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February 16, 2009


There was a loud CRASH around 5am. The rain had been getting heavier and heavier all night. In my half dream state, the crash was a tsunami that had hit LA. I did a quick inventory, thought “I’m glad my sister lives in a high rise” (because she lives right by the sea) and fell back asleep and had a small dream about Jamie trying to drive to work through a river on Santa Monica Boulevard and eventually giving up and jumping out to sit on the roof of Maison Martin Margiela to watch as other people tried to drive through the same river. An hour later I jumped up and started wondering what the hell that noise could have been. It wasn’t a rain noise. There isn’t a raindrop in the world big enough to make that noise. Jamie left for work (no rivers yet) and I went out onto the balcony to say good morning to my plants and survey the wind-rain damage.

And there it was.

A massive beautiful old tree was lying on it’s side across Orange street, ripped out from the ground. Lying helpless in a city where nobody will even think twice about it other than how it’s blocking traffic and causing an inconvenience. Luckily Orange street is a quiet street, and the something-department of lemmings haven’t come to chop it to pieces and cart it off. I felt for this noble tree, in its helpless state, clinging on to life and unaware of its fate. If it were in a forest, it would probably set root again somehow, it would become one of those even bigger older gnarled beautiful trees that in a hundred years people would see and say “Wow! How on earth did it get like that?”. But not here. Here it’s just an inconvenience.

When Dominic was here last, he was telling me that he went hiking with a friend of his, who insisted on bringing a cellphone and keeping it on the entire time. When he commented on it, she said that there were moutain lions around so they needed a phone. He started laughing and said that he’d much rather die in the jaws of a mountain lion than on a freeway in a metal box. I wonder if trees feel the same way. This was a big old tree. It had probably seen a lot. I wonder if it was happy where it was, or if pounding through its tree-veins were memories of a place where trees didn’t breathe smog, smoke, and self-importance all day. I wonder if it was nostalgic for something it didn’t know even existed.


I go outside to take some photographs (as if on cue the rain stopped for a while), and I can’t help it, I climb on top and just sit there for a while. It’s still alive. It still feels cool and dark and calm inside. And I realise that my distress about the fate of the tree is only my human mind projecting my human experience. Tree (who we’ll call Bob from now on) is experiencing his fate as it happens, not self-reflecting on whether it is a cruel fate or a happy fate or whether his leaves are messed up or whether he is going to be remembered for dying with his roots uncovered and his base up in the air. As I was giving the dying Bob a big hug, a woman walked by with her dog. We smiled at each other and I told her that I was just taking some photographs (because I’m just giving Bob a hug good bye would have sounded a bit odd) then she said “It’s so sad,” to which I agreed, and then she said “does the owner even know about it?” at which point I realised that she was talking about the car that Bob had landed on and not Bob himself.

And then the lemmings drove up, with their blinking orange lights, and yellow hard hats and reflective gear. One jumps out the truck and asks me if that’s my car. I say “no” and walk away, casting a backwards glance at Bob and whispering “goodbye” while trying to make it look like I wasn’t actually talking to the tree.

So, Bob the Orange Street tree, because I don’t think the LA Times is going to write about it, here is your obituary:

In memoriam- Bob the tree.

Bob the tree had lived on Orange street for around 93 years. He was a big old tree and was quite friendly if anybody actually stopped to pay attention. The cause of death was at first presumed to be the storm that blew into Los Angeles during the night, but upon further inspection it was discovered that parts of his body had been ravaged by termites, so it was probably a combination of these two factors that brought him down.
After a brief period as a sapling in a nursery, Bob (son of Abigail the forest tree) was bought by the City of Los Angeles and planted on Orange Street as decoration. He was planted across the street from Barry (on the left) and Gertrude (on the right) and spent his days chatting to them, or playing with the family of Ravens who live down the street. According to Judith, the mother raven, Bob had the best limbs to sit on, and he was always willing to entertain with a story about the good old days (edit: we are not quite sure which days he was referring to). Bob did not have any offspring of his own, as his saplings were all removed by the City of Los Angeles sidewalk groomers. Although a relatively unknown tree in the world of trees (he never made it into the tree hall of fame), Bob will be sadly missed here on Orange street by those of us who knew him, and when people walk past that big gaping hole in the ground, hopefully they too will have a fleeting moment of recognition of the majestic tree that once set root there.


One Comment leave one →
  1. February 18, 2009 01:20

    I want you to write my obituary too.

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