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The Perfect Christmas Tree 2010:

I found it! I found the perfect Christmas tree for 2010. But first, a look at some of the losers. With fanfare the newly reopened Santa Monica Place mall dedicated its “steel, aluminum, and LED” tree in the central court, an installation that syncs light and music on the half hour. True to the Las Vegas roots of the company that created it, I find it slick, stupid, and sterile. (Note that it takes a ton of energy to smelt aluminum so chopping down a real pine may have actually used fewer carbon credits here in our environmentally correct bury-by-the-bay.)

Elsewhere in Santa Monica artist Anthony Schmitt has once again erected his fun Shopping Cart Tree at Edgemar Courtyard on Main Street. It is a wonderful spoof on the commercialization of Christmas. It is also a site gag and one wonders how many years in a row Schmitt can tell the same joke? A change of venue – the Santa Monica Place – would have given the sculpture new life and kept the Las Vegas monstrosity in Las Vegas — maybe next year?

By chance I was in South Orange County last weekend and lo, turns out Fashion Island (ultimate Mecca for Christmas shopping dollars — okay a mixed metaphor) each year erects one of the world’s largest Christmas trees. This year’s humongous offering – a pine plucked from the slopes of Mt. Shasta – is maybe 70-80 feet tall and is adorned with “12,000 ornaments and lights.” More than size, I was impressed with its perfect conical shape. No tree in nature is that perfect? So I googled the project and sure enough, tree surgeons added boughs to the tree’s bottom, a wonderful if unintended metaphor for all the South Orange County shoppers whose bottoms have been surgically tucked!

Across McArthur Boulevard from Fashion Island is Rogers Gardens, the ultimate nursery and must-see at Christmas time. Yes, there is really is a $600 tree for sale in their lot and ornaments can run $100 a hit.

So where is that perfect tree? If you don’t know already, 11th Street between Olympic and Colorado is Santa Monica’s local hang out for day laborers looking for work. This year some of the folks have decorated a parkway elm (I think it’s an elm but I am not an arborist) with an impromptu assortment of balloons, ornaments, figurines and other adornments. Maybe it is just a joke for some. But I have to think it is a heart tug for at least a few hard working immigrants who have left their families behind in the predominantly Catholic countries south of the border. It is an elegant tree that recalls the humble surroundings of the first Christmas.

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