A Frikin’ New York Christmas Tree Story


Yes, New York City is frikin’ expensive!!!  Why do I live here?  Prices are nuts!  Especially at Christmas.















I live downtown in Chelsea, formerly a very gay and low income area, now a fancy, espresso and Pinot Grigio-soaked, wine bar neighborhood full of 20-something, rich kids whose parents have bought them million dollar apartments.  The Christmas trees here, trucked in from Canada, are also frikin’ expensive, at least $80 bucks for the small ones.

So this year, say I to myself, I will beat these downtown tree prices!  I’m going uptown to Harlem to get my tree!  I have a great friend who lives  in Harlem on 121st and Frederick Douglass.  He is constantly telling me… “Robert, move up here! you’ll cut your expenses in half!!”   He’s right and I should.


So I text my friend, also named Rob, telling him about Operation Christmas Tree and he writes back ‘Come on up!”  Hopping on to the A Train, I arrive at the Harlem 125th street Station and walk to his apartment taking in the sights.   Harlem is going through changes these days as so many parts of the city are.  A lot of white YUPs are moving in and also it’s getting gayer.  If you could see the stately brownstones that line Harlem’s avenues, you’d see why people are moving up.  Harlem is simply beautiful.

Rob lives in a very typical NY apartment that I love.  It’s a shotgun style place in an old, slightly rundown brownstone.  His place has all the fixins of the stereotypical, inner city abode.  Fire escape, old fireplace that is sealed up, fancy molding on the ceiling which is slightly cracking and needs some paint, a bathroom that has the quintessential NY black and white tiled floor and a toilet that is probably from the early 60s.  His cat is very happy there.

After I arrive, we chat, have a quick bite and we’re off to the Christmas tree shack.  The shacks sprout up just after Thanksgiving all over the city.  Our shack is owned by a guy from Vermont.  I could tell he wasn’t from NY because his skin was so crisp and pink.  He looked healthy.  All us New Yorkers look pale and gray – the stress, the pollution and of course the frikin prices!nycchristmastreetshack

We quickly find a nice 5 footer for only $30 dollars!!   YIPPEE!! My theory was correct! A $30 dollar tree! YIPPEE!  I win!  I felt like shouting “Hey all you downtown tree sellers!  Screw you and your $80 trees!!   HAHA! I win! !

So with sheer pride and pure joy that I had bought my tree at such a cheap price, we head to the subway.  With me in the front and Rob in the back, we bring the tree through the turnstile and get into a train.  No one takes notice of two men, one black, one white and a tree.  Well two guys speaking Spanish quickly glance over and giggle. I look back and wish them a ‘Feliz Navidad’.



Once home,  we have  the best tree trimming party ever.  10 friends, 20 bottles of white, 100s of cookies, 2 large pizzas with  lots of laughter, dancing and typical Christmas merriment.  (I love that word – merriment)

The next day I wake up with a huge headache and long desperately for a healing cup of joe.  But there’s no milk!  Oh Shit, now I have to go out and get some.  So I clumsily wrap myself in sweatpants and my coat, throw my scarf around my neck and head to the Korean market on the corner.  It’s cold as I leave my building and hurry across the street.  I go in quickly and get my milk, pay Mr. Li and turn towards the door.

And to my utter shock, horror and disbelief, I see a line of Christmas trees just outside the door of the market, bigger and way taller than mine with a small sign flapping in the early morning breeze.

ANY TREE 30$! Merry Frikin Christmas everyone!

Top photo credit: fullhdwpp.com.


Robert Aiudi
Robert Aiudi, a.k.a., The Language Chef, has been known to his friends and family as a “language junkie” nearly his entire life. He is fluent in many, conversational in others and can fake it through another large amount of some of the most exotic languages in the world. He has taught and tutored many happy students, and annoyed people over the years by asking "how do you say that?".

From his young years surrounded by speakers of three different dialects of Italian, to university in France and German and extensive work in Asia, China, Taiwan, Japan, Robert has picked up languages and breathed in the cuisines of many countries. Translating from 27 languages into English, Robert is a repository of anecdotal and factual information about languages of all sorts which adds flavor and depth to the Language Chef.

An expert amateur cook, Robert has worked in Paris in small bistro, made pizzas in Florence, wrangled recipes out of the hands of German grandmothers in the Black Forest, worked in a Chinese restaurant and had ad hoc cooking lessons in restaurants in China, Taiwan and Japan as well as various Chinatowns. Most importantly, Robert, his mom and dad, two grandmothers and lots of aunts from Italy have made culinary magic in their kitchens for generations.
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