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Everywhere I go I find a pal

Everywhere I go  I find a pal Everywhere I go  I find a pal

Peter Weinschenk, Editor, The Record-Review

The older I get the more I am apt to reach for a history book to find out what’s going on rather than switch on the evening news.


It’s an exciting time of year. With this winter’s snowpack dwindling, now is the time to finalize plans for the garden and home improvement.

On our list of things to do is build a raised backyard patio that will connect with last year’s back porch project. I have dreamed about this project for years, but it never rose to the top of our family’s priority list.

Now, it looks like it’s going to happen. That means my jobs-to-do include lining up contractors and building materials. I have to finalize design plans and, likely, buy some speciality tools. But this is the easy stuff.

The hard thing is knowing what you want.

I had a good, productive phone conversation on Monday with a guy who said he’ll do the project’s concrete work. Our conversation turned to what to do with a block wall that will rise 16 inches out of the ground to form the border of the patio.

The contractor suggested using a decorative split-faced block for this section of the project.

This was a worthy suggestion, but I cringed. I told my concrete guy that I couldn’t ever do something like that. He was a little miffed and, frankly, I was surprised at my own strong reaction.

After our phone conversation, I thought about my negative reaction to split-faced block. What was my problem?

I figured it out. The thing I can’t stand is when one material is used as a substitute for something else. We make plastic look like wood, marble, stone and metal. We make wood look like plastic. We make bricks look like wood. We make metal look like wood. It’s an endless game of substitution.

Split-faced block is a product manufactured to look like a rectangular piece of jagged rock. It’s supposed to look natural, but it isn’t.

I’m over it, frankly. What I like is when things are what they are. Plastic is great as plastic. Wood is beautiful as wood. I think things should be authentic, just as, I think, we should try and live authentic lives.

So, I am now trying to figure out what the edge of my patio should be made of. Maybe stone? Or brick? Or just schmeared mortar?

The problem here, of course, is that I can’t just look in a landscaping design book and get an answer. Instead, I have to look somewhere in my soul.

A house, a yard is a reflection of who you are. Figuring out projects are journeys of self-discovery. These travels are wonderful, terrifying, confusing and rewarding, if exhausting.

The contractors have all of the easy work.