David is an excellent communicator, both speaking and listening. When one tells him a story, his body language assures the speaker that he's tuned in. I'd worked for him a short while and we were getting to know one another, telling about our lives and the people in them. I'd apparently spoken compellingly about someone important to me, because David said, "I'd love to eavesdrop on some of your conversations with him." Remembering a few choice, rude confabulations and some bawdy or politically incorrect gabfests between us, I blushed crimson. When my face regained its usual color, I managed to squeak out, "Why's that, David?" To my surprise, he replied, "Oh, not for any bad reason. I just think it would be like watching a good movie. All that brain power between you two. The conversations must be cerebral." Ha!
Fast forward a couple of years: I write a blog now and I'd posted a piece telling about a trip to the desert. I included some words from our conversations and one of my followers commented that she loved to listen to talk between us - it felt "comfortable" to her. She said she felt our relationship must be comfortable. I replied that comfort is one of the things in the relationship and I pondered on the likelihood of two people saying they were drawn to hear us talk to each other. There is no denying that we've had some earth moving conversations, solved the world's problems over and over again across the years, verbally expressed love, anger, pain and joy. During our first face-to-face discussion, we talked about the assassination of Martin Luther King, which had happened days before. In our last face-to-face, we rehashed the delights of the desert at solstice. While one or two of our tete-a-tetes may have been movie-worthy, mostly we talk about how we'll jump the chainlink fence and gate blocking us from our walking path or how best to hike the circumference of the dunes or how many miles we want to put on ourselves in an afternoon.
Just a couple of things to add and then I shall have set the table for my end-of-the-holidays tale. The man is Scrooge-like. He loves solstice. He is not known to tolerate any form of nonsense, and he detects nonsense quickly. Despite that he's up for most any adventure I propose, even if it takes him out of his way. And I've proposed some adventures.
For three holiday seasons, I have had cause to observe a remarkable display of Christmas Nazi-ism. Remember who's writing this. I know it when I see it. I have observed how this act has grown and developed, bigger and better each December that rolls around. In the past two years, I've stopped my car (more like crashed it into the curb from shock) more than once to try to photograph this flaming exposition of Yuletide glitz. I have failed. I lack the camera equipment and the know-how to capture even the visual part of this attack on the senses. I determined that this year, I'd take a photographer.
I began to watch the house in mid-October. It takes three sheds in the side yard to hold all of the stuff now. I watched the man set things up day-by-day. The ferris wheel that first appeared last year now actually turns and there are a lot more stuffed animals riding on it. The electric train set appears to have about twice as many cars and one can see gray wisps coming out of the smokestack. Santa, carried by his eight tiny reindeer, makes a much smoother descent from the roof to the tree now. I can see that system has been improved over the years. Once daylight savings time ended, I could see the light display taking form. Not a shrub was left uncovered, no wrought iron fence post unadorned. Plastic carolers and snowmen appeared, wreaths and bows of every size and description . . . we were approaching showtime!
"Would it be OK if I took you and your camera for a 4 1/2 mile ride so you could take a picture of some Christmas lights for my blog?" "Sure! What's special about it?" I said that it was a little over-the-top and I planned a series of posts about holiday excess that would be well illustrated by a shot or two of this place. It was agreed and we selected the day we'd go.
We left my place too early. We pulled up to the house in earliest dusk. No lights were on yet, but he's not blind. He could see what he'd been commissioned to photograph. His jaw dropped into his lap and he gave me a look. And then started some nice conversation. "WTF?!?!?" I allowed as how it was pretty remarkable and it was going to get better when the lights and sounds began. " He started to go off in every direction - the light pollution for the neighboring houses, the cost of the electricity, the noise pollution for the neighbors, the time and money spent putting it together, the drawing of so much traffic to the neighborhood, as this would pull people as surely as the star led the shepherds to Bethlehem. The man who tolerates no nonsense was building up quite a head of steam. "#%*@&!" What in the . . . . #&*(%^*!" I snickered quietly. We spotted the homeowner in the yard, sweeping the driveway and adjusting individual lightbulbs. He seems to know exactly how each one of them should be positioned. He puffed at a cigarette, hitched his jeans up under his armpits and fiddled with his obsession.
He rolled the car onward and I sputtered, "What are you doing?" He said we'd circle the block awhile waiting for the lights to come on. We did that for awhile, as he muttered and exclaimed. Every time we passed the house, we noted the man was still outside fussing before the curtain rose on the night's presentation. Finally, I said, "Park the car and let me out. I'll ask him to turn it on. People who do this are show-offs. He'll be flattered and he'll turn them on." But he protested repeatedly and continued to circle the block. "I can't get out and set up, Les. He'll want to talk and I'll go off on him. I can't make eye contact with him. I'll get us into a whoop-dee-doo." We circled some more and finally, disappointed, even I had to agree we'd spent too much time at it. "I'll stop one night after work for you. I'll get your pictures."
During the last week before his winter break, he e-mailed to say he planned to stop that very night and get the pictures. We flipped e-mails back and forth as we are accustomed to doing, me advising him to carry a barf bag and to call me for bail if he started a dust-up at the place. Soon enough came the e-mail from his BlackBerry, "I got them! I think they're pretty good." No more words than that. I was surprised he said so little. For I have stood before that house in the dark, lights flashing to music, animated objects moving like synchronized swimmers, canned sound of children (stuffed animals) laughing as they ride the ferris wheel, my hair rustling in the breeze as Santa swoops down from the rooftop. It is an assault on nearly all of one's senses. I e-mailed to ask whether he'd felt the need to retch into the gutter. "Just a little. I wanted to watch out for the camera."
I do wonder what Mr. Christmas Nazi is avoiding. For it takes one to know one, and all the signs are there. I mainly agree with the Badger about the impact upon the neighbors. I wish (and maybe he does this) he'd throw the same amount of money toward feeding hungry people or giving gifts to children. The amount of power he uses would light a casino for a month and I struggle with that. But I must say I understand the man. Home dude must be just a little tightly wound.
In my ears right now: Fine Young Cannibals - She Drives Me Crazy. I enjoy a body of musical work that doesn't quite fit my era. You see, I had a colicky baby in the MTV, VH1 years.
Something that charmed me: I like goony road signs. I usually have something smart to say back to one that affronts me.
"What the heezy, that's what I came here to do?!?"
Photo credits for A Nazi Christmas: J. D. Morehouse