New Year’s Eve

Sketch by Jerry King.

A number of years ago, I met a beautiful red-headed university professor. We went out to a favorite Mexican restaurant for chicken enchiladas, seated at a tiled outdoor patio under resplendent Modesto ash trees (Fraxinus velutina). We took majestic hikes in my favorite state park, Calaveras Big Trees State Park, in Calaveras County, California, which has many magnificent and impressive giant sequoia trees (Sequoiadendron giganteum).

And, after several of these wondrous outings, she invited me over to her ranch house in the countryside. When I stepped over the threshold into her living room, I looked up and gazed upon a good-sized disco ball hanging from the center of the ceiling. I asked her if it was there for some special occasion, and she told me it hung in that very position year-round. A few months later, on Halloween, we decided to have an impromptu dance party under the whirling, twirling, mirrored disco ball. I was able to spin some favorite records on my Fisher turntable and play Drew’s Famous Halloween House Party CD, which includes the hit song “Knock On Wood” (Superstitious Mix), while costumed as one of the Ax Men. Thanksgiving came along and then Christmas, with a beautifully tinseled and ornamented Douglas fir tree (Pseudotsuga menziesil). New Year’s Eve was fast approaching.

My now-girlfriend demonstrated that she wanted to host a New Year’s Eve disco dance party, and I didn’t hesitate in thinking that I would remove the disco ball from the living room and tie it to a lowering line, body thrust up to a rough-barked branch of a Siberian elm (Ulmus pumila) and run said line through a nice wide crotch next to the driveway. I had the brilliant idea of having a ball drop that was nothing short of the famous one in New York City.

I was deejaying music, playing the songs “New York, New York” and “Auld Lang Syne.” She was doing the lowering of the ball, several minutes before the bewitching hour of midnight, when the rope slipped through her grasp and the ball exploded on the gravel driveway.

The following year, after purchasing a second ball at a princely sum, I put a wrap on the rope to provide friction and enhance her lowering capabilities, and provided her with a pair of Stihl heavy-duty, leather work gloves. This time the professor was able to lower the ball to the ground at the precise moment of midnight, but … while doing so, she also was in the act of imitating Rockettes’ kicks to “New York, New York” when she tripped over the Blue Ox, 12-strand climbing line and took a nasty spill.

For New Year’s in 2019, she did everything splendidly, and was enjoying herself so much that she forgot to pour the Dom Perignon champagne. This coming New Year’s (Editor’s note: This article was written in December 2020), because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are not inviting dear friends over but have devised an alternate plan. We have joined a tennis club, and tennis night falls on New Year’s Eve. I have already espied a stout, mottle-barked limb of a California sycamore (Platanus racemosa) adjacent to the courts we play on. We are going to “Celebrate Good Times” with a grand ball drop right down onto those courts.

Trees are some of the most awesome, awe-inspiring specimens on earth, and I am one of the lucky ones who can climb them for a very rewarding and satisfying living, as well as to facilitate creative fun. Happy New Year to everyone!

Steve Lambert is an ISA Certified Arborist and owner of All Around Tree Care in Davis, California.

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