Friday was the last day of my assignment to Bridgespan, and my last multi-day trip to Boston. On Friday morning, the team gave our final presentation, which went well, and they presented me with the consultant’s equivalent of the black roadie jacket: the clear lucite block with a “Bridgespan Group” 5×7 card embedded inside. It’s actually my first lucite thank-you block; my friend Kieran Downes at [My employer] worked with the Consumer Cards Services Group at [A client], which seemed to crank them out right and left. And the Blue team? Some of them are able to build Lego castles with their stacks of glossy product-launch cubes. Me, I was working for Interactive Enterprise Development, the Jesuit branch of [A client]. The upside? Unlimited power to make and enforce rules*. The downside? No lucite blocks.
So, plastic trophy in hand, I climbed onto the Acela Express at Back Bay for the last time and headed for Philly for the weekend. Where I joined the ranks of an organization as old as human habitation, as venerable as the mighty sweep of civilization itself: I joined the hoary ranks of the Back Yard Lawn Fighters. I borrowed Kate’s dad’s 4HP Lawn Boy walk-behind mower and, nodding hello to the other suburban men returning from the hedge-trimmer sharpening shop with their weapons rolled in brown butcher paper, I yanked the starter cord and rejoined a battle I haven’t fought in fifteen years.
The lawn kicked my ass, of course, and my little 4hp steed was whinnying for mercy before I had trimmed a tithe of the bushy quarter-acre. But I stained my running shoes an honorable shade of green, and I learned some tricks, too (if you pull the lawnmower backwards, instead of pushing it, the clippings escape more easily, and the mower runs faster.) And I formed comradeships with other soldiers in the unit, including Jerry, the grizzled veteran next door who told me all about the “Weed-n-seed” fertilizer that the previous owners had primed the lawn with the previous year: “Yep, in twenty years here, I’ve never seen the grass grow that fast!” He was a wellspring of encouragement: “As long as it keeps raining, that lawn’s gonna keep growing! You’ll have to mow it every day!” That’s right, old man, the Hun is just on the other side of that hill, and every one of them is seven feet tall and shaves with a blowtorch. Maybe so, but wait’ll the Hun sees the size of the lawnmower I’m gonna get.
So I enjoyed myself immensely. Kate was in New York at my friend Francine Millman’s bachelorette party, downing drinks at the Tribeca Grand named after the seven deadly sins** and dancing at Sugar with Moby, and I had a ball reverting to my pre- New York “Country Bear Jamboree” mode. I even re-strung my banjo, now that I have a house and yard to play it in without risking gunfire through the apartment wall.
The challenge, of course, is the commute. If I make the round-trip to New York every weekday, I’ll leave the house at 6:15 AM and get home at either 8 PM or 10 PM, depending on which afternoon train I catch at Penn station. It’s possible to do; there are three people in Exton that I’ve seen do it for the past two years. And if you buy a monthly pass, it’s about 30 bucks per round trip, which is about a third of what I was spending on rent. Aaand, with my wireless card, I can work on the train; (I’m on the train now.) In fact, I seem to be more productive on the train than I am in the office. So I know it’s possible, but I’ll just have to see if it’s do-able. I might get a room in the city to stay for a couple of nights during the week. And I probably need to get a cheap used car for trips to and from the station; I rode my motorcycle this morning, and the weather was cold and rainy. Though I think it’s hip to wear a Thomas Pink shirt under a Belstaff jacket on a tiny Japanese starter bike. Plus, I get to see the dogwoods in bloom every day. Which is wonderful.
* Over the website style guide. Let me rephrase the statement above: unlimited power to make and enforce rules concerning the way the horizontal rules extended to the right side of the screen, or not.
**“Sloth” was a martini with blue-cheese stuffed olives. I don’t know about the others.