e-mail me at billdeg@umich.edu


Who Are The People In Your Neighborhood?

Almost every morning, I've been taking a walk through Berkley, Michigan, where I live. In addition to a handful of "No Soliciting" signs and one that proclaims "Support Israel" (how much more support can we possibly give?), my favorite frontyard message has got to be "Fair Warning: We Have Dogs." I like the simple, declarative syntax, but also the tone, which suggests We don't give a shit if our dogs hurt you and we sincerely hope this sign shields us from any resulting litigation.

People love their property in my 'hood. Not just their houses, but the land too. They spray chemicals on their lawns, use who knows how many gallons of water not on edible plants but rather on grass, and use these edger things to make shallow pits along "their" parts of the sidewalk. Many prefer their grass to be the color of a football field, or the Brady Brunch backyard. A couple across the street once put down some type of sod only to call the company right back to take up the rolls of grass and lay down another type.

Not having grown up in suburbia, a lot of the aesthetic and lifestyle preferences are lost on me. In fact, things like the edgers completely mystify me. I want to make some kind of link between the obsession with the lawns and the disinterest in socializing with others in the neighborhood, but I suppose I am just as much at fault for the fact that I only know the people who live in the two houses on either side of me and the guy whose backyard butts up against my backyard. All perfectly nice people. But I don't know anybody else on the block. I knew more people who lived on my block in Beirut, and I didn't even speak the same language as many of them. Of course I could make more of an effort too but I just wonder at what point the conversation will turn to the subject of grass.

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