By Dan Haley
This has been a tough fall for hiding my hosta detritus.
First, the leaves wouldn't fall from my trees at all. Two weekends back I was ready, clippers-oiled, to start taking down my garden for the winter. Damned leaves were still stuck to the trees, changing colors, looking sharp. But I needed them on the ground, ready to rake into the street where I could discretely fold in bumble-bee bush remnants, previously flowing grasses, a whole lot of annuals, including the impatiens before things froze and they turned to the clammy consistency of cold oatmeal.
Then, in a scene out of one of the lesser Charlie Brown TV shows, the Autumnal Clunk came and most of the leaves fell in a rush.
So the weekend before last, I raked and raked, snipped and pulled, layered and arranged my leaves artfully into a 10-foot by 8-foot pile that gave no evidence of containing the moldering leaves of 18 hosta plants.
I wasn't finished with the garden shutdown, but as we all know, the weekend just past was "tornadic" — which the meteorologists really enjoyed saying all Sunday afternoon. So no raking and no hiding of garden debris for me until next weekend.
I am proclaiming my civil disobedience — the village's website scolds "Leaves Only" — as an early warning to all villagers who see the leaf removal program as our only chance all year to try and turn a small profit on the enormously high property taxes we pay.
It is possible, and this is based on actual reporting, by which I mean talking to a guy, that this program might not survive the current round of "fresh eyes" flitting around village hall looking for cost savings and so-called new approaches.
"Sure," this guy I talked to said, "I like just raking my leaves into the street. But is it fair? What do other towns do?"
Oh, the dreaded "what do other towns do" approach to governance. Stinking research.
Well, what of Oak Park exceptionalism, I exclaim. We're racially integrated. We have speed bumps in our downtown made out of bluestone. John Mahoney lives here. And we pick up leaves (and possibly other vegetative matter) for free for seven weeks out of the blooming year.
That's my town!
Sure I know the chances are now great that Village Manager Cara Pavlicek will be poking my leaf pile with a stick next Sunday evening looking for fern fronds and possibly small pieces of garden furniture I've tired of. But I'm ready to stand up for that one free thing that makes the $9 monthly municipal tax on my cable bill tolerable.
I'm a native Oak Parker, you see. And so I remember the "Junk Away Days" of my youth. A single week each summer when the village would send battalions of trucks out to cruise the alleys and pick up anything and everything a villager could haul out of their basement, attic, garage, Wisconsin vacation home, corporate office. It was a spectacular and cleansing disgorgement. Miles of piles. Old rugs. Water heaters. Dead grandpa's clothes. Chunks of concrete. A year's worth of the Trib back when that was saying something.
And it was all for free.
But, citizens, we let that birthright get away from us. Junk Away Days is lost to history. Let's not let Free Leaf (and whatever) Pickup go away, too.