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December 7, 2008

Ad Hudler on Dr. Seuss

Posted by admin

Today, Ad Hudler --- author of MAN OF THE HOUSE --- recalls his attempt to teach his neighbors a lesson in environmental preservation through the poetry of Dr. Seuss.

I live in an historic southwest-Florida neighborhood, not far from the winter home of the late, great Thomas Edison. Thankfully --- and I say that because the sun is brutal down here --- we are rich in mature trees, our yards canopied by immense live oaks and poincianas and purple-blooming jacarandas. We also have some of the biggest mango trees I've ever seen. One used to stand tall in my neighbor's yard, stretching a good 75 feet into the air, providing shade for humans and food for fruit bats and an itinerant flock of wild parrots.

And then my neighbor moved out, and some rednecks moved in, and down, down down came the mango tree! Down, down, down came a key lime! And down, down, down came a gumbo limbo! He did, after all, need to make room for that new, attractive chain-link fence and his Hummer and RV ("The biggest, most expensive in the world," he assured me.) Okay, okay, I may sound catty here, but I used to eat those mangoes every July.

From that point on, the poor couple never had a chance. Independently, neighbors decided to shun them. In our minds, they wore scarlet "A's" on their backs (for arborcide, of course). I, too, avoided them, until Christmas, when I saw opportunity. I gave them a copy of Dr. Seuss's THE LORAX. If you don't know the book, it's about a beautiful make-believe land that is filled with truffula trees, and a man comes to town and starts chopping them down and using their silk to make "thneeds." (Hey, this is Dr. Seuss, remember). And soon, a little tree spirit who looks like a hairy fish appears and tells the man, "I am The Lorax, and I speak for the trees, which you seem to be chopping as much as you please." It's a modern-day, cautionary, environmental parable, one that speaks to both adult and child. Or so I thought.

"Thank you," they said. "That's real nice of you." And then, a month or so later, I saw the book out with the trash on the curb. At least they'd had the decency to put it in the recycle bin.

Tomorrow, Francoise Mouly reveals how her attitude towards the holidays has changed upon meeting her husband, Art Spiegelman.