Sunday, December 24, 2006

A Christmas story.

Now that I'm in LA, there's a few things I miss about Christmas in New York. One is snow. Another is walking along streets lined with Christmas trees for sale.

A few years ago, I became fascinated by the Christmas tree vendors who descend upon NYC. For a little over a month every year, these guys leave their Canadian tree farms and LIVE in vans parked throughout Manhattan. It must be quite a culture shock.

I figured it'd be a good topic for a documentary. My plan was to capture the drama behind the scenes of country-folk trying to bring holiday cheer to millions of hardened New Yorkers. I also thought it was interesting how these trees play such an integral role in so many people's holidays, yet little is known about those who cultivate them. So, I set out to make my little movie happen.

Having been raised Jewish, I knew nothing about buying a Christmas tree. How much are they? Do they come in sizes and kinds? Do you tip the sales person? My first step was to research the buying process. That day, I visited the very next Christmas tree vendor I saw. I started asking the salesperson my questions. When I got personal, he got suspicious:

"Are you looking to buy a tree or not sir?"

"Well, to be honest, I'm thinking about doing a documentary on you Christmas-Tree-People."

"No fucking way! I'm not really a Christmas-Tree-Person. I'm a filmmaker working with these guys as research for a documentary!"

What are the chances this would be the first tree guy I ever approached in my life? I half expected all the customers to confess they were merely researching roles as extras in a shopping scene. So there we were. Me pretending to be a customer. Him pretending to be a sales guy. Only in New York. That's one of the other things I miss about Christmas in New York - there's just enough holiday spirit in the air for even the most jaded of urbanites to drop their defenses and realize what they have in common.

We bonded over our phoniness and agreed to try and work together. Alas, he had a baby and shelved his movie plan. I moved here to LA. And while I no longer get to see sidewalks lined with holiday trees, I do live on the Venice Canals amongst some beautifully decorated homes. However, this massive house down the street from me (see below) goes overboard every year.

They do something similar every Halloween too, complete with motion-sensor activated animatrons on the lawn:

You know inside this house there's a loveless marriage.

This being my first LA Christmas, what better place to spend it than in Texas? Yep, I'm off to hang out with my friend Nic and his family in a cabin outside of Austin. Happy holidays!

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