Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Leaf Blowers as true Americana

Many of us refer to the World Series as the Fall Classic, while, for others, autumn is a time to watch professional football on televisions every Sunday, and Monday, and occasional Thursday (come to think about it) while high school football happens under the lights on Friday nights and college football is reserved for Saturday afternoons, and evenings and, seemingly random Tuesdays evenings.

None of those are what Autumn in New England is all about. What defines the season here is gassing up the old leaf blower, slapping on the mickey mouse earphones so the roar of the engine doesn't deafen you like those Iron Maiden shows of the early Eighties used to do (still have the tee-shirt, do you? Run for the Hills indeed!) and then you set to work gathering up the falling and fallen leaves, getting them together in large piles and placing them into your compostor (I have two of them in the corner of the backyard along with the active biologicals that I combine with the cut grass and moisture to produce the enriched matter I work into my tomato patch the following spring) and there you have it----

Or not.
Most people with leaf blowers have the gasoline powered versions, because they're just a lot louder than the electric ones and you can go anywhere with those bad boys, and they can blow any and all leaves they find on their property out into the street or onto a neighbor's property, because somewhere in an obscure codicil of the Bill of Rights or an addedum to the Articles of Confederation grandfathered into the Constitution is a provision about your right to arm bears and to be obnoxiously loud, befoul the air with gasoline fumes and poison your relationships with your neighbors.

We just had a beautiful Columbus Day weekend here in Southeastern Connecticut. I'd say it was like like a second Indian Summer, but I suspect the operators of one of the two huge Native American owned casinos within fifteen minutes of my house would take exception so I'll skip it. What I wish the rest of us would have skipped was the Saturday and Sunday battle of the blowers. With the Red Sox and Tampa Bay on Saturday evening and the Patriots playing in the late afternoon of Sunday, many of us could have ourselves a time reminiscent of The Cat in the Hat Comes Back as neighbor A blew the leaves over to Neighbor B's yard and two hours late Mr. B avenged himself on Family A. And to think that I saw it on Mulberry Street.

Leaf blowers are uniquely American-no one else has them and most people in whose countries I've lived or visited cannot comprehend having a device as pointless and wasteful as a leaf blower. In many ways, it's more perfectly symbolic of the United States than the bald eagle and is the closest thing an appliance could ever come to representing the entire Presidential election campaign.

Except that it wouldn't work, because all successful sports in the USA have television contracts, I can see a new national sports craze where people in golf carts drive around (blindfolded? why not?), talking on a cell phone while a partner in the shotgun seat operates a leaf blower trying to coerce a small animal, perhaps a ferret dipped in iridescent paint (Fox Sports' experiment with the blue glowing puck some years back has made an indelible impression upon me) into a shoebox that closes down with a satisfying snap on the little furry fugitive and points are awarded for the number of passes it takes to herd the ferret into the box.

Of course, everyone would be so busy competing for a place on a local team that leaves might fall unnoticed for decades, renewing the earth and returning to it some of the nutrients and minerals we have thoughtlessly plundered from it in our evolution from the ooze to the cheeseheads and foam fingers we have that differentiate us from the lower primates and others on this orb. And like snowflakes, and leaves, no two of us are alike.
-bill kenny

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