Entries Tagged as 'christmas lights'

Till The Cows Turn Blue #16 – Freedom is Simplicity

How to plan outdoor Christmas decorations

Christmas Lights Are Dangerous and Want to Kill You – Part 3

This happens every year. No matter how many times (or how loudly) I swear that I’ll never string Christmas lights in the dark again, here I am (again) at the top of a frozen aluminum extension ladder in pitch black. My fingers are so numb that I may as well be wearing boxing gloves, and I’m trying to replace a speck of a fuse on the highest strand of lights that was working an hour ago.

You didn’t know that Christmas lights had fuses? You know the little baggy that comes attached to every strand of lights? You probably have a few hundred of them stashed in a utility drawer in your kitchen along with your rubber band collection, a Monopoly hotel or two, some Canadian change, and at least one dead battery of every conceivable size.

Inside that baggy, you’ll find a couple of replacement fuses. There’s usually two or three extra bulbs in there too, and one of them has a red tip. Beware the red tip.

In nature, red-tipped things usually mean danger. A frog with neon red spots dares you to touch it. The same goes for a baboon’s incandescent nose and ass. The Christmas light equivalent is the red-tipped replacement bulb, which means “I’m going to flash, but not right away. I’ll wait a little while to give you time to lose me in the crowd. And then we’ll all flash together.”

I pry open the little hatch where the fuses are held. Luckily, I remembered to bring a small flat-tipped screwdriver with me because past experience has taught that even though you may get that plastic door to slide open with your fingernail, the fuses aren’t coming out without a pair of tweezers or a stick of dynamite.

Pop in the new fuses, slide the door shut, plug it back in, and… Nothing.

A strand of Christmas lights has about the same life expectancy as a goldfish and will die as unexpectedly. One minute everything seems fine, and the next it’s floating upside down, usually high up in a tree or on the topmost gable of the house.

The limp string of a carcass is unceremoniously tossed onto the heap with the rest of this year’s deceased. No voices call out “I feel fine! I want to go for a walk!”

Back up the ladder, and a new strand of lights blazes to life, completing the twenty-foot-tall triangle. A new giant Christmas tree in our front yard and I’m at the top, its star. I linger in the high, cold night. Snug Harbor below is a vision of electric gingerbread, and I’m reminded of an exclamation made by Charlie Brown as he stood before the gaudy lights and aluminum foliage of the Christmas tree lot. “Fantastic.”

A faint something like sadness or regret strays through the trees, a coyote’s lonesome call. Time, like the wind whipping a flag, seems to tug at my soul. So much time. Not nearly enough. The mourning howl of entropy makes of dreams dust.

But before the vast night can crash down on top of me, a voice calls out. “There’s a cat in the house!”

My soap bubble reverie pops and I’m jolted back to reality. A what in the who now?

As I was saying, this happens every year. But now I have a new saying. When they’re lacking, motivation and encouragement will sometimes come and find you. For example, coyotes don’t usually show up in the middle of the day to hoot and prowl around the tree in which you’re perched. Ice down the back of the spirit to remind me that it gets dark a lot earlier now, so get up and get going!

By the way, it was an orange cat. A very stupid orange cat who wandered through the open front door and into camp Collie-Collie-Sheepdog. When I arrived on the scene, Georgie had it cornered in my office.

After Mrs. Spookyblue dragged the dogs out the back door, I managed to throw a towel over the very agitated and animated cat. Or, rather, caught the thing in mid-air as it launched itself through the front window. Well, not really through as much as into. Repeatedly.

Anyway, the orange fur storm eventually got back outside, unharmed. I’m waiting to experience “cat scratch fever”. Wikipedia seems pretty upbeat about it, but I’m sure it’s terminal.

Christmas lights are dangerous and want to kill you – Part 2

It was a cold, damp evening. Thick fog poured from deep woods and out of culvert pipes to cover yards and driveways in our subdivision, mailboxes transformed into mute sentries along the sides of the road. For the first week of December, the scene was more reminiscent of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow than It’s a Wonderful Life, but weather in the Ohio Valley is like Russian roullette with a Gatling gun. Tornadoes or ice storms. I’d just be happy with a good 4-6 inches of snow and strains of Belavia on the news at 11:00 while they scroll the list of school closings.

Anyway, it was a dark and foggy night, and our neighbor clanged up and down an aluminum extension ladder, a miniature lighthouse unto himself lit by the many strands of lights draped around his neck. He was in the process of wiring a 30′ Christmas tree. More accurately, he was hanging long strands of C9 lights from the chimney in the shape of a tree. C9 bulbs are those great big lights that look great on a house, but are the most evil of all Christmas light types.

The C9 bulb is uniquely designed to explode upon the slightest impact with any other object, but most often with each other. You’ll need leather gloves and a pair of pliers to remove the electrified, jagged glass blossom left behind. These things will go out just to trick you into tightening the bulb. That’s when you’re most likely to end up with a handful of colorful broken glass.

He was too far away and high up to notice me as I ambled past, a shadowy wake cutting through the mist, intent on getting its lap around the subdivision in before The Simpsons came on at 7:00. So he didn’t know he was being scrutinzed. All the hallmarks of a holiday tragedy were in play. Slippery, wet, electrically conductive ladder – check. Darkness – check. Christmas light noose – check.

I kept going. God help me, but I just kept going. If the Christmas lights were going to attack, they would have done it by the time I came strolling by, so everything turned out fine in the long run.

However, I think that the pact, whatever it was, into which he and those C9s had entered has ended. Or relations are strained. Last night as I hurried past his house (and I do mean hurried because the coyotes were on the prowl and despite the confidence lent by hefting a not inconsequential Maglite, I wasn’t at all convinced that they wouldn’t come down off the ridge and feast on me at any moment, 17 pound flashlight in hand or not), I noticed that a handful of lights up at the very apex of his tree were out.

This was an outright invitation to destruction, but would he take the bait? We’ll have to wait and see.