When I was very young, I developed a sustained, irrational fear of the palm tree that stood near the southwest corner of Deelane Street and Anza Avenue in Torrance, CA.
This fear is one of my earliest memories. The palm was cartoonish and stereotypical. It was spindly and swayed even on very still days. I lost my four-year-old mind every time we passed it on foot, convinced that it would fall over and pile drive me in to the ground.
The palm tree no longer exists. It was probably removed just after we moved away in 1993.
I picked up “Edges of the Experiment – The Making of the American Landscape” from the Fw:Books table at Offprint a couple of weekends ago. It is a two-volume publication designed and edited by Hans Gremmen focusing on the landscape of the American West. The first volume features photographs by Marie-José Jongerius and is punctuated with essays. The second is more text-based and includes a curated selection of media; historical photographs, anecdotes, facsimiles, essays, etc. The photos by Jongerius are what originally drew me to the publication. They are incredibly true to the place.
Last weekend I started reading volume two, including an essay titled “The infrastructure of trees in Los Angeles” by architect Warren Techentin. I learned that the palm tree is a disappearing southern Californian icon:
Considering that the average lifespan of a palm tree is 70 to 100 years, and that most of the palms visible now were planted to beautify the city for the 1932 Olympics, the bulk of Los Angeles’s palm trees will disappear within a decade or two.
The city isn’t replacing most palms that are removed. Apparently they were never a great ecological or economical choice.
So my childhood nemesis was likely removed due to old age. It’s kind of sad. I haven’t found any photos of that particular palm tree.
I can’t emphasise enough how much I have enjoyed “Edges of the Experiment”. One particularly lovely spread includes the first page of Techentin’s essay alongside one of Hans Gremmen’s graphics illustrating water usage in California. Water is touched upon in many if not most of the texts in “Edges of the Experiment”, and its presence (or lack thereof) is notable in many of Jongerius’s photos.