By Vernon Felton
"Daddy, Daddy!" my daughter is sobbing hysterically. "You killed the rhododendron bush. You killed it!"
She's wrong, of course. I didn't kill it. I murdered it. There's a difference.
Really, you spend the extra money in sky-high, annual property taxes so that you can send your kid to a good public school, only to discover that they’ve neglected to teach your child the difference between "kill" and "murder"…. It makes me feel like the investment I’ve made in my child's education has failed to pay off.
So, allow me to make the distinction here: killing something simply amounts to snuffing out a life—intentionally or not.
Someone, for instance, killed JFK and, clearly, they meant to do it. It wasn't like the shooter was hunting whitetails on the grassy knoll that day and they just managed to take JFK out in the process. Then again, I killed a squirrel last week when the little bugger ran out into the street to investigate the tread pattern on my Goodyear Eagle GTs. I clearly ended the squirrel's life in one brief Kathummpppp, but I didn't intend to do it. I'd be much happier if he was still out there collecting nuts and raiding retired peoples' birdfeeders. Sometimes killing is simply a shit happens sort of proposition.
Murder, however, is a very different affair. When you murder something, you damn well intend to put out its lights. You've mulled it over in your mind. You've considered your weapon, your approach. You mean it and then some.
So, yeah, I murdered the rhododendron bush. I was walking down to the garage yesterday when I noticed that the bush was beginning to bud—green sprouts were poking their little baby heads out. I bent down to inspect them. Then I craned my head up and noticed for the first time that, yes, spring was happening all around me—transforming a barren winter landscape into something lush and green, and I immediately thought to myself—Screw that! Game's over, buddy. I'm coming for you.
And I did.
Five minutes later I was back with the loppers and one of those tree-hacksaw jobs, making like Charlie Manson in my front yard. I took the bastard down to the ground. It wasn't pretty. It made my kid cry and I'm not proud of that fact. There are so many ways to screw up this fatherhood thing and I seem to discover a new one daily. But this thing with the rhododendron bush? It had to happen. Had to. It was the bush or it was me. It's really that simple.
YOU CALL IT "GARDENING," I CALL IT "DELUSIONAL"
Look, there are people who love gardening. They live for mowing their lawn, sculpting and transforming a stretch of dirt into an oasis, a suburban haven from life's many stresses…and when I see a yard like that I think, "You poor, poor bastard".
Gardening is for people who haven't discovered that free time can be spent doing things that don't actually suck.
You actually like growing roses and building planter boxes? Really?
Look, if you live 100 miles from the nearest supermarket and you'd like to eat something green and crunchy, I understand why you'd grow some vegetables. Feeding yourself? I'm all in favor of staying alive and getting my daily dose of fiber. But growing things that serve no purpose other than to "look" pretty? I can't fathom it. More to the point, I don't have the time for it.
LET'S DO SOMETHING THIS WEEKEND THAT DOESN'T SUCK
When you're young and full of hope and cheer, time is this thing that just seems to roll out in front of you—this never-ending wave of awesomeness that you're going to ride forever as you learn to play guitar like Hendrix, master Mandarin, learn Kung Fu and, eventually, organize your closet. You've got so much time to get it all done. All the time in the world.
And then one day, you turn 30 or 40 or 50 or, if you're really morbid, 12, and you realize that time isn't infinite. Not for you, at least. In fact, life is short. Far shorter than you ever dreamed possible. You haven't learned Wing Chun or dominated the Stratocaster after all. Worse yet, suddenly, your weekends, those special two-days in which you used to go out there and just kick ass and take numbers—those sacred days develop their own, weirdly accelerated sense of time. You wake up at 7 AM on Saturday, you yawn, make some coffee and suddenly it's 2 PM.
What the hell?!?
By the time you get a grasp on that, it's 9 P.M. and then you blink and it's Sunday. And Sunday is worse because the Grim Reaper's scythe is just hanging over Sunday's head all day long—which also seems to last about 20 minutes between sunrise and sunset. Before you know it, it's Monday and it's back to the commute the grind…or whatever you do that enables you to keep a roof over your head while you wait for the next weekend to roll around.
Given all of the above, I sure as hell am not going to spend my free time mowing a lawn, trimming a tree, fertilizing a bush or pruning a shrub. Are you kidding me? I've got two good days to ride and I sure as hell ain't going to spend that time in the backyard battling blackberry thickets and all the other pokey, piercing, prickly evils that abound on my half acre.
Look, I'm a jerk on the best of days. When I don't ride, I'm a complete bastard. Riding my bike—pushing the pedals to that point of exhaustion and reveling in the adrenaline rush of a balls-out rip—that's what keeps my inner-wanker in line. Really, I'm safer for the world when I've gone for a ride.
That rhododendron bush, it would have looked nice—beautiful even…a glorious riot of color—for a week or two in June. For the rest of the spring and summer, I'd have been pruning it, cultivating it, fertilizing, clearing away all the other competing vegetation…. Screw that. I already have kids, a mortgage and a guinea pig to keep alive in between my rides. Every hour I spend mowing a lawn or growing a plant that doesn't feed me is an hour wasted….an hour spent not riding my bike.
So, sorry Mr. Bush. I'm sorry I sawed and hacked and chopped you to bits. I'm sorry I brought my kid to tears. I'm sorry that you will never reach your buds to the sky and be all the…uh…bush you can be. But it was you or my bike, buddy, and it was never even close.