Saturday, July 20, 2013

No. 320 – Leatherman

Performer: Pearl Jam
Songwriter: Eddie Vedder
Original Release: Given to Fly single
Year: 1998
Definitive Version: 6/16/00, Spodek, Katowice, Poland, 2000

When Pearl Jam released it’s “official bootleg” series of live albums cataloging every show on its 2000 European and North American tour (except for Roskilde, of course), I bought about 10 of them. The purchase depended on the setlist and the songs that each one had. I didn’t buy Katowice for this particular song, per se, but it became one of several that made that CD a frequent yardwork play.

When I broke up with Debbie, we had a few practical matters to take care of before I moved out. The first one was the house itself.

Debbie wanted to stay, which relieved the headache of having to sell it but raised the issue of compensation. I told her I’d figure the percentage of mortgage payments that came from my salary, as well as my share of the downpayment, and then figure in a nominal increase in equity. She trusted me, and I wasn't going to screw her over.

I drew up a contract for something around $20,000, which seemed reasonable. However, I added a clause that Debbie found less than reasonable. The contract called for payment over a period of years—I didn’t know I’d be chucking my newspaper career at this point—but one stipulation was that if she remarried, she were to pay me in full immediately.

Debbie protested, saying I was being just like her ex-husband by disallowing her from getting remarried. I wasn’t doing anything of the sort. I didn’t want to have any financial ties to a house—one I found, by the way—where my replacement was living, that’s all. He can pay his own way. She didn’t like it, but I wasn’t about to be moved. She signed.

The other matter was more immediate—how to take care of the yard. Because I handled all of the outdoor responsibilities for the past five years, Debbie didn’t even know how to start the lawn mower. So, the last weekend before I moved out, we had a tutorial covering, well, everything.

I showed her how to start and run the lawn mower and had her take a few laps around the yard, bag up the grass and put gas in the tank. I showed her how I treated the rose bushes and azaleas and pruned the boxwood, barberry and euonymus. I showed her how to use the trimmer. We even went to Lowe’s, so I could show her where all the proper implements could be found.

The one thing I had to do on my own was clean the gutters, because Debbie refused to climb up the ladder. I suppose I could have balked, but I didn’t. Given my heights issue, getting up on the extension ladder some 20 feet up was enough of a problem, but on this day, the ladder felt particularly rickety, and I was very glad to be done with that chore when I came down for the last time.

At the end of the day, Debbie said she liked working out in the yard and would have been happy to help out more. Now there was a revelation. I just assumed that, aside from planting and cultivating flowers, she wanted me to do all the work and do it during the week so we had the weekends free. That I didn’t know she felt this way should show the state of our communication. The lack of it ultimately led to our downfall.

For a while after I moved out, Debbie updated me about the yard—mostly to tell me when one of our favorite plants or trees had died or been replaced. I imagine the yard now looks very different from when I tended it with toil and pride. For that reason, I’ve never been tempted to drive by—unlike the homes of my other exes. The last time I saw my house was the day I moved out in 2001.

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