When I found my house, part of what sold me on the property was the xeriscaping. While the back yard is a fecund mecca of non-nativity, bursting with species that suck water from the soil till it's drier than my mother's tear ducts from years of disappointment, the front yard is a tasteful tribute to all that is possible with local plants. Ditto for the portion of the lawn that exists outside the fence, that tricky netherworld between sidewalk and street. When I moved in, that portion of the property was abloom with hundreds of small white flowers. At a housewarming Labor Day barbecue where for some reason refined people were present, everyone complimented me on the front yard, specifically those tiny ivory darlings.
"Quite, quite," I responded. "And would you dare to believe that those are actually native flowers? No, I'm not kidding — 'tis so! What a glorious estivation this is turning out to be. Now, who needs more mint julep? You there, I challenge thee to Connect Four!"
But then winter hit. And when spring rolled around again, only about half of the flowers returned. I had a sprinkler guy come out, because I thought maybe there wasn't enough water getting to the plants, and our conversation went like this:
Sprinkler guy: Yup, it looks like for some reason, water ain't running to three of these sprinkler heads.
Me: Okay, fix it.
Sprinkler guy: Well, it ain't that easy. Might could be that you got a leak in one of the main hoses out underneath your deck.
Me: Okay, fix it.
Sprinkler guy: Well, I could, but then I'd have to crawl all under there just to get at it, what on my belly and whatnot, and...
Me: You're the sprinkler guy. I had you come here to fix my shit, so just fix it.
Sprinkler guy: Yup, I really should be going. Hey, you ain't got any inklings 'bout Powerball figures, do ya?
For about two weeks after that, I watered those flowers at night with the hose, but then I grew more interested in watering myself with alcohol and nobly decided to turn the flowerbed back to nature. This, of course, manifested itself in candy wrappers from marauding elementary-school halfwits, along with cigarette butts and weeds, all of which I would occasionally remove. But this summer, I finally just said fuck it.
On the contrary, responded the City of Denver, fuck you. I came home recently to find a note on my door informing me that my weeds had grown to above six inches and that I had ten days to remove them or I would be fined. But rather than provoking my ire, this development just made me sad: I had become one of those people. My lawn had gotten so out of control that the city had to tell me to clean it up. I figured it wouldn't be long before all kinds of little cross-eyed What So Funnys would be running around the property, playing with rusty tools that I'd left on the lawn and hurling racial slurs just like Pappy. So rather than suffer this fate, I attacked the weeds. And you know what I found under there? Dog shit. Tons of it. There was enough dog shit to create an entire new dog out of shit. But instead of doing that, I simply cleaned up the mess, purchased a few potted plants to spruce up the property, and now, once again, my house shines as a tidy beacon on the block. "Gentrification hath arrived!" it screams. And I'm not quitting there, either. I'm on a crusade.
Pick up your dog shit, people. Or incur my wrath.
Today I signed up at www.keepitcleandenver.org for a free supply of dog-poop bags and an on-the-go mini-bag dispenser, replete with handy carabiner clip. The city created the "Pick Up Litter After Your Critter" campaign as a way to educate residents about the importance of reducing stormwater pollution; apparently dog shit contains harmful bacteria that can eventually wash into our rivers. This makes sense to me, since my dog Annabel's shit frequently seems radioactive. One time it consisted entirely of batteries; I think she's trying to shit a superhero. Still, I always pick it up.
But as my experiment in giving my land back to nature proved, not everyone is as heroic as I am. Which is why I'm now on the clock. If you are walking in the Baker neighborhood and you see me coming your way, bend over and pick up some feces — whether or not you have a dog. Because otherwise, I will be up in your grill with my plastic bags and carabiner and fanny pack and Panama hat, condescendingly demanding that you keep our city clean in the same smug-bastard way the City of Denver left that note on my door. That rude reminder was all I needed to wake up, and something similar could be all that you derelict dog owners require. So to ensure that our city's rivers remain safe, I will be working night and day.
Until the booze takes hold again.