So it has come to pass that the crooked Broadway tree, that beautiful Raywood ash, is no more. A few weeks ago the city taped a notice to the tree, telling it to grab its shit and leave. And despite writing countless protest letters to my diary, and chaining myself to the tree (which caused it to lean more), the Raywood was finally cut down.
Many of the tree’s detractors (I have a list) said that it was a danger to the community. They said that it could fall and hit somebody or do property damage. Nonsense! Leaning things never fall, they just keep leaning and eventually become a tourist attraction where people take pictures pretending like they’re holding it up. Have you even been to Italy? (I haven’t, is it nice?). The leaning tree was on the verge of joining other famous leaning things, like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Suurhusen Church Tower in Germany, and that birdhouse in my backyard ($10 for adults, $23 for students and seniors).
Wasn’t anyone curious to see how far it was going to lean? We all could have used it to play a very slow game of limbo.
And so what if the tree fell and killed somebody? We should all be so lucky to have that tree fall on us, and die for its cause. “If it had to be someone, I’m glad it was you,” I’d say to the tree, as it crushed my internal organs. Any person flattened by the tree would be known throughout the neighborhood, and a statue would be erected, depicting the tree crushing your body. You wouldn’t want to be remembered like that? Remembered as the person who broke the tree’s fall? I would!
Is this what we do with problem trees, just cut them down so that we don’t have to deal with them? Could we not have helped the tree straighten its posture? All you had to do was hire a physical therapist, or the tree version of a physical therapist, and work with the tree day by day until it could stand upright. “You can do it, tree!” the therapist would yell encouragingly, “Just a little more today, and then we’ll stop.” If that failed, I know an orthodontist in Magnolia who totally could have made that thing straight.
Maybe we all secretly wanted that tree cut down because it was too “real” for us. Perhaps it reminded passersby of their mortality, that they too will one day lean in their old age, a decrepit burden on society. That tree was a cry for people to realize what’s important in life, and we silenced it with our axes or butter knives or whatever they used to cut it down. For shame!
And now look at it! All that’s left is a pathetic little stump, too low to the ground for anyone to sit on it and read. I can’t even acknowledge it anymore, lest I hear some ghostly Terrence Malick voice say, “Are you righteous? Kind? Does your confidence lie in this? Are you loved by all? Know that I was, too.” Jeez.
What kind of tree will replace it? We’re going to get another leaning tree, right? We can’t install a straight, boring tree. That would disgrace the crooked tree’s memory! But we are, aren’t we? I bet we’ll put in some clean cut, non-threatening, wet behind the ears tree that always stands up straight and has no character. That’s just the way of the times. It probably won’t even be a real tree, because that’s too dangerous. We’ll likely get that fake metal tree from the Olympic Sculpture Garden, the one that sellout birds sit on.
Oh dear reader, there was nothing I liked more than laying on the sidewalk with a beer and laughing at people bumping their head on the tree. “Ha ha, that tree got you good, boy,” I’d yell, “You best watch your head next time. Are you going to take that shit from a tree? Don’t walk away from me, coward!” Sometimes people would trip on the roots, and I’d laugh at them too. “Is this your first time walking? Were you expecting the tree to get out of the way?” Good times.
I’m going to miss you, tree, there’s no way around it. Thank you for the shade and the memories. They can cut you down, sand you and make a coffee table; they can flatten you and print a user manual for a chainsaw; they can grind you into sawdust and use you to clean up vomit in seedy bars, but do you know what they can’t do? You know what they can’t take away?
Shit, I’ve reached my word count limit. Bye tree!