Peak 2020: Rockefeller Center's Mangy Tree and Foundling Owl Are Doing Better, Thanks

 Rockefeller's sad tree on arrival. Twitter photos

In a massive metaphor overload for even these calamitous times, New York's iconic Rockfeller Center Christmas tree for 2020 arrived looking like America feels - haggard, scruffy, raggedy-ass and altogether what social media sages, devoutly wishing  #let2020end, deemed "worthy of this year of interminable hell." The 75-foot, almost 80-year-old Norway Spruce was trucked almost 200 miles from Oneonta, N.Y., looking, when unloaded in all its threadbare, crooked glory, "like it's been through some stuff." “Could the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree look any worse? 2020 on brand," went the trash-talking consensus. For many, its tatty state conjured up Charlie Brown, as in: "Charlie Brown: "I have the saddest Christmas tree.' Rockefeller Center: 'Hold my beer.'" People griped it looked as dishevelled as everyone else in lockdown, or that it had given itself another lousy pandemic haircut, or that, with the White House receiving their tree, #melaniahateschristmas "should have gotten the fucking Rockefeller tree." But the tree, in its own blog, fought back, telling a worn-out populace not to take out its 2020 problems on a tree and get over it. “Good Lord. I just got here," it posted. "I bet you look fabulous the moment you get up from the middle seat on a long Spirit Airlines flight. Rude." It urged skeptics to "give me a minute to spruce up," adding, “In total New York fashion, I’ll be having some work done. Just wait until I get my lights on."

The tree story got more complicated when workers found a tiny male Saw-whet owl ensconced in its branches. The owl, promptly named Rockefeller, or Rocky to thousands of fans, was hungry and dehydrated, but otherwise healthy. He/she was taken to the Ravensbeard Wildlife Center in the Hudson Valley to rest and eat. For many, Rocky was "a wake-up call" to our environmental crimes, a way to turn annual arboricide in the name of American exceptionalism into feel-good capitalism: "This isn't hearwarming, it's heartbreaking...You cut down an old growth tree that housed wild animals who got caught in your commercialization of a religious holiday (amidst) climate change, habitat destruction, & global deforestation... Poor little thing lost his home to fulfill an old stupid tradition. We are the virus. Are plush toys next?...I hate this world." Wildlife experts disagreed: They argued "trees are doing quite well in New York," the country's two million saw-whet owls are peripatetic and migratory, Rocky's "a little bummed his big city vacation is over" but he'll be fine, and the tree and owl making it there in a pandemic is pretty cool. A few conspiracy freaks also revealed "the OTHER findings in the tree - 3 Hunter Biden laptops, Hugo Chavez's fake death certificate, the fly from Pence's head." On Tuesday, workers had in fact rendered the tree full and shining, and Ravensbeard announced Rocky was released into the wild near home: "We have found just the right quiet cluster of conifers to give her the safety she needs." Rocky chimed in: "Thanks for sending me on my way. I'll always remember you and NYC." Also, "I forgive you for telling everyone I was a dude." Given 2020, on a dark day of thanks, not bad.

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