Tuesday, January 5, 2010

They Shoot Christmas Trees, Don't They?

Not that I know what this is like, but I’m pretty sure that taking down a Christmas tree is a lot like disposing of a dead body (okay, so it is possible that I once rolled my friend Salavador up in a carpet as part of a game that has since escaped me and that I’m pretty sure did not involve looking in each other’s butts, but then I let him out).

Anyway, where was I? Oh, yes, tannenbaums as cadavers. Hear me out.

When you put your tree up it is fresh and flexible and smells like heaven, assuming that your idea of heaven smells like Phyllis’ perfume from The Office (“Bob Vance bought this perfume for me in Metropolitan Orlando. It's made from real pine.”) You decorate it with strings of lights and delicate balls (heh) and candy canes, plus maybe a Monchichi or a devil to add some pieces of flair.

Once the tree is fully dressed, you gaze at it and pour yourself a drink, feeling all magical and Christmas-spirited in the afterglow.

Okay, now fast-forward to a few days after New Year’s. Your tree has been up for over three weeks, and you’ve remembered to water it exactly twice. You start to remove the ornaments to discover that a rigor mortis has set in that is so powerful that your tree could probably star in Cialis ads.

The ornaments come off without much of a fight, maybe a few broken branches, but then you must ask yourself the age-old question: Is preserving a string of $3 lights worth my wrestling 50 lbs of deadweight Frasier fur to the ground? Assuming your answer is no, you can focus your energies on to the real struggle: getting it out of your house.

Leave the gun, take the collectible McDonald's ornaments.

True story: In early 2004, my then-roommate Ellaree and I attempted to throw our Christmas tree out of our third-floor window to avoid dragging it down the stairs (and the subsequent vacuuming that would be required). First we covered it in garbage bags, forming a sort of Hefty tree condom that we hoped would let it slide through the window more easily. We had opened the window and started to lift it when we remembered that our landlord lived on the floor below us, and that we could hear her watching TV in her living room at that very moment.

The major issue with tree removal is that, much like the foam packaging that comes with electronic equipment, pine seems to slowly and imperceptibly expand over time, so that by the time you are ready to take the tree down it is roughly 1.5 times its former size (despite your not having watered it, like, at all). It is also missing that handy control-top stocking that the French Canadian men on the corner of Flatbush and Dean Street so helpfully wrap it in when you make your purchase. The result is a rigid, brittle skeleton covered in needles so dry that they will either scratch your cuticles off or drop to the floor immediately if you so much as look at them.

This is where manslaughter and tree disposal most overlap, at least if you have a hacksaw.

Regardless of whether you choose to amputate or simply to shove your surprisingly heavy Ghost of Christmas Past forcefully down the stairs and out the door, you are looking at a pretty major trail of blood needles. They will be everywhere: on your floor, embedded in the fibers of your rug, covering the stairs as if the faun god Pan has made a Tooth Fairy-like pilgrimage to your house, leaving a carpet of forest in his wake. This would all be well and good if vacuums could actually pick up pine needles; sadly in my experience they are Kryptonite to all but the strongest models. My vacuum—no slouch, at $100—vomits back approximately 50% of the needles it manages to digest, forcing me to resort to my aged broom and dustpan, which render me about as graceful and accurate as Edward Scissorhands. If future civilizations ever study my apartment, they will be able to carbon-date the exact years of my residence based on the pine needles wedged in the cracks of my floor boards.

Somehow it always feels wrong to leave your tree, pale and naked but for the string of lights you were unable or unwilling to remove, on the curb. It feels especially wrong if you've removed all of its limbs so that it's just a butchered torso. I don't know about you, but my garbage men usually leave it out there for days before they finally take pity on it and pick it up. Every morning as I leave for work, I avert my eyes guiltly as I pass the carnage, mindlessly rubbing my fingers over the palms of my hands, feeling for unwashed traces of tree sap like a modern-day Lady Macbeth.

Someday I should ask myself if it's really worth all the hassle. Then again, the baby Jesus really seems to like dead trees for his birthday. And who I am I to deny Jesus?


  1. I used a fake tree this year. It was totally worth it.

  2. How much do I love that you referenced The Godfather? So. Very. Much.

  3. Aaaaand I live for this post.

  4. Photographed our tree as it came down for my blog - all too sad or scary so deleted and opted for ornaments. The alt-post is my first (likely last) word-free.

    I found a needle in dinner the other night. Kack

    (verification word-of-the-day: ungerm)

  5. @Georgette I've thought about that. But do they make fake ones that smell like pine? I'm a pine-scent junkie.

    @MC You are welcome. And may your first child be a masculine child.

    @Polly If only my tree lived for this post :)

    @joyful A needle in dinner takes skills. And I LOVE the word verifications. Keep em coming!

  6. I have had fake trees my entire life so I do not know this pain you speak of personally. But it sounds much like dead body removal, of which I'm very familiar....


    But really, it does remind me of old 'Easter candy' hunts at my grandmas house. We'd find random Easter candy in mid-July in the "really good" hiding places.

  7. I still have a photo of myself, bearing the stigmata of dehydrated pine needles, next to our becondomed tree. Regardless of our disposal issues, it was the last real tree I've had. Which also makes it the most fondly remembered.

  8. you make me so happy to be a jew.

  9. I feel your pain. My Crimma tree is actually still up. Yeah, it's January 6. What about it??!??!111

  10. This post was pure brilliance. I envy your skills.

  11. What's horrible is the year my Dad passed away, Dec. 28, 2005...we left the tree up til almost March and when we touched it...ALL of the needles fell off at once. It was horrible. Then the skeleton sat on the front porch til we had the heart to part with it...in August...fake trees thereafter...with pine-scented air fresheners...


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