Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Wars

Three or four houses down and across the street from me lives a wealthy fellow in a very large home on a quarter acre of land. I’ve never met him, but my mailman tells me he is Arabic and involved in marketing cell phones. Every three or four months, an 18-wheeler semi delivers a new car, sometimes a Lamborghini, other times an Aston Martin; also a Smart Car, a Mercedes and a Landrover. I have never actually seen my neighbor, though I did knock on his door once out of sheer curiosity.

Throughout the year, a battalion of workmen toil on the house and land. A line of 30-foot spruces has been planted, and a gate erected either to keep the expensive cars in or other people out. The house has been painted twice in four years, and the driveway repaved with hexagonal tiles that I imagine must be very slippery when it rains.

Two weeks ago, this neighbor decided to beautify the neighborhood by illuminating his land and home with, oh, maybe a zillion blinking, flashing, blinding multi-colored lights, eight-foot candy canes, giant (and I would think empty) refrigerator-sized gift boxes wrapped in tinsel and bows, and a full complement of colored elves. The latter line the driveway and appear to be quarrelling over the candy canes, but I can’t be sure of that.  The effect is that of a Wal-Mart on ecstasy and I believe the display has caused a road accident or two in the past week.

Two doors to my left, meanwhile, a new neighbor has also planted candy canes though these are more modest and aligned in a fashion remindful of a graveyard. In and of itself, that’s OK, but the effect is all the more macabre because of an inflatable Santa that has sprung a leak. Erect and proud in the evening, the bearded Saint Nick is a spread-eagled red and white corpse by morning. I don’t know if this is intended. In Northern Virginia, some people have very strange senses of humor. Not good, strange.

A few blocks from me in a different but adjoining neighborhood, a Christmas display skirmish has been raging for more than two decades. One family lives in a post-Korean War house of the type built by the thousands in Virginia for returning veterans. In the front yard is a permanent 15-foot tall Statue of Liberty festooned with flags. At Christmas, the statue is joined by a helicopter-riding Santa, Snow White and eight (I’ve counted them) dwarves, Bambi, what I think may be the Keebler  elves, the three little pigs, and an inflatable Redskin football player. The mélange is draped with lights that emanate enough heat to melt the surrounding snow.

Next door to this is a veritable museum of woodworking wonders. I have no doubts whoever lives there has several scroll-saws buzzing year round. The yard features wind mills of assorted sizes, derricks, wishing wells, two small Japanese bridges spanning nothing, a kissing Dutch boy and girl who move with the breeze, three weather vanes, a life-size crèche and a 1975 Volkswagen Beetle painted in a Stars-and-Stripes motif. At Christmas, decorative lights are spread like kudzu over the entire front yard for that undulating look that may make some folks seasick.

Is this a great country, or what?    

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