“Just Like” the Uber Rich; Meet Our New Trophy Tree

April 25, 2021. New Kensington, PA.

The New York Times has a firewall.

I can read ten free New York Times articles a month from my personal devices. Then, the firewall blocks me from reading more.

Sometimes I think about purchasing an online subscription to the Times. However, the Times published something or fired someone with which I disagreed. Did an editor tweet something stupid? Perhaps an organized labor dispute? Anyway, it was enough to keep me from giving money to the Times. (Same reason that I don’t pay to read past the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette‘s firewall.)

(I can also log into my work computer and read such firewalled-stories using my employer’s corporate subscriptions, but I don’t like to do too much reading about personal interests on my work computer. Surveillance and all that.)

I mention all of this ’cause the Wall Street Journal has a similar firewall. If I’m not willing to pay to read my 11th Times article of the month, I’m not going to pay the Journal to read one or two articles posted there each year.

Instead, I use the same workaround to get beyond the Journal‘s firewall that I use to snoop around the Times‘ firewall:

I Google key words from the article’s title to see if somebody else republished the story as an AP story, or to see if another, non-firewall publication already posted a story about the firewalled story that I actually want to read. Sometimes, I go onto the publication’s Facebook page to see if they posted a link to the story there. Then, I read the story’s Facebook comments. If the story has enough comments from enough engaged readers, I get a synopsis.

If I’m still not satisfied, then I break down and read the story on my work computer.

The TL;DR from all of this is that I only read the first four paragraphs of the Wall Street Journal article The Newest Status Symbol for High-Net Worth Homeowners: Trophy Trees,” by Katherine Clarke, dated April 22, 2021. The firewall blocked the rest of the story for me. I had to go read a synopsis of the rest of this story on DailyMail.com.

So, here’s the gist that I cobbled together: Really, really rich people – referred to as “super rich,” “superrich,” “uber rich,” etc., have a new way to spend enormous amounts of money: they hire consultants to scout out other people’s trees and offer those people lots and lots of money to purchase said trees. Then, they hire specialists to dig up the trees – root systems and all – and transport these trees to the rich person’s estate. The specialists transplant the trees on the rich person’s estate, just as if the tree had been there for years.

I’m not talking about the time that my dad went to a nursery and purchased baby trees in little buckets for our front yard, or the time that Jonathan and I hired landscapers to bring baby trees in buckets to our house and plant them along our sidewalk.

I am talking about a tree just doing its tree thing, setting down roots in the earth. Some human digs up the tree’s roots, moves the tree to a new location, replants said tree in the new location, and tells the tree, “This is your new home now!”

So, I pieced together what I could without reading the full original article, and I thought, “Jonathan and I are on trend!”

You see, a much-beloved Japanese maple tree used to live in our backyard.

We spent years trying to keep the tree from dying. The tree eventually died, though. We were very sad.

Before the tree died, though, it dropped seeds all over our backyard. Japanese maple saplings popped up all over our yard. Most of these saplings popped up in poorly shaded areas or other spots that were not very good locations for us to host brand-new trees.

Several times, Jonathan attempted to transplant these saplings to other spots in our backyard. Each time, the saplings died.

By last fall, the original Japanese maple which shaded our backyard was dead, cut down, and existed as firewood next to our backyard chiminea.

Jonathan noted that one of the Japanese maple’s saplings still thrived very close to a rear corner of our house. Despite that particular location’s intense shade, the sapling was now quite large – a regular little tree, in fact. Unfortunately, this little tree grew way too close to our house’s foundation for our comfort.

So, we decided to risk digging up as much of this little tree’s root system as we could. To replant this little tree in a different part of our yard. The tree could die in this replant. However, we couldn’t let the tree put down more roots in its current location – next to our house’s foundation.

We chose our front yard for the replant because the front yard gets more direct sunlight than does our back yard.

So, here is what our little tree looked like in autumn 2020 after our replant. I took this photo off of my smart phone:

October 2020. New Kensington, PA.

Here is the same tree today, from a different angle:

April 25, 2021. New Kensington, PA

So, you see, Jonathan and I are “just like” the “uber rich!”

Now, I know that so few uber rich exist, that any publication can take any dumb thing or not-so-dumb thing that a handful of the extremely rich people do, and say, “You see, a significant number of the people in the X tier of wealth are doing this thing! It’s a trend!” For instance, a few years ago, I listened to a podcast about this one tech billionaire who flew around the world in his private plane looking at birds for a year so that he could cross all of these birds off of his list of “birds that you MUST see – but they MUST all be seen in a one year time period in order for you to get bragging rights!” The podcast episode intended to highlight the “trend” of “extreme bird watching” among the ultra-wealthy.

I know that having Jonathan dig up a little tree so that it doesn’t damage our house’s foundation, and then replanting this same tree in a sunnier patch of our yard in order to give the tree a second chance is NOT the same thing as purchasing somebody else’s fully-grown tree, moving it on a flatbed truck, and replanting it beside a billionaire’s new construction mansion as if the tree “always” lived there.

I took this close-up of the newly replanted Japanese maple’s leaves the morning after a snowfall, late April, 2021. New Kensington, Pennsylvania.

However, with all of the money that I save by not purchasing subscriptions to websites with firewalls, I might someday be as wealthy as the Uber Rich.

The April Fools’ Day Spring Flower Show in Parnassus, Pennsylvania

Impromptu Spring Flower Show. Parnassus, New Kensington, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. April 1, 2021. April Fools’ Day. (Photo: Jenny Gaffron Woytek)

Happy April Fools’ Day in Parnassus, Pennsylvania.

My husband, Jonathan, and I usually visit Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Pittsburgh a few days prior to Easter (so, during Holy Week). We visit – and photograph – the annual Spring Flower Show.

We didn’t do this during Spring 2020 because Phipps held no Spring Flower Show that year.

As of today – April 1, 2021 – I haven’t yet received a Covid-19 vaccine in the lovely Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, due to circumstances beyond my control.

For this reason and others surrounding this Global Pandemic, my husband and I decided to skip the 2021 Spring Flower Show at Phipps.

Today, on April 1 – April Fools’ Day – snow fell on my neighborhood of Parnassus. Snow accumulated on the ground – and also on the spring flowers.

So, I photographed the snow-covered Spring Flower Show in my own neighborhood.

Happy April Fools’ Day!

Did Pittsburgh Kill My Mother?

View from my desk at work in downtown Pittsburgh, PA, pre-Covid.

I intended for this blog to be mainly about life in Pennsylvania. My mother was born, lived, and died in Pennsylvania. She died of lung cancer. So, today’s post fits with my blog’s theme.

Also, November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month.

Mom was born in Pittsburgh in 1954, and she lived in Pittsburgh until 1974. Then, she moved to rural Pennsylvania. She lived in rural Central and Western Pennsylvania for the rest of her life. She turned 64 years old on October 23, 2018. She passed away very early in the morning on October 25, 2018.

Mom never smoked. She never lived with a smoker. (I smoked a few cigarettes in college when I was trying to look like a badass, but I never did this around Mom.) By no means do I mean to imply that my mom “deserved to get cancer less” than do smokers. I bring this up because the first time that I visited a new physician after my mom died, I gave him my medical history. I told him that my mom had recently died of lung cancer. The very first two things that he asked me were: 1.) Did your mom smoke? 2.) Did your dad smoke? I bring this up because I am concerned that lung cancer has a stigma. I want to point out that ANYBODY can get lung cancer.

So, did living in Pittsburgh for twenty years kill my mom?

I’ve heard a lot of stories about Pittsburgh’s dirty air.

My own husband’s late Babcia (the Polish word for grandma) worked in downtown Pittsburgh in the late 1940’s / early 1950’s. In that time, the women wore white gloves as they travelled and worked. Babcia brought TWO pairs of gloves with her each day. She had to change her gloves partway through each day because the original pair became dark with soot. She did this every work day. And she worked in an OFFICE.

I was born shortly before Pittsburgh’s steel industry imploded and took a lot of American dreams with it. I visited my grandparents in Pittsburgh (Carrick) during my early years. I remember how the city smelled of sulfur from the mills on a late December night.

Earlier this year, a Google engineer published a controversial essay claiming that Pittsburgh’s alleged poor air quality drove him to transfer from Pittsburgh to a different part of the country.

We all hear every single day about Covid-19. (Another respiratory illness!) So this will be my last lung cancer rant until next fall. But my mom drove me all over Somerset County and over the mountains into Greensburg and over the OTHER mountains into Johnstown and THEN over the OTHER-OTHER mountains into Maryland so that I could read all of the books that I ever wanted to read. So, at the very least, I can blog once a year about my family’s personal experiences with Pittsburgh air.