Friday I interviewed/vlogged Molly Hatfield, my best friend from high school, and spent the day at her Christmas tree stand in my old neighborhood, the Upper West Side.
I went to Montessori School about 14 blocks from the very spot where Molly sells trees. When I was younger, I lived at about three different apartments up the street from her spot - oh, and I can't forget that fancy commune mom moved us all to - who knew NYC had communes?!
My favorite Chinese food restaurant, The Hunan Balcony, was the spot where I first fell in love with Beef with Broccoli and consumed many Shirley Temples while my dad got blitzed.
Tom's Restaurant was where I ate greasy meals as a teenager and also the cafe Seinfeld supposedly frequented. My dad used to eat there as a poor Columbia student. They have tasty shakes.
It feels like home to me up there.
Molly lives in Wolcott, Vermont but I never see her. So if I had to fly to New York to spend some quality time with her, it was well worth it. We recounted high school tales and it made my heart so glad when she introduced me to New Yorkers (who all LOVE her to pieces) as "my best friend from high school." Awwwww.
Remember that time she pulled that knife on me in French class and I was the one who got in trouble!? Seriously, I loved hanging out with her. I was the uptight straight A nerd and she was the wild comedian class clown.
We were an Odd Couple for sure. We spent hours drawing together and day dreaming about our futures which could not have been more different.
She is a VTer who lives in a house her fathers built (they are not a gay couple, she just happens to have two of em!), has been married for 12 years and has two kids. They raise cows, pigs and live off the grid. For 8 years they used an out house. Molly is no nonsense and is one of the funniest people I know.
Molly's dad runs a Christmas tree business with about 13 spots in NYC. She has been spending her Decembers selling trees on the same street corner for 14 years and everyone knows her. Even the Dean of Columbia University bought a tree from her!
Because Molly is so friendly and funny, people love to stop and talk to her, even if they are not buying a Christmas tree. She has become a permanent fixture of this ever-changing neighborhood that used to be my hood.
A sweet older lady promised her another batch of her annual rum balls. Her cat's name, "Ditto."
Another lady came by to say how glad it made her to see Molly there. Her sisters had died and Molly was a familiar and endearing sight even if her lonely life did not involve a tree.
Chauncy, the neighborhood GO To Guy for Junk (radios, books, jump ropes), came by every hour or so to check out the scene.
A family with 10 foot ceilings who have been buying massive trees from Molly for years made their annual family trek to pick out the biggest and the bestest tree.
Nathan DeLeon, a famous Upper West Side doorman (he won The Building Workers of the Year Award for 30 years of service) picked up a tree for the lobby.
An actor came by to do VT accents with Molly, swap stories about their kids and compare stew recipes.
Some people call her "The Tree Lady" but most call her by name. She's seen their kids grow up and this year one of her kids made the trip to Manhattan to see what mommy and daddy do every December.
It is a grueling job and Molly works all day long, every day for one month - sawing, netting, hauling, chatting and sweeping. But she can't stop because she would miss her little slice of sidewalk and all her friends whose lives she has become a part of.
If you are in New York, go visit Molly at 110th and Broadway. Even if you aren't in the market for a tree, she will share a good laugh with you, entertain you and make you feel like a million bucks. And buy her a cup of coffee or some hot tea cause it is cold out there.
I would also like to point out that Molly is NOT a shapeless sack as these photos may suggest. She is wearing layers upon layers of warm clothing which were not able to keep her dry thanks to the soaking wet trees.
It is like an endurance test. One month of heavy lifting and cold sidewalk standing. I did it for one day and felt like a tree had run me over.
I wish I coulda stayed longer. Maybe next year I will be her minion and do as the Tree Lady tells me.