Tag Archives: christmas tree

Lame Adventure 211: Garden Wars

In a futile attempt to escape the steam bath conditions currently smothering the Big Apple, I was walking down my Upper West Side block on the shady side of the street where it was easily two degrees cooler.  As I passed a garden in a co-op building opposite my humble brownstone, I noticed a sign planted in the foliage extolling we’re number one style bragging rights.  This garden had been honored with a block beautification award by the block association.

Blue Ribbon winner.

After looking at the sign, I took a longer look at the victory garden.

Thrill of victory garden

It looked cheesy to me with the four cement urns better suited for a cemetery, but possibly this plot also serves as the burial spot for a rich tenant’s cat, Four-paws. Then I wondered

Me:  Am I being snarky about this because I’m baking inside my skin right now, or is it because my building’s garden lost?

I crossed the street and inspected my building’s losing garden.

Agony of defeat garden

Granted, it’s looking pretty droopy these days, but it is boiling outside.  I’m not trying to make excuses, although the entire city is approximately ten degrees hotter than the basement in Hell right now.  Coincidentally, the architect for that basement is also the sadistic mastermind behind every underground subway platform in Gotham.  His primary source of inspiration was his oven’s broiler.  But I digress … When the rose bushes bloom in my building’s garden, they can look rather lovely.

I wondered if my building even competed in this contest?  Did we win second or third prize and were so offended we didn’t win first that we acted like sore losers and didn’t plant our sign?  Or, were we shunned because of that semi-toasted lump of green pine in the back right corner?

Can someone bring the sunblock over here?

This semi-toasted lump of green pine was my building’s Christmas tree circa 2009.  Back then it was a spindly pile of needles and twigs sitting on the radiator cover in the vestibule.  It was nearly overcome with the weight of ornaments and tinsel.  Milton called it the Charlie Brown tree but he also thought it was adorable.  When the holidays were over, the people that manage my building planted it in the garden.  It’s proven to be a hardy little tree, having survived its second winter, and now it’s weathering its second summer.

Buried in a January blizzard.

Trying to stand upright again in April.

This has prompted me to predict that in about fifty to a hundred years it could be the tree holding court in Rockefeller Center.  Yet, I don’t think it’s a Norway Spruce, so if it does hang in there for fifty to a hundred more years, it just might be the year-long Christmas tree in my building’s garden – and probably why my building’s garden is destined to forever lose the block beautification award.

Block Beautification Award Judges:  Those blockheads with that eyesore Christmas tree in the garden are once again trying for the block beautification award!  Unbelievable!

What I think my building deserves far more is the block association’s equivalent to the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.  Our garden might be eclectic but at least it has personality – and no creepy cemetery urns!

Lame Adventure 141: Fear of Francina

I am illustrating this episode of LA with images of Christmas trees thanks to Francina, the shining light of the TSA who personally made sure that every traveler unfortunate enough to walk through JFK’s T5 Jetblue terminal Lane Eleven, her lane, to undergo passenger screening, suffered.  Had I taken photographs, I am certain I’d be spending Christmas in Guantanamo.

My brownstone's 2009 Xmas tree planted in front yard before heading to Rockefeller Center in 2040.

Francina, a hardy woman built like an early 20th century fireplug, but with a less cheerful demeanor, was a meticulous screener.  Nothing explosive, sharp, or shiny would possibly get past her.  In that respect, we need thousands more screeners that share Francina’s level of attentiveness, but then we should also prepare to arrive at the airport at least half a day early instead of the suggested two hours.  Her line creeped along in inches while passengers in lanes ten and twelve whizzed through at lightening speed.  Stuck in Lane Eleven, I suffered stoically, but was relieved to see that no one was ordered to go through a scanner nor were they subject to a pat-down.

Martini Max circa 1960 Xmas tree courtesy of Reynolds Wrap.

Then, the back-to-back wheelchair women arrived.

The most effective way to leapfrog to the head of Francina’s lane is to arrive via wheelchair.  The most effective way to ensure that the upright masses in Francina’s lane feel further punished is to subject them to waiting for Francina to screen anyone in a wheelchair.  This process alone easily shaved a half hour off the clock.

The first woman traveled light and the TSA agent that assisted her spread the pain; she had her belongings, not much more than a clutch bag and hat, screened in Lane Twelve.  The second wheelchair woman, a woman traveling with her husband carried a stunning number of carry-on bags; I counted at least eight and groused to my compatriot, the patient and calm woman standing behind me:

Me:  I thought you were only allowed to carry on two.  Look at this, they’ve unpacked the Winnebago.

My brownstone's 2010 ornament collection with a spot of tree.

Second Wheelchair Woman’s TSA assistant placed all of that traveler’s luggage, as well as her husband’s, ahead of mine.  Their load filled both metal tables.  Francina suspected their carry-on contained the weapons of mass destruction we could never find in Iraq, so she screened it repeatedly.

Twenty minutes worth of solid screening.

When I was finally given the clear to allow my duffel bag to go through, I noticed that Second Wheelchair Woman’s husband digging through his wife’s suitcase, full of pink clothing, as another TSA agent hovered.  Eventually, they were cut loose – and then probably missed their flight.

My sister, Dovima's perfect tree, that she finds light-deficient.

Francina glanced at me, and resisted the urge to spit.  I walked through the screener, no bells or whistles rang.  I thought:

Me:  Yes!  Home free at last!

Francina (thinking):  You’re dreaming, Bozo.

My jacket with one boot, exited the scanner in its tub, and so did my personal carry-on item with my book and wallet.  Yet, my white MacBook, in a tub with my second boot, brought the screening process to a screeching halt.  Francina’s no-nonsense face went even more dour.  She glanced at me with contempt, and then I made the fatal mistake, I returned her scowl and yapped:

Me: What?

My fatal use of “what?” immediately atrophied into “oh, shit” when she slowly slipped a rubber glove on her left hand.  A fear shot through my entire being as I assumed the worst:

Me (thinking):  Digital cavity search here I come.

Anemically I asked the patient and calm woman waiting behind me, whose flight was about to board in three minutes:

Me:  Do you think she has an issue with Macs?

Patient and Calm Woman Behind Me:  I have one, too.  I think I’m gonna be subject to the same fate.

She was, but since she had the brain cells to not follow my lead in the whining department, her MacBook Pro was subject to a less intense scrutiny, she was gifted with a Get Out of Jail Free pass, and hopefully made her flight.  I, on the other hand, was taken aside, and I instinctively knew, “Shut the hell up or prepare to enter Strip Search Land.”

Francina glared at me with complete contempt and then proceeded to elaborately swab my entire MacBook with a white disc that looked uncannily similar to a Tuck’s Medicated Hemorrhoid pad.

Francina:  You can go.  Merry Christmas.

Possibly, she really meant, “Screw you.”

I reached my gate five minutes before boarding.  When my plane was wheels up, I felt immense  relief even though I had to listen to the sounds directly behind me  of an infant wailing across the entire country and a teenager vomiting incessantly into her air sickness bag.  Those sounds were akin to a symphony when I remember the growl of Francina’s stern grade school principal voice.

Bat Pat, best friend since college's, green thumb Christmas tree cut down by a decendant of Daniel Boone.