hristmas came early for me this year, when my editor handed me a press packet and asked if I would be willing to comment on the "Holiday" tree at the Carlsbad Company Stores outlet center. If I hadn't known better I would have sworn there was a Santa Claus. Would I like to comment on a large Christmas tree? Do elves jingle when they walk?
First, let me say the press kit was an ode to pointless propaganda. Since when did Christmas trees need 5 pages of spin? Or, in this case, a "Giant Holiday Tree Fact Sheet." Second, I think it is important to point out that this was not a holiday tree. Truth in advertising dictates that we point out that dead trees dressed up like a Vegas hooker is distinctly Christmas. Personally, I have never heard of a Hanukkah, solstice, or Kwanzaa tree.
According to the Marketing Director for the outlet mall, the victimized tree was a healthy 85 ft. tall white fir from Mt. Shasta in Northern California. A white fir was used because it's sturdy branches are less prone to "drooping" compared to other trees that the could be used for seasonal idolatry.
Once the offending tree is cut, a crane is secured to two locations of the dead tree, which is then lowered onto a flatbed truck. The crane helps to ensure that no damage is done to surrounding trees while protecting against damage to the cut tree. As if cutting the tree in the first place wasn't damaging enough.
Now, for those of you who might be questioning if this is an environmentally sustainable practice, the press kit assures us that it is. First and foremost, it's important to note that this tree was never part of a healthy ecosystem, as it was harvested from a private timber plantation. According to the spin, killing the taller trees eliminates much of the shade that inhibits undergrowth. This allows the smaller trees to get the sunlight they need so they will be large enough to butcher in subsequent years.
When the tree first arrived in Carlsbad, it was placed into an off-public staging area, where tree morticians did a final fluffing before viewing. Adding insult to injury, the tree is pruned and additional branches are added to fill it out. The entire tree was then sprayed with a green flame retardant to keep the corpse fresh and fireproof. The tree was then wedged into a 6-foot hole in the mall's center court, and secured with steel cables.
Anita Boeker, the marketing director for the Carlsbad Company Stores, is emphatic that everyone know that this is a giant tree, the third largest Christmas tree in America, to be exact. This is where the tree envy comes in. I can just imagine Ms. Boeker and other mall employees walking around bragging that, yes, in fact, her tree is bigger than the one at Rockefeller center, the National Dead tree in Washington, DC and the 58 foot dwarf currently dropping it's needles at Disneyland. The press kit even provided a graph demonstrating the scale of her merry member.
Not content with the propaganda packet provided by the folks who put the hit on the white fir in the first place, I came to the conclusion that in the name of responsible journalism I had to experience the tree up close and personal.
Approaching the Christmas cadaver from the south, what immediately caught my eye was the upturned, browning needles. Obviously, the green fire retardant spray can only mask so much death. From thirty yards away I could tell this tree hadn't received any water for at least a month. No amount of balls, bells and lights could disguise the wasted biology posing as holiday cheer.
Beneath the giant tree was a huge stack of huge presents hiding the base of the tree and all the extension cords running up the trunk. When investigating whether or not water was provided, I notice the tree was place in the middle of what appeared to be an Aztec-like design. Perfect for the seasonal sacrifice. Stepping back, I also noticed that the tree was appropriately anchored to the Gap, Donna Karan, Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein. Truth in advertising is always appreciated.
Leaving, I began to notice artificial trees in the display windows, my favorite being the two 7-foot artificial trees covered in artificial snow at Banana Republic. Rather fitting for a season of hollow sentiment and over consumption, if you ask me.
|Robert Nanninga is a free-lance writer, producer and environmental journalist. A native of Vista living in Leucadia, he Chairs San Diego ZPG, as well as representing coastal North County on the Green County Council.|