Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Olaf's Memorial Blog

Lassie lays at my feet, shit drying on the porch. My cat is bloated from eating dog food and I am leaving again. And again.

My son was over tonight for dinner. I called him because apparently the mayor of my small town was complaining that my Christmas lights are still up. It has long been my custom to take all the glitter down the day after, return things to normal. But this year I was gone and didn't get to enjoy the lights like usual. My son put them up, spliced them to fit just so around the small front windows. Sparkly, multi-colored mini-lights. Walking up the front steps was like walking in heaven, or Las Vegas. I've never been to either place. The mayor never showed up to register a formal complaint -- he's the ex-mayor anyway. Has no clout at all. It's my house anyway, and nobody can tell me to take the lights down. Guy drove by, my neighbor, a biker who manufactures miniature Harley Davidsons and other bike related gear. He has a line of primary covers that say clever things like: "fuck you", and "ride hard die fast." You know, fun stuff. I was walking across the street to check my mail and he drives by, yells: "Take 'em down!!" To my credit, and continued good neighborhood standing, I didn't flip him off. Jesus.

For the past seven years I've lived two doors down from the Olssen's, who make the Lampoon Christmas lights look elegant. Sedate. Mr. Olssen, we'll call him Olaf, started every July with red, white and blue lights, and from there, worked his way to Christmas. A little orange and yellow for Halloween, you get the picture. By the day after Thanksgiving, his doublewide, maize-gold trailer was layered with lights of every kind. Olaf had become the stuff of local legend, local news stations out front from the 20th of December on... Toward the end, Olaf had taken to plywood cutouts: a herd of cows situated to resemble reindeer, named accordingly... moodolph, etc. A huge mirror laying in the front yard to imitate a frozen pond with plywood iceskaters. He had a pretty good nativity scene out back, but what I liked the best was the Riveria. I've always like Riverias. Lowriders. This one was permanently parked behind the trailer, but Olaf was not a man to ignore the back of the place. The Rivvy was strung with blue lights, and the tires (flat) were laced with tiny white lights that made them appear to be turning. Olaf even dressed up as Santa, and for a small nominal fee, would allow photographs with the children. His daughter, a barker of sorts, stood out front collecting donations in a Santa boot, complaining about their 600.00 December electric bill as though the lights were up by neighborhood consensus -- a shared holiday burden. From about the tenth of the month forward, I couldn't pull out of my driveway at night for the slowly passing traffic. Truly a white-trash holiday dream come true.

Two Christmases ago, what's left of my family came over for Christmas Eve because everyone else was drunk and I could be relied on to serve hot food. I had happened on a pair of paper eye glasses that were something akin to looking through a kaleidoscope. Viewed through the plastic and paper specs, each light became like a tiny star of Bethlehem. A four point star. It was really something even to me, but when my stoner nephews, and my stoner son, took the glasses over to the Ollsen's, Oh boy. What a hit. Made me wish I still took acid. Except for that time I thought I ate my fingers but they were French fries. Anyway, the bare maple tree strung with all pink lights was outstanding. Truly. I still have them.

Olaf must have died, because there were no lights this year. And maybe that's what all the energy about my Christmas lights is all about. Maybe I presented a threat as a possible future Olaf. That I would, in his honor, leave my lights up year round. Maybe the neighborhood had had enough. I don't have the heart to tell them I probably won't even be here another year.

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