Christmas trees in New York

from Vermont to my living room via MTAOk, so let me just tell you non-New Yorkers out there, everything is harder in New York. And I’m not talking about just paying your rent, but simple, everyday things like buying cat litter, understanding your ConEd bill, doing laundry or borrowing a stock pot.

Reasons why everything takes a well-thought out game plan:

1. No one has a car.

2. Car services, man-with-van’s or delivery fees add an insulting premium to just about all domestic concerns.

3. The Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) is reliable only if you’re not really counting on it.

4. Our box stores lie. Yes, we do have a Target in Atlantic Terminal…But do they ever have anything you actually need, on the shelf where you presumably might find it? No. Exactly.

Therefore, you adjust your consumer choices to what you can actually find and then carry (or roll) down the street, including seasonal demands: Halloween pumpkins, Thanksgiving turkeys, Christmas trees. Here’s where things get interesting (if you’re not in a position to drop an extra $10-40 on getting each of those festive items home.)

Christmas is upon us. December 1 came (and went) which means my seasonal, New Yorker meltdown is approaching. The sheer logistics of getting a Christmas tree with a freshly cut trunk into my not-super-central Brooklyn apartment are staggering. The questions I rattled off at the kitchen table to my girlfriend, who’s accustomed to my seasonal meltdown mental situation, hence knows better than to answer any of them:

How do you find a tree-lot in New York?

Why are there no tree lots/vendors in Bed Stuy?

Do we rent a $20/day Uhaul van and head upstate to some unknown tree farm where I might see Linus and Lucy and small children caroling in the snow?

Are our schedules going to present us both the same window of opportunity so we can share this (supposed-to-be-special) experience  before January?

Imagine my surprise as I walked up Court Street in Brooklyn two days later. The arresting aroma of pine massacre, a fine selection of less-than 6ft tall trees, and a chop-chop thingy that they have on REAL TREE LOTS. I wanted to hug and kiss the unsuspecting vendor with the thick slavic accent who answered my seasonal prayers. Instead, I just gave him $50 and didn’t even haggle.

Step One: Select a reasonably sized tree. This year is my first experience with this. In the context of a bunch of other fragrant giants, a 7-foot tall tree seems entirely reasonable for our one bedroom apartment. Well this year I opted for a handsome 5’5” Douglas Fir, which means the breadth of the tree only marginally extends into the walkway between ‘dancefloor’ and ‘bedroom’.

photo courtesy of the lovely Jo SantangeloStep Two: How to hold a Christmas tree. Reasonably sized Christmas trees are not often heavy so much as oddly shaped. My slavic savior put Mr. Fir in a cute net outfit for our ride home. This came as part of the chop-chop thingy’s function: slice end for freshness and pull tree through giant fishnet stocking. I tried carrying it with one arm so as to keep sap off my black sweater, but both my arms got too tired for this method on the long, avenue block over to Smith Street.

I shifted my messenger-like bag to the front, propped the tree against it, and carried it close to my body using both hands to hold the trunk in different places. Don’t hold it up too high or else you’ll do too much work and you won’t clear transit doorways. You’re going to get your hands dirty and a little sticky, be brave. I know you can do it.

Step Three: Transit choices. I could have called a car service, but I have an unlimited metrocard right now, which means mass transit is entirely free for me (because I’ve already forgotten about spending $89 last week.) The F/G train station is 3 blocks away. It’s raining. I can do this. I know this because once it’s over, I don’t have to think about it again for another year.

This is the one instance where you are allowed to wait for the perfect transit situation to align itself. In my case, this means waiting at the Bergen St. station for 4 F trains to whiz by until a G train arrives. I could take the F, but this involves two extra staircases, which is a big deal when you’re carrying a 45lb tree. The G is not a big deal, since it’s never packed in places where I need to go. However, I was transferring to a rush-hour A train. Not a great idea, but I had the C-local as a back up plan.

Busses are a little trickier, but still do work for large item schlepping. Forget using a bus during rush hour; there’s barely room for your backpack, much less Mr. Fir.

Step Four: Egregiously smell your tree and smile a lot. People will realize how happy you are and they won’t mind being poked in the behind by Mr. Fir’s sappy limbs. Excuse yourself (and Mr. Fir) and remember that it’s almost over. You have one flight of stairs left until the final leg of your journey comes to a close. You are surviving mass transit once again, and this time you brought something on the train that actually neutralizes the usual fried chicken or urine aromas of public transit.

Step Five: Don’t make/cancel any evening plans. Take a hot bath and reward yourself with a treat of any nature.

Step Six: Invite people over for dinner or holiday present-making parties. The more compliments on your grueling efforts the better. When you hear how impressed people are with your cost-effective, creative lifestyle, you’ll forget all about the premium of convenience.