We decided to go for a Charlie brown Christmas tree this year, the current times and our budget being what it is. The past few years we’ve been pretty lucky about price and size, the first tree we had up here in Harlem I trekked all the way down to East Third Street for a thirty-dollar seven-foot tree.
I carried it on the subway in a shopping cart, like this:
The second year I got one on 145th Street about the same size for forty-five dollars, but I just didn’t have the time to trudge down to the Lower East Side. It was worth the fifteen bucks not to devote a couple of hours in search of a tree.
Last year we got this one:
After checking 145th Street again last year and finding out they wanted sixty for the same sized tree we looked elsewhere. My wife Danusia had the idea that there must be trees cheaper further up in Washington Heights, so we took a bus up to 163rd and St. Nicholas to have a look. We asked a woman in the street where trees might be found.
“Not here.” She said.
“Try Broadway,” she added curtly. We set off the tree blocks to Broadway, searching high and low for the sight of rows of pine trees Tied to a fence or something. We struck gold on Broadway and 161st. It was a 24-hour Mexican grocery and they had a bunch of not so fresh trees leaning on a white van. Two young Mexican women in jeans manned the spot and after a bit of negotiating we walked off with a misshapen six-footer. It left a lot of pine needles everywhere so we knew it wasn’t the freshest, but thirty bucks is thirty bucks.
This year my good friend Victoria Booth, professional dog-walker, pigeon rescuer and blogger told me where to find good Charlie Brown Christmas trees.
“Go to the corner of Greenwich and Seventh Avenue,” she said. “They’ve got the cutest Charlie Brown trees.”
Monday night I remarkably found myself on the corner of Greenwich and Seventh, on my way to meet friends, and yes there were trees there. Lots of trees and one young man and one young woman. The young woman was doing something to something green on the sidewalk, I couldn’t see what because she was kneeling over her work and it was pretty dark already. I waited for the young man to finish with his customers, two local men who shelled out $120 for a big Douglas fir. They declined netting because they “lived down the block…”
As they sealed the deal I spotted the smallest of the Charlie brown trees tucked away in a corner like some distant cousins. I saw one I liked; about four feet tall and when the young man came over I pointed to it and asked how much.
“$50.” He said.
“$50 for that?”
“It comes with the stand.”
“I already have a stand,” I said.
“Forty without the stand.” I picked a smaller one, one that by my reckoning was worth $10 being a proper Charlie Brown with twisted branches and very little green.
“That one’s $40.”
“Thirty without the stand?” I prompted.
“Let me think about it,” I said as I walked away. At least I knew where to find at least one thirty dollar tree.
When I got home I discussed this year’s tree with Danusia and she proclaimed that we needed to get our tree the next day, since we’d both be home.
Tuesday morning we set off early for 161st and Broadway to get our $30 dried out Mexican deli Christmas tree. As the bus approached the corner of 161st Street much to our dismay there were no trees. We got off the bus for a closer examination and discovered that the store was closed, out of business.
“Let’s try further up,” Danusia said, and so we did. We made it up to Columbia-Presbyterian without encountering any trees. I was becoming visibly agitated.
“Look, why don’t you go home,” Danusia said. “I can get the tree myself” she added.
“How are you going to get it home by yourself?” I asked.
“On the bus.” She replied.
“I don’t think a bus driver is going to let you on the bus with a tree,” I said. It sounded lame even as it came out of my mouth. “Look, let’s keep going, but I’m done at 170th Street.
Remarkably there were trees at 170th Street. Another young man and woman, clones of the couple on Greenwich Street. We picked out the smallest tree they had, a four footer, like the $50 one on Greenwich.
“How much for this tree?” I asked.
“That one’s $60.”
“How about without the stand?”
“It comes with the stand,” was the reply. We thanked the man and walked away.
“It seems the further up we go the more expensive they are,” I said to Danusia, who was crestfallen. We got on a downtown bus that would take us down Amsterdam Avenue, closer to home than Broadway.
We sat quietly, and I scanned the sidewalks for any sign of Christmas trees. I wanted Danusia to have her tree and be happy.
“We can get a big wreath and hang it on the wall,” she said. “Of course it would be hard to water,” she added.
Suddenly as the bus passed 160th Street I spotted a bunch of trees in front of a grocery store.
“Trees!” I exclaimed. We jumped off the bus at the next stop and walked back.
They were all small; I think the biggest one was five feet. But this was a Mexican grocery, so they had to be more reasonable than the French-Canadian monopoly trees. I pointed to the five-footer and asked how much.
“Ah, that one is $60, with the stand.” At least these trees were in stands with water in them, unlike the dried out tree of last year.
“How about this one?” I pointed to the next smaller one.
“That one is $50.” I was really getting frustrated now. How about without the stand, I asked. The guy said the stands were $15, so it came to $35 without the stand. Since we have our own stand, I said we’d take it. The guy helped me get it on my portable hand truck and Danusia and I had our better than Charlie Brown Christmas tree. Short but full:
Merry Christmas, everybody.