Blog: Stranger in a Strange Land

11/28/11 - Stranger in a Strange Land - Yard Work in New Cumberland

This blog post is about being an outsider, and also about raking leaves. Ordinarily I blog about writing music, but I have not been doing much of that sort of thing since the fall semester began at Bucknell. I am hoping to get back on the wagon over the holiday break and get some writing done, but right now just thinking about starting the next piece makes me want to take a nap.

On December 3 Julia and I will have lived in New Cumberland, PA for four months. There have been some odd adjustments to make after living our entire lives in the midwest:

* The tornado siren that goes off every day does NOT mean "run to the basement, death incoming!" but rather, a call to arms for the volunteer fire department.

* Pronouncing "Lancaster" is not at all how it should be, but some sort of graceful elision of consonants and syllables that sounds like a minor god from Lovecraft's Cthulu mythos.

* My car looks oddly naked without a front license plate.

* OMGgaspricesWTF. Missouri is nationally one of the cheapest states for gas prices and we definitely suffered sticker shock when we arrived.

* We both like beer, a lot. However, due to state regulations you are expected to buy it in bulk at "beer distributors" or pay $10+ for a six pack. Also, many restaurants are BYOB due to liquor licensing restrictions. If you brought a bottle of Cutty Sark into a local eatery where we are from, you would promptly meet the business end of the proprietor's size 12's.

* Finally, our township apparently schedules Halloween. Forget about trick or treating on October 31st because it's too dangerous! I wonder what strange rituals they have in store for New Year's Eve?

These idiosyncrasies are minor gripes (except for the beer thing - that really grinds my gears) and tend to show up infrequently. We have been treated wonderfully by everyone so far and are both really enjoying living in New Cumberland. I love teaching at Bucknell - both my colleagues and students are great - and Julia is enjoying her job, too. My point is that sometimes things come up that are strange and foreign when you least expect them. This past weekend was one of those times.

In October we went to a local farm with a pumpkin patch and decorated our front steps with three painstakingly-painted pumpkins done by yours truly. You can bet we were the only ones on our street with a St. Louis Cardinals pumpkin!

I recently had to throw them away due to their rapidly deteriorating condition. Perhaps that was for the best, as I swear I saw the lady across the street in some weird robes placing ceremonious candles on our sidewalk. Apparently that logo looks an awful lot like an ancient Druidic glyph whose meaning I hope was not "house of ill-repute."

I hate yard work. If given the choice between mowing the lawn or some painful, embarrassing medical procedure, why don't we just see what the good doctor's availability is for Thursday, shall we? I have been putting off raking the leaves for several weeks and was semi-relieved when the weather was horrible at the start of the Thanksgiving break. However, absolutely glorious weather this past Saturday meant I had to suck it up and get the lawn in working order. The only problem - no rake. We did not bring one with us when we moved and I had no need for one until this exact moment in time. Off to the local Sears!
[cue driving music]

Nautilus mvt. 3

Being this late in the season, it is no surprise that there are NO RAKES available when I get to the store. Oh, wait, I am mistaken - there is an 8' rake that would look small even in the hands of a toddler. Just as I start to panic and consider driving 15 miles to the nearest Lowes I see a man holding up a rake! However, upon closer inspection this man was not so much holding up the rake as angrily brandishing it in front of an elderly store clerk. Apparently his new rake lost all of its teeth upon first usage - perhaps these aren't the rakes I was looking for after all. Just as I am leaving the store in defeat, a glorious box appears upon the horizon, filled to the brim with adult-sized rakes. I grab one and scurry to the checkout where the saleswoman informs me in a surprised tone that the rake is on super-secret clearance for $2. I am amazingly happy at this good fortune and only later resign myself to old age based upon such glee at getting a good price on something as mundane as a rake.

Another thing adding to my decision to do yard work is neighborly guilt. When you see everyone out working on their lawn (perhaps there is a lawn care day in PA that I was not informed about?), it makes one feel like a slacker when our lawn looks like bollocks. We should come with a disclaimer - THE MISSOURIANS ARE COMING, SURROUNDING HOME VALUES TO BE LOWERED EXPONENTIALLY. Anyhow, amid this racking guilt the past few weeks I have noticed large piles of leaves on the streets. Here is a shot of the end of our own street:

Shimmer alto flute feature

I did not put much stock into these piles until considering what to do with my own leaves. If I were to do such a thing back in Kansas City, surely our shirtless Republican neighbor would appear at the door, bottle of Jack in hand, chastising me to no end. In fact, I also picked up a stack of lawn bags at Sears in preparation for the task at hand. Now I am at a loss - will the weekly trash pickup even take the lawn bags? What happens to those huge piles of leaves? We have on-street parking, so where will we park if I erect Mount Leafmore in front of our abode? I resolutely decide to fill the lawn bags and to hell with the consequences, acutely aware of the fluttering blinds across the street as the neighbors watched covertly.

In my heightened sense of alert I was also aware of the midwestern scarlet letters adorning my clothing, what with the STL Cards World Series hat and Boulevard Brewing t-shirt. This is how we roll in the midwest, y'all:

(Ed. note - I was going to advertise the free lawn mower sitting by the bags but someone has already claimed it before I had a chance to upload the blog. See that rake? $2!)