Ever since I split with my husband, I've always gotten myself a Christmas tree for my various apartments. They're pretty, they're fun, and I look forward to them every year.
Here in Rogers Park, there is a small vacant lot a block or so from my house. During the fall, a man named George inhabits this lot, living in a tiny trailer no larger than a walk-in closet. Without the trailer and the lot, you would assume George was homeless - scruffy, unshaven, very rough around the edges, but he's a really sweet guy. In October he sells pumpkins, and in November switches over to Christmas trees and wreaths. He's a bit of an annual fixture. I'd brought the Babies there to get their Halloween pumpkins, and today I went over to get my tree. I'm on a really tight budget, so my plan was to get a really small tabletop tree, hoping to spend no more than fifteen dollars, which is itself extravagant for me right now.
Today was the first real winter-y feeling day we've had - grey, rainy, and very damp. I walked into George's sheep-fenced area and saw a line of small trees that would work just fine. Looking them over, I decided on the one I wanted. I heard George over amongst some larger trees, and followed the noise to find him, wearing his ever-present baseball cap over long unwashed hair, untying a tree for display.
"Hi," I said.
"Why the company decided to sent a tree delivery on the coldest, wettest day is beyond me, but what do I know," he growled.
"It smells great here," I offered.
George stepped out, and I told him I thought I'd found a tree.
We walked over, and I pointed to the tree, which was a little over three feet tall.
George looked at it. "Thirty."
My stomach dropped. I'd experienced the shock of the pricey Midwestern tree when I'd moved here, but I'd forgotten how bad it could be.
I was embarrassed at not being able to buy it, so I said, "I may have to come back once I get paid."
"Tell you what," George said, "they gave me two extra trees and I'd really love to get some revenge on the bastards. You got twenty?"
I said I did, and it was done. He cut the bottom, and I carried it home. Twenty was more than I'd wanted to pay, but the idea of a year without a Christmas tree was too depressing.
So now my lovely little tree is on a table in my living room. My friend Krys and I are going to see "The Road" (she has free movie passes), then I'll decorate. Yay.