Fifty Feet From Stardom

I should be finishing the first draft of my second book. I should be writing a hit song if such a thing exists anymore, or practicing for my gigs. I should be promoting those events, sharing my desire to get back out there and play my songs for people. I should be doing all those things but-

I’m rolling a hose.

No, it’s not some esoteric drug term, or relaxing yoga pose. I haven’t taken up surfing, though I’d like to think I still could someday.  It’s not medical, though it seems to have stress-relieving benefits.

I’m rolling a hose and the world is beautiful.

Now I’m not the kind to covet my neighbor’s goods. I don’t want to be that neighbor who spends much time noticing the comings, goings and general paraphernalia of the people next door. That would put me in curtain twitcher (Ole Ms Rigby) territory and nobody wants to be one of those. Live and let live I say. Sometimes when you’re out there with the lawn mower you go a little over the shared property line to keep things from getting too shaggy on our side and I’ll do the same for you – but never in a judgmental way. Neighborly.

But I couldn’t help noticing this tidy contraption next door. When I’d be cursing and struggling with our garden hose, attempting to get it into a coherent coil and eventually flinging it to the ground to be trampled and driven over by car wheels, the guy next door’s hose was always efficiently wound around a spool that was housed in a sleek caddy. Nothing showy. Very utilitarian. I started noticing the same device outside other houses like when you get a certain type of car and then the world suddenly seems to be made up of mostly that make and model that you never knew existed before. What did all these people know? The world had advanced, in a good way as it sometimes does, and why wasn’t I on board? Why was I still dragging my hose?

As sometimes happens when one half of a couple goes away, stasis was broken. Or let me put that another way – part of the beauty of being in a couple is the routine: “this is how we do things.” No matter how dysfunctional – sticks propping up windows, key holders full of mystery keys no one has the nerve or heart to throw away – there’s a comfort in coupledom that can also make it hard to try something new. You’d have to bring the idea up in front of the committee; make a case for a newfangled concept that might actually suck and then where would you be? One down. Better to play as a team.

But take one half of the team out of the equation and – I thought about how much time I spend wrangling the hose. This wasn’t me deciding to change the color of the house when Eric was away on tour. This wasn’t me moving all the furniture around, a thing I remember my mother doing regularly when my dad was traveling and we kids were at school – she’d assert herself and we’d spend the next week or two bruising our legs on relocated couches. No, the hose was my realm, for garden stuff and for screenprinting cleanup, and I had to make a bid for an easier life.

At Lowes the choice was a little overwhleming, but I stayed the course. I was going to commit to one of these contraptions. Like choosing wine in a restaurant, not the cheapest – maybe a level or two above that. I could always bring it back.

That’s what I thought until I started trying to set it up and realized it all had to be done in situ. Within seconds the hose caddy was covered in mud and so was I. I’d left the instructions in the house, thinking “well I won’t need these!” So I had to take my shoes off to avoid tracking mud across the rug, find the instructions, find my glasses, read the first part – back out to the hose, wait does this tube attach to the spigot or – back into the house, find my glasses again, etc. The idea of bringing the instructions out to the hose pipe was too embarrassing – this was attaching a rubber tube, not buidling a rocket ship! I know I said I’m no curtain twitcher but everybody essentially is and I didn’t want our neighbors huddled around the window laughing themselves silly at me holding a hose, fumbling with my glasses trying to read a scrap of cardboard – I’d probably end up spraying myself with water to make it really entertaining. So back and forth I went.

Eventually I realized there was no way the old hose was going to work in this new contraption – it was kinking all over the place and water was spurting out at both ends. I remembered buying the absolute cheapest piece of trash hose when we’d just moved in, just to have something. Maybe I was doing this backwards and should’ve gotten a better quality hose before I got involved in adding some newfangled device but I was in too deep now – the thing was clearly used, the instructions sodden.

I had to go get another hose. I brought the instructions to Lowes with me. The same woman checked me out who’d been there when I bought the caddy. I tried to explain to her how I’d messed up and now needed another hose and would probably end up having to get a different house by the time I’d replaced everything I’d need to to work with the hose caddy but she just waved her scanner gun – her eyes told me she’d heard every kind of lunacy and was not interested in counseling me.

Got the new hose home – fifty feet long, god it was beautiful. Bright yellow which I’d initially objected to because it wasn’t “classic hose green” but what a great yellow. By now the instructions were old hat but I still needed to keep checking them because so much time on my phone means I’m no longer able to retain more than one step of any set of directions at a time. Was this thing ever going to work? Why was I spending my precious alone moments standing in mulch? I looked across at the neighbors, thankful they weren’t outside to witness my struggle at the same time hopeful I could just call over: “Help?”

I got the hose hooked up. Threaded it through the spool. I raised the crank handle. And –

the thing fucking worked! It spun around like thread on a bobbin. It was a miracle. I found a job at the front of the house that required pulling the hose all the way out from its carriage – sprayed, came back. I turned the handle and the hose wound up perfectly. I practically fell to my knees. I’d won.

Eric called and told me about his gigs, the drives from town to town. He was back out on the road and part of me was happy it was going well and part of me was envious. 

“Eric, I have something to tell you,” I said, trying to choose my moment carefully.

“Is-is everything all right?” he said, sounding worried.

“Eric, I got a new hose! And this thing you wind it on – it’s the most incredible invention, I can’t wait til you see it! It works! It works!”

He sounded excited to play the next gig but I know he really just wanted to come home and have a go rolling the hose.

Is a woman’s yard a reflection of her soul?


  • Tues Oct 5 Dylan at 80 Virtual Book Release tickets
  • Thu – Sun Oct 7 – 10 Lost Lake Writers Retreat, Alcona County MI
  • Wed Oct 13 Natalies Worthington Columbus OH tickets
  • Sat Oct 16 Hudson West Fest Nimbus Arts Centre Jersey City NJ tix
  • Thu Oct 28 Binghamton Univ Art Musuem Binghamton NY 6 PM info
  • Thu Nov 11 Colony Woodstock NY tickets

18 thoughts on “Fifty Feet From Stardom

  1. Marit McCabe

    I love that you listened to yourself. I love that you trusted yourself to figure it out. I love that you worked through self consciousness, failing eyesight, and plain old human inertia, and now have a thing that makes your life (and Eric’s!) better. Thanks for writing this piece.

    1. amyrigby

      I went back and forth about whether to show it – took a photo too. But I wondered if it would be disappointing, and better to let the reader fill it in themselves. Still not sure!

  2. Dave from NY

    Hey Amy, love these blog posts and that they come straight to my email! When we first got this house I wasn’t nearly as crippled with back problems. I coiled the hoses by hand and hung them on those metal semi circular ‘hooks’ on the side of the house. A few years later I got wise and got the thing with the crank. 5 years later that thing broke and I upgraded to a hose coiler that looks like the one with the crank, but it does it automatically with water pressure!!! When that broke (yeah, been here almost 20 years!) I got pocket hoses that contract to nothing when you turn off the water pressure. Every iteration made me feel like I just invented the wheel! Lol! Love ya, Amy! Say HI to Eric!

  3. Sharon Liveten

    I relate! I do a shit-ton of yard work (of which there is always a bunch) when I should be writing. But you scored! I bought a hose roller once and it didn’t work. It kept falling over when I pulled it and eventually it became a dog toy for the Great Danes. Win-win? Love the blog.

  4. Tom Wilk

    That’s a nice story. I admire your perseverance in making your hose project a success.
    If it didn’t work, I was thinking of a slightly revised Bob Dylan lyric.
    Don’t go mistaking paradise for that hose across the road.

  5. Mary Sue Bendl

    I love this. It is not about the thing, but the process! Rege always laughs at me when I go out in my neon orange T shirt and my ” gardening” shorts. I am declaring to myself and my neighbors that I am going to take care of this yard. And I am completely aware that I think the neighbors are watching me fail. And yet, almost every time, I end up having lovely, amusing, engaging conversations with children, dogs, adult walkers, together and individually. I ignore the adults that try to give me advice, and revel in the joy of conversation about anything and everything else.

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