MY NEIGHBOR SPENT the early part of this summer hauling rocks, wheelbarrowful by wheelbarrowful, from his driveway to the back of his house. We’d see Peter out there night after night, a suburban Sisyphus, sweat beading around the temples of his mirrored sunglasses, running shorts flapping around his rangy quadriceps, which were visibly straining under the load.
His tenacity, his raw Type-A drive, impressed the rest of us on the cul de sac—but mostly in that Oh my god, what a lunatic way. Because what Peter was doing was building a soccer field for his four athletically gifted children.
By “building a soccer field,” I do not mean that he was simply going to erect a couple of goals and keep the grass trimmed short. I mean he was building an artificial-turf field filled with rubber granules. And because his backyard had a steep incline, he first had to create a wide, flat surface where none had existed before. This project required approximately a million pounds of cement block, gravel, and other materials.
Occasionally my boyfriend and I mused about helping Peter. Yes, it would have been the nice, neighborly thing to do. But we were deep into our own home improvement project, namely pulling up our circa 1974 carpet and laying 1,100 feet of wood flooring. If you’d wandered down our street during those weeks, you would have heard not the cawing of crows or the rustling of wind in the spruces, but the scrape of shovels digging into a gravel pile, the punch of a pneumatic nailer, the gong of subflooring hitting the side of a metal Dumpster. In other words, the sound of a summer being squandered.
By early July, the fun deficit was beginning to weigh on me—heavily. And so to guard against an all-work, no-play season, I declared that August would be the month Without Home Improvement Projects (A-WHIP, for short). Here’s my big plan: I’m going to sit in my garden and drink mint juleps, guilt-free. Perhaps I’ll head to PGE Park to watch the Portland Beavers play. And I’m definitely going to embrace the last line of Portland Monthly’s mission statement: “Our singular goal is to inspire our readers to get out and explore the vibrant and rapidly growing metropolis they call home.”
For this, there’s no better guide than our 2008 “Best of the City” package, our annual celebration of P-Town. Things on my to-do list include playing golf at McMenamins Edgefield and cheering on contestants at the Portland Adult Soapbox Derby (Aug 16 on Mount Tabor). And when the chill of October arrives, I’ll be able to look back and know that I did what one should always do come summer: have a good time.