I have lived in New York for many years, but for the last three or so, I have spent a month in New York and a month in Las Vegas, back and forth, back and forth. I never do the touristy things in either city, but this past week I was a tourist in New York.
For some strange reason I wanted to see the tree at Rockefellar Center with it's thousands of lights and ice skaters underneath. So, I hopped on a train to 47th and 6th, and got off at Radio City. I walked up the steps and there it was, as large as can be imagined, this humongous tree in the center of the plaza, six stories high with tens of thousands of lights, and I thought, "how nice, it's a tree!"
Jaded New Yorker am I.
But, there was another tree on my agenda. I left and walked west along 46th Street over toward Broadway. When I got to Seventh Avenue, there it was, the other Christmas Tree, a rather scraggly one at that. Oh, not that scraggly, just not like the one in Rockefellar Center. Just an ordinary Christmas Tree, maybe eight to ten feet tall, the kind you would cut down and put in your living room and trim.
This is the Broadway Christmas Tree!
It don't look like much from the corner of Seventh. But, cross the street, and you will be on a little island called Duffy Square which is where the 1/2 price Tickets booth is for Broadway shows.
Walk up to the tree. It's decorated very nice and is quite pretty. Notice there are no ornaments, just red ribbons folded around themselves all over the tree and the environs. On the ribbons are neatly scripted names. Maybe a hundred, or so. Names of actors, writers, directors, stagehands, dancers or anyone that had anything to do with Broadway.
Soon, you realize that all these people are dead. AIDS!
You look at this tree, and time stands still for just a moment, for you are from Iowa or Kentucky or maybe Brooklyn, or somewhere else in this great land we call America, and you know the tree is dedicated to Broadway folk whose lives have been cut short.
You stand there as the riverwind rips across your face and you stare. And the most amazing thing happens. The tree gets bigger and taller and more names appear. Out of nowhere your imagination hears the strains of The Nutcracker. It becomes the largest tree you have ever seen in your life. It is filled with ribbons of names, names that you recognize, cousin Ernie, his friend Billy, or sister Marsha. The Tree rises above the skyscrapers to fill the need for more names, names from the quilt, thousands, tens of thousands; its' limbs now reaching the heavens!
All gone, all perished in this disease we call AIDS.
When you snap to your senses, and realize that it is almost curtain time and you have to get to the theatre, you rush across Broadway. But, when you get safely across to 46th Street, turn. Take one more look.
Isn't that scraggly little tree the most beautiful Christmas Tree you have ever seen in your life?
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