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Accosted and angered by change - R.H. Joseph

Whether or not Iraq becomes a quagmire remains to be seen. No such uncertainty exists regarding my front yard.

As part of the construction project designed to carry "Crab Grass" (our crib) into the 21st century we're building a new garage. The problem is, because our driveway was cracked the construction guys advised us to have them saw off the offending portion and pour a new slab. (If you saw how big these guys are you'd agree to anything in their presence.)

At present all the concrete debris is piled underneath the oak tree where I had been parking my '84 Isuzu P'up (240,000 miles and counting) and I'm compelled to place the flyweight embarrassment n it coughs, it wheezes and it sputters but at least it passes the emissions test n in the "front yard."

I put the phrase in quotes because ordinarily it implies an area reflecting an active involvement by the property owner to alter and in some way improve the zone separating the house from the trees. Get real!

A laissez faire kinda guy, I find it easier to develop a deep and abiding affection for various types of fungus (or whatever those little fuzzy green things are) than engage in seeding and mowing and weeding and all those other activities that look suspiciously like work.

Until the construction project began the heaviest weight my fuzzy buddies were required to bear was my delicate digits or those of the brave deer capable of crossing the road undamaged. Those halcyon days are but a fading memory now.

At present the mud's so deep, so rutted by my truck's tires the yard's beginning to look like the Western Front in The War to End All Wars. (Invading Iraq and bagging Saddam Hussein has as much chance of bringing peace to the Middle East as the Armistice had of bringing peace to Western Europe. War n It's a guy thing.)

This aspect of the profound changes taking place at Crab Grass is indicative of a multitude of questions never considered when first contemplating the construction and that now cannot be avoided.

No, I have no idea how I'm going to smooth out the ground once the new garage is built or whether the fuzzy stuff will come back, for that matter. If it doesn't will I be forced to install grass, grass which must be cut, grass which must be fertilized, grass which has an uncanny ability to differentiate itself from weeds and thereby institute a whole different cascade of sweat-generating endeavors?

The simplest things, the minutiae of life which are so easily overlooked yet which constitute such an elemental aspect of one's day to day existence, have suddenly become brain-sucking headaches.

Who would have thought to include something to contain trash cans in the builder's contract? Until now these malodorous refuse repositories lived quite happily in the back of our doorless garage. Though we did find a rather wan raccoon in one of the cans once, generally these monolithic testaments to conspicuous consumption remain unmolested.

Now that we're building a new garage it simply isn't convenient to keep the trash cans within. Where, oh where, shall we put them and how, oh how, shall we protect them?

Then there's the barbecue. Now, I'm an old-timer. I come from the days when you popped down a couple of bucks and got one of those el-cheapo tin things constructed in Guatemala that comes with either one too many or one too few screws in a hermetically sealed plastic packet alongside either too many or too few mustard-colored plastic caps for the feet.

Following 11 minutes assembly time and a brief application of tin foil you're ready to 'cue. After a year or two the thing rusts through and is replaced by another n no long, teary good-byes, no regrets of money disappearing down the drain of planned obsolescence. You always got your money's worth.

Ordinarily I'll keep an extra one in its cardboard carton unopened as a backup (and a home for mud daubers), but no more. Try to find one of them these days.

I don't want a gas grill! If God wanted us to use gas grills he would have given us wings!!

But I digress. In the good old days I'd use my pickup's tailgate to hold the sauce, BBQ brush and tongs. No more. Now my four-wheeled handy helper will be sequestered in a geographically inconvenient location locked away behind automatically closing doors. What am I to do?

Frankly it's times like these that make me resent all the whining by the Ethiopians and the sub-Saharan Africans and the Haitians. These self-indulgent complainers have no idea what real deprivation is like.

R.H. Joseph is a longtime employee of the News Daily. His column appears on Wednesdays. He may be reached at (770) 478-5753, ext. 252, or by e-mail at rjoseph@news-daily.com.