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Tree's up

All right, got up at the ungodly hour of 8:00 a.m.—copy editors prefer the crack of noon, and went out to breakfast with Kathleen—eggs and corned beef hash at Valentino’s. Did grocery shopping and laundry (three loads). Neglected raking up the remaining leaves of the fall, plus all those damn Higgs bosons. That can wait, along with the leaves in the gutters on the garage. Wrote a review of James Wolcott’s entertaining memoir, Lucking Out, which no one much seems to have read. Bought a white pine my height for a Christmas tree. Got in mounted in the damn stand, with sap all over my hands, so that Kathleen can complain that there aren’t enough lights on it. (There are plenty. What is our living room supposed to be, Las Vegas?) It has only fallen over once, so far. Drank an astonishingly good Heavy Seas Yule Tide Belgian tripel ale, which made me a lot more amenable to fiddling with the Christmas tree and its stand. Soon Alice is expected over for pizza and hanging decorations on the tree to conceal the imagined inadequacy of the lights.

Tomorrow: back to the paragraph factory.



Posted by John McIntyre at 5:38 PM | | Comments (13)


When the tree's up you chop it down; when it's down you chop it up. So now you know what you have to do...

Prof. McI.,

I feel for you, and your recent Xmas tree travails, particularly the "sap all over (your) hands" bit.

My dear girlfriend, a dedicated Cal State geography adjunct professor who is currently up to her now-bloodshot eyeballs in end-of-Fall-semester grading of scores of essays and term papers, yesterday afternoon decided she could take a much deserved break from the academic drudge, and fetch a reasonably priced Xmas tree.

My trusty Sienna Toyota van, of course, was by far the most appropriate vehicle to transport the chosen conifer back to her cozy apartment. "Yes dear."

Well, I too managed to get my favored left hand thoroughly gunked up w/ sticky pine sap, as I grabbed its trunk at what I felt was the optimal balance point for first maneuvering it into the back of my van, and then into my girlfriend's 2nd floor apartment.

Mission accomplished, w/ few complications other than my sticky left hand, I asked my girlfriend if she happened to have any turpentine handy. She replied w/ an emphatic "No!", adding that "that stuff is too darn flammable."

Then for good measure she continued, "You know turpentine comes from pine tree sap?" That was no help at all.

She likely picked up that little factoid from her two year stint teaching at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, (East)TX, back in the mid-2000s, situated right in the heart of the renowned piney-woods region of the Lone Star State.

Turns out a dash of good old Ajax dish-washing soap and hot water handled my sappy hand situation, just fine. No potential combustibles required.

Anyhoo, the tree is up, and ready to be decked out piecemeal, over the next few days. A very handsome specimen purchased for a mere $30.00. About 7 feet high, slim in form, rather than broad hipped, yet still full, w/ ample sturdy, hangable branches.

Of course the back of my van is sprinkled w/ loads of errant pine needles...... but no biggie. Nice bonus aroma.

Let's face it. Like the seasonal egg nog, the sap runneth over, too.


All right gentlemen. The tree is perhaps a bit feisty but I like cutting it down with my mate. I like decorating it and making the house come alive. I can stare at my tree all night and come New Years eve- I have no intention of taking it down.

The year my husband refused to come cut it down on the farm with me- I went and did it alone. I took great pride in managing the 11 foot beauty by myself. Why? Because its a tradition. I was dirty, tired and even had to go back for the right sized stand but I cut it down and brought cheer back to our home- it smelled right, shone bright and we decorated it together. By the time it was bright and beautifully decorated, my husband couldn't remember why he didn't go with me to cut it down and my sappy covered body was better for the wear and year. I was proud. The tree stayed until the end of January because we both fell in love with our creation.

Alex, a couple of my cousins live in The Big Thicket, which is "near" (by Texas measure) the Piney Woods. Opposite ends of the same Preserve, I think. Last I heard, one of them was teaching 3rd grade in Silsbee or Lumberton.

The Christmas tree is a visible symbol of a family, I believe. It has been many years since my husband and I were married, but I earned a great number of points our first Christmas together by purchasing a tree and somehow dragging it home myself. It wasn't a very big tree, but it was too big to take home on the bus. Our first ornaments were made of scraps of ribbons and salt and flour dough. Now we own enough decorations to trim 2 or 3 trees, but no tree has meant more than that first one.

@Halimaryland & Dahlink,

Thanks for your respective, quite touching personal Xmas tree reminiscences. They really got me into the Christmasy mood. (The egg nog spiked w/ rum helped too.)

The whole shared family ritual of the Christmas tree, from picking out just the right one, down to finding the ideal location in one's humble abode to situate said tree, to the communal decking out of the conifer's boughs w/ sundry ornaments lovingly collected over the years, appears to be almost a universal developed western-world family holiday tradition. Even single folks get w/ the program.

Granted, those gaudy artificial Xmas trees flocked w/ bogus snow, or cotton-candy-like pink glitter, and such, have become increasingly popular these days; in my view a kind of convenient expedient to a real, authentic, fresh cut tree.

I guess the fake tree advocates might argue that theirs offers a 'greener' alternative, obviating the large-scale felling of young, perfectly healthy, carbon-dioxide absorbing trees.

I was talking to my mum back home in Canada just this week, as she was preparing to put up her mini-Xmas tree, and asked her about my favorite childhood Christmas tree ornament that has surprisingly endured for the past 60+years---namely a quaint, rather skinny little Santa Claus figure fashioned from various red & white colored pipe cleaners.

Considerably faded and generally the worse-for-wear, every year this little guy's crotch seems to have progressively ascended, to the point when on the last occasion I laid eyes upon him (three years back), it had risen clear up to his bearded chinny-chin-chin.

Mum claimed she had to do some minor facial repair on our beloved ancient Santa ornament this holiday season. Apparently, his perpetually upwardly drifting crotch (in-seam, as it were), had reach up through his head. (I could be naughty and say dig that crazy necktie......... but I won't.......Oops! I just did.)

I guess I better vamoose and start decking the halls of my humble abode, before I incriminate myself any further.

Happy Hanukkah and a Merry Christmas to all............ and all a good night.


My tree is up, with thanks to the neighbors, but I have yet to tackle the lights alone. I may have to impose on neighbors again. I am, however, content to wait until the Solstice before I attack the Christmas duties. I see the Druidiots are warming up in their moldy linens and mistletoe. Come back, o sun!

Carless in Towson one year, I did take a full-sized tree home on the bus a few days before Christmas. The bus driver looked askance when she saw me heaving the thing through the folding door, but I assured her I'd pay full fare for the tree as well as for myself. It was late night, the bus was empty and so in the spirit of the season I guess, she acquiesced and allowed us a seat. Through downtown and cross town to Morrell Park we rode, the fresh pine scent countering the diesel fumes. The few other passengers who later came aboard paid us no mind (this IS Baltimore after all) and when we finally came to my stop, the driver cracked a smile and wished me a happy holiday as I disembarked.

I'll always remember the Christmas bus.

Love it, Laura Lee! Merry Christmas to you and yours.

Laura Lee,

Top o' the morn!

Great little Xmas true-life tale, sweet lady.

You painted such a neat little visual of you and your shaggy pal, that strapping, most fragrant conifer taking, what turned out to thankfully be, a fairly uneventful, yet slightly unorthodox trip across town.

Hmm.......... I wonder if I could get away w/ putting my mini-Xmas tree in the passenger seat of my van, and risk a run in the "diamond lane" ( express lane---for 2 or more passengers per vehicle) on our 405-FWY out here in L.A.?

I could affix one of those eerie Guy Fox-inspired Occupy Wall St. masks to the tree top, a flouncy Santa hat, fake beard, and some fluffy white flocking around its 'neck' ....... and voila!----a faux passenger is born. Bad idea?

I HAVE tried the blowup sex doll ruse*, but the arresting CHIPs officer was hardly amused. Ironically, I wasn't pulled over for clearly driving single in the express lane, but in my hyper-nervous state I had totally forgot to buckle up the blowup doll, a major no-no on the highways and bi-ways of Los Angles. To add insult to injury, the officer didn't like the blowup doll's stoic, unresponsive attitude. It was embarrassing all round. (The officer took away the blowup doll in handcuffs........ for courtroom evidence I'm sure.)

But seriously, Laura Lee, Thanks for that charming little slice-of real-life story. Very seasonally fitting. I could actually see it, fleshed out as a cool little kid's book, naturally fully illustrated, and all.

In fact, your "Carless in Towson" would be a perfectly apt title. Maybe w/ the subtitle, 'City Metro DOES Have a Heart'.

Laura, you and yours have a very Merry Christmas (w/ all the trimmings) and a wonder-filled, prosperous, and healthy New Year!

*I made up that whole bit w/ the blowup doll. How tacky can one get? (No response required.)


P.S.: -----Did you hear the one about the guy who walked into the bar w/ a rabbi, a priest, an imam, an atheist, and a Christmas tree? Didn't think so. HA!

Alex, your fantasy for getting into the HOV lane reminds me to plug one of our favorite movies--Ryan Gosling's "Lars and the Real Girl." Highly recommended!


Never did catch that quirky flick, "Lars and the Real Girl", featuring fellow Canuck, and seemingly fast-rising marque Hollywood star, Ryan Gosling.

However, I did read several critical reviews of the film, and it seems like both media critics and movie goers alike were divided into two distinct camps of opinion--- those who thought the film's basic premise of a blowup sex doll/ male, private/ public relationship was just plain too weird, creepy, and gross, versus those w/ a more sympathetic bent, who largely embraced the film, suspending their disbelief, and found it tastefully done, as a rather sweet, and endearingly pathetic (oxymoron?) tale of how we humans can become so desperate, and often aberrant/ deviant (?) in our behavior in dealing w/ affairs of the heart.

I can see where both sides could be coming from on this one. (Latex intolerance could have been an ancillary issue.)

Dahlink, IMHO young Ryan Gosling has become kind of the latter-day Gene Hackman of our time, in that, like the now-veteran thespian, Hackman in his prime, Gosling seems to be embracing almost every decent (or indecent HA!) script that comes his way, and just going for it, full bore. He's done a slew of high-profile films just this year. Hopefully he doesn't burn out, or become over-exposed, where fickle audiences will tire of his seemingly ubiquitous screen presence. I suppose if the parts he tackles are diverse enough, there's no real danger of type-casting.

At any rate, great to see yet another Canuck performer make it in a big way here in the U.S. (Can't keep my Canadian chauvinism down. Sorry.)


P.S.: ---That Canuck crooner Michael Buble ain't no slouch, either. Just sayin'. Did you catch his Xmas TV special?

Love Harry Connick Jr., too. (Just trying to keep the Canadian/ U.S. playing field level here. HA!)

Alex, we were firmly in the camp that found "Lars" very sweet and endearing. It was not just the Gosling's character's bond with his plastic girl, but the way the entire community embraced her (figuratively speaking, that is).

Another favorite performer who seems to be everywhere at the moment is Emma Stone. But she's not Canadian, I'm afraid.

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
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