Sunday, December 24, 2006

Saving Christmas Past

So, in my own view, decorating the outside of your house with Christmas lights comes in four distinct varities. First, there is the elegant look: little white lights, green garlands, red bows, single bulbs in windows. This is fine, although when a town or village does nothing but this, (and I do have a particular NY upstate village in mind here), it makes me think that they think they are just a little too precious. Second, there is the artsy, funky look, such as when someone puts out nothing but little lights of one color. A house I fondly remember from my childhood in Needham, Mass had little blue lights strung along every, and I do remember it as every, line of the house. The effect was very cool. You couldn't quite see the house, just the outline of it. Third, you can always go with a vintage, nostalgic look. I'll say more about that in a minute. Of course, what we really want out there in the vast world of Christmas lights, is a nice mix of these three styles, so that when you walk your dog late at night, you can appreciate the unending variety of human artistic ambitions. Last, there is the ugly. I'm not going to catalog all the many ways in which Christmas lights can go wrong, or, well, I'd get myself worked up into a snit. But I think you know what I have in mind. The little white lights that come as a net and everyone, or at least nearly everyone where I live, just lays across the top of their carefully manicured yews. Or the house that is just overdone, but with no particular theme or idea in mind. (Good things my next-door neighbors don't have a computer, or I'd have to shut up now.). Don't get me wrong, I'm all for over-the-top Christmas lights, and I aspire to have that kind of house one day. But just going back to Walmart to get another blinking or moving or huge Christmas thing because it turns out that there is another square foot between the trash cans and the birdbath (and the garage roof is already full) is not exactly what I have in mind. The newest things in the ugly category, though, are those huge, inflatable figures and such. What the hell? Okay, I feel a snit coming on, so I better move on.
My preference is for the big, colored bulbs of my childhood. Like these:
They look very retro and cool, especially when you've got a lot of them. I've decided that this is going to be the Christmas lights look for me. So, here's the thing: they can be hard to find. When I do find them cheap at thrift stores, they often don't work. I could buy them new, but I want so many of them that I'm going to have to rent a cherry picker to put them up. It turns out, though that the more recently produced ones have little fuses in their plugs, which get blown, which is why they don't work and they end up at thrift stores. The fuses look like this:Now, I could replace the fuses, but then they would just blow again (and I do intend to have the kind, or should I say quantity, of lights that would blow a fuse). So, I realized that I could just replace the plugs, like this:So, for four dollars each (the strings cost me $2 at my local Salvation Army and the new plugs cost $2 at Home Depot), I've got three new strings of old-fashioned lights.
Safety first? I say Christmas first! Anyway, for those of you who do worry about this kind of thing, my lights get plugged into GFI outdoor outlets, so the fuses are redundant anyway. I know today is Christmas Eve, so I'm getting a little ahead of myself, but I'm already excited about next year's lights!

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