RitualFUNNY, I hadn’t thought about this family ritual until I was driving around, running last minute errands on Christmas Eve listening to a phone-in show about L.A. dining. Someone called-in to wax poetic about Phillippe’s French Dip and their family ritual of going downtown to buy a tree and then to get a roast beef, “double dip.” It all came back in a rush: Stamping through the Christmas tree lots, fragrant, full of wood pulp right off of Alameda way past Union Station but near the train tracks. It was exciting, unknown, spooky L.A. We’d spend hours trying to find one the right shape, the correct height. We didn’t have a meal plan afterward, it was important to tie the big tree down and get it all the way back across town without episode. As styles came and went we submitted to them — big evergreen, flocking, no flocking. The one thing that we required was that it had to be taller than my Dad who stands 6-foot-3, and taller still, because he wanted to fully extend his arm to carefully place the gold star. Sometimes we overshot and Dad would have to go into the backyard with the saw take it down a inch or so while my mother made cider spiked with cinnamon red hots…Now, what corner of my brain was that all in?


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