John Guares The House of Blue Leaves is my favorite theatrical work ever written. It was nominated for and won a significant number of Tony and Drama Desk awards in a dozen categories. (Alas, not the Best Play in 1986, the year it was nominated for the Tony.) Great play (it was revived on Broadway and is regularly revived in regional theaters). Great, beautiful, evocative title. Ive never seen it.
This has nothing to do with any animosity directed toward John Guare (one of Americas finest living playwrights), nor any perceived weakness in the dramatic structure of the work (How would I know?)
I love it simply because of the thought of blue leavessomething we never get to see in the never-changing sea of red, yellow, orange, and faded green on Adirondack hillsides during the leafy death throes of autumn.
Absolutely blazing reds. Sure, Ive seen blazing reds. I come from a family of redheads with tempers as hot as their hair color. I need more red in my life like a butcher needs more on his apron. And now matter how lemony yellow or orangy orange or lime green, theyre all headed toward one color, one texture, one place after a couple bad weeks of Off Off Off Broadway performances: bad-meat brown, half-cooked bacon, and my backyard, respectively. (Ive actually had the first two items in my backyard. Id rather not discuss the circumstances in detail, except to say that some people have odd ideas about expressing their opinion about who you happen to be dating, especially if theres some historyfamilial or otherwisethere.)
But before the scratching of the soil with the wood- or PVC-handled scraping stick, there is the leaf-peeping traffic to be dealt withand, depending on how long youve lived in these mountainsdealt harshly.Leaf peepers (or as Cassells Dictionary of Slang first called them, leaf freaks) drive as if they are inside a four thousand pound walking machine. (In the case of bus tours, multiply that weight by ten.) Perhaps one out of a thousand will actually pull off to the side of the road or into an actual parking area, exit their eight-banger walkarounds, and frolic among the multihued dangling litter.
Many will just come to a sudden jerking halt in the middle of the road as the passenger-side window slides open like the maw of a giant fish. The inevitable camera body, seemingly attached to half a face, will thrust out and, when the proper focus, a series of almost subsonic snap, snap, snaps are heard. The demi-profile, camera still attached, disappears into the dark-windowed interior of the American-made, Japanese-designed, bank-owned AMC Megadawdler plods off toward the next unscheduled, no-passing-zone pause.
And though you cannot truly see into the future, you have some intuition about the way life will play out. And, indeed, when you arrive forty minutes late for the root canal on the most painful thing youve ever had in your mouth (except for the time that guy who used to be your best friend said, Try this, and you popped onto your margarita-numbed tongue what you thought was just a red, very ripe jalapeno pepperpretty as a sugar maple leaf in Septemberbut which instead turned out to be a Naga Jolokia chili, the hottest pepper in the world [where did he even get that thing? Noris?], measured at roughly 1,050,000 Scoville units, or 210 times hotter than the highly ordinary jalapeno, and which was roughly the equivalent of eating a can of sterno flaming underneath a chafing dish, and once you got out of the emergency room you never spoke to that a.... jerk again and didnt eat anything but mashed potatoes and chocolate for two years), you know that the dentists receptionist will tell you youll have to reschedule, and when you ask for some painkillers will suggest extra-strength Tylenol and youll leave not quite in tears to buy four quarts of Vodka instead and a little packet of aspirin.
And though you work in tourism because you cant find a job that has anything to do with your college majorart therapyand you know that, according to Wikipedia, $8 billion is pumped into the Northern Woods economy as a result of these damned leaves, you dont even want $8 billion right now, or even $80 billion, because your face is as swollen as a gouty big toe and your mouth is about to explode like a land mine at any moment. . . .
But . . . Oh,
Red leaves and yellow leaves
Orange leaves and brown,
Leaves are dancing everywhere
Happily dancing down.*
And regardlessor as my father would have said, irregardlessof ones personal circumstances, the beige plague must be dealt with somehow, and you cant always count on a strong wind blowing it into your neighbors yard. In the suburbs, maybe, if youve sited your house correctly on its lot and specifically for that purpose. But in the Adirondacks theres usually too much distance betwixt and between, and the winds too swirly to count on. You, or someone over who you hold limitless power or a photograph they never want anyone to see, is going to be raking that mess into piles. Big piles. Too big to ever know what to do with. Unless you live next to a river or an abandoned house. (Both would be too much to ask for, but would be double, no quadruple, sweet.) But, for arguments sake, lets say you havent gotten that lucky since that one time in high school to whom you are now married.
So you just face the truth that the only shades in falls colorful palette that matter are rake-handle yellow and burning blister red, and you dont even have to raise your gaze from the palms of your hand to see them.