Friday, December 23, 2016


Christmas-time in
New York: big yuck.
That first year I was
there for that, 1967,
was probably the
easiest  -  I hardly 
even noticed it. 
There were long 
rows, tunnel-like,
of Christmas-tree 
sellers along 
various parts of 
the sidewalks. 
It's still like that, 
except now some 
of the trees are 
400 bucks; honestly. 
Such bullshit. Back 
in the time I'm 
talking about it 
was different. 
Thirty bucks for 
a tree was millionaire's 
stuff; twenty feet 
high and wide as 
Big Bertha, and full 
too. Seven or eight 
dollars got you a 
grand tree. All that 
stuff you can't do 
any more was done 
openly, and the heck 
with it. Open fires, 
barrel fires, a tent 
or two, with some 
sort of warmth from
a fire, nearby. The 
tree guys would 
simply, if they'd a 
mind to, camp out, 
sleep right there. 
There were trucks 
from Vermont, Maine, 
all sorts of license 
plates, parked 
around, loaded 
with trees. Like 
a really cool 
vagabond kingdom.
They'd put maybe 
thirty or forty trees 
out, roped on the 
sidewalk, and the 
rest they'd have 
piled high on
their trucks, for 
use as needed.
You had to realize, 
in every building 
around there were 
probably forty to 
seventy tenants, 
apartments. Rooms; 
I'm just guessing. 
People with money, 
and the money 
kind of people 
are usually the 
most traditional 
ones about junk 
like Christmas, 
and Christmas trees. 
One for the big room, 
one for the library, 
a small one for Kenny 
and Janey's den and 
play-room  -  stuff 
like that. These trees 
moved. Not too 
much dickering 
over price. A lot 
of these people 
were repeat-regulars, 
knew each other 
from year after year.
Selection; tie-it-up; 
deliver it upstairs. 
Thanks for the tip.
I used to think it 
was the coolest 
thing. A lot of the 
tree guys were 
crusty old farmers 
and outdoorsy 
types from the 
north woods. 
They'd give no
crying shame at 
all about 'New 
York niceties.' 
Somebody'd always 
be bringing food 
down to them, 
making sure they 
were OK, use 
the bathroom, 
etc. They'd do 
this, year after 
year, for 15 days 
or so of the season, 
making good 
money too. Worth 
the trip  -  anyway, 
if you played it 
right, planned good, 
and kept a decent 
spot. I never knew 
what politics went 
on, or pay-offs, for 
good spots, but I'm 
sure it was a struggle. 
They were all over, 
in various locales. 
There were people 
everywhere, remember. 
Part of the deal was 
a decent crew too. 
They had to be glib. 
Good with people, 
able-bodied (I guessed) 
and willing. Not too 
many shysters about, 
for a few reasons. 
Jewish people 
didn't much 
celebrate Christmas. 
And how much 
can you make, 
after all, on a 
dead tree? After
all that travel and 
expenses, etc., it 
was probably not
that easy, in 
actuality, to make 
any kind of killing  
-  your heart at to 
be in it I didn't see 
'them' much caring 
about that. My 
favorite part, I'll 
be honest with 
you, was the 
who'd drive on
 down with their 
trees, etc., and 
bring their daughters 
with them. Some 
of those girls were
 killer. I used to 
drool. There's an 
essential difference 
here between the 
regular New York 
type  -  the girls 
and fashion and 
pizazz and style 
and all  -  and these 
north country girls. 
It has to do with 
earthiness and 
form. Just different. 
I don't know, but I 
felt it. They were 
usually around my 
age, a little older, 
and sometimes 
there'd be the 
feeling that they 
knew just what 
effect they were 
having. Not on me, 
I mean  -  I wasn't 
even in the market 
for buying trees. 
They were just 
around in the spots 
and places that at 
all other times were 
'mine,' so I'd see 
them  -  all along 
Eighth Street, the 
park, and the 
avenues thereabouts. 
Old-line Greenwich 
Village with still 
filled with 
thousands of 
pious and 
observant Catholics, 
Italians, and Irish. 
And the rest. These 
girls had the magic. 
I swear they could 
sell a Christmas tree, 
nicely, to a corpse. 
For me, it was just 
all a big thrill  -  to 
see their scarves and 
hats, boots and 
overcoats, sweaters, 
vests. They were 
really something, 
all chilled and 
Christmas had 
its own charm.
Then Christmas came, 
and then Christmas 
went, and it was all 
over. The plywood 
barricades would be 
gone. Trees and 
remnants cleaned 
up, sidewalks brushed, 
and the old trucks just 
started leaving. Goodbye 
to all that. By the first 
of January, all was 
back to normal. 
Oftentimes too, 
during the sales 
time, like out by the 
Breevort and those 
large Fifth Avenue 
apartments, there'd 
be these wealthy 
dowager types. 
They'd come struggling 
down, or swaddling 
out, and with major
 'grandiosity' go about 
selecting their trees. 
It was like watching 
Bette Davis or Tallulah 
Bankhead or someone  -  
all swirl, and rolling eyes, 
furs and cigarette holders. 
Funny stuff. They'd pick, 
and then go away, sending
'Chauncey' or 'Hargrove' 
down later maybe to 
make the deal and bring 
it upstairs. That was 
'Christmas Spirit' to 
me, a sort of personified 
smugness out on the 
It was as if these 
folks never really 
self-reflected on 
what any of this 
was. I never liked 
Christmas. When I 
was a kid, I guess, 
yeah. But each year 
along, as I grew, I liked 
it less and less, and 
then, including today, 
I just find it detestable. 
Consumerist bullshit 
fetish. Unfair too. 
Everybody's got 
their hand out for 
something, and half 
the other world has 
damn nothing. Not 
even food or a pantry. 
Distended stomachs, 
bloated tongues. 
Just sadness. What 
have we to show for 
it? A bunch of geeks 
jerking off in Toys r' Us, 
or whatever. How are 
you supposed to teach 
your own kid anything 
real and natural, while
 living like that? It a 
detestable, swank cheat. 
Insanity made to look 
sane and reasoned. 
Disgusting. I can 
remember being 
maybe seven years 
old, whatever, and 
finding a stash of 
wrapped Christmas 
presents that my 
parents were keeping  
-  under their bed, and 
a few more in the 
bottom of a closet. 
I guessed they were 
for my sister and 
myself, and others. 
It had nothing to do 
any longer with Santa 
Claus or any of that 
deceit. It was more 
just the open-air sense 
of putting one over 
on others, or trying 
to do so, playing 
happy-act while the 
rest of the world 
went to hell. That's 
all it took for me. 
From that point on 
it was all downhill.
It never was as if 
the rest of the world 
didn't have its fetishes 
too, but they weren't 
mine and I didn't care. 
New York City  -  and 
Avenel, and Bayonne, 
and Blackwood, and 
probably anywhere  -  
they all did these things 
in the same manner. 
The stupid lights 
strung up over streets 
and in house windows. 
Christmas trees, 
dancing stars, and
 the rest. Frivolity. 
'Joy' purveyed as 
an acceptable and 
changeable sense 
of rightness. It was 
no wonder that the 
most suicides occurred 
in that lame season of 
mirth, joy, and Noel. 
But it was all shameful. 
Half of it was shitty 
merchants trying to 
foist more sales off 
on an stupidly unaware 
public  - using tactics 
of shame and sneaky 
coercion to force the 
hand. If you didn't 
'buy' someone something, 
you certainly couldn't 
really 'love' them? Right? 
Here give me that four 
dollars and take this 
tie; or hat; or gloves. 
Or anything. People 
never follow logic 
through to its end. 
It's senseless, and I 
never understood it. 
Christmas being one 
thing, but there were 
others  -  like what's 
the big deal about 
Jesus raising people 
from the dead? And 
why would he even 
do that? What the 
hell was the usefulness
of some scam like that? 
I thought he was here 
to bring people to an 
enlightened salvation 
of spirit and soul. 
Forever, and in His 
father's more perfect 
realm? So what's he 
do, re-delivers some
 schmuck back to here? 
Give me a break.
'Oh, Wow! I'm back 
here! Thanks, Jeez.'

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