Performer: Smashing Pumpkins
Songwriters: Billy Corgan
Original Release: MACHINA/The Machines of God
Definitive Version: None
The neighbor to the West of my house with Debbie was the inspiration to my yard work. It didn’t take long after we moved in to see how much time Berke, who was a retiree from Florida (???), spent outside working on his house and his yard, and I realized pretty quickly that I needed to have my act together. It wasn’t to “keep up with the Berkes” per se. It was a pride thing: I didn’t want my home to look like crap since he was working so hard to make his look great.
We got to be proper neighbors, friendly to the point that we went to pay our respects when his wife died after a short battle with cancer about the time that this album came out.
That’s prelude. Our house faced South, and most of the back was glass that looked over our deck and palatial suburban estate. This was a good vantage point to watch storms that hit from the west, because if I started to see the tall rail Ash trees snap like matchsticks, I could beat a hasty retreat down the steps to the basement.
One day in the summer of 2000, just before I had to go to work, a huge storm came up while I was finishing up my yard work. I made it inside just as the wind started to really blow and the skies opened up. I’ll never forget how as I was looking out, all of a sudden, a bunch of leaves and branches came toppling onto the deck.
That in and of itself was nothing unusual. What was unusual was the size of the branches. Some of these were more correctly classified as limbs. That’s not good. I went to the front and half expected to see my locust tree through the wall, but everything appeared normal. I took a glance outside the window and, sure enough, a tree had crumpled up against the house. But it wasn’t ours.
I went outside, and it was the gigantic Bradford pear tree that anchored Berke’s front yard. If you aren’t aware, Bradford pears are known for their weak joints (and the oft-overlooked fact that their glorious white booms stink to high heaven), and half of Berke’s tree had split off and crashed into my house—the force sending branches up and over the roof onto my deck.
When the rain subsided, I went over to alert Berke. He was with his sons, and they had no idea that anything had happened. He was beside himself apologizing for the tree (as if he had anything to do with it) and promising he’d take care of the cleanup and any damage to my house. No big deal.
What was a big deal, however, was that he and his wife had planted that tree when they first moved in years before. That made whatever damage there was to my house—and there was none save for maybe some stucco scraped off the side—even more inconsequential.
I felt much better when he invited me over a few weeks later to see his new tree—a sugar maple. I could tell that he did too. Life goes on.