Christmas 1996 and my housemates Hippie Princess, Snow Hostess, and I (Moody Poet) pile into Snow Hostess’ minivan with Zags The Dog and drive down to the shabby discount grocery outlet Canned Foods, where we’ve sussed out that they have the best tree prices in town – all of ’em $16, no matter the size.
Driving down Division Street, beneath the stump of the Central Freeway, the DJ on Live 105 says, ‘And now a blast from the past, a golden oldie, a classic from Jane’s Addiction, Jane Says,’ and the three of us scream in horror (golden oldie?! a classic?!) at the notion of Jane’s Addiction as an oldie and dissolve into tears of laughter over the opening bassline.
We get to Canned Foods, pile out of the van, and start performing a tree search with almost military precision. Hippie Princess is easy to please and soon tires of Snow Hostess and I, in full Christmas-Nazi mode, examining and rejecting tree after tree after tree. She soon retires to a concrete curb with Zags, who takes off and starts frolicking with a 10-year-old boy who’s rolled in with his parents.
Snow Hostess sees her dog and looks at me and says, ‘Zags needs a boy,’ so matter-of-factly it imprints on my memory forever. She and I continue to mow through trees, standing them up, fluffing them, spinning them around and checking each side for gaps, dorky branches, or other flaws, unable to find The Tree worthy of our classy monochromatic palette. This goes on for an hour until Hippie Princess dissolves into a puddle of resignation over on the curb and Snow Hostess and I eventually stop, sweaty and grouchy with frustration, and pick a random tree on its side, still all bound up, branches unviewable, and say screw it, we’ll take our chances, completely exhausted by our unquenchable thirst for The Perfect Christmas Tree and ready to deal with whatever retarded specimen we get.
We fork over our sixteen bucks, load the tied up tree into the van, and drive home. We drag it up the stairs, set it upright in the living room, and snip the twine that binds it. The tree, as if in in a movie, magically opens and unfurls its green branches and the three of us are left standing there looking at the most picture-perfect, ideal Christmas tree you’ve ever seen. ‘My God,’ one of us said, ‘it looks like a Macy’s tree,’ and we all stood there, breathless, elated, completely under its spell.