This article was in the SF Chronicle today:
Palm trees in Antioch falling prey to arsonist
An arsonist in Antioch has set four palm trees ablaze in the past week, authorities said today.
All the trees have been torched on or near A Street, Emily Hopkins of the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District said today. The first two fires happened Friday on A and West Third streets, she said. Another fire was set Tuesday near West 11th Street. The most recent tree fire was Wednesday, but Hopkins had no details on that blaze. She had no idea why an arsonist would target palm trees. “We don’t have any leads,” she said.
Want to know why the trees are getting burned down? For anyone who doesn’t live in California, allow me to school you on palm trees.
When I first moved to Southern California as a young bright-eyed rube, I loved palm trees. They symbolized the whole Hollywood fantasy that most of us (even outside of the US) dream about when we’re young. Convertible sportscars, tanned beautiful people, gorgeous actors, wholesome surfers with wacky nicknames — palm trees are the physical representation of the L.A. experience. I was fascinated by them. …Until my first week in town, when I accidentally brushed against one and sliced my leg open. Lesson #1: untrimmed palm tree trunks are sharp.
My first home in California was a beautiful rented townhouse 1/2 block from the beach in a very popular young area. My neighbors were a special effects artist and a semi-famous porn actress. It was a great house but, best of all, I had a small Queen palm nestled right up to the entry area. Living in a busy area near a bunch of bars seemed fun at first but got old really fast, especially since now I was constantly picking garbage out of my little tree area. Lesson #2: people like sticking trash and beer cans inside palm tree trunks and crowns.
One thing I noticed about the soaring palms that line L.A.’s city streets is that many of them also sport rings around their trunks. Some are made of metal, some are just a sticky glue/resin-type substance, but all of the rings are about 1/3 down from the top. I also noticed that crews were constantly trimming the dead fronds that lie under the crown. I thought both were strange and asked a friend who was a local. Actually, what I asked is “Is the band to keep people from stealing the coconuts those guys are cutting down?” After she stopped laughing at my idiotic question she explained that the bands were there to stop animals from climbing into the dead fronds. Animals, like parrots and beautiful jungle rainforest type creatures? Uh no. Lesson #3: Rats live in palm trees and sometimes fall out, landing on unsuspecting people below.
So all this many years later, the allure of palm trees just ain’t what it used to be for me. And, judging from the work of some kook in Antioch (which btw ain’t exactly a paradise of a city), I’d have to say that there are a few that agree with me.