Tuesday, December 18, 2012


Every working day, on my commute to and from the time-punching machine, I pass the following sign perched atop a warehouse that towers over the sound barrier of Highway 76.

Kindy’s Christmas Factory Outlet.

I’ve been looking for a place like this.

Every tree-blogger worth their salt has to tackle the Christmas tree…but how?  Where to go?

I needed an angle.

Maybe it’s this Kindy’s.  Maybe this sign really is a sign.

I checked the Kindy’s website and it looked encouraging…fine photos of bright homes decked out in colorful patterns of blinking lights…a boy perched on his father’s shoulders planting the ornamental star on the top branch…a handsome, slim family nestled around the illuminated conifer…plus promises of real live trees, photographed in a snowy lot, each tree shining green under a light dusting of downy frost.

Kindy’s has been around since 1980…the retail outlet for the Brite Star Manufacturing Company located in South Philly…and, according to its website, it is the premier stop for all things Christmas…the Kindy’s shopping experience [is] a fun-filled family holiday tradition.

This could be the place.

Look, I’m one hardened, sarcastic scalawag of a citybilly.  I’m a rogue and I’m a rounder and, yet, around this time every year, I just say hark that. 

I yearn to be swept away by the holidays.

T’is the season and I want to feel it…the spirit, the glee, the mirth.  I want to wash away my cynicism with good, old-fashioned holiday cheer.  I know my weather and I know my Wheel so I know not to expect a white Christmas, though that would be lovely…but I want all the rest.

I want to feel part of something...to feel connected...hard to do while living in this urban grid...hard to do, at this time of year, while fighting traffic, fighting crowds, fighting lines to the registers.  

I want that warm glow in the bottom of my belly…I want to turn into a happy stooge…heedless of the wind and weather…I want peace and joy on Turtle Island…I want to deck the halls…I want to sing along. 

I want to be jolly.

And so…with a seasonal sense of optimism, under a typical sky of the Long Snow Moon…scudding trails of storm-clouds twisting inside-out, revealing their dark and rainy hearts…I traveled through the mean streets to the Kindy’s Christmas Factory Outlet.

Ho, ho, ho.

Friday, December 7, 2012


This weekend, here in Philadelphia, we partake in an old tradition…the annual Army versus Navy football game.

Here we go again.   

Since 1890, these two branches of the American military have duked it out over possession of the pigskin, fighting for yardage and first downs, charging to the red zones, punching past the goal lines, kicking it through the uprights…clashing like titans on the combat zones of a neutral football field.

The majority of these epic battles have taken place right here in Philadelphia.  In the early twentieth century, these games were hosted by the University of Pennsylvania’s Franklin Field…then it was moved to the old JFK Stadium…and now?  The Lincoln Financial Field all the way down Broad Street in South Philly.

The U.S. Military Academy of West Point versus the U.S. Naval Academy of Annapolis…the Army Black Knights versus the Navy Midshipmen…after 112 meetings on the football gridiron, the record stands in Navy’s favor…56 wins, 49 losses and 7 ties.

But who’s got the better trees?

In the competitive, collegiate spirit of this yearly contest, Jon Spruce goes a-hunting…Army vs. Navy, tree-style…which branch of the military here in Philadelphia has the greatest trees and the wildest wilds…huddle up and blow the whistle...line up and kick off…knock ‘em down but keep it clean…hike, hike...who will win this contest of the wilds…because if winning isn’t everything, why do they keep score?

Let the games begin…are you ready for some trees?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


People are always asking me: Dear Jon Spruce, what makes a good gift for a tree-hunting citybilly?

This happens every year.

Maybe you have a newborn in the family…and you want to make sure they’ll grow up with an inquisitive mind, observant eyes and hungry hands…no time to waste. 

Maybe you got a little nephew or a cousin…someone who always comes in for the Sunday dinner with dirty nails and scabby knees.

Hey, ladies, maybe you want to catch the attention of that dashing, scrappy urban rambler that keeps bumping into you around the neighborhood…or maybe, this year, your Secret Santa is that weird dude in the other cubicle who’s always cracking black walnuts in the break room.

What do they want?

What material possession could possibly thaw their cynical, frosty spirits?  What one thing has the potential to pierce and brighten their somber, restless souls?  What one gift could make a dent in their deep, bottomless hearts?

This is not an easy question and there are no easy answers.

By anybody’s standards, we are not the easiest to shop for.

By nature, we live simple, uncluttered lives and we don’t make room for knickknacks, or ornaments, or the modern bauble of devices, appliances, gizmos and doodads.

Electric toothbrushes.

The last thing you want to give a citybilly is some mass-produced trinket…something that just takes up space.

Celebrity bobble-heads.

Not that we don’t have any treasured material possessions.  A lot of times, that’s all we have. 

But these are things that weren’t bought…and can’t be given…and certainly cannot be owned…or returned.  We cherish things that are native, true and seasonal…things full of marrow, things that cut close to the heart.  We want our things to be durable, tough, sentimental and built to last.

Like the poet Gary Snyder once wrote: you don’t want nothing that can’t be left out in the rain.

Sorry but we’re picky…and we like to pick battles with inanimate objects.   

Material possessions?  We’re not supposed to pine for those things.

In fact, those are the very things that we’re trying to shed.  No adornments.  No miscellany.  We need drinks when we’re thirsty, eats when we’re hungry, a few extra potatoes for a little bit of fun and, every once in a while, an elegant, unclouded, perfect epiphany…now how you gonna fit that into a box?

But before ye lose faith during this holiday season, let me tell you that there is hope.  There are gifts out there that any citybilly worth their salt would love to receive…and so I humbly present the Jon Spruce Holiday Gift Guide…chock full of the oldest trends and the ancient fads…completely out of fashion and cluelessly out of vogue…if we didn’t have bad style, we’d have no style at all…the do’s and the don’ts of shopping for citybillies.

Researching this subject was not an easy task.  It took tremendous willpower, herculean self-sacrifice, lots of cider and hours upon hours of transcendental meditation…but I did it.

For the blog, and for you, I did it.

I went to the frigging mall.