Lileks: How to plant a tree in Minneapolis in 60 easy steps

  • Article by: JAMES LILEKS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 8, 2014 - 8:42 PM

Every year the trees bud, and your heart swells. Every year you think this might be the year the Old Beloved Tree comes down, and your heart sinks. Or stops entirely when you consider the cost. Last year a neighbor’s tree started dropping branches the size of circus-tent poles in our back yard, and the tree doctor said it was probably due for removal. See how all the telephone wires are up there? It would take them out, and you’d be without service.

I shrugged. Eh. That’s what cellphones are for. I turned to the neighbor and said, “Your call. I know it’s expensive.”

“It’d take out your Internet, too,” said the tree inspector.

“If it’s not gone in two days I will sue for everything you own,” I told the neighbor.

The tree was removed by a crane usually employed to assemble moon rockets. It lifted the tree over the house, where it floated like enormous mutant broccoli. It reminded me of the last tree we lost: one day, the fatal orange X. Dutch elm (which some legislators want to rename to avoid insulting the Dutch, but that’s another story.) Most of the street’s magnificent elms were lost to that stupid beetle, which is probably sitting in a bar right now offering to buy the emerald ash borer a drink. Kid, you got potential.

Anyway. A door-hanger gave me a number to call to request a replacement, and I don’t remember the options, since I’m bad with trees. You got your birch, your evergreens, then, uh, the ones that are pretty in fall, then the deciduous, the bituminous. Palms. Whatever I asked, I realized the other day that it never arrived.

So how does one get a tree from the city?

First of all, I wish I could have done it myself, because there would have been a tree within two months of the old one’s removal. Fifty-nine days for my wife to remind me and one day to put it in. But the boulevard belongs to the city, which is why they seed it and mow it and pick up the trash and water it.

Called up the 311 app to see if there was a REQUEST TREE option. There was not. Hmrgh. This is the modern world. I should be able to tap the glass and monitor the tree’s arrival on a map, along with text updates — WHOA. Great business opportunity here. UBER for trees! Once it’s planted you can share pictures of the tree on your social network! People could friend your tree! I’m seeing $50 mil market cap in no time. Let me design a logo.

Wife, over dinner: Did you get the tree? (This was the 58th time she’d asked.)

No, but look at this logo. It’s for my new app, Tree2U. Can you sign these papers? I’m cashing out the IRAs for seed money.

That didn’t happen, so I called the actual 311. A friendly and helpful lady said I wanted the Park Board. Really? My boulevard is not a park, but I guess they’re in charge of Wood-Related Matters. She put me through. Recording. I listened carefully, because the menu had changed.

The first option: If you are calling about tree on the boulevard, press 2.

I am! That’s exactly what I’m doing! What are the chances? Surely it’s a trick. So I sat through the rest of the options, waiting for “no, seriously, if you want us to plant a tree, that’s a different matter. Please hang up and forget this ever happened.” But no. So I pressed 2.

Hello, I’d like a tree. Any tree. See, you took it out two years ago, and my wife has asked me 58 times to call about a replacement. I need you to give me a ticket number I can write down and show her. I don’t care about the tree, I just don’t want to hit 60 reminders.

She looked up my address, and said with kind regret that I was not scheduled to receive a tree this spring.

But it’s been two years. When am I scheduled to get a tree?

Errrr … well, never, as it turns out. They lost my previous tree request.

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