Saturday, August 14, 2010

A New Sign of the Old Apocalypse?

People sometimes like to disparage L.A. by citing our palm trees in their invective. Good call, shit-slingers. As trees go, palm trees are generally ridiculous.

Most trees have unique combinations of turns and knots and bark patterns and branches pointing in random directions. Palms have none of these. It’s as if some pretender strain of tree decided to do as little work as possible to become a tree: a denuded trunk and a top featuring a heap of fronds not unlike the hairstyle of a rebellious teen. Palms provide little shade. Rats nest in them. One species in particular is simply very tall, as if craving attention. Most are transplants from other regions and most are lacking in character—just like some of the people here.

All other trees are unique in their own way. Spiritualists who tell you to observe the uniqueness of everything in the universe tacitly exclude palm trees. Within each species of palm, every example is a cheap imitator of the one next to it—just like some of the people here.

The thing with palm trees, however, is that they never fall over. Every winter when we have (use finger quotes for the next word) storms, a few trees around town get uprooted and block a street or crush an occasional car. None of them are palm trees. We have—or had—mighty oak trees that surrendered to Mother Nature during strong winds or heavy rains. Since palm trees seem to be thriving in our brown air and nutrient-free dirt, it would follow that they’re impervious to extreme weather. When the wind blows, palm trees just sort of wave back and forth. They’re either laughing or too stupid to know that they should be afraid for their lives. Actually, they’re the only tree that looks better after a good storm; they’re the only ones that hold onto old fronds unless given a compelling reason to shed them.

Finally, a few weeks ago here in back of my Valley palace, I went out to my car to see this:

Lest you think that it was some poltergeisty event, no, the chairs and table at right did not arrange themselves like that. A neighbor thoughtfully arranged them like that so residents wouldn’t accidentally hit their heads on the tree. And that's the same Orange Cone of Nearby Hazards that he puts next to his 15-foot ladder when he sets that up.

Nonetheless, it has happened. One of the countless indestructible, ridiculous palms of L.A. has had enough. The wind hadn’t even been blowing.

What does it mean when our hardiest trees start committing suicide?

1 comment:

Dave Meyer said...

Actually Joe, I thought the chairs were arranged for a reading you were doing and that the thunderous applause caused the tree to give way.