Prospect Heights, Christmas 1985
And so it came to pass that I was standing lookout on the corner of Vanderbilt Ave and Sterling Place at 3 am on a very cold December morning. My accomplice, David, as the taller of the two, and more coordinated, was given the job of urban lumberjack. We sported black from head to toe, and even rubbed some artist’s charcoal on our faces to keep us as blended with the night as possible.
When the coast was clear, I would shout whisper, “GO!” When the bus or any other interloper drove or walked past , I would shout whisper “STOP!” As it turned out, my “stop” only proved fruitful twice, on my third cease and desist, David responded “TOO LATE!!!” And then I heard the thunderous sound of a snapping pine trunk and the “Fuwomph!” as the toppled tree hit the sidewalk.
I was in shock. The deed done, the tree felled, I started to freak out. Always great in panic situations, I stood there, trembling hands upturned towards the heavens, and asked, “What do we do now?”, to which my wise accomplice responded, “RUN!” And off I went, like a bat out of hell, until I heard my partner yell, “With the tree you idiot!”.
Right, I wasn’t firing on all my pistons. Crime was never my strong point. But grab that tree and run did we ever.
We deftly maneuvered the gigantic tree into our garden apartment (under the stairs), slammed the door, and took some much needed breaths. Then my ever wise companion thought that he should maybe take a sly gander out in the street to see if anyone had noticed our misdemeanor. What he saw was a thick and lustrous trail of evergreen needles leading, like Hanzel and Gretel’s bread crumbs, right to our door! He rushed back into the apartment, grabbed a broom, and out into the dark Brooklyn night he flew, a man possessed. Thankfully he returned soon after, unscathed, and with our secret safe.
What a Christmas we had that year! Our gift to each other was this amazing new nest we had feathered through hard work, creative thinking, and petty larceny. Our tree had stood for presumably many years on a plot of land by the abandoned school at the end of our street. There were signs heralding a new revitalization project beginning in the Spring where the plan was to turn the old place into condos. We walked past that tree everyday. It was all trunk for the first 8 feet. Only a gifted editor like my darling would have had the vision to see what a lousy tree it was in the yard, but how tremendous it could be in our tree stand! That tree wasn’t seeing next Christmas anyway, so we gave it a send off worthy of it’s well earned glory.