City Life: The genius of this 'new' invention

Editor's note: The central concept of this installment of Steve Smith's column is based on an essay called "B.O.O.K.," which was first shown to him about 10 years ago. The author of the essay was unknown at the time. A decade later, and despite many attempts over the past few days, Smith is still raking his brain trying to find out who wrote "B.O.O.K."

On Nov. 9, the Newport Beach City Council discussed bans on gas and electric-powered leaf blowers and directed city administrators to draft a proposal to regulate them.

Twenty-three California cities have banned leaf blowers, including the entire city of Los Angeles. L.A. banned them not because of noise but because they "increase the presence of airborne particles, which may cause problems for persons suffering from asthma, hay fever, or other upper respiratory ailments."

Where blowers have been banned, the airborne particulate argument is the one that wins. These cities failed to acknowledge that there is a ubiquitous, very noisy device spewing a daily level of airborne particulates that makes the blowers look tame. But there were no calls to ban cars in any of the 23 cities.

Today, I am pleased to report the development of a leaf-gathering device so advanced it is not only silent, it's carbon footprint is almost invisible. This device should play a pivotal role in Newport's transition from leaf blowers.

The device is called a Regional Accumulator and Keeper of Exfoliation, or R.A.K.E.

The R.A.K.E. is a truly remarkable device with so many state-of-the art benefits that is sure to revolutionize the gardening industry.

The R.A.K.E. consists of a 48- to 60-inch wooden handle connected to a series of approximately two dozen plastic or metal tines. When passed over leaves, these have the ability to gather them into a central collection area where they can be assembled and thrown away instead of being blown into a neighbor's yard.

Benefits of the R.A.K.E. include:

1) Environmentally ultra-green. Once the energy and materials used to make the R.AK.E. are completed, the R.AK.E. leaves no further carbon footprint on the planet. As a human-powered, handheld device, it uses no gasoline and no electricity.

2) The R.A.K.E. has no moving parts and requires no maintenance whatsoever.

3) Because the R.A.K.E. is a human-powered device, it contributes to the reduction of the country's obesity epidemic, a particular plus when the R.A.K.E. is used by children or adolescents.

4) Unlike gas or electric leaf blowers, the R.A.K.E. is silent, which allows music to be heard through ear buds while the R.AK.E. is being used. Children and adolescents may be more inclined to use the leaf-gathering R.A.K.E. because it can be used while listening to an iPod or other mp3 player.

5) Because the R.A.K.E. is a manually operated device, it can be used in the rain. Even if the R.AK.E. is dropped in a swimming pool or koi pond, it can be used immediately to finish the leaf-gathering job.

6) The R.A.K.E. is completely portable. Lacking any need for a fuel source, the R.A.K.E. may be taken long distances from its original storage location without fear of loss of power.

7) Unlike conventional leaf blowers, the R.A.K.E. is lightweight, slim and compact and requires minimal storage space.

8) With no moving parts or dangerous fuel sources, the R.A.K.E. is safe for children to use.

9) The R.A.K.E. costs a fraction of a gas or electric leaf blower and does not need to be stored under lock and key. If the R.A.K.E. is lost, stolen or broken, it can be replaced immediately and inexpensively through any local hardware store.

10) The R.A.K.E. emits only a barely audible scraping sound if it is used to gather leaves over a hard surface. Thus, it may be used at 6 a.m. or 10 p.m. with no complaints from residents.

If the R.A.K.E. seems too good to be true, the city can try another method for dealing with the fallen leaves, one that has worked successfully for thousands of years around the world: Nothing. Eventually, all those leaves will do exactly what nature intended in the first place: decompose.

Plus, there's one more benefit with R.A.K.E.:

11)The design of the R.A.K.E. is such that when it is stepped on, it could spring up and smack the user in the face. This could knock some sense into him and make him realize that if leaf blowers are one of the top five problems in the city, as they were at the candidates' forum of Oct. 20, or if the new controversy is the cost or transfer of a $55,000 boat mooring, life is good.

STEVE SMITH is a Costa Mesa resident and a freelance writer. Send story ideas to

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