Sunday, December 6, 2009


If the name Ron Popeil sounds familiar to you, it is probably because at some point in the past you have purchased one or more of his products. Chop-o-matic. Inside-the-Egg Scrambler. Showtime Rotisserie. And don’t tell me you’ve seen him on TV but never called the 800 number. I know there is a Pocket Fisherman somewhere in one of your closets, you just don’t want to admit it.

Another of his infomercials offered GLH-9, otherwise known as Great Looking Hair Formula #9. This was, in essence, spray paint for your head. It may have been nutty, it may have been ludicrous, but it made the man some serious money. I don’t know if the stories of gunk running down from hairlines during strong winter storms are true, but if mascara runs when the ladies cry, why wouldn’t hair thickener?

The garden equivalent of GLH-9 has now been unleashed on the world. There are companies offering to come and paint your yard, either to improve the home’s curb appeal while it is for sale, or to cut down on your watering bill. Or just because you like to be the first person on your block to do something stupid.

It seems to me most lawns that would qualify for a nice coat of paint probably front a home in a similar state of neglect. If the porch is piled with faded newspapers, and the front door handle has one of those jumbo realtor lock safes and several pizza ads attached, and a curtain is blowing out of an upstairs bedroom window accidentally left open when the family secretly vacated the premises in the middle of the night several months earlier, then I’m thinking a new coat of Behr’s Lustrous Emerald is going to look rather ridiculous.

The theory of making your home look as presentable as possible when trying to sell it makes sense. Picking up the toys, doing the dishes, making sure the men and boys in the house haven’t completely fouled the area in and around the toilet—these are easy, cheap, and logical. The fact that this practice has morphed into an entire home staging industry is surprising.

That it has now reached the point that we are considering painting lawns is madness.

I know people who dye their hair (dye—not spray paint). I have heard some of them say “this is the last time,” generally when they are trying to bridge the gap between years of dye jobs and a coming out of their glorious elder gray. Every time the roots start to show, though, they rush back for auburn highlights, unwilling to suffer through the inevitable transformation.

Here’s the thing: you’re not fooling anyone. Same with a bad toupee, too tight clothes, or teeth so white and straight that they look they were chiseled off a marble statue. Real life ain’t so perfect. It has rough edges, imperfections . . . and brown lawns when no one is watering.

The same thing would happen outside your front door. If the grass needs to be painted twice a year at a cost of up to $500, are you really saving any money? And if you have only “cut back” on your watering, aren’t you still encouraging its growth, and, therefore, its roots to show?

I thought the fake lawn had hit its low point years ago with Astroturf. For sport fields I can understand it, but it makes no sense at home. Despite the protestations of synthetic lawn proponents, I know it is ridiculous, because the vast majority of people won’t do it. And by “vast” I mean so many people that I might as well say “everyone.” Doesn’t matter how brown their lawns are or how high their water bill goes, plastic grass just doesn’t cut it at home.

This newest debacle will surely fade, no matter how they try to pitch it. First it was to help improve the fading beauty of foreclosed properties, but it wasn’t a huge hit, plus foreclosures inevitably decreased. So now it is marketed to citizens in the midst of a drought.

It still won’t sell.

Would a homebuyer prefer to see an abandoned and foreclosed property with a perfectly manicured and beautiful lawn? Or would that give them something to worry about? Who’s been taking care of it? Squatters? Maybe the green paint running across the sidewalk after a light rain is the clue.

“They painted their lawn?” the potential buyer says. “What, they think we’re idiots?” And off they go to look at another house.

Pretty soon some knucklehead so-called entrepreneur will suggest painting backyard patios blue and calling them swimming pools.

And bigger knuckleheads will actually do it.

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