Friday, July 4, 2008

Liberty? Just Us.

I am very thankful to live in New England, where we remain connected to our historical values of individual freedom. We are therefore not likely to let our government fine someone for having an inadequate lawn.

That's what happened to Anne Hartridge of Sacramento, California. Because a neighbor complained that Hartridge's lawn wasn't green enough, she now owes the city $746.

In the immortal words of Dave Barry, I am Not Making This Up.

It's all straight from the July 2 Sacramento Bee. The newspaper notes that Hartridge said she decided to stop watering her lawn after the governor declared a statewide drought. It seemed like a sensible decision at the time.

But a city ordinance requires front yards to be “irrigated, landscaped, and maintained.”

I can't imagine living in a place where people care that much about their surrounding aesthetics. Do you realize there are neighborhoods in this country that you can't live in unless you agree to keep your house painted a certain color?

There are even places where you can't even allow your inner artist to craft a decent exhibit of old cars on blocks, partially obscured by weeds, (admission: one hubcap) without some snooty bozo complaining.

I'd like to write to Ms. Hartridge and invite her to come live on my street. I piled a bunch of firewood on my lawn for a couple of months, creating a giant dead hole in the grass right next to my driveway. Nobody breathed a word.

Likewise, when a passing dump truck inadvertently carved a couple of ruts in my yard, I shrugged it off.

And when I set up that nude fortune-telling booth and lemonade stand on my front porch, the police issued only a half-hearted warning.

Ah, Maine. The Way Life Should Be, where the Code Enforcement Officer only works one day a week because the rest of the time he is the Fire Chief, Assessor, First Selectman, town Librarian, Second Selectman, and Public Works Director.

We're not like New Mexico, for example, where an appeals court recently refused to let a man change his name.

It was a simple, harmless request. The new name would have been “F--- Censorship.”

The judge said the name was “obscene, offensive and would not comport with common decency,” reports The Associated Press.

Whatever. For now, the man will have to live with his current name, which is Variable. Before he got his name changed to Variable, it was Snaphappy Fishsuit Mokiligon.

I have no choice but to reiterate -- I Am Still Not Making This Up.

Thankfully, in Maine, we pretty much let people do whatever they want, as long as they're not Native American.

Are you an out-of-state corporation that wants to build a giant, gaudy casino on the banks of the Penobscot? Go right ahead.

Are you a tribe that wants to install some slot machines on your own little reservation? Uh, not so fast.

So the Passamaquoddies and the Penobscots get the shaft, but the rest of
us enjoy copious personal liberties, unless we want to buy beer or cigarettes, in which case we will have to sacrifice half our weekly income after the new taxes are enacted.

So the next time you get ready to host a raging party and play heavy metal hair band music loud enough to crack foundations in the next county over, take a few moments to appreciate the fact that you live in a place where you don't have to conform to your neighbor's warped sense of decency and good taste.

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