Please enjoy this week's Strangerville Live, and today's story:

My neighbor Lynne's landscaping could be in a magazine. Every flower and bush is perfectly manicured. I want to be buried in her backyard one day. Especially if I'm dead.

I was amazed that she had achieved everything she has by herself, especially considering that she's a flight attendant and is often gone for many days at a time. Then one day she told me about Mr. Pham.
I don't know Mr. Pham's first name and I'm not sure Lynne does either. He may not have one. She found him a few years ago and hired him to do some landscaping work on her property.
Mr. Pham is probably a genius. He is an exceptionally talented landscape artist. Lynne liked him instantly because of how proud he was of his work. He takes pictures of yards he's worked on and prints them out to put into a binder, and he likes to pull it out, a huge grin on his face, and show people that he meets. Lynne told me that only people who are really good at what they do care that much about it, so she trusted him and had him start helping her with her yard.

I needed help with laying some brick at the back of my house over a muddy patch where I keep a garden hose and some other lawn supplies, so last summer I thought I would give Mr. Pham a try.
A couple of things I learned about Mr. Pham:
1. Mr. Pham is Vietnamese and the language barrier is very real, to the point that I think there was no more than 20% comprehension between the two of us.
2. Mr. Pham is a tiny man who is somehow stronger than any person I have ever met in my life, which I discovered when I saw him yank a six-foot bush out of the ground with his bare hands.
3. When you hire Mr. Pham as a landscaper, you are hiring him to do whatever the hell *he* wants. Not what *you* want. What he wants.
4. It's best not to fight number 3.
I had walked Mr. Pham back to the spot where I was hoping he could lay some brick. I tried to show him what I was thinking. He repeatedly shook his head and yelled "no!" at me. I didn't know why. But I got so overwhelmed that I just gave him a bunch of money and went inside and called Lynne.
Eli: So, I just hired Mr. Pham.
Lynne: Isn't he great?!
Eli: I think so. But I showed him what I wanted and he said no and then I think he told me he's doing something else but I didn't really understand.
Lynne: Oh. Yeah, I forgot to tell you about that. You just need to let him do whatever he wants. That's the deal.
Eli: Say what?
Lynne: Yeah. That's the deal with Mr. Pham. You aren't hiring him to do a project for you. You are commissioning him to make your life better. Leave it in his hands.
Eli: That's . . . did I just deed my house to Mr. Pham?
Lynne told me that the year before she had come home and saw that Mr. Pham had ripped out some rose bushes that she loved and she started crying and almost fired him but then he came back the next day and had completely reworked the area, transplanted the bushes, and what he had done was so beautiful that it should be illegal.
I was skeptical. But then a couple of days later I walked into my backyard and saw that Mr. Pham had not done anything even remotely close to what I was hoping he would do. But, Lynne was right. What Mr. Pham had done was a thousand times better than I was hoping he would do.
So I didn't hesitate last week to call him when I decided that it was time to do something with the back corner of my backyard.
Previously I told you about the thick dilapidated concrete pond that took up that space and which my friends and I ripped out and hauled away and now those friends won't talk to me and I probably have tetanus. Since then, that muddy patch has been neglected, so I decided that maybe I would hire Mr. Pham to lay some paver stones there so I could extend the patio a bit.
I walked him back there. Within a few minutes he had yelled "no" at me several times, made some vague statements about his plans, and told me he would be back next week to "take care of it."
I may have hired a hitman. But I believe I'm going to come out of this with a beautiful patio. Or something completely different. Pictures probably to come.
And now, please enjoy this week's episode of Strangerville, the first part of our four-part Strangerville Live broadcast.

This time in Strangerville, a storyteller takes the stage at Strangerville Live to remind us that . . . most people are good.StoryYou Are Now in Paraguay, by Rachel MillerProduction by Eli McCann and Meg Walter

~It Just Gets Stranger