My four-part Christmas Gull Tree

By David Grima | Dec 05, 2013

In the Goodwill store the other day I saw a true Rockland Goth shopping with her mother.

She was somewhat a youngish teenager, inasmuch as her age could be estimated at all. Her skin was a pale shade tinged with a modest mortuary green, and everything she wore was black, including a teeny little hat attached by some sort of veil to the very top of her head. Her eyes were very dark, shadowed and lined, and her lips a dark color. She did not smile at all. Glorious. Any boy who tried to dress like that in public that would be dropped in the ocean, more’s the pity. We allow females to be theatrical in ways that nobody would tolerate in males.

Speaking of theatrical observations in local stores, a senior officer in my brigade of spies reports a recent encounter with two people tied together with a leather strap, one of them wearing a hat with ears sewn on. This apparition was seen in Hello Hello Books, which is quite a remarkable name for a bookstore don’t you think?

You know, if I did not write these occasional notes about the way some people look, their presence would probably go quite unrecorded, and our descendants in Rockland in years to come would think they were the first to dress like that. We must remind them of our originality. Let them invent their own.

* * * * *

Well, Advent is upon us, the first Sunday of it already done and gone. The good people of St. Bildad’s by the Sea lit their first candle in their Advent wreath at the first service on Sunday morning, and then presumably put it out again so the people at the second service could light it later and tell themselves they were first.

Downtown, the annual lobster trap tree was put up the Friday before Thanksgiving, and if I am not entirely mistaken there is an addition to it this year of actual Christmas tree boughs. I spoke on Thanksgiving Day to a gentleman who had been corralled into some kind of outdoors street patrol in honor of the season the next day. It was a freezing day, and he knew it would be. On Saturday after dark, to make way for more frozen festivities they closed off Main Street with flashing police car lights, which I suppose chimes neatly with the Festival of Lights theme. Yet I passed by the lobster tree on Monday evening and was surprised to find it unlit. My impression of recent years is that once it is lit up at night the lobster tree stays lit up at night, just like a town drunk.

By the way, I adapted that last joke from a remark someone once made about Dean Martin. Probably it was said by Sammy Davis Jr. or someone like that, and I heard once that Dean Martin was never as squiffy as he pretended to be. It was mostly an act. Likewise, the truth is that my dear friend Unhelpful O’Meara of the Bangor Daily News isn’t half as bad as I pretend he is. He’s almost quite ordinary except for a certain few things which will remain unreported for now. One must always keep some information in reserve, just in case he gets pushy and needs to be blackmailed.

* * * * *

Half way through already, and I haven’t even begun to mention the whole point of this week’s nonsense. It involves my own efforts to commemorate the season, and features those foul-feathered fiends known as the Four Seagulls of the Apocalypse, which live with me in a strangely uncomfortable manner up here on top of the south concrete tower at the foot of Mechanic Street.

You see, I am a devotee of Christmas trees and simply must have one. There is nothing at all Christian about Christmas trees, other than the name. More pagan than anything else I suppose, which applies to most of the nonsense we embrace this time of year. But I do love ‘em. Once upon a time when I was still able to get into my sunken house on Linden Street I somehow forgot to get a tree, and was forced in desperation to wind the little electric lights around the cold black chimney of my unlit woodstove, and then hang the ornaments and tinsel on the lights and hope for the best. The two boys were deeply unimpressed, and told me so in great detail. I had nothing to say in my defense, and knew I had failed in the role of Christmas dad. (I think I mentioned the general idea last week, and have not stopped getting postcards and letters from readers who all agree.)

This year I have managed to pull off quite a tree-like spectacle up here on the top of the towers. By introducing certain commonly available substances into their water supply, I have found a way to persuade the Four Seagulls to stand still in a column on each other’s shoulders, or at least where their shoulders would be if they had them properly. By patience and perseverance I have trained them to spread their wings open at measured intervals, the gull on the bottom opening his feathers furthest, and so on up where the top gull just sticks out a feather or two and we call it good. It takes only a minute to wind the tree lights around the birds and plug the cord into the power supply I have stolen from the shipyard next door. As with Dean Martin, it was the simplest thing in the world to light them up.

They look so beautiful standing there, my four-part Christmas Gull Tree, shining forth from the towers over the darkened waters of Rockland Harbor and warming the hearts of mariners as far away as Vinalhaven. So far the record is seven minutes before they regain their senses and fly away in the dark in disgust.

David Grima is a former editor with Courier Publications. Now you know why. If necessary he can be reached at

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