In the beginning, the only tree in Alley 26 endured darkness. The slot where it grew is so narrow that two adults cannot fit in it side-by-side, and light cannot reach some of its corners. Over time, the tree grew at least three stories tall and towered over part of the upper parking deck of the Jack Tar motel. Its branches stretched over the vacant lot of a former furniture warehouse. Protected by the buildings, it has withstood natural disasters—drought, floods, fire and snow—and manmade ones—the garbage that piled up at its base.
I have long admired this “volunteer” tree—a tree that was not intentionally planted. Sure, it’s an ugly tree. I’ve never seen a nest or heard a bird in its branches. It’s an invasive species, some Chinese variety, a man in the alley once told me as he took a cigarette break. Its seeds, when they fall to the ground, poison other plants below, which in essence, weed out the competition. It’s a city tree, and it doesn’t take shit from anybody.
Until Wednesday, when the tree was cut down. As I passed Alley 26 that afternoon I heard chainsaws and smelled chipped wood in the air and I knew it was time. A new small office building is being constructed on the vacant lot of a former furniture warehouse at 120 W. Parrish St, and tree had to go. I won’t miss the tree for its shade or its role in thwarting climate change. But I will miss it—that tough and resilient curmudgeon.