Christmas is a certifiably amazing time of year, and if you don’t believe me, then you are obviously an anti-american, Sony pictures hacking, bah-humbug Grinch. Hyperbole aside, it’s a politician’s pocket worth of reasons to, “not be about that X-Mas Life”, but even if you naturally hum the James Earl Jones ditty from the Grinch, it’s a certain christmas custom that’s just undeniable; the Christmas tree.
Now, I haven’t purchased a tree in nearly ten years; mainly because the fake ones are convenient, the real ones are way flammable and I’m not trying to have an Eye Witness News, field reporter, say “his neighbors all thought he was a little odd,” because I perished in a Christmas tree fire. I let my last tree get too dry and it started to smoke a bit, so since then, I’ve been content to admire from afar. But that doesn’t cloud the majesty of the Christmas Tree.
The Christmas Tree is true Christmas iconography, along with Santa Claus, candy canes and hefty girls street fighting for discount bra & panties at Vicky Secrets. But this isn’t even about the origins of the Christmas tree custom or getting into the roots of the tree (boom), it’s actually about the urban phenomenon of The Christmas Tree Guy, or TCTG.
They appear just when you need ’em and not a moment too soon. Well, legally, TCTG can’t turn up a moment before December 1st, in NYC, but I know I’ve seen a few flouting the law, with trees on the street by Black Friday. It’s a chance that the Christmas Tree Guy is distantly related to the Umbrella Guy, though I won’t know for sure til I get Henry Louis Gates to comp me a few of those DNA tests, because they’re rather ‘spensive.
Trying to walk away with a price quote from TCTG is like asking rappers to stop using the N word…ain’t gonna happen. If you’re not buying right then and there, it was tough luck, come back when you’re ready to purchase! Which is why it was really cool when I got a chance to chat up TCTG on Charles Place in Bushwick, Brooklyn. He was next to Shwick Market, a shoppers market that features vendors who make the products they sell.
Since I DJ-ed at Shwick Market a few times, during the holiday season, I had a chance to chat TCTG up a bit. He gave me some insider information on the Christmas Tree business, but swore me to secrecy. OK, he didn’t swear me to secrecy, but those guys are always so secretive, it just sounds like they would.
In general TCTG spend a grip of money upfront by going to a farmer and buying a bulk of trees. That could be upstate New York, Long Island or even Maine. They also buy the tree stands and maybe some other stuff for their sidewalk shop. They do ungodly hours from the first day they show up, often working 18 hour days, everyday, for nearly a month. It’s a miserable, yet entrepreneurial existence, where the feast and famine existence can be exciting and draining. Lot’s of coffee and cigs get consumed and home cooked meals become a rarity…but wait, most folks in Bushwick don’t cook anyway, so forgive my Upton Sinclairisms.
Many of TCTGs utilize a camper or van or some other form of transportation to stay warm and protect themselves from the elements, but THIS GUY; he and his partner actually built a house! A small, Christmas house. Almost gingerbread, definitely shanty style and for sure a fit of total genius! Dudes should be consultants for Habitat For Humanity. The house allowed them to be open 24 hours a day, which meant they were always open, always on and always troopers.
TCTG pictured above was an interesting mate. He was once a pedicab driver in downtown New Orleans for several years, and we spoke about N.O., the music scene and how folks love to party down on the Bayou. He and his Christmas Tree partner are friends from band life. Being on the road and hitting towns, playing the jams and then back in the van. Perhaps they were predisposed for being in small spaces for long periods of time and hence were cut-out for Christmas Tree life.
Their decision for becoming TCTG this holiday season was simple: they weren’t doing anything else; which is a real awesome reason to do something as awesome as becoming TCTG for a season! But the season was winding down, sales would soon dry up, so I took them some spiked chai latte around 8pm on December 23rd, as I was leaving Shwick Market, after completing my last minute shopping. I had a cig, wished them well in life and thanked them for holding down one of the few Christmas customs I still believe in. I also have a soft-spot for little lady elves, but I’m still in therapy for that one.
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