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Friday, January 22, 2016



On December 2nd somebody flipped a switch and 45,000 LEDs illuminated a 78-foot Norwegian Spruce perched in the center of Rockefeller Center. This year my wife and I visited, and I compared the tree to the ones we used to decorate when I was a kid growing up in Chappaqua. I did a comprehensive qualitative survey using all the tools afforded to someone who got a 425 score on his math SAT. The result of my complicated analysis is that the two are statistically identical, once you adjust for several factors.

First of all, they have a bigger budget over there at the plaza. The Head Gardener for Rockefeller Center scouts the trees by helicopter, as far away as Canada. When the helicopter crashes into one, it is deemed tall enough. My parents used to purchase our tree at the parking lot of our church, god-forsaken by definition and from a genus of conifer known as nevergreen. It was slightly larger than one of those pine tree air fresheners that hangs from peoples' mirrors who engage in a lot of smelly behavior in their cars. By the way, if I had known that there was such a thing as a "Head Gardener," my hair would look a lot better.

We would drop an aspirin in the water at the base of the tree to keep what little greenery there was from dropping off whenever somebody created a breeze by opening the door. If you even yawned you could get a mouthful of needles. And good luck even finding an aspirin in my house (I have 5 brothers and sisters).

The Rockefeller Center tree is supported by four discreetly placed wires and a steel spike in its base. Our tree was supported by a red and green tree stand with a few thumb screws in it. But how long would our tree stand stand? About ten minutes tops, until the cat, amazed by the fact that a full-sized tree had suddenly sprouted in our living room, seized the opportunity to escape from the lunatic asylum by scaling the trunk in a matter of microseconds.

Climbing toward the heavens, he reached the top of the tree and discovered that it was only a fake star, scraping along the ceiling at a 90-degree angle because we failed to account for the height of the base when measuring the tree. The cat masked its disappointment in a number of ways, including knocking off the ornaments and batting them into the kitchen, and making odd sounds from behind the couch after digesting a spaghetti dinner made out of strands of silver tinsel.

I love the smell of a fire on Christmas morning. And since we plugged about 15 light strings into the same electrical outlet, one was just about guaranteed. Just in case that failed, we set up the tree about a foot away from the fireplace.

My wife and I stood on 49th Street and appraised the lighting draped on the tree's branches. Sure, it looks great now, but what happens when one bulb burns out and takes half the string with it? Every year we put up the tree, we had more and more strings of Christmas lights with fewer and fewer bulbs that worked. And even though you couldn't swear to it, it seemed like every time you turned around different bulbs were dead than the last time you looked.

Admiring the majesty of the huge specimen, the Christmas spirit was easy to catch. So was a headcold, since there were thousands of people in the square with their kids doing the same thing we were. We were run over by baby strollers, harangued by disco dancing Salvation Army volunteers, whacked by selfie sticks, harassed by people selling anything they could think of and poked by Spongebob's square pants. We were sucked into an eddy of humanity, swirled around Rockefeller Center twice and spit out into a tidepool on 6th Avenue. We looked at each other and said, "Wow- that was annoying and borderline dangerous. Let's do it again next year." 


  1. I pine for a good read, and like Santa you delivered! Fun piece as always, Rick. Say hi to your bride.

  2. Thanks for stopping by, Ed! The bride says hello back~ she just had a little reunion with the S.S. gals!