Sprinkling Stupidity (#215)

Look at how my neighbors water their green lawn…and the cement sidewalk.

I grew up in a swamp. D.C. is ridiculously hot and humid in the summer. A blanket of oppressive, immobile air suffocates the city for weeks at a time, only stirring for the occasional afternoon thunderstorm. But the thunderstorm doesn’t wash away the misery, oh, no. It just makes the ground steam.

All the water makes for lush, green lawns with minimal watering. I never saw a sprinkler system until I moved to Los Angeles. At first I had no idea why various lawns had black knobs on them – until I happened to be walking a roommate’s dog in Burbank one morning. After the knobs popped up and spewed water all over us, I figured out that, duh, of course you can’t have a green lawn in a desert without automated sprinklers.

Surprisingly, Californians, pioneers of catalytic converters and clean air, cling to their green lawns despite our near permanent drought status. On my street, there is exactly one house landscaped with California native plants instead of a green grass lawn. (It’s gorgeous and it smells awesome and it cost thousands of dollars.)

The rest of the neighborhood has perhaps 10 houses with Astroturf, or cacti, or gravel, or all three.

Everyone else has green lawns. Some are super green. I’ve been hit by sprinklers at 5 AM and again at 7 PM — AT THE SAME HOUSE. Even when drought ordinances mandated that sprinklers could only be used every three days, people continued watering twice a day.

Is it ignorance? If so, it must be willful ignorance. Because a lot of those same houses had newspapers on their front steps – newspapers with front pages screaming about the drought.

Maybe it’s a different kind of ignorance. Maybe they don’t understand their sprinkler systems. (You laugh, but I didn’t know how ours worked until Andy was injured last year.) If theses aren’t DIY folks, though, they could certainly tell their gardeners to adjust the sprinklers, couldn’t they?

Andy installed a drip system for my flowerbeds and his garden after we moved in, which cut down on our water usage. We supplemented our plants’ intake with buckets of “warm up” water from the shower. Any water we boiled for cooking we used for my hanging baskets, our fountain, or window boxes when it cooled.

Two years ago, amidst the worst drought in California history, Lieutenant LAPD next door installed a new fountain. Does it use re-circulated water, as it was legally required to do?

Of course not.

Another house installed a picturesque little pond with a bridge in their front yard at the same time. It was pretty as fuck and as illegal as hell. Sometimes it overflows. My dogs and I once had to wade through a creek of RUNNING WATER, pouring over the sidewalk and into the street in the middle of a nine-year drought.


During the drought, California tried to crack down on water-wasters. Utilities raised the cost of water. Our water bill jumped a hundred dollars. I am sure our water-loving neighbors’ bills jumped several hundred.

Their sprinklers kept running.

When increasing the cost of water had no effect, cities set up hotlines to report water-wasters. All over Los Angeles, water vigilantes cruised their neighborhoods and reported those who refused to comply with the drought-stricken state’s laws. (I may have been one of them.) Some folks attempted to shame water wasters in public and online.

I don’t know if the offenders were ever fined. I do know that my neighbors continued running their sprinklers. I continued fuming.

After record-breaking rain last year ended the drought in most of California, we had an abnormally dry winter. Our snowpack is a fraction of what it should be.

It’s not just California, either. All over the world, climate change, overpopulation, and lack of conservation drain the water supply. Cape Town, in South Africa – with a climate similar to SoCal – is expected to run out of water in just a few months. The plethora of piped, purified water that industrialized nations are used to is drying up.

What are people doing about our disappearing water supply? Very little, if we go by my neighborhood.

Last week, Los Angeles finally got several much-needed rainstorms. The dogs and I had to jump all kinds of puddles on our morning walks. And even as I rejoiced in the raindrops on my face, I cursed my short-sighted and stupid neighbors.

Because their goddamned sprinklers were still on
in the rain
soaking my ankles.

Braced for Catastrophe (#214)

The cat asks, “Is the glass half-empty or half-full?”

Growing up amidst divorce, minimal resources, and tragedy, I learned not to be optimistic. I was always awaiting the next crisis. If my husband didn’t answer his phone, I was certain he’d been in a fatal car wreck. I sniffled as I planned that man’s funeral at least weekly.

When my husband and I agreed to try to get pregnant, I worried constantly about both having a child and raising one.

My husband had none of these fears. I wouldn’t say his life as a first generation Chinese-American was an easy one, but it wasn’t as chronically traumatic as mine.

If I mentioned that certain medications might decrease male fertility, he pooh-poohed my fears. “My guys are fine,” he insisted.

“You don’t know that,” I argued. “Look at Stevie Hollywood and JM – her whole life, she knew bearing children would be iffy. And then it was Stevie Hollywood turned out to have sperm that were dead in the water!”

“My guys are up to the job,” Andy told me.

“Okay, but are you? Judgmental Genius Doctor Sister said that even though Georgia Boy was the one hankering for a baby, he folded under the pressure of constant sex.”

“Wait. I thought we were only supposed to have sex every other day. We’re supposed to have it constantly?!” Andy scooped me up and shouted, “To the bedroom!”

I pounded on him until he put me down. “Every other day IS constantly!”

“I know you’re a writer,” Andy said, before adopting Inigo Montoya’s accent and telling me, “But I do not think that word means what you think it means.”

“Dude. I know what the connotations of ‘constant sex’ are to most women and I’m pretty sure every other day qualifies.”

“Huh. Well, I do not fold under the pressure of this so-called constant sex. I relish it. Want another demonstration?”

Clearly my husband did not lack confidence in his sexual prowess or his sperm.

After a month of trying, I didn’t get pregnant. “See?” I told Andy. “There’s something wrong. We’ll probably never get pregnant.”

“We’re gonna get pregnant. Stop worrying.”

“You know, I bet it’s your sperm. Because my mom got pregnant while on every form of birth control and we haven’t even had a single pregnancy scare and we’ve had sex for years.”

Andy rolled his eyes. “You told me your mom wanted to get pregnant and sabotaged her birth control methods. You’re gonna get pregnant. Stop worrying.”

“But what if it is your sperm? I guess we could use your brother’s sperm instead?”

“NO!” roared Andy. “It’s only been a month, it’s going to be fine. My guys are good.” Andy stomped to the refrigerator and pulled out a beer.

I cleared my throat and said, “You know, alcohol can have a detrimental impact on sperm count and sexual performance.”

Andy opened his beer bottle and took a deep, pointed swig.


I envied my husband his optimism (and his alcohol). For all that I came from the most fertile of mothers, I became certain I’d never get pregnant. I knew the universe had a sense of irony and it liked to fuck with me. Now that I was finally okay with having a kid, of course I wouldn’t be able to conceive. I tossed and turned every night for the next month.

“Trick question,” laughs the cat. “The glass is about to SHATTER ON THE FLOOR!” Because catastrophe is inevitable. Right?

Meanwhile, Andy snored blissfully away next to me. He was secure in his knowledge that things would turn out fine.

I wanted to beat his obviously misguided optimism out of him with a pillow. I settled for punching his arm and telling him to roll over when his snores got too loud.

At the end of the next month, right about the time my period was supposed to arrive, I started cramping while Andy was at work.

“Ha,” I grumbled. “I knew it. Not pregnant again.” Before I started popping Advil, though, I figured I’d better be sure there was no chance there was an embryo that could be damaged by medications.

I took a pregnancy test. Then I took another one, because I am the queen of overkill.

I left the pregnancy tests in the bathroom.

When Andy used the bathroom that evening, he came out holding the pregnancy tests in his hand and said, “Really?”

I said, “Yeah.”

And that’s when I realized that maybe, just maybe, my husband hadn’t been so optimistic about conception after all. Because as he gave me a hug, Andy also said:

“My guys made it!”