Ah. I feel so good, sitting here, typing stuff into this little box, and suspecting that someone will soon be reading it. Thanks to all of you, who have been so kind, and have enjoyed my posts thus far.
But I believe I'm going to take something of a break today, from the deep delving I've been doing into my own history. (Don't for a moment think, however, that the topic has been anything like exhausted. Oh no.....) Instead, I'm thinking of a couple of random observations, some prompted by the time of year, and some by... well, you'll see.
First, I'm thinking, curiously enough, about genetically-modified food stuffs, and lawn care.
To be perfectly honest, I don't really know all that much, factually, about genetically-modified food, except for what I glean from postings on Facebook. But I seem, dimly, to understand that, somehow or other, in nice clean labs that don't at all resemble a place where you'd find Boris Karloff lying about, legitimate scientists have figured out how to graft genetic material from, oh mice it was, I think, onto the genetic material of, I believe it was tomatoes, wasn't it? Mouse tomatoes. Or maybe it was the corn. Something like that.
(As an aside, I do find this a bit disturbing, probably because I don't really understand it, but also because, oh I don't know, it just seems jarring, this mixing of rodents and salad. I mean, we don't have tomato traps, do we? I know the justifications are principally economic -- extra freshness as those woody, pale round reddish things are dragged across continents, to be arranged in luminous piles in the produce sections of high-end supermarkets -- you know they light the tomatoes differently, don't you? To make them look redder? I just don't want to be the first one to make the Weird News section, because I sliced open my wooden tomato, to find an inverted mouse hide inside) (Just sayin')
But, all things tomato (or possibly corn) aside, I do think they have something, these splice-meisters, with their high-powered microscopes and their beentsy instruments all lined up in their shiny labs. I just think they need to think along slightly different lines. Here's one humble suggestion: army ants, and deciduous trees.
It's November here in North Jersey, and my little neighborhood of about 200 homes isn't situated in the depths of a pine forest. No, we have lots and lots and lots of trees. Poplars and oaks and maples and sweet gum, beech and choke cherry and elm -- you get the picture. Lots of luscious shade in the summer. Lots of color, when the weather cooperates, in the fall. And then, almost immediately after the spectacular, breathtaking exhibition of autumn splendor, the sidewalk and driveway and front yard and back yard (don't ask about the gutters) are hip-to-thigh deep in leaves. (I know, it's boring and banal to complain about, but still) The neighbor's sycamore, for instance -- which, every spring, we suspect has finally died, but which, every spring, proves to be in radiant health. Again -- produces a literal ton of huge brown and green leaves, the size of dinner plates, but with, alas, nothing delicious left over on them.
And, because we don't live in the actual country country, where a clear patch of green at this time of year would raise suspicions of alien activity, we all, en masse, must manage to get these leaf deposits (can't they be monetized? Dubbed drachmas or something?) from their various inconvenient resting places, and out to the curb. Where they blow about, usually, back to where they started. And so on and so forth.
(The other alternative, of course, being the oh-so melodious, fume-spewing leaf blower, which topic we will leave for another, quieter time...)
So here's where that idling band of thumb-twiddling splice-meisters comes into play. I suggest that they get some nice, healthy, gene-rich army ants (you see, perhaps, where this is going?), and scrape or pluck or otherwise extract some of the genetic material that encourages those orderly processions we've all seen in the nature shows (without the biting. No biting, please), and then arrange, brilliantly and economically, a method of... injecting? Ground feeding? (Not spraying -- think of the children, marching, marching...) Some way of blending this benign bit of ant orderliness into the genetic material of deciduous trees. It could be so simple. Maybe a nice bark salve? With aloe?
And then we'd have a much different experience (until, of course, things go horribly, horribly wrong). At the peak of the fall color, instead of that dismal reminder of mortality, and that all things must pass and all that, we would watch as each little leaf, obeying its newly-rearranged inner genetic code, would gently disengage itself from twig and branch, and patiently-- even eagerly -- make its little way down, down, down to the ground (imagine how lovely, folks, the trickle of golden poplar leaves, the stream of vibrant red maple...), and then -- driven by forces they understand not -- they hop and bounce their orderly parade, all the way out to the damned curb. Where they will stack themselves up neatly, and lie there patiently, dammit, until the city sends the trucks around to pick them up. (Cross-town leaf processions would cause another whole set of problems -- let's just not go there)
It's such a simple thing. (Yes, yes, I know the lawn-care industry would be up in arms, or rakes, or pruning hooks, but they have all summer to work, and maybe they could create a whole new industry for themselves -- combing the bare branches into arboreal coifs, for instance, so their children could eat and wear clothing) (Unless, of course, they live in Alabama, where they've got a whole 'nother set of issues)
In any event, I think it's a doable thing. I maintain that, ultimately, it could be made cost-effective. And it would need almost none of that nasty human testing that's eventually so embarrassing. (I do want to encourage the splice-meisters, however, not to mix up the ant genes with the mouse stuff -- the thought of millions of little furry-hearted leaves trying desperately, at all costs, to get into my basement and eat my emergency store of peanut butter, does not please me) Otherwise, though, this seems worth investigation and investment. A public service -- a perfectly miraculous and, yes, beneficial bit of scientific magic. I'll leave it to others to contact their congressional representatives, etc. etc.
My back, for one, would be so, so grateful.
(Tomorrow, God willing, I want to talk about... the national epidemic of obesity, and automobile design. Be afraid)
© 2011 Walter Zimmerman