Within a few minutes I had collected a nice round 200 cans. I smoked a fatty and hauled my kill, a garbage bag three-quarters full, to the Nightclub Store, where Dr T would allow me to break the store’s 50 can limit. In exchange I sorted and cleaned the bottle room, and took the ten bucks to the Dispensary for a weed water. Fuck it, if I’m doing yard work, I’m the boss. My rules!

However, I discovered I’m more of a driven asshole when I’m the boss. I grumbled internally for a minute about not getting much help, then dismissed all of that. I was kinda curious whether I could make it through a full eight-hour day? Not if I drink a vitamin water. Sunday I picked over my room, and got rid of anything that could go. Last chance!

The next couple of days were spent in a green space not usually enjoyed by me. Blackberries, tar-root, ivy, (go Cubbies!) and all that fucking trash. Little by little you could reach the back fence. I unearthed Rain’s old suitcase from the first time she moved out, two and a half years ago. Goddamn. I thought I threw that away last year. I took it to the dumpster and unzipped it. There was the Wilson leather coat, the only thing she remembered leaving behind. It had green spots growing all over, was home to a family of small slugs, and smelled like death. (Leather *is* dead animal.) Sorry babe, but you don’t want this coat no more.

I looked for her gospel CDs, but I’d already moved everything salvageable to her new place last year. I found nothing she’d miss or need. I did find a lovely pair of shoes without spiders crawling on them, so I’m going to surprise her with those one of these nights.

Dumpster May 3 2016The yard. Oh, the yard. The backyard and it’s bottle pile. I got our rickety back-gate open, cleaned the dog poop from the path, and began picking up stragglers from broken bags rotted from the elements. Soon my Sis was at the door, with gloves and boots, and we made quick work of that bottle pile. They were mostly my sister’s Mike’s Mango Hard Lemonades. It was like an AA meeting as we tossed and sorted. She’s been sober since the new job, and since the cancer. I will do almost anything to keep it that way. It will be five years for me next month. I got no use for alcohol in my body, but I got that bottle of wine I stole off a beer thief in case Rain wants to come over and look for her gospel CDs.

That grody, disgusting pile was one of the biggest reasons I wanted a dumpster. Now that that’s conquered, what else? I’d been working a couple hours, mostly trying to tire out so I could sleep until everyone wanted to get up and help. That wasn’t happening. I stared at the large, overgrown backyard, and decided I’d focus on the front yard. The City of Portland had sent us a nuisance violation, so I will use the dumpster space to make as much a dent as possible.

Front yard May 3 2016I opened my window, blasted music into the yard as I ripped and tore. I realized if I got down low and snipped the biggest blackberry stalks, I could drag the equivalent of a small tree to the dumpster each trip. When bro-in-law went off to do laundry, I hadn’t finished the driveway. When he returned with groceries, I had the front cleared out and was working my way around the side of the house. That morning, there was barely a path to get to my window, the first one going into the yard. Now you can see everything! I think he felt bad. He kept suggesting I take a break, asking if there was anything he could do?

“Just do what you can. We only have the dumpster until morning.” So we tidied up the yard. It was about 4 PM, and I was feeling a bit punchy. I sat down to the computer to post a brag on the face-place, and heard the whine of hydraulics. I met bro-in-law mid-trip to the driveway.

“They’re taking the big dumpster, they need it for a big project. They will bring us another one tomorrow.”

Since this was provided free, thanks to some bureaucratic sweet talk from yours truly, I will believe that when I see it.

“You’re sure there’s nothing else I can do?” Bro-in-law was impressed by my effort.

“Well, can you loan me $60, so I can get some new shoes? I sprayed alcohol on these to kill some ants, and now the sole is falling off.” (True: Isopropyl alcohol will dissolve even Nike shoe glue.)

He thought for a second. “I’ll be right back.”

Right back took a couple minutes, but he knocked and handed me three crisp $20 bills. “Thanks for doing that. It’s on me.” He agreed to buy pizza as well, but I didn’t press my luck. I’d just worked six hours and made a pair of shoes! That’s, that’s… ten dollars an hour. Sigh. Then I realized since I was working for myself and couldn’t afford to pay myself minimum wage, I did pretty fucking good.

I turned the music off, and sat in a small chair, looking around my yard. My yard. Amazing what I got done in six hours, and I had the best time working along side my lovely sister. (Bro-in-law, while not necessarily lovely looking, is a lovely man, and I enjoyed his help, too.) I kinda puddled up a bit, thinking about what an old man I am. My Dad and Don Corleone. Two men I wanted to be like when I got real old. They both liked puttering in the garden. If I spend ten minutes a day on yardwork, I may never have to do yard WORK again.

And since one of my nieces pointed out that I will qualify for elderly housing at the end of the month, (FYVM) I guess I’d better show that I can take care of this home, before I end up in one.


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