You’d think covering a couple of D.C. wonks as they picked out the official White House Christmas tree would be a pretty cushy gig. You’d be wrong. First, there’s the matter of location. See I got some pretty firs in my backyard, but to find the kind of trees the First Lady digs, ya gotta head uphill. Which is exactly what I did early this very morn, stealing away like a televised spy as unread newspapers slept in neighbors’ driveways. It was pitch black for much of the way. Keeping me company were Two Guys Named Chris, doling out the portion of their show I usually sleep through. I laughed out loud a few times, but otherwise conjured operas in my moonlit cockpit as the road ahead sloped ever upward. By the time dawn did break, I was chugging along the Blue Ridge Parkway, trying not to veer off a cliff as I took in one splendiferous vista after another. Okay, so the trip up wasn’t so bad.
Conditions deteriorated upon impact. See, I’m not the only joker paid to poke a lens into happenstance and pageantry. When I pulled into Mistletoe Meadows, three highly lacquered SUV’s already sat in the gravel parking lot, their corporate mascots taunting the latest logo to arrive. ‘Perhaps I poked around the parkway for too long‘, I thought as I counted the cameras in the crowd. Conventional camera crews, tall loners with the littlest of lenses, one dude with an ancient Polaroid hanging around his neck … the ‘slingers mingled and the scribblers kibitzed with the local folk who’d turned out for the auspicious tree pickin’. Meanwhile, I stood to the side and eyed a 20 foot victim in the distance. It’s soon to be significance might make for an easy way to end the newscast, but there’d be nothing simple about the acquisition of said footage. ‘Not with this crowd‘, I thought as a blue rent-a-car pulled up. ‘It’ll be combat.’
I’d hoped to pin a wireless microphone on the White House’s chief usher, but the former Admiral who now holds that post wasn’t having it. Instead, he popped out of the blue rental, dropped a few unheard soundbites and waved his entourage down the path toward one mother of a Fraser Fir. I fell in around them, as did every other cameraman on the property. To a (wo)man, we spun and parried, tweaking our focus before running ahead and backpedaling ahead of the moving retinue. And dance steps, they’re frightfully unrehearsed, but the impromptu pirouettes of a shooter in the groove is a dazzling thing to behold. At least from where I sit, which incidentally is usually right in front of the best seat in the house. But I digress - where was I? Oh yeah, about to eat a competitor’s elbow were it not for my ninja-like skills. Equally lethal: WXII’s William Bottomley, who’s constipated poker face may very well be my shot of the day.
But alas, I only get paid for the pictures that move. So I stashed my snapshot camera and focused on the annexation at hand. The Chief Usher conferred with his crew and cast his Naval gaze skyward. At 24 years old, the massive tree had the look and the pedigree. More importantly, it just would fit through the doors to the White House’s Blue Room, a quality which prompted the ex-Admiral to proclaim the Great American Christmas tree officially over. Upon hearing this news, the locals clapped, sunlight broke over the valley and white doves ascended into heaven. I meanwhile lined up my shots, pushed past a genuflecting tree groupie and body-checked one irritating producer chick into a nearby Pine. Hey, we all got a job to do, but if you’re gonna take up my frame with your clipboard and tape recorder, pick a prettier shirt or get thee behind me - you’re polluting my view! But again, there’s no need for me to shout, for I just wanted you to know that no matter how serene the greenery may appear on your set, procuring the news is rarely so placid. Now get outta my shot!