Christmas tree capitalism

More letters to Pathetic Life

Our internal rhythms connect us with nature, other people, etc. Alone we can live our own rhythm, but much of the time our rhythm is in collision with other people's rhythm and, very importantly, the rhythm of civilization, so called.

Civilization is regarded as the highest form of order, which may be true in some sense. But for the individual, civilization imposes the craziest of rhythms on all of us. Within that crazy rhythm, our separate rhythms collide and crash. Thus, our individual rhythm is assaulted on every plane by chaos.

—Don Stevens,  
Council for Self-Esteem,  
Escondido CA  

You and I travel to the beat of a different drum… —DH 

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I have to respond to your observations about abandoned Xmas trees in San Francisco (1/8). Here's another aspect of that holiday tradition:

Our studio is on 75 acres up in the hills. It's laid out in an 'L' shape, and the only part of the property that isn't bordered by Xmas trees is the top of the 'L'. Unfortunately, my parents sold 250 acres to the Noble Mountain Tree Farm about 15 or so years ago.

This outfit has 3,500 acres of Xmas trees up here. They use helicopters to spray fertilizers, herbicides, and insecticides, and we get the drift, and then they harvest with the helicopters. They try to stay 50 feet back from our property lines (it's the law) but we find dead plants on our side occasionally, from the spraying. The noise is often intolerable. The vibration rattles our fluorescent lights.

Anyway, the Xmas tree industry is not required by federal or state law to plant a cover crop (wheat farmers are) so when we have a big rain, we get torrents of water washing tons (not an exaggeration) of top soil onto our property. The water carves out huge ditches through our pastures and deposits top soil around buildings, fences, etc. Of course much of that soil eventually makes it three miles into the Willamette River.

In the recent flood, the runoff was so bad a lot of it found its way down the county road and washed around two culverts to make the road nearly impassable. We're on a dead-end road, so [my husband] and I had to take the tractor with scoop down and do a few hours of road work so we could get in and out. We blame the tree farmers for that road problem.

They have cleared the hills of acres of old oak, fur, madrona. They have destroyed wildlife habitat for hundreds of birds and animals. I could go on and on about their ignorance and arrogance and refusal to accept any responsibility for the problems. But they'll only be here another ten years or so, until all the topsoil is gone and the trees won't grow. Nor anything else.

It's a shitty Christian tradition. Grow the trees for five or seven years, cut them down, use them to hang trinkets on for two weeks, and dump them in the streets of San Francisco or Your Town USA.

Fake Xmas trees are the perfect solution. They truly fit right in with the meaning of the holiday. "I don't care if it rains or freezes, long as I got my plastic Jesus."

That's the picture from our side, and Merry Fuckin' Xmas to the 'Noble' Mountain Tree Farm.

—Linda O, Salem OR  

Fascinating, and infuriating. In a sane society, everything you've described would be illegal, but without a passport I can't get to a sane society.

Humanity can't continue doing this — destroying the world a few thousand acres at a time, to make a buck.

And it's not just Xmas trees. Absolutely everything that's mass-marketed — shoes and shoelaces, paper and paper clips, milk, mustard, mayonnaise, luggage and lipstick and light bulbs, everything — has a backstory that's as outrageous and ruinous as your story of the Christmas trees. 

And I'm sure the manufacture of fake Xmas trees is disgusting, too.

I'm as wasteful and damaging to the world as any other ordinary guy, but you don't have to be Rachel Carson to know that this can't go on forever.

Some day, maybe some day soon, we'll have wounded the planet beyond its ability to heal. —DH

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I offer my sympathy (because it's free) for you and your teeth.

I can't afford to see a dentist, and my teeth are in awful shape like yours. (11/30/1995) I've had a wisdom tooth coming in for a few years now, and it's too far back to brush, so it has been rotting. It's coming out at an off angle, pointing out into my cheek. If I move my jaw the slightest bit to the left, the tooth jabs into my cheek. Compounding the problem, I grind my teeth in my sleep, and I awoke one recent morning with a mouthful of tooth fragments.

Apparently, the pressure from my molars shattered the tooth up the middle. So now when I grind my teeth, I get the sharp crag of that busted tooth carving a hole in my cheek.

The rot is spreading to the other molars now, and I have to take aspirin before going to bed, or else I get nightmares that I'm having a root canal without anesthesia (really). I'm going to have to check into the NYU dental clinic and see if those dental students can work me over on the cheap.

—Michael Jackman, Inspector 18, New York   

And when all our teeth fall out, dentures will be prohibitively expensive and not covered by the insurance policies we can't afford anyway, so we'll be living on oatmeal. —DH

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I enjoy the fact that I can pick up your zine and read it through without wanting to retch. You're not out there doing it as an exercise to write the Great American Novel.

—Bob Flanagan, Dover NH  

High praise indeed, I think.

Thank you very much, I think.

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Can you flush newspaper down the toilet? (4/5/1995)

— Frank R, Bay Field WI  

Certainly. Not a problem at all. Anthony Lewis's columns seem especially absorbent. 

If it's a serious question, my serious answer is that wiping your ass with yesterday's news can easily eliminate toilet paper from the budget. Rip out a piece of a page, fold it doubly for added protection, and wipe. You won't mistake it for Cottonelle™, but it works.

The trick is that after wiping, you fold the newspaper over itself, so the poop is inside, and then carefully rip it into smaller bits, until what you're flushing is only an inch or two wide. Assuming you need only one or two wipes to achieve adequate tidiness, it won't clog the plumbing. It's just a more direct form of recycling. —DH

From Pathetic Life #21
Thursday, Feb. 29, 1996 

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.


  1. Brother Dougles, how was the first day of work? Hope it shows some promise for good times and a laugh or two. I wish you well.


    1. Day One was kind of amazingly good. It's a long commute and that sucks, but it *seems* like a decent place to work.

      Details eventually. :)

    2. That's great news. A good place can easily seem crappy on a bad day, but a lousy place smells when you walk in. Sounds like this place holds promise. Maybe it's time to hook up with the library for some books on disc. I commuted from Sea-Tac to Baltimore for two years and Sea-Tac to Philly for nearly five years. Audio books kept me entertained and informed on the long flights.

      Keep having fun. Insist on it.


    3. I wonder if some of the classic I tried to read but gave up on would work better if someone's reading them to me...Which is almost all the classics, really, everything from Moby Dick to Catcher in the Rye.

      Looking forward to writing about the new job, when I can catch my breath. So far, so good...

    4. If I can get to bed before sunrise, I'll list a few audiobook recommendations. I don't know about the classics: my list won't contain any Dick or Rye, but some books are just fun to have read to you. I've already noted two Feynmans that are great as audiobooks. There's more stuff out there, and some of it might be a little lowbrow for your taste, but I like a little lowbrow. It keeps my face from expanding.


    5. Cool. Feynman sounds fine, other suggestions welcome. Suppose I'll need to buy some new device and carry it with me, which is something to look into this weekend...

    6. Yeah, a portable disc player with an anti-skip feature. You likely don't need speakers -- just a headphone jack and reasonably good, lightweight headphones. I don't think they're super-expensive anymore. I still use my old Discman, which Sony hasn't made for years. If you use it a lot, you'll need to find a good buy on batteries.


    7. Actually, somewhere in the boxes from the move from Wisconsin, I have a by-now antique mp3 player. Pretty sure it could hold a novel.

      Hmmm. What it might not do, though, is remember where I was when I was last listening.

    8. Doug, I think libraries lend books on CD; not sure whether they lend books in mp3 format. You'd know better than I.

      I'm part way through my audiobook recommendation list. I'll have it in two or three days. Obviously, you don't need my recommendations to start listening on the buses.

      In the late 1960s, as PBS was being formed and the stations that are now part of PBS were talked about as "educational TV", my family watched a BBC sit-com about bus drivers on channel 9 called "On the Buses". I remember laughing, but I was pretty young and can't remember much else.


    9. Always I've been kind of a transit nerd, so I watched some of ON THE BUSES, but like my own jokes here, it's a comedy that's almost never funny.


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