The concerted uglification efforts at the Newhall Memorial Hospital campus have been far more successful than many of us thought possible. But rather than resting on their laurels, the good people at Newhall Memorial have decided to do even more to assault the eyes of hospital visitors with their dedication of a new "holiday tree." The tree is remarkable in its shortness, lop-sidedness, and utter lack of magnificence. Best of all, it's dedicated with a plaque to the Gump family, a name that has long been synonymous with the portable bathroom industry in the SCV. Some are saying this is our community's new Christmas tree, but I contend that we simply don't have a Christmas tree any longer; this piney offering is too profoundly unsatisfactory to deserve the title.
While driving by the hospital shortly after Thanksgiving, I noticed many necks of drivers on McBean arching toward the spot where the once noble Christmas tree stood, gaily lit and sparkling through Clarita's long winter nights. The tree was still there, but there were no lights, no spectacle, no holiday cheer. Days later, I saw a press release published in SCVNews marking the dedication of the new tree. My initial relief soon gave way to bitter disappointment. (Click on the link to see the photo; you'll see why.)
The traditional Newhall Memorial Christmas tree was a Deodar Cedar--they're expensive and regal and classic. The new tree is a Mondale Pine--they're cheap and utilitarian and dull. By way of analogy, if a Deodar Cedar is the Cadillac of conifers, then a Mondale Pine is the Kia. There's nothing overtly wrong with Mondale Pines if you need a tree for firewood or to plant as a windbreak in some desolate corner. These trees are from the inhospitable regions of Eurasia (they're more commonly know as "Afghan Pines"), so they excel at surviving in dry, hot conditions. And like many scrappy survivors, we applaud their tenacity more than their beauty. I could overlook the choice of tree if a heftier specimen had been purchased, but it's unspectacular in proportions. There was no lighting ceremony this year supposedly because of construction, but I think the new tree's inability to support any decent ornaments is a more likely explanation. It's a holiday tree in name only.
Since it's the holiday season, however, I'll end on a generous note. The tree is real and doesn't block any major pedestrian pathways. The same cannot be said for the garish monstrosity of a tree that was dumped squarely blocking a main path into the Newhall Library. Why is doing a Christmas tree so hard, Santa Clarita, why? If anyone had any sense, they would take a seed or cutting from one of the Big-cone Douglas Firs that grow in the canyons--our valley's only native conifer--and plant it in a spot where it can reach a dazzling height. I guess this year, though, we'll just have to get by without.