The sun came out the other day. I quickly took advantage to go outdoors to check the yard without having to wear a headlamp or carry a flashlight. Work in the garden is more cumbersome when lighting is needed. I hardly got moving toward the side yard when I spotted an invader. Gads, seems early this year! Had I ever spotted one of those clever little bobbing heads so soon in the season? Whether I had or not, I knew better than to alert the culprit to my presence. With careful stealth I backpedaled to the shed, where I keep the tool these invaders dread and hide from. I’m not fooling. If I approach an alien invader to inspect it first and then go after the tool, by the time I return it will have scrunched down and so camouflaged itself that I’ll have to search, and even then it’s mere luck to find it. They are clever, these invaders. I’ve been in combat with them for years. They know my history of relentless persecution of their kind. I am ruthless and thankful there is no such thing (I hope and think) as ruthful, because when it comes to dandelions there can be no middle way. Either you root them out or they take over anything except yarrow, thistle, and Creeping Charlie.

There are two kinds of dandelion destroyers. I do my killing the old-fashioned way, with a long steel fork, the dandelion digger. My parents favored the easier chemical form of battle and sent their son happily (actually not, but I was good at make believe) outside to apply one form or another of dandelion death. Barefoot, in shorts, and unprotected (we knew no better those days), I dragged weed killer bars or sprinkled granules and powders to combat any invader that would blemish Mother’s lush lawn, which needed mowing thrice weekly due to the fertilizer I applied and copious watering for which I was also responsible. It was like being married to grass before the term took on an alternate meaning. In my teens I considered myself a free agent. I wanted to roam the fields of pleasure. Wherever they were wasn’t in our yard, where I was captive, shackled to mower and lumbered by rake and clippers. I longed for freedom to hop on my escape mechanism, a three-speed Raleigh, and pedal off to Xanadu, at the time the most exotic port in my imagination, where I saw myself arriving to be welcomed and entertained in regalia that fit my sense of propriety. How else could a boy enter Xanadu if not in a pleasantly striped T-shirt atop tennis shorts atop feet stuck into stripe-top crew socks and then into low-cut sneakers I moved epochs to get into my hands (or feet, actually)? I’d be damned if I’d appear in Xanadu wearing dreadful high-tops that for unfathomable reasons are a delight to the misinformed young of later generations, as if they could not find something more cumbersome and ugly to inflict on their unfortunate feet.

For the sake of style (I was my own form of foolish youth) I forsook footwear to wander naked toes through chemical wastes. You see, if I wore my good sneakers in the yard, their soft mottled gray would then wear green stains near impossible to eradicate without destruction of the sneaker. Green-stained and poison-dosed feet could be put in socks, etc. when I was done, and thus hide both the staining and slow chemical poisoning. I surely absorbed enough weed killer to have stunted my growth or alter chromosomes. Good thing I did not fling into reproduction in the days my semen more rightly belonged as a toxic substance in Love Canal than, well, you get the rest of it. Focused on fashion, I did not worry over chemical harm to my indestructible body as I contented my time with images of Xanadu as I moved about carefully, poisoning freely. I wondered what was wrong with boys who wanted to be baseball stars when there was Xanadu to enjoy with its sacred river, Alph, its sunless sea, and caverns measureless to man. Ye gads, there was even a demand for demon lovers in Xanadu. I wished for a try-out of a sort hopefully more glorious than a mere homerun. I wanted to be one of those who’d drunk the milk of Paradise (the poem’s last line). It rankled me that Coleridge was dead, otherwise I’d have gone to his house to pump him for details I needed to know. How in hell was a boy on the Iron Range to find a haunted waning moon among ore dumps?

A particular desire for Xanadu lasted but a few memorable years before I mentally ended elsewhere, places less romantic in nature where one hunts dandelion invaders by lamplight if necessary. Life has a way of bringing us down, but I think we do our part trying to bring it up. That seems fair and reasonable in a way my fifteen-year-old self would have missed, being as it was a bit on the overwhelmed side by that demon lover thing.

Invasion whether by fauna, flora, or otherwise has complexities largely lost in the shuffle if one’s focus stays too much on Xanadu. It may be exotic, but Guantanamo is surely not Xanadu or much place for whimsical thought, until you read recent accounts, and then, really, you can’t help but be amazed. After a ponderous long time, the tribunal sits to consider accusations of plotting/committing mass murder by a defendant who informs the court it has no jurisdiction over his higher law and that women present should be properly covered so as not to offend him. You could not pay for such dramatic foolishness or fanciful frivolity. Just think, a mass murderer offended by the sight of female hair and legs. The poor man. Where’s a good dandelion fork when you need one?