Thursday, December 29, 2011

COLUMN: Christmas Lights

My house with my handiwork!  Well, Friend Jason helped, too!

Well, it's barely December, but I'm already trying my absolute hardest to not let the Grinch set up shop.  Every year around this time, I get jazzed up about Christmas and the prospect of harvesting some of that holiday magic that's usually only found in our childhoods and/or cheezy Christmas movies on Lifetime.  This year, though, that's gonna be one especially tough order to fill.

(Cue violins.)

The sad real truth is that this humor columnist hasn't had a whole lot to be humorous about this fall.  My girlfriend and I split after almost three years together, and it's kinda made things a little topsy-turvy in Shaneland.  Not to tug the heartstrings and play the sympathy card any more than necessary, but it's a fact that I'm typing this column in the living room of an empty house that I was pretty certain would one day be "OUR" house, and the stale pizza boxes littering my landscape are testament to just how not "our" house it is anymore.

(End violins. Promise.)

That said, I refuse to let current events dictate my level of holiday cheer.  Just because I may be hopelessly alone, despondent, and destined for a life of cat-owning solitude doesn't mean I can't be hopelessly alone while decking the halls with some jingle bells on a silent night.

Which is why I found myself the other night marching into Target with only ONE thing on my Christmas list:  lights, lights, and more lights. Apartment-dwelling Shane never had the opportunity to decorate -- the one time I tried to put up a Christmas tree, my cat threw herself at it kamikaze-style until it was Christmas mulch. But THIS year, come heck or high water, my house will look festive, even if the weirdo loner guy living inside isn't.

Just one problem:  I had NO idea what I was doing.

Step One seemed simple enough: Buy a bunch of lights. Easy, right? That was before I rounded the corner at Target into their room-o'- infinite-lights.  In all my light-buying glee, I never stopped to think about what KIND I wanted. One color or variety? LED or standard? Blinkers or solids? Little bulbs or big ones?

My initial choice was go to all red -- it's festive, understated, and looks classy without being over-the-top. But I just couldn't take my eyes off Target's display of blue lights. I think it was just three weeks ago in this column that I rambled on about how it was impossible for me to have a "favorite" color, but darn it if those blue lights weren't screaming out, "PICK ME! PICK ME!"

Then it hit me: I'm the sole decision-maker now. I like red, I like blue, so why not do both? Red lights around the pillars and blue along the handrails.  People would drive by the house and go, "Wow, what great red lights! Wow, what great blue lights! Whoever lives there must be a super cool guy and not at all some weirdo loner loser!"

The next morning, I proudly told my co-workers about my awesome independent decision-making skills. I had barely gotten to the good part before every one of my female co-workers, pretty much in unison, went, "Ewww! Noo! You can't mix red and blue Christmas lights by themselves!"

What is this mystical power that girls seem to have when it comes to matching colors? There's a complex system of rules, regulations, and timelines that govern these sorts of things, and only girls are privy to them. Guys, being born sane, generally do NOT comprehend. If colors don't make our eyes hurt and clothes feel comfy, we're wearing them -- at least, until a girl tells us not to.

"Feh," I said to myself. "What do THEY know?  This is MY independence, MY house, and MY light show."

It took a few hours of untangling, hanging, stapling, un-doing, re-hanging, and re-stapling, but I managed to get every last light up sans falling or electrocution.  All that was left was to flip the switch, walk out front, and bathe in the glory of...

...a horrible, horrible decision.  I was displaying my independence, alright.  In fact, the whole front of the house looked like Independence Day gone horribly awry. Red lights are pretty, blue lights are pretty, but put 'em together and you've got one horrible mess.  It was a grand and patriotic salute to tackiness. The red lights were totally outshined by the blue lights, which cast this sort of unhealthy pallor over the entire house and made the whole thing just look... ill.  Look, I get PAID to put things into words, and I can't even begin to describe the ugliness of this collision.

Score one for the girls and their distressingly accurate advice, I guess. I spent the rest of the night taking down blue lights, running to the store for more red, and going back to my original plan. The blue lights came inside and are ending up on my tree, where I hope their bright weird glow will make all cats flee in terror.  I now have a fully red porch and it looks faaaantastic if I do say so myself.

So fantastic, in fact, that I went ahead and left them on for the season -- two weeks before Thanksgiving.  That's right, I was THAT guy -- Mr. Premature Christmas. Mock me if you like, but it was 60 degrees when I put those lights up. Think about THAT while you can see your own breath as you're clinging to a frozen ladder for dear life this weekend.

I also discovered that it would be REALLY easy to fall into the Griswold trap.  Once I got done, I looked at my porch and went, "That looks great.  If only I had some icicle lights... and then maybe some smaller strings to go around every window... and a star for the upstairs window... and then... and then..." And THAT, my friends, is how you end up with a house that can be seen from space.

So I'm sticking to my guns and going with my understated yet festive red porch lights and little else.  Maybe, just maybe, it's the perfect amount of holiday spirit to get me living again.

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