by germinatrix | August 22nd, 2009
One morning not long ago I was inside, in my kitchen, having a nice cup of coffee and thinking about what the day had in store for me when suddenly, I heard a loud grinding sound. No big. My neighborhood is a lovely place, but tranquil it is not – I live at the bottom of a hill that the local Antique Car Club maniacs love to race up and down, mufflers loudly protesting. And then there are the motorcycles … don’t get me started! So, I usually take noise in my stride – but this was different. It was the unmistakable sound of a large wood chipper. I looked out the window and saw a frightening site – the city tree men had finally come to prune the branches of the sycamores on my hellstrip.
I grabbed my camera and ran outside. I’d been waiting for this for over seven years. These sycamores are beautiful trees, but they are old and stressed and their branches fall at the slightest provocation. Often the branches that fall are huge, and we’ve been lucky that there have been no injuries (I live a block away from the local highschool, and my neighborhood is full of cool little kids riding bikes and skateboarding). I’ve called the city, written the city, offered to have it done if the city would reimburse me (or at the very least not fine me) – all to no avail. So I thought the powers that be had finally listened to one of their community stakeholders and had come to prune the exfoliating sycamores. WRONG!
I immediately noticed that the cutter was hacking and chopping without rhyme or reason. He had no idea what he was doing. I waved at him, both arms up in the air, in the international gesture for “STOP RIGHT NOW”. I know he saw me, but he went right on with his massacre. There was another gentleman whose job it was to pick up the branches and shove them into the chipper – I went up to him and politely asked him if I could talk to the man doing the cutting. He said he couldn’t speak English. So I replied, in Spanish, that I’d still like to speak to him. The chipper man said no. The rest of our conversation went something like this :
(Translated from Spanish to English)
me: … but this man is cutting the trees all wrong! These branches are going to fall off and he has to cut them to the … the … how do you say ? (I gesture with my arm, trying to make it look trunk-like) The big part, the thick part … all the other parts come off of the big part (my proficiency in Spanish is dissolving as I continue)…
he: the trunk?
me: YES! Yes – he has to cut the … the branch all the way to the trunk. The branches fall and someone is going to get hurt!
he: We are only supposed to cut the parts that stick out into the street.
me: But he isn’t even doing that! Look at all the dead stuff he left – when you cut a tree, you have to take off the dead parts
he: (looking off) mmmhmm…
me: Did anybody tell him how to cut trees? Does he know how to do this?
he: (walking away) sorry, lady …
me: (realizing I have now crossed the threshold from concerned citizen to crazy lady, I decided to go with it) You don’t know what you’re doing! I KNEW it! At least have him cut the biggest branch … (under my breath)… assholes.
Now, it’s not that I have no sympathy for these men – I was just caught up in the moment and vented my frustration a little improperly. What gets me is that there is obviously no training for these men whose only job is to drive around the huge city of Los Angeles, with a cherry picker and a wood chipper in tow, and trim the trees on city property. Which means inclludes our hellstrips. And these trees on our hellstrips impact our gardens and our sidewalks and our neighborhoods in general! Knowledgeable and sensitive tree pruning and maintenance is not alot to ask! A neighborhood is so enhanced by beautiful trees, and can be ruined by a block wide tree massacre. Two years ago, the lovely street around the corner from mine, lined with gorgeous liquidambars, was ravaged by thoughtless city tree men. They hacked the beautiful branches senselessly in half, all the way up the trees, and then topped them all – meaning that it one fell swoop they turned beautiful, tall, slender trees that are supposed to grow up to a single leader branch … into lollipops.
I don’t think training these men properly is too much to ask. A workshop, a book – anything! Even though it seems complicated, simple tree pruning isn’t hard – remove dead wood and crossed branches, thin heavy growth so sun can shine into the center, and respect the natural shape of the tree. They don’t have to make art – they just have to do a simple job correctly. They’ve never been shown how.
I’ll bet I’m not the only crazy lady coming out of her house, apoplectic over the tree cutters. I might as well have been wearing a headfull of foam curlers, a quilted robe, and fuzzy slippers. And yes, I know that cities don’t have money anymore and they are overwhelmed – but even when city coffers were full the trees were still badly maintained! It just isn’t a priority.
Our TREES, the oxygen givers, the oldest living things on the planet, should be shown a little more respect.