Here for It w/ R. Eric Thomas, #183

Hi! It's R. Eric Thomas. From the internet?

Yesterday as I drove back to my apartment from my house (I currently have too many rooms of one’s own) covered in dirt and utterly exhausted from beginning the process of digging out a flagstone walkway behind our house I thought of Christina Aguilera belting the line “You might not ever get rich, but lemme tell you it’s better than digging a ditch” from the song “Car Wash” covered for the 2004 underwater gangster films Shark Tale. That’s me! I thought. I dug a ditch! I’m slightly chagrined to admit that I have never dug a ditch before; I am famously anti-nature and deeply suspicious of using my body for any productive function. So ditches are a solid no from me. But this walkway got in my craw something good and I was powerless against the desire to fix it. This is the trap of home ownership! Everything belongs to me and David, which means everything is our problem. What a SCAM. I would like to speak to the manager. The manager is me. And I am on my lunch break. Outrageous.

Let me tell you about this walkway. I’m heated just thinking about it! There’s porches in the front and back of the house. In the front there was a simple stone pathway that led from the porch to the middle of the driveway (a deranged choice; are guests supposed to leap from the moving vehicle and hop-scotch their ways to our front doors? Delivery people, I’ve found, simply idyll in the street, march across our front lawn, and then knock too loud whilst I stare suspiciously out of the front window wondering what kind of plant seeds David has ordered today.) In the back of the house? Chaos. Nonsense. The Joker as landscape architect. There’s a flagstone path that leads from the gate to the house but it seems to have gotten deeply distracted on its way like that menace Billy from the Family Circle comics. The stones from the gate are so widely spaced and overgrown that you’re basically just walking across the lawn. Furthermore, they don’t take a direct path but rather spread out to a random corner of the yard and then around the side of the house, like we’ve experienced some sort of spill that immediately solidified. Every time I leap from stone to stone in a quixotic quest to get into my empty house I am driven closer to madness. “What is the plan here?” I scream, having followed the stones which lead me straight into a bush. The process of coming home has turned me into a character in a glitching video game, walking repeatedly into a wall. To make matters worse, the stones have sunken into the ground because they, apparently, were just plopped down with no undergirding structural support (I would have had no idea what this sentence meant two weeks ago, but I recently got a Masters in Home Improvement-ish from This Old House’s YouTube channel).

The paths have been on my list for a while (we’ve only owned the house for three weeks but time has no meaning. I was born enraged about this cockamamie landscaping). Even though I had much to do in my work life yesterday and despite the intense heat, I decided that these rocks, like a statue of Columbus, couldn’t stay in place one minute longer. Today my garden path, tomorrow Stone Mountain, Georgia.

I started in the front yard, dressed in “work clothes” (a caftan made of carpenter jeans) and toting all manner of intense, recently purchased tools like a crowbar, a little digger thing, a rake?, and a flux capacitor. I was so fired up for this task that, after ripping out the grass that had encroached on the first stone, as I pulled the stone up I ripped it clean in two. Apparently a fun fact about me is that I possess super-human strength that I absolutely refuse to use. A fun fact about the stones in the front path, however, is that apparently they are weird plastic props that are completely hollow on the inside. If this discovery popped up in a novel about a dilettante new homeowner I’d circle it and write in the margin “overwrought metaphor?”

Because I couldn’t just pry the rocks out of the ground for fear of destroying them, it took forever. Fortunately, the atrocity that is the random smattering of flagstone in the back is actual stone so that went much more quickly. But it left the yard pockmarked with holes of various depths: a theme park devoted to breaking your ankle. So I started to dig the ditch. I know (from my coursework at TOH University) that I’ll need to dig down anyway, but I certainly wasn’t planning on grabbing a shovel (??) and getting to work yesterday. And that’s where Christina Aguilera’s song came into my head, a work of art as befuddling and chaotic as the literal ton of stone that was scattered across our back lawn like bird seed.

“Car Wash” is an excellent song in that all of the lyrics are devoted to the simple goal of convincing the listener to work at a car wash. The expectations are set at a reasonable level—the singer informs you “you might not ever get rich,” which is correct. But also the benefits are highlighted, namely that it is “cool” and the boss (unnamed) does not mind if you “act a fool.” It gives a sense of the clientele: movie stars and common thieves. An ideal work environment.

It was written and performed for the 1976 film Car Wash which is about a car wash. Remarkably, it was also nominated for a Golden Globe, probably the first song that is just a musical advertisement for a job to receive such an honor. Christina Aguilera and Missy Elliott covered in 2004 for the movie Shark Tale. While I have not seen Shark Tale (Tail?) I still have many opinions about it. Chief among them: if Shark Tale is set underwater (it is), there is no need for a car wash. One, fish do not drive cars. This is a controversial fact that we must reckon with. Two, how would a fish car get dirty underwater? True, in the film, Will Smith’s character plays a cleaner fish who works at a Whale Wash (gross). But the song isn’t called “Whale Wash.” And, from what I can gleen, the washing takes a back seat in the plot when Smith’s character claims, erroneously, that he has killed another fish, voiced by Michael Imperioli, son of a Great White Shark gangster voiced by Robert De Niro. This is a children’s movie.

Perhaps the most chaotic part of this Shark Tale rabbit hole that I dug myself into with a shovel (??) I purchased myself is the “Social commentary” section from the movie’s wikipedia page.

I can’t even deal with the chaos introduced in the last sentence. I simply cannot. See what happens with you do yard work? It’s just not worth it. Never making that mistake again.

As I mentioned last week, I was off this week so that I could devote a lot of time to digging holes and yelling at rocks. It’s a good thing, too, because there were so many bad opinions online this week! What a mess! Anyway, see you tomorrow when I will argue that Kanye would make a good president and Claudia Conway should be his vice president!

Random Thing on the Internet

Have your heard about this movie on Disney+ called Hamilton? Might look into it.

Also, I came across this website that can tell you, roughly, whose land you are on, for your own knowledge, for historical context, and for territory acknowledgment  Our new home is on Piscataway land.

A caftan made of carpenter jeans,