These are the uncommon finds from the last serviced tree on this date. I would afterward go to lunch. The finds were odd- perhaps the foremost being the braided bit if human hair. I sincerely hoped that it was some kind of dollar store accessory. That I hadn’t actually found someone’s cut or torn or braid. What would it take to make someone cut off their braid and throw it away onto the sidewalk? What would someone be thinking if they decided to cut off and discard someone else’s braid?
What is this story?
I was happy to finish working at this site. The traffic stress was a little too much and I found myself unable to restrain my urge to urinate. Luckily, there was a filling station right at the corner with a nice port-a-sain resting outside of it. I arrived to the portable plastic toilet just in time, and soon afterward continued along on my way refreshed and relieved.
Longfellow Ave at Rodman Place and the Cross Bronx Expressway
Conditions: Beautiful. Sunny and warm.
I made a point of clearing trees that would take me on a southern path around the Cross Bronx Expressway. I had a lot of adventures along the way.
This tree, right at an entrance to the expressway, needed a little help. As I was working, I became afraid for my life! The traffic flew past relentlessly and without regard to me. I could feel the wind from the speeding autos. And I breathed in the smoke of their exhaust pipes. I saw the narrow misses of no less that 10 accidents and heard an orchestra of horn blowing.
Through the din, an elderly woman stopped and looked down at me all smiles. I could barely hear her encouraging words. I smiled and then she slipped away.
The second man to engage me was much shorter than the first. He too was wearing a uniform- although it was a little different. Later I saw him interact with the first man and a couple others in uniforms as they came out of the deli. It became clear that this second man was their supervisor. He called the shots- pointing his finger and talking.
After giving orders and sending his men on their way, he walked over to me and gave pause. I had been nearly finished my round about the tree. He was very approving and friendly. He had a stately way of speaking, as if he believe he was giving a public speech.
I had many interactions with the passers-by at this site. Most of them were passing affirmations. There were two that really stood out almost as a complete narrative. The first is here depicted:
I was just beginning the work on the tree at Bronx Park South at Vyse when I felt the presence of a large looming figure. It was a man in a uniform. I guessed that he was part of the maintenance crew for the apartments I was working in front of.
He asked me in Spanish what I was doing, and I did my best in English and using cartoon hand gestures to explain my actions. I could not be sure he understood anything I said or mimed. He was stone silent when I finished… it was an eternal pause, and his expression was without emotion or judgement. It was after this awkward long pause that I looked up at him from where I was on my knees working, and I simply shrugged my shoulders. This, I am sure he understood.
He said, “OK” and walked into the deli.
Conditions: Hot and Humid. The Weather Service issued a Heat Advisory, and cautioned against doing any labor outside… but I went BRONX Bound anyhow. The sun was replaced by clouds by early afternoon- not grey storm clouds exactly, it was more like the sky filled with pale smoke. Much of the brightness of the sun burned through the cloud layer. By the time I took my break for lunch, the clouds matured and burst, dumping buckets of rain for a very brief moment.
This tree on Bronx Park South and Vyse needed some help. I didn’t even know there were bricks in the tree bed until I got to work. The basis for my decision to select this site for service had as much to do with the objects in the tree branches as the overgrown condition of the tree bed. Above resembled a stuffed animal urban jungle home!
Conditions: sunny and hot.
This was my first use of the new uniform. It proved to be light enough for me not to sweat overmuch, but it was problematic when it came down to accomplishing the work at hand. Rather than store my needle and threads within my wool vest, I kept them all in a pouch. At the first go in the field, this adaptation caused me trouble.
I lost my needle and thread for marking the trees. This occurred right after my first tree, but I didn’t notice until it came time to sew a band onto the second serviced tree. What to do? Was this some kind of sign? I couldn’t continue my work without installing the orange marker band…
As a last resort, I made my way to Proyecto Deli & Grocery. My hope was they had, among all their wears, a set of needles so that I might continue my work.
They had them! I was shocked.
This place had everything. If you’re in a jam in NYC, go first to a deli
And so with my King Sharps, I got straight down to work. King… That’s royal. That’s the county I am living in. Why is the BRONX outside of that royalty structure? Could the BRONX be the borough of the Prince? Or the Jester?
Conditions: Sunny and Hot
Well it was a Saturday. Over the course of the whole field work component of J & West Farms, I worked a hand full of Saturdays. These typically were more mellow days. People came and went at an easy pace. Some people seemed to be just waking up around noon…
I took note this Saturday, of a lot of people going to the Laundromat, and going to the grocery super markets. Moms were out, being trailed by children, pushing carts full of clothes and food. Old ladies and old men alone were doing the same thing… maintaining a life. Everyone was moving along going about their way. This made the sidewalk more crowded that I was used to.
I passed by the entrance of a large Super Market on E. Tremont. There was a barrier made of red painted steel pipe. Between the fence and the storefront was where the empty shopping carts were lined up. There were a couple of kids climbing on the fence- just playing around while the adults were inside doing the weeks purchasing. As a walked by they paused in their play and made very excited note of my passing. “A Cowboy!” said the little girl.
I thought of the day some weeks before where I was called the same thing by the Fireman. He seemed to be mocking me. These kids on the other hand sounded almost amazed to see me… a real cowboy!
It made no difference that I was not actually a cowboy. The imagination is a raw irrepressible force, particularly alive in children. It is a force that has been guiding me throughout this project.
Conditions: Sunny skies, becoming hot, a clam clear day.
Location: E. Tremont and Vyse Av
Several passers by took note of my service work. The man in this drawing slowly walked passed supported by his wheeled walker. He did not smile, but nevertheless had a friendly energy. I think he was a little surprised to see me weeding the tree. His walking movement was very jerky and laborious, and his face betrayed how great a struggle it was for him to be doing- yet there he was, outside on a sunny day, doing it.
In greeting me I sensed there was no romance about his reality. He seemed to fully understand that he was enduring his physical hardship. “Just getting by…” he said, but he was still out walking. He had not given up.
I will drift from time to time into my imagination, and as this man disappeared out of sight, as I continued to weed away the tree bed, I felt myself drift away. “What if that man just now, wasn’t really there? What if that was the spirit of this tree? Or what if that was the spirit of the BRONX?”
Just getting by, but still moving… an uncrushable spirit.