Either way, a temporary mystery has turned into the Haight-Ashbury’s very own Christmas story.
Last weekend, a renegade Christmas tree popped up at the world-famous corner of Haight and Ashbury streets. Complete with working lights, ornaments and a few stockings strung between the tree and a nearby utility pole, the full-size fir brought a dose of holiday cheer to street people and others in the Upper Haight.
That is, until the whole setup was taken away by a Department of Public Works cleaning crew Wednesday.
While some wondered where to pin the blame for both putting up the rule-breaking Yule symbol and ordering its demise, the removal evoked thoughts of the Grinch.
The neighborhood is known for “guerilla gardening” — like the plantings that serve as ersatz shrines for the likes of Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix — and Christmas trees have appeared at the famous corner in the past.
But they have always been in front of the Ben and Jerry’s ice cream shop.
This year, the tree popped up across the street, in front of the T-shirt shop and the much-photographed Haight-Ashbury street sign, courtesy of an elderly, tie-dye-wearing neighborhood denizen known as “Fast Eddie” — or possibly “Flying Eddie.”
The tree — which sourced electricity for the lights from the legitimate lights strung from the famous white colonial home at the corner — drew a lot of attention to an already crowded sidewalk.
That influx led white-bearded property owner Norm Larson to call in the cleaning crew, said Christin Evans, the owner and proprietor of Booksmith, speaking on Larson’s behalf.
A Scrooge move? Maybe not.
“He was trying to do the right thing,” Evans said.
And Larson is hardly a humbug: the “hippie house” at 557 Ashbury St. will go to The City after he’s gone.
Fast Eddie was not around Thursday, but it seems he was given notice about the tree removal.
“We told him he should move it,” a clerk at the T-shirt shop said.
Correction: This story was updated Dec. 20 to correct the spelling of Janis Joplin's name.