Walk the Walk

My hands are still a bit chopped up from this weekend, and I’m still in a bit of pain, so pardon me in advance as I prepare to overstate my case.

When I moved into my house, one of the things I liked about it was the cute little brick walk leading up to the front porch. It’s a bunch of concave bricks tiled next to each other, with no mortar or anything holding them in place. Very natural looking, very nice.

But, as I believe I have mentioned before, I’m not quite so good at maintaining my yard. In fact, I suck. In my neighborhood, I’m “that neighbor.” Oh, my neighbors don’t actually hate me, they’re all way too nice for that. But let’s just say I’m sure they would all love it if something really nice happened to me, like say I got a very lucrative job far away, forcing me to sell the house to someone who actually knows the first thing about maintaining his yard.

So now, several years after moving in, my nice brick walk is full of weeds and grass. And unlike the rest of my wild-grown yard, this particular thing sort of bugs me.

It’s been this way for a few years, although not as bad. I’ve made halfhearted attempts to fix the problem, but none of them have proven to be long term solutions. A while ago, walking through the neighborhood, I noticed a local couple removing all the bricks on their walk; it was the same type of walk as I had. “Hi, can I ask what you’re doing?” “Sure,” they replied. “We have trouble with weeds growing in the cracks here. You see, when these walks were first put in, the bricks were laid on a sort of barrier. Well, over time, that barrier degraded and broke down. So we’re taking them out and lining the underlayer with this awesome material, then we put the brick back. So no more weeds.”

I walked away impressed at the perspicacity of these fine people, the ants to my lazy grasshopper. “If only I had that sort of motivation,” I thought to myself, “my house would look so much nicer.” The next spring, I walked past their house with the newly lined walk. Weeds had sprouted all through their newly lined walk. My step lightened by the spring of schadenfreude, I returned home relieved that I hadn’t slaved over putting a new liner in.

The core problem is that there is nothing in between the bricks except air. This means that, over time, dirt will flow in with the rains, and then once you have dirt seeds will sprout. So a lining underneath the bricks won’t help. There is only one permanent solution to this problem, and it is called “concrete.”

I’m not ready to pour concrete yet – that’s just as much work as weeding, really – so today I went out and weeded a goodly portion of the walk. Pulling the grass and weeds isn’t really an option. The only way to do the job is to lift out the bricks in a row, clear out the grass and dirt that has grown in between, scrape out the dirt that fell onto the bottom so the bricks don’t stick up, put the bricks back, and then optionally put dirt or sand back in the gaps so it looks nice.

There are people who thrive on this sort of thing. They write 6,000 word articles for the New York Times Magazine talking breathlessly about the thrill of getting their hands dirty, of the feel of the terroir and the resonance of childhood summers spent on the coast of Maine. They speak of life lessons learned that they hope to pass on to their innumerable children – inevitably named Tyler or Cody or Dylan. They speak of the satisfaction of building something with their own two hands, and of the raw physicality of manual labor. They speak, above all, of the Good Earth.

I am here to reply to these people. On behalf of the geeks, introverts, technophiles, naturephobes, and all of those who don’t enjoy these sorts of activities, I am willing to stand up proudly and say: Fuck the Earth. The Earth is home to all sorts of stinging ants, filthy soil, germs, and children named Dylan.

There are those who say that what we need more of is science. I respectfully disagree. What we need more of is paving.