Burning down Pittsburgh

by Regis Boff

I am a burner.

In these times of ever-encroaching global climate catastrophes, we need to return to the age of autumnal leaf burning. As a boy, in the area where I grew up that was often referred to as the third hemisphere, (around Pittsburgh), I would watch transfixed as masses of gathered leaves flamed out of control in our neighborhood. Grown men, whimpered as they frantically tried to beat back the perimeter of their crazily windblown bonfires using wooden rakes in pitiable attempts to slow the brushfires they had intentionally set with gasoline.

In my experience, nothing draws a community together like one neighbor burning down the house of another.

Saturdays, in the fifties, often turned into picnics with fire engines and apologies. I live now a million years into the future, in the self-proclaimed epicenter of tree sanctuaries, at least on the Eastern seaboard. On any given day you might run across an Ent mumbling about “never having heard of a Hobbit” as he rumbles through my neighborhood. The old fall dance of leaf cleansing is still a pastime but burning them is now forbidden. We are expected to buy individual bags to put our leaves in, to be later carried away by our municipal workers to some town leaf gulag. The rules governing the gathering of my leaves are daunting and not just a little fear-provoking. I suspect that I am not alone in this neighborhood anxiety. We don’t like being eco-friendly janitors. Trying to rid my property of leaves resembles a tropical fish trying to spit water out of his tank. There are industries and political positions built around this leaf thing, and I feel the unpleasant winds of the despotic collective. I don’t play well with people who know what is best for me. If global warming is a fact, then what better tactic to employ than a massive ring of leaf soot to surround our planet, blocking out the sun and forcing our temperatures to nosedive?

This is nifty I think, as solutions go. Got a match?