Something Concrete

Today was the last day working concrete at the site on Morgan Avenue. The mixture of cement, sand, aggregate and other secret-recipe ingredients comes down the chute from the mixer truck as thick sludge, like lumpy chocolate pudding. The men stand in the wood sidewalk frame “floating the concrete” with long flat blades. One worker on his knees wears pads as he smoothes around the edges with a trowel. As they push and pull the floaters, the bumpy material miraculously comes together and regulates itself.

There is not much arborist work today.

twisting tree

All my root preservation is finished, the behemoth roots I found are safely tucked away in plastic under the concrete slabs. I can’t help here in any way, even picking up a leaf from the surface of the poured concrete – that would be an infraction of union rules. All I can do is take note, learn, and monitor.

leaf in concrete

On the other hand if I leave the leaf there, the contractor will get in trouble with the city. Sidewalks have to be perfect. Or as perfect as anything can be.

Once in a while the contractor himself picks up a floater and sweeps it across the wet concrete to settle it. Then the workers score the squares, measuring with a floss of a string and employing another long-handled tool. These scorings I think are not necessary in any practical sense but only aesthetic.

scoring sidewalk

“Art always opts for the individual, the concrete,” said Jorge Luis Borges. “Art is not platonic.” But sometimes concrete is simply concrete.


Filed under Arborist, Jean Zimmerman, Nature, New York City, Trees

4 responses to “Something Concrete

  1. Your’re absolutely right. I tend to romanticize these things.

  2. I wonder how they get them?

  3. Betty

    Here in Arizona, the tiles (made in Mexico) often have coyote footprints, on purpose!

  4. Jennifer

    So interesting, Jean, and I love the Borges quote.

    But isn’t there a concrete reason for the scoring on a concrete sidewalk? I thought it was to allow for the contraction and expansion in the cold and the heat. Or is that an urban legend? Those myth-making concrete mixers!!

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