Lame Adventure 447: Christmas Trees Of Gotham – Bitty, Beastly and Best

One of the most enduring symbols of the holiday season wherever you go in the country is the Christmas tree. Here in New York City, Christmas trees are not purchased in tree lots. New York City dwellers purchase their trees from sidewalk vendors.

Trees being pimped on Columbus Avenue.

Trees and wreaths pimped on Columbus Avenue.

For about a four week period from Thanksgiving to Christmas, New Yorkers not only sidestep the usual: each other, kids in strollers, elderly folks moving at a snail’s pace, dog walkers and walking dogs. Added to the daily dance of pedestrian navigation at holiday time is zigging and zagging around a forest of pine trees crowding the corners on what seems like every other block.

How tree-buyers get their trees home is another tale in the playbook of inconvenient. A Christmas tree cannot be delivered like a pizza. Christmas trees are takeout. In the thirty-two years that I’ve lived here, I have yet to see a delivery guy on a bike transporting a Christmas tree in my neighborhood, the Upper West Side. New York City Christmas trees are brought home in a variety of ways starting with Manual: the woman I saw walking on upper Broadway struggling awkwardly as she hauled her tree solo. Next up, there’s Happy Teamwork Style: a guy duo effortlessly carrying their firry [sic] friend in tandem.

Not to be confused with this furry friend who is surely wondering, "When is my tree getting here?"

Not to be confused with this furry friend who is surely wondering, “When is my tree getting here?”

Reported in Gothamist was Irritating: a guy riding with his tree on a subway train. I am sure that some people carry their trees home in taxis, or for the privileged with a car, the Traditional Method: tying it to the roof.

Many apartments such as my own thumbnail-size sanctum sanctorum are too cramped to house a tree, so wreaths and mini trees are very popular. My building’s vestibule is decorated with the trinity of holiday adornment New York City-style: a mini tree, a wreath and a poinsettia.

Holiday decorations in Casa de la Shangri-la.

Holiday decorations in Casa de la Shangri-la.

I do not partake in tree or wreath purchasing but I am an avid tree watcher. Pictured below are some trees, infinitesimal to massive, that I have glimpsed in my neighborhood, as well as that iconic one in Rockefeller Center.

Good luck with that.

Planter Tree: good luck with that.

Nice display of stoop trees, but anyone needing to hold onto the banister is out of luck.

Nice display of stoop trees, but flirting with a lawsuit if anyone needs to hold the banister.

Apartment near my laundromat; looks like a tree purchased on Columbus Avenue.

Apartment near my laundromat; looks like a tree purchased on Columbus Avenue or maybe all the trees are wearing red bows in 2014.

Co-op building tree; I'd prefer a lower maintenance over a tree.

La-di-da co-op building tree.

My building's tree.

My building’s knee-sized tree: what rent stabilized tenants rate.

Lincoln Square tree in Dante Park a.k.a. the tree cross the street from Lincoln Center. Next to no one was looking at it.

Lincoln Square tree in Dante Park a.k.a. the 27 foot tree across the street from Lincoln Center.

Radio City Music Hall's glitz - a light show rather than an actual tree.

Radio City Music Hall’s glitz – a light show rather than an actual tree.

To see the Radio City Music Hall holiday tree light show click here.

85 foot 27 ton Norway Spruce attention whore in Rockefeller Center.

85 foot 27 ton Norway Spruce attention whore in Rockefeller Center.

Is it me or does this year’s Rockefeller Center tree look like a massive, misshapen blob in need of a manicure? Smothered in 45,000 lights cannot hide that this behemoth looks like a shaggy oaf. Possibly I’m being critical because I’m not a fan of big and bloated. I naturally gravitate in the direction of small and lean. My favorite holiday trees are not in windows, rooftops, plazas or parks. They do not
attract herds of gaping gawkers from near and far. Here are my favorite trees of this holiday season: The Trees of West 73rd Street.

First up, a sturdy trunk tastefully swathed in red and gold.

First up, a sturdy trunk tastefully swathed in red and gold.

Second tree in blue and silver: a shout out to those that celebrate Hannukah?

Second tree in blue and silver: a shout out to those that celebrate Hanukkah.

Tree Three: a slender number in formal attire ready for New Year's champagne.

Tree Three: a slender number in formal attire ready for New Year’s champagne.

The fourth in the series: Purple Passion tree.

Tree Four decked out in purple and silver  for those celebrating eggplant and flatware.

The fifth and the finest: the candy cane tree.

The fifth and the finest: the candy cane tree lovingly embraced by a bike.

Each West 73rd Street tree exudes New York City attitude and style. If I could have a beer and socialize with a tree, these are the trees for me. If I were able to interview these trees and ask them what they think of the trees purchased on street corners or the trophy trees that stop traffic they’d likely say:

The Trees of West 73rd Street: Fuhgeddaboudit!

Every time I walk past these five trees en route to the subway, no matter how late I’m running or how irritated I’m feeling, seeing these festively dressed trees lifts my spirits. Whoever decorated them did this with personality, care and flare and probably at their own expense. Possibly they did it just because they like seeing them. I know that I sure do. This cool, quirky, “all natural” quintet of trees will not be piled high on the sidewalk in round two of street hogging. What’s round two you wonder? That’s when the Christmas trees of New York City prepare to be converted into mulch. That tradition resumes December 26th.

Tree speck in street: swatch of suicidal pine needles.

Tree speck in street: swatch of suicidal pine needles.

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39 responses to “Lame Adventure 447: Christmas Trees Of Gotham – Bitty, Beastly and Best

  1. Our tree is fake, the real deal would be too hard to haul and the mess it makes is too much.

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    • I’ve always had a fondness for silver aluminum trees, even more so when they went out of fashion. That appalled my mother.

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      • My daughter is a big fan of those as well. Especially if you have the light with the rotating plastic color panels to further enhance the 1960 ambiance. Connie found one on the internet, but they wanted the price of two new cars, a fifty-foot boat, and a family-size Heath bar for it. Needless to say, Greta is making do with a “Charlie Brown” style tree this year.

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  2. I’ve had a fake tree for years. It’s a lot cheaper to pull the same tree out of a box year after year than it is to buy a new one. Plus fake trees never die, never need water, and don’t shed needles all over the house. You only have to haul it home once, at which time it is in a box, and you never have to worry about what to do with it after Christmas – just take it apart, put it back in the box, stuff it in a closet and forget about it until next year.

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  3. What a fab post! I love NY and yes the Rockefeller tree looks D U M.

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  4. Trees here in the heartland are sold on lots or at the local grocery lot. We have more room than in the big city. Some places grow them for you to cut yourself.

    I like the decorated trunks you highlighted. They were well done. Our downtown trees are snuggled in warm sweaters. Each winter some group dresses them up like this.

    btw…we haven’t had a real tree for at least a captive coon’s age.
    “Life span: In the wild, a raccoon has a life expectancy of about 2 to 3 years, but in captivity a raccoon can live up to 20 years.”
    http://to.pbs.org/1GPy2LV

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  5. You are right — the Rockefeller Center tree is a mess. They musta been on a tight budget this year.

    And your building’s little tree: that’s about the size of the tree in our home entry. For my taste, that’s all I’d do. For Son, I also put up the 4′ tall fake tree, on a small table so it seems bigger.

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  6. I like the idea of dressing the trunk. It’s clever and fashionable. But what about all those poor naked trunks out there? Are they embarrassed about having their bark exposed when their friends are dressed in ribbons, bows, and knitted sweaters?

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  7. The things we country folks take for granted! Great post and love the tree trunks all decorated. We are Scrooges this year..tree with lights but nary an ornament.

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  8. How festive that someone puts ribbons around the neighborhood trees. In my neighborhood, the thing to do is tie small ornaments on the branches of the curbside trees.

    Reggie is anxiously awaiting Dec. 26. That’s when everyone takes the trees that they carried home, hauled upstairs into their apartments, decorated, watered, and had joyful celebrations around…only to throw them onto the curb. Then Reggie pees on them all. He can’t resist!

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  9. I truly admire New Yorkers hauling home real, live trees, in all ingenious ways. Even here in the Great White North, where firs and spruces grow wild, and tree lots abound, I have a 6 ft fake tree bought at The Hudson’s Bay when my son was a toddler. So, that’s my Christmas tradition, for the past 20 some years. I’d love to spend a Christmas in NYC and breath in real Christmas trees. Your photos are festive and classy. Have a Merry Christmas and enjoy your winter holidays, LA!

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    • Christmas trees in New York City are, like so much in NYC, Arti, a hassle, but New York does do Christmas big and well. But this quintet on West 73rd Street was such a pleasant surprise. Granted they probably smell more like neighborhood dog pee than piney festive fragrance, but they have such personality — and they’re gracing the hood with their presence all year round. I think that’s great that your 20+ year old fake tree is still hanging in there, especially because I know that you’re such a fan of the environment on your site. You take my favorite bird watching shots that are calendar-worthy. Merry Christmas, pal!

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  10. I’m with you as those 5 trees with the ribbons are special!

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  11. great stuff, sugar plum (in the spirit of the season)! i agree with you, the rockefeller tree does look a tad off center, to be kind. xoxoxoxo

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  12. Who decorates tree trunks? No matter who does it … I want to hug them! The trees too! I’ve never see this done before … is it a Big Apple tradition?

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  13. p.s. I hope you are having a happy time in CA with your family and their pets.

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  14. I missed a few of your posts! I don’t know how that happened. Sorry about that! I like these trees with ribbons. Very cool idea and very festive. I’m going to check out the Radio Hall light show now. I’m curious.

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    • There was that thing last week called Christmas, Amy, so it’s very easy to block out blogging! I’ve been away, so I’ve been out of the blogging loop. Now I’m back in the Apple, completely avoiding Times Square this week.

      I love those trees on West 73rd Street!

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  15. Where I Come from (Zambia) Christmas trees aren’t such a big deal. Once, and only once do I recall my family purchasing a plastic knee-size Christmas tree and feigned to decorate it. The attempt was poor n never have we repeated it. I suppose watching trees during the season must be exciting.

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  16. During the season, they’re okay, but now that we’re in the post-season, they’re piled high on the curbside atop one another like corpses waiting for the sanitation department to cart them away. That’s not very pretty.

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