I’ve been watching a skinny blond woman racing around a condominium near us here in South Austin that’s been under construction for a number of years. They’re closing in on the completion of the project, and Mexican laborers are busy attending to fine details.
The condo itself is a monstrosity, gaudily painted with dull greens and clashing oatmeal greys, each side of the building representing another European country, Spanish, French, and a dash of unadulterated Post-Modern banality to keep the mall-hip tenants happy.
The skinny blond runs around and attaches black and white balloons to one of the buildings. Then she removes them and leaves. On the next day, she’s at it again. Maybe she’s simply discovered that $350,000 is a lot of money for a small box so close to neighbor’s unit across the drive that he or she could reach across the driveway and borrow someone’s toothpaste.
I watched a group of laborers plant several large-caliper oaks, probably 4-inch diameter specimens, twelve or fifteen feet tall worth, maybe, a couple of thousand dollars. One of them is crammed against the hog fencing along the perimeter, and the others are smashed against the buildings. The dull green stucco and the live oaks dissolve into khaki shadows. The skinny blond knows nothing about these challenges, and she probably thinks of living trees as furniture to be deployed on a whim.
In reality, the specimen by the hog fence will force its roots against the retaining wall and slowly begin to push against it and loosen it. Heavy rains will help to erode it, and someone will try, unsuccessfully, to repair the damage. The other trees shoved against the buildings will grow rapidly and their branches will begin screeching against windows and interfering with power lines, calling for even more radical, arboreal amputations. Mexicans will dutifully begin to chop away the lower branches, but it won’t help much. All the trees are planted in the wrong locations, and the skinny blond might need something stouter than balloons to get this grand opening off the ground.