L.A. Story


Until I saw with my own two eyes how asparagus grows, I thought citrus trees were the most exotic things I’d ever seen, florae-ly speaking. Sure, oranges and lemons and limes borne from fruit trees like the simple apple and pear but they actually grew during the winter, the fallow season to my northern mindset. What about grapefruit? I cannot conceive of the massive infrastructure necessary to bring those to… ummmm… fruition? (Really?)

I’m also of an age that can see the orange tree as a symbol of corruption, both civic and personal. Chinatown, anyone? The orange as cinematic forbidden fruit.

When I walk past a tree bearing citrus, I am reminded that I am far from home.


None of this was really on my mind a couple days ago as I watched from my couch through the window two people approach the orange tree growing across the street from where I’m living. One, I think, was a crossing guard from a nearby school. I came to that conclusion from the uniform she was wearing and the hand held stop sign she used to knock oranges from the branches to the ground. She was accompanied by another guard of some sort, judging from the uniform he had on. Security from the same school? Maybe the church just around the corner or the massive Mormon temple complex down the street.

I’m not sure what it was that caught my particular attention about this scenario. Maybe it was this couple’s official capacity that made it seem unusual. If it had been a bunch of kids knocking oranges from the tree, it might well have gone entirely under my radar except, maybe, for the urge to open up the window and shout at them: Hey, you kids! Get out of that Jello tree! I am of that age, yes.

There was something that felt, I don’t know, a little invasive and I’m not sure why. The tree’s growing on what appears to be private property although in front of a walled fence, putting it in something of indeterminate territory. It wasn’t as if this tree represented a cash crop to whoever did own it, waiting to be harvested to take to market or packed off to the Orangina plant for a thorough juicing. Like all the orange trees I’d stopped and admired in the neighbourhood, this one was just decorative. These orange collectors were probably doing the tree and its owners a favour by plucking the fruit from it, encouraging further growth.


Although, if it isn’t obvious by now, allow me to fill you in on a little secret. I am no horticulturist.

There’s probably something here about the awkward public-private dance that is so pronounced in Los Angeles that I read about or am told by those who know the city much better than I do. No, I wasn’t going to eat that orange but it doesn’t mean you can just come and take it either. Would you just go and help yourself to an orange at Ralphs? Exactly.

I might be pissed off too if somebody just came and took flower clippings from my garden because they’d look nice in a vase on their mantel piece. They’re here for everyone who passes by to enjoy. Grow your own flowers if you want to liven up your living room.

Don’t forget, Jack Nicholson’s Jake Gittes ultimately got his nose slit open for just snooping around an orange grove. He wasn’t even pocketing any of the fruit. Orange growers in these parts can be so proprietary.


Maybe it was nothing more than the novelty of it all. Where I come from you just don’t get the opportunity to walk up and pluck oranges from a tree. Or maybe it’s an even broader novelty than that. Here in a land of plentiful citrus trees but fewer pedestrians, nobody just walks up and plucks oranges from a tree when you can simply get in your car and drive to a store to buy some. There was something human about this interaction that was striking in its unfamiliarity.

through-orange-tinted glassily submitted by Cityslikr