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Citizens for a Beautiful Kensington

In which I incur the wrath of my neighbors.

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They're Baaaaaaack!

Where do they come from? Some distant galaxy with the malevolent mission of conquering and displacing humanity from its lofty position of dominance on this, our home planet? It really doesn’t matter. They’re here, just like every year about this time and I must do battle against this creeping green menace.

It was a week and a half ago, as I sat on my porch with my guitar, just relaxing as I had done the day before. For no apparent reason, something caught my eye, just to the left of my new earthquake supply shed. Such a little thing, no more than about five inches tall, I could have simply dealt with it then and there, but a quick look around confirmed the obvious. It wasn’t alone.


They were everywhere. In the front, in the back, under every bush, against my fence, crawling up my High Five sculpture, in the stones behind my patio, amid the bricks that comprise my driveway, and between the cement slabs of my sidewalk. It was a full-frontal assault on my good standing in the neighborhood. I confess that I’d never heard from the Citizens for a Beautiful Kensington, nor did I have any direct evidence that such an organization has ever even existed, but if they did, I didn’t want them knocking on my front door. If they didn’t, would I want to be the one whose messy yard gave a group of neighborhood busy-bodies cause to form such an organization? It was by now too late in the afternoon to get a good start, so turning down the volume on my amp so as to draw attention neither to me nor my yard, I finished my songs and went inside to plan the defense against the invaders.

Sure enough, at the crack of noon the next day, out came my armaments: a trowel, pruning shears, a pair of rubber kneelers (green rubber pads designed to kneel on while weeding) a whatchamacallit, (which even passes spell-check!) and a bucket to put my plucked hostages in.

I started in the front, in hopes that my show of good faith would keep the Citizens for a Beautiful Kensington at bay. As it is every year, the job is bigger than it looks. This is a job that puts me into obsessive-compulsive mode, as I pull out even the smallest weed getting as much root with it as I can. I finally got into a rhythm and found the experience quite therapeutic until after about three hours my hands started to hurt. Risking total ostracization from my neighbors, I shook my head, vowing to continue my defense the next day.

The next day I started a little earlier, this time starting at 10:30 and working through what would normally be my lunchtime. I was finished the remaining parts of those areas touching the front sidewalk and most of the area surrounding my beloved sculpture of “High Five.” I love my next-door neighbor dearly, but wish she could keep her “climbus whateverus” (yes, I have an extensive knowledge of botanical classifications) trimmed back on her side of the fence. The worst, however, was the oxalis, that reddish stuff that looks like clover but has the most horrible root system imaginable. But out it came.

The next day came the dreaded Stones, always a two-day battle. The Stones has nothing to do with the English rock band. It’s what I call an area about ten feet by twenty feet behind my patio. It’s covered either by large, flat stones (convenient for walking and even more convenient for weeding since weeds don’t grow in them) or by smooth, rounded, light-colored stones, each about a half inch in diameter. Weeds grow in between them from the dirt below. For some unknown reason, oxalis thrives here and I generally have to trowel under the stones to uproot it. To complicate things, there is a tree in the corner that sheds leaves, twigs and pieces of bark that my anal-retentive nature simply wants to see removed as part of this chore. I also notice that many of the stones in The Stones have migrated into an adjacent patch of ground, a fair trade since some of the mulch from there has migrated here. I make some attempt to switch the two, and note that many of the places where mulch should cover an otherwise dirt surface is now just dirt surface. It looked so nice when the landscaper finished it. Suffice it to say that weeding The Stones is not only tedious, it is more painful on my fingers than any other part of my yard. My guitar sessions were shorter while doing this area.

One of the oddities of my domain is a patch of sort of lawn in front of my house. I’ve made a treaty with the weeds, allowing them to live there. The grass is too thin to properly cover the area, and if I removed the weeds it would look positively barren. Of course, if the grass invades other parts of my yard, I then have to declare it to be weeds and remove it. Go figure.

Yes, it’s now been over a week of doing this chore for about three hours a day, give or take. I took my birthday off, and I’m almost done. Of course, it’s meant my hand washing has had to be stepped up. Twenty seconds? Hah! Dr. Fauci would be so proud of me. I remember as a kid, there was a special soap called Lava, great for such industrial-strength cleanups. A quick check on the internet tells me that it’s still available, pumice and all. It’s too late for this year, but I should get a bar or two for next time.

Last night it rained. After today’s last Thursday’s battle with the weeds, I sat down on my porch, guitar in newly washed hands. About a minute into my first song, “Paper Moon,” I noticed a small piece of grass near High Five, where it didn’t belong. Upon completion of the tune, I stood up and, never putting the guitar down, walked over and yanked it out. I hope this behavior doesn’t last. It’s pretty disruptive.

I’m done repelling the attack of the green monsters, at least that which can be seen from the street or my front porch. Is it my imagination or are my neighbors a bit more appreciative of my playing this last week? Perhaps some are members of Citizens for a Beautiful Kensington. Do you think I should ask?

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