I was amped up to be in a real, live hurricane. I love rain and wind, and I’m not made out of sugar, so I figured it would be a good time whether the power went out or not. I was ready, with flashlight and canned goods in hand. After spending a quiet evening with Irene at a friend’s house in Bushwick, I came home to find that not much had changed.
On my pleasant, breezy walk home, I saw a couple of downed branches and a pile of leaves, but not much else to say an MTA-closing storm had just blown through the city. I wheeled upstairs, dropped my bag off, and slid right back downstairs to stoop it with my neighbors. We chatted about the last time we had seen each other, what we had done in the meantime, and got contentious about how high wind speeds had actually gotten. There was a lot of scornful laughter at Irene’s expense (the poor girl tried so hard).
I strolled into the bodega to order a beer and a sandwich (I got the last roll, too). By the time everything was sliced, piled and toasted I was too busy with conversations in two languages to go upstairs and eat at a real table. By the time I’d stuffed the sandwich in my face, I noticed a tree down the block had started to lean. Winds were still high, and a misty half-rain permeated the block, but this tree pitched slightly farther than its neighbors. The only thing worth mentioning about this particular plant is that it was the tallest tree on the block, but that’s honestly not saying much — at 18 feet. As we watched, the angle of the tree slowly increased to about 20 degrees vertical. At this point, my neighbors and I were entirely focused on it, and people from the bodega were coming out into the mist-wind to watch.
I suggested we mount a rescue operation, and managed to round up some chain, rope and wood to prop it up. Three men held the tree up while others attempted to knot rope around a nearby sign, a fence and anything else remotely stable. Collectively we failed. The tree could theoretically have been supported in the short term, but the roots and base were too damaged for it to survive. With a sigh, the last man let it go, and it slowly sagged to the ground.
We all took turns having our pictures taken in the leaves. Ricky posed a la “The Thinker;” Jose hid in the branches; I sprawled out on a bed of foliage. We all laughed, but everybody was sad to see a tree go. The block had minimal shade to begin with, and now just a little less. I survived an earthquake and Irene in one week without a scratch (or really even getting wet), and thought everything else around me was safe as well. This tree died to show me that nature does not give a single fuck what I think. For that matter, the cops driving by who have to swerve around the arboreal corpse don’t seem to care that much either. As I look out my window and eat leftover canned beans, I’m thankful that this childishly petty gesture is all nature has chosen to throw my way right now.