In my early 20s I was a tree guy — trimming, shaping, cabling, ropes, saddles, chain saws, pole saws. On both coasts. Except the approach is different in Los Angeles because everything grows back so quickly and abundantly here, so the motto is “cut the shit out of everything” while back east they want you to be a little more lacey and delicate. Californians never ask for that or they’d be paying you to come back every three or four months.
Around 7:30 this morning a crew started working on a nearby Jacaranda tree, and as usual they were butchering the shit out of it. It was a tree before they started — after they finished it was a hat rack. I went up to them and asked, “Why don’t you just cut it all down and cut it into firewood? There’s barely anything left — why not finish the job?”
One of the tree guys shrugged and said, “It’s what they wanted.” He was blameless, of course. But what a drag, I was thinking, that pretty trees are always getting raped out here. Because hat-rack trimmings destroy the shade element, and then you have to wait six months to a year before the leaves grow out and return to any degree.
The day before another tree crew was chain-sawing away and cutting the shit out of the Ficus trees on Melrose. Same hornet whine, same cutting aesthetic, truckloads of brush hitting the street, shoved into a chipper, etc.
All this ugly noise and destruction made me think of the huge trees along the Tiber in Rome — sycamores, oaks, eucalyptus, planes, umbrella pines — and how wonderfully massive they all seem to be when you first drive into town, and all the wonderful shade they create, and how they never seem to get trimmed or chain-sawed and how the tips of long branches always shoot out over the Tiber and at times touch the water.
I don’t know how old these Tiber trees are on average, but fairly damn old.
Big trees and their cool, calming shadows are a much bigger deal in Rome than in West Hollywood. I think it’s safe to say that without qualification.