how well maintained was my valley

It happened again this morning -- I was rudely awakened from my restful slumber by the sound of a lawn mower which sounded so close I could have sworn it was mowing my bedroom carpet. All summer I put up with lawn mowers, patiently awaiting the day that fall rolls around, when the grass doesn't grow enough to warrant cutting it.

But either my neighbors forget that they've hired lawn crews, and just keep paying these guys to mow non-existent grass, or they're so obsessed with keeping up appearances that they need even the slightest, most minute bit of growth -- 1/16th of an inch, tops -- to be eradicated.

I don't have too many pet peeves -- women wearing coats on their shoulders without using the armholes is my strangest, yet most irritable one -- but suburban lawn obsessions rank pretty high on my small list. To me it's a symbol of all that's wrong with suburbia. I wouldn't be surprised if some of my neighbors have spent more time and effort on cutting their lawns than on raising their children. At some point, some humans decided that lawn maintenance was a powerfully important task, and ever since then middle aged suburban men have spent their weekends fertilizing, weeding, de-grubbing, trimming, weed-wacking, watering and measuring (yes, measuring. Home Depot has an exact recommendation for optimal blade-of-grass height.) while lawn crews come in to take care of things during the work week.

I'm originally from Princeton, which is only a few minutes away from my suburban nightmare. There, they let their lawns grow freely -- some are totally covered in ivy and weeds, and it's absolutely beautiful. The overgrowth reflects a sense of peace and tranquility. The people who live in these homes don't have an obsessive compulsive disorder about their grass. They realize that there are hundreds of things more important than a well maintained lawn. And they aren't jarred from their sleep by the sound of lawn mowers because nobody cares to mow.

Give me a Princeton, or a city where no grass needs to be maintained, and I'll be a happy camper for the rest of my life.