Mowing the lawn was satisfying, just now.
Our old lawn mower was falling apart and not up to the job of the lawn we adopted when we moved, so about a month ago, I bought one that is a little bit bigger and a little bit more powerful. Unfortunately, something in transit appears to have hit the cable that gives the walk-behind machine its power assist, and after a few uses, the cable snapped. The machine is difficult to push without the help of the engine.
Inasmuch as it appeared to be an easy fix, I ordered the part (free, under warranty) and figured I’d install it yesterday and mow today. I devised a workstation out of two ladders and two 2x4s, with clamps to stop the mower from rolling backwards, slid underneath, and wouldn’t you know, confusing diagrams on the Web site led me to order the wrong part, and the correct cable is on back order. So I clipped the wire, came up with a make-shift clamp to hold the frayed ends together, and ran the cable between the two attachment points by a shorter route.
Consequently, not only did I get the satisfaction of mowing an especially unkempt yard — with the visible accomplishment, fresh air, exercise, and podcast catch-up that the task entails — but the accomplishment also came with the bonus of having rigged the solution myself.
Coming inside for my celebratory beer, I found the Ginger Lager by Surly Brewing Co., in a variety “Beer Camp” twelve-pack distributed by Sierra Nevada, to be more to my tastes than I’d expected. (In all honesty, though, it took a few sips to get past the “what is this flavor” reaction.)
All of which is preamble to a confession of inability to sit down (or, more accurately, walk up to my standing desk) and write something critical, in the negative sense. I’ve got nearly a dozen items lined up for commentary having to do with something that folks are getting wrong, and my sense of contentment took all of that content off the table. Fortunately, my eye fell upon the book that I finished reading last night and placed in a conspicuous spot to remind myself to pick another from the shelves of inherited and purchased “to read” books.
It’s The Last Good Heist, by local WPRI reporter Tim White, along with Randall Richard and Wayne Worcester. If my mood matched the brewer whose beer I’m drinking, I’d have to pick a different topic than this book. I’d expected the book to be interesting and all that, but I didn’t expect it to be the page-turner that it is. It’s about some second-tier criminals’ theft of millions in cash and valuables from a mob-connected vault, with the permission of the top mobster in the region, and from the hilarity of their warm-up crimes to their sentencing, the book challenged my regimented daily schedule. I allot only so much time for book reading each day and couldn’t keep to it.
In homage, however, to the good work of the Surly Brewing Co. (and under their influence, now, as I might politely put it), I do want to make two minor observations. The first is the conspicuous decision of the authors, editors, and publishers to leave out the name of a mob-connected lawyer helping an escaped convict in the early chapters, which omission hints at a dozen other stories about the workings of the mob, politics, and the news media that will never be written.
The second is a petty complaint about a (what?) quirk of some journalistic writing, seen often in pop-press publications like Rolling Stone that bothered me only (I’m sure) because of the repeated lessons from teachers, professors, and practitioners concerning the avoidance of clichés in one’s descriptions. On page 13, the authors describe Charles “Chucky” Flynn as “good-looking.”
I can’t help but wonder who said so. Of the mugshots reproduced in the middle of the book, his is arguably among the goofiest-looking, and a quick Internet search provides no correction of that impression. In the absence of an obvious, Brad Pitt–like facial structure, I wondered what quality of Flynn’s the authors truly meant to convey by this characterization. Did he always get the girl? Did the less-secure crooks around him see him as a Sam Malone figure? What?
In short, for readers who aren’t pedantic literary types or conservative cynics, nothing will stop this book from being an entirely enjoyable read. The lessons one draws, of course, are up to one’s self. Long ago, I was surprised to hear a friend contradict my view that the movie Goodfellas was like a warning not to get involved with organized crime. The Last Good Heist is arguably the tale of an implied product of incest who participated in a high-profile crime after a truly stupid near-scheduled-release escape from cushy prison and was ultimately caught because he was a low-life who beat up his girlfriend.
If somebody reads the book as a promise that even that sort of degenerate can gain fame through crime, and takes fame to be the highest of goods, then that reading says more about the reader and the state of our society than about the book. I’d prescribe for such a person a weekend fixing a broken lawn mower and pushing it across the grass while listening to podcasts. Oh, and don’t forget the Ginger Lager.