Opinion: About all these Christmas trees ...


NEW YORK — Dear Sirs:

I would like to call your attention to an invidious abuse of our city by illegal foreigners. It has become clear to me that the streets of New York are in dire peril from a secret invasion of shadowy strangers attempting to bleed citizens of their hard-earned money and push them from our sidewalks and into the maelstrom of oncoming traffic (mostly, by the way, from New Jersey and Connecticut — damned shopping tourists who can’t drive. We should stop them at the bridges. But that’s another letter).

This invasion seems to have begun around Thanksgiving — hundreds, nay, thousands of shadowy males suddenly lurking on my block and seemingly every other street in our city, loitering on corners, setting up shantytowns in our parks, having cleverly slipped by the patriots who guard our porous borders.

These are not your run of the mill foreigners, mind you — they have a nefarious propensity to blend right in. In fact, if this weren’t New York City (famously regarded as “not really America” by most of the rest of our nation — see my previous letter, Sept. 12, 2001), these intruders would be nearly impossible to spot! They look a lot like us Americans from a distance, or at least some 1950s notion of what an American was: white, ruddy-faced, English-speaking males of northern European descent.

On closer examination, their strange customs and costumes betray them. The accent’s not quite right; indeed some sound — Lord help us — French! Nor is their colorful garb very convincing: “Bum-Warmer” hunting pants and Bushman shirts, topped by a beaver fur hat. They also smell of pine — not necessarily a giveaway, but certainly it raised my eyebrows.

New Yorkers, though, are nothing if not eccentric. So I couldn’t be totally sure what I’d stumbled across until I engaged the intruders. And then came the clincher: To a man (and occasionally, a wool-enveloped woman), they are friendly to the point of chirpiness. “Merry” this and “Happy” that — what blather!

Canadians! The realization hit me like a bolt of lightning right there on the corner of Spring and Hudson as one of that race breathed his mulled-wine-tainted breath on me. The streets are lousy with them.

Apparently, to my dismay, the city goes so far as to encourage this breach of national security (not to mention threat to our morals). In fact, your faithful columnist has learned, a little-known codicil in New York City law known by insiders as the Conifer Clause actually encourages these North Pole vagabonds to come defile our sidewalks with tree sap and trees of dubious health and safety from the Yukon.

Posing as a reporter, I managed to speak with one of them, a particularly clever infiltrator named “John Smithfield” (I can’t believe that’s a real name) from a place called Hamilton in Ontario, which I thought was a lake. Anyway, this “John” claimed to have a Christmas Tree Selling Permit from City Hall, which no doubt was a forgery. He had set himself up near Bryant Park, which I note has a very clear view of several points of interest, and also is a good place from which to monitor the flight paths from our area airports, since it is ALMOST EXACTLY the center of a triangle whose points would be Newark, JFK and LaGuardia airports!

Now, John says this influx of Canadians is nothing new. In fact, he says that every year since 1812, when we failed to absorb that northern wasteland into the United States, these high-latitude bumpkins have made the trek south to America’s cities to displace our own Christmas tree selling industry (Don’t they have a lobby?). They camp out in trucks, generation after generation.

“I feel like I have family here,” the alleged John Smithfield said. “I’ve spent every Christmas since I was 15 in New York City doing this, and I have lots of friends who also do it every year.”

He then proceeded to tell the story of Americans who do the same thing — in fact, he seems to have tricked The New York Times into writing a story about one couple from Vermont, the Romps, who supposedly sold their trees for 20 years in the same neighborhood until they divorced last year, forcing them to sell against each other on two separate city corners. I’m not buying this Canadian cautionary tale, though. You can’t convince me that this is a job Americans can’t do without divorcing. Hell, we invented Christmas, right?

I know I speak for my fellow New Yorkers when I say that I don’t like it one bit, the thought of all these aliens piling into the Canadian equivalent of pumpkin trucks — rented tractor trailers filled with Christmas trees. They spill onto our streets with their firs and hemlocks, stinking up sidewalks and expanding the city’s carbon footprint with twinkling lights (not to mention the carbon released when they chopped down all those trees up there in Lapland).

Now, I have nothing against Christmas spirit and all that. But let’s get these filthy foreigners and their dangerous illicit agricultural produce off our streets. Christmas spirit is one thing; national security is another.

Signed, With Season’s Greetings

A Concerned New Yorker