JEFF PEARLMAN

Coming October 2022: "The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson"

The tree of life, the tree of death

There are few things I hate more than the post-Christmas tree in the street.

I took this photo a few minutes ago, here in midtown Manhattan, and, well, just looking at the image bums me out. Just as upright Christmas trees serve as the symbol of hope and joy for the holiday season, fallen Christmas trees—what with their brownish needles and newly acquired dog piss scent—remind us all that the next few months (cold, dreary, hopeless) will absolutely, positively suck.

And yet, it’s more than that. In a sense, the fallen Christmas tree represents my own life and struggles. As I approach my 40th birthday, I can’t help but feel more and more like that tree. All around me, folks in their 20s and early 30s hop from bar to bar, talking of careers yet to come; of girlfriend yet to be kissed; of lives barely led. I, on the other hand, am (arguably) halfway through my career. This marks my 18th year as a journalist. In another 18 years I’ll be—dear fucking God—58. Lord knows, 58-year-old writers aren’t being hired like they used to. Like that tree, I’m battling to maintain my relevence. “Please, don’t throw me out just yet! Christmas was only, oh, two weeks ago! Enjoy my lights! Smell my branches!”

Alas, it is not to be.

I am a tree.

Damn.