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Monday, December 29, 2003  

Light it Up

Driving home from Christmas at my parents' house, Trash turned to me and said, "Are you tired?"

"Too tired to reenact that scene in The Chase when Kristy Swanson crawls on top of Charlie Sheen in the driver's seat at eighty-five miles per hour, if that's what you mean."

It wasn't. Good thing I didn't say that out loud.

What she meant was that she wanted to drive around and see some Christmas lights. I was up for it, but it was almost eleven p.m., I had to "work" the next day, and I didn't want to spend two hours repeating the holiday-light-quest experience of my neighbor Mr. Lileks. Fortunately I knew exactly where to go.

The previous weekend, when Chao and the Disqueen were in town, I'd driven the latter to Chao's gig. It was in the basement of a Mexican restaurant in Inver Grove Heights, a southeastern exurb that's more than halfway to Hastings. We'd just taken our exit when we spotted the beams of one of those four-way searchlights a couple of miles ahead. That must be the place, we thought. Nice of them to make it easy to find.

The place was in fact several blocks past the searchlights, but that's neither here nor there. After I'd dropped her off at the venue and said my goodbyes, I went to see what the searchlights were all about. So that's how I knew where to take Trash on Christmas night.

It was about a twenty-minute detour, using a couple of roads I'd never been on, without bothering to pull out the map, but we found it with little difficulty. We exited Highway 55 at Concorde Road and headed north. There were no searchlights ahead, which worried me a bit. What if we'd missed it? What if all the lights had been turned off at 10:30? What if that golden nimbus being reflected against the underside of the cloud cover was coming from something else?

Then we got to where I vaguely remembered the turnoff being, and my doubts were quickly extinguished. Nothing else was, that's for damn sure. Several blocks of this residential neighborhood were still lit up like the Griswolds'. We agreed that it had been worth the detour, even before we got a gander at the giant Santa Claus in someone's front yard.

You're thinking, "Oh, big Santa. So what." I haven't yet illustrated how big this Santa is. It's three stories tall. It's bigger than the house it stands in front of. It wouldn't be out of place in front of a used-car dealership. Steve Fossett could fill the thing with helium and fly around the world. If Godzilla came ashore here, he'd spot this beast and turn right back around, having abruptly decided to be good for goodness sake. And yet it says something about the quality of lights on the other houses in the neighborhood—or at least the quantity—that the thing wasn't even visible a block away amid the riot of decoration.

Every house on every street radiating from this landmark was festooned with decorative illumination. A few houses had thrown the switch for the night, but we could still see the life-sized nativity scenes and vaudeville-hook-sized candy canes skewered into their yards. But the most jaw-dropping concentration was in the cul-de-sac temporarily designated as "Santa Lane." Coasting slowly through this artificial daylight amidst other carloads of holiday rubberneckers, we felt our hair beginning to stand on end from all the electrical current flowing around us. It felt like standing under a high-tension power line, and our eyes were giving us a reasonable simulation of what we'd see if we bit into one. There were illuminated garlands, trains, reindeer, polar bears, elves, and Baby Jesi everywhere one looked. There was a Santa effigy behind the wheel of an actual RV. There was a board listing sponsors, and a Fotomat-sized booth that was set up to take food donations.

Trash thought this was a great place to get ideas. Which it was. Just not practical ones. I mean, I suppose I could custom-build a slipcover out of grid lights that would fit over our entire house, but that doesn't necessarily mean I'm going to.

After taking in the sights of a neighborhood that made the Vegas strip seem tasteful and restrained by comparison, we headed home. The first time I put lights on our house was the year we moved in, ten Christmases ago. Ours was the only house that was lit up. It still has the most lights, but it's far from the only one. A dozen other houses on the block have at least something glowing on their property, which is a dozen more than there were eleven years ago. I'm quietly dragging the block along, and we're making progress. Who knows what it’ll look like in a few more years?

Someone else is going to have to find room for the three-story Santa, though. Our yard isn't big enough.

Today's best search phrase: "What is the flat black growth on my cat's ear." As is commonly known, most cats are secret agents. Yours has foolishly allowed his microdot to be seen, which means he's been compromised. Proceed immediately to the nearest embassy or consulate, request asylum, and ask them to notify the State Department of your predicament. A new cat will be issued to you within the hour.

posted by M. Giant 12:07 PM 1 comments



By Anonymous Anonymous, at March 25, 2009 at 10:50 PM  

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