Saturday, August 13, 2005

Of Backyards and Bunnies

It's all my fault. I admit it. It was entirely due to me that the Bunny Brigade Croquet Extravaganza almost got rained out.

You may wonder how I have such power over time and space. It's simple; on the afternoon of the scheduled Brigade get-together, my new concrete patio was poured. There's no faster way to attract a monsoon, other than getting your car washed and forgetting your umbrella.

I've been waiting anxiously all week for the patio, which is the first concrete step (pun intended) towards getting my new spa. Next comes the electrical work, and then the spa itself. I received approval from the Architectural Review Committee this week, and all the grass was removed from my backyard in anticipation of the concrete pour. Thus, I've been staring out at a barren sandpit, using my imagination to fill in a cement slab, topped with my nice, new whirlpool.

Finally, on Friday morning, the workers showed up to do the last few tasks in preparation for the pouring. This happened to be the very same day that the Bunny Brigade One-Year Anniversary Get-Together and Membership Drive would take place. Originally, we had planned to stalk to Tampa Bay Bucs, who are staying at the Celebration Hotel during their training. That had been our original event last year, so it seemed only fitting to return to the scene of the crime. But then we learned that the players would be out of town at an exhibition game, so we switched to a croquet match instead. Since I have a perfect "croquet field" right across the street from my house, the bash was moved from downtown to East Village.

While one of our main activities is imbibing in alcoholic libations, we were hoping to actually play a game. Thus, it would be an outdoor event. Wescheduled it for 7 p.m., hoping that any afternoon thunderstorms would have long since blown away. Usually, the storms are brief, discharging just enough rain to drench the tourists at Disney World before rolling out and leaving clear, blue skies in their wake.

That morning, the workers diligently prepared our yard for the pour. They capped off the sprinklers and made sure the form was in place. The cement truck was supposed to show up at 10:00 a.m., but lunch time came and went without any sign of it.

The truck finally rumbled down the alley in the afternoon. In came the hose, and out poured the concrete. I could barely contain my excitement as my backyard was transformed from a messy mudhole to the start of a wonderful new habitat. I hate it when my yard is in disarray; even though I tend to spend more time out front, on my porch swing, I like my backyard to be in order, too. We usually park in our driveway rather than on the street, but that's been impossible during the construction process. Also, I was anxious for things to be put back together so I could plant some flowers.

My front yard has lots of colorful blooms, but I never did much with the back, other than to toss in a few marigolds and impatiens. My backyard is a decent size, especially considering that we're in a triplex; it's actually larger than what some of the houses have. But for some reason, I never really did much in the back. I briefly considered putting out some patio furniture or a hammock, but it just never happened. It's almost been like having wasted space; a nice, green plot being used for nothing, other than occasionally letting my cats out to graze. Now, with the spa, I'll be spending lots of time back there. I'm looking forward to putting in a lush garden and making it a pleasant, stress-relieving sanctuary.

The weather appeared non-threatening as the truck disgorged its load of gray glop and the workers smoothed it over. Upstairs in his office, my husband was warily eyeing a yellow and red weather band hovering ominously on the radar. But I wasn't worried, even when thunder started rumbling the moment the workmen left. In Florida, your house can shake from thunder while lightning crackles viciously overhead and you still won't get a drop of rain. Despite hubby's worries, I decided to remain optimistic.

My optimism quickly waned as a I saw a few raindrops splash against the window. I thought that the sky might be spitting a little just to taunt me, but soon the rain was drumming steadily down. The workers returned with a huge plastic sheet and unfurled it over the freshly-poured pad. They had just manage to secure it when Mother Nature let loose with a vengence. It was one of those Florida monsoons where you can't see an inch in front of your face. Even with the plastic in place, I knew that the waterfall that pours off our back awning would leave an indentation. I rushed outside with a garbage can and tried to divert the worst of the downpour. Unfortunately, it kept shifting, so I looking like Bullwinkle frantically trying to position the bucket to catch Rocky the Flying Squirrel at the end of their cartoons.

Unlike the typical wimpy afternoon rains that blow in suddenly and then abruptly disappear, this one settled in to stay a while. I stood on our back stoop, soaked to the skin, wondering what effect Mother Nature's fury was having on my newly-poured slab. Meanwhile, out in front, the croquet field was rapidly turning into a swamp. When the rain finally seemed to be slowing, the workmen came back to check the cement. They took off the tarp and tried to resmooth it, but no sooner had they started than Monsoon, Part 2, began. They had just managed to get it into decent shape and re-cover it when the rain started coming down harder than before.

Upstairs, my husband was grumbling and cursing at the radar. The yellow and red blob was parked squarely over Celebration, with no intention of moving out quickly. Of course not...our newly poured slab had attracted it like a magnet.

Eventually this second torrent slacked off, and the workmen returned once again. They rechecked the slab and assured us that it would be fine. After all, in Florida, afternoon rains are a fact of life. Thank goodness the monsoon had at least held off until the pouring was done.

After all that rain, I wasn't sure whether the Bunny Bash would still go on as planned. In Florida, the blazing sun can quickly dry out even the wettest field, but the on this day the clouds decided to stay. But we decided to go ahead and see if anyone showed up. If the rain returned, we could simply move the party across the street to Duloc Manor.

Even with the gray sky, it appeared that the rainstorm was over. Even though the grass was still rather soggy, it wasn't so bad that we couldn't bash some balls around. The leader of the Brigade arrived with her husband in tow, plus important supplies like a croquet set, bug-repelling spray and candles, beer, and snacks (jalapeno poppers...mmmm!). She had a stash of extra ears (after all, one of the main tennets of the Brigade is to don odd headgear), and even a light-up rabbit to place on my porch as a beacon to would-be Bunnies.

Thankfully, the earlier flood hadn't scared off the hearty partiers. Soon we had a nice little group that was ready to start swinging mallets. A couple of people were reading the rules, which sounded quite complicated to me. I decided to play bartender in order to avoid attempting to play a civilized game. Over the past couple of days, I had made and bagged extra ice to whip up frozen libations, with the help of my Magic Bullet (infomercials rock!) and T.G.I. Fridays pre-mixed Mudslides and Pina Coladas.

My huband joined in the game, while I remained at fringes, drinking and chatting. It appeared that a semi-organized croquet tourney was going on; we got some odd looks from passing drivers, but we weren't wild enough to attract the attention of the sheriff.

After the game was over, we all bathed in bug spray and pulled up camp chairs around the citronella candles. The beer was still flowing freely, and my husband had dug up a bottle of our favorite cheap Publix wine. I had a Hungarian grandmother who raised me on Mogen David wine and 7-Up, so I have a fondness for sweet wines that would be most suitably consumed out of a brown paper bag. We managed to tough it out for a little while, but the mosquitos were apparently bent on getting a buzz from our blood. They forced us to give up and move the party into my family room.

People drifted in and out throughout the evening. All told, about a dozen Bunnies showed up at various times. This first anniversary event also marked the Brigade's expansion beyond international borders, and our new Belgian member celebrated his initiation by bringing an offering of psychotropic beer (if you're wondering about the significance of this, click here for the shocking truth about Belgium).

As the hour grew late, my husband decided to drive out the Bunny Brigade by subjecting them to shocking television programs. No, nothing as shocking as "Wonder Showzen"; he dug out my favorite episode of Comedy Central's "Drawn Together" and horrified everyone with a sex ed film about the special hug performed with a giggy and a pee pee. If you have no idea what 'm talking about, click here to go to Comedy Central's video library and select "Foxxy Sex Ed."

As the last of the Brigade hopped off into the night, I couldn't help but reflect on what a year it's been. Back when I became a Charter Member, I was still a commuter stuck in Chicago most of the time. I lived vicariously through the Front Porch (the Celebration intranet) and donned my bunny ears 1200 miles away in solidarity with the far-away Bunnies. That very first meeting, held in the Town Tavern, was the first time I actually met many of my Celebration friends in person.

Now, there are all sorts of memories...being "kidnapped" by a NEV train after our 24-hour drive from Chicago, stalking celebrities like Davy Jones (and intimidating unsuspecting high school bands at Disney World by acting like crazed fans), eating carrots by the lake while waiting for the fireworks, the consumption of countless certainly has been an interesting 12 months.

I felt a little bad about being responsible for the rain, but at least this year we didn't have a hurricane; last year, after the charter meeting, three hurricanes in a row delayed any further outings for a while. But I'd better be careful what I type; we're not out of the woods yet, so we could still end up with a monster hurricane before we reach the safety of November. will probably happen on the day my spa is scheduled to be delivered!

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