* For an explanation as to what this project is all about please click here.
I bought The Tree in May of 1959. A Wednesday it was. I recall there being an oppressive, sweltering heat pressing down from above, but it was soothed, consoled, by a delicate ocean breeze that smelled so faintly of a final moment in bloom. It was the perfect weather to cut the ceremonial red tape of a successful agriculture transaction.
The Tree in question was my first, and indeed my last, business venture. I’d been on the market for one like it for several months. I’d been a perfect horticultural pervert about the whole affair. I’d peer through hedges, scale fences under moonlight, consult district planning records and frequent the ghostly corridors of the grand Central library, searching earnestly for the barky creature I so desired.
I came within a half whisker of finding what I needed on several occasions. I would locate a handsome tree, thoroughly scrutinize its potential under the cloak of night, and deem it a good tree. But the problem came when I would attempt to badger the owner into parting with the frivolously bushy accessory to their land.
‘I’m not going to do anything seedy with it,’ I would say, ‘If you’d be so gracious as to allow me that pun.’
That was my line. It would never fail to arouse at least a residual snigger, or a short, nodding nose breath. However they would then stare at me with arms tightly locked and a hard-boiled look of suspicion etched all over their faces. And then they would inevitably ask:
Of course I couldn’t possibly divulge. They wouldn’t sell me their tree if they knew its darkest secrets. No, no. I would explain that I simply really liked trees, but that I lived in a condo. I would then lie and say that I’d tried discharging my sapling lust with a bonsai tree, but that it was far too small to climb. I never did think of a bonsai tree pun.
The lady that eventually sold me The Tree was an old crow who was more than a tad senile. And in truth, I wondered if I might be guilty of committing a lewd act of shady commerce on her. She explained that she was very fond of The Tree indeed, but that it had cats in it. She said that I was more than welcome to buy the tree for $30 if I took the cats away. We spat the viscous bond of American agreement onto our palms and duly sealed the deal.
Two blissful weeks after this transaction the old lady died of time, and The Tree, allegedly part of the property on which it sat, was taken from me and given to the unsuspecting mailman referenced in her will. I tried to make a terrible stink, but was swiftly informed that a verbal agreement and a spit-moistened handshake between two parties is not recognized as contractually binding in the state of California, and particularly not when one or both of the parties are certified as mentally handicapped. And just like that, my days as a rag and bone and tree man were brought to an abrupt yet poignant conclusion.