Greener Grass: Los Angeles Man Learns To Accept Balding Yard

Los Angeles, CA — If getting older has taught Mitch Pickering anything, it’s that you can’t hold onto the past. “I was just spending all this money on a losing battle.” After years of fighting that battle, he’s finally ready to allow nature to take its course. His yard is going bald — but that’s okay!

“My dad’s yard was bald and I was always afraid it would happen to me too. So imagine how I felt when I first noticed it was thinning out a few years ago,” says Mitch. “There it was, my worst nightmare!” He got in the car and drove straight to Lowe’s to buy fertilizer, the first trip in what would become a ritual. He’d spend the next few summers in the yard, watering, weeding, and yes, fertilizing, in order to maintain the thick yard of grass he was used to.

“He was obsessed,” says Mitch’s wife, Claire. “I kept telling him it didn’t look that bad, but he wouldn’t listen.”

Despite his efforts, the grass continued to recede steadily, year by year. “I really panicked when my neighbor pointed out the bald patch in my backyard. I was so embarrassed!” He hit that spot especially hard with fertilizer. When that failed, he resorted to something he had always made fun of others for: sod.

“It was so obvious,” says Mitch and Claire’s neighbor, Pat Benson. “Was I really supposed to believe it just disappeared overnight?”

Weekly fertilizer purchases and climbing water bills began to take their toll on the Pickerings’ bank account. Before California’s drought was declared ‘over,’ they faced heavy fines on top of the regular expenses. “At a certain point, I had to be honest with myself. Is all this cosmetic work really worth it?”

Then he had an epiphany. “When I finally stopped focusing on my own lawn, I was able to look around and see that mostly everybody had browning grass, if not completely bare lawns.” He realized there was really nothing to be ashamed of.

Embracing the baldness, Mitch now sports a proudly barren yard. He and Claire have been much happier for it. “I actually think it’s kind of sexy,” says Claire, scratching the dirt playfully.

“Droughts, air pollution, wildfires — there will always be something I want to change about where I live, especially as all that becomes more prevalent,” he says.

“But if I can learn to accept it, it’ll all be much easier to deal with.”

 

Man Who Doesn’t Like Chocolate May Hold Genetic Key To Not Being Disgusting Hog

Seattle, WA — There is nothing immediately striking about Alex Tapper. A 32-year-old sales associate at Office Depot, he’s a slight man with a growing bald patch on his crown. He likes movies, hard cider, the occasional visit to Best Buy (“I just like to see what they have”), and his wardrobe is comprised almost entirely of short sleeve button-downs and thrift store neckties. He seems content to coast through life, invisible to everyone he passes. But don’t be fooled. Alex is special.

He doesn’t like chocolate. Geneticists want to know why.

“He’s a superior human.”

“Yeah, I don’t like chocolate. Not that big of a deal,” says the spectacular marvel of hominid evolution over lunch at Dicey’s Café. While I stuff my face with chocolate-hazelnut creme pie, he sips black coffee, perfectly satisfied with the meal that came before. Since learning of Alex’s unique trait from his food review blog on WordPress, top minds in genetic research have been relentlessly pursuing him.

“Mr. Tapper may carry a human variant of the NCHO3 gene, which thus far has only been observed in cetaceans, such as dolphins and whales,” explains Dr. Andre Lowell, Professor of Molecular Biology at Cambridge University. Many in the scientific community, Lowell included, believe NCHO3 is the reason for cocoa’s absence from the cetacean diet. “With the proper funding — and Mr. Tapper’s cooperation — we could effectively put an end to chocolate cravings, so that future generations never have to feel like unrestrained fatasses anytime a coworker brings brownies to the office.”

Such a pitch would move anyone else to cooperate with the research. So why won’t Alex? “At first I was just busy, and it kind of sounded like BS anyway,” he says, the untainted crevices between his exposed teeth evoking the sense one is capturing but a small glimpse of mankind’s future. But what came after that rejection only embittered him their cause. “They started calling at all hours of the day, following me around — I even caught them rooting through my trash a couple times. It’s really upsetting, and just creepy.”

Despite his frustration, Dr. Lowell understands the conundrum. “He has no idea what the rest of us troglodytes deal with at the grocery store, where footlong kielbasas of Pillsbury chocolate chip cookie dough can be purchased for just three dollars each. It’s a testament to what could be.”

SHAMELESS

Alex’s phone lights up and begins to rumble the tabletop. Unknown caller. He palms his eyes in exasperation.

“I respect his time and autonomy, but there are children right now who are building habits they will come to despise as they age. I’m talking ‘fingers in the Nutella jar’ levels of shame,” says Dr. Lowell. “He will give in eventually.”

“I thought if I ignored them long enough they would give up.” Alex stares into his empty coffee mug, perhaps reconsidering his selfish decision to withhold the next milestone in man’s journey toward perfection. “Maybe if I just send in a spit sample or something, that would get them to leave me alone.”

“Our study would be drawn-out and comprehensive,” Lowell reassures me. “If we have to rule NCHO3 out, countless more strands of DNA must be analyzed in order to determine what exactly allows Mr. Tapper the discipline to not gorge himself on M&M’s at the Christmas party that one year when I got really drunk on chocolate liqueur. It is imperative that we don’t miss anything.”

And if their study doesn’t produce the breakthrough they’re looking for? “That’s highly improbable,” says Dr. Lowell. But there’s only one way to know for sure. “All we can do is turn this man’s life inside-out and scrutinize his genes long past his breaking point. Only then can we find his source of dignity.”

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Doing His Part: Denver Man Spends Weekends Shushing Teens At The Movie Theater

Denver, CO — Not all heroes wear capes. For some, like Russell Higgins, it’s all in a day’s work.

Russell, age 56, has spent every weekend at the local Regal Cinemas for the better part of 20 years. A self-proclaimed cinephile and craft beer enthusiast, he just can’t seem to stay away from the silver screen. “I love movies,” says Russell. “I don’t have any family, so I have plenty of time to keep up with the box office. Michael Bay is family enough for me.”

Unfortunately, not everyone appreciates a good blockbuster the way Russell does. The local theater often doubles as a hangout for disruptive teens, whom Russell says interrupt his flicks with topics like “memes” and “James Corden.”

“I went to the theater attendant, the manager, corporate, the police — all the way up the chain. But no one seemed to be concerned that my Rewards were being squandered.” Russell had no choice but to take matters into his own hands.

“I remember the first time like it was yesterday,” he explains. “It happened so fast. I just turned around and put my finger to my mouth like this and went ‘Sh!’”

He recounts how the entire theater fell silent after his brave act. The film came to a stop. The lights flicked on. Then, one by one, the moviegoers began to clap, slowly rising from their seats and turning to him, applauding his heroics. The feeling was like none he had felt before. That night, Russell vowed to sacrifice his weekends for the cause. No movie would be ever interrupted by teens again. “Not at my Regal Cinemas!”

His impact cannot be understated. When asked about Higgins, townsfolk praise his work, with comments ranging from, “Is that the dude who likes to talk about his IBS?” to, “Please step out of line if you’re not going to order, sir.”

Do the offenders ever retaliate? Russell laughs. “Sometimes they give me looks, but that’s just because they respect me. Sometimes they even thank me by bringing me toilet paper, you know, for my IBS. I just wish they’d stop throwing it on my house.”

It isn’t always easy. He recalls one weekend when he had pneumonia, and his doctor advised he take the weekend off. So he powered through. “When I thought about all of the people who rely on me, I couldn’t bring myself to shirk my duties. Also, it was opening weekend for Emoji Movie.”

Despite the challenges, Russell takes pride in his efforts, and his community takes pride in him. A plaque sits outside of the Denver Regal Cinemas as a testament to Russell Higgins. “I have to put a new one up every month,” Russell said. “They keep taking it down to have it cleaned or something, but they always forget to put it back.”

Now that he has Movie Pass, he’s stepped up his efforts ten-fold. “I don’t care if I get a little spit on them from time to time. I don’t care if I miss the movie doing it. I will shush every mildly-distracting movie loiterer who has the misfortune of sharing a theater with me,” he says. “And if that doesn’t work, you can bet your ass I’ll turn right back to the screen and cross my arms in protest until my discontent is perfectly clear.”

There’s no telling if Russell Higgins’ work will ever be done. But one thing is for sure: his story will live on as an inspiration to moviegoers for years to come.

Fraternity Brothers Stumble Upon Budding Music Festival

Los Angeles, CA — With Summer in full swing, friends like Brett Swan, Kade Price and Matt King are always on the lookout for the next adventure. So when they discovered a music festival campsite downtown, they couldn’t wait to join the party. “We must be really early!” says Brett, noting the lack of stages.

Brett, Kade and Matt are on vacation with their fraternity here, all the way from Maryland. No strangers to a good party, they consider themselves veterans of the music festival scene. “We’ve hit Bonnaroo, Coachella, Lost Lands, FYF, Okeechobee…” says Brett, who continues to list festivals they’ve attended for the next two minutes.

While they hold their spot on the sidewalk, several of their fraternity brothers from UMD are out shopping for tents, alcohol, cannabis, food, water, Hawaiian shirts, and condoms. “… Electric Daisy, Electric Forest, Electric Daisyforest, Honda Days — You name it, we’ve raved it,” Brett finishes. But they had no idea there was a fest in LA this weekend, so they’ve spent the last few hours scrambling to find tickets. Kade’s eyes are locked on his iPhone as he scours the internet for 4-day passes.

Unfortunately, the other festival-goers haven’t been much help. “I tried asking our homie with the shopping cart over there, like, ‘Hey bro, where’d you get your pass?’ but I couldn’t understand a word he said. Dude is already trashed,” Matt says of their bearded neighbor. “Damn, we should ask if he has any Molly.”

As the day wears on, talk of dream artist lineups and “bitches” gives way to doubt. “What if we missed it?” A good question. The trash littered about, the dirtiness of the other campers, the vague smell of urine that kicks up with every breeze — all marks of a wrapped-up fest. But the brothers remain optimistic. In fact, they don’t seem worried at all.

And that’s when it becomes clear: it’s not about the music, or the bitches. It’s something more.

“If we stick around and there is a bomb-ass festival, we’ll be front row,” Brett says. And if they missed it? No problem. “We’ll have our own little party, right here.” He casually pulls out a pill bottle and starts to pass it around.

“At the end of the day, all you really need is Xannies.”

At press time, Brett was nursing a minor stab wound, yelling about how “that definitely wasn’t Skrillex.”

Stay-At-Home Dad Finds Fulfillment In Public Service

Washington D.C. — “You have to keep yourself occupied,” says husband and stay-at-home dad Don T.

Don is part of a historically small, but growing demographic of American men who choose not to take part in the 9-to-5 work hustle. A father of five, he’s spent much of his time making meals and packing lunches, shopping and cleaning, and driving the kids to and from work, practice and friends’ houses. After they left the nest, he found himself with a lot more time on his hands.

“All the ‘me’ time was nice at first, I’ll admit,” says Don from his desk. “But after a while you start to miss the sense of duty that you had when you still had kids running around.” Don says the decision to enter public service was a no-brainer. “I’ve always felt I had good ideas to combat some of the issues that face my neighborhood,” he says. “So many people have told me I have the best ideas.”

He decided to fulfill his lifelong dream of running for office. “I just went for it!” It’s paid off.

After garnering support from his community, he was given the title of ‘President.’ He’s now tasked with committee oversight, preparing budgets and meeting with ambassadors, to name a few of his new responsibilities.

The transition from caregiver into a leadership role was difficult, but rewarding nonetheless. “There were late nights, early mornings, a helluva learning curve, certainly. And I still have those days where the phone never stops ringing. But the sense of accomplishment I feel from passing a new resolution or erasing the legacy of my predecessor makes it all worth it.”

Even the family has gotten involved. “Boy, have they been a help. I figured they would be supportive, but I never imagined they would be so enthusiastic,” he says. “Junior especially has really gotten into it.”

What started as a hobby has turned into a full-blown passion for Don T. “I’ve had a lot of interests, I’ve done a lot of dabbling. Who would’ve thought I’d find my calling at 71 years old?” he says, signing another bill peeling back regulations.

“After all the years of child-rearing, I finally feel like it’s my turn.”

Facing Hardship, Family Makes Ends Meet By Rationing Monthly Free LA Times Articles

Los Angeles, CA — “You’ve reached your monthly free article limit.” That’s the message Jenny Wagner says she faced when she tried to read about the Alabama Senate race last December. Like so many others, she had no idea how scarce news had become. “I would complain that no one told us, but that’s sort of the problem, isn’t it?”

Jenny, a single mother of two living in North Hollywood, says her family has been hit hard by the news shortage. Many readers of the Los Angeles Times know the same struggle. Articles are rationed to just five per month per family, with each allowance coming at the beginning of each month. Now that it’s June, families may be tempted to splurge, but Jenny knows that would be unwise. “Five does feel like a lot these days. But we have to remember, this has to last us all the way until July,” Jenny explains. “This is when we have to be most careful.”

“I took the news for granted.”jake-lorefice-460658-unsplash

For the Wagners, the month of June will be like the past six months before it: they will use their five views on two local news articles, one on home and garden, one on global news, and one on politics. It’s not nearly enough for a family of three — but they’ll have to make do. Through all of this, Jenny credits her fourteen-year-old daughter, Leah, for keeping her strong. “I’m so proud of how she’s handling this. She’s really stepped up.”

Hard times have been especially hard on her youngest, Aiden. At five years old, he’s too young to understand why the news is gone. “How do you explain to a five-year-old why he’s not allowed to read the opinion section today?” Jenny asks, holding back tears. “It just breaks my heart.” Jenny will often scrape by on just headlines so Aiden and Leah have enough.

But despite their trials, the Wagners are staying positive. “If anything, we appreciate what little news we get that much more,” Jenny says. It’s this attitude that has helped the family deal with the challenge life has thrown at them. “I know we’ll get through this, even if that means we have to stay behind on current events.

“By the way, did you hear about this Facebook thing? Disgusting.”

When reached for comment, a representative from the LA Times said, “Jesus Christ, literally just pay ninety-nine cents and you can read all the news. Is that really so much to ask?”