Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do....

This post has nothing to do with D. It's the other two guys in my life that I'm breaking up with. Hugo, the (erstwhile) gardener, and James, the (so-called)hair stylist. I have such a tale of woe, tales of woes, plural that is, so sit a spell and listen while I spill it.

Once upon a time, Hugo was the light of my life, or at the very least, of my yard. Hugo is the fellow who guided us through the landscaping of our front and back yards.
He was patient and funny and understanding of our horticultural quirks (D is an oak tree fanatic; I'm a lilac girl myself) and our quarrels over which plant, when and where (there is, I now regret, little that we couldn't find to argue about). But Hugo was loyal and noble, through it all, a proud emigrant from somewhere in Mexico and yes I believe he had a green card, although his Guys, as he called them, I believe do not. He was also cute, which doesn't hurt a bit, as far as I'm concerned. Even if he did wear a crucifix that would trip a nun. But still, Hugo is what the American dream is about, and he has built a thriving business doing landscaping and lawns all over the area. Perhaps that was the problem.

Hugo and his Guys would come every Friday to mow and weed and do whatever it is they had to do to make the back and front look good. I left it up to Hugo, since I really considered it His Garden. Since I think he considered it His Garden as well. Fertilizing? Let me do it, Senora. Just leave me the plants you want put in and my Guys will dig and plant what you want. You don't have to do nothing; I will do the garden. Don't worry. Just tell me what you want. So I didn't worry, and the first year or so, I left it all to Hugo, who was faithfully here every Friday with his Guys. He did whatever I asked, and then some.

Then, oh maybe seven or so months ago, Hugo started showing up only on the occasional Friday. His Guys still came, but there was no way for me to tell them what I wanted because I speak no Spanish (okay, I can ask for rolls and butter, which is another story entirely) and they spoke no English. None. Nada. We would try to communicate, but perhaps my gesticulations are confusing. We would approach each other with smiles and openness, lots of nods and buenos. But I could tell by the blank look on the Guy's face, his slack mouth and vacant eyes, that nothing, nada, had gotten through. Even though he was nodding and saying Yes, Missus (to show he knew we were speaking English after all).

So I would have to call Hugo at home, and he would have to come over after church on Sunday, tromp round my yard, noting the weeding the Guys had not done. Or the trimming and pruning. Not to mention, where was the fertilizer? And the grass seed he promised? And what happened to the grapes that D has asked him to tie up? Or the poles for the overburdened fruit trees? And what about the lights that didn't work on the $700 lighting system he had installed for us. When would these things happen? Yes, Missus, I'll get my Guys to do it. It's not good enough, Hugo, I told him. You've got to have someone on site who speaks English. I understand if you can't be here every time, but I have to be able to talk to your Guys. Yes, Missus.

He Yes, Missus-ed me for another six months or so. Meanwhile, more and more I took over the gardening chores. I bought tools and implements, and dug a bit and planted tomatoes. I figured out the electronic watering gizmo when the grass in the front started to look really, really, brown. And I bought fertilizer stakes and pounded them into the ground around the fruit trees. I deadheaded the roses, tied them up when the wind blew them over, and got down on my hands and knees and pulled out every weed that was encroaching on my property. Of which there were many, since where we live was once, in the not too distant past, farmland and cow pasture. The things that grow in such places are still in the earth here, waiting the slightest opportunity to return. Mother Nature will win out, you know.

Finally, about a month ago, I called Hugo. Your Guys are doing a terrible job, I told him. They are here for 5 minutes to cut the grass and nothing more. This can't go on. I'm going to have to find someone else. He was contrite. He apologized. He thanked me for telling him and he said mine was the third such phone call he had had recently. I will come out tomorrow and we will fix this as you want it. Please, senora.

Tomorrow never came. That is, a month or more of Fridays have come and gone since that phone call, but Hugo has never appeared. Instead, his Guys have come every Friday and ripped through the lawn mowing. They did do some weeding. And pulled up flowers I had planted. And deadheaded the roses when I wasn't looking. When I first looked at the bush, I thought the thing was dying, it was so sparse and spindly. That's when I saw what they had done. Chomp, chomp, chomp--cut the branches back wherever there had been flowers. Deadheading roses isn't exactly brain surgery, but any fool knows that you cut the stem just before the first five-leaf growth. No, the Guys hacked the roses, and it will be a long time before they recover their fullness and beauty.

Obviously I had to break up with Hugo. Despite my liking him, despite him being so cute (despite the crucifix), and despite all he had done to make my landscaping look so good. Two weeks before the end of the month, I told one of the Guys. This one claimed to speak English. Sort of. So I said. "Two more weeks, then no more. Tell Hugo." The Guy nodded mournfully.
The last Friday, I was sure Hugo would show up. I had his check for him, after all. But, no, he had foresaken me. This is the end, I told the Guy. What shall I do with Hugo's check? The Guy said I could give it to him, and he would give it to Hugo. Not in as many words, but that was the gist.

And then, the next Friday, I heard a familiar sound. The roar of the lawn mower; the whine of the gas (outlawed in LA) leaf blower. I look outside and there were the Guys. Doing their five minute number on the lawn. I was befuddled, not to mention pissed. Had I not made myself clear? I rushed outside, which took me just as long as it took them to finish mowing, and waved my hands, saying, "No, no more. I told you. No more. The end. Finito." Was the Guy's English that awful? Or, was it selective? Was Hugo involved any more in the whole thing, or had he given the Guys our account? I'm beginning to think that's what he did. Maybe he lost us in low stakes poker game. Or sold us to the highest bidder down at the gas station on Florin where all the Guys hang out every day. I'll never know. And I'll always wonder.

For now, I figure I have a couple of weeks to find someone to mow the lawn. When I walk Molly in the morning and I see a gardener, I yell, "Do you speak English?" If he can answer reasonably, I take his name and number. The rest of the gardening--I've been doing it myself for months, so I'll keep on. I like it, actually. I always have.

Part II--The breakup with James tomorrow soon.


  1. This is clearly a case for Alta-Vista's babelfish. Or a few Spanish classes. Or maybe YOU SHOULD HAVE JUST CALLED YOUR NEIGHBOR WHO KNOWS SIXTEEN WAYS TO THREATEN PEOPLE EN ESPANOL!

    Duh. Just sayin'.

    P.S. - What do you have against us Catholics?

  2. queen: who knew my neighbors were so erudite! Re catholics: I really am Catholic. Just masquerading as a Jew. To see what it feels like to be one of the oppressed.

    Seriously, I spent so much time at Mass with my girlfriends as a kid that I thought I was Catholic. Wanna try me on the Rosary? Bet my Hail Mary's are faster than yours.....

  3. "En el futuro, no quiero servicio de cesped. Jamas. Comprende?

    (en el foo-too-row, no kee-air-oh sir-BEE-see-oh de ses-pehd. Hamas. Kom-prehn-day?)

    In the future, I don't want lawn service. Never. Get it?

  4. thank you, sueb0b. i will practice my pronunciation. i will speak clearly. and firmly.

  5. I had already read this to myself and now I read it aloud to Will. I asked him if he had a comment. He said, "It's a good story!" It is!

  6. carol: must be all the storytelling I listened to from the aunts....!

  7. A crucifix that would trip a nun? Awesome!

    Ugh, what a nightmare. I wish I could say I feel your pain, but living in a condo frees me from all..."that," she said waving her hands dismissively.


So--whaddaya think?