Name That Condo!

In my line of work we drive by condominiums all day—tall ones, short ones, stout ones, ugly ones, beautiful ones—every color and design imaginable. And after a while they become a blur. They’re just like stacked boxes of cereal at your grocery store, just more expensive and less tasty. And they begin to look the same. But over the years there’s been one thing that has become clear, as pertains to condos-their homogeneous names. No matter how creative the architecture may be, the names of these zillions of condos are not. The number of condos with the word beach, river, ocean or sea in them is stunning. Check it out. We have Coral Seas, Majestic Seas, Chateau by the Sea, Sea Moon, Emerald Seas and Seaport, to name a few. Then there’s River Club, River View, River Lakes, Riverside, River Bend…And let’s not forget Ocean Woods, Ocean Mist, Oceanfront, Oceanside, Ocean Trail, Ocean Landings…need I go on?

The next thing we lawn monkeys notice regarding condo names is this; once all the beach- ocean-river-sea-wind-sand names have been exhausted, the names start appearing in a different language. It’s as if the English language has met its quota for condominium titles, and so the investors turned to the Spanish dialect for an entirely new host of names! We have Brisa del Mar, Casa del Mar, Las Olas, Costa del Sol, Siesta Lago, Mar Bleu, Casa Serena, Puerto Delrio, and so on and so forth. I don’t know what any of those words mean, but I don’t need to. I just need to know where the buildings are and how much grass they want me to mow.

In the end, as I said earlier, all condos look the same after a while. But at the very least, their names could reveal at least a modicum of imagination and originality. I’d like to see more realistic names too, like Hurricane Magnet in the Sun or Erosion Estates or Senile Villas or even Last Breath Beach Club. Those work, right? And you’d remember them, right? Maybe I’m in the wrong business. Maybe my true talent rests in condominium title designation. But until I move into one of those suckers (like never) I’ll remain on the outside, prancing about on my trusty mower!

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Trailer Trash Part II

As the story continues, I found the owner of the orphaned trailer. She was the sweetest lady, very kind and understanding. But she was out of town for several weeks and wasn’t exactly sure of the existence of said trailer. I assured her it truly did exist, and sent her several photos as proof. I figured her memory failure was simply because the forest had consumed the poor trailer and the old adage “out of sight, out of mind” was at play. She examined the pictures and after a few days of searching the caverns of her mind, she not only remembered the trailer, but also told me where, when and why she had acquired it seven years ago. The bottom line was she no longer needed it and agreed to sell it to me.

Later that week I used my air compressor to fill the tires, hoping they wouldn’t crumble into rubber dust or explode. I got lucky and all went well. I then oiled the yoke and wrestled it onto the hitch on the back of my Explorer. It was no easy task. Not only did the trailer refuse to roll, but to secure the yoke I was forced to jump up and down on it till it locked into place.

I pulled away with this thing behind my car that looked like a portable dump. Half the floor boards were missing allowing sticks and leaves to drop to the ground, leaving a trail of debris much like Hansel and Gretel’s bread crumbs. Vines had woven their way throughout the frame and gate, making it look as if I were hauling a large and ugly shrub with wheels. And speaking of wheels—this is where Thumper got her name—each tire had an almost indiscernible flat spot from sitting in the same position for so many years.  With each revolution of the tires, a bothersome “thump” could not only be heard as I drove, but felt as well. As I increased my speed, the frequency of thumps multiplied until soon all I could hear was a rapid base-drum-thump, over and over and over. Thumper had arrived!

I worked on Thumper over the next couple of weeks, scraping away rust, replacing the deck, oiling and greasing anything that moved and repairing wiring and lights. When she was finally ready for a new coat of paint, I chose gloss coral, also known as pink. It was the only feminine touch I could think of to add to this manly metal monster! (I also figured it would be a great theft deterrent).

Over time Thumper’s flat spots mellowed out a bit. She still thumps as she rolls, but instead of causing me to clench my teeth, I now smile…. for a little bit. Then I start clenching my teeth again. But in spite of her defects, she’s a good little trailer that allows me to load up my gear and drive off into the sunrise on my never-ending quest to beautify Brevard, yard by yard!

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Trailer Trash?

 

Mowgirl Lawn Care has adopted many new properties this season. We are proud of our accomplishments! My crew is stupendous. I often let them play without me. During those times I traipse off with my new pink trailer in tow, and do side jobs. These consist of yard clean ups, landscape rejuvenation, landscape design and implementation, mulch installation, etc. But first, let me tell you how I came across my new trailer, Thumper. It’s a really good story.

One day last summer I was doing some clearing of fallen trees, leaves and brush. A particularly large mound of debris was bothering me. It was in my path and I loathed the thought of clearing away all the leaves and branches that comprised the pile. With disdain I pushed forward filling barrel after barrel with yard debris. Finally I could delay the inevitable no longer…I had reached the monster mound. I went to get a drink of water and sat down and just stared at the pile. “Crap…” I muttered. “It’s a zillion degrees out, I’m getting a blood tansfusion from all these mosquitos bites, and now I have to attack this heap of debris….I hate my life.” I dragged my butt over to the pile and slammed my steel rake down on top of it, hoping to pull a good amount of leaves away. But my rake made a clinking sound and was stuck in the pile. I tugged and yanked and pulled but the rake wouldn’t come free. It was if some creature hiding within the debris had wrapped its clawed fingers around my rake, refusing to let go.

Now I was pissed off. I stomped into the pile, kicking crap out of my way, swearing like a sailor. As I neared the handle of my rake I was stopped. A wall of leaves, normally soft and airy, was suddenly stiff and solid…too solid to push through. “What the eff?” I said. With caution I felt my way around the leaves until my hands came to a stop on something very hard and sturdy…something NOT a bunch of leaves. I began throwing handful after handful of leaves off to one side until suddenly, beneath the monster mound I spied the back gate of a utility trailer! With the excitement of a kid opening a Christmas present, I tore away at the debris, revealing more and more of the trailer.

By the time I had it uncovered my joy had turned to disappointment. Both of the two tires on the 5’x8’ trailer were hopelessly flat. Rust had consumed much of the metal sides and gate. Two lights were broken. And to top it all off, the wooden floor was rotted through. In fact, a host of worms, snails and ants had made their home in the soft moldy wood…it had become a sort of miniature ecosystem.

I exposed the rest of the trailer, then tried opening the gate. It wouldn’t budge. I gave it a few good tugs, then as a last resort, kicked it. Violence worked! The gate slowly dropped toward the ground, protesting with a grating rust-induced squeak. I carefully climbed the ramp-style gate and stepped onto the deck. In an instant my foot sank into the mushy wood and then burst through the floor onto the ground. (Why did I think anything different would happen?)

I drove home that afternoon with all sorts of repair ideas for the feral trailer. If I could get air into its tires and hitch it to my car, I could get it home and better assess the damage. I’d need to check the frame, the axle, the bearings and the hitch. I’d need to scrape down the metal and repaint it. I’d have to replace the deck with fresh slabs of pressure treated wood. I’d have to check the wiring and find out if the broken lights were salvageable. But before I did any of that, I’d have to find out who the hell owned the thing. Who would release a perfectly good trailer into the wild to live off of nuts and berries, become one with nature, and basically go to seed where it sat? Did the owner hope the trailer would roll away in the quiet of the night? Or return months later with a new family in tow? Or maybe the owner was no longer with us. Or moved away and forgot the trailer the way I did to one of my kids last year when we went on vacation. It was a mystery for sure. And I was determined to get to the bottom of it. (…to be continued…)

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Re-Emergence!

OMG! My website fell between the cracks! Resting deep below a year’s worth of dust, it has seemingly been forgotten-like a credit card payment or a dental appointment or your mother’s birthday…But fear not! I’m yanking this site out of those cracks with a vengeance! Like a hidden weed I’m grabbing hold of my pen (keyboard actually), shaking it off and starting anew. And how appropriate…a time for new beginnings is upon us. Spring is around the corner, glittering with new possibilities, new resolutions and fresh starts. Can you feel it in the air? The smell of thawing muddy earth and brown melting snow…the biting winds and single digit temperatures slowly giving way to chilling gales and gentle slush. Snow tires are stored for another year and galoshes replace fleece lined boots. Mittens are tucked away, scarves stowed, sleds and toboggans stuffed into the corners of the garage…NOT! That kind of spring is just a bad memory for a lot of us Floridians. It’s the impetus for our sojourn south. A Florida spring is gentler, kinder and brief. Too brief if you ask me or any of my lawn care constituents. Florida spring is sly. It’s sneaky. It comes in like a lion and leaves like a steam bath. Windows on every house abruptly slam shut for the next 9 months, while air conditioners roar to life. And the grass? Well let me tell you about the grass. It jumps to life and in the blink of an eye begins growing with the ferocity of a chia pet. And then it’s GAME ON. Relentless sun, epic humidity, deathly heat and grass on steroids…that’s a Florida spring to the typical lawn monkey. The gateway to hell. But we at Mowgirl Lawn Care walk through it with our heads held high, our deodorant spread thick and our sunglasses polished! Spring has sprung and we’re ready to pounce! Look for more pseudo-interesting blog posts, coming soon.

This is NOT a snowflake…

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Help Wanted: Contestant #3

broken_bikeArriving on an old beat up bicycle, this contestant already had me worried. My ad specifically stated “must have valid and clean license and reliable transportation.” Nine times out of ten, if a guy shows up on a bike, said guy has no license. And by the looks of his bike, his transportation was more lethal than reliable. But my optimistic side said maybe he’s that special one guy out of ten who chooses to rally for a clean environment by riding/dragging a bike to work each day. He wore a Nirvana tee shirt and surf shorts covered with blue and orange flowers. Nice touch, right? His hair was cropped close to his skull and he wore no hat. Whatever brains he had were going to fry on this 105 degree day. Huge dark glasses covered his eyes and a cigarette hung from his mouth. He smiled and introduced himself as Al. I noticed that at least he had all his teeth.

I had Al use the push mower, an old but reliable Cub Cadet.mow1 “Go into the back yard of that house and cut the grass. When you’re done, grab the edger and do that house plus these other three. You know how to use an edger, right?” Al glanced into my trailer, spotted the stick equipment and said, “You mean that over there?” I had no idea to which tool he was referring, so I yanked the edger out of the rack, shoved it toward his face and said, “I mean this. The edger.”Al wiped the sweat of his forehead and nodded. “I can edge.”  “Okay,” I said, already losing patience, “get going.”

He disappeared into the designated back yard and I started mowing the surrounding yards. As I finished my first yard I looked toward the trailer and noticed Al had not returned with the push mower yet. Figuring it’s his first day and he’d be slow, I continued onto the next yard. Upon completion of that yard I saw he’d still not finished his task. That did not bode well. I shut off my mower and walked toward the trailer. As I took a drink of dogwater I saw Al stumble out of the back yard, soaked in sweat and panting like a dog that’d just retrieved a ball from a mile down the road. He stopped to catch his breath and lit a cigarette to help regulate his breathing. He limped back to the truck and said “That mower’s a bitch to use…” I smiled and said, “Yeah, it’s a great mower, isn’t it!”

Al swayed a bit, and I swear I could see bubbles forming on the top of his head, like water getting ready to boil. “You okay?” I asked, not wanting to request the services of 911. He took a drag off his cigarette and sputtered, “You know, I only got one lung.” I didn’t even flinch. It all made perfect sense. Another pull on his smoke and he continued, “I was in a car wreck last year and they had to remove a lung.” He was still struggling for breath as I gently walked him toward his bike. I pulled a twenty dollar bill from my pocket and gave it to him. I turned his bike around, aiming it away from my trailer, away from my accounts and away from me, helped him climb on, and gave him a little shove. He made shaky progress, juggling a fresh smoke in one hand, a lighter in the other.                            Goodbye Contestant #3.

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Help Wanted: Contestant #2

Contestant #2

This guy showed real promise. He had been doing lawn service for five years and knew not only the business, but how to repair equipment as well. Bonus, for sure. He told me he could literally run through the accounts, despite the long hours and the obnoxiously high heat. He told me he could work seven days a week, as many hours a day as needed. He told me if I gave him a chance he’d prove himself to me. He was confident, although a bit cocky. But I was willing to give him a shot. I was let down when I learned he was only 22 years old…never a good age, in my experience. Yet desperation drove me to give him a chance.

His name was Jeff, and he showed up on time. Actually, his mother dropped him off on time. He stood by my truck, cigarette hanging out of his mouth, with a massive cooler in other hand, and several towels in the other. We climbed into the truck and boy lunchboxdrove to our first account.

Jeff practically jumped out of the truck as it rolled to a stop. He scurried to the back of the trailer and released the ramp. It bounced to the ground and he immediately stepped up onto the foot rest of my stand-on mower.

“Whoa there, buddy!” I called out. “No newbie rides the mower the first day…or the second or third for that matter.” He looked like a dog who’d just been scolded.

“Oh, sorry ma’am. I just thought that was what you wanted. I’m sorry. It’s just what I usually do. Of course I should have asked. I’m so sorry. It’ll never happen again…” I raised my hand to stop his apologies.

“No worries, Jeff. Just calm down, man. Take it easy. Slow down. It’s a billion degrees out here. You’re gonna have heat stroke.” I glanced down at his jeans and 8 pound work boots and shook my head. This was going to be interesting.

I gave Jeff the edger and set him loose…literally. He was like a horse who’d just heard the starting pistol. I watched him disappear into the dust, then climbed on the mower and went to work. I assessed the edges as I mowed, pleased to admit he was doing a thorough job despite his speed. When the mowing was done I headed back to the truck. Jeff was leaning on the shady side of the trailer, looking pretty darn pale. He had one of his many towels over his head and a Gatorade in his hand.throw up

“What’s up, buddy?” I asked. “You don’t look so great.” With glazed eyes he turned to me and promptly barfed in the parking lot. I busied myself with the blower until I no longer heard gasping, then approached him with caution. “You okay?”

“I’m so sorry. What an idiot I am! I didn’t eat breakfast and I drank my Gatorade too fast and I took my meds on an empty stomach and ….”

“Stop!” I interrupted. “Those are all things you can do differently next time. I’m gonna blow off while you call your mother to come pick you up.”

“I’ll be better tomorrow if you’ll give me another chance,” he promised. “I just need to rest and try to eat and take my meds earlier.”

“Just do what you have to do, man. I’ll meet you in the morning.”

Next morning Jeff’s mother dropped him off on time. I noticed he was no longer clad in jeans and steel toed boots. He still had his ultra-large cooler and a collection of towels. He was still yanking on a cigarette. We drove to our first account and I instructed him on the concept of pacing himself, drinking water often in small amounts and taking breaks when necessary. I had somehow taken on the role of mother. It felt wrong and I had all sorts of doubts.

Ten minutes later Jeff was barfing behind a bush in hopes I’d somehow miss the fact that he was already beaten by Mother Nature. As I drove him home (his mother was at work) he was madly scratching at his legs.

“I think I’m allergic to grass,” he admitted. Awesome news.

Jeff tossed his cookies every day for four days. His legs and arms were red and splotchy and maddeningly itchy. He kept trying, and I held out hope because of that. But on the fifth day he didn’t show up for work. He didn’t answer his phone when I called. He didn’t return any of my messages. It was clear that Contestant #2 was out of the running. On to Contestant #3.

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Help Wanted: Contestant #1

Sporobolus airiodes and paspalum notatum...hmmmm.

Sporobolus airiodes and paspalum notatum…hmmmm.

HELP WANTED…that has been my mantra this summer. My lawn business is growing by leaps and bounds. By late June it becomes clear to my achy-breaky body that the time has come for a part time helper. Turning to the ever-handy Craigslist, I place an ad for a part time lawn technician. But the term “lawn technician” makes me think of some geeky guy holed up in a sterile lab, experimenting with all sorts of different sods, getting really technical about grass. So I change it to “part time lawn maintenance position.” I then make it very very very clear that only those with experience should apply. I refuse to train anyone when the busy season is in full swing. I also make it crystal clear that this is a part time position—2-3 days a week for 6-8 hours/day. And lastly, I make it emphatically clear that a clean license and reliable transportation are necessary, and I’ll only consider people who live locally…like Cape Canaveral, Cocoa Beach or Merritt Island.

Contestant #1: This guy arrives on time, but climbs over several people as he exits the back seat of a beat up Dodge Caravan.

The quintessential compact van.

The quintessential compact van.

Not driving, I note, which leads me to believe he has no license, and the car is not his car, which means the reliable transportation my ad insists upon is most likely nonexistent. I show him my stick equipment and he immediately grabs an edger and fires it up. Okay, at least he knows what the machine does and how it starts. And he’s off and running and he’s really great! He has past experience, for sure.

As we drive to our next account he mentions how he has the same mowers as I. I ask, “Why work for me then? Why not start your own business?” That’s when I learn about his recent release from jail, and his stick equipment that was apparently stolen by some

Yo bitches. Zup?

Yo bitches. Zup?

mobsters that are currently after him. He expresses an uncomfortably urgent desire to kill the offensive mobsters, but laments the fact that the police confiscated his weapons (note the plural usage of weapon…).

When the day is done I pay him, as promised, not wishing to create any animosity between us, trying to stay on his good side and off the mobster list. But then I’m faced with a tormenting dilemma. He’s a great worker—experienced, efficient and physically fit. And I really need the additional help. The business is thriving and my partner and I can’t work any harder or longer than we already are. But the whole jail thing and possible intent to kill thing sort of bother me. I shudder when he asks, “What time do we start tomorrow?” Fearing for my life (and my stick equipment) I blurt, “Seven o’clock! Meet at the parking yard!”

I later learn that Contestant #1 lives in Port Orange. That’s over 60 miles away! I curse myself for being wimpy, for failing to follow my instincts and for not asking enough

You're gonna pay for this Mowgirl!

You’re gonna pay for this Mowgirl!

questions. What happens on the day he gets a ride all the way to Cocoa Beach only to get rained out after an hour? Does he go postal on us? Does he hold my stick equipment hostage unless I pay him for a full day’s work? Does he sacrifice me to the mobsters???

I wake up the next morning full of apprehension. I have to tell this guy it’s just not going to work out. Several other calls came in from the Craigslist ad and I plan to look into them. There’s got to be a better contestant out there. With shaky hands I reach for my cell phone. I turn it on and to my amazement (and relief) there’s a text message from Contestant #1. It reads: “My son is sick. Must stay with him. Sorry.” I’m unsure if this is secret code for “I can’t get a ride the 70 stinkin miles to Cocoa Beach because my mother’s boyfriend’s son’s girlfriend’s crappy Dodge Caravan broke down.” But it’s a perfect opportunity to text back: “No worries. I’m going to try out a few other applicants and get back to you. I hope your son feels better soon.” And with that, I never hear from Contestant #1 again. Whew. That was a close one.

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Nobody’s Home

Caption: Tommy’s abandoned home was found by a canal in Cocoa Beach.

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Look closely at this image and you’ll notice Tommy Turtle is AWOL. That’s right. This dude split his pad under suspicious circumstances.  Most likely Tommy got behind on his mortgage payments and his shell is now under foreclosure. Tough break, Tommy. But we all gotta come out of our shell sometime…

 

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Tools of the Trade

I found this relic pair of pliers while raking through a knee-high pile of sea grape leaves.

 

 Such an accumulation of leaves indicates quite an extensive passage of time…centuries, at least. Perhaps this tool was once used during the Iron Age as a weapon of mass destruction. Or it may have been a sophisticated tool used in ancient dental rituals.pullingteeth

The unique shape suggests exquisite workmanship, such as was displayed by the post-Rigvedic Vedic civilization.  And the metal itself could be ferrous or cast or even meteoritic. The possibilities are endless.

 Considering the historical value of these pliers, I’m certain the curators of the Smithsonian would jump at the chance to add them to their collection of antiquated gadgetry! Just think of it…Mowgirl Lawn Care would be famous, known around the world as the only lawn care company to ever discover such a rare and unusual artifact! Who would ever think such a dirty, sweaty, and lowly blue-collar job could bring one such acclaim and glory?!

 Capture

And naturally, everyone would want to start a lawn business in hopes of discovering the next priceless relic. Soon Florida would be overrun by fledgling lawn care companies. And that’s not so good. My competition would be intensely stiff. I’m sure I’d be up against low ballers, and I’d lose accounts and job opportunities. It wouldn’t be long before I went bankrupt. My kids would starve to death and I’d be alone and penniless. My lawn trailer and my truck would be auctioned off, along with my mowers and all my equipment.

imagesWhat took me 20 years to establish would be lost in a mere month all because of these crappy pliers that were probably made by Craftsman. Hey, wait a tic…Craftsman has a lifetime warranty on all their tools. Sweet! I’ll head to Sears and get me a brand new Craftsman artifact! Plus I’ll be able to keep my job, run my business, feed my kids, and remain blissfully insignificant to the world.

 

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A super collection of balls

P1000938It seems that super balls abound in Florida. I find them everywhere–in the grass, in the middle of shrubbery, in parking lots, in flower beds, driveways, swimming pools, storm drains, street gutters, bird baths, trash barrels, and even in the hands of little children. Some of the super balls have large chunks missing. Others are covered with mold. Many are on the verge of disintegrating, actually flaking off as I hold them. My daughter has been adding each colorful bouncing gem I find to a massive pretzel container for about six years. I think we have about a hundred of the things by now. It’s a great conversation piece. So if you need a super ball for a last minute occasion, or if your child is missing a super ball, we probably have it…and you can’t have it back.

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