O Tannenbaum Where Art Thou?

Something I didn’t know before, courtesy of the National Christmas Tree Association: “Christmas Trees were added to the federal agriculture census in 1997, when the responsibility for census shifted from the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). The agriculture census is conducted every five years.
The 2012 Census of Agriculture results were released by USDA in May 2014.”

That means that for this year’s census, we’ll have to wait until 2019. Then we’ll know for sure whether there was a Christmas tree shortage this year, as has been reported.

The association says: “Recent price increases are due to a tighter supply of harvestable size Christmas trees. The current tight supply situation results from fewer trees being planted 7 to 10 years ago. This was due to a combination of excess supply at that time and the recession both pushing prices downward, along with some growers exiting the business.”

I will say that all of the Christmas tree lots I’ve visited in recent years are gone. Even the nursery that sells trees not too far from my home has none this year. But it didn’t have too many last year.

So this year I went to a big box store, my last resort when it comes to trees. I was late anyway, only getting around to it on Monday. Even that store only had a few. The price was right, though: about $16 plus tax for something not so different from last year’s. Guess the store was trying to get rid of its remaining inventory.

Back to the census. In 2012, there were 309,356 acres of Christmas tree farms nationwide, down from 446,996 in 2002. That could indeed help account for a paucity of trees this year. The number-one state when it comes to acres of Christmas trees under cultivation? Oregon, at more than 53,600. North Carolina is next at about 40,300 acres and then the state I’d have guessed at number one: Michigan, nearly 38,000 acres.

Wyoming is at the bottom at zero acres. Nevada, North Dakota and Oklahoma are all listed as (D) with no explanation. Maybe the data is incomplete. Remarkably, some 52 acres of Christmas trees were cultivated in Hawaii in 2012.

One more thing. The motto of the National Christmas Tree Association is “It’s Christmas. Keep it real.”

Pre-Christmas Christmas Items

Got a card from old friends Wendy and Ted today.

They do amusing handmade cards every year. I like this year’s, but my favorite, which I don’t have handy, was about Santa having to enter the Witness Protection Program.

Earlier this year, when Christmas wasn’t dead ahead, I acquired this card among a mass of old postcards that I bought from a resale shop that was going out of business. I was sorry to see it go, because the resale cartel — Goodwill, Salvation Army — doesn’t seem to deal in postcards.

Sent in Chicago in 1938.

From Dorothy to Violet May — at least I think that’s Violet, not Violit.

The 2300 block of West Montrose, and I assume the sender meant West Montrose, since east would be in the lake, probably doesn’t look so different nearly 80 years later.

One more thing, not related to Christmas, except this is the time of year when new calendars enter the house.

A desk calendar: The JAL Fleet Calendar 2018. It takes a different approach than yesterday’s fastener-oriented calendar, which was full of verbiage to mark the days. Except for making Sundays red, none of the days on the JAL calendar are distinct from any other — no holidays, nothing.

At 3¼ by 6¼ inches, it’s an unusual size, but I think I’ll use the months as they go by for postcards.

A Christmas Carol, Suburban Chicago Version

Metropolis Performing Arts Centre is an excellent mid-sized theater that would fit in anywhere in the city, but it happens to be in suburban Arlington Heights. We went to see a production of A Christmas Carol there on Saturday.

Another nice detail: they produce paper tickets. This was Ann’s.
The soulless ticket cartel might be eager to get rid of paper tickets, but venues ought to be eager to keep them. People keep them, especially if they show was good. They’re cheap long-term bits of marketing.

Ann had never seen A Christmas Carol on stage, and neither had Yuriko. The last time I saw it was also at the Metropolis — almost exactly 10 years ago, when I took Lilly.

This production had everything it needed to have, particularly an actor (Jerry M. Miller) who could handle Scrooge’s dour initial disposition that slowly melts to his inevitable conversion to altruism. A Christmas Carol without that is a limp rag indeed.

Since it’s based on a novella, and not a source play, stage versions are going to differ, as the movies do. There was more singing and dancing in this version than others I’ve seen. Each of the Christmas spirits got a song-and-dance by a troupe, for instance, which was pleasant enough. This version also featured Bob Cratchit as the story’s narrator, which was a little odd.

A couple of important lines were omitted. Lines I think are important, that is. Old Fezziwig, who seemed reasonably prosperous — he had apprentices, after all — but who also knew that life was about more than making money, got none of his lines. He was mentioned in passing by Scrooge, and he got to dance, but that was about it.

“Yo ho, my boys!” said Fezziwig. “No more work to-night. Christmas Eve, Dick. Christmas, Ebenezer. Let’s have the shutters up,” cried old Fezziwig, with a sharp clap of his hands, “before a man can say Jack Robinson.”

When faced with the Spirit of Christmas Yet to Come, Scrooge didn’t ask it a most important question.

“Before I draw nearer to that stone to which you point,” said Scrooge, “answer me one question. Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of things that May be, only?”

Just quibbles. Now I’ve done my bit to introduce my children to the Dickensian part of Christmas. If you’re going to celebrate the holiday in this post-Victorian world, you should know it.

Branson 2012

Has it been all of five years since I was last in Branson? Seems that way. Quite a spectacle, that town.

Branson in early November was already lighted for Christmas because the late Andy Williams, Mr. Christmas, had wanted things done up by November 1. So let it be written, so let it be done.

A few trees at Silver Dollar City.

Branson 2012Branson 2012There were other seasonal decorations elsewhere.
Branson 2012Branson 2012And fall foliage in the rolling hills of southern Missouri.
Branson 2012And of course, French millstones.

Branson 2012 - French millstones, College of the Ozarks

What’s a major tourist destination without a few of those lying around?

Xmas Oddities

From the December 21, 1976 episode of Laverne & Shirley, “Christmas at the Booby Hatch” or “Oh Hear the Angels’ Voices.”

Featuring Michael McKean (Lenny) and David L. Lander (Squiggy). I don’t think I saw it 40 years ago — I only watched the show intermittently — but nothing every really goes away on the Internet.

Next, “Ríu Ríu Chíu,” as sung by the Monkees on their show on Christmas Day 1967.

I’m pretty sure I didn’t see that when originally shown either. But it was an inspired choice for the Prefab Four.

Finally, something not about Christmas: “Sailing to Philadelphia” (2000), sung by Mark Knopfler and James Taylor. It’s about Jeremiah Dixon and Charles Mason.

We are sailing to Philadelphia
A world away from the coaly Tyne
Sailing to Philadelphia
To draw the line
The Mason-Dixon Line

Just how many songs are there about the Mason-Dixon Line? One, anyway. I happened across it not long ago. A delightful discovery.

Tannenbaum ’16

We acquired a Christmas tree last Thursday afternoon, but not at the usual place, a roadside business that’s a nursery during the warm months. It sells Christmas trees and firewood this time of year, but when we went, only a handful of forlorn trees were on the property, and no proprietors seemed to be around. If we were less honest, we probably could have nicked a tree, but then again the leftovers were just that. Maybe they’d sold their better stock before the recent snows and blasts of cold air.

So we did the modern thing, and Lilly looked for Christmas tree lots on Google Maps. The nearest one was about a half mile away. Just a dude from Michigan in a trailer parked on a strip center lot with a modest selection of trees — no pretense of supporting a charity — though better than the abandoned lot. Got us a tree about a foot shorter than usual, but with a nice shape, and for only $35.

Before long, the tree was in the living room, but we didn’t get around decorating it until Saturday. Looks about the same as every year. I put on the lights.
Christmas Tree 2016

The girls put on most of the rest of the ornaments.

Lilly and Ann Dec 2016We had some extra strings of lights, bought last year on the cheap after Christmas I think, so we strung some on the plants in the foyer.

Christmas lights 2016

That isn’t the same as every year. First time.

Christmas Card Photo Shoot ’98

Eighteen years ago, I got a notion to send out personalized Christmas cards, the kind using a picture of your own that’s printed by a professional service. I’m sure I didn’t do it online, since I had no Internet connection at my house until 2000. I must have taken the negative to a photo shop, but I don’t remember the details.

Of course Lilly, then not quite a year old, was going to be the star of the card. There were a lot of existing pictures of her — first children tend to be the subject of a lot of pictures — but nothing I really wanted to use. I wanted something with a holiday theme. So I took her to the front yard, along with the gold-colored plastic star that we topped the Christmas tree with (still do), for a photo shoot.

I didn’t get anything I liked for the card that way, either. They tended to be fuzzy. But not completely without charm. They’ve been tucked away these years while she grew into a college student.
img335A few days later, without planning to, I took the picture we did use, a longstanding favorite image of toddler Lilly.

The Full Griswold

Someone’s already thought of the Full Griswold. Maybe I’d heard of it before, but I don’t know where. I thought of it this evening driving along, noting the proliferation of Christmas lights in this part of the suburbs. Some displays, of course, are more elaborate than others, but I haven’t seen any Full Griswolds just yet.

Once the concept of the Full Griswold comes to mind, one’s mind naturally turns to gradations of it. That’s what I think about, anyway. The Half Griswold, the Quarter Griswold, that sort of thing. I believe fractional Griswolds would have more charms than decimal Griswolds, such as 0.5 Griswolds or 0.1 Griswolds or the like. Too metric for such a nebulous concept.

Then again, the millihelen’s a metric sort of nebulous measurement, so what do I know?

I’d say that I’ve seen a fair number of Eighth Griswolds and a few Quarters and maybe something approaching a Half this year. But the season’s early. My own house decoration would be somewhere in the hundredths of Griswolds.

The odd thing is, I’ve never actually seen National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation all the way through, not when it was new (1989) and not since then. I’ve seen bits and pieces over the years. Probably because Chevy Chase is best taken in small doses (which can be quite funny).

Christmas Lights, Mañana

A foot of snow isn’t expected tomorrow — as we got on December 1, 2006 — but we are experiencing sliding temps. Feels about like winter now.

Also, the Christmas-industrial complex has revved into high gear, as usual. I was going to do my little (very little) part by stringing lights on one of the bushes in the front yard, though not lighting them for a week or more. On Monday, it rained all today, so I didn’t do it. Yesterday was relatively warm, but I forgot to do it. Today, I thought about it, but temps just above freezing put me off.

Tomorrow? Well, maybe. Depends on whether I feel like doing it tomorrow, or whether I feel like doing it mañana.

Thursday Bits

Two days in a row now I’ve been able to eat a mid-day meal on our deck. It wasn’t been quite balmy, except compared to the usual November temps, but even so it’s been nice out there. I expect that to come to a quick halt soon, and never come back till April. Or May.

bowelsThough it was only a few weeks ago when I did so, I don’t remember why I scanned this box front. Maybe to remind me how glad I am that the procedure is over. Nothing amiss down there, fortunately. Man, the taste was awful.

Product recommendation: Trident Seafoods Panko Breaded Tilapia, available in the handy (if a little large) three-pound box at your neighborhood warehouse store. It’s remarkably good for frozen fish. Best frozen fish I think I’ve ever had.

Of course, you can worry-worry-worry about tilapia if you want. I understand that people do, such as Dr. Axe, who breathlessly tells us that Eating Tilapia is Worse Than Eating Bacon. Gotta tell you, Dr. Axe, bacon is better than talapia. Bacon is better than a lot of things. But I plan to keeping eating both bacon and tilapia. Living dangerously, I am.

It’s one thing to see Christmas decorations and hear music in stores now — not something you want or need, but something you expect — but what’s the excuse for Christmas lights decorating a house in mid-November? I can see stringing the things now, since it’s relatively warm, but lighting them? I saw house lights this evening not far from home. Bah, humbug.